New Work: Aksarben Village … Where It All Starts

Welcome to Omaha’s all-weather destination.

Whatever you love to do, Aksarben Village is where it all starts. Located in the heart of Omaha, Aksarben Village is the city’s premier entertainment and shopping community, a walkable place of unique shops, restaurants, bars, bike trails and green spaces. In fact, we liked it so much, we relocated our Omaha office there just a couple months ago (more on that next week).

And, as reported in last week’s Omaha World-Herald, the new Aksarben Village website “welcomes locals and out-of-towners to Omaha’s ‘all-weather destination’ and says Aksarben is ‘Where it all starts.’”

Looking to develop their own “brand personality,” the team at Aksarben Village and the Aksarben Village Master Owner’s Association partnered with Phenomblue to effectively position the experience. As part of the process, Phenomblue researched other developments across the nation to better understand how the industry is saturated with generic brands, lacking innovative function and personalities.

Together, we identified the foundational belief that Aksarben Village is “Where It All Starts.” The distinct look and feel of the area represents the lifestyles of the residents and tenants that call Aksarben Village home.

To reflect the updated brand, Phenomblue overhauled the Aksarben Village website, including an on-location photo shoot. The interactive map featured on the homepage is a mixed perspective and deco experience that showcases the Aksarben Village experience, rather than the typical bird’s-eye view that simply shows location (a Google Maps integration throughout the site gets that job done instead).

We’ll be sharing pictures from our new Aksarben Village space right here on More next week – along with pictures from the new Phenomblue LA office, too.

The updated Aksarben Village brand and website now accurately tells people that this is the place to start and end your day. For more, check out the Aksarben Village Work page or visit now.

Rewind: Robots, Microwaves … Technology, Oh My

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 Jake D., Engineer of Software Design and Development.

Jake’s favorite app is Find My iPhone, because without it, he’d be unable to use any of his other apps … he’s lost his phone several times over.

A developer has upgraded his microwave into the ultimate reheating machine, with all sorts of bells and whistles. On the list:

  • Scan barcodes on your food to automatically set the correct cooking time
  • Auto updating clock (WHY DO WE NOT HAVE THIS YET?)
  • Voice commands
  • Custom sounds
  • Control via phone
  • And of course, it can tweet when complete, because why not.

These all seem like such simple additions, it makes you wonder why we haven’t seen any of these on a commercial model yet.

DARPA has funded the creation of a new bipedal robot, because that’s what the government does. Watch the video to get a glimpse of what our future robotic overlords will look like.

PCWorld has become a digital-only publication. Just one more milestone in the death of print.

This is just cool to watch – a Canadian team largely comprised of students from the University of Toronto managed to snag a $250,000 prize for managing to hover at above 3 meters for 60 seconds, using nothing but good old human power. Very impressive.

Who Will Own the Living Room? A Free Report from the Future (of TV Advertising)

Next year’s brand-experience forecast for cable and satellite companies: cloudy with a chance of uh-oh.

In 2011, 7 million homes gave up cable or satellite TV. According to Jack Cafferty of CNN (a cable company), it was the economy’s fault people were cutting the cord on pay TV (pun most definitely not intended). In 2012, U.S. cable companies suffered their first net annual subscriber loss.

At the same time, the number of households who don’t pay for TV at all is rapidly growing: 5 million (or 5 percent of the viewing audience), enough for Nielsen to start including into its measured samples for the 2013-2014 season this so-called “zero TV” demographic, of which more than 75 percent own least one TV for watching DVDs, streaming online content and playing games.

And the next generation of controversial home entertainment platforms (such as Xbox One, PS4, Roku, Samsung’s Smart TV, Apple TV, etc.) are poised to do to pay TV what cell phones did to corded telephones: demote, but not obliterate.

In “Owning the Living Room – the Future of TV Advertising,a new, free report from the Phenomblue Strategic Insight Series, our brand experience experts provide strategic insights and action steps on how brands can adapt to the future of TV advertising, including:

  • Offering high-quality, relevant video content for audiences that prefer streaming content services (e.g. Netflix) to pay TV (e.g. cable/satellite)
  • Personalizing interactions the right way on the right devices
  • Connecting the dialogue between brands and consumers from living room to second screen to in-store or online purchase

Ultimately for consumers, though, the reason for the decline of pay TV centers on an increasingly relevant question: why, when I can get almost any content I want on my phone or computer, am I spending $100/month for 1,000 channels when I only watch five or six of them anyway?

