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ImageDo ya feel lucky? Well do ya?

If you do, place your bet and double it again as it appears that lucky streaks are for real. If fact, they’re a behavioral fact of life.

It isn’t that people have a “hot hand,” explains a recent study by University College, London and as reported in The Economist, or that people are self-deceiving and only believe they’re winning when they are not. What occurs when one [usually] wins a series of hands is that wining streaks increase in length because winners start choosing safer bets and safer odds, which leads to more wins, albeit for less winnings. Conversely, those experiencing a losing streak also bring it on themselves making even riskier bets after each loss, and thus lose more.

The rule “the house always wins” is thereby assured, for winning streaks win less and losing streaks lose more. Perhaps the “gambler’s fallacy” is correct after all.

 

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A lot of ideas go to Kickstarter in hopes of getting needed funding. Many die but a lot of good ideas are successful and become products. If you’ve missed the initial wave of a Kickstarter project, you can still be an early adopter by grabbing a product off of Outgrow.me. Outgrow.me is a marketplace for many of the Kickstarter projects that were successful. So instead of waiting six months to see if a product idea will get funding and then another few months for fulfillment, you can jump on the bandwagon once it’s all smoothed out. Some of my favorites include:

Keylet: A metal wallet that holds a key like a Swiss Army Knife

Cap Buckle: A means of ensuring you don’t lose your camera’s lens cap

Weerol: An adjustable wooden toy

Creatures: The craziest looking card game I’ve ever seen

Stick-N-find: A way to use your smartphone to find lost stuff (except lost smartphones)

“Did you ever notice how grown-ups hate it when kids are having fun?”

According to the new Captain Underpants book and the majority of those kids who read the series, this statement could not be truer. And today, the tenth epic novel by Dav Pilkey is released, Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, Captain Underpants books are about two kids, George and Harold, who get into trouble for having mischievous fun. A prime example, when George and Harold get busted for leaving ketchup packets under the toilet seat in a prank they call “Squishy” in Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy.

Every book in the Captain Underpants series has made it to the USA Today‘s best-seller list, as well as the American Library Association‘s “Hit List,” the annual top 10 list of most-complained about books. The number one complaint you ask? Pat Scales, chair of the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, says, “The No. 1 complaint is — this is kind of funny — nudity. I guess because the superhero has on jockey shorts. [Also] vulgar language, and they feel that kids are being taught not to obey authority.” However, it’s not just the “nudity” that had most parents up in arms over the series. Many are frustrated by the misspelled words. “Laugh” is spelled “laff.” “Trouble” is spelled “trubbel.”

So why dedicate a marketing research blog post to a children’s book series? Well, misspelled words, potty humor, mischievous fun and brilliant cartoon drawings align with a ready audience of elementary school boys. The point: knowing your target audience enables you to deliver products that create demand. And in Dav Pilkey’s case, this strategy has proven to be successful not just once, but ten times …and counting.

Recently, a few colleagues in the marketing research industry have sent me documents, decks, and general thought pieces to review. Putting content aside, each article is unique in character, but what is common to each is a static framework, or context, to communicate thoughts.

Each framework is similar by seeking to convey  a certain meaning that augments or leverages associated meaning to text. This is accomplished by employing visual cues and heuristics such as headings, indentation, and grammatical symbols throughout the document. It’s much different than writing a standard cohesive paragraph; it’s lexical “pimping.”

Unfortunately, despite some compelling ideas and insights, many documents nevertheless are all over the place in the methods used to frame and accentuate thoughts; rarely does the context of these documents leverage the ideas written.

Truth be told, most of these documents are written in Power Point, which has plenty of detractors, and I will avoid such comment here. A few are constructed in Prezi, “this year’s model” a rarely well adapted and over-stylized, yet extremely linear presentational software. Software, regardless of origin, however, is not the culprit. Rather, it’s that we’re not following a few simple rules.

What are The Rules? Well, let me share them with you:

Fonts
All fonts are not created equal
Choose a font that feels right
Try to use one font throughout
Don’t be afraid to to bold, sparingly

Color
Color is an art and a science, so know color theory
PowerPoint is good with color

Images
Use images deliberately
Full-bleeds create breaks
Watch your resolution
Clip art is not your friend, nor are stock photos

Page Layout
Present one idea per page
Don’t be afraid of white space
Bullets are for lists
People can read sentences
Use transition slides as bridges, not breaks

Infographics
Find inspiration in today’s news, don’t be afraid to reinterpret
Storytelling, not statistics
Avoid data for data’s sake
The appendix has a purpose

Another iconic brand is vanishing (for now). Hostess, the makers of Wonder Bread, Drakes Cakes, Twinkies, etc. is going to be liquidated. Looking at the brand’s wikipedia page, a lot of iconic regional and national brands will go down as well. While consumers may or may not see this at the grocery store given the explosion in choice on the shelves, we’re losing a brand that had such an impact that it crept into pop culture, including WALL-E’s pet cockroach eating a 700 year old Twinkie to comic book advertisements from the 1970s and 1980s like the one below.

