Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Save the Wild Rice – for Thanksgiving 2009 at the Martins’ House.

Happy Thanksgiving. This year, we’ve accepted an invitation to spend the day with David and MaryJo Martin. While planning for this, it struck me that we never see much in the way of advertising for wild rice.

First of all, I suppose, is because it’s…wild. Second, it’s been a cottage industry. Ricing was a two-people-per-boat proposition – poler and knocker. The poler moved the canoe through the rice bed. The knocker bent the stems over and struck ‘em together, so the rice fell into the bottom of the canoe. Some kernels fell into the water to re-seed the rice beds.

That’s the way wild rice is still harvested on certain American Indian reservations – by hand, in boats. In 2001, Winona LaDuke of the White Earth Land Recovery Project wrote:

Wild rice or zizania palustris is actually a grass, sharing only some genetic strains with other rice crops internationally. That special nature is part of what drives its niche market and the millions of dollars now behind the industry. Over the past thirty years what the Creator gave to the Anishinaabeg has become a profit making enterprise for many others.

The $21 million wild rice business is largely dominated by just a few paddy rice firms. Their interest in genetic work on wild rice stems largely from their own economic interests, not environmental, humanitarian, or tribal interests.

Wild rice is Minnesota’s official state grain, with 4-6 million pounds produced annually. Minnesota is one of the world’s largest cultivated wild rice-growing states. But California is now tops in wild rice production. And there is marketing for wild rice: A California Wild Rice Advisory Board; a Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council too. Together, they support the International Wild Rice Association. Visit the IWRA website and you’ll find some mighty nice recipes.

Today you won’t have click through. Barbara’s got her pretty-darn-famous wild rice dish ready to take to the Martins’ house for dinner – we’re looking forward to the get-together. The Barbara Nytes-Baron Genuine Minnesota Wild Rice Casserole recipe goes like this.

First, get some wild rice – we’d be glad if you purchased it from one of the tribal stores up north like the White Lake Ojibwe or Red Lake Nation. (“Cultivated wild rice” is an oxymoron.)

1 cup wild rice
1 can chicken stock
½ cup dried fruit, hydrated in wine
¼ cup dried mushrooms, hydrated in wine
¼ cup chopped onions
¼ cup chopped black olives
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped nuts
Butter or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak fruit and mushrooms
Sauté the onions, olives, celery and nuts in the butter or oil
Mix all in a 1-quart casserole
Bake with the turkey for 1 to 2 hours (usually at 325°F)
Stir during second hour, cover with foil

Rice should be cooked and liquid evaporated – add more liquid (wine, stock) if the rice needs to cook more. Serve hot. May your 2009 Thanksgiving holiday be blessed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Packaging Sells or Fools? A Good $4 Pinot Grigio Pretends to Be Worth More.

No, that is not perfume there on the right. But in the way-overcrowded world of package goods, packaging does count for plenty. You’ll find one example after another of packaging bravos (eg, Minute Maid) and blow-ups (Tropicana). So when I’m shopping a mid-range supermarket and I run across a bottle of Italian pinot grigio that looks like Voga’s, I’m automatically suspicious that this wine is dressed-up drabble.

Still, we’re currently testing cheap whites so the Pinot Grigio from Voga ICRF in Calmasino, Italy, “fell” into the shopping cart.

One nutshell description: The packaging of Voga Pinot Grigio 2004 caught our attention. Unlike virtually every other wine bottle on the shelf, Voga’s 2004 bottle is a perfect cylinder, with a large vertical logo imprinted on the bottle. Even the closure, which is a bottle neck that accepts a standard cork, is camouflaged by a black plastic cover that matches the diameter of the bottle to extend the cylindrical appearance.

I gotta inform you that the Voga website continues the hype...molto artistico, miei amici. Do visit because I was riveted by the flashy flash with semi-nude people and the home page’s suggestive photo. What do you think?

Today’s Signalwriter™ marketing opinion? The taste of Voga Pinot Grigio doesn’t meet expectation. So it’s a cheap lesson in over-hyping (the store discounted the already low price by 10%), a sort of alcoholic “Where’s the beef?” If anyone’s old enough to remember that campaign.

