The Early 90s are Calling (with some marketing wisdom)

January 26, 2015

Growing up a child of the late 80s/early 90s, there was no shortage of tangible ways to socially signal your coolness level. (And they were hard to miss, as many of them came in neon.) From the range of hypercolor shirts in your wardrobe rotation to the size of your slap bracelet collection to the number of New Kids on the Block buttons pinned to the back of your acid-wash jean jacket, social status went hand-in-hand with stuff. But of all the late-80s greatness, one social signal reigned supreme above them all: the clear phone.

But let’s rewind a bit.

In an era when a young girl’s coming-of-age/understanding of the world was heavily influenced by The Babysitter’s Club, the only thing cooler than push-down socks and papier-mâché bangles was the thought of having my own personal phone line in my room. (Just ask Claudiashe had it all.) I spent years pining away for my very own phone line as budding visions of entrepreneurship danced in my head. Meanwhile, my parents spent years insisting that our extremely fancy and high-tech cordless phone would be more than adequate for the phone needs of a preteen girl. It was a logic I begrudgingly accepted until the day I went over to my friend Liz’s house and learned not only had she received her own phone line, it was tied to a clear phone with neon innards. I had never seen anything cooler in my life.

Over the summer that followed, we spent countless hours hunkered down in her room calling our crushes on the clear phone and hanging up as soon as they answered. (The days before caller ID were truly a gift to timid teens.) We’d break occasionally to ride our bikes down to the local mart to pick up a pack of Fun Dip and the latest issue of Teen magazine so we could call the 800 numbers of beauty vendors advertised in the back to request free samples. (Side note: “Mood lipstick” is not a good look.)

Thirty years later, I find myself clutching a very expensive piece of telephone technology; a very distant cousin known as the iPhone. Its capabilities surpass anything I could have imagined. We’ve not only fulfilled, but surpassed, most of the 1988 prophecies Epcot Center predicted we’d see “some day in the future.” Unimaginable things my younger self simultaneously marveled and scoffed at. (Imagine being able to see the person you’re talking to on the phone while you’re talking to them! Impossible.) The future is now, but for some reason I still find myself thinking about that clear phone.

It occurred to me last night, as I was drifting to sleep, that the clear phone was one of the first — and best — marketing lessons I’ve ever had. In a day in age when everyone was creating the same drab product, the clear phone went the opposite way. They opened the kimono. Rather than just creating a product, they created a story. They let the world see the guts and grit of what was going on behind the curtain (or under the plastic, if you will.)

It’s a lesson that has stuck with me throughout my life. And while technology and color trends have changed (thank goodness), this particular lesson is perhaps even more relevant today than it was 30 years ago. It’s no longer enough to create a good product. Anyone can create a good product. Everyone (mostly) is creating a good product. When you’re just in the business of creating a selling a product or a transaction, loyalty is zilch and consumers will go wherever the best deal is. That’s a really hard way to compete. If you want your brand to thrive, you’ve got to be in the business of selling your story. Selling a way of life. Selling a memory. Selling a different and better way of doing things. You’ve got to let people in and give them a peek at not just what you do, but how you do it and why it matters.

You’ve got to give people a reason to still find themselves thinking about you thirty years down the road.

5 Free Stock Photo Sites that Don’t Suck

December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving is arguably my favorite week of the year. It’s short. It’s festive. It’s a three day parade into the official holiday season. (Though, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’ve been excited about “the holidays” since roughly September 1.) In the spirit of week in which the working world is scrambling to cram five days worth of work into three while visions of food comas dance in our heads, I thought it would be nice to keep today’s blog fun and food-focused (with a generous side of what-the-hell?)

Not too long ago, Buzzfeed posted a list of 50 Completely Unexplainable Stock Photos No One Will Ever Use. Apparently Totino’s pizza took this as a challenge. (A really, really weird challenge.)

25 12 11

This is just a small sampling of the complete set of images. Check out the rest over here.

In the off chance you’re actually looking for beautiful stock images that are completely usable, here are a few free favorites. An early holiday gift from me to you:

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Death to the Stock Photo*


Life of Pix
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Little Visuals

12 Things of Christmas

November 30, 2014


Tavern Vinegar


agate coasters
Gold-rimmed Agate Coasters

knitted hot water bottle
Wool Water Bottle Cover


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The Homesteady

Art of Doing Stuff

Be Up and Doing


Nick Carbone via Time
French 75

White Sangria

Champagne Punch

grapefruit mimosa
Grapefruit Sage Mimosa


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Brim Papery

carver junk co
Carver Junk Company

Crave Studio

knack gvl

poppy soap co
Poppy Soap Co.




dirty franks
Dirty Franks

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Kittie’s Cakes



Get them here


board butter
Board Butter

DIY Lip Balm

Peppermint Foot Scrub

Tiny Pots

Lemon Sugar Scrub

Christmas Potpourri

DIY Bitters

Tea Towel Heating Pads


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Perini’s Ranch | Buffalo Gap, TX

Midnight Cowboy | Austin, TX

Nestled amongst the curiosities and crazy of 6th Street in downtown ATX, you’ll find this unsuspecting door. Don’t be fooled by the shady exterior. Behind that door you’ll discover an oasis in the chaos, and what I would consider one of the best speakeasy bars in the country. Be forewarned, house rules are strictly enforced and reservations are a must. There is a two drink per person minimum and a two-hour maximum. All of which, combined with the building’s seedy past and stellar cocktails, makes The Midnight Cowboy an absolute must-visit.

