Art

A Classic Hip-Hop Album turns 21

Nas’ renowned debut album, “Illmatic” turns 21 today. If you’re a fan of the art form, and you’re not familiar (or you just want a reminder of how ground breaking this album was) have a listen to one of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all time.

From Wikipedia:

Best of D&D Studios, Vol. 1. Steve ‘Flash’ Juon of RapReviews.com states:

“[Illmatic] was to be an album steeped in the rich traditions of hip-hop history, mixed with the most advanced verbal styles and fat beats that could be put on wax. And if it couldn’t be set off any more right already, the DJ Premier produced “N.Y. State of Mind” was designed to knock you right off your feet. Primo’s knack for finding the illest piano loops and matching them to pounding beats was perfected in this track, and paired with a Rakim sample on the chorus that provided the mental link for an analogy most rap heads had already made by now: Nas was the NEW Rakim on the block.[9]
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All your room are belong to us

Another year and another order of “Renew your lease now” banners and bandit signs. Ah, student housing – you have few predictable moments, but this is certainly one of them. Last year we wanted to mix it up and do something that would catch an eye because face it, no one is reading your plain text “Renew and save!” signs. They’re not, so stop lying to yourself.

So, we came up with these. I really enjoy them and was proud of the fact they had no contact info on them -they weren’t supposed to. You know where you live and you know where to go if you want to renew. The signs beg you to read them all as you’re not exactly sure what’s going on. Plus, everyone loves memes – that’s why they’re memes.

Aaannndd

This one still sits in my office.

This one still sits in my office.

IMG_2824 IMG_2826 IMG_2821 IMG_2823

I love it. Still cracks me up a little every time.

I love it. Still cracks me up a little every time.

Deadlines are deadlines! Yeah....

Deadlines are deadlines! Yeah….

You know that feeling.

You know that feeling.

Personality trumps Plain, Every Time

Our new in-house, Marketing-Strike-Force-of-Awesomeness have been laying siege to the plain vanilla world of the tired & trite student housing adverts of old. Ben & Jerry themselves have trembled under the audacious show of flavor perpetrated by these skilled ninja-confectioners-of-imagination.

Calling themselves the Triple Threat, these three complimentary legs of the tripod are the razor’s edge of our marketing outreach to our; 2500+ Residents, future clients, and the rest of the Orlando market.

So, seeing as how they go into the field plain-clothes style for the bulk of their media making, we decided they’d benefit from press passes – as that’s what they are in so many ways. Lanyards made sense since they could be easily slipped on, so I told them to go ahead and whip up something for themselves.

I wasn’t disappointed…

Fabreesh

Fabricio Torres makes some of the most amazingly shot and edited videos you’ve seen, and he does it with blazing speed. We can conceive, shoot, edit and upload timely content in a matter of a couple of days where before it would have taken weeks.

Chanty

Chantell Cruz took these photos and a ton of amazing shots for our Resident events and advertisements. She’s a true artist behind the lens and we couldn’t be more impressed with her ability to capture it all, from the sublime to the stolen moment.

Danaenae

Danae McDermott designed these passes and all of our graphics for flyers, ads, Resident announcements, and anything else we may put out. She’s insanely talented with Adobe Suites and can crank out a professional design in no time.

I was beyond blown away by the quality and the personal expression they put into these passes. They’re conversation starters for sure and show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. The rest of the team liked them so much they’ve been spoiling for their own. Ultimately, I can’t say no.

Special thanks to our very own Gregory Eisenberg for finding such a remarkable team, bringing them together, and letting them do what they do best. I couldn’t be prouder or more excited to work with such a stellar cast.

Personality Goes a Long Way

How far does a little chalk go? A very long way if you’re “Not a Burger Stand” in Burbank, CA. These guys run a thriving business with some daring food choices – Coco Puff encrusted fried chicken, anyone? In addition, they have fun with their clientele. Each week they post a new chalkboard outside their place inviting their patrons to live a little and, in combination with their evidently amazing food, has caused quite the sensation.

Check out some of my faves in no particular order:

Stefon lloyddobler ronswanson samelliot mattfoley doubtfire joker thriller everything-is-awesome

powerrangers zissou

The lesson? Let your people share their art -in this case, literally. Don’t be afraid to have a personality and make a connection with your customers.

The artists for "Not a Burger Stand" - Lila & Kyle

The artists for “Not a Burger Stand” – Lila & Kyle

“Made To Stick” – Make messages that connect

Advertising is more often than not, about interrupting people. A lot of it is imitating what someone else has done and what other ads look like for that same type of product or service. There’s a straight and narrow path and plenty of people that would prefer to walk down it. For them, it’s not about connecting with people, it’s about being safe.

For these scared few, their creedo can be summed up simply:  CYA BAE, or “Cover your ass, before anything else.”

Making meaningful, original, honest work that aims to connect the brand/team with the client isn’t high on that list of motivations. If asked, they’d answer that they’d love to connect with people, and many may believe that their benign work is doing just that.

I’m in the business of housing college students, so being relate-able scores major points with our customers. In addition, our students have grown up with the internet since birth – and having ads thrown at them through every medium their entire lives is a constant. Originality goes a long way towards breaking through their defenses. Honesty has immense value.