It’s a tough question for cable and satellite companies to answer. In fact, they’re worried enough about the situation to start dishing out incentives to media firms to stop them from offering Internet TV content. Pay-TV providers are also threatening to drop the programming of media companies that ally with Internet TV providers. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether these actions constitute a violation of antitrust laws.

This puts marketers in a sticky situation. Brands shouldn’t pull away from cable or satellite just yet, because over 90 percent of American households still pay for TV. But brands should definitely be investing more money into online streaming, games, video-on-demand providers, etc. That means personalized ads, second-screen experiences and other ways to facilitate the buyer’s journey from living room to tablet to mobile to online/in-store purchase.

And as newer, more responsive home entertainment consoles make the TV experience (paradoxically) more personal and more social, brands need to deliver great relevant experiences that provide utility, not just noise. Home entertainment is only going to get more interactive and web-based, so why not start now, before your competitors do? Are you scared of the future?

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

Introducing PhenomblueTV’s Genius Treats for Top Dogs

The more everyone is doing something, the less likely you are to get noticed. Unless you start a trend or work like a genius to take it to the next level, you run the risk of wasting your time and embarrassing yourself. Think of 250 years ago when everyone had to have his own almanac just because Ben Franklin did. Then came the Weather Channel, and the almanac was out.

So it goes with content marketing. To get noticed, you have to do something different. You can’t just add lots of video or blog content and hope to succeed. You need to be more brilliant than that.

Our New Show

To showcase our creative mechanisms and sustain the conversation about the conditions that foster meaningful innovation, we recently added a TV channel to our website. PhenomblueTV is the home of Genius Treats for Top Dogs, the world’s only brand experience talk show geared toward executive leadership, business professionals and the general public.

Streaming live and in color (!), Genius Treats for Top Dogs provides strategic business and marketing insights in a more entertaining format than run-of-the-mill video content. Born of a creative collaboration between Phenomblue’s Manager of Content Marketing Tom M. (now Genius Treat) and Vice President of Marketing Kate R. (now K. Rich), our talk show is the antidote to tedious marketing webinars and awkward corporate interviews everywhere.

Our debut episode focuses on delivering tangible brand experiences. With top dog Joe Olsen, President and CEO of Phenomblue, we talk about providing utility through digital devices, universal truth from consumer behavior to design a desirable experience, finding the right agency partner and the correct pronunciation of the word “data.”

(For a deeper dive into issues discussed in Episode One, download our free white paper “Building a Tangible Brand in 2013: an Executive Primer.”)

Visit our TV page every Wednesday at 10 a.m. CST to watch new episodes, relive the old ones and check out other insightful and/or entertaining content.

In case you missed our recent episode, we’ve posted a recording of episode two. Stephen Dwyer, our Director of Insights and Media, shared his insights on how brands can maximize their media budget right now. Some things to do: monitor social TV, cultivate desire with mid-funnel content, keep testing and ask yourself why, why, why.

Join us tomorrow for this week’s episode featuring Phenomblue Project Manager Kaylin Brabec. She’ll enlighten us about managing teams effectively, balancing multiple partnerships and what you should look for in a great project manager.

Intro and Outro Videos

We went to great lengths to get the tone of the show to match the personalities of the hosts. Our solution: an exciting intro video filmed on location — tent, creek, pool, street, sidewalk and office — with the help of Wundur, a branded entertainment firm. The video contrasts Genius Treat’s harrowing adventure to work in the morning with K. Rich’s frustration at his unorthodox arrival time and travel methods.

Shooting required a mix of ingenuity, bravery and husbandry (those are real ducks), not to mention an unpleasant wake-up call to take advantage of magic hour, the first and last hour of sunlight in the day. The Genius Treat and K. Rich puppets called for a few trips to thrift stores in search of the perfect avatar. Crayola markers were involved.

Here’s a little behind-the-scenes commentary, courtesy of Genius Treat himself.

On the Creek scene: “We wanted to get a shot of me in the tunnel walking toward the camera. But when I got over there, my feet discovered the water was about 10 inches deep. What you actually see is me coming back from what I thought was a failed shot, trying not to fall in the Elmwood River’s unpotable water and ruin my new blue shoes, which I did.”

