Dept. of my new favorite reader

That — my new favorite reader, I mean — would be Allen Weaver, for the above Murketing foam finger image. Nothing captures the spirit of like a foam Number One hand. Seriously.

Flickr Interlude

IMG_0295, originally uploaded by idunited.

If you want to get a pic in the Murketing Flickr group highlighted here on, this is a) cheating, and b) encouraged.

[Join and contribute to the Murketing Flickr group]


The Page 99 Test

An unexpected bonus of the whole Buying In thing has been getting introduced to interesting online book-related projects. I mentioned Seen Reading in an earlier post. More recently I got a note inviting me to participate in The Page 99 Test, which was inspired by Ford Madox Ford’s assertion: “”Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” Here’s my bit.

Magical thinking and the stuff we value

I was pleased to see somebody pick up on the Andrew Andrew stuff at the end of Buying In, and relate it to magical thinking. That post, on the Psychology Today blog of Matthew Hutson, led me to his article on the subject of magical thinking. Since I’m away from home and I’m going to be a little busy today, I point you to that article if you’re looking for something to read. It may be a bit long to read online, but here’s one bit of interest relating to magical thinking and material culture:

To some, John Lennon’s piano is sacred. Most married people consider their wedding rings sacred. Kids with no notion of sanctity will bust a lung wailing over their lost blanky. Personal investment in inanimate objects might delicately be called sentimentality, but what else is it if not magical thinking? There’s some invisible meaning attached to these things: an essence. A wedding ring or a childhood blanket could be replaced by identical or near-identical ones, but those impostors just wouldn’t be the same.

What makes something sacred is not its material makeup but its unique history. And whatever causes us to value essence over appearance becomes apparent at an early age. Psychologists Bruce Hood at Bristol University and Paul Bloom at Yale convinced kids ages 3 to 6 that they’d constructed a “copying machine.” The kids were fine taking home a copy of a piece of precious metal produced by the machine, but not so with a clone of one of Queen Elizabeth II’s spoons—they wanted the original.

To Do in Washington D.C.: Buying In event; poster giveaway

Reminder that on Wednesday night I’ll be at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C. Go, or tell your friends to: It’s a City Paper pick!

Plus — we’ll be giving away about 25 of these awesome screenprint posters from Little Friends of Printmaking.

Wednesday, August 6, 7 p.m.
Politics & Prose Bookstore
5015 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC

Shyness or marketing strategy?

Recently I did a Q&A with GoodReads, for its newsletter. I enjoyed this one because it included a few questions very different from those I’m usually asked. Like this:

Q: Despite having multiple websites and a weekly column all jam-packed with your writing and ideas, a publicity headshot is nowhere to be found. Your readers also have to dig pretty deep to find any kind of biographical information. You don’t include anything like the “I grew up here and had these formative experiences” bio that is so common on writer sites. Are you shy or is this all part of a larger scheme of marketing yourself as a writer?

Here’s the whole Q&A.

(** As mentioned earlier, I’ll be answering questions (or criticisms, or whatever) from anybody who joins this GoodReads discussion group and chimes in. That’s August 11-24, but you can join and post questions or make comments anytime.)

Noted: Kalin’s new Etsy role

Oh, and I meant to mention this earlier: Robert Kalin, who you may recall from the Handmade 2.0 article (and/or from Buying In), has moved from CEO to chairman and Chief Creative Officer at Etsy.

This comes around six months earlier than I  might have guessed, but I don’t think it’s a surprise — and I suspect it’s a good thing for all concerned. It’s certainly not unusual for a founder to conclude that s/he doesn’t really want to remain CEO as a startup grows. But very often coming to that realization takes too long — or, worse, never comes, and the person is forced out.

I don’t know anything about Maria Thomas, the new CEO. So with that significant caveat, I would guess this is a good thing for the company, and for Kalin as well. (I haven’t talked to him or anybody at Etsy about this. If I do and hear anything interesting, will pass it along.)

Here’s the NYT item about it, including Kalin’s nail-polish choice for making the announcement. Earlier Silicon Alley Insider item here. Etsy VC backer here; Kalin post here.

Q&A: Amy Jo


As I’ve mentioned before, the one indulgence I allowed myself in the promotion of Buying In was the decision to commission a few promotional posters. This was totally impractical, but for me it was a chance to work with some really great creators whose work I had silently admired from afar. One of those creators is Amy Jo, who I commissioned to make a poster for an event in Boston (see below). I was, obviously, thrilled with the results.