I saw the following two flyers on ebaumsworld.com and immediately fell in love.

Set Rations to "Meager" and Pace to "Grueling"

Set Rations to “Meager” and Pace to “Grueling”

If you’re anything like me, you LOVED Oregon Trail as a kid. There’s an immediate emotional connection, coupled with the unexpected and the humorous. I’m hooked. I’m connected. Granted, it’s not advertising anything, but imagine a little logo in the corner and this posted at your property’s crosswalk across from campus? It’s enough to highlight the sense of you humor of your team, and to show that you’re human.

The next is a little rougher around the edges as far as language is concerned, so if you’re easily offended by light cursing, might I suggest skipping this one.

Caroline, please edit this blog for $15 an hour.

Caroline, please edit this blog for $15 an hour.

Probably without realizing it, Caroline totally nails the bulk of the Six principles of Dan & Chip Heath’s best seller, “Made to Stickwhich I wrote about in the past.

Six Principles of Sticky Ideas

Six Principles of Sticky Ideas

To wit:

1. Simple: She’s got a simple message! “I fix your paper so it doesn’t suck!”

2. Unexpected: You didn’t expect this, and certainly not with the cat picture.

3. Concrete: Caroline. Edits. Papers. Got it?

4. Credible: There’s a decent sample of her writing, so you could argue she’s credible, though her target customer wouldn’t know that for sure.

5. Emotional: She’s funny! By stating bluntly what she’s thinking she makes an emotional connection to her audience – especially  the type that’s likely to purchase her services.

6. Stories: She tells one for sure. She even gives example of exchanges she’s likely to have with you.

Essentially, the Heath brothers analyzed all kinds of messages to find out which ones stuck with people and which didn’t – and what qualities they possessed. You don’t need all six apparently for a compelling message, but the more the better. Caroline is almost perfect here. If asked weeks later, you could tell that; Caroline edits papers, won’t do so after 9pm because her meds wear off then, and that it’ll run you $15 and hour.

That’s a sticky message.

What would you have told Caroline if she’d made these for you and wanted to place them around campus, but YOU owned the editing service? Would you have said it’s too risky? That you’d prefer something a little safer? Maybe just straightforward – “editing services, $15/hour, call Caroline.” You could have, but then you wouldn’t have nearly 2.5 million views on imgur.

Understood, this doesn’t work everywhere and for everything. We’re not going to run the same style ad here, but the lesson is important – take away the reasons why it works and apply to your own marketing and advertising. Resist the urge to play it too safe next time. Aim to make a connection and get your message to stick!

What Have You Broken Lately?

The 80’s have been enjoying a nice little nostalgia revival in popular culture lately, as all of us who were children at that time are now having children of our own. My favorite part of the whole shtick is seeing all the old things I used to disassemble back then (dust buster, RC cars, Atari system, Rubik’s cube, Toy Robots) all done with a smuggled screw driver lifted quietly from dad’s tool kit.

I broke ALL of this stuff, man! The vast majority of it worked at the time I stripped it down and I told my parents (when caught) that I was just seeing how it worked and I was going to put it all back together the way I found it. Good story, young Rob.

So what did I do with all of it? While ruining a lot of things, I also made some really cool stuff: A keyed switch box from an old security system I found in the trash became my means of keeping my little brother from using my RC car when I wasn’t around by wiring it to the main power source. The old Dust Buster turned into a sweet battery powered fan I took everywhere with me. More things than not, just wound up as junk pieces I would tinker with for hours on end.

All this brings me to the main point here, the one covered in Seth’s speech below – so much of what we are given to do as children is rehearsal for jobs of following instructions. No one wants us to innovate anything, or more importantly – to fail in the pursuit of innovation. It’s messy in the short run and we’re conditioned to be scared to death of that fear of short term failure. Maybe we think the single effort that turns out to be fruitless will infect the rest of our actions – winding us up as one big eternal loser – the starving artist, the hermit inventor, the failed dancer.

Because I really like what I do I’ve never stopped tearing apart my toys. Only thing is, now, instead of wires and electric motors it’s spreadsheets, policies, and marketing efforts. Don’t get me wrong – we don’t tear something down for the simple sake of destruction. We tear things down because a better way is possible and achievable and can only be built on the foundation of the old. We tear it down because what we have is ugly and outmoded and we have outgrown it – it no longer serves us, or other people.

I’m not going to lie, a little more than half of people I’ve worked with over the years have hated this. These could be corporate support people, or bosses, coworkers, vendors, etc… anyone who’s life was disrupted by my curiosity and instance when a better way was possible. “This is the way we’ve always done it” or “It’s fine! Just leave it alone! Who cares anyway?”

The other half though?

That’s what and who you do it for. Those that want a better way, a simpler, faster, higher quality way. A more elegant way. Not just the veneer of progress, but actual, honest-to-goodness ingenuity coming through with a higher quality process for… anything!

So break something this week. Crack open your corporate policy on how to handle customer concerns, or some internal process and see if you can’t actually make a better mousetrap. If the process doesn’t make you smile at it’s simplicity and beauty, it’s probably ready for a revision.