Hollywood, Beer and Lobster: an End of Summer Manual

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Decades may have passed since you last spaced out in a classroom, but if you still mentally divide the years into summer vacation/not-summer vacation, we feel you. This Thrillist article inspired the folks in our LA office to contribute to one big SoCal-specific seasonal bucket list. Should you find yourself in the City of Angels, here’s how to take advantage of the last days of summer.

  • Get old-timey with the pedal boats at Echo Park Lake.
  • Crazy for crustaceans? That’s a serious medical issue. Take care of it at the Redondo Beach Lobster Festival. Indulge in all the beer, lobster, music and beachside shenanigans you need to feel better.
  • Find a new specialty or rare beer at LA Beer Week, a 10-day celebration of the ancient elixir. Technically, a week is seven days. The truth hardly matters when you’re drinking.
  • If you miss Beer Week, you can always hit up one of the city’s excellent breweries. Our picks: Smog City Brewing in Torrance and Golden Road in Atwater Village.
  • In-and-Out Burger, Dude.
  • Sick of The Big Lebowski references? Try a Father’s Office burger at Plan Check.
  • On your weekend off, catch bands like M83, Beirut, Vampire Weekend or join a Sound of Music Sing-A-Long at the legendary Hollywood Bowl, a natural amphitheater formerly known as the Daisy Dell.
  • Hike Solstice Canyon. This six-mile hike should take you about two hours with excellent trail conditions, shaded canyons and the “well-preserved remains of a burned down mansion.”
  • Or hit the trails somewhere else. Hiking is fun. Plus you can bank up some Vitamin D, a potent antioxidant.
  • Relive the glory days of Orel Hersheiser and Kirk Gibson and get thee to a Dodgers game. They’re winning!
  • If you miss all of the above, you can always enjoy Alpine Village, home of Oktoberfest since 1968. It opens September 13.

This list is not exhaustive, just something to inspire you out of your darkened closet and into the sun. Anything we should add? Let us know @phenomblue.

Rewind: Fashion Week, Technology News, Experiment Marketing … Our Most Links Ever

Rewind is our weekly More post where someone from our brand experience agency curates his or her favorite news from the week before. This week’s post is brought to you by Stephen Dwyer, Director of Insights and Media.

Stephen (Steve, for short) was exposed to and intrigued by Mosaic while in college. At the time, he was hellbent on going to grad school for developmental psychology, but changed his mind. Steve traveled and landed on the west coast in 1997 during the internet boom, and eventually found his way to Phenomblue to lead our Insights and Media group.

A fun and relatively new mechanism for fashion fans to catch the New York Fashion looks without the New York Fashion ticket prices – thanks, Instagram.

The retail industry is set to spend a massive $13 billion on digital by 2017, according to a new eMarketer report released just last week. Throughout the forecast period, retail will remain the top spender among US industries.

This is a brilliant use of a new technology to provide loyal brand enthusiasts with the opportunity to experience fashion like never before. Using Snapchat, Rebecca Minkoff will debut photos of her new fashion line moments before models walk down the runway at New York Fashion Week. Now fans can exclusively view looks first without attending the shows. And there’s not too much risk of information leaking to the press before the event.

Last week, Google announced the launch of Chrome Apps “to establish the Web browser as more of a platform in itself.” It’ll be interesting to see this trend play out. We’ll continue to watch how mobile influences desktop.

With all this hype about the new KitKat release, Google “accidentally” shows a new phone in their video spot. I am sure it was a mistake.

Smart and fun stunt by the Tesla idea man himself, Elon Musk.

Neil Young will likely launch his music service Pono early next year. With the new high-definition audio format, will Pono be able to compete against all other music formats? Will it be that much better? I sure hope so.

This is a beautiful example of video content done well for Saint Laurent, a luxury brand.

A fun and smart way for Warby Parker to get in front of their target audience.

A new service that will use Twitter as the basis for predictive analytics.

This is just funny. Who would’ve thought people on Twitter could overreact to small annoyances?

And this is just cool.

Bonus Day Recap: Energizing America’s Youth

Now that technology and glowing screens saturate children’s lives for an average of 7.5 hours a day, we believe a tech-based solution is a relevant way to encourage healthy behavior in the midst of the childhood obesity crisis.