On the Tent scene: “My friend Ryan raises fowl in his backyard. As a subtle endorsement of the merits of urban farming and husbandry, we asked to borrow a couple ducks (he was there the whole time to keep the ducks calm). The ‘Les Poules’ sign was also Ryan’s. The sign gave the scene a perfect touch of creepiness, like an Insane Clown Posse video.”

To summarize: Brand experience talk show, new online TV channel, urban husbandry, K. Rich, thrift stores and falling in a river.

Rewind: Jamming a Year’s Worth of Fun into Three Months of Enjoyable Weather

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 Derek V., vice president and creative director.

Derek got into the design field by realizing, three-and-a-half years into a psychology degree, that there were absolutely no psychology jobs that even remotely interested him. So he added a fine arts major for a year-and-a-half — just long enough to build enough of a portfolio to talk his way into a grad school program for digital design.

It’s the middle of the summer and we’re super busy at our offices with a huge range of awesome projects. But there are also BBQs to attend, waters to float on, festivals to attend and only a limited amount of time to make everything happen. So we need to make our lives easier in order to allow us to jam a year’s worth of fun into the three months of enjoyable weather we get here in Nebraska. What I found this week will help us do exactly that.

You’re getting ready to head to the lake. You’ve got your bag all packed. Your snacks and refreshments are ready to go. BUT WHERE ARE YOUR KEYS?! Tile is here to save the day. You can attach this little guy to anything you always lose (keys, laptops, wallets, whatever), and via an iOS app, it will let you know where they are once you’re within 150 feet. Never again waste time that you could spent drinking on a boat!

We’ve got team members across multiple timezones at Phenomblue. That’s why we’re always on the hunt for tools to help make that working relationship as smooth and efficient as possible so we can get out of the office and enjoy fine foods cooked over outdoor flames. We recently came across Sqwiggle, an online communication tool we’re eager to try out. You get a live feed of anyone on your team via a still photo being taken by their webcam every 8 seconds. You can then click on any user to begin an instant video chat. It’s like on-the-clock voyeurism, but slightly less creepy.

Finding great webfonts is one of everyone’s major summer concerns, right? Well, it is for us. And the fine folks at Hoefler & Frere-Jones have made that job infinitely easier. Their new service Cloud.Typography finally gives us the ability to use their beautiful typefaces on the web. No longer are we searching for something close to Sentinel for our next great web project … now we can use the real thing.

And now that we’ve all made the most of our time, I think we deserve an award — a trophy to be exact. Trophy Buffet has almost reached their funding goal on KickStarter and offers a nice assortment of ridiculous trophies for achievements no less dubious than optimizing your summer. Help them out!

Bonus Day Project: Sharky Style


Look up “Sharky” in Urban Dictionary and you will find a range of definitions, most of them risqué or offensive. Some of the tamer entries include:

  • A large bump in a girl’s ponytail (ex: Hey look at her sharky, she needs to redo her hair!)
  • Someone who leads someone on, as if to lead to a relationship or something close to it, but then just drops them (ex: That girl is such a sharky)
  • Someone who has eyes that are too far apart like a hammerhead shark (ex: [ed. note: not appropriate])

But we at Phenomblue use the gold-standard definition of Sharky: an attractive toy shark who likes to have a good time. And we have the cinema vérité videos on Vine and Vimeo to prove it.

On Bonus Day, our agency’s quarterly flash exercise in creativity, three of our team members produced a series of videos on their iPhones, starring Sharky — our lovable plastic shark-on-a-stick — as he ate, drank, danced and loved his way through an action-packed weekend.

Sharky Style was an experiment to demonstrate the effectiveness of short-form video in a social media context. New, time-limited platforms like Vine (up to six-and-a-half seconds per video, no editing or filter options) and Instagram’s new video feature (up to fifteen seconds per video with editing and filter options) offer people the chance to share a glimpse of themselves with the world. But how can brands use this new, moment-oriented social medium to tell their stories and increase brand recognition? We set out to find the answer.

Using #sharkystyle, the team shared five comic videos across multiple social media sites, including Vine, Twitter and Facebook. Thanks to Sharky, the team gained 100 new likes — over 60 percent of the likes were from people the team did not know. Several of the team’s friends actually signed up for Vine just to watch the videos after seeing them on Facebook.

