Food for Thought: Man vs. Machine

August 26, 2014 — Peter Robertson

Are graphic designers weakening their own artistic talents? Are new digital tools stripping away fundamental skill sets? Are we becoming an unoriginal, regurgitated production line?

My belief has always been that “design is a great idea.” Execution is important, but the process is paramount. To generate an idea, one has to shuffle through her imagination as well as outside influences. That’s the easy part. Translating that into a clear and tangible thought, and then onto paper, is the challenge. To be able to sketch what’s in one’s own head is far more convincing than just referencing other peoples’ work.

Am I the only one who fears that the tools we use today are taking away from fundamentally important skill sets? For example, keyboards are now affecting the original art form of clear and legible handwriting. As Paul Bloom of Yale University notes, “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important… maybe it helps you think better.”

To cap it off, the digital tools and programs of today are mesmerizing but poor substitutes for individuality and thought. This could be a trap into which the next generation of designers and artmakers is falling. […]

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NYC coffee is supposed to be a buck!

August 25, 2014 — Mia Gewertz

One of our core capabilities at CBX is the development of store offers and advisement of c-store clients on how their coffee program should function. I work on many of these coffee program offers and recently experienced an invigorating “my job applies to the real world” kind of moment.

The short-order restaurant next door to my apartment was recently bought, renamed and redesigned. While the changes were nice, they didn’t change my opinion about the shop. I wasn’t going to order more and was unlikely to sit, much less, sit longer. But good for them for trying something new.

One recent morning, as I picked up my coffee and dropped $1.25 on the counter, the cashier informed me that the coffee was now $2.25.

My jaw hit the floor. ($2.25 for drip coffee? What? When did that happen? It’s drip coffee?! Even $1.25 is too much!)

The cashier tells me they’ve changed their coffee brand and upgraded their coffee machine. (Bewildered look still on my face.)

The cashier (who may have been the new owner’s relative) and the short-order cook (from the old guard) saw my reaction and looked embarrassed. “Yeah, sorry. There have been some changes.” I threw down the extra dollar, muttering, and walked […]

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Dream Kitchen Nightmares: 5 Lessons My Kitchen Remodel (Re)Taught Me About Client Services

July 25, 2014 — Dan Moore

I recently underwent the second most painful renovation a homeowner can experience: the kitchen remodel. (The most painful one, of course, is remodeling the only bathroom in the house.)

As somebody who works in a client services role, I found it interesting to be on the other side of the coin. Undertaking a home renovation served as a great refresher for some basic, client services tenets:

1. Have a clear sense of vision. One of the best ways to ensure success of any redesign project is to have a strong sense of the end goal. In my case, I moved forward with the remodeling in order to enjoy the house for another decade, not to quickly upgrade and sell. That realization helped me tailor the budget, design choices and expectations.

2. Hire the right people to guide you through the project, and listen to them. Having grown up with a carpenter father, and having done a number of smaller projects in my home and duplex, I was fortunate to come into this process with a pretty good set of expectations. But it was my first kitchen, and the people I worked with provided a wealth of additional ideas and suggestions. […]

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World Cup Through the Eyes of a Designer

July 18, 2014 — Cecilia Jayo

After 32 days of suspense and surprises, the world can finally breathe again. Whether you were watching the 2014 FIFA World Cup to see the U.S. goalkeeper break a World Cup record, or to see if Ronaldo would rip his shirt off in the rain (taka a moment to picture it… *deep sigh*) there’s no denying that the tournament this year was exciting for all.

As a designer, something I look out for every World Cup year is its branding. Each World Cup is branded in a completely unique way, so it’s always fun to see what the next host country will come up with. The official emblem, for example, is created years in advance of the tournament and usually represents a combination of soccer sportsmanship, a global community coming together and a little something about the host country. The branding is also shown in everything from posters to tickets, and even the soccer balls themselves.

It’s interesting to see the evolution of World Cup branding throughout the years and how certain elements have become more carefully designed and branded. What’s also clear is that as the years have passed, more FIFA corporate brand consistency has helped unify the still […]

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Is it really that easy to raise money on Kickstarter?

July 16, 2014 — Adam Hildebrand

I’ve recently become all-too familiar with Kickstarter since the recent launch of my boyfriend’s campaign for his brand, The Dream Hoodie. His goal was to raise enough funds (using a flagship product) to incorporate the company, develop more product samples and get a website up and running.

To the untrained observer, the process seems pretty simple: make a video, fill out some information about your project and share the living daylights out of the campaign (with every human you’ve ever interacted with… since your pre-school teacher). Because I wanted to be a good boyfriend, not to mention the fact that  I make my living as a marketer, I became his Kickstarter partner-in-crime.

We did a lot of research on what makes a successful crowdfunding campaign and learned a lot along the way. Here are my key takeaways:

1. You aren’t just launching a product, you’re launching a brand: On Kickstarter, you need to create a video and a website. After an initial first crack at writing copy, we realized that in order to succeed, we needed to take a step backwards and figure out our purpose – what was our reason for existing in peoples’ lives? Technically, we were just […]

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Ben & Jerry’s “Food Fight! Fudge Brownie”

July 1, 2014 — Julie Doughty

A sweet swirl of flavor & strategy

Product naming typically involves hard decisions between corporate objectives and customer appeal. Renaming tends to come only after careful consideration of the equity that’s lost along with an abandoned name.

