Category Archives: creativity

2 sites to upgrade your e-cards

If you’re sending someone a card, whether physical or digital, the goal should be to trigger an emotion.

Isn’t that why we send cards?

If that’s not the reason, it’s just a selfish act on the sender’s part to communicate that they did remember the recipient’s birthday/graduation/Bat Mitzvah.

So if triggering an emotion is the goal, why do so many cards fail to do so? Between physical stores and e-card sites, there are tens of thousands of card options, yet maybe 1% are written well enough to trigger an emotion?

99% look something like this.

Really? Who sends cards like this?

(To be fair, I guess this card does trigger an emotion with me, but it’s not the desired one.)

Well in my never-ending quest to serve you, my brilliant and attractive Daily Sense readers, I have researched and found two sites to use to permanently upgrade your e-cards.

This site is brilliant. The humor is often sarcastic and crass, something you would expect when one of the co-founders is a former writer for The Onion. Not all cards are safe to send to grandma, but it’s easy to find the perfect card to remind a friend or significant other of that inside joke or funny memory.

One of my favorite things about is that users can customize their own cards and submit to the site. Leveraging the Wisdom of Crowds, The Editor’s Picks in the User Cards section are often some of the best.

Story People
This is the site of artist Brian Andreas. Story People is much more than e-cards. Brian has built a nice little empire out of his inspirational snippets and whimsical artwork. You can browse the entire collection, creating your own e-cards by combining any of the text with any of the images. You can also order the physical prints for framing and other products.

The Story People cards are often amazing and emotionally moving.

[The full “Hi, Mom” disclaimer: My mother originally introduced me to Story People and she’s been a fan for a long time. As always, all credit goes to her.]

Use these two sites to save you from ever sending another forgettable e-card.

I’m sure there are more than just these two. What other sites have emotion-triggering e-cards?

Tools for thrashing early

If you’re building something, it’s critical to thrash early. The biggest and loudest changes should be vocalized early on.

Everyone gets heard, opinions are out in the open and the design gets refined from there.

If it’s done right, there is little to no thrashing at the end and the project ships on time and on budget.

Here are two resources that will help if your project involves any kind of prototyping or wireframing.

is a really neat online tool for creating and sharing mock ups.

If you’re more of a hardcopy person (I sometimes use both), Geek Chix has a super handy list of sketch templates you can print for wireframing.

Thrash early.

Ship on time.


Crocodiles and free pizza

“With every drink order, you get a free pizza.”

It sounds crazy. Or at least backwards.

But that’s the deal at Crocodile Lounge in the Gramercy / East Village neighborhood of New York City. With every single drink order, you get a ticket for a free pizza. All the time.

It’s not just a story, it’s a story that spreads. Friends tell friends. Friends bring friends.

They tweet about it.

They Yelp about it.

They blog about it. A lot. Photo credit by Smack Factor.

They check in on Foursquare.

Crocodile Lounge isn’t even active in social media themselves. They gave their fans a story that is easy to explain and fun to tell and the fans are carrying the message in person and online.

People are incredulous when you tell them about the free pizza per drink deal. “That’s impossible?! How do they make any money?”.

This only helps the story to spread, of course.

For you spreadsheet and ROI jockeys (I used to be one) here is my take on the short version of how it works (I’ll guess conservatively on the #’s):

The two guys who make pizzas all night probably make $10 / hour plus tips. Call it 10 hours per day * $10 / hour * two guys = $200.
Dough is cheap. The raw materials to make all the pizzas in a night probably costs about $200.

So, being conservative, the incremental cost of Crocodile offering free pizza is $400 per night.

A tap beer is about $5.
Cost to the bar = less than $1.

So at a profit of $4 per beer, once the free pizza gimmick brings in an incremental 100 drinks per night, it’s now making money, at a very high profit margin.

Plus all the word of mouth, social mentions and positive press.

Once you do the math, it’s no longer crazy. It’s not backwards. It’s brilliant.

[NB: They also have two skee ball lanes in back. Here’s the throwdown. I can beat any of my readers in skee ball. If I lose, I’ll buy you a pizza.]

What crazy and backwards idea can think up for your business? What story can you give your fans to tell?

