Joe Bond, Author at The Bond Group.

Learning to walk…again

Can’t say this enough, it’s really important to know your audience, know when to change and how to stay relevant. This is true for any business, and especially true for musicians. Since music is ever changing, and audiences always grow older, a band has to adapt or suffer the consequences. No one wants to become irrelevant. Who is your audience? Have they changed? Do you need to change or completely start over?

1982 Baby Boomer Anthem

If you listened to the radio in the early 80’s a certain band dominated the airwaves. Seriously dominated. You couldn’t escape their songs, with simple bass intros, synthesizers and quick catchy lyrics. Hear one of their songs once, and bam! It stuck in your head the rest of the day. The cover of the second album was plastered everywhere, so a close-up of the lead singers backside in red leather pants became their calling card–they were always in red leather. Since this was pre-Pandora and pre-Spotify and pre-CDs there was just no way you could escape Loverboy. And Baby Boomers loved their music. Their song “Working for the Weekend” became a pop anthem.

Almost ten years later the same red leathered lead singer heard a different sound coming through the airwaves. Very different. Loverboy lead singer Mike Reno recalled to Andy Greene of Rolling Stone in May 2011. “As I once said on MTV, Nirvana killed our career, you just looked at the charts, and it was all negative lyrics – and people dressed up like lumberjacks. The Seattle grunge thing just took over everything.”

1991 Good morning Gen X

Hello Nirvana. Hello grunge. Kurt Cobain became the unofficial spokesman for a whole new generation where he knew his audience very well. He wrote songs that connected with lonely souls. Nirvana sparked a groundswell of Seattle bands that rocked hard with a worn, weathered look keeping to the realities of daily life. 1986 shuttle disaster, 1987 Black Monday, 1988 fall of Berlin Wall. Upending change was the norm.

Where Mike Reno loved the stage, Cobain hated it. He resisted the celebrity that rock and roll brought and grew weary of speaking for a generation. His audience got what they wanted from his songs, but in the end, they wanted more from him than he was willing to give.

2011 Gen X meet Gen Y

So what did the “lumberjacks” end up doing?

After Cobain’s death, Nirvana’s drummer David Grohl, picked himself up and started over by taking center stage and founding the Foo Fighters. Grohl’s songs tend to strike a balance between driving rock (Gen X angst), authentic lyrics (Gen Y) and makes for a good Spotify playlist (Gen Y). Right now, Grohl knows his audience better than anyone and he’s got the Grammy to prove it. What he said in his acceptance speech gives you a sense of his commitment and approach as a musician. He’s not in it for the show. “Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that’s the most important thing for people to do… It’s not about being perfect, it’s not about sounding absolutely correct, it’s not about what goes on in a computer. It’s about what goes on in here [your heart] and what goes on in here [your head].”

I hope someday the lead singer from Loverboy, will meet the lead singer from Foo Fighters and learn something. Know your audience.

Pray for Apple?

Amazing. In 1997 Apple stock closed at a low of $3.56. The company had many issues with their product line, the OS was in machines sold by other brands, they tried to make digital cameras, scanners, whatever… and the CEO chair swiveled with people not named Jobs. Apple was a mess.

In June it will be exactly 15 years ago that WIRED magazine featured the Apple logo on the cover with this word. Pray. I’ve kept that original issue, wondering how the Apple story would turn out. Let’s look at some excerpts from that cover story.

101 Ways to Save Apple (and watch a complete turn-around in 15 years).

#98 Feature commercials where buying a Mac saves the day (with silhouettes dancing to U2).

#89 Create a chemical that cleans the Mac’s pale gray plastic (or just create macs out of titanium).

#81 Merge with Sega and become a game company (and 25 billion app downloads are coming).

#71 Become a graphic design company and dominate your niche (or just dominate other industries).

#64 Team with Sony, they want in the computer business (and watch iPod surpass Walkman).

#59 Invest in Newton technology, build voice recognition and gesture recognition (then call her Siri).

#43 Keep your bridge between entertainment and high tech industry (and call it iTunes).

#31 Build a PDA for less than $250.00 (think platform and call it iPhone).

#21 Sell yourself to IBM or Motorola (or grow large enough to buy both of them).

#7 Don’t fade from retail, lease space in a computer store (build stores and lead in sales per sq ft.)

