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How do you scale “Members Only” Gilt free excess?

It’s hard enough for the average worker to concentrate on their job responsibilities with easy access to Facebook, Youtube/Hulu and the grand old dame of all workplace distractions, instant messenger . However,  a burgeoning Internet addiction has seized  over 750,000 people as they religiously log on to Gilt Groupe at 12:oo pm EST sharp on a daily basis, to take advantage of  50-70% discounts on high end fashion labels such as Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, John Varvatos, etc.


Even creepy Karl knows to run, not walk to a Gilt Groupe sale!

Founded by two Harvard MBAs, Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, with seed investment from Doubleclick founder Kevin Ryan and an additional $5mm infusion of capital from Matrix Partners; the Gilt Groupe has become a symbol of how yuppies can still keep up with latest trends amidst turbulent economic times.The Gilt Groupe first launched in 2007 and immediately focused on maintaining an air of exclusivity given that one technically had to be “invited” to become a member. The site solely targeted women at first however, has added a men’s section as word of mouth buzz grew and the public’s appetite for bargains grew in inverse proportion to the Dow.

Mayband and Wilson or “A&A” to their employees have leveraged their respective experiences at ebay, Louis Vitton and Bulgari to impressively launch an Internet start up that is generating actual cash flow and reportedly had gross revenue of $20+ MM in 2007. The Gilt Groupe currently holds 25 sales per week and has recently turned to display advertising on contextually relevant fashion/lifestyle sites in an attempt to drive increased membership and awareness of the service.

This recent aggression does raise the question if  promoting to the masses will severely compromise the Gilt Groupe’s core competencies and value proposition. How can this emerging site  force balance expansion and credibility and “jump the shark” so to speak and  avoid becoming e-commerce’s version of NBC’s “Heroes” ? If the masses all become members of the Gilt Groupe or it becomes too accessible, will it no longer be “cool”? Additionally, will the company be able to supply enough product to meet demand or will only the most diligent be able to reap the rewards of bargain basement couture?

Prospective Gilt Groupe Members in 2010?

Prospective Gilt Groupe Members in 2010?

A&A maintain that the inventory is readily available as designer desperately yearn other cost-effective channels to distirbute their products. Additionally, it appears that the Gilt Groupe is adhering to the Web 2.0 mantra of developing “community”.Similar to any smart brand they have  “listened” to their customers and recently offered greater value on shipping rates and exchange policies in addition to enabling the sites with RSS feeds to keep track of upcoming sales.

Word of Mouth has made Gilt Groupe a hit with men as well!

Word of Mouth has made Gilt Groupe a hit with men as well!

Lastly, members of the Gilt Groupe have been continuously incentivized to have members of their social  graph  register and buy as $25 “credit” is bestowed for bringing aboard another paying members. They even have a slick dashboard set up so members can monitor their personal marketing activity, seeing which emails were opened, who registered and what was purchased. The bet here is that Gilt continues these practices and implements voting and sharing tools in the next couple months to take take even further advantage of their rising popularity. In the interim, email me here if you would like to be invited to the Gilt Groupe because daddy needs some new shoes and a sweatshirt too 🙂

Pepsi – The Choice of an New/Old Generation

Another NFL season has come and gone and with it one of the more entertaining Super Bowls in recent memory. The modern day Super Bowl now has three main cornerstones; the game itself, the halftime musical act that MUST appeal  to 75% of United States populace and of course, the multi-million dollar television commercial spot.

This  years commercials were somewhat lackluster however, this may be very well  due to the fact that I ingested 6 different types of animal/species during the game. Cow, shrimp, crab, pig, chicken, salmon were all consumed in a showing of excess so disgusting that it would make Caligula himself blush.  According to Ad Age, Pepsi was the big winner of the day as its ads accounted for 19% of the share of voice among the top 10 most-talked-about advertisers. Additionally, the Pepsi-Cola brand appeared to dominate the increasingly important Twitter conversation. Evidently, anything involving causes early adopters to fire up their Tweetdeck/Twitterifics or whatever the go to app is of the day. The only reason Twitter did not completely shut down was the oversight on Pepsi’s part to not use the election day hologram in the commercial. 