This interesting and quite comfortable-feeling bottle also presents today’s marketing lesson. Sizzle may sell the steak one time, but a very ordinary vin is no way to gain a repeat stakeholder base. Così spiacente, Voga.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dear $995 is Too Much for this Blog Name – Ya Pirates.

I have missed the opportunity to make a lot of money. Again. Mainly because I wasn’t clever enough to [a] gobble up a bunch of neat url names and [b] hold them for ransom. Here’s what the “About” part of the pirates’ site says:

HugeDomains is a premium domain reseller site that strives to bring you brandable domains for your business at a fraction of the cost.

So this firm not only has Signalwriter (which is a brand name I invented) but also SignalDepot and SignalBay and – oh yes – HowToBeACopywriter. Dot com.

Still, fair is fair. I did create the Signalwriter name – it’s a trademark. But these folks thought hard enough about the subject to scoop it up and purchase the url before I (finally) got around to it. It is the part of the model of capitalism to offer for sale something that people want to buy.

I therefore admit to sour grapes. Arrrh!

(At least does not own – that’s a Warner Bros url.)

Signalwriter Marketing Blog is the property of Richard Laurence Baron. “Signalwriter” and “Signalwrite” are trademarks. All rights reserved. Painting: Muti, jene Trauben sind sauer, Joris van Son, c 1660-1665.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Google (v.t.) Celebrities and Trench Coats – See What You Get.

They’re everywhere – celebrity endorsers for each of us and all of us. Now there’s a fresh Harris Interactive/AdWeek poll that says:

…one in five Americans (21%) say they find athletes to be most persuasive when they endorse a product, followed by 18% who say TV or movie stars are most persuasive, 14% who say singers or musicians and 10% who say former political figures are most persuasive.

When it comes to how other celebrities rank in the category of least persuasive, almost one-quarter (23%) say TV or movie stars are least persuasive, while 14% say business leaders are least persuasive. Just 13% say when athletes endorse a product they find them least persuasive and 11% say singers or musicians are least persuasive.

It’s clear that the pollsters took no account of the “Trench Coat Factor.” TCF ramps up the cool quotient – even for McGruff the Crime Dog. You knew that. Best for Sunday…

Saturday, November 21, 2009

As Advertised, London Fog® Trench Coat Does Not Recall the Western Front.

When I was growing up, trench coats did not look like this. Even London Fog trench coats didn’t look like this. Even so, I was shaken (if not stirred) to discover that the much touted Gisele Bündchen ads for this classic fashion line did not show up on the brand’s website.

Or maybe the print ads made it to mags like Vanity Fair; for general web consumption though, we get Eva Longoria Parker and her spousal unit.

So…it’s March 7, 1954: Saks Fifth Avenue becomes the first store to offer London Fog raincoats, in a New York Times ad. The new line of men's raincoats, from
Londontown Clothing Company, is specifically designed to reflect the style of World War I trench coats – complete with epaulets, sleeve straps, and a belt.

The Saks ad describes the coat as “The perfect answer to everything a man can ask for in a raincoat. Remarkably lightweight and wrinkle-free ... it actually resists creasing even after packing.”

(The Londontown president, Israel Myers, has grudgingly used the brand name London Fog for the new line; he rejected it originally because he didn’t think it would attract customers. Saks’s 100 coats sold out immediately, even though the $29.75 price tag was more than double that of other men’s raincoats.)

Myers didn’t invent the trench coat – that’s down to the Brits in the Great War; as you can see by this 1932 Sears ad, the “durable trench model” retailed for just $2.98. Twenty years and a miracle DuPont fabric later, Saks charged 10 times that.

Today, Dillard’s advertises the woman’s model London Fog “Long Trench Coat” in stone, garnet, chocolate or black, for $99 in The Houston Chronicle. I noticed that, oddly, there was no Bündchen here. (But plenty more of her
here. Ah – advertising!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Frank White: “Did you hear about the forklift that slipped on a banana?”

Frank White the Photographer has spent the past 20 years shooting CAT® Lift Trucks for company marketing and advertising. And having fun at the same time. “You’d be surprised at how creative you can get with them.”

