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A NOVEL IDEA

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James Patterson is about to pioneer BookShots, short inexpensive books you can read in a sitting with a clever tag line, “Stories At The Speed of Life.” Master of the short chapter book, he will probably pull it off. Like the Japanese “texting novel” and Kindle Singles, publishers and authors are continuing to explore new ways to reach and satisfy readers. What are you doing to keep your old customers engaged and win new fans?

DUMB PHONE

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Steve went looking for a “feature phone” for his family network. “Feature phone” or “dumb phone” is a retronym for mobile phones that only make calls. Amazingly, there are dozens of choices out there—mainly because smartphones haven’t captured the Japanese public’s enthusiasm—ranging from $9.99 to several hundred dollars. We’re not exactly sure what $200 gets you for a phone that only makes phone calls, but it’s an interesting niche in the mobile market. How do you serve the unusual needs of small parts of your markets?

THE GREATEST

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Whatever you’ve read about Muhammad Ali doesn’t begin to capture just how “big” the man was. Four days after The Rumble in the Jungle, Steve got to spend a day with Ali shooting a series of commercials Steve had written for Brut by Faberge. He still remembers it as one of the more magical days of his career. When Ali walked into a room he filled the space in every sense: physically, emotionally, psychically. This is one of those men for whom the term “larger than life” doesn’t seem big enough. So while you might think the tributes to The Champ as overblown, on a personal note Steve thinks they barely did the man justice. He was a lion among men and the world is less for his absence.

GUTTER GUY

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There’s an old business aphorism we often forget: “There are only three things in business–Fast, Cheap and Good. The bad news is you can only have two of them.” Two months ago, Steve made a deal with a contractor to replace his home’s gutters. In his delight at scoring a “good, cheap” price, he forgot the third element. He’s still waiting for the guy to show up. What do you do to ensure your “contracts” are honored and in a reasonable time period?

McDONALD’S IN REVIEW

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With not enough happening for the brand (other than a boost from All Day Breakfast), McDonald’s put its marketing account up for review. But a major storm has erupted as terms of the review were leaked to the press. It seems McDonald’s is demanding that the winning agency work at cost—no markups, no overhead – before meeting target numbers set by the client. When you crunch the numbers, it means they’re asking the agency to lose money on the business unless McDonald’s itself starts to turn around. WPP, one of the agencies involved, immediately withdrew from the pitch. The two incumbents (and long-term McDonald’s agency partners) are still competing. But we’re not sure for what. How do you make sure your suppliers are fairly compensated?

A TWINGE OF CONSCIENCE

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You’re at the supermarket register. The cashier, in his haste, moves an item to the paid side without scanning it. You notice, and decide not to say anything—even as you have a pang of guilt about (essentially) shoplifting. Scenario Two: You’re on the Internet. You need a photograph for your PowerPoint presentation. You go to Google Images, grab a photo and paste it into your deck without the slightest hesitation. Can you explain the moral inconsistency to us?

SELL YOUR BOSS

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We’re always on the lookout for new conferences to attend and new audiences to reach out to. We were searching for the “speaker submission” tab on a Certified Financial Planner site when we came across a page that was new to us: “How To Convince Your Boss You Should Attend.” It’s a smart move on the part of the organization for two reasons: It gives potential attendees the ammunition they need to make their case; and it further reinforces the value of the conference. How easy do you make it for your customers to make the sale?

HOW SIMPLE

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Not enough people know about www.simple.wikipedia.net. It’s Wikipedia written at the level of a middle school student. Or a person for whom English is a second language. Besides simple words, it also boils articles down to their essence. So if you’re looking to understand a complex idea, you can start out on Wikipedia’s simple site—and move over to the full article if you want to know more. Simple, right? What do you do to make your brand more accessible to your audience?

KIND

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The latest debate over healthy food labeling is nuts – literally. The FDA allows highly sugared breakfast cereals to describe and label themselves as healthy. Yet avocados and Kind Bars are not (too much natural fat and the addition of nuts, respectively). It’s time for a total rethink of what is healthy and what is not. Kind Bars got 16 nutritionists into the act to challenge the ruling and won. What do you do to challenge the status quo when it just doesn’t make any sense?