The experiment proved four things: 1.) Brands can produce quality, affordable and entertaining video content in a single day; 2.) Short-video platforms can be an effective tool for raising brand awareness via social media; 3.) Sharks should not drink and 4.) The Henry Doorly Zoo sells plastic sharks that look like overlarge Pez dispensers.

Check out Sharky Style: Volume 1 here!

This is part two of our featured Bonus Day projects from the second quarter of 2013 (see here for part one, Ladies of Phenomblue and Habitat Omaha). Bonus Day is an internal, agency-wide flash-exercise in innovation, where ad hoc teams of strategists, designers and engineers carry a passion project from conception to completion in a day.

Rewind: Animal Lovers 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 Sara H., senior project manager.

Jules B., our design director of UX and interaction, recently showed Sara the Rando app and it’s her favorite for the time being. Sara also loves animals, so animal lovers…this one’s for you.

“Dogs never bite me. Just Humans.” – Marilyn Monroe…I love me some animal quotes!

Fourth of July = scared pets. The Humane Society posted its tips today, but I recommend a thunder jacket.

My favorite stylish dog, Menswear Dog, put out his Father’s Day gift guide on his blog. And here’s his full blog.

Dogs dressed as their owners. Oh, hilarious.

DOGS LUV SPRINKLERS. Here’s a compilation video to waste 2 minutes of your life on happiness.

This pup can’t figure out stairs. Mainly, how to go up them.

Maybe they were inspired by last week’s Rewind with Jimm W. on 3-D printing…either way, a lame duck walks again thanks to a 3-D printed foot! Hooray!

Trending Coverage: 2013 Cannes Lions Recap


The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is the biggest global celebration of creativity in the communications industry, a weeklong gala of workshops, seminars, exhibitions, screenings and professional seminars. A marketplace of ideas and innovation, Cannes Lions attracts the world’s top marketers every year to join one of the most useful dialogues on innovation, technology, advertising and powerful brand experiences.

To highlight the best content and distill the essence of this year’s Cannes Lions, we reactivated Coverage, our content curation and strategic insight tool for executive leaders and marketers who couldn’t attend, but who need the festival’s most useful takeaways.

In 2013, brand storytelling, authenticity, listening to consumers and providing technology-driven innovation dominated the discussion at Cannes Lions. Brands need to deliver authentic, content-based brand narratives — not just creative advertising message — to provide utility to multiscreen audiences.

Here are some articles and tweets related to each theme, plus our own strategic insights:


Cannes Lions Jury President: Branded Content is Permeating Advertising, from Ad Age: Brands need to move away from the “interruptive, disruptive, sales-based model” of merely talking about themselves, toward a more relevant storytelling model that people want to invite into their lives and share with others, according to Universal McCann’s Chief Global Content Officer Scott Donaton. Brands should tell their own story through the technology people use every day.

@Ogilvy Storytelling has become story yelling. It should be about engagement through interaction. #CannesLions #OgilvyCannes

@michaeldavis777 We have fewer characters to work with, but we still hunger for narrative. #CannesLions @MPYagency @FastCoExist

@Ogilvy People don’t want to be told a story, they want to be part of it. #CannesLions #OgilvyCannes

@TheDrum #CannesLions: It’s the story, not the technology, that makes a successful ‘Moonshot’, says Google’s Astro Teller

For Phenomblue’s take on storytelling, check out our guide for using technology to deliver meaningful stories and compelling brand experiences.


Innovation Beyond Advertising: Software Wins New Cannes Category, from Fast Company: `“[CEO and CCO of Barbarian Group Benjamin] Palmer says the introduction of the Innovation Lions is welcome because ‘the advertising world is in need of constant innovation and a really compelling aspect of that is using technology to make more interesting experiences.’”

@bclifford15 “Today brand authenticity is more important than brand innovation” – Diddy #canneslions #fearlessness with @Global_SMG

@Cannes_Lions “Innovation is an overused word – maybe we just need to be smarter and better at thinking” @tscott55 at the #canneschimera session

George Lois and Lee Clow on the Simple, Complicated Future of Advertising, from Adweek: “‘When the camera was invented, artists didn’t just throw away their brushes and start taking pictures,’ said [Lee] Clow. ‘It was technology for many years before artists discovered what they could do with it. I think the artist still hasn’t discovered the possibilities in new media and the Internet and how you use this technology to beautifully and intelligently express brands. Technologists have had the lead for a while, but the artist will take over.'”

