Spreading the Love: Stumptown Coffee

Today I received a package that took me by surprise and made my morning, day, week. stumptown

The lovely folks from Stumptown Coffee Roasters sent me this amazing care package.  I don't even know where to begin...seriously.  Perhaps with the chocolate bars studded with coffee beans.  I mean, what better way to start my day then with Mast Brothers Chocolate made from  72% cacao beans that features Stumptown's direct trade espresso beans from Haile Gebre's Mordecofe farm?  Well it's only 10am, so maybe it's best to start with a french press of some of their fantastic coffee?   Just can't decide between the Anniversary Blend, Kenya Gaturiri Reserve or the QUEEN of all coffee, the Panama Esmeralda Especial.  I've never actually had the opportunity to try this coveted coffee because it is so incredibly rare, so much so that only 47 roasters were able to get their hands on it in the 2009 auction. If you don't know about this magical coffee, read about it here and buy it directly from Stumptown here.

Thank you Wendy and Duane for this incredible package....

Pepsi Refresh Project

Pepsi made a choice.  For the first time in 23 years, they chose to forgo buying commercial time during the Super Bowl.  Instead, they redirected the $20 million to launch the Pepsi Refresh Project, a viral marketing campaign that awards grants to non-profits in a variety of communities across the catagories of health, arts & culture, food & shelter, the planet, neighborhoods, and education.   Anyone can submit a grant idea online and everyone is welcome to vote.

Naturally, what I like most about the campaign is that is does GOOD.   $20 million goes a long way in these organizations and certainly has a longer lasting impression than a 30 second spot.

But that aside, I give the campaign props because it requires Pepsi to engage with their consumer in a way that few of the big companies choose to do.  This engagement between brand and consumer is real and the experience can’t be replicated.  Gene Liebel, partner for user experience at Huge, which was involved in the development and design for the site, said "the emphasis the campaign places on social media demonstrates how a big brand is letting what used to be called the audience take part in what can become a movement.”  I like that.  Let's be a part of this movement and encourage other brands to rethink not only  the way they spend their advertising dollars, but how they can impact the world.

Yes Please. Cole, Rood & Haan

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Ok.  This is kind of brilliant.  While there have been a number of brands that have launched heritage collections, I've found a lot of them uninspiring and pretty forced.  However, Cole Rood & Haan, a footwear collection inspired by Cole Haan's 1920's Chicago roots and taken directly from the historic archives, proves different. They have managed to update some vintage designs with modern touches and great leathers.   Not only do the shoes look great but I love the way they have chosen to market and brand the collection.

The marketing campaign highlights an entrepreneurial lifestyle.  They made the very wise decision to hire Todd Selby aka The Selby to shoot the campaign, which features entrepreneurs in NYC who run businesses that take old things and make them new again in a fresh and innovative way.  The shoot takes place at four places: The Smile- a Cafe and Mixed-Use Concept Store, Jack's Coffee-the inventor of the "stir brew technique," Maryam Nassir Zadeh, an amazing boutique carrying things that are both new and old and Black Sheep and Prodigal Sons, an edgy, beautifully crafted jewelry line.  By using real people in real life situations the whole line just feels more authentic.  These are shoes you want to wear on your way to the studio for a day of brainstorming and bags you want to cram full with a notebook, pens, magazines and bits of inspiration you find on the street.  You can see the full shoot here.

moment: Ace Hotel PDX

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On a recent trip to Portland, we made an evening out of a delicious dinner at Clyde Common and a late night photobooth session next door at The Ace Hotel.

Dinner: -pork belly served on top of a fried green tomato, pocha beans and piccalilli -roasted beets with potatoes, boiled eggs, pickled carrots and touch of fennel -grilled flatiron steak accompanied by a smoked tomato relish -roasted peach shortcake with a maple-bourbon ice cream and a dollop praline cream

Cocktail of choice: East of Eden: Bombay Dry, lemon, elderflower liqueur, Gewurtzraminer reduction and an egg white served up

Summer perfection.

Meet Dave.

56285791 This is Dave.  Our pilot today on Virgin America flight 409 JFK to LAX.

About 20 minutes prior to boarding, Dave got on the intercom, introduced himself as today's pilot, thanked us for flying with Virgin America and then kindly said he would come over on the other side of the gate to meet us personally and answer any questions.  Matt and I looked at each other and said, "is this a joke."  I mean no offense Dave, but I've been flying for 25 years now and I've never seen a pilot reach out to his passengers in this sort of way.  At most, I've experienced a "hello from the cockpit, hope you are enjoying today’s flight."