I have a bad memory for this sort of thing, so I don’t recall exactly where I first encountered her work. But what had struck me was her range as a designer, and of course how much I liked just looking at the images she came up with. Aside from posters for bands from the Black Keys to Joan Jett, she does pretty much any kind of design work you can think of. (Many of her screenprinted posters are for sale, as are some of her art prints, like the one above.) I also hoped I could get the Minneapolis-based Amy Jo to participate in Q&A here on (Earlier: Q&A with F2 Design, which did the other Buying In poster I’ve commissioned so far.)

Happily, she agreed. Below, she talks about the positive effects of, when to turn down work, her Etsy store(s), the upside of having health insurance and paid-vacation time, and where to find musical inspiration when all else fails. Here goes:

Q: I guess that I’m assuming that a majority of your business comes from making rock posters. Has the rise of and the onslaught of poster-makers of varying backgrounds promoting their work the net and so on been a problem, or has the Web been mostly a good thing?

A: That is exactly right on. The majority of what I do is rock posters, which draws in clients to inquire about other types of design work. More posters: festival posters, film posters, beer posters, and a book poster(!), just to name a few. I also design album/cd artwork, merchandise design, wedding invitations, wine labels, logos, business cards, etc. pretty much anything that needs to be designed, I can probably try do it. has been a huge boon to the recent rise of the poster. What’s great about gigposters is the core community… there are a ton of great (some even legendary) poster designers, a wealth of information, and great inspiration to draw from there. Some of my closest pals are people that I have met through, and I am lucky enough to get to travel around and enjoy their company at most of the Flatstock poster conventions. Read more

My mistakes

So far, I’m aware of two factual errors in Buying In.

1. On page 21, I say that Ed Templeton was born in 1973. In fact, he was born in 1972.

2. On page 211, I quote something written by “Peter Franchese.” In fact, his name is Peter Francese.

I guess it’s a cliché to say, “I regret the errors.” But I really, really do. My apologies to Mr. Templeton, and Mr. Francese.

I’ll be adding a link to this post (which I’ll update as needed) to the book’s page on this site, under the heading “Corrections.”

If you know of other factual errors such as these, please let me know.



Not to make excuses, but one reason I’ve been so inconsistent with this site lately (apart from the aforementioned computer trouble) is that I’ve been asked to do a few Q&As related to the book. These take time, but it’s possible that if you like, you’ll find them interesting.

So here’s one I did for Brandweek (which recently ran an excerpt of the book), and here’s one for The Society for Word of Mouth. Interesting? You decide.

In the last bit of book-related news for the week (I swear), the NYT Book Review will finally weigh in this Sunday. You’re on the edge of your seat about that, am I right?

“Spadina streetcar; new shirt, new shoes.”

Today I learned about a project called Seen Reading. Julie Wilson explains the premise:

  1. I see you reading.
  2. I guesstimate where you are in the book.
  3. I trip on over to the bookstore and make a note of the text.
  4. I let my imagination rip.
  5. Readers become celebrities.
  6. People get giddy and buy more books

Interesting, no?

I know about it of course because what she saw someone reading most recently was Buying In. Read/listen to results here.

The most interesting bit is what she’s referring to above as “I let my imagination rip.” You have to check it out to understand. Great project.

‘Buying In’: Event in D.C., and on GoodReads

On Wednesday, August 6, at 7 pm, I’ll be reading (or at least talking) and answering questions and signing at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C. According to me, it will be “casual and fun,” and there might even be another limited-edition poster…. More on that  soon (I hope).

And in the non-physical world, I’ll be answering questions online at, from August 11 through August 22 — though you can post questions anytime before that as well, right here. If you’re a GoodReads user who has marked the book “to read,” well, I hope you’ll read it and join in. Or if you’ve read it already. Or if you just want to stop by and haze me. Your call.

Consumed Update-O-Rama: Bankruptcy, murketing, collaboration

Well it’s been a long time since I’ve done a Consumed updates roundup, but three things came across the radar that I’ll note here at all at once.

1. Re the March 11, 2007 Consumed on the Starbury, sold exclusively through Steve & Berry’s: Steve Berry’s has filed for bankruptcy!

This surprised me: Turns out the mall-based super-discount chain has been in trouble for some months now, apparently owing to a debt management strategy that didn’t hold up in the current credit-challenged environment.

