Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interview with Farnam Street

Curiosity is a big fan of the Farnam Street blog, an eclectic collection of "psychology, behavioral economics, human misjudgment, persuasion, and other subjects of interest." Often, Farnam Street answers the questions we never even thought to ask.

We recently had the incredible opportunity to interview Farnam Street. Enjoy this brief Q&A and head directly over to Farnam Street for the more important questions that blog is answering!

What was the impetus behind the Farnam Street blog?

I ended up with an undergrad and a master's degree being largely ignorant to how the world works. I think the education system failed me. I did a two-year MBA and actually felt stupider at the end. Professors wanted rote regurgitation of textbooks without any critical thought or reasoning. I wanted to reduce my ignorance and the Farnam Street blog is a way to catalog that journey.

How do you manage the content that you keep up with?

The amount of information these day is truly astonishing. Primarily I use Google Reader, newspapers, and magazines. Another way I come across interesting reading is through people emailing me. We have some incredibly bright people reading Farnam Street and they pass along some interesting articles I likely never would have come across. It's not a perfect system but it works okay for my needs.

What are a few of the words that jump out at you as something you must read about?

The more I read, the more skeptical I've become. I'm sure subconsciously there are words that make me more likely to read things, but I'm not aware of them. Interestingly, since I use Google Reader for a lot of reading, Google would likely have the capability to pull this information together.

I find myself drawn to certain people and thinkers more than words– I read everything Charlie Munger and Atul Gawande write. Michael Lewis and Malcolm Gladwell are two of the best storytellers of our generation. Paul Krugman is a great essayist. I love reading Garrett Hardin and Herbert Simon, two great multi-disciplinary thinkers.

A lot of people read a headline and dismiss it because it challenges something they know. I try to make a point to learn the other side of an argument. I get a lot of insight from reading things that contradict, rather than reinforce, what I think. Sometimes I realize I'm wrong and sometimes I walk away with a better understanding of the other side of the argument. It's very, very, hard to change your mind on something.

What is the most untapped source of interesting information that you are aware of?

Books. Go back and read Herb Simon's Models of My Life and Hardin's Filters Against Folly. There is so much wisdom sitting there waiting to be discovered for those who are curious. I think I read somewhere that the number of books in a house is correlated to better academic performance for children. Of course, as a society, we'd rather be entertained by the mind-numbing shows we find on TV than struggle through Dickens. If you're a believer that all behavior is learned, then it's not a stretch to say we're encouraging our children to be lazy. People discount Amy Chua's new book about her parenting style, but I've read it and it contains a lot of wisdom. American kids are generally lazy.

Is there anything you haven’t been able to learn about on the internet?

Tons! You can learn a lot on the internet but you can't easily apply what you learn to systems involving humans. I can learn chess online and play in real life pretty well, but there are limits. If you take something more complicated, like project management, you can learn all the material online but you're still going to have problems trying to apply that information to real life because there are innumerable human complexities involved.

You can take a virtual tour of the Sistine chapel online but you will never know what it smells like. Another example: in investing you can read about being patient and not selling when a stock you own goes down by 50% in a week. Most advice will be to sit and be patient. But if you've never had that happen, it's hard to realize the myriad of factors that flow through your mind. Reading about panic and experiencing it are two very different things. It's hard to teach someone over a medium like the internet what that feels like. It's hard to explain why a fresh croissant tastes different in Paris than anywhere else. Yet, if you've been to Paris, you know.

How has being curious helped you in your job/life?

As an investor, I spend my life reading, learning, and trying to find mis-priced opportunities. Learning requires time and interest. I see curiosity as the engine that drives learning. Without curiosity you won't get very far because you'll quickly lose interest in anything difficult to grasp. If you're not curious you're going to skip the hard work.

I've always curious as to why people, including myself, create so much folly. By observing human behavior, connecting ideas from multiple disciplines, and trying to think critically I hope to reduce my statistical share of errors and, in turn, improve my odds of success.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mentos: Chewy and Minty VS the World

Chewy and Minty helped Mentos score some World Cup love and, more importantly, "Likes" for the Mentos Facebook page.

[Click images to view larger!]

To see our other Chewy and Minty comics for Mentos, click here!

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Curiosity in Ad Age-- twice!