How did Pepsi manage to stand out from all the other brands doing the holiest of Sundays you might ask? Well, first off their spots combined to to fill about six minutes of the available airtime (including other Pepsi brands, Sobe and Doritos). Pepsi which is always trying to fatten up the youth by appealing to the teenybopper generation, ironically used pop culture icons from the past in the majority of it’s spots. Most memorable, was the unintentionally funny comparison of Boy Dylan and the aforementioned Black Eyed Pea’s frontman I’ve got nothing personal against as,  he seems like a nice enough guy and has single handedly tried to revive the Union Civil war hat as a fashion accessory. However, even the most naive teenager or suburban mom  isn’t buying this symbolism. Nonetheless, the ad was effective in the sort of look what’s old is new, what’ new is old way!  According to Paul Simon, every generation sends a hero up the pop charts and loves Rayban Wayfarers!



Union Hat

Of all three I suppose  the Pebsuber spot was the most entertaining as it leveraged both the SNL “Macgruber”skits and an ancient looking Richard Dean Anderson from the original “MacGyver” series. Unfortunately,  this ad also made me reach for the prozac,  because whenever I see a supposedly  handsome, 80’s TV star that look like they are a few years away from dementia; it tends to make me question my own mortality. What’s next ? Tom Selleck using a rascal to get around Hawaii?

So at the end of the day, I guess civil war hat’s off to Pepsi. They accomplished what they set out to do by blending cold hard cash, rock legends and cheesy 80’s action series. However, I do think there’s one 80’s icon ripe for using  to get those kids guzzling delicous, cold pepsi. Words can’t really do this guy/dog  justice so just watch thc clip below. I know “Stylez” for one is probably looking for work.



Nike iD provides ultimate customization…even on Display Ads!

I’ve designed a couple pairs of shoes via Nike iD in my unheralded “stylist” career. One pair was inspired by the 80’s Lakers and the other by a desire for sneakers that don’t look ready made for a space exploration. The value proposition of the Nike iD product is that the user maintains creative control in an extremely easy, user-friendly experience. I managed to pull of my shoe executions despite the fact I have as much design savvy as the guy that commissioned “Whiskey Pete’s” outside of Vegas and the poor soul who designed these below. (And no, it’s not me! )

Recently, Nike’s digital agency, Razorfish collaborated with Watercooler Sports and Federated Media to translate the product’s level of customization to their display advertising efforts. (Disclosure: I work for FM) The Watercooler platform enables television and sports fans to connect. Over 20 million users have joined Watercooler fan communities on leading social networks including Facebook, MySpace, etc.

Nike ID tapped into these communities’ individual identities by having the display ads automatically reflect the team colors. Note the screenshots below where ads served on the New Orleans Hornets and San Francisco 49ers Watercooler Apps featured Nikes complete with team colors. (red and white for 49ers, teal and white for Hornets) Nice to see advertising dynamically reflecting product attributes!

Linkedin adds Applications that allow me to be even more self-indulgent.

Recently, Linkedin has “opened up” their platform to applications so one can craft an even more robust and self-promoting profile. Now I can display this poorly written blog to even more people and also search what people are saying about my company, Federated Media. BTW, it’s mostly positively “tweets” about FM! I wish I could say the same about my blog 🙂

Currently, there are only about 10 apps available however, pretty soon I would expect I will be able to  “throw some dentures” at someone I once collaborated on a project with or invite my colleagues to add a “HR -Benefits” widget. Screenshots of the WordPress and Company Buzz Apps below.

Old Spice’s Swagger Campaign helping “nobodies” such as myself optimize their “search equity”.

Old Spice has recently launched an innovative online campaign that allows one to populate the web with content that significantly enhances one’s achievements and overall “swagger” which is colloquial language for having “game” or in meathead dude parlance, “the ability to score chicks broseph!”

Display ads across “guy” sites featuring virile 18-24 year old males invite users to enter the Old Spice factory.

Banner Ads Invite you to gain some "Swagger"

Banner Ads featuring Isaac from "The Love Boat " invite you to gain "Swagger"

You Optimize your attributes in an Old Spice branded environment

You Optimize your attributes in an Old Spice branded environment

After building out your profile and entering your name, email address and uploading a picture you are now ready to trick the Internet a’ la Jayson Blair.

