Top Albums of 2013

As 2013 comes to a close, I want to share with you my favorite albums of the year. Now, there are a lot of “Top Album” lists out there with many different conditions. Let me first outline how I came to this list and what factors I used to determine my Top Album list.

  • Year: The albums must have been released in 2013.
  • Album: It’s about the entire album, not just individual tracks.
  • Consumption: I must have listened to the entire album many times during the course of the year.

Like I mentioned before, there are many lists like this. I haven’t aligned my choice to any lists by the critics or industry blogs, nor have I even looked at them. I wanted to make sure this list was what I listened to; my personal list.

Well, let’s get going! Here’s my, personal, Top Albums of 2013! (In Order)

Justice – Access All Arenas
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I’m a huge fan of EDM and particularly Justice. It is a live album and at times I find those types of albums annoying, but this one has fantastic rhythm throughout and a great musical story. Plus, there’s a great Jay Z drop in the middle of D.A.N.C.E.
Spotify Link

Pretty Lights – A Color Map of the Sun (Deluxe Edition)
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I find most of the previous Pretty Lights albums as average, however this album was off the charts! I love the band accompaniment and story telling within the Deluxe Version. Not to mention, his concert this year was one of the best concerts I’ve seen.
Spotify Link

London Grammar – If You Wait
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These guys are relatively new to the scene from England. I first heard them on the Annie Nightingale show earlier in the year; their guest mix blew me away and I couldn’t wait for their freshmen release. It’s a bit slower and a bit more lyrical than most of what I listened to this year, but still amazing. I just wish I purchased tickets in time to see them when they were in Chicago.
Spotify Link

Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
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Boards of Canada, what more can you say? One of the most anticipated albums of the year, in my book. Epic story, outstanding execution; I can listen to this album over and over again. Additionally, beyond the album, the music videos complement the music perfectly.
Spotify Link

Flume – Flume (Deluxe Edition)
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Another great find of mine from the BBC. It all started when I first heard “Holdin On,” his first single from the self-titled album. Somewhat atmospheric with a hint of EDM, this album is perfect for music during a house party or informal gathering. I just hope he comes to the States to tour soon.
Spotify Link

Man Without Country – RMX
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In all honesty, I don’t know much about these guys, but the album is a chill mixture of music and is ideal to start off your day.
Spotify Link

Kavinsky – OutRun
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I’m pretty sure most people know his music from the movie “Drive” starting Ryan Gosling. Beyond that, I really dig his album release this year, not because of Ryan Gosling, but because all of his music reminds me of the good old days of 1980’s music.
Spotify Link

Pet Shop Boys – Electric
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It was a surprise to me that they released an album this year, but once Eric told me about it, I was blown away. Surprisingly, PSB went far into dance music in this release. Epic beats make me want to just stand up and dance!
Spotify Link

Well, that’s my list. I welcome any feedback and other suggestions on albums I may have missed this year. I’ve provided some Spotify links to the albums so if you want to listen yourself, they’re just a click away.

Also, I’m pretty sure Kanye is going to be pissed with me.

Recap and Design Trends from NeoCon 2013

NeoCon_2013

Well, after months of waiting for this year’s NeoCon, the day finally came and I naturally geeked out with all the design I found within the walls of the Merch. Floors upon floors of designer furniture, materials, artwork and the masses of people from all over the world. NeoCon is kind of difficult to navigate not only because of the the sheer size of the Merchandise Mart and all the floors, but because of the people. However, that is only secondary to the amazing display of furniture and new designs.

NeoCon is truly a designer’s heaven. Regardless of your profession; graphic designer, industrial designer, buyer, showroom attendant, painter or photographer, there is something there for everyone. There are literally about 6 floors of exhibition space inside one of the world’s largest buildings. Some floors feature well-respected and established retailers such as Herman Miller, Knoll and KI. Other floors in the show feature some lesser-known retailers from all around the world including Europe, Japan, and South America. Beyond those retailers, you have B2B suppliers that focus on products such as lighting, flooring, veneer, handles, etc. All in all, there is something for everyone at this show and I’m so lucky to have gone this year (especially for free)!