So for our most recent Bonus Day, two of our employees created Energizing, a fun, non-preachy mobile adventure app that subtly encourages physical activity and health consciousness among kids aged 6 to 11.

It’s simple. Kids maneuver a character they can relate to through a world bombarded by healthy and unhealthy choices: junky fast food vs. wholesome fresh food, inactivity vs. exercise, etc. If the character eats too much junk food, it starts slowing down, getting fat — and farting. But the character can always redeem themselves by dodging the junk food and activating various “energizers” to work off excess weight. As the character energizes, the player receives facts about healthy food.

We also used gyroscope technology to ratchet up the physicality. Kids have to tilt and maneuver their screens certain ways to get the character to run and jump. It’s no substitute for actual exercise, but it does reinforce the fact that eating healthy food and getting regular exercise can help you win at the game of life.

We realize the potential irony that an app that promotes healthy behavior could increase screen-time. That’s why we built in mechanisms to discourage too much game-play. A parentally controlled lockout feature sets the amount of time kids can play the game before the game shuts off. Parents will then need to unlock the game. If a kid purposefully loses because he or she just wants to hear the character fart (and let’s face it, farts are funny, even to grown-ups), additional time can be added to the lockout. We want to promote physical activity, not gaming.

While still at the conceptual stage*, Energizing gives companies in the health-and-wellness arena the opportunity to offer useful branded content and purchasing incentives for families. (A bit too blue sky? Don’t hold it against us. Brands pay us to do this.)

As marketers, we know it’s more effective to facilitate current behaviors than try to create new ones. Try to force a habit change and we rebel. It’s human nature. That’s why Energizing could succeed: it takes an already present behavior like gaming and offers additional value without distracting from the original behavior. And it’s a great way to offer a high-quality interactive experience to youth and families that might not have access to pricier motion-detection platforms such as Kinect, but who could still use a fun game once in a while.

(*We’re all incredibly busy with our day jobs. Since Energizing emerged from one of our various internal innovation programs, the game would need some outside love to succeed. If you’re interested in bringing Energizing to life, please contact us at heyyohey@phenomblue.com.)

This is part two of our featured Bonus Day projects from the third quarter of 2013 (see here for part one, CONTROL(ling) Malaria). Bonus Day is an internal, agency-wide flash-exercise in innovation, where ad hoc teams of dreamers, innovators and creators carry a passion project from conception to completion in a day.

Rewind: Labor Day Edition

Rewind is our weekly More post where someone from our brand experience agency curates his or her favorite news from the week before. This week’s post is brought to you by Brooke Heck, account director.

You may recognize Brooke from her guest appearance on a recent episode of Genius Treats for Top Dogs, where she talks with us about building effective client-partner relationships, helping businesses think outside their culture, our recent rebrand of AIM — a nonprofit technology institute — and why you might need to read more Fast Company than People magazine. Watch it here.

Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be…Miley Cyrus. Here is a list of the 25 SMARTEST women on Twitter.

Remember those times as a kid where you would stay up late to read your favorite book under the covers with a flashlight? Now there is a book with a fun new twist, which plays on that nostalgia. Hide and Eek has exciting images that only appear on the page under a flashlight at night. Pick up a copy today for your children. Or yourself.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: College Football time. Wings, pizza and ice cold, hydrating, hangover-free beer. Wait, what?

Hopefully some of you are currently on vacation as part of the long Labor Day holiday weekend. Apparently, San Francisco is the #1 place to go!

But if you didn’t have the time or funds to travel this weekend, rejoice in the fact that College Football has officially started.

Bonus Day Recap: CONTROL(ling) Malaria

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Can great design save the world? To our surprise, we discovered this could be true.

This past Bonus Day— our agency’s quarterly flash-exercise in innovation, where we have 24 hours to take a passion project from start to finish — Associate Creative Director Andrew O. came up with one potential solution to fight one of the world’s deadliest diseases — malaria — with jewelry.

Malaria is a blood-borne disease carried by mosquitoes in tropical and subtropical regions. Once affected, a person may experience chronic fever and flu-like symptoms that may progress to coma and death, especially in children under five. In 2010, malaria infected an estimated 219 million people and claimed about 660,000, lives, according to the World Health Organization — though these numbers could be much higher due to underreporting.

