durbin media
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Brandstorming is a team blog written by Jim and Franki Durbin. We like to think of it as our idea playground.
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Monday, April 30, 2007

Getaway Car, McQueen Style

It's no secret we love Steve McQueen. Rebel, king of cool, all around Hollywood icon. And if one were so inclined (read: loaded) they could own a piece of McQueen history: his beloved 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso.

Luxist has the specs:
Classic car enthusiasts may be excited to know that Steve McQueen's gawwgeous 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso, glossed with metallic brown paint and fitted with beige leather, will be on the auction block at Christie's International Motor Cars 2007 in Monterey, Calif. on August 16. Expected to rake in as much as $1.2 million, experts are saying the Lusso is the finest example of its kind on the market today.
Espresso brown metallic paint with tan leather interior? Hello, perfection on wheels. I can already imagine us hugging the curves of the 101 as we drive down the coastline in this baby. And while we're not memorabilia collectors and don't feel the need to clamor for our piece of automobile history, it is interesting to note that McQueen drove this very car for 10 years. If you're a classic car enthusiast, we can think of no better getaway car than this one.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Smalll Business Advantage in Blogging

Ben and Jackie, the authors behind Church of the Customer have an informative post on the advantages small businesses can give themselves with a blog. And they have examples.

Their best points are 5-7.

5. They allow you to have more simultaneous conversations. It's more than you could ever do in person.

6. Most blog service providers offer good-looking templates to use if your existing website design is embarrassing or non-existent.

7. They help position you as a knowledgeable expert in your industry.


Brandstorming here is a case in point. Between Brandstorming and StlRecruiting.com, over 50,000 unique visitors have come to our websites and learned something about DurbinMedia.

This does not include the number of people who read about us on other blogs, new stories (from reporters who read this blog), and who went to the durbinmedia site from a link. Both of our names are all over the search engines, and so are key terms people use to find blog consultants in St Louis. That sentence will be read by Google, and it saves us the necessity of buying blog consultant St Louis from Adwords.

Large corporations have committees and executives and fear holding them back. Small businesses should step into the gap and compete with that simplest of the tools, the business blog.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Letting Life (and Inspiration) Come to You

One of the challenges of a creative profession is that you cannot schedule creativity to occur between the hours of 8am and 5pm. There are days it simply doesn't happen. Fortunately, there are plenty (plenty) of left brain activities to keep us busy while we wait (and wait) for inspiration to strike.

Cameron Moll recently quoted the associate designer from HOW magazine, a leading design publication. She's learned that it's best not to look for ideas, instead you should wait for them to knock on your door:
"The more I accept that inspiration is elusive, the less I go looking and the more I simply wait for it to find me. "
It somehow reminds me of parents telling their childen, "she wouldn't run from you if you didn't chase her." There's a profound message in there. Creativity is a lot like that fruitless chase.

Ironically, the secret is to avoid the chase at all costs - and not feel a tinge of guilt for moving on to other work. At least that's what i keep telling myself today. ;)

Letting Life (and Inspiration) Come to You

One of the challenges of a creative profession is that you cannot schedule creativity to occur between the hours of 8am and 5pm. There are days it simply doesn't happen. Fortunately, there are plenty (plenty) of left brain activities to keep us busy while we wait (and wait) for inspiration to strike.

Cameron Moll recently quoted the associate designer from HOW magazine, a leading design publication. She's learned that it's best not to look for ideas, instead you should wait for them to knock on your door:
"The more I accept that inspiration is elusive, the less I go looking and the more I simply wait for it to find me. "
It somehow reminds me of parents telling their childen, "she wouldn't run from you if you didn't chase her." There's a profound message in there. Creativity is a lot like that fruitless chase.

Ironically, the secret is to avoid the chase at all costs - and not feel a tinge of guilt for moving on to other work.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Southwest Airlines Saves Durbin iPod

It sure is fun to bash airlines - or at least that's what I hear lately, but we recently had a great experience with Southwest Airlines. On Sunday, we flew back to St Louis from a conference in San Diego, and left out iPod Nano on the plane. We didn't realize this until we were in the car on the way home.

