10 corso como
10 Corso Como
 
As far as concept stores go, 10 Corso Como in Milan has remained a key cultural influence on retail, style, and sophistication. 
 
In all honesty, we didn't expected to write about our most recent visit but something about the memory of that lazy late afternoon, sitting in the garden cafe, watching hipster Italians stroll by for La Passeggiata (the art of taking a walk in the evening) has kept the imagery and experience top of mind. 
 
10 corso como
 
Twenty years after opening in a location far from the big name designers on the Via Montenapoleone, the retail store, bookstore, cafe, and restaurant still captivate the imagination. Famous for collaborations that no one thought possible and infused with goods worthy of the fashion elite, the biggest statement here lies in the geometric layered patterns, sculpted forms, and exquisite visual showmanship.
 
Corso Como Cafe
 
It was refreshing to revisit 10 Corso Como. As much as we love minimalist store design and eccentric curated haberdashery, few spaces are actually, purposefully unique to the brand. You cannot pinpoint the references by explaining it as "part this and part that" simply because it still remains the first of it's kind across multiple industries. 
 
Pumpkin Spice
Pumpkin Spice Latte
 
So, what does the prevalence of pumpkin spice say about our culture?
 
1. Nostalgia pays off. In contrast to the retail backlash around marketing and decorating for the Christmas holiday, fall denotes warmth and nostalgia without any gift-giving pressure. And pumpkin-inspired, limited-time offers are up 234% from 2008 to 2012, according to Datassential Menu Trends.
 
2. Imitation is flattery. As if pumpkin spice candles weren't enough, there are a plethora of products to choose from to complete your personal pumpkinification, such as: M&M’s, Pringles, Hershey’s Kisses, Planters, Eggos, Jet-Puffed Marshmallows, Country Crock, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Bath and Body Works, and yes, even Glade Room Spray. The icing on the cake...er, pie...of proliferation came via a feminine care products spoof by Saturday Night Live.
 
Pumpkin Spice
 
3. Indulgences are in our nature. A slice of pumpkin pie has nearly as many calories as a 16oz. pumpkin spice latte with 2% milk, but who’s counting?
 
4.  The rules are tricky. It’s acceptable to launch some products early as long as there is customer demand and the item doesn’t have religious or date-dependent ties. Pre-promotion of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte in celebration of the popular drink’s 10-year anniversary had a domino effect within the industry starting in September.
 
 Pumpkin trends
 
5. Seasonality rules. Winter squash is harvested in autumn and is most likely native to Guatemala and Mexico and surrounding areas, dating back 10,000 years, according to author Kim O’Donnel.
 
6. Smell is a powerful sense. It’s not surprising that pumpkin spice tastes nothing like pumpkin. Hidden behind aromatic combination spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon, you’d be hard pressed to pick a butternut squash out of a lineup.
 
7. Don’t jump to conclusions. Contrary to popular belief, pumpkin pie and definitely pumpkin spice do not contain your Halloween friend. Squash style pumpkins, which are sweeter, are best for pie filling. 
 
8. Brands Beware. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. In addition to the SNL skit, there's a plethora of disdain for the commercialization of pumpkin spice, but you shouldn't blame Starbucks. The relationship with the flavor combination has evolved over the past ten years, and companies have followed suit. It's definitely time for product development teams to consider new alternatives. 
 
 
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UPDATE: 11.21.13: More regarding #8... A writer for Slate spent a week on a Pumpkin Spice diet and lived to write about it. We love his commentary and would add that "special edition" has lost meaning altogether due to various marketing campaigns that don't really live up to expectations. 
 
MiN NYC
MiN New York
 
Fact: Men across the globe are increasingly paying attention to their looks and becoming more beauty conscious. According to Euromonitor, skincare as a category among men and women in the US is expected to increase by 10% in constant value terms over from 2011-2016, driven by facial care as men increasingly invest in looking good. 
 
Historically, men’s grooming was dominated by shaving tools, with toiletries lagging behind. Today, new product launches in bath and shower categories have received considerable attention from leading brands willing to differentiate beyond Unisex. Companies such as Dove are rethinking their brands and developing “male+care” products that leverage the brand positioning without losing the essence.
 
According to an August 2012 Report on Men’s Grooming by The NPD Group, Inc.:
  • Over nine in 10 men use some sort of grooming products today.
  • The men’s grooming industry generated $964 million in U.S. department store sales in 2011, an increase of 11 percent compared to 2010.
  • Facial cleansers (excluding bar soap), facial lotions/moisturizers, and lip products are the most commonly used products among male facial skincare users.
  • Men’s facial skincare grew 11 percent in dollars in 2011.
 