About 3.3 billion people, or half of earth’s population, are at risk of malaria. There is no malaria vaccine, but prophylactic antibiotics can decrease the chance of infection. For sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the developing world where malaria is endemic, these antibiotics are too expensive for most people, and mosquito control efforts like bed-nets and DDT can be unreliable or dangerous.

Newer methods like covering residential walls with DDT or other insecticides (bad-smelling, unhealthy) or asking people to wear awkward, mosquito-repellent clip-on devices (too expensive, often culturally inappropriate) aren’t very promising either.

If there’s one thing everyone in marketing knows, it’s how difficult it is to create new consumer behaviors. Better to facilitate an existing behavior than try to force a new one on people. So what if you could design fashionable and culturally relevant items of jewelry — safely infused with newer/less harmful insecticides, perhaps encased in an unobtrusive capsule — and then distribute that jewelry through a TOMS-style model of charitable capitalism?

What if prominent fashion designers could develop regionally specific pieces of mosquito-repellent jewelry, and then offer the same designs (sans repellent) to the rest of the world? Social media and celebrity endorsements could quickly create a global phenomenon, and we could see the end of malaria in our lifetimes.

Of course, we aren’t biochemists. We don’t know how this would work on a technical level. But design-wise, the idea to marry disease-fighting technology with culturally relevant jewelry could become a desirable and actionable solution to one of the worst pandemics in history.

Help! They’re Coming to Take Us Away (to SXSW)

Vote Now

But first we need your vote. Take a few minutes to support us for the following opportunities, spread the word among your colleagues, friends and family, and we’ll make it worth your while somehow. Maybe you could guest star on our talk show. Maybe you can just swing by and tour our new office. We’ll think of something.

SXSW 2014 PanelPicker

PanelPicker is a process that helps determine who gets to participate in conference activities, such as presentations, panels and discussions. We’ve teamed up with a few other agencies for the following opportunities:

Bank on Mobile — Phenomblue & IQ — Phenomblue’s CEO and President Joe Olsen and IQ CEO Tony Quin will speak about cultivating a digital version of the in-person experience banks have always been known for.

Reinventing the Hackathon — Digital Kitchen, Phenomblue & Rain — Phenomblue Vice President and General Manager Kt McBratney will make a case for how internal innovation competitions or hackathons can keep a company in peak creative shape.

QUICK AND EASY INSTRUCTIONS FOR VOTING!

Sign up here –> Complete the quick registration process –> Once your account is confirmed (via email), visit our two panels (Bank on Mobile and Reinventing the Hackathon) and click the “thumbs up” sign in the upper left corner under ‘Cast Your Vote.’ You have until September 6 at midnight CST to cast your ballot!

Tomorrow Awards…Today!

Now, when you’re done with that, help us win a Tomorrow Award for PAGE, our vision of one possible future for reading. PAGE is an immersive reading experience combining digital text, visuals and AR to draw users deeper into the reading experience and encourage focused study in dedicated learning spaces.

The Tomorrow Awards is the only international marketing and visual communications awards show with the mission of educating and discovering work that pushes the boundaries of innovation. If you happen to be an industry judge, or if you’re in the business and want to become a judge, create an account and add us to your shortlist by visiting our entry page here. Please note, to make your vote “count” you have to pick 5-25 entries for your shortlist and view at least 30 entries to submit your shortlist. For more judging criteria, click here. Please vote by this Saturday, August 31.

Okay, one last thing…

AIA Nebraska People’s Choice Awards

Our new office is up for the interior category in the AIA Nebraska People’s Choice Award. Click this link to vote, and politely force your friends, family and colleagues to do the same! (Read about our new space in Work Design magazine.) Voting ends Thursday, September 12, so do it now and send us a shout-out @Phenomblue.

Thanks again for the support! Drop by when you have a chance. Just make sure to call first.

Rewind: Joe Olsen, Ben Affleck & Elon Musk

Rewind is our weekly More post where someone from our brand experience agency curates his or her favorite news from the week before. This week’s post is brought to you by Joe Olsen, president and CEO.

Before co-founding Phenomblue, Joe was an engineer. He started writing code when he was six-years-old on an Apple IIe computer his father bought through a lease-to-buy program provided to teachers. His favorite dance move is the Carlton…of course. You might be surprised how much he learned from Will Smith and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, in fact – “That show was great, because it taught me a very important lesson in business, which is no cares about anything more than their family, regardless of how successful they are. At the end of the day, we are all servants to that cause and most decisions are ultimately made from that position.”