Of course the plane had already left, but we called to the Baggage Claim (which was dealing with a room full of people from the storms and a broken baggage loader in Las Vegas) to see if it was reported.

The woman couldn't help us, but did tell us to call Birmingham (where the plane was headed). The Birmingham office transferred us to their ops center, a man named James, who met the plane and asked the flight attendants about our iPod. They had found it, and gave it to the ops center in St Louis before leaving.

When we called back up to St Louis, we had the name of the guy who had the iPod, and when we returned, Baggage Claim was able to track the ops center guy done and get the iPod. While waiting, the Birmingham office called to check in on me.

We've lost baggage before with airlines, and the response was underwhelming (downright criminal, to tell the truth). This was a tribute to Southwest employees, especially the Birmingham Baggage Claim and Operations.

And what else does Southwest Airlines have? A blog that describes their unique culture.

Charter Service Takes It On The Chin

A pile-on in the blogosphere is never a good idea, but after my experiences with the Charter Communications customer service, this story that thousands of complaints to the Better Business Bureau is no surprise.

You heard me. Thousand of Complains to the BBB.

So many Charter Communications customers are complaining of poor service that the Better Business Bureau thought it necessary to issue a warning this week to consumers.

"Customers doubt Charter's commitment to service," the headline reads.

In 36 months, the BBB received more than 2,000 complaints and reports of poor cable TV, Internet or phone service. Last year alone, 1,112 customers filed complaints.

Charter has been trying to get us to sign up for their phone service for some time. We are Vonage users, but we were the first people in Chesterfield to get the phone. The problem was the phone was rarely used, except to fend off telemarketers. Vonage doesn't sell their list to telemarketers. Call it a perk.

But don't think Vonage is blameless. After a week of intermittent problems receiving incoming calls, we called Vonage Customer Service and were told that service interruptions were going to be a regular part of our experience.

I asked what that meant, sure that the customer service agent had misspoke. She had not. I was told that Vonage service was going to experience times when the phone just wouldn't work, and that no plans to fix that were in the offing.

Look, I know there are problems with the lawsuit, but Franki and I are big fans of Vonage. We want them to succeed. But we can't afford to have the phone not ring when customers call. I had several proposals out, and in general, when someone calls, I'd like to be able to answer the phone.

We can't trust Charter. Vonage is unreliable. It's enough to make me get a phone from SBC. How scary is that?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

IKEA's Message: Be Brave, Not Beige

Most homeowners are faced with the same doomed future: beige walls, beige sofa, beige carpeting. But IKEA has come up with a fun (and surprisingly entertaining) way to get you to experiement with color. At Be Brave Not Beige, the mod home furnishings brand lets you experiment with color and get a close up of not-so-normal neighbors at the same time.

My advice? Click on the top left window (orange & white curtain) to see "fitness Bob" get his sweat on. After the show, you can experiement with fabrics and color to determine how you could outfit theapartment in question. Are you Metropolitan, Classic or Vibrant? You'll have to experiement to find out, which is exactly what IKEA hopes you'll do.

When you've completed the design of your room you can print it or send it to a friend. The interactivity works for me. It's fun, easy and encourages lingering. Am I off to my local IKEA to buy myself the EKTORP sofa? Not likely. But I'll certainly be telling my design-conscious friends about the site so they can have a bit of fun themselves. And that, after all, is what viral marketing is all about.

Monday, April 16, 2007

AG Edwards Nest Egg Video


I was disappointed I couldn't find the video to play for you, but I truly enjoy the "Nest Egg" commercials AG Edwards has been using in their national branding campaign.

The latest has a man who is switching jobs, and the commercial opens with everyone wishing him well, before waving him out the door. As soon as he is gone, they descend on his office like a horde of jackals and stop taking his office supplies (a time honored tradition at companies where they lock the supply cabinets).

The man realizes he forgot something, and goes back to pick up his nest egg from a cabinet, as the voiceover talks to you about transferring your retirement plan. All in all it's a great commercial.

Except...it has some music. The music is great - fits the commercial, and is composed by Wendall J. Yuponce, but it has one major flaw. The music is also featured in Curb Your Enthusiasm, the popular Larry David sitcom on HBO. I like the commercial, and love the creativity, but the idea of Larry David managing my money isn't going away.