Coming out of the show, I realize there are some trends moving from 2013 into 2014 in the industrial design world. There are definitely 5 major trends and one behavior trend I noticed.

Trends:
NeoCon Felt

    Felt: This one is huge! I saw this material everywhere in the show. Felt, brightly colored felt, was being used on everything from flooring to chairs to room dividers. Not sure if this is a response to the price of cotton in the world, but either way, manufacturers are putting it to great use in some unconventional areas.

NeoCon Molded Chair

    Molded Plastic: If your chair is not covered in felt or wool, it most likely will be made of molded plastic or molded wood veneer. It is so nice to see the come back of molded design, Saarinen and Eames style. If we can start designing furniture like that again, I will be a happy man.

High Back Furniture

    High-Back Furniture: I did see a lot of high-back chairs last year at the show, but this year it seems as though everyone has a high-back chair model. Most of the high-back chairs were angled at about a 110º angle. I’m thinking, and this is just my opinion, is that high-back chairs are meant to signal affluence and high-style. If that is the case, then I guess I’m out of style. Call me crazy, but I love lower, horizontal, and rectangular furniture.

Secluded Work Area

    Seclusion/Private Collaborative Work Areas: Again, this trend was big a few years ago at NeoCon and it’s not going away. Most of every retailer had some sort of seclusionary, collaborative workspace (some of them made of felt). It appears that this design is in response to companies who are looking for open-air working areas. Long gone are the days of the cube and the conference room.

Bright Color Furniture

    Bright Colors: I’m not sure if this is just for the show, to gain attention; but most of the retailers had their furniture in bright, almost neon-like colors. I’m sure the brighter the colors, the happier the person using them; but come on, neon-yellow is just way too bright for most people. Just give me the chair in black and I can use it in any environment.
    People Looking for Alcohol: Granted I did arrive mid-afternoon to the show, but it seemed as though people were on the prowl for alcohol; looking for the next open bar within a retailer environment. Yes, I’ve been to trade shows before, many different kinds; but I have never seen this level of excitement or anticipation for alcohol. I’m sure it was a long day for most people there, but come on people, this is Chicago, we have plenty of bars.

    Other Trends: If it’s not organic in design (chairs), it’s very angular – no middle ground. Also, the use of hardened-foam in chairs and benches. I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing a lot more of this in the coming years.

The “Value” of Super Bowl Advertisements

Even though Super Bowls can be a bit of a let down, advertisers and brands swarm to get spots for the Super Bowl. Case in point, all of the Super Bowl ad spots were sold out before Thanksgiving this year. This is mainly due to brands wanting to get in front of one of the largest audiences to view television programs. It is predicted this year there will be 100 million people watching the Super Bowl; and at a price tag of $3.5 million dollars for a 30 second spot, it may seem like a deal. However, I’m not sure that the brands truly recognize the value of the spots or the return they may, or may not get from them.

>> Read more at Experience Matters…

Son of Erik Mixtape Release: Bitmap

A digital mosaic of beats.

I have provided a link for you (at the bottom of this post) to download the mixtape. (If you would like it split into tracks, let me know, and I’ll provide.)

Download Bitmap Here

Or, you can listen to Bitmap here:

These mixes are not intended for sale or reproduction. Son of Erik does not and will not receive any proceeds from the production of these mixes. Please respect the copyright of the original artists that have been listed.

A Critique of Chrysler’s “Imported From Detroit” Branding

This year, Chrysler stunned the advertising and consumer world with their “Imported from Detroit” rebrand. This rebrand effort was launched during the Super Bowl with the famous commercial featuring Eminem and his music. I will not lie, I was stunned at the excellent delivery of emotion from the folks at Chrysler and I had great hopes that this commercial would be the precursor to a rebirth of branding and advertising not just in the auto industry, but in the ad industry as well. Sadly though, my hopes were a little too high. Chrysler partnering with Wieden Kennedy, created an amazing foundation for a brand rebirth, but failed and continues to fail in execution and evolution of that rebrand.