I’d been under the impression that shrewd real estate deals were a big part of the chain’s success. And on my couple of visits to a nearby Steve & Berry’s (admittedly, it’s been a while) consumer traffic was brisk. I guess I would have assumed that its reverse-sticker shock cheapness would have benefited the place in the current slow economy.

I guess not! Debt management is another one of those subjects that gets little coverage because it’s not particularly sexy (and because companies tend not to be forthcoming about it) — yet it can mean a lot more to the success or failure of a business than any amount of press coverage or any number of celebrity alignments.

I’m not sure if this turn of events makes me look bad … but it might. If it does, well, I have no excuses. Mea culpa.

2. Re the February 27, 2005 Consumed on the Victoria’s Secret Pink brand: Ad Age has a piece that says the “thriving” sub-brand is approaching $1 billion revenues. The piece also notes the newest Pink push will be “supported and promoted by a campus tour program and paid collegiate brand ambassadors.”

Pink is, for the first time, hiring two to three brand ambassadors at each of 15 campuses. Hundreds of résumés have been received, and the selected students will go through a training program in August to prepare them for the yearlong assignment.

In doing radio interviews for Buying In, every time the subject of word-of-mouth marketing comes up, either the host or a caller invariably says something like, “Oh, come on, how much of this is really happening?” A lot, okay? It’s routine. Especially (though not exclusively) for brands targeting youth. The “college rep” strategy that was maybe used by record labels a decade or two ago is now used by a wide range of consumer-products and apparel companies, basically signing up students to “get the word out” to their pals about brands. It’s an established tactic. It’s real. And it’ s just one facet of something that, I promise, I’m not making up.

3. Re the January 14, 2007 Consumed on Timbuk2, and the July 8, 2007 Consumed on Threadless: Timbuk2 has a line of bags with Threadless graphics on them. Via Josh Spear.

Change the image, or change the business?

The other day, Time writer Justin Fox (a colleague of mine at Fortune, once upon a time) had a piece titled “How To Succeed? Make Employees Happy.” It focuses on Whole Foods and The Container Store, which “pay better than most retailers, offer good benefits and entrust workers at all levels with sensitive financial data. The idea is that happy, empowered employees beget happy customers.” (Somewhat related note: July 30, 2006 Consumed on Wawa, the convenience store chain whose success is partly attributed to treating employees well.)

Maybe these companies are exceptions, but I think there’s some value in at least considering the idea that Fox is writing about. And also about the broader idea underneath it, which is one I’ve thought about a lot lately as I’ve been out and about talking to some manager-and-executive-type people about Buying In. That broader issue is that I think a lot of companies that sense the need for a change are way more focused on changing their image (via marketing) than in changing their business practices.

Recently I answered questions from readers of The Alpha Consumer, a blog associated with U.S. News & World Report, in connection with Buying In (which was picked as the first selection of the Alpha Consumer Book Club). Part one is here, and part two is here.

In relation to the above, I wanted to bring up one of the questions (and answers) here. The answer is a little long so I’ll leave it up to you if you want to follow on after the jump.

From Meg Marco of the As you point out in your book, consumers often join their identities and even sense of self with brands (such as with Apple). When consumers reach out with complaints to companies whose brands they’ve incorporated into their sense of self, they’re operating in a state of emotional pain. When a brand fails them, they seem to feel as if they’ve failed, too. What effect do you think this level of emotional participation has on a company’s customer service responsibilities? If companies are adept at selling “ideas about products,” do they need to work hard to maintain that special feeling once the honeymoon is over? Or has all the hard work been done?

This is a great question—and one I wish I would get more often from, say, marketers and business owners. Read more

Obama as “cutting-edge brand”

Lately I’ve been asked repeatedly how, or whether, various ideas in Buying In (particularly the you-fill-in-the-blanks aspect of murketing) might apply to politics. Laura Miller, in a Salon essay called “Barack By The Books,” suggests that perhaps the answer yes.

Obama the symbol possesses the enviable quality that Walker calls “projectability,” and Obama himself has marveled that he often seems to be “a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” He is, in short, a cutting-edge brand. But if he does win the general election, what then? A brand can’t be president of the United States….

This is just a jumping-off point for Miller’s piece, which delves deeply into Obama’s own writing, and covers a lot of highly interesting  territory. To see where she goes from there, check out the whole piece. It’s worthwhile.

On a sort-of related note: I wrote about Barackists on here, and in Consumed here.