funny haunted house reactions 08

‘Haunted Houses’ and ‘Engagement’

22 Haunted House Reactions to Pee Your Pants With Laughter”  was the title of a Mashable blog post I just read.  The actual purpose of this post might seem a little ‘off’ at first blush but go with me.  As I’m reading the post, my brain queued up the question, “WHY did you click through (engagement) to this post in the middle of a busy day?”

Then, it dawned on me … there are SEVERAL reasons;

  1. I love Halloween and, especially, haunted houses!
  2. The title included a reference to photos/reactions — ones which I’d definitely want to see.
  3. The title included a number (not too few, not too many.)
  4. The title engaged me by vividly describing the experience I was going to have!
  5. The post had a featured image which powerfully conveyed the tone of the content.
  6. The post was from a respected source that I frequently visit.  (blog love and kudos to Mashable!!)

The point of this post?  Learn to engage from master bloggers by keeping your brain OPEN to these types of lessons.  If you carefully watch what YOU engage with, you’ll likely discover ideas on how your content can be more engaging to your network.

Full disclosure:  I’m not terribly disappointed that the post didn’t live up to it’s claims.  I didn’t actually pee my pants.

Photo courtesy of

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You Can’t “UNSEE” Something!

Several years ago I was presenting a new logo design to a medium sized company on the East Coast.  The logo was orange.  In the meeting the CEO said, “It looks like the Caterpillar Tractor logo!”  I pulled that logo up for comparison purposes and noted that there were NO similarities whatsoever. Even the color orange was different.  The lesson?;  NONE of that mattered!  As soon as he saw the similarity between the draft and the Caterpillar logo, he couldn’t “unsee” it.  In fact, everyone else at the table had now seen the comparison and could no longer unsee it.  ARRRGH!!!

The FedEx Icon

fedex_logoTo drive this point home, I often point out to people that the FedEx Logo, although it is comprised of just letters, has a built in icon/graphic.  At this late date many people have already experienced this but it’s always fun to be the one to show this to those who haven’t yet seen it. They’ll look and look and look… then you get to instruct them to look between the letters.  They’ll quickly discover the arrow between the ‘E’ and the ‘x.’  “OHHH, WOWWW! That’s Cool!” is usually the response.

Once you see it, you can’t UNsee it!


AirBnB’s New Logo

So, the branding world is all abuzz with the launch of the new AirBnB logo.  If you Google “Airbnb new logo” you’ll find numerous depictions of how this is a combination of several concepts:  People, a location icon, an upside down heart and the letter ‘A’.   And, as I write each of those things, your eyes shoot up to the logo to find them. Am I right?

Here’s the challenge with this logo:  LOTS (and I mean LOTS AND LOTS) of people are seeing things other than those four concepts.  The most commonly claimed are; A paperclip, Female genitalia and Male genitalia.  Hmmmmmmm.

Yep, just like before, as soon as you read that, your eyes shot up to the logo and started seeing those things.  And, sadly, now that you’ve seen them, you can’t UNsee them.  My apologies for being the one to do that to you … but somebody was going to point it out some day anyway.

The Lesson Learned

If you’re in the middle of a logo re-design, or if you’re a logo designer (especially), don’t rest on obvious questions like, “How do you like this?” (which only evokes a personal opinion based on personal preference.)  Instead, ask several people more obscure questions like, “What do you see here?” or “What does this look like to you?” (a la the Rorschach inkblot test) or “What do you think this graphic symbolizes?”  By asking questions in this way, you’re shifting the viewer’s brain into a more analytical mode – one where they’re more likely to pick up, and verbally express, these kinds of observations. More >>

New Logo for Olive Garden … MMMEH!

 Here are the old and new logos, respectively;


Changing the corporate identity of a long-standing brand is a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  In fact, I would suggest that it not be done AT ALL unless there are clear and compelling reasons to do so.

Okay, so Olive Garden had a 13% reduction in December foot traffic and a third quarter, 5%+ decline in revenues.  We might ask, “In this scenario, is this the time to tweak the logo?”  Quick answer: “MAYBE!” … if that tweak is also part of an overall adjustment to a brand strategy, and that strategic course correction is geared to better engage a highly targeted audience.

The problem?

Other than the logo change, there doesn’t appear to be any other significant change to the Olive Garden BRAND STRATEGY.  Sure, they’re changing their menu (which I’m looking forward to checking out), but unless there’s a significant change to the way the brand presents itself to the world, I’m not likely going to change my view of who Olive Garden is, what they stand for, or why I should change my relationship with the brand.  I need a REEEAL, substantive reason to change my perspective!!

Back to the logo…

Some notes;

  1. The overall logo structure is identical;  flowing font, organic graphic, descriptive tagline below, framed with a background.
  2. The flat presentation is more contemporary BUT this benefit is offset by a font selection that is MUCH harder to read.  … Is that “Olive Ganden”? “Olive Carden”?  Hmmm.
  3. The branch icon is clearly more in-line with the “olive” concept (I never really understood the grapes) but how many people will recognize them as olive branches?  And, more to the point, the icon come across as just too busy.
  4. This new logo is a FAR cry from the clean and simple logos of their competitors; TGIFridays, Applebees, Chilis, Outback Steackhouse, etc.