#2 License the Apple name and technology to appliance makers and build interfaces for everything from washing machines to phones (just expand slowly and dominate one market at a time).

#1 Get out of the hardware game. Scrap your hardware production to compete more directly with Microsoft without manufacturing boxes (or market entirely new hardware and call it iPad).

WIRED Magzine really said nothing wrong. They expressed the anxiousness everyone felt at the time when the conversation was about Apple.

Jobs returned as an advisor, then named CEO in July 1997, I believe flying on a white winged horse, or something like that. The late 90’s brought a complex antitrust case against Microsoft and the bundling of its Explorer browser with the OS, and lawsuits between Apple, Microsoft and Intel. That is another story altogether, but eventually Microsoft paid Apple 150M and lawsuits started to go away. Interesting times indeed.

Once Jobs was back in the saddle, uhmm, he did what he did best. Design. In came the iMac in all flavors including tangerine marketing with juicy ads… the brand had life. That was followed up by a simple music player called iPod, then iTunes, then iPhone… the rest of the story writes itself.

Monday March 19, 2012 Apple announced it would pay a $2.65 dividend on its stock, sharing some of the 100 billion in cash with shareholders. Apple is now the largest traded publicly held company by market capitalization topping Exxon Mobile and is worth more than Google and Microsoft combined.

Today, Apple stock closed at $605.96 (just remember where you came from).

Source; James Daly, 1997 WIRED Magazine

Bourbon must travel

I had no idea, how important it was to have your bourbon with you, in your luggage, packed as flat as your shirts. No round bottle here! We’re packing FLAT, so we can mix a drink anytime we want, and keep space for our clothes.

I would love to know how long this idea lasted. Obviously it was important enough to buy the inside back page of Sports Illustrated in 1967, and even then, that’s a substantial media buy. It’s the idea behind the package that gets me — but give them credit for trying.

Times change. People change. Tastes change. Never forget that.

The ROV of Steve Jobs

Risk, Originality and Virtuosity. I can’t think of three better words to describe Steve Jobs. Gymnasts learn the acronym early when they start to understand the underlying criteria that determines their score. Steve Jobs flipped entire industries upside-down by taking risks, being original and having that certain “something” that other companies only dream of attaining.

Risk. Create products like the iPad, when other companies sat and predicted failure.

Originality. Take a phone to another level — build a platform for apps — make it more than a phone.

Virtuosity. Plug it in, and it will work.

I have used and purchased more Macs for my office and home than I can list, and I’ve been using the Mac since 1986. It was our first and only real option in the graphic arts industry. Agencies, design firms, photographers, printers, we all loaded up on Macs, because Apple understood what we needed in order to create in the digital world. Jobs pushed the graphic arts industry forward, and he was revered by the design community, as a fellow designer.

Steve Jobs understood typography. You can sum up much of his success in that sentence.

He cited that taking calligraphy class in collage opened his eyes to the wonder of type and that led him to understand kerning, proportion, size, scale, space — the tiny details of design. His virtuosity as a designer and technologist became second to none. That skill is seen in all Apple products and throughout the Apple store. Design details. One button on the iPhone, one button on the iPad, simple radius on the corners, titanium shell, keep it simple — all these seemingly innocuous decisions landed Apple products ahead of the competition. Somewhere, Steve Jobs is shaking hands with Mies Van der Rohe.

It took about thirty years for Apple to become a mainstream brand, and that is what Jobs always wanted — to get great products in people’s hands, and let them be their own genius. The market will decide.

RIP Steve Jobs. Your ROV was a lesson to us all.

Watching a bookstore die.

On the day my Kindle arrived, I purchased some books from a “Going out of Business” Borders store. The dichotomy was not lost on me as I walked around the empty displays. I really knew that store. It was always busy on Saturdays and the checkout lines during the holidays were impatiently long. I remember chasing my then three year old son through the cd aisles as he grabbed discs and ran. I remember getting the remixed Beatles cd’s from a large POP display on the first floor, and the time my youngest son pulled out a large book about New York and screamed loudly… “Dad, it’s Chicago!” I remembered all of it, and now it’s gone.

Bookstores without books are depressingly ugly. Everything is for sale—even the bookcases and the fixtures. Most of the good stuff is already gone. Signs everywhere for you to buy 4 books for $16.00. Makes you wonder what their real mark-up is when you read that sign. Yeah, I know, they’re just trying to dump inventory.

