Larry Mannino's Blog

Writer | Brand Communications Strategist | Human

Category: First Draft Theater (page 1 of 2)

Still, Quite Possibly, My Favorite Video On Branding. Ever.

This Is a Generic Brand Video, by Dissolve from Dissolve on Vimeo.

First Ride of the Season, Uncaffeinated – Quitting Coffee: Day 23

Stopping Prohibited at All Times...Unless you really want to.

Stopping Prohibited at All Times…Unless you really want to.

This morning before work, I went on my first ride of the season – biking, that is. Last year, I didn’t bike very much, but last year was a hard year in a lot of ways. In retrospect, maybe I should’ve biked more.

Anyway, it’s a crunch week at work – crazy, really – so when I woke up this morning and felt a warm day, and saw little breeze, it seemed like a no brainer to go sweat for a bit.  So I did.

All things being equal, it wasn’t a bad first ride; apparently, my devotion to Kettleworx is paying off. But in years past, when I rode in the mornings, it used to always be with a cup or two of coffee in the system as fuel.

Today was the first ride without.  And I figured it would be tough.

Funny thing was, it wasn’t.  I told myself as I started off that I’d take it easy – no world records today.  And, actually, I kept that approach throughout the 18-mile loop.  I’ve been ‘taking time to smell the roses’ a bit more lately, and today was no different.  I felt that I was keeping up a good pace, but I was certainly noticing all kinds of details.

The smell of flowers, and of cut grass and soil by the vineyards.  The way the light threw shadows across the road.  The flat stillness of old asphalt when there were no cars around, and the sun hit it just right. Heck, I even rescued my first box turtle of the season.

I wasn’t slacking – far from it – but I was enjoying things that, in the past, I’d sped by.  The little, and important things.  Was it just due to coffee in my bloodstream?  Not wholly, no.  But it was due to the lifestyle that required that type of fuel, and blurred perspective.

It was actually pretty productive – copywriters work everywhere, and I’m no different.  Came home with 4 new concepts for 2 different clients.  Plus an idea for a short story (the writer never sleeps, either).

When I was speeding through life, this rarely happened.  Always push push push.

Funny thing was,as I arced into my driveway, popped off the saddle and  checked my time, I was right there with some of my best.  Ever.

Go figure.

Dopamine, or Fauxpamine? Quitting Coffee: Day 21

Dopamine.  It's the Real Thing...

Dopamine. It’s the Real Thing…

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.  The other day, while getting up to speed on agencies I’d be meeting with, I watched Gabe Zichermann’s intro video.  Gabe’s the CEO of Gamification and its creative arm, Dopamine; they’re creative shops based, in part of behavioral marketing from a gaming standpoint.  I met Gabe and we had a nice chat – he’s a nice guy  and they seem to have a good thing going, but what stayed with me more was what he’d said in his video.

To paraphrase, he said that the ‘dopamine response’ – or pleasurable feeling as a reward for action, to put it very laymanly (look, I’ve birthed an adjective!) – takes place maybe once a day, or more likely once a week – or even year – in our working lives.

But video gamers experience this dopamine response hundreds of times an hour!  

That’s, in large part, what makes games so immersive, and even addictive.  And also leads to a different kind of fluid intelligence over time that allows one to adapt more quickly in certain, high intensity/short learning curve situations than those who have a more traditional intellectual background.

What stayed with me more, however, was the concept of the dopamine response  -which I’ve learned is very similar to the caffeine response, as interpreted by the body (there’s more to that, but I’m a writer, not a scientist, damnit!).

Anyway, in my new perception based on a severe lack of caffeine, I’ve noticed that my behavior has, indeed changed.  There are some things that I’m doing far less, now, and other things that I’m doing more of.  Truly, my behavioral patterns have shifted in response to whether or not I associated that activity with a cup of coffee in the past.

Which, taken another step, makes me wonder if I actually ever really enjoyed those activities at all?