Biggest internet story of the week: Ben Affleck as Batman? As of today there is a Change.org petition to remove his casting and it has more than 70,000 signatures. Yes, Change.org, the website that Amnesty International, the Humane Society and the Obama campaign have all implemented to help influence the world is now ground zero for an uprising against Ben Affleck. We truly are a pop culture crazed nation.

Poor form of the week: last week, Mercedes allowed a group of students to post a controversial spec spot to YouTube, requiring them to insert several disclaimers that Mercedes is not affiliated with the ad. This ad has over 700,000 YouTube hits already, undoubtedly a predictable outcome by Mercedes. Whether you’re into the artsy ad or not, I think my bigger issue is with Mercedes allowing the spot to air on the internet at all. This was a pre-meditated way to save face while still reaping the benefit of the controversial promotion and makes Mercedes look a lot less classy. Ad Age article covering the story here.

Tweet of the week: @ElonMusk: “We figured out how to design rocket parts just w hand movements through the air (seriously). Now need a high frame rate holograph generator.” Yes, like Iron Man. Dude is the real life Tony Stark. Time Magazine ran a story in their TIME 100 issue where Favreau (Creator of the “Iron Man” movie franchise) said, “When I was trying to bring the character of genius billionaire Tony Stark to the big screen in Iron Man, I had no idea how to make him seem real. Robert Downey Jr. said, ‘We need to sit down with Elon Musk.'” This amazing tweet coming after the previous week’s announcement that he hopes to bring the Hyperloop to reality taking passengers from LA to SF in :30. That’s 800 mph BTW. I used to worry I was not going to see the “sci-fi” future I envisioned as a child and then this guy came along, and now between Elon and the Japanese robotics movement, I am still holding out hope for space travel and teleportation.

Is Agile Worth It? Leading the Scrum: an Executive’s Guide to Agile

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Think about the clothes you wear and the way you put them on.

Some people rigorously plan their outfits, making adjustments only if something goes wrong. Some people mix-and-match articles until they find an arrangement they like, putting minimal effort into planning. Some go with their gut and whatever looks good in the moment, eliciting feedback from a mirror or trusted friend. Some just throw on any old thing.

Now imagine a high-stakes scenario where success depends on what you wear. How would you get dressed? You’d plan your outfit in advance, right?

Maybe. Sometimes the mix-and-match or intuitive style works just as well, if not better, than the rigorously planned approach. It depends on your personality, your strengths and your scenario.

Why the sartorial metaphor? To illustrate the difference between Agile development and Waterfall, the more traditional approach. Agile is one of the most misunderstood concepts out there right now. A lot of marketers think Agile = responsive. Which is sort of true, but oversimplified. And a lot of marketers think Agile is inherently better. Which, again, is sort of true, but oversimplified.

Successfully going Agile depends on the business context you’re applying it to. Are you trying to go Agile in your development process, your marketing strategy or both? For an in-depth investigation into Agile and what it means for marketers, download our latest white paper, “Leading the Scrum an Executives Guide to Agile.” It’s a jargon-free, high-level guide to Agile development and Agile marketing. Plus it’s free, which means you don’t have to pay anything. You will learn:

  • What Agile is, how to use it and whether you really need it
  • The benefits and drawbacks of Agile and alternatives
  • What Agile means for marketers

If you’re not quite convinced yet to take the plunge and download, keep reading. As with anything in life, to understand Agile, you have to understand its history.

In the 1980s, Agile began as an iterative or cyclical project management methodology for software development. It emphasized people over processes, functional prototypes over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change over following a plan. In laypeople’s terms, that meant working in an environment open to change, incremental development and listening.

Originally, Agile was a reaction to the more familiar Waterfall development methodology, which relied on heavy planning, rigorous technical documentation and a sequential, linear approach. Waterfall focused on the end-goal of delivering a perfect, finished product. Agile focused on continuously building and improving a product piece-by-piece while staying open to change, discovery and innovation.

Several companies experienced huge successes after going Agile. Adobe and Salesforce.com are two of the better-known stories. But many Agile projects failed and continue to fail because leaders, team members, product owners and stakeholders either misunderstood the method or didn’t fully commit to it. Now, as more and more marketers consider adopting an Agile strategy, it is more important than ever to fully understand the method and its challenges.