Enter Ben & Jerry’s. It’s finding ways to have its cake and eat it too by introducing new flavor names that both delight customers and serve business interests at the same time. Its latest genius move has been the “renaming” of Chocolate Fudge Brownie to “Food Fight! Fudge Brownie” in support of the Vermont Food Fight initiative, which has been working to defend a state law that requires labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in food.

The new name doesn’t confuse loyal customers because it retains the crucial words “Fudge Brownie.” It is also limited in scope: Ben & Jerry’s is only renaming the flavor in its company-owned stores in Vermont. (In grocery stores you’ll still see regular old “Chocolate Fudge Brownie.”)

So why go to all the trouble of “renaming” if the rollout is so limited? By announcing a renaming and donating a portion of its proceeds, Ben and Jerry’s draws attention to its larger corporate initiative to remove GMOs from all […]

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Blue Flame

June 26, 2014 — Thom Unterburger

Guess whose phone we won’t be talking about (much) next year

It would be easy to dismiss the timing of last week’s announcement of the Amazon Fire smartphone as a cheap attempt to deflect attention from all the bad PR Amazon has been getting lately. Yet, even if it were true, that would be the only cheap thing about it. Turns out the phone is super expensive, especially considering its vendor.

Anyone who follows Amazon’s business knows it is the most horizontally expansive retailer out there and that it deliberately doesn’t make much money on anything. Instead, Amazon is playing a very long, low-margin game of nickels and dimes from repeat consumption across as many product lines as it can offer, at scale. With over 200 million credit cards on file, it will make it up in volume, the story goes, which is why creating as many Amazon shopping venues as possible (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Kindle) is key to its model.

To wit, when Jeff Bezos introduced the Kindle Fire tablet in the fall of 2012, he said, “We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices.” That’s smart positioning against an […]

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That Was a Mall, This is an Experience

May 9, 2014 — Meg Asaro

Last Saturday, I went shopping at Garden State Plaza with my family. I had been on maternity leave for around 3 months but was now back in the game and excited to be out and about. As a cultural strategist, I was looking forward to some voyeurism; instead I somehow became part of the experience. The thought was, grandma Jean was in from Scotland and who doesn’t like a good shop?

Our original list was minimal–a spring trench and a belt–but we were enjoying the walkabout.

First experience: C Wonder

The jackets here were navy and made of classic rain gear (picture thick rubbery plastic). No thanks. But I did find an adorable floral top. My 5-year-old son was already in the dressing room, giggling away. I found him playing with a touch screen on the wall, organized by mood music, volume and lighting with an inviting button screaming, “NEED HELP? Press me!” Well, it was only to the count of 10 before a dance party erupted with Grandma Jean doing her best twerk to the mood “wonderful.”

Next experience: Anthropologie

Before we could even find the jackets and belts, our attention veered to a cool arts and crafts […]

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What a Difference a Word Makes

May 5, 2014 — Cindy Lord

I had a craving the other day for a big, slutty cheeseburger. So like any other red-blooded American, I drove to the nearest McDonald’s. And that’s when it happened:

“Welcome back,” she said.

Not “welcome” or “good afternoon” or a friendly “hi there!” but —“welcome back.” I placed my order and drove up to the drive-through window and then it happened again:

“Welcome back.”

By this point I am starting to feel pretty special—Sally Field-like on Oscar night (“They like me. They really like me!”)—appreciated, like they really valued my business, and important. They remembered me—how did they know I’d been here before? Yes, I know they were saying this to EVERYBODY. And the odds are way on their side that I have been to McDonald’s before, but it still made me feel good. There was gratitude packed into that phrase.

“Welcome back” had changed my entire perspective on the experience. It wasn’t a new menu item they’d spent years developing or an innovative sales contraption that more accurately (and speedily) took my order. And no pioneering form of payment (Bitcoin, anyone?) to speak of. It was that simple, two-word greeting. I caught myself chitchatting with the cashier because hey, […]

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The Tough Tribe

April 10, 2014 — David Weinberger

Do you remember your first day at middle school? High school? Walking into the lunchroom, unsure of where your friends are and needing to choose a table? You don’t want to be embarrassed. You want to sit with the cool kids. You want to be with folks just like you. At an early age, you realize that who’s at your table can define who you are. Sound juvenile? Sound mean?

Brands are always trying to define their consumers. Customer segmentations help define what type of people make up the customer base and and why/how they engage with the brand. While this is a tried and true method of strategically targeting consumers, it’s also becoming a bit old school. More brands every day are moving away from thinking in terms of segmentation and towards thinking about their tribe. That way they can connect with consumers based on a sense of character, intrinsic motivations and shared values.

To connect with these tribes, which are often made up of people across a broad  demographic, some brands are identifying a cast of characters that really put a stake in the ground. You could almost imagine a lunch table of different, yet like-minded middle schoolers. […]

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