There not doubt that the promotion of Saad Chehab to CEO of Chrysler and Lancia brands was a result of the Wieden Kennedy’s work with Chrysler. Chehab delivered on a promise to Detroit, to give hope, inspiration and sense of fight back into the people who have endured so much. Chehab said that he wanted to “capture the story of a downtrodden city with a glorious history that still had so much to offer.” That’s true; he with W+K helped bring that story to light. However, what has happened, and I am sure most people in Detroit are keenly aware of, the delivery of that story and offering is quickly dwindling if not completely gone.

This is Motor City, and This is What We Do
Eminem’s epic moment in the brand’s feature commercial was, not doubt spectacular, especially with the line “this is motor city and this is what we do.” Moreover was the introduction ahead of Eminem’s appearance, was much more powerful. The quick cuts of the real Detroit; the cold, the strength, the people and the faith the city has. The commercial told a story of those who have fought long and hard. Those people who have worked, those people who have never given up hope. The commercial followed the rules of emotional branding to their finer details. “The hottest fires forge the toughest steel.” Hope and ambition, strength and character, America and its people were the messages being drilled into our hearts. We did not weep when watching this commercial, rather we watched with open eyes and mouths while not breathing a single breath. We knew, just like those in Detroit, that this commercial, this message, meant something. It touched us in a way we haven’t felt in a long while. And there it was, emotion being applied to the brand. It was as if Chrysler never left us and never will. It was here to stay and lift us up from the dark.

That was the point of it all; hope and inspiration. Chrysler created something that we all believed in and we attached ourselves. If you notice, the car was in the commercial for all of 15 seconds. It wasn’t about the car, never should have been. It was about the people making it and the people around it.

And that’s the last we saw of that messaging.

Introduction of New Cities
I don’t know if it is easier to shoot in New York and LA, but that’s where the latest Chrysler commercials filmed from. I agree, that a brand needs to evolve and needs to seek out new landscapes, however, New York and LA are not related to Detroit even in the slightest. This rebrand was about blue-collar, the American struggle. New York and LA do not provide that persona at all. Nor is “Imported from Detroit” about fashion or hip-hop. The introduction of fashion designer John Varvatos in New York and Dr. Dre in LA do not align to the emotion already set.

Yes, Varvatos is from Detroit, but fashion is not and Dr. Dre is from LA. These are complete disconnects from the brand or what the brand is supposed to be about; or from what we gathered the brand is about. I know that Dr. Dre’s Beats Audio are integrated into some vehicles, but what about having those commercials shot in Detroit or city similar? What I don’t get is the fashion angle. How does fashion or a fashion designer relate to this campaign at all?

Eminem came from and will never leave Detroit. He has blue-collar in his blood. In fact, word on the street is that Chrysler and W+K had to prove that the campaign was going to reflect and promote Detroit and that Chrysler will never leave it. Well, fast forward 5 months and Chrysler left Detroit to shoot in LA and New York.

In my opinion, if you want to maintain that level of emotion around a city and its people, especially those who are hard working, determined and full of character, don’t leave that city. Make Detroit the epicenter of the rebrand. Align Detroit to Chrysler; align the people to the image. If you have to, move to a city much like Detroit such as Cleveland, Milwaukee, Pittsburg or St. Louis. It is very apparent that Chrysler, along with W+K have lost sight of the emotion they had originally created.

The Branding Dispute
Pure Detroit began selling apparel and other items with the “Imported from Detroit” slogan on them. Chrysler quickly came down on them with a cease-and-desist order and began to sue them. Yes, large brands know how to keep hold on their brand and enjoy controlling it and maintaining the image. Where Chrysler made the mistake was this case specifically. Given the fact that the rebrand was about Detroit’s people and the American people, the rebrand should have been allowed to evolve and be owned by the people. I’m all for brand equity and promote it with my clients. However, this case is different. The people of Detroit evangelized the brand after one, one commercial! This is unreal. This is free advertising, this is free advocacy and free recognition. Chrysler as a brand doesn’t have to do anything to move the brand forward, yet, they came down hard on the “working man” or the Detroit they have come to realize was always there waiting to be understood.

In this case, allow the merchants to create your brand for you. Allow the consumers to respond with faith in your brand and become inspired by the work they do to create the cars that you are selling.