“Men have become increasingly conscious of the perks associated with looking good,” said Karen Grant, vice president and senior global industry analyst, The NPD Group.  “They have a heightened awareness that looking good may provide them an advantage in the workplace as well as in their personal lives.”  “Men have different skin than women and the men’s grooming brands need to continue educating them as well as make them feel comfortable in the shopping environment to gain sales in this category,” Grant said.
 
While men also use skincare products that are non-male-specific, it’s obvious that enhanced connectivity in the rapidly transforming retail scene has placed renewed interest in categories and concepts that tap into a specific need. And because skincare engages multiple senses, far more than apparel, it’s important to not just rely on historical data or projections – but to be particularly focused on foraging and triggering emotional memories that can build brand loyalty. 
 
Men don't want to use female products... they want them to be specifically for them "so they don't feel like dorks at the checkout," said one confidant. Well said. 
 
Karl Lagerfeld Amsterdam
CULTURE
 
 
  • An animated history of Typography {via Brian Martin at Creative Circle}
  • Money is valued differently depending on how it's earned. {via Scientific American}
 
 
FOOD
  • Subscription service Try The World offers a taste of a different city’s culture each month. {via Springwise}
  • One of the original immersive dining restaurants in New York, Monkey Town, returns to the Chelsea area of the city this summer.
  • Culinary trends from the National Restaurant Show. {via Nation's Restaurant News}
 
 
FASHION
 
  • The Karl Lagerfeld Store in Amsterdam enables customers to make and share their own digital "look book." {via Springwise}
  • Some retail manufactures reveal where and how a garment is made. {via CNBC}
 
RETAIL
 
bespoke menswear San Francisco
Al's Attire SF
 
As we walked up Vallejo Street in North Beach toward Caffe Trieste, our coffee hunt took a turn when we set sights on Al's Attire, kitty-corner from our destination.  Street appeal is more than good windows, clear signage, or a familiar logo — it's about a feeling and tone that draws us into a space, because there's something undeniably unique and/or compelling.  
 
Situated on the corner with floor to ceiling windows, the nearly 4000 square foot San Francisco store has a fish bowl quality. Part retail space and workshop, vintage-inspired off-the-rack apparel and accessories serve as inspiration for custom hand-crafted men's and women's hats, shirts, ties, dresses, coats, and shoes. 
 
Al's Attire
 
It would be easy to mistake the merchandise as vintage until you start to read the hundreds of personalized shoe and garment labels of previous and current clients on display above a sewing machine. 
 
As fans of all things bespoke, custom, and personalized, it's hard to find fault in the stores merchandising and easy to understand why retailers such as All Saints use similar props to portray a heritage theme. But Al's Attire is the real deal. Shoe lasts, fabric bolts, and leather swatches are all displayed among hat blocks and cutting tables as part of the working atelier. The assortment strikes a balance between need and want — merchandise and display.  
 
Al's Attire
 
All of the handsome clothing and genuine merchandising would just be art without the stellar customer service, craftsmanship, and attention to detail. During our visit, Al Ribaya and his team worked together to inform clients on materials, findings, and trim that would best fit the desired look, while still meeting their strict construction standards. At the shoe fitting pictured above, Rene took a combination of measurements and photos, along with drawings to ensure that every detail and input was accounted for during a nearly 60 minute shoe consultation. To say that Al is meticulous is an understatement.  
 
A quick search of the internet (the Al's Attire website is coming soon) proves that we're not the only customers enamored with the attention to detail. The list of clients and collaborations range from international musicians to thespians  — event planners to a San Francisco based American jeans manufacturer. In chatting with Al, it's obvious that each customer and order, regardless of the magnitude, receives the same care. 
 
As mass market retailers continue to offer a less than authentic representation of craftsmanship, it seems to us that businesses like Al's Attire appear more differentiated by simply staying the course and being true to their brand vision. We think that the growth opportunities in menswear, combined with the uptick consumers desire for an genuine narrative, make true craftsmanship like that at Al's Attire shine. 
T Magazine buzz
 
Change is relative.
 
After much anticipation, the new WSJ Magazine and the new T Magazine hit newsstands within a week of each other. One cover headline read “PURE ELEGANCE”, and the other “TRUE ELEGANCE”. Yes, both headlines were in all caps.
 
For those of you unfamiliar with the drama, Deborah Needleman was the editor in chief of the WSJ Magazine, but left to overhaul T magazine for The New York Times. WWD has stories about both here and here that are worth reading.
 