Granted, I'm probably not the target audience for the commerical (Is it for BabyBoomers? I'm Gen X, so maybe it is), but still - I'm not a big fan of using pop culture to sell serious products.

What's next - the Friend's theme song for State Farm? Sing it with me - :I'll be there for you, when the rain starts to fall," (policies may not apply in Mississippi).

Charter Cable Service: Why I Don't Use EPay

Our cable is out this morning. The movie channels work, but the regular cable does not. The last time we had problems, I signed up for the Charter Communications website to be able to track any problems.

There is a number listed for support on the website, directly under my account. When I call it, the automated message tells me they don't have service in my area. I call 1-888-GETCHARTER, and the phone system, through several fits and stops, finally gets me to an operator, she tells me I'm at the wrong call center, and she transfers me. The transfer doesn't go through, and the phone tells me to hang up.

I go back to through the menu, which again gives me several false prompts that have to be repeated twice, I'm back on hold waiting to speak to a live person. Apparently, I'm in the Minnesota call center - they're trying to transfer me, again. It must be because I'm on a Vonage phone. The computer automatically routes me away from where I want to go. Hey - I just got hung up on a second time! Fun times. Let's try it from the cell.

Can you imagine trusting this company to deduct your cable bill directly from your bank account? That's why I don't use EPay.

A third time on the cell, and the same result- the Minnesota call center and a transfer, and the woman I spoke to puts me through again, but this time I get Sarah in St Louis, but as I check the cable, it's back on. By the way - if you signed up for the 5 meg upgrade for $99 - when the 12 months is up - your prices go way up, and you won't be able to switch to a cheaper plan because it was a special promotional offer. You should always be careful of upgrades.

Friday, April 13, 2007

They're All Meat Eaters

Ahh, the weekend. Another Saturday. Another Sunday. Another Sopranos. If you're missed it as we have, this may have been one of the spots that kept you going during the hiatus.

Sit back and enjoy hearing ridiculous things the crew has said over past seasons. Visit the HBO site and watch the video titled Listen Carefully Promo. Trust us, it's worth the effort. Tell the Sil sent you.

Kryptonite Joins The Blogosphere

Courtesy of Shel Israel, I see that Kryptonite Locks has started their own blog to cover the bicycle and motorcycle security world. Good for them, and they have started it out correctly, which is to say they are approaching the matter openly but with an emphasis on their readers, not the company.

How can you tell? Check out their blogroll, which focuses on cycling enthusiasts and their blogs. They even link to a dealer blog, which is quite cool, as it gives a retail store extra press.

Their first four posts are all still mission statements, but as the blog grows, I think we'll see the correct strategy for corporate blogging. Find communities of active enthusiasts online and put the spotlight on them. If you have a good product, and these communities use your product, you will reap the benefits of association with people who already use and love your products. And you get that all important early warning system called the blogosphere.

More important, you build up your reputation among the people most likely to criticize or evangelize your products. The blog shows that you are at least willing to listen (but it also raises expectations of being listened to. Having a blog is not enough).

The blog is standalone, hosted off blogspot, which is the simplest decision, the question of whether the blog staying away from the main site is something we'll find out about soon. The new Kryptonite site is launching next week, and we'll see if a blog link is on the front page. If it is, they would be well advised to map the Blogger template to http://kryptonitelock.com/blog instead of hosting it separately. Hosting it separately creates a psychological barrier between the blog and the company (but not really a legal one). If you're going to embrace the blog, embrace it. Give it the Google Juice of a link to the main page and make it part of your site map (in a short period of time, the blog will rank higher than the site, and more traffic will come from the blog to the site than the other way around.

So good luck, Donna. Well done Ingersoll Rand (the parent company), and if any other companies are out there looking for the right way to launch a blog, well, why not call a blog consultant?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dilemma

Kohler has been hitting us with their high style commercials for a while. Most conjure up visions of upscale living and luxury, but the latest spot dubbed "Dilemma" is a bit more Bourne Supremacy than previous installments to the campaign. Maybe I'm just in the mood for darker fare now that our beloved Sopranos has returned, but this spot has more cinematic flair than the rest of the campaign.