In other words, was I experiencing a true dopamine pleasure response from the activity, or did the caffeine simply magnify a more minor response, tricking me into thinking that I enjoyed whatever activity it was more than I really did?

The ramifications of this, of course, are huge if you think about it.  And I do, because I have more energy and far more focus now than I did 3-weeks ago when I was still taking in a pot or more a day.

So, thinking about it, it sort of makes you question everything.  As I mentioned in one of the first posts, my primary fear was that I wouldn’t be able to write well and, even more importantly, that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much.  Serious stuff for me.

Fortunately, I still do enjoy the writing just as much, and I think that the words (most of the time – not in this blog necessarily 😉 are better, because the thinking behind them is.

But larger issues exist if you unwind that intellectual thread.  What other things that I used coffee for to not just enjoy, but maybe even just get through are now affected?  For me, that’s the trick of it; distinguishing what parts of my life were true dopamine responses, and which were simply false, caffeinated burst of speed masquerading as real enjoyment – the fauxpamine response.

It’s a good question with no easy, or immediate answers.  But the good part, now, is that as I ask the questions, I know the conclusions I reach will be true.  And clear.

"Renewing My Membership": A Poem Written in the Middle of a BJ's Wholesale Club

Things Next to my Bed

Diapers. Formula. Impossibly Large Tubs of Mayonnaise – we used to go to BJ’s Wholesale Club a lot when my kids were younger. Then we moved on. And now, it seems, we’re back.
It’s been maybe 5 years since I was last there – my youngest daughter was born in ’08. A lot’s changed since then. The economy. The world. Me.
I see things a little differently now – or maybe I’m starting to get more comfortable writing about the things I’ve always seen – and just putting them out there without too much polish. Good training for writers I guess.

I wrote this one fast, scribbled it in a Moleskine without thinking too much.  When I typed it in here, I was surprised at where it went.

I don’t know if anyone’s ever written a poem about BJ’s before – and I’m almost certain no one’s ever written a poem about BJ’s while In BJ’s and using a shopping cart as a desk.

Then again, maybe it’s not about BJ’s after all.

Here ’tis.

 

Renewing my Membership

The Guy at the door

Of the Bulk Warehouse store

 

Was the very same one

That had been here Before

 

He seemed heavier, maybe

Had slightly less hair

 

Once-friendly animation

Now Belied by worn stare

 

I don’t think He expected

Still to be in this place

 

But like most of Us did

What he must to keep Pace

 

And somehow 5 years later

Still worked as a host

 

A Dutiful soldier

Staying true to his post

 

I Imagined he had

A family somewhere

 

So he did the Right Thing

To keep them in good care

 

Has America changed?

Have I not enough?

 

All seem run on mousewheel

Ever chasing more stuff

 

Do we ever ascend?

Does Be ever Stab’lize?

 

As I look ’round the store

I see Fear in some eyes

 

But Worse than that

Something Else too I do see

 

Resignation. Acceptance.

‘This is all that I’ll be…’

 

As I thought of these things

Became One with the Crowd

 

Smiled for new ID

Otherwise kept head Bowed

 

When my photo they took

I glanced at my new card

 

And Stared back at Me

A look Hollow and Hard

 

Later on, as I left

And He checked my receipt

 

He remembered me too

As Old friends we did greet

 

And in flash of that moment

As his eyes Mine met

 

Was that Look solely his

Or Mirror of Regret?

 

"Grow Not Old, But New" : A Poem Written Quickly and Sent Off into the World to Fend for Itself

I get very little done on bring your daughter to work day – and it’s AWESOME!

Yesterday I woke up with a head full of words, and poured them into this poem. It took about ten minutes to write, and maybe another fifteen to clean up; to do any more would be missing the point of the exercise – which is for me to get more comfortable with putting my work out there on a regular basis, even if it’s not fully baked.

Basically,  I kicked it around a little, scratched out and replaced a word or two as I played with my kids and made my way through the weekend, but that’s it – didn’t want to overthink, so here it is. Hopefully some folks will weigh in – good or bad, your comments are most welcome. Enjoy, and thanks.