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While I’m sure some of these brands will be purchased by other companies and reborn, this is definitely the end of an era. How often do we see brands becoming this iconic?

I know that it seemed like last winter barely happened thanks to beautiful weather, but you might remember that in the recent past, winter storms generated hashtags on social media like #SNOMG and #Snowmageddon (a name actually picked by President Obama). Now, the Weather Channel has decided it wants to control the hashtags people use for winter storms. As such, it has decreed it will name all winter storms, claiming it will raise awareness of the storms with consumers (though I think it’s an attempt to raise awareness of its coverage).

So it sounds like an interesting way to engage consumers via social media, right? The problem is that it feels very forced and made up. When hashtags like #SNOMG showed up on Twitter it was because users were controlling the conversation and enjoying it. I suspect that no one will use the storm names, unless it is to mock the names themselves. 

That mocking, has already started rather spontaneously as the AV Club posted an article on it, noticed that one of the names was “KHAN” and the comments immediately filled with sarcastic references to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (among others). It’s a lesson many companies have a hard time learning, you can’t force social media. While you can wind it up, once you send it out into the world it will carve it’s own path. I suspect this attempt will be met with an old standard hashtag on social media: #fail.

And now, the obligatory 2012 Summer Olympic W5 blog post:

Let it be known that I hate merchandising “tie-ins.” They tend to further degrade bad food and lousy movies, but I get especially peeved when the practice attaches itself to something that at least tries to offer us something soley for the sake of ‘giving back,’ as does the Olympics.

The Olympics has many committees, but one in particular, the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), is responsible for keeping tabs on official Olympic sponsors, companies who pay dearly for the right to be called “official” Olympic sponsors. But that can’t stop Toby Leigh, the Hackney-based illustrator, from plying his trade to Olympic-themed products. Working in conjunction with the UK-based acccessories designer Elaine Burke and Khama, a women’s micro-lending cooperative of knitters and sewers located in Malawi, Leigh’s unofficial Olympic products, namely a simple tote bag, are flying off the shelfs of UK stores that also carry the requisite mascost stuffed animals, t-shirts and Union Jack flags.

What’s most interesting about his tote is that they’re not designed for Olympic tourists, but rather UK locals. He calls them “reality check” bags, a nod to the people of greater London who still have to go through the everyday regardless of the onslaught. Tagged with slogans such as “It only took me three hours to get to work this morning,”and “I’m renting my flat to a fat American family” these statement bags poke fun of the event. The “I’ve got missles on my rooftop” offering was a last-minute nix.

For the next few weeks, unfortunate Londoners stuck in town over the summer holidays dealing with a double dose of summer tourists can now share a common bond when pressed into the 5:15 Tube, stuck between an Ohioan and Berliner, commuting home from just another day in the city.

And if you’re not attending, you can still pick up the bag at www.thatbigeventlondon.co.uk and do your part. Cheers!

A bit back I was made aware by the ever-curious Grant McCracken of his latest project on culture entitled “Culturematics.” Culturematics are “little machines for making culture.” And while not actually small industrial devices, culturematics are nevertheless “ingenuity engines.”

Grant had developed a blog for people to post their newly minted culturematics: quick, inexpensive prototypes of ideas that are likely to fail, but that just might take off and get picked up by people and become part of our cultural milieu. By sharing ideas, the jist is that these ideas will evolve quickly. Many ideas will not be picked up and die off. But a few are likely to be adopted, and transformed in the process through iterative innovation into something that has the possibility of making its mark, or better still, transforming society, i.e., an “app for creating the world anew.”

In today’s fast and furious world, culturematics give one the opportunity to either take the reins and lead the charge in the creation of their own culturematic or at least participate in the process and contribute to one’s development.

In the end, while you may not create the next Google or Starbucks, Grant allows us to participate in the mysterious process of innovation. If nothing else, it will stir one’s curiosity and allow you to dip into a creative pool of interesting people. Fun and relevant.