Branding and Art Direction
The rebrand’s art direction is the brass tacks of what I’m concerned about. Coming from an Art Director background, watching this campaign unfold makes me cringe. The inaugural commercial had “feeling” belonging only to itself. When W+K or the other agencies working with Chrysler started rolling out traditional media, follow up commercials and microsites, the image and the emotion quickly fell apart.

If a large brand like Chrysler wants to rollout a campaign like this, it is required to have a cohesive image and message across all channels and outlets. You see below that the commercials do not have the same art direction as the traditional pieces. The websites do not live up to the image in the commercial as the sites are all about product and not image and emotion.

What I do have are stills from videos from the auto shows at the booths after the commercial aired. They are emotional, endearing, historic, and they tell a story of where we have been and where we are going – all without products. I want to sit in a Chrysler after seeing these images.

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Here’s a solution, take visual cues from the commercials that made you great. Speak, through images and content about the story, about the emotion, about the city, and about life. Let the consumers make a connection with your story, then with your product.

What This Campaign Should Have Been About
In summary, this campaign should have been about hope, reality, inspiration, fight and pride. It should have been about the people and the feelings. Chrysler and W+K have failed at aligning meaning behind the rest of their approach to the brand that they started back in early 2011. Align back to Detroit, speak to the people that make that city great and this country great. Speak to sacrifice, hard work and determination. Speak to THEM and stop bringing us that which we cannot relate to. Do not leave Detroit, do not ignore the “blue-collar” worker and do not leave us like the brands before you.

Want to know what I’m talking about? Watch what Levi’s is doing.

Recap: #SocialEvents Twitter Chat – Move Beyond the Check-In

Last week, in an effort to increase awareness around Critical Mass’ SxSW submissions, we hosted five days of Twitter chats. Each Critical Mass entry had its own chat. It was a great experience interacting with some top minds, sharing ideas and taking a critical look at the digital and social landscape from different perspectives – all on Twitter.

Just to recap, my SxSW entry is about making events more social and more engaging for the participants, in real-time and long after the event is over. (Don’t forget to vote!)

From the Move Beyond the Check-In: Making Events Truly Social Twitter chat, there were some interesting themes that came up.

  • Privacy is still a major concern with location-based services. Especially when it comes to integrating LBS into existing social networks.
  • Check-in and consumer loyalty are not always synonymous.
  • Incentives are still top-of-mind with consumers and marketers as a method to engage consumers.
  • Layered incentives or achievements can motivate consumer retention.
  • Gamification is another method still being considered or employed for consumer retention.
  • Marketers sometimes find it difficult to move beyond the incentive and game when engaging audiences at events.
  • Engagement at events with the event itself or crowd, could be a viable next step after incentives; curating real-time relationships.

So, to grow this conversation even further, how can we as marketers, move beyond the incentive and using technology, engage the consumer at events with real-time value and long term experiences?

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Twitter chat with me and Critical Mass! You all were great, highly engaged and provided incredible insights into event-based marketing! Below (after the fold) is the Twitter chat, formatted for your reference.

Please don’t forget to vote (Friday, September 2nd) is the last day to vote!

Continue reading “Recap: #SocialEvents Twitter Chat – Move Beyond the Check-In”

#SXSW 2012: Move Beyond the Check-In: Making Events Truly Social

A while back, I first viewed Amon Tobin’s new stage for his ISAM tour. It was an illuminating and innovative experience to view online. Yes, I am going to see him when he comes to Chicago in October to experience the projection mapping for myself. Yet, when I viewed it, I knew that it was so powerful and could not go unnoticed. I tweeted the video and got some amazing responses. One of the responses was from @mrrylln from our London office. This guy, is an amazing creative and witnessed the show himself out in the UK. He brought an amazing idea to the table. It was simple, how can you integrate social into something like that? Well, that got me thinking.

I wasn’t just thinking about projection mapping and social media, but events and social media with innovative technologies. We are reaching a period where users are starting to engage themselves with brands and locations rather than the other way around. How do we tap into that advocate power being marketers? These users who are checking into venues and are leaving comments about the experiences and by extension, building brand awareness for us.