 

 

 

“Grow Not Old, But New”

 

When I ‘woke this morning

Still sodden with sleep

 

Before headhum arose with

Day’s duties to keep

 

Made my way down the hall

Feeling more than one ache

 

And despite the night’s rest

Could not weariness shake

 

Rummaged ’round, ground the beans

Waited for the coffee

 

And by chance in the trash

Orange wrapper did see

 

And then realized this year

Halloween had flown by

 

While barely one piece

Of candy did I try!

 

But then for the first time

In a long time awhile

 

This grim realization

Turned to groggy smile

 

For insidious stretch

Age has weighed on my mind

 

Mindfulness of mere number

Ever-tightened soul’s bind

 

Tried too hard force-enjoy

What I used to do

 

Overthinking. Not living

Easy, honest and true

 

Haunted by things not done

Working, trying to cope

 

In a youth-worship culture

Felt I trapped on down-slope

 

Difference was in my past

If same pitch I did see

 

I’d have welcomed as hill!

Joy to roll down or ski!

 

So perception is All,

True, your body betrays

 

But inside I alone

Define all of my days

 

And staring right then

At that wrapper in trash

 

A light bloomed in my soul,

Sudden insight, so brash

 

I shall no longer look

At time as a line

 

For things in the past

Will not regret or pine

 

By resistance made false,

By acceptance made true

 

I’ll not fight but embrace

Things I now think and do

 

Be not tethered by time

But to moment be true

 

Molt the past every day

And not grow old, but new

My Humble Opinion on the Groupon/Tibet Ad Fiasco

I still need a new hat.

In the wake of the so-called uproar over the Groupon Superbowl ads, I caught a good post over at Gods Of Advertising blog yesterday and couldn’t help but weigh in with my own humble (?) opinion on the comment thread (copied below):

“Actually, I’ll go on record to say that I Like The Tibet Ad. Note the present tense: I have not shrunk back from my initial reaction which I tweeted @larrymannino (damn, I hate that word) during the game. The spot was tight, it pulled you in, the pacing was spot on, they pulled the rug out and you thought about the product or company.

That said, I have encountered this general, dare I say somewhat ‘artificial’, disgust from some of my peers – and yes, we’re all in the industry. Personally, I don’t bow at the altar of CP&B, but I do like a good portion of the work I’ve seen from them and it is without question effective, much as was mentioned above.

I do wonder whether or not offense and poutrage was part of the careful strategy here: the agency is not new to this sort of thing. It seems to me that the loudest complainers here (at least the ones I’ve actually spoken with), are largely those who fall into the category of people who might consider Tibet as an exotic locale for a vacation so they could brag to their friends, and not necessarily those who have actually been involved in the actual cause (which is indeed a real and tragic situation).

Allow me, if you will, to paint a quick picture of the typical ‘offended viewer’ whom I have encountered: pretty much upper-middle class (or higher), externally politically correct (with no credible day-to-day evidence of these viewpoints beyond lip service) people.

In short, they took offense at a clever ad that involved the very real and ongoing plight of the Tibetan people from the cushions of a couch manufactured in Vietnam, while eating snacks bought from underpaid workers at WalMart while watching this ‘horrible atrocity’ on a 50″ widescreen HDTV manufactured in…China!

Oh, the huge manatee.”

Well, that’s my take – as always, I welcome yours.

The Up Side of Falling

Just saw this over at Neil Gaiman’s blog (http://journal.neilgaiman.com/).  Pretty Cool.

Explaining Branding to a Six Year Old.

Flagg Ranch at Yellowstone, please send me a new hat!

It’s Sunday morning. We just got back fom walking the dog and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my kids, flipping through the Sunday Times and wondering, as always, why I keep renewing my subscription. I’m pretty sure it’s to look at the ads, and get annoyed with the Book Review.

