Forever Relevant – Frank Gehry


I was sorting through some old newspapers, when I came across an article that piqued my interest. It was about Frank Gehry, one of my favorite architects, detailing all the current projects he is working on.

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At age 92 when most people retire or garden, the man continues to be prolific (building projects, Philadelphia museum renovation, an opera set, Los Angele’s Riverwalk, etc.). He is the truly “An energizer bunny.” Reading about Gehry Reminded me of my 2009 post: Lessons from Great Artists & Architects.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lessons from Great Artists & Architects

In my last blog posting, America’s Coach, I indicated that I have been inspired by some great people I never met, artists and architects that have guided me on my business journey. The list is long: Leger, Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Miro, Calder, Dali, Neel, I. M. Pei and Frank Gehry.

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Detailed below are the lessons I have learned from my favorite artists and architects:

– You must start with traditional training before you can breakout and create new ideas.
– Simplicity.
– Scale – sketches that lead to large masterpieces.
– There is no instant gratification when it comes to artistic creation.
– Artists serve people and live in a commercial world, but they need to discover how they can step outside the norm, take risks and slice their sliver/niche.
– When artists/creative people step outside the norm they must accept criticism, wear it like an article of clothing for a while, then toss it and move on.
– What makes it all worth it (the thrill) is the process of pulling together an achievement.
– Don’t compromise your values.
– Treat each client differently and special.
Harmony = Balance.

One final thought. Each one of the individuals on my list were larger than life, thus taught me the value of Joie de Vivre, the Joy of Living.

Actually, when I reviewed the list of great artists and architects above, beside their Joie de Vivre, I realized most continued to be very prolific and creative, thus experiment as they got older.

  • Picasso (90) experimented with betograves concrete engravings for his sculptures.
  • Chagall in his 90’s experimented with a new stencil technique called pochoir.
  • Matisse (74) created his famous Jazz series made from                     collages of colored cutouts.
  • Mior at 90 was quoted, “young people, future generations interest me not the old dodos. Miro began painting with his fingers.

Are you an “Energizer Bunny?”

A Cut Above – An Update


Once again kudos to Chipotle Mexican Grill. Last year I wrote about their innovative supply chain initiatives, plus recognized them for winning Marketing Dive’s 2020 mobile marketer of the year award. Last week I learned they formed another strategic alliance with cosmetics brand e.l.f to further leverage their target audiences.

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Last year during the pandemic, Chipotle and e.l.f. Cosmetics created a special virtual prom after-party for teens. Both companies have a core value of using ingredients that personify purity/sustainability, thus appeal to Gen Z. Note: The prom makeup kit e.l.f. assembled last year sold out in four minutes. The CMO of e.l.f. also indicated data revealed their products were purchased by a group of new consumers to their product line.

Now they are in the midst of launching the sequel (round two): A limited-edition line of beauty products inspired by the fast-casual chain’s menu. Chipotle will add to its menu a vegan Eyes Chips Face bowl inspired by the beauty brand. e.l.f. created custom food inspired products like an avocado-shaped sponge for applying makeup, eyeshadow colors that run the gamut from avocado to hot salsa, a red Make It Hot Lip Gloss and an Eyes Chips Face makeup bag. These items will go on sale on their company’s websites, apps, as well as numerous social media platforms (e.g., livestream selling platform Ntwrk and TikTok). Both companies announced they will make more product available given the results of their first collaboration. Brand synergy! Their smart marketing goal is to engage and integrate their brands with Gen Z culture.

Chipotle: Always innovating; A Cut Above!

Astonishing COVID-19 Domino Collapse


I have been binging on Netflix’s foreign language TV shows – streaming crime dramas and heists. In its quest to appeal to global audiences, Netflix is ushering in the new television era. Actually, binging is a byproduct of the pandemic lockdown. Overall, streaming services exhibited robust growth disrupting the entertainment business.

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Throughout the pandemic, I have published numerous posts about the COVID-19 domino collapse associated with different segments of business – travel, luxury watches, etc. For today’s post I would like to focus on theater chains.

Globally, analysts project 2020 box office revenue losses of $20-$31 billion. In the spotlight, market leader AMC threaten with bankruptcy, raised $1 billion to stop their hemorrhaging. Despite burning through some cash, Cinemark by contrast, thanks to innovation (e.g., private watch parties, where families or small groups rent full auditoriums for $99), believe they will come out of the pandemic relatively intact. Regardless, interesting week ahead for the entertainment business. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York City theaters can begin opening at 25% capacity on March 5. Theaters will need to assign seating to maintain social distancing, and a maximum of 50 people will be allowed per screening. California is expected to follow suit within the month. Note: New York and Los Angeles combined, account for 15% of domestic box office revenue.

Good news movie theaters are reopening. However, the market for streaming services (new services and subscribers) has exhibited strong growth (37%) during the pandemic lockdown of 2020. Back in 2020 Variety magazine conducted research about consumers’ anxiety over health and safety in public venues, specifically movies, thanks to the pandemic. Key findings: 70% indicated if costs were roughly the same, they would more likely favor watching a first-run feature from their couch; 13% at a local cinema, with 17% not sure. 