Borders was given the green light for liquidation. Is anyone really surprised? The company has been losing millions and never took the online business seriously. I was never sure there was enough room for Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon… and now we know the answer – unfortunately it’s no.

The Borders online store wasn’t even Borders, but started as an alliance with Amazon in 2001. I don’t recall ever using the Borders website, which actually went live in 2008 as Think about that for a minute — they didn’t have their own branded website until 2008, a full 13 years after Amazon. If your product can be delivered in bits, streamed from a series of servers to land in your phone, laptop or iPad, it will happen eventually. It’s time to pay attention to the online world, segment the online customers and watch the digital devices being used. Rerun, this is Blockbuster Video and Tower Records all over again.

This store had lots of bad dvd’s at 70% off and cd’s nowhere to be found. It’s funny to see the books that still are not selling at ultra reduced prices — see Nichole Richie, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

Did the iPad kill this store? Did my new Kindle? Did the Nook do this? Well, the answer is somewhere in between, yes, yes and yes. So I loaded up on some cheap books, and stood in line one last time. During checkout, I started a conversation with the clerk and asked her if they had sold all the cd’s. “Yes” she said. “they were the first to go”. You can say that again.

Mobile phones amazing growth.

While doing some research on mobiles recently, we came across some stats that caught our attention…

Global Mobile Statistics 2011

Google Mobile Ads


5 Things Robert Plant Can Teach A Brand

I just saw Robert Plant and Band of Joy in Chicago, and it’s amazing how he re-invents himself year after year. Each direction he takes, tends to reveal a little bit more depth and a little bit more character, and damn if it doesn’t all work out.

Brands have a personality and lifespan. Brands get old, tired, but they can re-invent themselves and become refreshed. Refreshed is a good word that you can apply to Robert Plant throughout his musical journey.

Robert Plant’s brand, was established early in his career. Stage presence, the look, the hair and oh yea — an unmistakable voice with screaming range that set the tone for Led Zeppelin. He and the band were at their peak between 1971-1975ish, and have a legacy of one of the most influential rock and roll bands of all time. Second to The Beatles in albums sold in the U.S.

So what does a Robert Plant do when the band disbands? He doesn’t even try to compete with himself.

1. Define yourself. Set yourself apart with a new sound and new musicians. Write unique songs that stand on their own merit.

2. Nod to your past. Sprinkle a few nuggets of old sound mixed with some new stuff. Build a well crafted bridge from past to present.

3. Take a chance.Stake your claim to what you are best at, and give people a chance to see you in a new light.

4. Try new partners. New partners will open up new ideas and discoveries — the results (or Grammy awards) can be surprising.

5. Embrace the present. Be at peace either in or out of the spotlight and enjoy the ride…all over again.

Size matters, as does space, proportion, light, color and ultimately art.

“I don’t like all this wasted space..”

That’s the comment I heard from a gallery visitor, walking along the second floor of the contemporary wing of the Chicago Art Institute. Comments like that make my skin crawl. Seriously. I froze for a moment, and here’s what I should have said.

It’s not wasted space at all. The architect has gone to great lengths to design a room with proportions of floor to wall to ceiling, that make the space seem very light, open and airy, with white walls and wood floors. Within these walls my friend you can see what open space looks like. That’s the whole point. Without clutter of objects — every line, detail and shape becomes more important, because the form of the room defines it’s function. I know I’ve heard that before.

It’s really an intriguing space. The stairs from the first to the second floor look suspended. Sleek horizontal lines hover over each other one by one. My kids noticed the “floating” stairs right away. If the space were filled, or less “wasted” you would have never seen the proportion of the stairs. The stairs are not just a mode for access — they are a piece of art themselves. Don’t we want more kids to pick up on that…and return again?

Looking North, over Millenium Park and the Chicago Skyline the windows feel very quiet with shades, that not only protect the art, but tone down the city to a muted scene. It’s probably the most serene view of Chicago and the park that you’ll ever see, since it’s all unobstructed views.

What a setting for the Magritte painting Time Transfixed. Here you have a painting of a locomotive, coming out of a warm fireplace, sitting in front of a window shade of cityscape shapes. Is it interesting? Yes, very much so. Is this wasted space? No.