Anyway, I show an ad to my oldest daughter Olivia, who’s six.  It’s an ad for a shoe, Calvin Klein I think, but I kind of like the design. Olivia draws and colors all day, so I thought she might like it.

She asked why someone put a single shoe in an ad.  Why?

Good question.  Six year olds seem to have really good questions.

They get to the point.

So I said, ‘To get someone to buy them.”

Because at the end of the day, in my line of work that’s pretty much what we do.  Sure, there’s a lot more to it, but like Ogilvy pointed out, the end result of our efforts whether under the guise of  marketing, branding or advertising is to sell – to increase revenue for our clients.

“Oh.” she said.  “Can I make an ad?”

“Sure” I shrugged.  “Go to it.”

I kept reading.  After a couple of quiet minutes, I felt the stare.  I looked up.  Olivia was looking across the table at me.

“What’s up, Buddy?” I say.

“Well, what goes in an ad?” she asks.

“Usually some words and a picture” I say.

“Oh.”

I get back to reading.  For a second or two, anyway.

“I want to do an ad for LGM.” she says. ‘LGM creative’ is the name of my business.

I smile. “Ok.”

“But Daddy,” she says, “What do you do?”

“Well,” I say, “We make ads for other businesses, so we do advertising. But we also do marketing, which lets us figure who we want to see the ads, and where we have to put them.”

“Did you do any ads in there?” she asked, pointing to the paper.

“No, not this week anyway.” I say.  But now she’s got me thinking about my business in a way that I usually think about our client’s businesses. In fact, one of the first questions I always ask a new client is “What do you do?”  It’s a good question, because it lets me know a lot of things all at once: how does the client see their business? Do I (or the public) have a different general sense?  Where do those two ideas meet, and how do we get from here to there?

But how to describe my business?

Like anything, if you can nail something in the space of an elevator pitch, you probably have a pretty good handle on it.

But to simplify the idea of being a copywriter and brand strategist to a six year old is considerably tougher.  You tend to get a lot of ‘what” and ‘why’ responses when you talk to kids.  Like I said, they cut to the point. And that’s good.

“So you make ads for other people?  Ok.” And she got back to her drawing tablet.  Now it was my turn to interrupt.

“Wait,” I said, ” We’re actually a Branding agency.”

She squints her eyes and cocks her head to one side.  I continue.

“We do do advertising and marketing, but that’s just a part of what we do.”

“What do you mean?”

You try and explain branding to a six year old.  I dare ya.  But I had to, and it turned out to be a pretty good exercise.

“Name a store.” I said.

I watched as she rolled her eyes around, thinking.  Silence…

“McDonald’s…?” I offered.

“No…How about Target!” Biiiiig smile, spark in the eye.  Target’s a magic place in our house.  Target has toys!

“Ok!”  I said.  “When I say ‘Target’, what do you think?”

Again, a big smile (which tells me Target’s doing something very right.  When you can get that kind of unbiased response from a six-year old, your Brand Perception is solid.).

“Red!” she said.

“Very Good!  What Else?”

“White – and that circle…” she said, tracing it in the air.  “It’s a fun place!”

Wow! I thought.  Way to go ,Target Brand Marketing.

“Ok,” I said.  “You know what you think when you think about Target?  How you feel?”

“Yeah.” she said. Another big smile.

“Well, someone, or some business, makes up all of the things that make you feel that way.  Picks the colors, the words, decides what the store sells – even what the shopping carts and the chairs in the food area look like.  Everything that you think about the business, someone creates.”

“Wow!” she said, “That’s a lot of stuff.”

I nodded. “It is.”

“And that’s what you do?” she asks, wide-eyed.

I nodded.

“Cool!”she said. Then she put her head down and got back to working on my ad.

Yup.