That’s some strong cheddar

One video, two lessons.

1) Never give up. (Which is different than strategic quitting, as outlined in The Dip.)
2) If you’re going to make ads, don’t drone on about your features, low price or celebrity endorsers. Tell a story. Make us laugh. Make it memorable and remarkable so we want to tell others (like I just did).

How many car commercials have you seen where the car winds up a curvy mountain road while displaying the latest price. Hundreds? Thousands?

Contrast that with this. It’s impossible to watch this video and not smile, laugh AND remember the brand message.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go order some Nolan’s Cheddar.

If you can’t see the video, click here.

The Second Sale

Too many marketers focus solely on the first sale.

I was leaving Las Vegas today (Nicholas Cage was nowhere in sight) and with my stomach sensing that my culinary options would be limited once on board, I decided to grab lunch while at the gate.

My best option was Moe’s Mexican Grill. I had never eaten at a Moe’s but a burrito sounded good and it was very close to my gate. The next option was a Starbucks five gates away. Clearly, my first visit to Moe’s was one of impulse and convenience.

While waiting in line, I perused the menu.

The Homewrecker brought to mind a joke a friend recently made about about Gisele Bundchen.

The Jon Coctostan quesadilla brought me back to about 136 hilarious late night viewings of Fletch with my good friend Ben Lower.

Joey Bag Of Donuts made me think of the former Green Bay Packers center Frank Winters, who teammates would lovingly refer to as Frankie Bag Of Donuts.

Ruprict triggered memories of laughing uncontrollably at Steve Martin’s hilarious character in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. (Why is the cork on the fork?)

I physically smiled. A few funny item names on a menu immediately triggered happy memories.

Then something happened.

Moe’s workers seemed more upbeat than your typical airport food service employees.

Moe’s customers seemed happier and less haggard.

Moe’s burrito tasted a little better than I expected.

Was all this real or a placebo effect leftover from the menu that made me smile?

It doesn’t matter.

I won’t drive miles out of my way to go to Moe’s but if I’m hungry and they are an option, the choice is easy.

If I’m alone, I get to smile at the menu again (maybe they’ll have some new items by then – I would love to see an Underhill Steak Sandwich). If I’m with a friend, I get to share their enjoyment of the inside joke.

By having a little fun with their menu, Moe’s locked up the second sale.

Thinking outside the (Four)square

Today I was at the Consumer Electronics Show helping Altec Lansing (a Tribes Win client) setup their booth. In between unpacking and displaying product and setting up the booth’s wifi, I was tweeting on my iPhone and decided to check in on Foursquare.

(Tip: If you ever need to setup wifi at a conference, I highly recommend Trade Show Internet – it all came in a nice little box and setup was a snap. Great service.)

If you don’t know about Foursquare, it’s a location based social network and game. Mashable did a great overview post on it here. The potential for Foursqaure is huge and just this week, they went global.

While I was setting up the booth amidst the thousands of others, the marketing portion of my mind (the rest is just Wire episodes) started thinking of fun ways to encourage people to stop by the Altec Lansing booth.

The progression of my thought process was as follows:

1) CES is filled with early adopter tech geeks like myself.

2) Many of these tech geeks will be using their geeky smartphones and many will be checking in on Foursquare.

3) People like to win things.

So I setup a “special” on Foursquare. Businesses can setup almost any special they can think of for Foursqaure users. For instance, they can setup a special where the mayor (the person who has checked in the most times at a given venue) gets a free drink, like in the example below.

So I setup a Foursquare special where anyone who comes by the Altec Lansing CES booth and checks in gets entered in a drawing to win the Mix boom box. If you haven’t seen or heard this thing, it’s the quickest bass-booming way to punch your ticket to cool-kid status, especially for us tech & gadget geeks.

So now when anyone checks in anywhere near our Altec Lansing booth at CES, Foursquare will notify them of the “special” we have and they can stop by to enter and win a Mix.

Is this the intended use of Foursquare? Not exactly.

Will our “venue” even exist past Sunday? Nope.

Is it a way for us to meet and connect with more people at the show and have some fun? Definitely.

Sometimes you have to think outside the (four) square.