This isn’t a tribute or take down piece of either approach. Truthfully, we were very excited to compare and contrast how dueling editors would relaunch and redesign from the helm. There was an infographic in the works and plenty of quantitative research so as to carefully give an unbiased opinion based on facts. We counted the times that each editor used terms like change or simplicity (too many). But, in the end, the results and content was shockingly similar:
 
Kitten heels – Check. Supermodel profile – Indeed. Black and white statement pictorial – Done. Designer profiles – Without a doubt. Game changing rings from Balenciaga by Nicholas Ghesquière – Spot on. Feature on the son or daughter of a mega fashion portfolio founder (Pinault vs. Arnault) – Naturally.
 
According to our research, the biggest difference between the two came in the form of advertisements and photo editorials. While both produced excellent feature stories, T Magazine had 11% more ads as a portion of total pages, but had 21% less photo layouts. If that is an effective long term strategy or not, remains to be seen.

There's a strong message about branding, innovation, and execution however, that is relevant both inside and outside the media and fashion forum: when launching a product or service, don't simply subscribe to a formulaic approach based simply on what others are implementing. Create your own vision, differentiate, and find a true customer need. 
 
good merchandising
Karl CocaCola
 
Have you ever wondered why chefs, designers, and celebrities continue to innovate with new cookbooks or products? Or why collaborations are so successful at driving acquisition?
 
It’s because brands understand the power of loyalty and are willing to play the numbers to jumpstart merchandising strategies.
 
A new study shows that 60% of shoppers prefer new products from a familiar brand rather than switch to a new brand, according to the Nielsen Global Survey of New Product Purchase Sentiment.

“Innovating on established brands that are already trusted by consumers can be a powerful strategy,” said Rob Wengel, Senior Vice President, Nielsen Innovation Analytics. “Companies spend millions of dollars on new product innovation, yet two out of every three new products will not be on the market within three years. Marketers and retailers can deliver successful new products by ensuring they uncover unmet consumer needs, communicate with clarity, deliver distinct product innovations, and execute an optimal marketing strategy.”

Half (50%) of global respondents say they are generally willing to consider a new product purchase, with respondents in North America and the Middle East/Africa (57%) most enthusiastic about making a switch. Nielsen’s survey shows that value and proof-of-concept make a difference: more than two-thirds (64%) of respondents say they would consider value or store-brand options, and two-thirds (60%) will wait until a new innovation has proven itself before making a purchase.

“Consumers are enthusiastic about adopting new product innovations but somewhat apprehensive about embracing new brands,” said Wengel. “In order for consumers to adopt new brands, marketers need to launch very strong awareness and trial-building campaigns, supported by a positive product experience. Generating positive word-of-mouth endorsements are important, because negative experiences can significantly diminish the likelihood of new product success.”

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing a compelling new item, brand familiarity is clearly one of several key characteristics that resonate strongly with consumers so that products are easily recognizable on the shelf.

 
 
If Juice Fasts and Yoga Spinning aren’t challenging enough, try finding an editor or blogger that hasn’t encountered a rogue publicist. The kind that will email a pitch by the thousands and insists Groupon is the best growth platform for any luxury brand.
 
Most publicists strive to maintain pristine reputations and strong relationships. However, even those in the spin business know that a “bad press is good press” mantra can not fix a publicist gone wild. When it’s done right, PR can help grow awareness and drive sales, but if your brand is in the wrong hands, your PR efforts may be hurting you.
 
It seems fairly obvious that you shouldn’t pitch electronics to a beauty blogger, but it happens. “It’s an epidemic,” says Lara Eurdolian, blogger and founder of Pretty Connected. “My inbox is regularly flooded with worthless content I'd never feature and it feels like my name is on every press list. Even worse is the lack of research and poor email etiquette — text in all caps, careless misspellings and unprofessional, mass distribution.”
 
Skilled community managers are strategic in their engagement efforts and will look to target bloggers and editors that align well with the brand they are representing. These are often long-term efforts and cannot risk being harmed by a problematic publicist. On the other hand, if your social media team isn’t strategic with their outreach and habitually spams editors, bloggers, and publicists — they’ll be harming your brand’s image faster than your PR team can run damage control.

Your brand is your most valuable asset, so it’s important to be aware of how it is represented in the media and ensure a strategic, unified presentation throughout all channels. Engagement truly is king, especially among collaborative marketing teams where traditional communication lines have clearly blurred.