To show off the fun, and as a tribute to a great client, White created this year’s Art Crawl series, “Ten Things Run Over by a Forklift.” Eyeball them this coming Saturday, November 21, at Frank White Studio, The Docks, 1109 East Freeway, Houston 77002. I’m looking forward to seeing them – I gotta believe a banana is one of the things. Will I see you there too?

“Smushed Matte Board,” © 2009. The Houston Art Crawl is the annual tour of downtown’s warehouse district art studios, 10:00AM – 9:00 PM.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Adman Holtzweiler arrives in Houston, takes prompt photo op with US President.

The principal of Hope Communications in the UK, Philippe Holtzweiler, is back visiting with us again. It’s a working trip for our long-time overseas advertising colleague. He’s come over to see the French-American Chamber of Commerce as well as spend a few days with us.

We’ve already taken the occasion to drop by David Adickes’s yard at SculptureWorx for an amusing moment with Barack Obama – when asked about our presumption, the President was speechless.

You may already have met Holtzweiler at various events, like the recent AMA mixer at The Gallant Knight. His next appearance with be at next week’s Nouveau Beaujolais tasting at the Hilton, before his triumphant return to Europe. (And thanks, Philippe, for the stopover.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This Veterans Day, “Lets Go” with James Edward Hairgrove, 1945.

When James Edward Hairgrove went off to war, his two first cousins went with him. The boys – James Edward, Billy Wayne and Charles – were all born in 1926 but James Edward was older by a few months, 19 to the others’ 18.

James Edward was the oldest son on a working East Texas farm. He took a six-month deferment on that account; it kept him out of some of the worst battles in the Pacific War. That half-year delay would work in his favor right through the end of World War II.

After basic, Billy Wayne and Charles stayed in Fort Bliss and taught riflery – they’d all grown up hunting. James Edward was in California for additional training, went home to Texas to visit family before shipping out, the only cousin that went overseas. When this photo was taken, he was on his way back to the west coast, to board ship for the invasion of Japan.

He arranged his trip back from East Texas so he could lay over in El Paso for eight hours and see his cousins at Fort Bliss one more time. In their clean Class As, they went down to Juarez – where this picture was snapped, July of ’45.

James Edward’s the one on the right. That’s cousin Billy Wayne in the middle and cousin Charles there on the left.

James Edward shipped out of California at the beginning of August to join Operation Olympic, the initial invasion of the Japanese home islands. He was at sea for a day and a half when the first atomic bomb fell out of the bottom of the B29 Enola Gay onto the city of Hiroshima: August 6, 1945. Eight days later Japan surrendered and World War II was done. (James has always called President Harry Truman “hero” because, thanks to the atomic bombing, he didn’t have to invade the country.)

James Edward completed his service as a basic infantryman in the Okinawa occupation force, guarding prisoners, escorting Red Cross ladies. After the island’s own 82-day-long battle, 90% of its buildings were utterly destroyed. The tropical paradise had been shelled, blasted and burned into a huge expanse of shattered trees, mud and decay.

Then he returned to Texas. The magisterially named Aurora Council Hairgrove, the cousins’ grandfather, had sworn he’d live ‘til the three boys came home from the war. They did, safe and sound, and he was waiting for them. Not everyone came back for this and other American wars. Today’s the day we remember all – including those at Fort Hood.

In addition to James Hairgrove: Paul Hirsch Baron, Emmanuel Katz and Sam Slavik. Tom Ritter. Phil Slavik. Norman Sabel and Sherman Sabel. Joel Hirsch Goldberg. Thomas Biddulph, Richard Dailey, Richard Fox, Bill Gay and Richard Sutter. David Starr. Frank B Foulk. Chris Hrabe. AJ Smith and Paul Hoven. John Naumann.

George A Schuler, Jr., Alan Vera. Nathanael Charles Yonka, Jr. Hoi Nguyen and Ellis Alexander. The names from the Gunroom (you know who you are): Paul Johnson, KCMO, and “Charlezzzzz” Muñoz. Charles Rose and Bill Krull. Gary Bearden. Bernard Mazursky. Harold Borenstein and Phillip Becker. Clarence Everett Latham and Irene Helen Phillippe. Meyer Horwitz. And me.

Every year this list grows longer – you’re welcome to add names of your own.

