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So there’s this small tavern in the small town of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin a few miles from my home. It’s called Paddy Caughlin’s Irish Pub. It’s wonderful.

Alas, I didn’t celebrate my Irish brethren there this year. (This photo was taken last summer.) But the photo shows an incredible idea for how you can put your customers first – let other customers buy them something. In this case, it’s a beer.

This simple “pay it forward” chart shows who bought a beer for a pal, and who has a free beer coming their way. This idea plays into the neighborhood hangout brand that they’re trying to carve out. It encourages word of mouth. And it means instant revenue for the bar; with 15 to 20 percent of gift cards going completely unused, it’s likely that this is a pretty profitable tactic.

Free beer? Great idea, Paddy.

 

 

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It was blah as an ad, but brilliant as a business strategy: introduce a new product with the first ad position in the Super Bowl. Big idea. Although stealing share from great craft beers, like we have here in Wisconsin, will be a lonnnnnnnnnng uphill climb for a company whose flagship brew is bad beer. Good luck with that In-Bev! We’ll see if Black Crown will be around for the next Super Bowl.

The M&M’s ad was fun. I bet Meat Loaf is laughing. Seems like the more lame the song is, the more funny the ad can be.

Audi and Mercedes must use the same research. They’re both pandering to the high school reverse-asperation phenomena reserved for brands like Axe. Bad form for such prestigious brands.

Young monsters looking for an excellent post secondary education should strongly consider Monsters University, says the beautiful new recruitment television ad. It’s a place “Where those who embrace their history become those who create it.” Potential applicants can learn more about MU at a nifty new website.

But wait – the ad isn’t meant to recruit monsters to go to a real animated university for real animated monsters. The ad’s job is to promote the Monsters University movie, premiering June 21, 2013. It’s a spot-on parody of the awfully scary, terrifying ads for colleges that we’ve all seen. Some are gouge-my-eyes-and-ears-out-awful. Hey Appalachian State, you are not, in any way, hot hot hot. Sorry.

But wait – the website’s job isn’t merely to sell movie tickets and toys. It’s to boost the whole Monsters franchise, which is smaller than Cars and Toy Story. The movie Monsters, Inc. will be 12 years old when the sequel comes out, so the website will give the whole franchise another thing for fans to talk about, which helps Pixar, which helps Disney. Oh, happy anniversary Disney. It’s almost seven years to the day since you and Pixar got married.

The Monsters University campus map.

The Monsters University campus map.

It’s a great website, spoofing education communications really well. At the Alumni page: “Seeking intern or employee talent? Don’t forget MU’s ‘Monsters Hiring Monsters’ initiative.” Easter eggs and surprises are baked in, and the writing pimps the platitudes of communications in academia. There’s a login feature, but it goes nowhere. Gotta be a tease for future functionality as we get closer to the premier.

Back in June 2012, this Monsters University trailer was released, but it was just a typical, average trailer, and the site was launched back in October to little fanfare. That’s a pretty fractured and boring release strategy. But this parody spoof campaign seems new, and really smart.

The movie is an animated cartoon for kids, right? But wait – the recruitment ad and the website aren’t targeted to kids. Hey, the recruitment ad broke during the Rose Bowl, which doesn’t exactly pull in the youth market. And kids won’t get the parody of the ad, or the website. Disney/Pixar’s target is old people, like me. The strategy here is “get adults into Monsters University.” That’s smart business. 

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Film. Expensive, bulky equipment. Waiting days for your pictures to get developed. When I took  photos and sold camera equipment in a photography store in the 1980’s, the stuff required to see your family Thanksgiving photos was a lot different. In hindsight, it was lousy.

Many a customer would pay for their photos, take a quick look at them, and frown a great big frown, having gotten only a few good shots out of each roll. Errors could result in a bunch of abstract shots of your lens cap, or your kid’s surprise photoessay with 24 blurry shots of a dog’s nose, costing about $13 in film and processing. Some folks got pissed. Some cried. I learned the amazing emotional power that comes with people’s personal photos.

Then technology changed everything. First, one hour processing rocking the photo business, and our expectations as consumers. Then “Grandma cameras” popped onto the scene. Grandma cameras were what we called the first point-and-shoot, automatic everything cameras that were so easy to use, even Grandma could do it. The day the Grandma cameras went on sale, the old bulky SLRs started to fade away, and the masses were given more creative license.

A couple of decades later, photography has (thankfully) evolved into the simple, less expensive, more creative, awesome thing that it is today. The evolution and democratization of picture taking gave birth to new businesses and industries, and many photo-related companies failed to evolve, and died.

In 1981, the ability to improve your image ended the second the shutter opened. Today, it’s not just taking the photo, it’s how you manipulate it after you take, be it on a laptop, iPad or iPhone. The results you can get in 2 minutes today used to take much more time, more money. Creativity was almost exclusively in the hands of professionals.

Would Facebook be worth $42 billion (oops, I mean $50 million) today if it didn’t have photos? No way. The easy, cheap photography tools and processes in 2011 have democratize creativity. You can thank your Grandma.

Was Thomas Edison a wildly creative person who became good at business, or was he a wildly good businessman who happened to be creative? Both. He wouldn’t have been who he was without his tremendous strengths in creativity and in business. I’d nominate him to be the poster boy for excellence in creativity and business.

His maxim: imagination plus entrepreneurship equals innovation, and innovation equals competitive advantage. To him, creativity and business go seamlessly together.

Times have sure changed since he toiled away at the light bulb, but over 100 years later, that maxim is still true.

In 2010, Harvard Business School’s Entrepreneurial Management Unit said the ability to respond quickly to changing market conditions demands high levels of creativity. So here’s one of our most renowned business think-tanks saying we need lots of creativity in business. Huh. A very Edisonian notion.

What about the future? IBM conducted a survey recently, and found that CEOs identify creativity as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future.

So, gentle business reader, how and when and where will you dial up your creativity?