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Julie Ashkenazi is the co-founder of Medium— a strategic eCommerce and online marketing studio dedicated building unique, compelling and successful brands with cohesive design aesthetics and analytics. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.
 
A common misconception is that simply by having a website, sales will roll in — and in spades. Regrettably, this is not the case, and some brands, especially those small and new, have learned this the hard way.
 
Launching a website and ignoring online marketing is like opening a business and not telling anyone about it. You wouldn’t launch a new product, retail venture, or even hold a press event without strategic planning. Digital marketing requires the same consideration, and brands are missing incredible opportunities by not implementing strategies for online growth and development. However, many are unsure what they need, what to expect, and whether or not they can afford it.
 
A typical digital marketing campaign involves a combination of email, search, and social marketing, all of which require the collaborative efforts of a team of writers, designers, developers, marketers and analysts. Though positioning, aesthetic, and budgets are diverse — the same rules apply. Marketing initiatives must be cohesive, strategic, and aligned in order to be successful.
 
If you’re a smaller company with a limited marketing budget, social media is an excellent platform to build brand awareness and grow your online community. However, a bona fide social media campaign involves more than merely having a Facebook page or a Twitter account. It takes time and commitment and requires ongoing interaction with your community. It’s essential to provide a dialogue that includes unique, relevant content and not a constant stream of product or sale announcements. This is important not only from an engagement perspective, but also from a branding perspective, because if you continually discount your products in order to drive web sales, you’re at risk of brand erosion.
 
If you’re going to take a DIY approach to social marketing, make sure to avoid these common mistakes:
 
  • Syncing your social media channels.
    While it might be a timesaver, each platform has a different audience and therefore the messaging should be tailored differently.
  • Not interacting with your followers.
    Social media is the new customer service. As your online presence grows, expect to receive feedback, comments and even complaints from your fans — and always respond promptly.
  • Sending Auto Direct Message’s to your Twitter followers.
    In his article, Augie Ray explains that not only do people dislike Auto DMs, they think less of those who send them and are quite likely to unfollow the senders or even report them as spam.
 
Adding a blog to your website is another great and affordable way to expand your online presence and provide customers with a more intimate understanding of your brand. It allows you the opportunity to speak more in depth about products, ingredients, causes, and lifestyle topics that are relevant to your customer and — similar to social media platforms — gives them a chance to interact with your company. Additionally, since blog content is crawled by search engines, it’s likely that your website’s organic search results will improve as you continue to develop your blog.
 
As your brand awareness grows, hopefully your email subscriber list grows along with it. Once you have a fairly robust email list, you might want to consider launching an email marketing campaign to promote new product launches and special offers. However, take the time to familiarize yourself with email regulations before launching a campaign to ensure you are compliant with all regulations, including the CAN-SPAM Act, in order to prevent blacklisting and guarantee deliverability.
 
If budget permits, you might also want to consider launching a paid search campaign, however this tends to be one of the more expensive options and typically requires a fairly significant budget in order to be competitive. However, when used in combination with SEO and targeted landing pages, paid search can be a powerful marketing tool, providing immediate, measurable results.
 
As with any marketing initiative, traditional or digital, it’s important to do your research before embarking on new endeavors — and that includes giving your online marketing plan the consideration it deserves for your business to succeed.
 
 
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Julie Ashkenazi is the co-founder of Medium— a strategic eCommerce and online marketing studio dedicated building unique, compelling and successful brands with cohesive design aesthetics and analytics. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.
 
 
It's rare that we'll tweet our whereabouts or use a brand's handle before or during a market exploration or retail safari. We're not fans of preferential treatment and always watch what we say in 140 characters. And because we keep a fairly low profile, we don't have to go to great lengths to conceal our identity.
 
But why does this matter?
Earlier this year, the FTC published new guidelines on endorsements — which carefully outline what writers can blog and micro-blog about. And the FTC can fine both the blogger and the company for not disclosing an arrangement where the company compensates the blogger for a review, positive mention, or sponsored post.
 
And why are we mentioning this?
Because there's a lot of free swag out there and it's important to consider social integrity online before “monetizing" a blog or tweeting up a client as a social media consultant.
 
Brand strategy is more than a logo and positioning statement. It's the act of building external and internal communications that tell a story. In the digital age, user interface is your brand — regardless of the products you sell, services or intelligence you provide.
 
Our tight lips allowed us to enjoy our time in Calistoga, and our brand was able to deliver the unbiased reporting that we hope you have grown to love. For the record, Solage Resort and Spa was worth every penny of the bill. And we got this great photo of a hot air balloon over Solbar to prove it.