Crowd questions crowd’s wisdom

Speaking of Starbucks, the company just unveiled a new site to harness the suggestions of its customers and all of that. (If you’d like to make a suggestion, you have register for a “Starbucks.com account.”) It’s not interesting. But what it is interesting are the responses to the stunt on StarbucksGossip.com. For instance, it’s pointed out that:

For a site the “just launched” at the start of the shareholders meeting, it sure is full and has a lot of “votes”. Seems they backfilled it with a lot of comments that have been gathering dust.

And that:

There are already 1,300 pages of comments! And because they’re displayed in order of most votes to fewest votes, people are overwhelmingly likely to vote for those that already have a jillion votes, and therefore show up on the first page; any good ideas that lag a few pages back will get lost in the shuffle.

Indeed, as New York Magazine’s site points out, most of the top-vote-getting ideas are changes that are already underway.

Previously on Murketing.com: Q&A with Starbucksgossip.com proprietor Jim Romenesko.

[Update(s): Romenesko comments to Seattle Times: "My site will continue to thrive because it's an authentic reflection of how customers and employees feel about the company. MyStarbucksIdea.com, on the other hand, is clearly a corporate propaganda site." Oof! Meanwhile, a more upbeat assessment here.]

Human rights icons in the form of LEGO minifigs

Martin Luther King, Jr., originally uploaded by Dunechaser.

As the title makes clear, that’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Or rather, it is a Lego “minifig” representation of Martin Luther King Jr.

I encountered this on Flickr yesterday, and I was surprised, and interested. Particularly because Flickr photographer Dunechaser’s photostream, and related blog The Brothers Brick, contain images of other minifig representations of human-rights icons: Steve Biko, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Gandhi. Go ahead and click, it’s worth it.

Please put aside the issue of whether or not the above image actually resembles Martin Luther King, Jr. I knew that Lego made lots of minifigures — but were these manufactured and sold as MLK (and Ghandi, etc.)? I asked Dunechaser, whose real name is Andrew Becraft.

“The short answer is no,” he replied. “That said, aside from the occasional accessory created by a third-party vendor, I only use official parts manufactured by LEGO. It’s all about putting together the little plastic bricks in an interesting way — sort of like working in a medium with a limited palette, which is more challenging. Nearly all the LEGO creations you see on Flickr are original designs as well.”

So these are customized creations, as it were. Relevant Flickr pools include The Minifig Stars Pool, and the LEGO Pool.

Mr. Becraft adds: “There are certainly very rare LEGO minifigs, and since I’ve been collecting for more than 30 years, I have LEGO elements that are no longer available. LEGO occasionally produces very small runs of elements to test designs or new colors, and these can show up on the secondary market (eBay and a site called BrickLink). Naturally, elements that were never released in LEGO sets are very, very rare”

He also tells me he’s part of LEGO Ambassadors, which is described on the Lego.com site as “a community based program made up of adult LEGO hobbyists who share their product and building expertise with the world-wide LEGO community (kids and adults actively participating in a LEGO community) and the public (kids, parents, grandparents).” Details on that here. The upshot is that it’s a sort of brand-evangelism/co-promotion/people’s-marketing situation. So I suppose on some level, by posting this entry, I’m playing into the hands of LEGO’s murketing! Ah, well.

Okay, if you didn’t click above, you simply must see Gandhi. Here he is:

Mohandas K. Gandhi, originally uploaded by Dunechaser.

Croc On

Consumed: Crocs: A trendy shoe marches on despite detractors — or maybe because of them.