Now, my question is, how do we take that check-in and make it worth something to the consumer? Well, it has to be valuable to the consumer, it has to be innovative to leave a mark, and it has to be engaging. I think that we have become pigeonholed into the simple check-in in social media. Check in here, then you get this. Incentive based check-ins have their place in the social ecosystem, but not to the point of consumer retention.

Another question is, can you buy friends, can you buy loyalty? The answer is no, you cannot buy loyalty. Loyalty, like trust, has to be earned and brands are not exempt from that. So, let’s push this forward a bit. Let’s move beyond the check-in and beyond a simple incentive.

Real-time engagement is the key; real-time engagement through innovative technologies. Let’s think of a concert. There is a band on stage and you have checked into the venue and that’s about it. You told your friends, both online and offline that you are there. Where is the engagement by the band? Perhaps they have a tweet to screen or a photo-to-screen technology set up? What if the band allowed you to vote during the show, via LBS, what the set-line up should be? And, what if, after the show, those who participated got the concert for free as a download? What if then, the band asked you to rate the show and share your experience or if the set line up worked? Or, what if the same type of line up occurred in Europe, from others voting and the band let you know after the fact? This is the type of real-time engagement I’m talking about here; taking the check-in by a consumer and doing something with it.

Recently, Foursquare announced they are offering event check-ins along with their location check-ins. Instead of checking into a concert venue, you are checking into the concert itself. This change was created by Foursquare after they observed all the check-ins by their users and noticed they were commenting on the event and not the location. This idea is brilliant and the next level of where event based social needs to go.

I submitted a SxSW panel topic called, Move Beyond the Check-in: Making Events Truly Social. This is line of thinking is what I will, hopefully, be presenting at SxSW 2012. I will be exploring new trends, technologies, consumer behaviors and ideas in event based marketing.

This is the new frontier. We, as marketers, need to take this relationship that the consumers form with the brands, onsite to online. We, as marketers, need to engage these consumers on behalf of the brand in innovative ways through technologies that offer value and excitement to the consumer. We, as marketers, need to retain the consumer long after the event is over. These consumers who are checking into events are the advocates that all brands are looking for, and we need to welcome them with open arms into the social community.

I have some wonderfully smart and creative people joining me on this panel from all over the industry. Vice President of Social Media, Heidi Skinner from Critical Mass will offer her unique insights into consumer loyalties and new technologies. Chief Creative Officer, Joe Sutter from GMR Marketing will bring his unparalleled experience in event-based marketing to the panel. And, Siobhan Quinn who is one of the original Product Managers at Forusquare. Her experience in location-based service is unquestionable.

Here comes the shameless plug. Please read my panel entry and vote for me to speak at SxSW. I firmly believe event-based social is the new frontier for marketers and the new way to interact with consumers. (Also, if you do vote for me, thank you!)

PS: A few others from Critical Mass have also submitted entries to SxSW and I invite you to check them out.

For the Chatty Community Managers:
Confessions of a Community Moderator
Workshop and interactive “confessional booth” including moderators for Converse, Peanuts, Humana and Aveda.

For the Statistically-Relevant and Uber-Accountable:
F**k Privacy: Neuromarketing is the Web’s Future
Panel, led by CM’s VP of Marketing Science, Shaina Boone, with contributions from the Chief Privacy Officer of Adobe and CEO of Next Stage Revolution.

For a Brand’s Strategic Moneymakers:
Social Commerce: The New Standard of Loyalty
Dual presentation from CM’s VP of Social Media, Heidi Skinner, and Social Commerce Today editor, Paul Mardsen.

For the Gadget Gods and Goddesses:
Consumer Goods: The Next Social Channels
Panel, prototyping contest and demo led by CM’s SVP Executive Technology Director, Scott Ross.

Son of Erik Mixtape Release: Stars

Don’t look to the skies for your path, look inward. The heavens may be full of stars, but remember, we’re all stars.

I have provided a link for you (at the bottom of this post) to download the mixtape. (If you would like it split into tracks, let me know, and I’ll provide.)