Olivia's Ad for LGM

Subscribing to Unsubcribing

Too Much Caffeine for Larry

Too Much Caffeine for Larry

My inbox, right now, has 16152 messages. I’m fairly certain that only about 10% of all of my emails actually have any actionable value, but I’ve so far been unable to adopt the Tim Ferriss approach of only checking the box maybe twice a day. I do, however, seem to have come across a solution that should’ve been obvious, but which, I suspect, most of us don’t consider because it’s always there in front of us (and thus unseen).
Unsubscribe.
I started doing it today – maybe my iPhone has made me more aware of the glut of junk I receive, but now I’m making a concerted effort to ruthlessly weed out every useless and borderline useless recurring message that comes my way.
And the feeling of accomplishment is awesome – it’s the little victories that count I guess.
Anyway, it’s my recommendation of the day, especially for small business owners and entrepreneurs. You’re getting a chance to say that your time has value – in fact, you’re actually proving to yourself that your time is valuable. A hundred useless emails equals at the very least a couple of minutes taken away from my time every day.
I’m no longer willing to put up with that and, as with most things, a few small steps taken consistently is all it takes.
Give it a try – it’s 2 or 3 clicks and those things are out of your consciousness forever.
Go on…do it now.
Stop giving people your time, even passively.
And don’t rely on your junk filter – just cut the ties.
Value your time. It may lead to you valuing yourself a bit more.
And you get more time to do whatever you want, which is a rarity.
Go on – unsubscribe to something. Right now.
Be liberated from the constant marketing push. Take back your time.
Go on….

iPhone vs Android – Does the Verizon factor really matter?

Looks like the iPhone is finally coming to Verizon. Does it really matter?  And, really, what’s the point  of continually pitting sales of one device against another?  Sounds like some sort of technoschadenfreude.

Anyway, I read an interesting piece the Verizon iPhone rumor the other day and wrote a response which seems to have resonated with a few people.  I think it puts the issue of Apple vs Android in maybe the proper perspective.

Here’s the article link: http://www.product-reviews.net/2010/10/07/verizon-wireless-iphone-4-vs-android-its-time-for-action/

And here’s what I put in the comments section:

Curiously, I find the media’s ‘onslaught’ terminology a little mistaken. Realistically, what we’re seeing in the rise of a new mobile operating system mirrors what happened to Apple back in the early nineties – they kept their arguably superior operating system harnessed to a controlled hardware experience, as opposed to Windows, that could run on any box.

Same thing applies to Android, which is not a phone, but an OS. Of course if an OS is available (in differing versions) on a number of different devices and at different price points, it will inevitably have a dominant market share just by volume.

Yes, the carrier experience may have something to do with it, but I’d be curious to know whether Android on an iPhone, or iOS4 on a Samsung would show the truer measure of popularity. Also, Apple has always had a quality-controlled experience because they link hardware and software in a closed system.

Many will argue this is limiting, but an equal number are probably happy that the device ‘simply works’. I’m sure that the Verizon move will indeed cut into Android market share, and if coupled with an ‘entry level’ priced iPhone, even more so, but ultimately they are 2 differing experiences that cannot necessarily be measured in statistical terms, much the like difference in the Mac vs Windows user experience.

Addendum: Regarding the above comment, someone asked me if I thought that Apple would be in trouble eventually, citing the early nineties reference.   I think that that last bit, about the difference in user experience,  shouldn’t be overlooked.  Apple’s brand loyalty is linked to the user experience.  As I always say, a brand is simply one’s perception of a product or service or even a person.  If that perception is linked to a consistently pleasant user experience, (in Apple’s case due to their arguably insular yet quality insuring hardware-software link), then the product will develop a loyal following which will spill over into other parts of the product line.  Conversely, in the Windows/Android model, the user experience might be great for some, and lousy for others, due to the breadth of hardware and it’s ability to provide a platform for an optimal experience.

In general, I think it’s fair to assume that, though enthusiastic at the outset, the vast majority of people simply want a consistent and dependable user experience.  This is somewhat guaranteed in a closed system, such as Apple’s, though with the tradeoff of less than hack-modifiable hardware.

So which is better?  Neither.  Just different.  Which will ‘win’?  Neither.  But android, as an OS, will likely have the larger market share.  And that’s ok.

Older posts