So it was an additional surprise when Dave did in fact come over to our seats to reintroduce himself and then proceed to answer several questions from passengers.  People wanted to know if food was served on board, how long the flight was, is turbulence dangerous etc... Each of his answers were thought out, genuine and more than anything, positive and reassuring.

I wonder, was this courtesy extended by Dave himself or perhaps a new marketing initiative that is being rolled out across Virgin America's flights nationally?  Either way, Dave, I give you props.  Thanks for kicking off my trip to LA and my first experience with Virgin America in such an upbeat way.  I guarantee is this won't be my last time on board.

P.S. Did I mention I'm writing this post at 25,000 feet over the fine state of Ohio using Virgin's inflight Internet service?

Discovered:Askinosie Chocolate

coco *photos taken from www.askinosie.com

I have to admit; I'm a bit spoiled.  I have amazing and dear friends who have great taste and appreciate food, design, experiences and branding .  This year, one of the gifts I received was a bar of Askinosie Chocolate.  Not only is it beautifully packaged; it is some of the best chocolate I've ever had.  In honor of the fact that we finished the last few squares last night after dinner, I thought I would share a bit about this chocolate so you can go out and enjoy it for yourself.

Askinosie Chocolate is a small company based out of Springfield, Missouri.  One of the things that makes them unique is that they are the first small batch chocolate maker in the U.S. to press their own cocoa butter and are the only makers of natural cocoa powder.  Perhaps also why I found their chocolate so divine...

The particular bar I was given was made of  75% Cocoa Beans from Soconusco, Mexico (this includes 1% Askinosie cocoa butter that they make with the same beans). Each of their batches of chocolate varies slightly because they experiment with texture.   However, on each bars there is a Choc-o-lot # and if you enter it here you'll find out a number of goodies about your bar.  My Choc-o-lot # was 102208.

I found out that my bar lived this life:

7/21/2008    the beans were shipped to our factory. 9/15/2008    beans were roasted to perfection bringing out all the flavors. 9/22/2008    cocoa liquor, sugar, and cocoa butter were mixed to make chocolate 9/22/2008    roasted nibs were mixed into a paste called liquor in our universal 10/22/2008  your product was packaged by hand. 3/27/2009     given as a birthday present to Dan and I 4/9/20009     no more chocolate.  Sad

You can order directly from their website and even visit their factory.

Askinosie Chocolate 514 E. Commercial Springfield, MO 65803

Virgin America

3272865095_3e036a48fc In 2004, I moved across the pond to open the London office for a creative consulting firm.  I used to fly Virgin Atlantic every three weeks back to NYC in order to spend some time with my husband.  I always had a great experience and thought that their customer service was above and beyond their competitors.

So naturally, when I heard they were launching Virgin America, I got excited.  That said, I haven’t had the chance to fly them.  Recently, I was browsing their site as I planned an upcoming trip to LA.  I logged onto “Elevate” their loyal program and nearly booked my ticket.  Their fares were competitive but their flight times were not ideal.  I decided to hold off on booking my trip.

The next morning I woke up and there was an email from Virgin America.

Subject: “Try us, you’ll like us. Even more with 30% off.”

I was sold.  I found a flight for $90 each way coming out to $201 roundtrip with taxes.

Smart marketing folks.

Good Work: Le Labo

lelabo3 I often talk to people about what differentiates one company from another. For me, the companies that set themselves apart are the ones that understand what it means to be a brand and use their brand to create a unique experience for their consumers.

One of my holiday gifts this year was a bottle of perfume from Le Labo. I walked into a Le Labo boutique while in LA last year but didn’t know which scent suited me best. After the holidays, Dan and I went to the Le Labo store on Elizabeth Street and picked out a bottle of Rose 31, a combination of musk, rose, cedar wood and cumin. They actually market it as a masculine scent but I smelled it and loved it.

The company is unique in the sense that all the perfumes are “made to order,” which according to Le Labo, guarantees that the freshest, fullest fragrance is captured. All the perfumes come in a simple vintage looking bottle and a label personalized with your name. It is then packaged beautifully into a box with the same personalized label. It is impossible to walk out of their store, your customized bottle of perfume in hand, and not feel as if you are holding something unique and special.

Le Labo is a great example of a company that combines high-quality products, interesting packaging and a unique retail environment to create a memorable brand experience.

Le Labo has three boutiques- NY, Tokyo and LA. It is also available at Colette in Paris, Liberty’s in London, and select Barney's locations.