And then we heard the piano and the laughter.

From the balcony of the Mayo Clinic we could see an older couple sitting side by side at the piano, playing together and entertaining a host of people. Some were in wheelchairs, others were sitting with canes beside them or standing. Everyone was smiling and all burdens were forgotten for the moment.

The joy was absolutely indescribable. When we asked them to play one more for us, Fran and Marlow Cowan, who have been married more than sixty two years and are in their nineties, treated us to an exceptional performance that is now a YouTube sensation.

I promise you'll smile when you watch the video.


In what is a marketer;s dream come true, it appears the number one selling apparel item on Amazon is a lowly, but exalted Tee shirt!

The Tee is mundane….three wolves howling at the moon. One might expect to see the shirt on a Harley rider, blowing open in the wind, exposing a large beer gut. Or at best, on some “babe” in a bar on a dusty road in a long lost Texas town. And … hardly ever selling for more than three dollars on some mass merchant’s clearance rack.

How did this Tee hit the top of the charts? It’s not the Tee, but the reviews on Amazon, more than 400 of them, that take viral storytelling to a new social high.

If there’s a story here it’s not the Tee, but the power of one small review snowballing into an avalanche of positive, infectious energy.

Read the reviews here. You may not be able to stop. And you might even buy the Tee.


Is the White Castle commercial introducing their newest creation, a pulled pork sandwich, taking the “art” of food commercials to new depths?

The thirty-second spot (below) is an odd, if not shockingly memorable, mix of music, a ballet dancer in a pig’s outfit and what tries to be an erotic display of a barbecue sauce showering the pig as well as the audience in a come hither “call to action”.

White Castle, known for its thin, square, steamed, bland, if not tasteless burgers, extends the concept of tasteless to this newest introduction … with apologies to the town of White Castle, Louisiana (population 1,850).

It may just work to increase brand awareness and trial.

Let us know what you think in the poll that follows:


I didn’t want to take Rob to my mom, but I was out of town on Mother’s Day and needed to get a ride to see her as soon as I got back.

Scanning Hertz, Avis and a few other car rental agencies I happened upon ZipCar. I was aware of the small company but wasn’t familiar enough with them to make a reservation.

ZipCar’s website explained the company and its operation. Simply, you join for an annual fee of $50 (plus a $25 application fee) and you can remotely reserve a car by the hour for as little as $11.00 (and that includes gas, insurance and 180 miles). Cars are located throughout the city (they are in over 50 cities) and several garages within a two block distance were close to me.

Once you join, you receive a ZipCard, used as a key to open and lock your car with a swipe over a receiver on the windshield.

I bit and joined online with a coupon code for a $75 credit. Simple. I wanted to know more about the company and decided to pick up my ZipCard at their offices on Broadway. The operation is as virtual as a rental company can get. They use garage locations around the city with little or no real estate overhead.

When you make your reservation you select your location and they provide a list of available cars. Each car has a name. I chose “Rob”, a nifty little VW. Picking up Rob was easy. He was waiting for me at the garage. Following a couple of simple “rules” (checking for damage, cleanliness and at least a quarter tank of gas) we were on our way.

Taking advantage of an overnight special I picked up Rob at 6PM with a guarantee to get him home by 8AM the following morning …. Total tab: $44.00. A New York bargain by any stretch.

I am hooked on ZipCar.

The only cautionary advice is to give yourself enough time to get the car back before curfew without stressing about the clock. Missing the return time by even one minute will cost you a $50.00 fee (for every hour you’re late).

Who needs to own a car in NYC when you have Rob waiting!


Several months ago, Google stepped away from its vision to conquer the print media business by automating the buy/sell process. It floundered in the space, not understanding the personal dynamics involved in the relationships built between buyer and seller. Undercutting the importance of the editorial product and its impact on branding and image building did little to win over editors, publishers and marketers.

Strike One!

Google then announced its failed attempt to conquer the offline Radio business. Once again, Google failed to understand the process that involves human contact, believing instead that it could easily win over broadcasters with an automated system that set prices at lower than acceptable limits.


Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said the radio effort failed because Google never came up with a good way to measure listener response. Google could not measure listener response because they simply were not listening themselves. They have a unique ability to alienate (with an eye towards eliminate) the agency middleman.

Google has been stumbling about the agency offline world like a socially misfit geek, believing in the logic of mathematical algorithms instead of the art of negotiation and human interaction.

"With an enormous data corpus, our computers can do the math really well," he said. "But in the audio case, there wasn't a good signal back to us about which ads performed."

Had Google bothered to work more closely with research and data specialists who understand the offline world, results may have been very different.

Strike Two!

Television is next. And it is inevitable. They don’t understand the process and likely will not any time soon. Google’s best bet would be to turn to those who do understand the offline world and its integration into the agency process. Rather than build it, buy it. Google’s DoubleClick unit integrated with Donovan Data Systems (DDS) could be the first step in the right direction.

Check this WSJ article for a more detailed version.


It was innocent, I swear.

Several months ago after hearing “are you on Twitter” from more friends than I care to know I have (the ones that write on my Facebook wall), I decided to find out what all the twittering was about.

At first it was a quiet, non-event. I was following no one and no one was following me. So I roamed about until the Twitterati decided it was time for me to “invite” all my contacts from all my contact lists to join me in this adventure. No way. With several thousand contacts I was not about to allow access to my files. I cannot imagine the nightmarish floodgate opening with that number of invites! I picked my way through several contacts and friends I knew were already over the edge.

And then Oprah happened.

Notices that I was being followed by people I had no business knowing or wanting to know arrived daily in my in-box. By now I was following over 400 “Twits”, spending more time on the site than I care to reveal.

Did I care that their train was late or that there was rain in San Francisco? Was it important for me to know you just finished baking muffins or that the voting in Woodbridge was over?

It was time to purge.

Any DAMs (Dumb Ass Messages) solicited an “unfollow” by me. Most Twits that were incessant … unfollow. I am thankfully down to following 170 and my life is simpler and more manageable.

Where is this non-profit business model headed? No doubt the founders will walk away with a mountain of money. As did the founders of MySpace and FaceBook …. All of them having yet to show a profit. They were the communications channel du jour. A novelty. A fad. They will continue to hang on for a while, perhaps years until another technology replaces them.

The best definition for Twitter that I found on-line: “Staccato Bursts of Bullshit” by George Parker on his blog, AdScam.