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Desert Island Contest

The Genius of American Apparel

Recently, my group of friends were confronted with the task of obtaining costumes for Bay to Breakers which is an annual event in San Francisco that is essentially one long, crazy alcohol infused block party. The theme of our group was “Sesame Street” so naturally, everyone flocked to American Apparel for their outfits?!? There appeared no logic in this purchasing decision whatsoever. Yet, the store was packed with the prized 18-34 year old demographic in a line usually reserved for bread lines in Communist Russia. All were eagerly awaiting the opportunity to consume short shorts, tube socks and t-shirts at severely inflated prices. (In truth, besides my group, they really weren’t many in the 30+ zone, but please indulge me) It was also ironic that none of us ended up looking like Sesame Street characters. Additionally, nobody seemed to get my “Mexican Count”. Thankfully, amongst the other 30 odd people in our group they were a few legitimate costumes.

Despite or maybe because of a CEO that has been rumored to conduct interviews with attractive female applicants clad only in his briefs; American Apparel continues to thrive as one of the most distinctive and identifiable brands in existence today. The edgy clothing retailer has now become an afterthought as the go to destination for t-shirts, hoodies, leggings, or if you simply wish to look like you live in Brooklyn and love Tom Waits. Put it this way, if you play in a kickball league you immediately know where everybody is going to get your team uniform. Ditto if you’re an Internet start-up and want to make a company sweatshirt. This phenomenon all started as incredibly savvy, well positioned marketing strategy that properly targeted the influencers and hipsters on both coasts. The combination of a borderline pornographic ad campaign, which cheekily used store employees as models and the increasing popularity of all things “indie” fueled the conversation regarding the brand amongst tastemakers. The eventual migration into the mainstream’s consciousness was inevitable and continues to be amplified to the masses via good old fashioned, word-of-mouth marketing. In the trendy Marina in San Francisco that fateful morning, one can clearly envision hordes of twenty-somethings asking their peers where they were purchasing costumes for the big event and all receiving the same ubiquitous response of… “American Apparel.”

The funniest part is that American Apparel does not sell anything unique. One could easily mistake their clothes for Hanes except made to fit Smurf sized humans. Their catalogue contains mostly simple, basic items in a wide variety of colors that are made to fit either heroin junkies or a 20 year old Brit rockers, which I guess is really the same thing. The adoring public continues to pay incredible premiums on v-necks just for the opportunity to purchase it from a guy with an ironic moustache, who secretly despises you. However, there I stood, anxiously waiting in line ready to pay $50 for some tube socks and green “Prefontaine” shorts. Many came out with a befuddled face like my friend Ali below who paid $20 for a headband. However, deep down we both know we’ll be back because we’re that dumb and American Apparel is that smart.


Dr. Marten – Leading Innovation from high school hallways at lunch

Dr. Marten is one of those brands that will always have a significant cult following. It’s safe to say that as long as there are disenfranchised youth somewhere, Dr Marten will have a solid constituency. Recently they have become a little more aggressive in their marketing by placing ads on such hip sites as Pitchfork Media, MocoLoco and NOTCOT. It’s those quiet kids that roman the hallways that become the designer, musicians and architects of the world, I guess. The ad unit actually allows you to begin custom designing a boot for a few seconds, within the banner, before eventually taking you to the Dr. Marten site where you can complete the process. It’s nice to see such a storied, iconic brand take an innovative and fun approach to their marketing. Below is the actual unit as well as one I created with that one of my heroes, Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel gracing the boot.

Save the Bees!

Recently at FM, I had the opportunity work on the “Graffi-bee” contest held on the social application, “Graffiti”. This particular contest was sponsored by Haagen-Dazs, who have been very proactive at helping in the fight against colony collapse. Recently, the top 150 submissions were selected from the contest which garnered over 5000 entries, 1 million votes and over 800 “friends” during the 2 week run of the contest. Click image below to check out some of the mind blowing creations. Thus far, companies such as Dell, BMW and Wacom have taken advantage of the robust Graffiti community (9 mm+ members) to have people conduct enjoyable interactions with their brands. Graffiti initially gained popularity on Facebook, and has recently launched on MySpace and Hi 5 as well.