The Dawn of a New Internet

Language of the Birds
Flickr image of "Language of the Birds" public art in North Beach, San Francisco via @stephrog

A colleague recently pointed me to this great article on Vox: 2015 is the year the old internet finally died. It's worth a read, for publishers and advertisers alike. The premise:

"...the idea that the internet as we knew it, the internet of five or 10 or 20 years ago, is going away as surely as print media, replaced by a new internet that reimagines personal identity as something easily commodified, that plays less on the desire for information or thoughtfulness than it does the desire for a quick jolt of emotion."

- Todd VanDerWerff,

Here are the points that should matter to brands producing content for the web:

  • "With the rise of social media, a site's brand identity is a little less important with every year." This is in reference to publishers, as their content makes it's way across the social web, converted to quick headlines, sound bytes and images that may not carry the original source branding. I would argue that this is why a strong, consistent brand strategy is important now more than ever. With your content getting disseminated across multiple, disparate sources (owned, earned, and paid), it is critical that all elements work together to reinforce the same core attributes.
  • "Social media has, essentially, turned every content provider into a syndicator." With the need to churn out more and more content to feed the short-on-attention social masses, long form stories and blogs with strong central identities have given way to to a bevy of [somewhat generic] syndicated feeds. Nearly every business I've talked to struggles with the content conundrum: how to develop or secure enough relevant content to keep the Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/Instagram/Vine/etc. feed satiated. But if you look around your organization, there is likely a lot of content you are already producing that can be syndicated on the web. And like the point above, it can all work together to reinforce the core brand message. Don't forget to take form into account: consider how to use motion to capture people’s attention, especially while animation/video are still somewhat of a novelty on these platforms. By way of example, look at this fun view of the ICA Boston, courtesy of Instagrammer @thefutureiswow. In mere seconds it captures the energy of the museum and the South Boston waterfront.
  • "On social media, you share an article because you agree with the take, sure, but also because it says something about you..." This underscores the longstanding notion that social media profiles are an extension of one's personal brand, and people will only align themselves with other brands/stories/products that reflect positively on their own. This is a point we've talked about since the dawn of social media, but I feel like many publishers have lost sight of it. To succeed in social, you must create content that people would want to associate with their personal brands, so it's critical that you really know your audience and map your content strategy to their interests and passions.

It can be challenging for brands to find their place in all of this, for sure, but I think it is fascinating to watch the evolution of the Internet and our role in it.

Which reminds me...have you seen the Dave Grohl Rick Roll?!

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My New Custom Chucks

I have a fun new purchase to share. But first, an anecdote.

You may recall that I took a design tour of Milan last year. While packing for the trip, I decided to wear my trusty old Converse low-tops on the flight for comfort, thinking that I'd leave them in the hotel closet for the duration of my stay. Milan, after all, is one of the top fashion capitals of the world and I'd heard that Milanese women wear stilettos everywhere...even on bicycles (since confirmed).

But what I didn't know then is this: when Milanese women are not wearing stilettos, they are wearing Converse All Stars! I'm telling you, these iconic American sneakers were everywhere in Milan. It seemed like every 3rd person on the sidewalk (women and men alike) was wearing them.

Billboards promoted them:

Converse Billboard

Store fronts featured them (and knock-offs):

Milan Shop Window

And mine ended up getting a pretty good tour of the meet designer Antonio Marras...

Antonio Marras

...and tour his gorgeous studio...

Antonio Marras2 relax on the roof deck at 10 Corso Como...

10 Corso Como

..and lounge in my room at the Chateau Monfort.

Chateau Monfort

Interestingly, I even wore them to tour Missoni headquarters and was delighted to learn when I returned home that Converse had teamed up with Missoni to launch six new designs featuring their famous chevron print.


But the most exciting thing was when Converse - which was founded in nearby Malden, MA, and spent its most recent history in North Andover, MA (not far from my childhood home) - moved its worldwide headquarters to Lovejoy Wharf in Boston's North End (about a half mile from my current home).