To save yourself from seriously sliding revenues you have to step up to the plate and hit a home run.  Olive Garden, I’m sorry to report that it looks more like your bunt barely made it past the reach of the catcher.  :-\

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And the nominee is …

I just found out the Edublog Awards are accepting nominations for just one more day! I’d like to throw in the bid for my favorite Edu-Blogger, Francie Skarritt —  I believe her blog is deserving of being given an award in any of these categories:

  • Best educational use of video / audio / visual / podcast
  • Best individual blog
  • Best teacher blog

In less than two years, Francie has created a blog-centric web presence that has done some pretty amazing things:

  • Garnered her the “Educator of the Year” award from our local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Acheived a ranking by Teacher Certification Degrees as the 22nd most influential elementary school teachers on Twitter.
  • A few months ago launched a new online forum to promote the discussion of education topics among her teacher peers and local parents.
  • But, more importantly, she has put her blogging activities into turbo mode and is using her blog in a very creative way;
    • She has recently created a slideshow video to better explain the District’s Reading & Language Programs to parents.
    • Regularly posts teacher tips … and education humor.
    • Uses her blog as a training tool in her role as the Grand Ledge School District “Literacy Coach” for the Language! Program.  These regularly produced videos are shot in her classroom by her resource students.

It’s this last bullet — her HIGHLY creative use of video in her blog — that I think deserves the attention of the judges at the EduBlog Awards.  The videos are not for the direct instruction of students but are for the ongoing support and training of her teacher peers in a program for which she is responsible and which the District has chosen to support because of its effectiveness in improving student reading skills.

Although we all LOVE to watch the amazing trends we’re witnessing in EdTech and how education is being transformed, I think we should pay special attention to GREAT teachers going out of their way to pass on their knowledge and experience to the next generation of teachers.  Francie is certainly one of these great teachers!


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Fido asks, “What’s the BEST #StockPhoto Website???”

Yes, stock photography has been around as long as advertising and marketing.  And, not too surprisingly, the process of getting great stock photos as changed dramatically as the Internet technologies and web-based business models have shaped the design landscape.  Now throw in the MASSIVE movement of everything being either image-heavy or, even more importantly, video-heavy, and you’ve got an important question facing ALL business owners:


Quick answer: I typically use, or (in that order).  I avoid GettyImages like the plague – including  That decision is as much philosophical as is the fact they’re way more expensive.

To figure out what size images you need, do your calculations as follows:

72 dpi for the web; 
Meaning an image that spans five inches on your screen will need to be 360 pixels wide.  At this rate, most of the images you buy for use on your website will only cost a couple of bucks.

300 dpi for print work;
Roughly quadruple what you buy for the web if you’re going to use it in print. You can get away with print pieces at 240dpi if it’s a good quality photo and it’s processed right (color balance, sharpness, etc.)

Here’s another great tip

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 10.00.44 AM

…if you’re willing to go “free” but at the cost of giving the photographer attribution;

  1. Go to: Flickr’s Advanced Search
  2. Put in your search criteria at the top
  3. Check all three Creative Commons boxes at the bottom
  4. Click the “Search” button
  5. On the next page, in the top left, change the pull down from “Relevant” to “Interesting” 
  6. Click on an image and then click on the three little dots in the lower right corner of the page to see alternate sizes.  Some of them are many thousands of pixels wide and totally usable for print work.
  7. BE SURE TO READ ALL THE RESTRICTIONS ON THESE IMAGES.  Most of the photographers who post up photos under Creative Commons are simply looking for the exposure they get by putting their work out there.  For example:  Kudos to “Rollan Budi” for the awesome photo, “Dog Chillin’ With Red Sunglasses.”

All set?  Now, go out and GET VISUAL PEOPLE!

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You’re Within Your Rights … But SHOULD You?

Viacom blocks YouTube Video!  Here’s a screenshot of a video which WAS a clip of Daily Show’s Jon Stewart riffing on Obamacare;


OF COURSE Viacom is fully within their rights to take action against anyone who grabs a video snippet of their television productions and re-posts them on YouTube.  That is, by definition, copyright infringement.

HOWEVER, the question is, “should they do this?”  The nature of the YouTube post was that someone thought the clip was awesome/entertaining/relevant/etc. … and wanted to share it with the rest of the world.  Isn’t that the point of creating this type of content to begin with?  It seems a lot like a case of the Viacom attorneys biting the hand that feeds them — not to make an analogy to Viacom attorneys and biting dogs (nope. no way. no siree).  But, even more disturbing it that this happens without any other concerned Viacom employees (e.g. the V.P. of marketing, V.P. of operations, V.P. of Social Media, President, CEO, Board of Directors, ANYone!) being able to step up and say, “This probably isn’t a good long-term strategy!”

So, let’s do a little breakdown of the issues at hand;


  • The network protects its rights and assets
  • The advertisers are benefitted in that their ads are only seen inline with the original broadcast … as intended.


  • Eliminates the possibility of going viral
  • Ignores the fact that this is free advertising
  • Discounts the possibilities of how this could be turned into a positive for all parties concerned.
  • And (this is the biggie); Eliminates the opportunity for increased brand awareness (for Viacom, Comedy Central, The Daily Show and John Stewart)

It seems like a lot of pretty big benefits being tossed out the window all for the sake of protecting your copy rights.  I can easily imagine the network closing its doors, trampling the trust of the stockholders, but being able to say in their heart-of-hearts, “BUT WE PROTECTED OUR COPY RIGHTS!”

What say you?  Do you agree?


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