Sounds like a COVID-19 domino collapse for movie chains:

  • Less box office revenue.
  • Less employees to run the theaters.
  • Less concession stands sales (e.g., soda, popcorn, candy, etc.).
  • Less concession stands packaging materials (e.g., cups, popcorn containers, napkins, etc.).
  • Less sanitation products (e.g., cleaners, bathroom materials, etc.).

Long-term, how do you think major movie chains will manage in the new COVID era?

Trivial Rebranding


Last summer I posted Branding 2020 – Part I Responsible Messaging. In addition to the pandemic, racism in America was a noteworthy issue. Quaker Foods announced they were going to rebrand Aunt Jemima given the brand’s racial stereotypes. Last week PepsiCo. publicized the rebrand as the Pearl Milling Company. Trivial!

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I am an Aunt Jemima brand alumnus. I was the junior member of the AJ brand team back in 1986. We decided to rebrand Aunt Jemima by providing her with a graphic facelift – a fresh profile, plus removed her bandana. I remember the countless meetings, plus traveling around the country conducting focus groups listening to Afro-Americans voice their concern about racist branding. In retrospect, maybe a naïve advertising mishap only settling for a packaging redesign of her image versus a total rebrand including changing her name. Consequently, I wanted to get a better understanding of the origin of Pearl Milling Company. This is what I learned:

  • The current line of Aunt Jemima pancake mixes, syrups, cornmeal, flour and grits rebranded to Pearl Milling Company in the familiar red packaging, will arrive on supermarket shelves June 2021.
  • The Pearl Milling Company dates back to 1889, when a small mill in St. Joseph, Missouri developed a milling process producing flour, cornmeal and self-rising pancake mix that would go on to be known as Aunt Jemima.         
  • PepsiCo Inc.’s press release (a.k.a. corporate speak) indicted Quaker Foods worked with consumers, employees, external cultural subject-matter experts and diverse agency partners to gather broad perspectives to ensure the new brand was developed with inclusivity in mind. They also announced they will initiate a $1 million commitment to “empower and uplift Black girls and women” in addition to PepsiCo’s more than $400 million, five-year investment to uplift Black business and communities, plus increase Black representation at PepsiCo.

As I stated above, I remember the countless meetings we conducted back in 1986 to rebrand Aunt Jemima. I can only imagine the number of meetings already conducted and the future meetings needed to launch Pearl Milling Company by June of 2021. FYI: Other brands scheduled to rebrand thanks to the racial reckoning of 2020 include Uncle Ben’s, Cream of Wheat, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Eskimo Pie.

Back when I was a product manager in corporate America, rebranding was like a face lift. We wanted to refresh our brand messaging to sell more widgets. Rebranding in 2021 sounds woke: trivial rebranding!

Social Media 2021


Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on consumer behavior. Being a food futurist, my primary focus over the past few months has been the food-away-from-home channel. However, while conducting my research, it became obvious every aspect of consumerism is morphing.

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One major shift across all demographic groups was the speedy adaption to a digital world. Consequently, I thought this would be a good time to assess social media 2021.

  • Video, video, video! Because of the clutter, marketers will have to thoroughly evaluate which platforms are beneficial to reaching their target audience – TikTok, Thriller, Instagram Reels, Snapchat Spotlight.
  • Far-reaching, relevant brand clarity across multiple social media platforms. Specifically, the story behind every brand – corporate policies, supply chain ecosystem, the human factor (e.g., employees’ health & safety in a COVID World), community engagement, etc.  
  • Influence marketing will morph beyond beauty, health, lifestyle and travel. Technology companies will craft their marketing content in the direction of reaching more influencers to mention or endorse their products.
  • Customer care will be a key area of focus for most companies. Their goal will be to cultivate humanized relationships in real time on all social platforms via information sharing and social engagement; one customer at a time. Sales will follow.        

With the overabundance of social media 2021 platforms, compounded by the excessive utilization of remote working/educational technology tools, I predict bad mental health will arise. People addicted to social media will experience dopamine rushes. Dopamine is known as the happy hormone, a neurotransmitter chemical in our brain. When released, we feel high levels of happiness, pleasure and satisfaction. However, too much dopamine can produce anxiety, stress, difficulty sleeping and mania.

Sounds like a potential business opportunity for technology detox centers or retreats!                                                    

Choking on Plastic


Earlier in the year, I challenged it was time to question the true relevancy of content published on line. A member of my readership added: A.) “Frame of reference” key when assessing information; and B.) Fact check! Today’s query: Environmentalist claiming we are choking on plastic. What is the relevancy!

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Back in my January 23rd Relevance post, I shared a story how the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) analyzed the nutritional value of movie popcorn. They learned that the typical medium size bag contained 37 grams of saturated fat. Was 37 grams good or bad? To communicate their findings and make them relevant to the public, the CSPI created a visual: they laid out on a table demonstrating how one bag of popcorn was equivalent to the saturated fat from a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, a steak dinner with all the trimmings — combined! Relevance!