The building houses about 500 employees, as well as Rubber Tracks (a community-based professional recording studio), and a 3500 square foot retail store on the ground level. Converse CEO Jim Calhoun even popped in to check on things while we were there (I hear his office is on the glass-encased top-floor of the building, which was a new addition that must afford spectacular 360-degree views of the city). Check out the fun lights in the lobby of the office building:

Converse Lobby

At the back of the retail store is the Blank Canvas workshop, where shoppers can customize their kicks, including choice of colors, materials, rubber toe caps, grommets, laces, and images - either from an assortment of ones in the Converse database (they have lots of fun Boston-themed images), or one you upload yourself (assuming you have copyright).

Which brings me to the real subject of this post, my sweet new customized Chuck Taylors:

Lulu Chucks

Because they're from the Boston store, they have the city designation inside, and a red strip along the bottom representing the Freedom Trail.

Converse Boston

How cool is that? The ability to not only customize but really personalize the shoe - and to do it so quickly (often same-day, mine took a couple of days due to backlog) - is awesome. Bravo, Converse.

I'll see you around the Wharf.

Lulu Chucks2


Living Well

It has been a big media week for me!

First off, I had an article published in Communication World Magazine: 5 Ways to Make Your Mobile Marketing Work Harder. That was obviously on the work front; thanks to our PR agency Denterlein for lining up the opportunity.

Karen and StephanieOn the personal front...I made my television debut! My friend Karen Fabian (pictured with me at left) has launched a fantastic new program on the Boston Neighborhood Network called Living Well. In it, she's putting her 25 years of healthcare and healthy living experience to work in order to bring the people of Boston (and beyond) information and inspiration for better health.

The first show airs tomorrow (Friday, June 5th) and the series will have segments on various topics including nutrition, stretching, meditation, technology and health, inspirational stories and activities and actions we can all take to stay healthy. While Karen will present various segments, guests will include teachers, physicians, nutritionists, community leaders, researchers, business leaders, yoga teachers, coaches and others making an impact in the health and wellness industry.

I was so honored to be included in the premiere episode of Living Well, on which Karen asked me to share a bit about my experience with breast cancer


Behind the ScenesIt was so fun to watch the taping of the entire show, including segments with:

Jose Masso, Director of Active Living and Wellness for the City of Boston (pictured above and at right with Karen) discussing the HealthyBoston/ #BostonMoves initiatives;

Yoga instructor Victoria Smith demonstrating stretches for the back; and

Yoga instructor Barrett Reinhorn sharing information on having a healthy pregnancy

Karen also launched a Living Well Twitter Challenge to get at-home viewers involved; simply use the hashtag  ‪#‎livingwellbnn‬ to share your ideas for living well, follow show updates, and/or pose questions for Karen or her guests.

The show will air Fridays at 7am on the Boston Neighborhood Network (Channel 9 Comcast or Channel 15 RCN for viewers in Boston) and via live streaming for those outside of Boston at

It will also be available on the BNN YouTube channel, as well as Karen's Bare Bones Yoga channel for on-demand viewing, any time!


And before I sign off, I have to comment on the building that houses the Boston Neighborhood Network - the former MBTA Power Station in Egleston Square, which BNN purchased in 2005 and rehabilitated into a state-of-the-art media center that opened in 2007. They did a marvelous job maintaining the soaring arched windows, iron beams, and old pulley systems inside.














The mission and vision of BNN itself is also worth a read; it's a wonderful resource for the city of Boston. I hope you'll tune in.



5 Ways to Make Your Mobile Marketing Work Harder


Image via @stephrog on Flickr

With 80% of global Internet users owning a smartphone and 47% owning tablets, we are now well past the tipping point of mobile device usage. In fact, 2014 marked the first time U.S. adults accessed the Internet more through mobile apps than they did through personal computers; over half of their Internet time (on average, 3 hours per day) is now spent using smartphones and tablets.

This presents a tremendous opportunity for brands to connect with consumers, but it is important to take the context of mobile device usage into account to ensure your mobile strategy succeeds. Smartphones in particular are incredibly personal devices—they enjoy space in our pockets and on our night stands, keeping us connected to friends and family via email, social networking, video and voice calls. They also provide high utility, allowing us to accomplish tasks and find information instantly, from any location at any time of day. It is critical to keep these usage habits and expectations in mind when developing your mobile strategy. Here are five ways to make your mobile marketing work harder.