All galleries try to present artwork in the best possible light. Art will challenge you to think — it even captured my son’s attention when I told him that both paintings were done by the same guy. Yes, that’s Picasso, and so is that one.

The contemporary wing of the Chicago Art Institute is a stunning building all on its own. One that will be shared by gallery patrons, newcomers, kids and the curious for years to come.

By the way, I did not follow my “wasted space” friend into the Jackson Pollock Modern Art exhibit.

iPad Video Presentation vs. Others

All I wanted to do was watch competitive tablet videos. After watching Apple’s presentation on the iPad 2, I looked for videos by the other tablets, trying to get a sense of their brand personality, messaging and understand why I should buy those tablets vs the iPad 2. Remember, Apple has a “14 million sold” head start on these brands, so I expected their best marketing effort. In no particular order this is what I saw…

Apple iPad 2

Starting with Apple. You can’t miss the product on the site, it’s the latest promotion. Clean and simple presentation, the product is the hero against a white background, no clutter, easy to understand. As is Apple’s style, they balance designer interviews with product shots and user examples. There’s four videos to choose from.

Motorola Xoom

The Xoom is featured on the homepage and you can get to the video in one click, and the video is actually the commercial they’ve been running. Dark product with a dark background doesn’t show up well until you see the screen. They’re obviously going for the anti-Apple look by presenting the tablet against grey walls.

HP TouchPad

The TouchPad is easy to find and heavily promoted on, but not easily found on the HP site. The video is professionally produced, but there is no narration, demo, or user interaction with the product. It’s a very short high level overview.

Samsung Galaxy Tab

I’m not sure what to call this. The Galaxy or the Tab? The product is promoted on the homepage, and takes you to a product level page that has 4 columns for text, and three of them come up blank for me. There are 4 videos at the bottom of the page that are mostly user interactions with the tablet.

Blackberry Playbook

Good name. Easy recall. The tablet is promoted on the website, and here we go again with the dark side presentation. Four different videos are available, ranging from girls jumping rope (an analogy for multi-tasking), to a video that features more product and how-to interact with the tablet.

Cisco Cius

I don’t remember how I found this product or how to pronounce it, but it’s not being promoted on the homepage. When you do find the product, you’ll get an explanation from Kara Wilson in the video data sheet. However, for the first of it’s kind collaboration tool, I’d probably start by turning the device on.

Toshiba Libretto

Quite a name. The video is heavy on bass music and light on explanation. There are some interesting things going on dragging images from one screen to another, but I don’t know why I need to do that. The tablet is in constant motion against lots of streaks of light. In the end, I don’t know if this is a laptop or a tablet.

Viewsonic ViewPad

A simple name I can pronounce and a video worth watching. Multiple user scenarios show how someone would interact with this device. I understand what you can do with the ViewPad, I don’t understand why I’d need one since it seems just slightly larger than my iPhone.

Asus Eee Slate

It’s called an Eee Slate and there’s and Eee Pad, get it? I’m not making this stuff up. The product looks good on the site, however it looks to be just one page of images and specs with locations at the bottom of the page. There is no video.

Lenovo IdeaPad

I like the name, however I could not find a video. It looks like a laptop but the screen unhinges to become an IdeaPad. The first picture I saw on the site made me think laptop.

So what did I learn? Many brands assumed everyone knows how to use a tablet, and they didn’t offer a compelling reason to not go with the iPad. This is suddenly a very crowded field, and the herd will thin quickly. One or two of these will get some some traction, but I don’t see Apple looking over their shoulder anytime soon.

Two Brands One Corner

So this is what it comes down to — on a street corner in New York, two brands battle it out. On the left, standing in a brown jacket with hoodie and sign pole in the left hand I give you Dunkin’ Donuts. On the right, new to the neighborhood, standing in brown jacket with brown hat and sign pole in both hands I give you Subway. Dunkin’ clearly has the edge of the corner and is catching traffic going East / West and he wants them to turn South. Subway is looking for the North / South traffic and wants them to turn West. Dunkin’ Donuts has the better name recognition for breakfast, Subway is trying to start a new customers day, before they come in for lunch. Breakfast is big business.

We are exposed to roughly 5,000 brand messages per day, and here’s two more. But looking at these guys, they seem to cancel each other out. Ok, that’s two less messages I have to deal with today…