Author Archive

the sweet smell of turpentine

July 6, 2011

Linda and I both get giddy at the smell of turpentine. No, we’re not sniffing the stuff; those spirits evoke memories of art school and long days diving into vats of paint and clay and our inner creative worlds.

So when Artmorpheus asked us to give a workshop on branding at Mass College of Art we couldn’t wait to roll up our paint-splattered T’s. On our way to their high-tech auditorium we strolled past studios crammed with paintings, sculptures, and print-making. Ah, the smell of it.

Usually artists are allergic to the B word–they don’t want anyone fencing them in. But we explored how every art has its discipline, and branding can be a kind of art. If you strike the right attitude.


cooking lessons

June 22, 2010

Ever have an over-achieving sibling? Then you probably know that being born under the shadow of greatness can stink. Just look at Cain and Able, Jimmy and Billy Carter, or Marcia and Jan Brady.

My point is this, when one sibling is a star the other kids can have a tough time keeping up.

On the other hand when family dynasties work, they’re a thing of beauty; The Medici’s. The Kennedy’s. Venus and Serena Williams.

So when Scripps, parent company of Food Network, decided to birth a second channel dedicated to food and cooking, they faced more than the usual launch challenges. They had to find the sweet spot for viewers, advertisers, and affiliates, of course. But they also needed to create a sibling Channel to Food Network that carried a distinct personality without stealing Food Network’s thunder or encroaching on its loyal niche.

And they wanted to launch the network in five months.

It might have been impossible but Scripps put the seasoned pros from Food Network on the case; Michael Smith, Susie Fogelson, Patalia Tate, Katie Ilch, Joanne Harmon, and team. They knew to build Cooking Channel from the personality up. At the foundation was a distinct point of view, clear attitude, and language that resonated with the new audience.

Given our deep love of Food, and our passion for branding, being invited into the new network delivery room was a pinch-me moment for the Tooth+Nail team.  Early on we explored personality directions, clarified the target audience, honed in on a single voice, and crafted brand guidelines, language, and a tagline that captured the battle cry of all Food People, “Stay Hungry.”

Foundation in place, internal and external teams were off and running. The new network flourished: affiliate and ad sales marketing, graphics, packaging, the launch campaign, topicals, and the million other details. Creative partners included Leroy and Clarkson for the image campaign, Trollback and Co. for on-air graphics.

Enjoy the collected works of the Cooking Channel team. Think of it as a birth announcement. We’re so very proud.

Food Network, meet your younger sister, Cooking Channel. She’s so cute, and just the right kind of feisty.

in the mood

April 28, 2010

The villa was lovely with its view of the beach and heated pool.  I could have remained on the porch indefinitely watching coffee cups, wine glasses, and olive pits pile up. Instead, a morsel of motivation prevailed.

We piled into the mini van and, after an hour of wrong turns and Google maps, found the village. A castle rose from the top of the hill, guarded by a statue of a 12 foot tall knight in full armor. Did someone say M’lady?

We passed through the gates and entered the 13th century.

It took me a moment before noticing the music.

No apps. No guided tours. Just the sounds of classical guitar filling up the courtyard and mingling with the ruins. We climbed ramparts and looked over the turrets. Easy to imagine busy markets or peasants below.

Sometimes, in advertising,  we get so caught up in embellishing moments with a special effect or over-the-top visuals that we forget the simple power of music to move us. It weaves an atmosphere and helps tell a story.

In this spot below for Che Men’s Magazine, I love how the music puts us in the mood.

What music puts you in the mood?

a fitting experience

November 19, 2009

The movie Amelia starring Hillary Swank opened to mixed reviews this month. However, that didn’t stop the NYC discount retail chain Daffy’s from turning it into a hit.

Before the screening of the film at the Ziegfeld Theater in Midtown Manhattan, a music video became the genesis of an experiential ad for the retailer.

Dancers on the screen were upstaged by dancers on the stage as all the performers acted out how shoppers try on clothes in “Fitting Dance”.

Find your fans and create an experience that delights them. Zappos does it with customer service, Daffy surprised the Ziegfeld crowd and T-mobile rocked a crowded train station.

Ask yourself how your brand can bring joy to your customers, then ask your customers for their business.

We’d love to know what groups you’ve been thrilled with and why. Is there an agency, a freelancer or a consultant that over delivers and is rewarded with your loyalty?  Do tell.


a song, a message, a movement

October 17, 2009


It was a tremendous conference. Presenters from all corners of the globe and I was honored to be among them; marketers, designers, even a futurist with a fabulous accent.  Still, the highlight for me were the attendees; passionate, gracious and hungry for information.

With the conference over I said good bye to colleagues and friends, and welcomed my family who flew in from Boston.

Back in my hotel room we watched the DVD of the previous evenings award show winners. All the winners were inventive and shared world-class production values but one campaign was more than branding.

Channel O aspires to be an Original African music channel that delivers world class content. Its ‘Young Gifted and Black’ campaign as its Facebook fan page announces is nothing short of ambitious.

“It’s a song. It’s a message. It’s a movement. Join up and Wear it Loud!”.

Taking impetus from the 1970 Nina Simone song ‘To Be Young, Gifted and Black’ the network created a music video, a fully integrated ad campaign, a T shirt contest, and full range of 2.0 efforts that celebrate the musical talent that is found in Africa, both historic and current.