Most of the earlier spots were decidedly serious and austere (think "Architect" and "Party"), but the new spots indicate Kohler may be ushering in a wave of humour. "Dilemma" and "Jo's Plumbing" both feature toilets, and find an unusual way to highlight the key feature of each piece. The product in "Dilemma" is a raised to the status of art in the European estate where the final scenes of the spot take place. And while "Jo's Plumbing" isn't always a fan favorite, it drives the point home that this is one toilet you can't easily clog.

Love them or hate them, I love that Kohler - a mainstream bathroom fixture brand - is making great strides to raise commodes and sinks to new heights through creative storytelling. Best of all, Kohler prominently places the spots on the corporate web site for all to see. Enjoy.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Durbin Media Group Phone Service Is Down

We use Vonage for our Business Phone, and it currently is experiencing a nationwide issue. If you are trying to call us and can not get through, please e-mail us at info@durbinmedia.com, or call Jim Durbin at 314-482-8878 (my cell).

Now Where's That iPod...?

Two years ago I digitized our entire (e-n-t-i-r-e) music collection and burned it to our new iPod. Now the little fella has gone AWOL and I shudder to think of the thousands of songs lost along the way.

As I wrestle with the implications of this loss, a post on ubergizmo gave me good reason to feel good about it. Perhaps our humble iPod has gone on to bigger causes, namely saving the lives of those under fire from AK-47s.
"U.S. Army soldier Kevin Garrad has his iPod to thank after the device sacrificially took a bullet from an AK-47, slowing the bullet down enough to be stopped by the Interceptor body armor vest Garrad was wearing."
All joking aside, it's a fascinating tale Steve Jobs is likely to enjoy reading. But if you see our lost iPod (last seen wearing a pink and white leather commemorative breast cancer jacket) be sure to let us know. Somewhere there's a soldier who might enjoy it more than us.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I Need an "Easy Button" Too

Okay. It took a few months. But Staples finally had me laughing out loud at their latest "Easy Button" spot. Is it because I've worked with all of these characters before? I'll admit, that plays a part in why the humor works. It has that "Office" feel it, and you expect Steve Carrell to pop out at any moment. My personal favorite is "hair gel guy".

Still not motivated to head to Staples? Maybe if you had a few more CD spindles (and hungry developers) on hand it would drive innovation at your office. What inventions do you have lurking in the office supply closet?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Begin At the Beginning and End At the End

There's something about the first day of a project that has always energized me. Fresh slate, new challenges, opportunities to learn - and a start time. It is absolute.

Absolutes are so much fun (for me). They are exact, precise, clean, flawless. Which is probably why I look forward to them so much. I can draw a specific line in the sand and say "this is where X began." But sometimes you can never identify when something - be it an experience, a relationship or a project - actually ended. And for a starter like me, this poses quite the dilemma. How can a blurry line be precise?

Take web sites for example. To an outsider, it might seem that the moment you launch a site to the world is completed. Not so. Often this is when the fine tuning begins. There are often tweaks and minute changes that occur for weeks (or months) as a site evolves. So when does it end? And are there those of us who actually look forward to this blurred line of completion at the end? It turns out there are.

Blue Flavor writes about starters vs. finishers. If you're a one man show, you may be tasked with managing both sides of the spectrum. Those of us who work in teams, however, can learn to rely upon (and learn from) the strengths of others.

"Some people will never be as good at closing projects as they are at starting them. Some will never be good at getting started as they are about finishing. This is why we’ve got teams. When it comes to getting something done it’s good to work with someone who compliments your own skills and can make up for your faults...

The great thing about teaming with people to get things done is that you’ll become better at those things you struggle with. It’s kind of like osmosis. See enough things get to the end and you’ll become better and better at taking things through to completion yourself."

This is not to say that starters aren't good at finishing. Good starters take pride in clean finishes. The topic here is that some might be naturally predisposed to one stage of a project over another.

Interesting thought. I'd write more on this...but I have to go begin a new project. Jim...how about finishing this post?