1. Take advantage of mobile’s precise targeting ability. Digital media has given us sophisticated targeting options for years (demographic, behavioral, contextual), but mobile targeting ups the ante with its geographic precision. Serving ads and delivering experiences that are location-aware can really “wow” a consumer, and make things more convenient for them. We have had success using a technique called geo-fencing to serve mobile ads to people in the vicinity of our clients’ retail locations, providing messaging and offers that drive foot traffic. Similarly, we have used location services to dynamically generate mobile ads featuring territory-specific sales reps, complete with a head shot and a convenient click-to-call button.

2. Design experiences with small screens in mind. It is critical to use responsive design in this day and age, to ensure optimal viewing experiences regardless of screen size. While smartphone dimensions are increasing, they are still much smaller than a desktop, and rely on human fingers for touch-screen navigation. Don’t frustrate consumers by using painfully small text, images and buttons in your mobile executions, or cramming an entire desktop experience into the small screen. Also, there are several new ad formats that are optimized for mobile, like Facebook’s carousel ads which let viewers scroll to browse multiple images, and Snapchat’s vertical video ads, which have proven to have higher completion rates than horizontal mobile video ads.

3. Consider how your consumers are using mobile. As with any other channel, understanding your consumer’s mobile usage patterns is an important first step in devising a winning marketing strategy. In general, mobile app usage is still more common than mobile web usage, with the majority of that time going to social networking (Facebook), casual games, or other entertainment—not necessarily the best time to serve a marketing message.

Consider mobile behaviors, expectations, and context to identify opportunities to enhance, rather than interrupt, the experience. When we wanted to drive engagement with a client’s health plan members, we promoted a special offer via mobile but gave consumers the option to receive more information via email, so that they could peruse the details later when they were in the mind-set to read about health insurance. For one of our hospital clients, we learned that finding a doctor and looking up driving directions were the most common mobile use cases, so we made sure to optimize the mobile web experience for those two features.

4. Integrate your mobile efforts into your broader marketing mix. Some of the most effective mobile campaigns are ones that tightly integrate the mobile experience into other channels. People increasingly use mobile devices while watching television, to check email, peruse social media, and shop online. Many brands have tapped into this second-screen viewing phenomenon by including mobile calls-to-action in their television ads (Shazam to download this song, Like us on Facebook, tweet this hashtag now, etc.). We have also found success by synchronizing mobile and outdoor advertising, particularly transit placements in and around subways, buses and trains where you encounter a somewhat captive audience that is more inclined to read your article or watch a video while waiting for their ride.

5. Commit to regular measurement and optimization. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to mobile marketing, or any marketing for that matter. The best way to succeed is to agree on business objectives and success metrics before putting anything into market, and put the proper tools in place to measure performance on a regular basis. There is an array of measurement technologies available to track ad delivery, engagement, response and subsequent web traffic activity. Most major ad servers and site-side analytics packages like Google Analytics can help here, as well as mobile-specific solutions like Localytics. We have found the latter to be especially useful in evaluating mobile app deployments.

It’s an exciting time for mobile marketing, and the best way to master it is to get out there and see what works for your particular product category and consumer base. The opportunities for mobile marketing, mobile app development, and mobile web deployment are seemingly endless, and will become even more varied as wearable devices become mainstream. By keeping the form and context of these mobile experiences in mind, you will determine the best way to deliver brand value to your constituents, and maybe even surprise and delight them along the way.

This article originally appeared in Communication World Magazine.

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Cocotaxi - Part 2

A very full life has kept me from the blog lately, but there are many more pictures and stories from Cuba that I'd like to here goes:

Picking up from where we left off - my Cocotaxi tour along the Malecon - I had the driver loop around Old Havana and take me back to the hotel via an inland route, in order to see more of the city. And there is so much to see! I feel like I only scratched the surface, but what a fascinating surface it was...