This month, Curiosity Advertising was mentioned in the Advertising Age article "How Mentos is Still Making a Splash on Facebook":

More gratifying to Greg Livingston, chief development officer of Curiosity, and Matt Fischer, chief creative officer, is that Mentos has a particularly active following, with the vast majority of Facebook posts and content coming from fans, something that can't be said for many far-bigger package-goods Facebook efforts. For example, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pringles has 8.6 million fans, but all of its currently visible wall posts come from the brand.

...And our own Greg Livingston racked up another reference in Ad Age recently, this time for his knowledge of the tween market, in the article "Tweens Embrace Makeup, Reject Miley":

"You're likely to get both a negative reaction and a lack of interest," [Livingston] said. "Kids will say that's inappropriate for kids. They don't always know exactly what it is, but they know it's going in a direction that's uncomfortable as defined by society and particularly their parents. ... They don't want to get themselves in situations that are uncomfortable for them. Seeing Miley Cyrus in a magazine where it's not fun any more, and it's seen as something they know their parents feel uncomfortable about, would put them in an uncomfortable situation."

Thank you, Ad Age– our ears are burning!

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Curiosity Launches YMCA Website and Membership Campaign

A brand new day at the Y means a brand new website as well. Curiosity has proudly teamed up with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati to be one of the first Y's to launch a new website and collateral materials that showcase the new branding and defined focus of the National YMCA.

With the new branding comes the establishment of 3 areas of focus that the Y will continue to grow and develop through the coming years– Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility. These areas of focus are the driving bodies behind all future goals and decisions that the Y will make to ensure their members and communities have the best possible physical, mental and social experience.

Curiosity has continued their work with the Y as they have helped jump start the Y's 2011 Membership Campaign by developing a wide range of creative from Direct Mail to outdoor boards that incorporate the new branding and speak to the Y's new areas of focus.

Check out the new website at to see all of the great changes and progress the Y is making.

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Mentos: Facebook Ads

Getting half a million people to click that "Like" button isn't easy. For the Mentos Facebook ad campaign, we were told that we should run ads that featured videos and games, gave away prizes, or had a promotion attached to it to be successful. ...Probably good advice, but we didn't do any of those things.

Instead, we wanted to capture the very essence of Mentos: to make someone smile and feel positive about the world. If we were successful, Mentos would be rewarded with a clicking of the "Like."

We were right. With offbeat humor that referenced everything from Chewbacca to kittens, fans responded with a big thumbs up, taking us from 200 fans to over 500,000 in just 6 months. That's cool.

Here are a few of our favorites. (Click the image to enlarge.)

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Future Advertising Pros Concerned with DVRs

Yesterday I presented to a marketing class at University of Cincinnati. The presentation entitled, "How to Succeed without Lying or Buying a Monkey" discussed how the digital revolution is changing the way consumers think about brands and how brands must respond. You can see the slides below.

However, what I found most interesting were the questions after the presentation. First, it was encouraging to hear such thoughtful inquiries and insightful observations. Second, I found their interest in how brands are dealing with DVRs fascinating. It was obvious that the marketers of the future were grappling with "time shifting" and ad skipping. After all, Marshall McCluhan said, "We shape or tools and afterwords they shape us." It's obvious that the tools created by the digital revolution are shaping some truly creative marketers.

No McMansions for Millennials []

Last year I attended a conference called "Chief Culture Officer," during which author Grant McCracken discussed not only cultural trends but how you could apply them to innovation. One example that I remember is the concept of the "great room"—this trend toward having an open-concept combined kitchen and living room space. McCracken suggested that there are many untapped innovations here—for instance, "throwable food," because you often have people in the kitchen interacting with people in the living room.

Enter this article from the Wall Street Journal: "No McMansions for Millennials."

There are a number of elements in this article that could inspire innovation and creativity. One idea that sticks out: “Consider designing outdoor spaces as if they were living rooms.” The article also mentions the idea that there needs to be room in front of the TV for the Wii (which I would update to the Kinect)-- this concept is one that I take for granted but it is definitely reflected in my (super-millennial) home.