(I also tweeted that if you stop by, play RockBand and beat Angel’s score, you can win a Stage Gig. If you’re at CES, come by and say hi.)

You need a David

David makes passengers laugh.

David makes passengers applaud.

David makes passengers safer.

David gives people a story to tell their friends.

David makes it fun for his colleagues to come to work.

David loves his job.

David makes more people fly Southwest Airlines.

David’s video has almost 2.5 million views on YouTube but even without the internet, the story spreads. Social media just helps it spread faster and further.

Your organization needs more people like David.

Do you know how to look for Davids?

Do you know how to hire Davids?

Here’s a secret…

We all have more David in us than we think, it’s just buried beneath years of “you can’t” and “you shouldn’t”.

Does your company culture enable and encourage people like David to be…….like David?


50 Extraordinary Billboards

Interruption marketing rarely works. Permission marketing is always better.

I honestly believe that most people can’t remember a single billboard they saw in the last week.

Can you?

What if you saw these billboards? Whether you want to buy the product or not, would you at least point it out to anyone else in your vehicle? Would you tell your friends?

[I think some are probably Photoshopped but most are real.]

Ponds Pores





Full list of all 50 on Johnson Koh’s blog here.

Anyone need a cape?

A great example of one store who really understands marketing.


The typography.

The store layout.

The consistent story.

The treatment of customers like the superheros.

The absence of fear of lawsuits claiming that their invisibility paint doesn’t really make you invisible.

The fact that the the store is a clever front for the non-profit (youth orientated) creative writing and tutoring center, 826NYC. To enter 826NYC, you actually have to go through a swinging bookcase in the BBS store. Proceeds from the BBS store fund 826NYC directly to help young people with their creative writing skills.

Awesome. I know where I’m buying my next cape.

Image credit: dels from a tribe called next.

An effective parrot

My good friend Susan is hiring a boss.

That’s right. Hiring a boss.


As we start to wrap up the SAMBA program, Susan took the traditional (and extremely ineffective) job search, cover letter, resume process and flipped it upside-down.

She created a cool website at

The positive responses have been overwhelming – you can learn more and read some of the comments here.

Many bosses applied to hire Susan, but one company in particular stood out.

Inventables responded back to Susan in their own unique way by creating a position called, “Susan” on the Careers page of their website. It looked like this:

Full Charge Bookkeeper

Start up CFO

Software Engineer



It was brilliant and showed Susan that Inventables not only understood her but that they were willing to do something out of the ordinary themselves. Of all the applications, theirs clearly stood out. Susan laughed, shared it with the team and responded immediately.

By parroting back to Susan that they were a company willing to break the rules, Inventables got noticed.

What rules did you break today?

Ice, Ice, beautiful


The weather is getting warmer and most of the ice we encounter in July is cooling down our lemonade.

Nick Cobbing’s amazing website will change how you think about frozen water. Amazing, breathtaking pictures of glacial ice in forms you’ve never seen.

His site contains a two-option “choose your own adventure”:

Surface Tension is a photographic documentary of stunning ice formations in Greenland.

Noorderlicht is the pictorial diary of the travels of a man named Dutchman Gert, aboard his 100-year-old, double-masted schooner inside the Arctic Circle.

Both stories are worth a look, so refill your lemonade, settle in and let Nick Cobbing show you ice as you’ve never seen it.

What would people love?


Innovate, don’t imitate.

The problem with taking someone else’s idea and doing it a little better is that it’s just as easy for the next company to improve it a little bit more. Cheaper labor. Faster machines. The improvement becomes a linear asymptote, until making any further improvement is costlier than the benefit gained.

Instead, dream up what people would love. Then create it.

I say dream it because nobody will ask for it. Before they existed, nobody asked for:

– the iPod
– Build a Bear workshop
– Blue Man Group
– online check-in
– Twitter
– FedEx
– The W hotels

Nobody ever said, “wow, you know I really love writing extremely short blog posts. I wish there was a website that limited mine to 140 characters or less. THAT would be great.”

Doing something just a little better can make a few dollars in the short run but if you can tighten the screws, someone else can tighten them a bit more.