Download Stars Here

Or, you can listen to Stars here:

These mixes are not intended for sale or reproduction. Son of Erik does not and will not receive any proceeds from the production of these mixes. Please respect the copyright of the original artists that have been listed.

Son of Erik Mixtape Release: Synthesized Society

Is the world fundamentally a better place because of science and technology? We shop at home, we surf the web, but at the same time we feel emptier, lonelier, and more cut off from each other than at any other time in human history. Is this a synthesized society? Listen and tell me.

I have provided a link for you (at the bottom of this post) to download the mixtape. (If you would like it split into tracks, let me know, and I’ll provide.)

Download Synthesized Society Here

These mixes are not intended for sale or reproduction. Son of Erik does not and will not receive any proceeds from the production of these mixes. Please respect the copyright of the original artists that have been listed.

Include Social Media in your Brand Strategy

Branding your company is a big, arduous task. It’s not just a logo, it’s not your business cards, letterheads and advertising. What a lot of people and companies don’t understand about branding, is that your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what the consumers believe it is. It’s what the consumer feels about your brand. How do you communicate with your consumers to understand what they’re thinking, and how do to align their beliefs with your own brand strategy? Enter social media.

The term social media gets thrown about a lot, and social media strategy equally so. However, where does a social media strategy actually fit within your brand strategy? How do you leverage social media channels to effectively communicate with your consumers and how do you use social media to affect change within your brand strategy?

For starters, social media is a tool to reinforce your marketing communications pillar. It is not a separate entity; social media should enhance your marketing objectives and then your business strategy. Your business strategy aligns with the perception of your brand. This process is ever changing only because your consumers’ opinions are ever changing. What social can bring to the table is immediate, effective understanding and communications with your consumer base. Social is where you will find the most up-to-date brand opinion. This is important, vastly important to your brand, because you can decipher what your consumer believes, understand their concerns and with quick process, adjust the marketing communications to align your brand communications with the consumer’s perception.

Large words, I know. What is important to know is, consumer brand perception can and will change faster than marketing or brand channels can keep up with. Social offers a unique point of view of what’s happening in the eyes of the consumer and allows for rapid modification to marketing communications.

Picture this: Your brand launches a new product to market. This product is supposed to change the way people look at your brand. It’s meant to instill faith in your brand and some sort of positive, hopeful emotion. Now, let’s say there is a backlash against the product. Your product is either too expensive, insulting or just downright lame. Your consumers have an obvious opinion about this. Where do they go? They go where they spend the most of their time, Facebook and Twitter. Their opinion about your product is posted online, for their network, the network’s network, and the world to see. And with 90% of consumers trusting recommendations from people they know*, more consumers gravitate to the opinion and now you have a mess on your hands.

You have a Facebook fan page. The consumers post their discontent on your fan page’s wall. What do you do? Delete them? No! You respond respectfully and send the consumers’ opinions up the ladder to the marketing communications department. The marcom department, after dealing with problem at hand, should send it up to the business strategy arm. If you don’t have a business strategy arm, you should. Immediately, decisions should be made as to what to do with the information. It’s not a matter of how to stop this consumer belief from impacting your brand, because it IS your brand now. The matter is, how do you change it. Brand perception is no longer a top-down activity, it’s a bottom-up enterprise and social is your inroad to the perception. What you do, what you say, how your brand reacts on social will have an immediate effect, positive or negative to your brand. This process requires a new model of communication similar to that, which was introduced in the book, “The Brand Gap” by Marty Neumeier.

New Messaging Platform

*From “The Brand Gap,” Marty Neumeier

One item of note, the brand and social “strategy” are not solid, concrete action plans. Think of them as an organic, living system that’s ever changing. People’s beliefs change and your brand will have to evolve along with.

Your social communication should have a clear, precise path to the decision makers in your company. If your decision makers can’t hear what your consumers are saying about your brand, then you have lost what little control over brand perception you had. Your consumers are speaking about your brand through your social channels to, what they perceive as, people who can change things. Why not send that message fast and direct? The longer you avoid a clear, established, path from social media to the brand decision makers, the longer it will take to recover, redefine, or reinforce your brand perception and ultimately, your bottom line.

*Econsultancy, July 2009