*Thanks to James’s daughter (and my colleague) Kay Hairgrove Krenek for the photo and the story.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Flying Cows! Event-Marketing a Ben & Jerry’s Opening in Prague.

Once upon a time, Graham Rust left England’s mountains green to open an ad agency in Prague, in what would become the Czech Republic. Many years (and a lot of Dialogue International meetings) later, he and his team not only produce great advertising but also fun times down on Wenceslas Square.

Unilever, the corporate owner of Ben & Jerry’s since the turn of the century, picked the capital of the Czech Republic - and Rust, Klemperer sro - for the first major launch of the brand in Eastern Europe: “Vermont’s Finest in Prague!”

Rust staged the initial shop’s grand opening with cows – flying and otherwise. Transplanted pastures. Motorized hay bales. Free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, right in the heart of the city. From this morning’s Dialogue International newsletter, Rust speaks! “A week before opening the first scoop shop we bombarded Prague with stunts featuring the champion cows. Teasing actions like parachuting cows, cows riding Segways and giving away paper cones which could be exchanged into real ones at the opening day.”

On Opening Day, July 30th, Rust brought the party to the people in Wenceslas Square.

Having stood my very own self hip-deep in crowds in Na Příkopě on the corner of that huge open space in Prague, I have to tell you that it takes flying cows to get Ben & Jerry’s noticed. As you can see by these photos (and more here), the peeps are eating it up.

Ben & Jerry’s, despite being owned by Unilever, still has adoring support. As Graham says, it’s “such a special, individual, quirky, passionate, human brand.” Therefore, congratulations to Rust in Prague for being so ice-cream-social. Now close the circle. Post the agency’s opening day photos to the Ben & Jerry’s Facebook site and squeeze just a bit more promo for yourselves out of them cows.

Thanks to Rust and the affiliates of Dialogue International not only for news from abroad, but for the ongoing relationships. Have a scoop of Mission to Marzipan on me.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Driving East to Edom, She’s Going, Going... (Casual Sonnet)

“Traveling to Edom.” Long e, short d-o-m.
A friend is driving there tomorrow,
Going east to see the sights.
Going for the antiques, going for the day.
That part of Texas is more green than red.
Will she find a worker of the ground along the way?
A keeper of the sheep?
Or is an Esau waiting for her?

She may share his pottage at the Shed Café,
A strictly down-home menu, every dish an antique tale.
Birthrights sold up by the register.
And Abraham so recently deceased.
Driving east to Edom, she’s
Going, going, g-o-n-e.

Copyright © 2009, Richard Laurence Baron.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Website Design Houston – Three Words to Spark Some Thinking and a New Site.

Is your website sad? Is your website mad? In your website bad?

I can find real examples on the Worldwide Web – the planet’s smallest website, for instance. Find sites devoted to the worst sites on earth. Discover a website that demonstrates just how bad a bad site can be.

Which is pretty hilarious so thank you, Angelfire. But it’s real, even today.

Just as real, the fact that clients and prospects already use a company’s website as the critical link between them and the products or services they seek to purchase. First-visitors judge a company by its site. A goodly portion of websites are outstanding. Many are sufficient. Unsurprisingly, there are still a lot of frogs out there, websites that are just plain “sad-mad-bad.”

So Brian Bearden and friends (of which I am one) put their heads together – it was a challenge to come up with something different. That led to the sad-mad-bad concept. As of now, here’s this service that delivers effective relief when, for instance, a company website:
▪ Is outdated – and looks it!
▪ Suffers from neglect (it’s been put up and forgotten).
▪ The design or layout is old.
▪ Visitors wait – and wait – for your site to load.
▪ Hotlinks are broken and don’t work.
▪ The type’s too small and the pages are hard to read.

Those are just a few of the problems mentioned on the new website. Although there are a lot of web outfits in Houston who can fix problems, there aren’t many that can combine great “redesign,” effective web SEO, hard-working content and push-related website marketing activities.

This is a Houston website design solution that promises to make websites glad. I’ve kissed my share of frogs (likely a career record, mine) so I’ll be checking back to see how this works out in terms of SEO and sales activity. I will report the results. “Thank you for your support.”

PS: If you don’t believe, check out similar awful fates from SAP Design Guild. And thanks to Michelle Webb for her hard work.