Zappos didn’t sell shoes online just a little bit better. If that was the plan, they could have stopped when they offered more sizes, colors and styles than anyone else. They dreamed that customers would love the best customer service they’ve ever experienced, online or in person. They were right (and did over $1B in sales last year).

Whether you are thinking of starting a new business or improving your existing business, ask yourself, “what would people love”?

Then build it.

Your idea isn’t special


I hate to tell you this, but someone else has already thought of it.

You know, that million-dollar gem that you thought of last year but haven’t told anyone about for fear they would steal it?

Go ahead. Tell them. Tell anyone. Tell everyone.

Brian Scudamore of 1-800-GOT-JUNK wasn’t the first guy to think about making money by hauling people’s trash away. He just executed better than anyone.

Ev Williams and Biz Stone weren’t the first people to have the idea that microblogging would take off. But they were the first ones to build Twitter. They executed. They won.

The value isn’t in the idea. (Here are 999 ideas you can have for free.) The value is in the execution.

If you can out execute the competition, you’ll win. It doesn’t matter how many people know about your idea.

If you can’t out execute, be honest with yourself. That isn’t likely to change anytime soon, so share the idea with someone who can. Write a blog post. Send a letter to an expert. Start a Facebook page. Partner with somebody who can execute and maybe they’ll bring you the next idea.

Either execute on your idea or share it liberally.

Gaining approval


Do you have a great idea for overhauling the company intranet but know that you could never get approval from the IT managers?

Did you just think of a great new product but are afraid that the R&D execs will squash the idea?

The good news:
I know the formula to help you get your idea implemented.

The bad news:

It will take time and runs counterintuitive to human nature.

Here is the magic formula.

1) Start small. Implement an idea that is of low enough risk to get the initial buy in from someone who trusts you. If it’s small enough and low risk enough, don’t even ask permission. Just do it.

2) Promise them all the credit. If it succeeds, you make sure it comes across as their idea. They get all the plaques, ribbons and accolades.

3) You take all the blame. If it fails, make sure they know it will be on your shoulders, not theirs.

4) Execute. Deliver early and under budget. Implement wow.

5) Rinse and repeat with something bigger. If you keep making other people look good and get quality projects executed, you’ll gain a reputation. And more autonomy.

Do this a few times and your biggest problem will be choosing who gets to take credit for your next great idea.

Do it a few more times and you won’t be able to escape the credit.

Capture inspiration everywhere


Moments of genius are rarely scheduled ahead of time.

Detained during a battle in 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner on the back of a letter that he had in his pocket.

James Taylor came up with his signature song, Sweet Baby James, as he was driving to meet his infant nephew for the first time.

R&B singer Richard Berry jotted down the lyrics to Louie, Louie on (clean) toilet paper from the bathroom in a nightclub.

In 1940, W.C. Fields scribbled down a plot idea on some paper he found in his pocket, and sold it to Universal Studios for $25,000. It became his last film, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. Fields received screenplay credit as Otis Criblecoblis.

Stories of Abraham Lincoln drafting the Gettysburgh Address on the back of an envelope and the initial plan for Southwest Airlines being drawn on a bar napkin make great stories but have been proven to be false.

Still, the examples above are the reason I’m never far from my Moleskine. Or a bar napkin.

Recapture your creativity

As you probably figured out from the name of this blog, I try to write something here everyday. Hopefully every tenth post is insightful or helpful in some way. My goal is to make you think, change or just laugh.

Writing everyday was more difficult than I expected it to be but it’s nothing compared to the project that Brock Davis took on.

Brock Davis is a creative director at Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis. Everyday in 2009, Brock decided he would make something cool and post it on his Behance portfolio.

You can see Brock’s portfolio here or by clicking on any picture in this post. DesignBoom did a recent article on Brock.

“Cool.” you say, “but I’m not creative like Brock.”

I’m calling bullshit. You ARE creative. You were creative when you were four years old, right? Back when the refrigerator was the local art gallery, you were the star. Most of our schools and companies teach us out of our creativity.

Recapture your creativity. Overcome your resistance. If Brock can do it 365 times, you can surely do it once. Make something cool tomorrow or the next day. Anything. If you want, email it to me and I’ll showcase the best one (or top ten) in a future post.