Colonial style architecture:

Along the Malecon

Monuments to war heroes. This one is of General Maximo Gomez, commander of the military in Cuba's War of Independence from Spain (1895–1898):

General Maximo Gomez

A quaint Ferris wheel in Old Town:

Ferris Wheel

The ubiquitous revolutionary street art:

Street art

Museo Nacional de la Música/The National Music Museum. Built in 1905, this was originally home to a wealthy merchant and later transformed into a museum celebrating the history of Cuban music from the 16th to the 20th century. Look at that detail!

Museo Nacional de la Música

Museo de la Revolución. The former Presidential Palace (1913-1959) decorated by Tiffany & Co. out of New York, and boasting a Room of Mirrors modeled after France's Palace of Versailles. It was converted to a museum in the years following the Revolution, and that's an SU-100 Soviet tank destroyer parked out front (behind the white van):

Museo de la Revolución

The Granma Memorial sits across from the museum, and houses the yacht that carried Fidel Castro and 81 other revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba in 1956 with the goal of overthrowing Fulgencio Batista. The memorial is also surrounded by other various vehicles and tanks, including the engine of the a U.S. U-2 spy plane shot down during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Granma Memorial

 More classic cars! know I've already shared tons of photos on this front, but they are so beautiful!

Cars in Old Havana

Cars in Centro Havana

More heroes of the Revolution:

Heroes of the Revolution

The emblem of the Young Communist League: "Study, Work, Rifle"

Young Communist League

Gran Teatro de La Habana/"Great Theater of Havana" - a theater, concert hall, art gallery, choral center, and home to the Cuban National Ballet. While the original building dates back to 1837, it's current incarnation is the result of a remodel in 1907 and includes wonderful sculptures by Giuseppe Moretti, representing allegories of benevolence, education, music and theater. Gorgeous!

Gran Teatro de La Habana

El Capitolio, the National Capitol Building in Havana, was the seat of government until the Revolution in 1959. Its design borrows heavily from the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., and it now houses the Cuban Academy of Sciences:

El Capitolio

El Floridita is a historic restaurant in Havana dating back to 1817 and later frequented by Ernest Hemingway during his stay in Cuba. Its bartenders were known for their cocktails made with fresh fruit juices and rum, leading to the popularization of the daiquiri (two versions in particular: the Daiquiri Floridita with maraschino liqueur, and the Hemingway daiquiri – or papa doble – with two and a half jiggers of white rum, juice of two limes and half a grapefruit, six drops of maraschino liqueur, no sugar). Unfortunately the restaurant wasn't yet open for the day and I didn't get to go inside (where there is apparently a lot of memorabilia on the walls); another reason to go back!

El Floridita

Moving further inland into Centro Habana, the urban landscape becomes much more congested and the glorious old buildings begin to lose their luster:

Centro Habana

Centro Habana2

But there's some cool street art:



And you can still see how beautiful this area must have been in its heyday:

Centro Habana3

  Cuban woman

Havana really is such an interesting place; I wish I had more time to explore its streets and hear its stories.

Next up, we'll visit Ernest Hemingway's home just outside of the city.

Along the Malecon

One morning I woke up early and hopped in a Cocotaxi (a three-wheeled, two-seater taxi that is like a moped with a fiberglass roof) in order to explore Havana. 


It was a nice way to go, because as you can see, it is open-air so I could enjoy all the sights and sounds, and my driver pulled over whenever I wanted to snap a photo. Which was often.

We headed down the Malecon, a broad walkway and seawall that extends 5 miles along the harbor from my hotel in the Vedado District down to Old Havana. It's very popular among locals, who you often see strolling, jogging, socializing, or fishing along its path.


There are several points of interest along the Malecon, many marking historic military figures and events, like this status of a Cuban General on horseback:

Cuban general

Another one, commemorating General Antonio Maceo y Grajales (an early guerrilla fighter in the war for Independence):


And even a monument to the 261 Americans killed by the explosion of the USS Maine, an armored cruiser sent to Havana Harbor in 1898 to protect U.S. interests there during the Cuban revolt against Spain. In all these years, no one has ever come forward to accept responsibility for the attack, which claimed three quarters of the ship's crew. Apparently, there used to be an eagle on top of this monument, but it was removed as too overt a symbol of American Imperialism.