This kind of consumer insight is imperative to strong advertising. Consumers are bombarded with ads that don’t reflect who they are—the spokesperson may dress like the consumer, or the ad may reference the newest slang— but often advertisers miss the mark because they don’t understand deeper motivations and larger cultural shifts that these consumers are not only living but helping to create.

Erica Minton
Senior Strategist

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mentos: Chewy and Minty

One of the elements of Curiosity’s groundbreaking social media campaign for Mentos was a fun little comic strip called Chewy and Minty: two curious little mints commenting about the world around them. It was simple, fun and loved by fans. For the next several weeks we’ll feature some our favorite strips.

[Click images to view larger!]

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Congratulations, Dan Beard Council!

The Dan Beard Council and Curiosity received the 12th Annual National President's Award for Marketing Excellence from the Boy Scouts of America– and award given to councils who produce effective marketing for a number of purposes from fundraising to recruiting.

This award was given due to Curiosity's continued work on "The Man Inside" recruitment campaign for 2009-2010. This campaign for the Dan Beard Council was created to increase enrollment by highlighting the life-long skills and benefits of scouting through a variety of brochures, TV spots, posters, out-of-home boards and dog tags.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You’re doing it wrong: QR Codes and how to use them

The QR code. Shrouded in mystery and desire for only the elite consumer. Every product and print ad with it’s own Delta Sky Club–like access. They came by storm and like most technology their true potential has been mostly speculative and mostly wrong.

So how did this happen? Well, it’s a classic case of cart before the horse. At present you’ll most frequently see QR codes in magazines, allowing you access to special websites, deals and product information using your smart phone. It’s true that desire can be cultivated through secrecy, but the technology used to read these codes isn’t as developed as it should be. Currently, to read a QR code your phone will need the right app, followed by the laborious process of taking the picture, which requires you to find the camera function, focus the shot for about 4-5 seconds and finally be taken to your pot of gold...that is if your signal is strong enough to get online. While this may not always be the case, in whole it still feels like an extra step. You’re better off giving them a code to enter on their home computer, where they’re actually making the purchase. And as if the process isn’t complex enough, some QR codes have even made their way onto outdoor boards…on the interstate.

So what to do? Just stuff our little pixilated friend into a drawer for another few years? Not quite. Think like the airlines. As frequent travelers know, you can now check in, navigate security and board your plane with a QR code read from your phone. This is because QR codes can store infinitely more information than the barcode, information about you. So back to our desire to be special, why not put these codes in the hands of the consumer?

Imagine you’re shopping for clothes. With the help of an application, you make your own QR code that specifies the style, brands, size and even colors you like (a one time process). Next time you enter the mall or store, your code can be scanned telling you what clothiers have the items you’re looking for, whether they’re on sale, pull online coupons to use and even track your rewards programs. It’s easy, makes the consumer experience simpler and most of all provides true customization.

This is how technology should be used in advertising. Not just thrown into the mix as the next big thing, but tailored to do what we’re trying to accomplish, create an engaging experience for consumers while driving purchase.

Could location-based apps save the retail industry?

So now almost everybody has a Smartphone. Great. I use mine to check scores, play Angry Birds, e-mail and get directions. I’m guessing we’re missing an opportunity here. I know there are tons of apps and all sorts of things I could be doing on it, but I just don’t seem to have the time to launch an app and figure out what I need to do to have my phone do it. Sometimes it’s just easier to do it myself. But…what if there was a mini-me in my phone that took care of things?

Good news! Well, good news if you live in Japan. D2 Communications has created a service that alerts you to things you need, based on your whereabouts. It’s called
i-concier. Looking for food? Shopping for electronics? Forgot to buy leeks? Don’t worry--go about your day and your phone will alert you when a solution presents itself. That’s how it works in Japan.

Wouldn’t it be great if our phones told us that the pair of jeans we were looking for online were actually in stock, the same price and in a store that is open until six and it’s on your way home? And, oh, by the way, the grocery store next door has leeks. Or, maybe my phone could tell me that I don’t have to go to Lowe’s to get a tail pipe extension cutter because the neighborhood hardware store has one. That would be so much more useful than telling me that I have six levels to go on Angry Birds.

Well, it only took 16 years for QR codes to make it over here from Japan. Let’s hope, for our retailers’ sake, it doesn’t take that long for location-based technology to reach the average American consumer.