Think of your brand as an interface. In the digital world, an interface is the interaction point between users and a particular device. For marketers, a brand interface is the ever-evolving environment where consumers encounter your brand. Every component of your brand interface should ultimately facilitate people buying and using your products.

Every time someone comes across you, your products, your logo, marketing, customer service, social media, etc., they alter your brand interface slightly. Adopting an Agile marketing strategy requires cultivating a responsive, experience-focused environment, making continual upgrades to your interface and not being afraid to improvise.

[button url=”/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Leading_the_Scrum-an_Executives_Guide_to_Agile.pdf” color=”purple”]Download[/button]

Bonus Day Project: Soothsayer

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Sometimes it’s hard to find truth in this crazy world. We’re bombarded by so many images and so much noise from multiple screens that, although the flood of information can excite and inspire us, it can also drain our energy or even invoke a sense of alienation. When we start feeling overwhelmed by our everyday lives, it’s hard to separate gold from sulfides, or however that saying goes. Not good.

That’s why we invented Soothsayer, an interactive installation that recognizes a user’s request for truth, and then offers them a bit of unfiltered wisdom from the ages. Users walk by and see an image of a Confucius-style guru, humbly bow to it and receive a helpful bit of truth. It’s totally oracular and fun.

As one of our recent Bonus Day projects — our agency’s quarterly flash-exercise in innovation — Soothsayer turns contemporary technology into a vehicle for the world’s truths, or at least what people in the world think is true.

Built with .NET, Soothsayer utilizes Microsoft Kinect to detect a user’s bowing motion and display the truth. While Soothsayer’s current aphorisms are directly coded into the app, a future iteration will use the “truth” tag to pull a random bit of wisdom from the web. Whether that wisdom is actually wise, or just insightless nonsense, is up to chance. The point is to glimpse how people across time and throughout the world have explained their truths — and then to compare your version of reality to theirs.

Be it a Cartesian mediation on ontology or the misspelled outrage of a Game of Thrones fan, when you know what other people think, it helps you figure out your own thoughts. From the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths to Rocky Balboa’s self-revelation in Rocky III (“The truth is I don’t want to lose what I’ve got”), random acts of truth can enlighten, entertain, enrage or sound so bad they’re actually good. #truth

Bonus Day is an internal, agency-wide flash-exercise in innovation, where ad hoc teams of dreamers, innovators and creators carry a passion project from conception to completion in a day.

Rewind: Tech News & Squirt, The Bull

Rewind is our weekly More post where someone from our brand experience agency curates his or her favorite news from the week before. This week’s post is brought to you by Ryan M., associate director of software design and development.

Ryan has traveled all over the world, but the strangest place he’s ever been shares its home state with our Phenomblue LA office. In San Jose, Cal. just a few blocks from his grandparent’s home is the Winchester Mystery House. According to the legend, Sarah Winchester was told by a psychic that to protect herself from all the spirits of people killed by the guns her family manufactured, she had to continually be constructing and reconstructing her mansion 24 hours a day to confuse the spirits and keep her alive. The mansion stands today with 160 rooms out of the 500 to 600 that were constructed and reconstructed over the years.

You know that famous saying “It’s always bigger in Texas”? Well, a contestant at this year’s Iowa State Fair sure gave that saying a run for it’s money with a 3,032 pound super bull named Squirt.

iOS app developers, take note. Apple released new AppStore guidelines this week for apps that target kids and gamblers. The changes come ahead of upcoming expansions to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Apps will now be restricted to also include the prevention of collecting photographs, video and audio. You can read more about it here.

Microsoft confirmed this week that Skype will be bundled with the next release of Windows. Windows 8.1, due out in October, further proves Microsoft’s commitment to the Skype product line.

Back in May, Google announced a new feature in Gmail which would filter Marketing emails out of your inbox into a separate tab. The marketing community was flooded with concerns over how to get their emails back into their subscribers main inbox. Four months later AdAge is reporting that this has not had a significant impact on email open rates and maybe the “cause for alarm” has passed.

Looking for an eco-friendly travel speaker. Make use of your antique mason jars with a DIY speaker from Trash Amps.