USS Maine

Speaking of which...the nearby José Martí Anti-Imperialist Platform opened in 2000 as a place for the government to hold rallies and showcase some spectacular propaganda like a billboard that proclaims, "we will never surrender."  

Anti imperialist

It's no coincidence that the platform is located right next to the U.S. Special Interests Section, our de facto embassy since diplomatic ties between our two countries were severed after the revolution.

US Special Interests

In 2006, US diplomats displayed messages on a scrolling digital billboard in the windows of their top floor - things like, "In a free country you don't need permission to leave the country. Is Cuba a free country?" and a quote from George Burns, "How sad that all the people who would know how to run this country are driving taxis or cutting hair." This so incensed Fidel Castro that he erected 138, 20-meter tall flagpoles carrying black flags with single white stars that obscured the messages. The flags have since been taken down, but the flagpoles remain, separating the platform from the Special Interests Section building:


The next stop along the Malecon was the historic Hotel Nacional de Cuba, a large Art Deco building opened in 1930 and host to a who's who of '30s and '40s era celebrities, including Errol Flynn, Meyer Lansky, Winston Churchill, Fred Astaire, Buster Keaton, Lucky Luciano, Rita Hayworth, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Nat King Cole and Walt Disney. It became the site of Castro's 26th of July Movement during the revolution.

Hotel nacional

The Parque Nene Traviesa is a mosaic wonderland created by ceramicist and painter José Fuster, who's designs have completely overtaken his hometown of Jaimanitas to the north of Havana.


Here, too, we passed the sherbert-colored buildings and classic cars that have become iconic Cuba:

Green car

Side street

Red car

But moving further into Habana Centro, the buildings become much more fragile, congested and run down. Some are clearly - if astonishingly - still inhabited, while others are literally just shells for their former selves that could crumble at any moment.

Habana centro

Despite the decay, there is a hint of their glory days in the pastel colors of their peeling paint, and the Moorish design of their broken tile work.


Tile work

This area is also home to some impressive street art:

Blue car





It isn't until you get closer to Havana Vieja at the eastern end of the Malecon that the buildings have been fully restored. And it is at this end that we encounter Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro (Morro Castle), a fortress built in 1589 to protect the port of Havana (and the ships docked there that were loaded with New World goods bound for Spain) from pirates or other enemies.

Morro castle

This is essentially where the Malecon ends. I had the Cocotaxi take me inland for the return trip to the hotel, and will save those photos for another post.


Puerto de la Habana

After exploring the Plaza de San Francisco, we headed over to the Port of Havana to check out the Almacenes de San José craft market.


The market is housed in a giant steel warehouse dating back to 1885 and is now home to local artisans selling leather goods, baskets, ceramics, wood carvings, linens, and lots and lots of paintings.





Outside, young men played chess (a common site here...if not chess, then dominoes which seems to be wildly popular in Cuba!)



A quick walk around the block afterwards showed this to be a somewhat grittier neighborhood than we'd seen so far (typical for the dock area in any city, I would imagine), but still boasting some fabulous street art and flashy cars.





I also stumbled upon the Cervecería Antiguo Almacén de la Madera y el Tabaco (Former Lumberyard and Tobacco Warehouse Brewery), which enjoys a beautiful spot on the wharf formerly occupied by the Havana Central Railroad.


Inside people sit at tables with tall "tarros" at the center - glass towers that hold up to six jugs of beer! Each has a spigot at its base so diners can serve themselves (while enjoying the house special, "chuleta de puerco a la cerveza," - pork chop with beer). Yum!


Later in the week, there was a British cruise ship in the port (remember, only US tourists have been prohibited from traveling here...other countries have been vacationing in Cuba for years).





Plaza de San Francisco

The Plaza de San Francisco borders the Havana port area, and was originally a commercial center thanks to the nearby ships transferring goods to and from Spain. It is comprised of the old customs house, Aduana General de la Republica (1914), and the old stock exchange, Lonja del Commercio (1908). On the top is a statue of Mercury, the god of commerce.

Lonja del Commercio

To the right of the building, in the distance, you can see Cristo de la Habana, a 60-foot tall white marble statue of Jesus in the fishing village of Casablanca, which is right across the Bay from Havana Vieja. It was commissioned by President Batista's wife in 1958, just 15 days before Fidel Castro initiated the Revolution.

