This coming attraction brought to you by…

Earlier today I saw, on a blog, a reference to a trailer for a documentary I hadn’t heard of but that sounded interesting. I clicked and went to a site called

Before the trailer started, there was an ad (for Axe hair gel). When the trailer started, text ads popped up on the bottom of the video window, advertising other movie-trailer sites I might want to check out. And of course above the video window there was a banner ad, for a movie, and to the right another ad (for Axe).

That seems like an awful lot of sponsorship to deal with … just to watch what is, after all, an ad for a movie.



Final note about How Conference

After I spoke, a bunch of people clustered around with questions. I did my best, but it never works well when 20 people want to have a real one-on-one. Sorry for those I disappointed.

That said, one guy waited through all of it, and I finally said, “Yes?” And he said:

“Thanks. Just wanted to say thanks.”

That was it. No pitch, no business card, didn’t want a thing. Just went on his way after saying those few words.

I don’t know who that guy was, but he really made my night.

So if that guy is out there reading this:



What the Michael Jackson sales surge is about

Sometimes people ask me why, say, McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or Nike bother to advertise at all. We’ve all heard of them, right? We’ve all decided whether or not we like them. So why waste the money? Here is my answer: Because the simple-sounding issue of salience is very important. And as backup I offer the abrupt return to popularity of Michael Jackson’s music.

Yesterday evening, Cult of Mac predicted a surge in sales of Michael Jackson music. Correct. Indeed as I type this 9 of the top 10 albums, and six of the top 10 singles, on the iTunes chart, are Jackson material.

Ah, but this was a safe prediction, because this kind of thing happens all the time — Tim Russert’s books, to name a random example, took all the top slots on after his surprising, and widely reported, death. Why is that? Is there something about high-profile death that makes us want to buy cultural products created by the recently deceased?

Not exactly. It’s not the death but the “high-profile” part of the equation (the attendant media/web coverage and chatter) that matters. This is for the simple reason that it makes such figures highly salient. Salience is certainly not the only element in a consumption decision, but it’s an  essential one. (This is discussed briefly in an early chapter of Buying In, from which I’ve borrowed a sentence or two in the post that follows). Read more


The iPhone: Mandatory?

One other note from How Conference tweets that you didn’t have to be there to appreciate. Or maybe to loathe. This dispatch:

@danieleagee: Just heard someone ask someone else, “How do you consider yourself a creative without owning an iPhone?”


Maybe the overheard person was kidding.

(Related: Research suggesting mere exposure to Apple logos makes people more creative was discussed in this column.)


This post will only make sense if you were (or are) at the How Design Conference…

… and happened to attend my talk there.

These are links are follow-ups to various things mentioned, if you want more information or context:

Here’s my column on counterfunctionality, describing Jonah Berger’s work. Here is the spinoff counterfunctionality Tumblr where I’ve lately been compiling watch examples. Here is Jennifer Perkins’ DIY counterfunctional watch project.

Here’s a column partly about consumer attraction to both the novel, and the familiar.

Here’s a column on “venturesome consumption” (and iPhone apps; here’s something on that student-art app).

Here’s a column on “immaterialism” (Facebook gifts and other forms of digital/virtual goods).

Here is the site of F2 Design (letterpress); here are the sites of the other two creators I also hired to make posters for Buying In: Amy Jo, and The Little Friends of Printmaking.

Here is The Kings of Leon’s sprawling merch selection; here’s the site of Barking Irons, whose work with Kings Of Leon I mentioned. Here’s a Murketing post about the Of Montreal lifestyle-products record release; here is a post about the band selling a hunting knife.

Plutonomics discussed here.

Here is more about the Kyoto Box. Here is more about the work of the Center for Vision in the Developing World, including the “self refraction” optics method. Here is more about Pielab, in Greensboro, Alabama. The M-Lab person I mentioned is Brian W. Jones, who is also a collaborator with me and others in the Unconsumption blog (which, actually, I didn’t mention, but maybe I should have).

And yes, I read the tweets after these things. Most amusing one here. (You had to be there.) Most comprehensive tweeting of the How conference by Debbie Millman.

If you enjoyed the talk, you might enjoy Consumed (and its FB page) and/or Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are.

If you did not enjoy the talk, I am sorry.

And if there’s something else I should add to these links, tell me in the comments. Thanks.


Repellent design?

6a00d8345250f069e201157140ec1d970b-300wi6a00d8345250f069e20115704bcdf9970c-300wiThe Dieline points to the above images and this explanatory post on Pentagram’s site. Apparently it’s a reaction to the most recent anti-tobacco legislation. Pentagram’s DJ Stout “suggests that to comply with the crackdown, tobacco companies should embrace the restrictions and make cigarettes look truly dangerous.”

I guess these are meant to examples of that idea — but I think these packages look totally awesome.

(And by the way, re the text, I don’t know if that’s a real cigarette-package warning or not, but I’m pretty sure all regular smokers “eventually die.” Non-smokers too.)

Unconsumption & music

Over on the Unconsumption Tumblr, contributor Tom Hosford has started a series of posts on music. Go here to check out what he’s added so far: The first post is a video featuring a band whose motto is “find something in the trash…plug it in.” Second a video of a drummer whose home-made (trash-heavy) kit is said to astound crowds on SF’s Embarcadero. And most recently, an interesting and somewhat mysterious set of pix called Trash Can Music.

And if you’ve yet to explore the Unconsumption Tumblr, now’s as good a time as any — lots of fun stuff gets added pretty much every day. Check it out.


In The New York Times Magazine: A hotel chain’s “random acts of generosity”

Real gratitude can be profitable. How, then, to create it?

In the days ahead, managers and employees of the Hyatt hotel chain will be doing favors for some of their customers. Maybe they always did them, but these favors will be different: they will be what Hyatt Hotels’ C.E.O., Mark Hoplamazian, has called “random acts of generosity,” like unexpectedly picking up the tab for your hotel-bar drinks or hotel-spa massage. “Random” seems slightly off as a description, in that Hoplamazian announced this pending outburst of hospitality, and the months of consumer research that preceded it, in a guest post on a USA Today business-travel blog. But the idea is that the unexpected nature of the gifts will leave the customer not just pleased but also grateful. Gratitude is a powerful, and potentially quite profitable, emotion to inspire….

Read the column in the June 21, 2009, issue of New York Times Magazine, or here.

Discuss, make fun of, or praise this column to the skies at the Consumed Facebook page.