Broken Spoke | Austin, TX

If you’re looking for live honkey tonk, real Texas musicians and a more local crowd than you’ll find on 6th Street, head over The Broken Spoke on Lamar The drinks are cheap, the enchiladas are amazing and the people are fun, friendly and anything but shy. Come prepared to practice your two-step. This place can make a country music lover out of just about anyone.

Shirley’s Tippy Canoe | Troutdale, OR

Once in awhile you stumble across a place that feels so perfectly perfect you’d swear you stepped into a movie set. Shirley’s Tippy Canoe is one of those places. We stumbled across this gem along the Columbia River Gorge scenic route, and I couldn’t have dreamed up a more picturesque mountain town roadside stop. If quaint charm isn’t your thing, then let’s talk about the food. Because…this club sandwich. Ask for a seat on the patio (it’s amazing!) and enjoy.

indian beach
Indian Beach | Ecola State Park, OR

Robledo Family Winery | Sonoma, CA

A few years ago, we took a trip to northern California. By chance, we stumbled across the Robledo Winery — and decided to check out their October harvest festival. I could write for pages about what a rare and wonderfully special experience it was, but instead I will simply say this: go there. Eat, drink and be merry in the company of people you love. Raise a glass with people you are meeting for the first time. Let the wine and the moment reconnect you to history and the land and the story of all of us. Skip the big name wineries. Head down the rural road to Robledo. You’ll be glad you did.

Timberline Lodge | Mt. Hood, OR

Main Street | Greenville, SC

Chicago Fine Arts Building

Louisiana Bayou

piazza del campo siena
Piazza del Campo | Siena, Italy

 (under $20)

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Lily Oval Skinny Bangle ($12)

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Poe-ka Dot Pouch ($12)

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Forged Iron Sheers (Small $10, Large $14)

Screenprinted Tea Towel

14k Gold Hex Studs 

Custom state stamp 

Hammered Copper Earrings

Books Print

Pine Root Hair Stick

Fireside Candle
(This closely replicates the scent of my much more expensive Henri Bendel Firewood candle)

little-women-01Little Women

Safari Ring Dish

What the Heck Is a Ghost Writer?

November 14, 2014


I got my marketing start in copywriting. Despite what Mad Men would have you believe, it’s a role that requires a great deal of humility in addition to creative talent. (Think Peggy Olson in the early years.) There is very little room for recognition as a copywriter. Even in an agency, the majority of what you do remains cloaked in anonymity, with credit going to your client. As someone once pointed out, Nike’s “Just Do It” is one of the most famous slogans in the world, and the only person that knows who came up with it is that guy’s mother.” (Actually, there is a story behind the slogan, but you get the point.)

What is a ghost writer?
While most people are aware that agencies and freelancers are often the masterminds behind marketing strategies and advertising campaigns, what many people don’t realize is that there are thousands of ghost writers flying under the radar as the public voices of CEOs, thought leaders and industry influencers. In its most simplified form, a ghostwriter is someone who writes books, articles, stories, reports or other texts that are officially credited to someone else. (Surprise! That social media guru you follow? That CEO whose witty post you saw in Fast Co.? Entirely possible someone else wrote their posts.)

Whoa, whoa, whoa. What!? Yep. It’s true. But it’s not as icky as you might think — and I guarantee it’s a heck of a lot more common than you could possibly imagine.

How does ghost writing work?
Demian Farnworth compares ghost writing to being a hired assassin in The Brutally Honest Truth about Ghost Writing. I prefer to compare it to the lifecycle of a really good meal. The farmer puts in the time and energy to sow, grow and harvest food. It is then trucked off to a restaurant where the chef uses her special blend of culinary creativity, vision and artistry to turn raw ingredients into a menu-worthy symphony of deliciousness.

Ghost writing works in pretty much the same way. Business leaders are busy people. They’ve spent years of their lives sowing the seeds to grow their companies, and their minds are packed with knowledge, advice and insights. In some instances, they are self-professed “crappy writers” and simply want someone to make them sound as intelligent on paper are they are in person. (And who can blame them?) In almost every instance, taking a few hours out of their day to write an article is not a good use of their time, especially when they could simply hop on a call, answer a handful of questions and let someone else do the heavy lifting (or at least the lifting of the pen). And that’s where a ghost writer comes in.

Is ghost writing ethical?
One of the biggest questions surrounding ghost writing is whether it is “entirely ethical.” Is it wrong for a CEO to outsource thinking and writing to a ghost writer, then get on stage at TEDx to present those thoughts and words as her own? Is it ethical for a social media guru to give advice on how to blog when his posts are created by a team of ghost writers? Does the simple exchange of money for services make this all okay?

I view my clients as people, not a means to a paycheck, and I don’t work with anyone I wouldn’t want to be friends with in my personal life. I’m of the opinion that there are different types of ghost writing — and all are not created equal. For me, the true deciding factor is a matter of partnership. Should writers be selling their independent thoughts to the highest bidder? That feels a little weird to me. Using their skills to polish the thoughts and experiences of others, however, makes perfect sense. The crux of my role as a ghost writer is taking the raw knowledge and expertise a client has amassed in order to turn it into something smart, inspiring and shareable. By working together, I get to help send their ideas out into the world to educate and inspire the masses. And you can rest assured, I sleep well at night knowing I’ve saved my clients valuable time, energy and money.

Need a pen-for-hire? Let’s talk.