In the summer of 2006, Crocs wearers ranged from children to senior citizens, from the image-indifferent to the celebrity chef Mario Batali. The suggestion of ubiquity was probably magnified by the fact that seeing one pair of the oversize and often brightly colored footwear felt like seeing five. The Washington Post noted the “goofy” shoes were spreading “like vermin,” and Radar Magazine anointed the “hideous” items “summer’s most unfortunate fad.” The good news for critics was that fads fade and that the Croc thing seemed to be at a peak. But a year later Crocs still have traction; in fact, the company’s sales through the first quarter of 2007 are roughly triple what they were for the same period in 2006, and imitations and knockoffs abound. The shoes might still end up as props at the kitschy ’00s-themed parties of future college students (worn with trucker hats for the guys and huge sunglasses for the ladies). But it may be that Crocs have a foothold not just despite critics of the shoes’ appearance but because of them…. Read more

Brand Blogger Q&A: StarbucksGossip.com

One of the most interesting brand-specific blogs that I’m aware of is StarbucksGossip.com. Its proprietor is Jim Romenesko, who has a couple of other blogs you may have come across. He knows what he’s doing! (You may not have come across one of his pre-blog-era projects, Death Log, but that’s really cool, too.) Anyway, he was kind enough to answer a few questions as part of Murketing.com’s ongoing series of brand-blog Q&As. Here goes.

Why Starbucks? There are any number of chains or companies out there to blog about, what was it about Starbucks in particular that made you say, “I should do this.”

I frequent Starbucks stores in the metro Chicago area (and occasionally in Wisconsin) on a daily basis. I overhear discussions between baristas and employees that are sometimes interesting and not typical of a customer-clerk relationship (they’re usually more personal). I thought it would be interesting to move those conversations to the web, and toss in commentary from Starbucks critics, too.

Starbucks has more diehard fans and haters than any company I know, so I figured the online discussions would be passionate and occasionally raucous. I was right. Some of discussions about Starbucks are serious and should be read by management — the issue of high-sugar/high-fat/trans-fat products, for example.

Read more

Brand Blogger Q&A: Moleskinerie, Positive Fanatics, and Notebookism

It’s time now for the second in our series of interviews with brand bloggers. Our gracious subject today is Armand Frasco, who presides over three interesting blogs: Moleskinerie (focused on Moleskine notebooks); Notebookism (on notebooks in general); and Positive Fanatics (on Ikea). Here goes…

We first spoke some time back, when I was writing about Moleskine (for Consumed, June 24, 2005), and came upon your site. When did you launch this blog, and why? And how has it changed since then?

Moleskinerie was launched in January 2001 on a whim, just out of curiosity and to find out who else was using the notebook. It turns out the answer is, a lot. Last year, Kikkerland Design, Moleskine’s U.S. distributor reported sales of more than 4 million units. Moleskinerie has since become the number one fan site for the product, with readers coming from as far as South Africa, Mongolia, Malaysia –- even Patagonia.

Lately you’ve started a newer site, called Notebookism. What’s that one all about, and why did you start it?

I initiated Notebookism last July in response to many requests for a non product-centric blank-book blog. With hundreds of brands and legions of aficionados out there we’ve just uncovered the tip of the journaling iceberg. Many Moleskine users also own other kinds of notebooks so Notebookism is just an extension of their paper playground. We are lucky to have the Blick Art Company as our founding sponsor.

What’s the big news around Moleskine these days, and how does it affect these two projects, if it all?

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Brand Blogger Q&A: Food Market Index (regarding Whole Foods)

This week’s third Q&A is, like yesterday’s, probably the beginning of a series: A series of interviews with brand-specific bloggers. In this case I imagine the series will be less open-ended (but I could be wrong). I’m starting with a relatively new brand blog, one that focuses on Whole Foods. It’s called Food Market Index, and so far it’s been quite good. The proprietor is Mr. Food Markets, Rob Denton, who kindly agreed to answer some questions.

When did you start the blog, and what goals did you have in mind?

May, 2006. My goals for the Food Market Index were to have fun and to try to amuse and inform readers. It was also a creative outlet for my ideas about organic foods, shopping, and Western civilization in general. I wanted to explore an area of personal experience that is also a familiar one for millions of people.

And were you perhaps inspired by any other brand blogs, or not so much?

Not at all. Oddly enough, I wasn’t all that aware of other brand blogs until after I started mine. I found that every niche has its fans — from Trader Joe’s to Toyotas. Some of the other brand blogs are quite inspiring in their scope and execution; others are a little snarky for my tastes. I feel like I walk a middle line down the shopping aisle — I like Whole Foods Markets, obviously, but I can also laugh a bit at the whole milieu, and at myself and fellow consumers too. [ Read more