Carriage y Cristo

Plaza de San Francisco

On the southeast corner of the square is the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis, from which the square took its name. Built in 1580 as the home of the Franciscan community, it is now a concert hall for choral and chamber music.


Next to the basilica is a statue of Fray Junipero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan friar who conducted missions in Southern California (then New Spain) to convert the native population in the 1760s. A Juaneño Indian boy is depicted alongside him.

Fray Junipero Serra with Juaneño

From Wikipedia:

Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988 and Pope Francis expects to canonize him in September 2015 during his first visit to the United States.This has been controversial with Native Americans, who criticize Serra's brutal treatment of their ancestors and associate him with the suppression of their culture.


Lastly, the cruise terminal Sierra Maestra sits between the Plaza and Havana harbor.

Terminal Sierra Maestra

And of course, the terminal/plaza wouldn't be complete without an image of Che:


In and Around Plaza Vieja

Happy Easter! Here's a timely photo from our walking tour through Plaza Vieja in Old Havana:

Cruz Verde

This green cross, Cruz Verde, at the corner of Amargura and Mercaderes is one of twelve that existed along this road in early colonial days. Each Easter, Cubans would make a pilgrimage along the Via Cruces (Way of the Cross), from Plaza San Francisco to Plaza del Cristo. The building now contains apartments and the Museo de Chocolate - a cafe where everything on the menu contains chocolate! 

Cruz Verde2

We saw many shades of green in this particular area, like the trimming on this building at the corner of Calle Mercaderes:

Calle Mercaderes

This wall with the famous image of Che Guevara:

Che Guevara

And this shuttered window:


I just love the colors of these old buildings - it's like the patina on oxidized copper.

Te Amo Mucho

Cafe Express

One building did have these framed, blue Delft tiles hanging outside; I'm not sure what the back story is there:

Blue Delft Tiles

There are also some magnificently ornate buildings on the square, like the Gómez Vila Building below, which houses Havana's Camera Obscura on the top floor (the only one of its kind in Latin America and the Caribbean). If you're not familiar with camera obscura ("dark chamber"), it's a method of photography whereby light is reflected through a pinpoint hole in a darkened room - in this case, images of the Havana streets below are projected on the room's walls. I first learned about it via the work of Abelardo Morell (he's Bowdoin class of '77 and was born in Havana!).

Gomez Vila Building

Then there is the grand, baroque styling of the Hotel Raquel, originally built in 1908 as textile storage warehouse and renovated into lodging around 2003. "Raquel" is Hebrew for "innocent," and the hotel is dedicated to Jewish art, cuisine, and heritage (it is near a Jewish neighborhood in Havana). The hotel's exterior:

Hotel Raquel

And the stained glass dome over its interior:

Hotel Raquel Dome

Outside, there are women selling sweets:


And men selling sweets (giant coconut orbs!):

More sweets

Children playing soccer:


The ubiquitous bicycle taxi:

Bicycle taxi

And lots of folks just strolling around the square. Another beautiful walk in Havana.

Plaza Vieja

El Taller Experimental de Gráfica

There is a thriving art community in Cuba, which I love because I always try and bring back small, original works from local artists when I travel.

So I was thrilled to visit El Taller Experimental de Gráfica ("Experimental Graphic Studio"), a cooperative graphic print shop in Old Havana.

El Taller Experimental de Gráfica

It was established in 1962 by by mural artist Orlando Suarez with the support of then Minister of Industry, Che Guevara.

Orlando Suarez

There is a group of artists working and studying there that preserve old print making techniques; you can see some of the presses in these photos:


Printing press

From the Global Studies: Cuba blog:

Grabado (printmaking) is a very important traditional art form. The handmade quality and aesthetic value along with the fresh smell of ink and the high quality paper (things that are rare in Cuba) make Grabado very sought after.

Printing press2

Here is one of the artists performing his craft:




I bought two small etchings here and was able to meet one of the artists; sadly, I can't recall or make out his name on the art itself, but I think I have it in my notes/receipts somewhere and will update if I can find it.

Cuba Libre


Graphic Artist