For Phenomblue’s take on using innovation to improve brand interactions, download our free guide “Innovation: Your Only Path to Survival/Success.”

Listening to Consumers

@antonyyoung “Big data is dead. Data needs to be agile, organic and people friendly.” John Allert #McLaren @mindshare #canneslions

@Cannes_Lions Overheard at #CannesLions “In the future the CMO will have a better view of the business than the CFO” Ann Lewnes @Adobe

Cannes Lions: Retail Stores Will Become “Experience Lounges” Rather Than Points of Sale, Reveals Microsoft and O&M Study, from The Drum: “’As marketers we have the internet the wrong way around – we are looking at it from the wrong end of the telescope – always focusing on what we can do with new technology, but actually more it’s more valuable to view it as what does it say about human behaviour,'” Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland said.

For Phenomblue’s take on what makes a great brand experience, download our free report “From Diamonds to Drugs: the Power of a Great Brand Experience”.


‏@chattera_ Big takeaway from #canneslions: tell authentic stories thru storytelling that is authentically authentic. With authenticity.

@jeffisawesome Major theme this year at #canneslions – Creators must be given freedom to ensure authentic, resonant content that connects with audiences.

@SophieHGBaker In most cases if you are authentic you will find an audience. @DavidKarp #CannesLions

Conan O’Brien to Advertisers: You Disgust Me, but I Will Take Your Money, from Adweek: Conan O’Brien spoke about his requirement for integrating brands and ads into his show in an authentic, relevant way. “For advertisers, I do think the authenticity thing is really important. I think it works for their products when you are being authentic, even when you’re poking fun at something,” said O’Brien.

Read our take on authenticity here.

Rewind: 3-D Printers, Snakes that Open Doors and Videos on Instagram

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 Jimm W., vice president and general manager.

Jimm got into animation by wanting to create 3-D dinosaurs after seeing “Jurassic Park.” Today, his favorite dance move is the Harlem Shake and his favorite app is the iPhone camera.

MakerBot, creators of 3-D printing hardware, announced a partnership with Amazon.

3-D printers have recently got a ton of press with their capabilities to take computer generated 3-D models and print physical, real world objects. While a lot of the early focus has been on rapid prototyping products or fabrication of custom parts or molds, recent applications have been getting more attention as 3-D printing has expanded into both weapon and medical applications. For more, printing a 3-D gun and printing a 3-D airway splint to save a babies life.

The first trailer for the biopic about Steve Jobs was released.

Watch out, E.T., there is a new flying bike in town.

If raptors are smart enough to open doors, it only makes sense that a snake should be able to do the same…right?

Facebook admits a privacy flaw that impacted 6 million of its users, leaking email addresses and telephone numbers.

Video support on Instagram. I can finally stop trying to want to use Vine and just stick with the standby of Instagram. Real time filters and the ability to load in a video would be way more preferable, but they did solve Vine’s issue of not being able to tap on your video view to focus your camera.

We’ve Got You Covered: Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity


We’ll be curating relevant content and media coverage from Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity all week on Coverage, our tool created for staying up to the minute on today’s leading technology and marketing events. Discover what’s been said and going on already on Day 2 of Cannes Lions here now.

This week, 12,000 members of global creative communications industries will embark on seven days of inspiration at Cannes Lions. Regarded as the world’s biggest celebration of creativity in communications, more than 4,000 companies will be there (including Phenomblue, of course) to view work and attend seminars, workshops, master classes, forums and the Cannes Lions Awards. Here’s our president and CEO Joe Olsen with other panelists from their presentation earlier today, including Adobe’s VP of Enterprise Tech (thanks for the pic!).

For more on Cannes Lions, bookmark Coverage to check back throughout the week, or as The Drum reports, hold tight for the documentary they’re working on for the 60th anniversary.

In the same article, CEO of Lions Festivals Philip Thomas says this about this week’s festivities:

“Cannes Lions has an enormously far-reaching significance to the creative world. It is just one week, but for those involved it’s an emotional and transformational journey that truly shapes the global creative industry. We are very excited about capturing this essence within the film.”

Phenomblue maintains Coverage as part of our Strategic Insight Series, which provides business leaders with the tools and strategies they need to succeed in today’s digital marketing environment.