In 2019, a study by WWF International concluded we ingest approximately the equivalent of 5 grams of microplastic per week which is the equivalent weight of one plastic credit card. Recently, Reuters photojournalist Kim Kyung-Hoon published a series of photographs of meals made of plastic to further sensationalize the study’s findings.

  • A plastic credit card placed between two burger buns to imitate the 7 grams of plastic someone could eat in 10 days.
  • Lego brick pieces on top of sushi rolls weighing 22 grams, representative of the plastic one could eat in a month.
  • A safety helmet weighing 248 grams equivalent to ingesting plastic for one year.

Shocking, but relevant images. For me, an opportunity to applaud one of the true unsung, focused heroes on our planet during these difficult times, Boyan Slat, CEO of The OCEAN CLEANUP. A link to an interview with Boyan. Very positive! I highly recommend you carve out some time to watch it.

Joyeux Noël

Mobile Marketing – What’s New?


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a major boom in digital technologies. Specifically, a surge in mobile usage beyond basic communications. More consumers now use their smartphones for online shopping, numerous finance categories, gaming and video streaming. Consequently, smart marketers are implementing some innovative mobile movements.

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been monitoring the shifts in consumer behavior. Back in June, one reliable source detailed the accelerated shift to e-commerce – 7.4 million new digital buyers in 2020 (source: eMarketer). Recently, marketers have fast-tracked targeting consumers adapting to digital technologies. Detailed below are two innovative digital marketing movements:

  • Leveraging the popularity of the social media platform TikTok (an estimated 100 million U.S. users; 50 million of whom check the app daily), Dunkin’ announced it was going to re-release a limited addition of its branded holiday merchandise line Onesies – long-sleeve T-shirts, baseball hats, phone cases, etc. Their objective is to expand their social media following by targeting younger consumers now heavy users of online pandemic shopping. Note: Personalized products are now a new way food brands are connecting with their loyal customers.       
  • Trolli gummy worms utilized QR codes on their packaging to enable consumers to access a trial on Play Station for a video game “Deliciously Dark Escape” where players protect their gummy avatars. Smart Marketing: A.) Three-fourths of American households have a least one gamer, 21% are younger than 18 years old (source: Entertainment Software Association); and B.) Capitalizing on the resurgence of QR codes.

FYI: TikTok is testing longer, three-minute videos. Imagine the increase in smartphone usage if TikTok triples the current length of time people can record.  

Forever Relevant – The World Ahead (5/11/2020)

Today is Armistice Day in France. Normally a major, joyful holiday, but thanks to a second COVID-19 health crisis lockdown, Cannes feels like a ghost town. Reminds me of our first lockdown and The World Ahead.


Lockdown ends today here in France. Every nanosecond crept by. I ate and drank well, basked in the Mediterranean sun on my balcony, worked, read and wrote. During my lockdown, I was able to regularly engage via technology with family, friends and business peers.

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  • As the pandemic began to unfold, everyone would share their concern about getting sick, the COVID-19 statistics, social distancing and how the outbreak would impact their personal life. Perspectives about a post-pandemic world were myopic.
  • The #1 overused cliché: It is, what it is” meaning we all have to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, a challenging, frustrating situation that cannot be changed. Most people indicated we just have to deal with it.
  • As the curve began to flatten and details emerged about re-opening the world, people were buzzing about a vaccine being the solution without recognizing the geo-politics, time line and dollars associated with global vaccines.
  • Everyone understands we are going to witness major global transformation (social, economic and political) and experience the “New Normal.”

“New Normal?” The definition of normal – conforming to a standard, usual, typical, or expected. A standard day? A typical week? I do not accept the concept of the New Normal.” Instead, I believe we now live in a “New World,” a world where one size does not fit all. Example: The different ways three countries handled the outbreak – Sweden with herd immunization, France with strict lockdown rules and the United States with mixed messaging resulting in chaos.

Over the past few weeks, I have published numerous posts advocating  “to build a better world, start in your community.” As I get ready to leave my apartment later this morning, I am prepared to face the unknown challenges of the “New World” where one size does not fit all.



My favorite centenarian shared an interesting thought last night.

“Amazing how many troublesome events I have witnessed that have happened to the world. Localized to a degree. A very long list. However, the pandemic is the only event I have experienced that has happened to the whole world at once.”

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Mom’s long list:

  1. The Great Depression.
  2. World War II topped off with The Nuclear Bomb.
  3. The Holocaust.
  4. Never-ending genocide – Cambodia, Rwanda, Serbia, etc.
  5. Countless wars – Korean, Vietnam, the numerous Middle East wars.
  6. Memorable historical tipping point events – assassinations (JFK, RFK, MLK, Rabin), 9/11, the Arab Spring, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile crisis.
  7. The Great Recession.
  8. Migrants drowning in the Mediterranean and washing up on beaches.
  9. Children separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border.
  10. Mother nature – earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wild fires, etc.

As she indicated, a very long list. She also added: An unruly era of painful memories! And now we usher in a new era, the COVID World.