We began the day walking through Soweto where I struggled to digest the horrors of apartheid. It’s too fresh to even be called history, apartheid is a current event. We ended the day watching the YGB music video and the FB fan page was not ambitious it was right.  It’s a song. It’s a message. It’s a movement. And, it is as current and relevant as any campaign I’ve seen.

The music video below.

What do you think?

uncorking ideas

October 15, 2009

It’s spring in Johannesburg and if that’s not enough to put a smile on my face, new friends and fantastic wine does.

Preparing another session of Write With Balls, this time for Promax/BDA Africa and I turn on the TV. What’s on in the southern hemisphere? Plenty of channels and a familiar line-up; Discovery, Nat Geo, Cartoon, and CNN. But I watch for the ads.

So, how does Coke talk to its customers? With music of course. There’s a detergent for doing laundry in a bucket vs a washing machine.

Plus ads for a very special kind of bra. Well, not exactly a bra — something you wear over a bra. These print ads show you what you need to know.



More from Jo-burg in a day or two. In the meantime do you ever turn the TV on when you travel, if so what do you like? I once saw a game show in Italy that was over the top. You?


one fan at a time

September 4, 2009

I love my hood: espresso bars, burritos, and baked fries around the corner; mouth-tingling Thai and organic sushi a few blocks away. Just when I thought I was too full to waddle any further, Dorado appears with soft fish tacos from Mexico City.

Dorado interior

Why invest in a grande latte when the same $3 gets you a revelation of mushroom, fresh salsa, and avocado. I work my way through the menu: tacos to cemitas, shrimp to portabellos. Can’t wait to tell my friends.


Below the beverage list on the wall I am invited to follow my tacos on twitter or befriend them on facebook. And I do. That’s how deep my love is.

While major brands make headway monopolizing the social media mixer, the opportunities may be greatest for the wallflowers. The small discoveries. The passion brands.

I’ve announced my love on their fan page. Now what? How will social media build my bond with this restaurant? Wish for fan-only specials or lessons in Chipotle. The best friends surprise you and love you back.

Are you a fan of something on facebook? If so, have they done anything to enhance your relationship or grow the love?

Tell us your stories. We’ll follow Dorado, give them tips, and see if this relationship is truly two way.

Meanwhile, hmmm. A nice swordfish cemita might hit the spot.


creative soles

August 6, 2009

Ever had evil shoes? A pair that looked nice in the store but were serial killers on the street. No one thinks clearly with throbbing feet.


What’s the first thing you do when you come home? Me, I kick off my shoes. The universal signal that it’s time to relax. And relaxing is critical to writing.

From Manhattan to Malaysia we kick off our workshops by kicking off our shoes and donning a new pair of socks.

In school, when they wanted you to be a good little soldier  (the opposite of creative if you ask me), you were asked to “put on your thinking caps”. That imaginary chapeau morphed a room of screaming me-me’s into obedient puppies.

Creativity demands the opposite of obedience. For us, socks signal the time to be rowdy, let your guard down, and pick up your pen.

green lace up socks

After decades of hunting down creativity, we have found it indeed comes from the sole.

Of your feet.

take a break

July 26, 2009

Think about your best ideas.  When do they come to you?  Is the aha moment at the office, or do you wake up in the middle of the night with the proverbial light bulb over your head?

big idea

Chances are, your best ideas appear  when you aren’t trying to corner them. Like love, ideas find you.

It’s summer, get out and discover a street festival, farm or indie film. Stop working and recharge yourself.

LB and I found a beautiful video and before we had a chance to share it with you, we saw that the concept was appropriated by Comcast. Check out the original and then the commercial. Here’s the take away. Act like a European Creative Director; hang with video artists, and you too may stumble on ideas while sipping sangria.

The inspiration

The commercial application

Tell us where your best ideas come from.

experience that

July 22, 2009

My cousin sends his kids to Harry Potter Camp. A dear friend is partial to Disney Cruises. Recently I saw that Red Lobster was offering menu items pulled straight from Food Network’s hit series the Next Food Network Star. And, since we all know Times Square needed one more thrill, Discovery introduced the Times Square Titanic Exposition.


Meanwhile, I am shaking my piggy bank in hopes of gathering enough tokens for a stay at the lovely Hotel W in South Beach. The “Entourage Bungalow” is the ticket. A personal driver,  yacht,  and unlimited alcohol. Agent Ari not included.


Many of you know this already – I don’t have new ideas. I take old ones and throw them together like an odd couple; imagine basil and tequila.

Unusual pairs had me thinking. Entertainment brands have long partnered with lifestyle brands. But, Pharma has been left out of the mix. So, put on your thinking caps and imagine the partnering possibilities. I’ve started a list.

pillsOnce a Daily, a complete Multivitamin unleashing humor and mental agility with 100% of your daily dose of irony. From the good folks at Comedy Central and Bayer.

Zooloft from Animal Planet.  This drug, like its well known sister, calms even the most agitated cats and canines. Perfect for car rides or when you can’t be bothered. Suitable for both pets and pet owners. Comes in liver, beef, and mint.

Vixena. From the folks at Desperate Housewives. This Rx is like another popular enhancer beginning with V, but after the affair you get amnesia.

You can do better, so show me.