The Ancient Art of Ikebana Advertising?

Posted by John Park on Sep 10th, 2008
Sep 10

Ikebana Advertising


Sometimes the best “Eureka” moments come when you least expect it.  A few weeks back, I was watching Anthony Bourdain’s show, No Reservations.  Yes, I do live vicariously through his show.  This particular episode was about his visit to Japan.  In one of the segments, he visits a school that teaches the ancient art of Ikebana.


Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement.  It has been taught and practiced in Japan for more than 600 years.  Without going in to the Wikipedia description of this ancient practice, I would describe it as an art form to display nature in a way which allows maximum focus on its beauty (lines, symmetry and form) while framing it in the most minimalistic way.  Your eyes are automatically drawn to focus in on the arrangement.  It then encourages you to truly absorb the beauty mainly because there is nothing nearby to distract your attention.

In the segment, Bourdain is given a lesson in putting one of these arrangements together.  As the Ikebana Master was explaining all of the intricacies of a qualifying Ikebana arrangement, he said something that perked my ears.  When Bourdain asked him why an Ikebana arrangement was displayed in such a minimalistic way, the Master explained that natural beauty must be given space to breath and flow.  This single focus allows the viewer to truly enjoy and delve deeper in to the center of attention—the arrangement itself.
And here I thought that “Less is More” was some Madison Avenue theory.  That’s right.  If the Ikebana Masters will indulge me, I’ve decided that Ikebana is really a form of advertising.  When you think about it, successful advertisers have been practicing Ikebana for decades.  Instead of flowers, they were promoting a product or service that deserved single and focused attention.
From my experience, leaving empty space empty is one of the biggest challenges when creating an advertisement, building a web site or developing some other marketing piece.  Of course, it’s hard.  You have a lot to say and most it is originating from the pride you feel of your products, services and business.  The art form is in stopping when you feel that more needs to be said.  This will require practice and commitment to the ancient practice.
The rules of Ikebana advertising are clear.
1)  Create a central focus point.
2)  Let it breathe and flow by giving it space.
So…would your advertisements (arrangements) qualify as an Ikebana ad?  How Ikebana is your advertising or marketing approach?  Is Ikebana advertising right for your business?

The Basics of Small Business ROI: Part 1

Posted by John Park on Sep 7th, 2008
Sep 7

Roll of the dice

Thinking BIG is hard to do when you own a small business.  There are some who may just concede to the phrase, “It takes money to make money.”  As a small business owner, you don’t have to resign yourself to small marketing budgets that lead to constrained dreams.  Instead, just apply some good old fashioned math to the way you’re allocating marketing and advertising dollars.
Having been trained initially at large corporations; gathering, analyzing and acting upon statistics and data was second nature to me.  The very thing that differentiates a successful business and a failing one is the ability of the owner to gather, analyze and act upon marketing, adverting and sales data.  These important numbers are often referred to as business trends in large corporations.  You will never find a mid-level manager meeting with an executive without them.
Now, there are a thousand ways to look at business trends.  The bottom line is that there are only a few that matter when you’re trying to determine your ROI (return on investment) for advertising and marketing.
( The Basics of advertising and marketing ROI - The DATA )
1)  COST:  What did you spend on the ad?
2)  LEADS:  How many sales leads did you get as a result of the ad?
3)  SALES:  How many sales did you close as a result of the sales leads from the ad?
4)  COST OF SALE:  What did each sale or closed deal cost you? (COST divided by NUMBER OF SALES)
5)  PROFIT or LOSS:  Are you profitable when considering the cost of the sale?
1)  COST:  $1000
2)  LEADS:  25
3)  SALES:  5
4)  COST OF SALE:  $200 (COST divided by NUMBER OF SALES)
5)  Let’s say that in this example, the advertiser is a car dealer and a sale equates to $5,000 (NET).
Conclusion:  You have a formula.  Double, triple or quadruple it in the same ad platform to grow your business.  Keep an eye on the business trends as you apply the formula.
1)  COST:  $500
2)  LEADS:  25
3)  SALES:  20
4)  COST OF SALE:  $25 (COST divided by NUMBER OF SALES)
5)  Let’s say that in this example, the advertiser is a restaurant and a sale has to be at $30 to break even.
Conclusion:  This method does not work for you.  Ignore the ad sales rep’s pleading comments about “branding”.  Cancel the ads in this ad platform.
( Important Notes )
1)  Track your numbers on a monthly basis.  It will be too difficult as a business owner for you to track old leads that ended up in a sale.  For example, if you got a lead in January, that lead goes in to the lead column in January.  If that same lead turned in to a sale in March, you will record that sale in March and not back in January.  If you are constantly running your ads, all of the numbers will reflect the reality of what is happening.
2)  Business trends should be looked at for a minimum of 3 months for you to track advertising results even if the ad was run only one time.
3)  Do not count referrals unless the referral lead or sale was the result of the actual ad or marketing effort.
( What about BRANDING? )
1)  If you value branding for your business, you need to review your business trends for at least 6 months.
2)  Don’t justify or accept BRANDING as an excuse for poor advertising or marketing results.  After all, shouldn’t branding result in sales?
These are the questions you should be able to answer if you are utilizing advertising/marketing as your primary method of acquiring new business.
1)  What is your closing percentage rate?  How many leads does it take to close a deal?
2)  What is your COST OF SALE?
Knowing the answers to these two important questions will allow you to make advertising and marketing decisions in a quick and logical manner.  Too many business owners review ad buys as if it’s a gambling decision or a simple “roll of the dice.”  It shouldn’t be.
In PART 2, I will discuss Branding and how Business Trends can be utilized to improve your business.
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The “Kinder Gentler” Wal-Mart?

Posted by John Park on Jul 22nd, 2008
Jul 22

Wal-Mart's New Logo

If you haven’t seen it already, Wal-Mart has a new retail logo.  So, why do this now?  Here is my opinion on the new brand.
As everyone on earth witnessed over the past two decades, the phenomenal growth of the retail behemoth has been nothing less than astounding.  And like all battles won, there were more than a few casualties along the way as they became the world’s largest corporation.  The trail blazed by the original “Box Store” is filled with bankrupt small businesses, U.S. factory closings, denied unions and questionable employment practices.  To the chagrin of Wal-Mart executives, all of these real or alleged issues have led to a tremendous amount of negative press further fueling the anti-Wal-Mart public sentiment.  Not all of it is deserved by the way.  Before writing this piece, I spent some time at their corporate web site and was pleased to see all of the good they seem to be doing as a company.  The company has over 2 million employees (1.4 million in the U.S.).  With that many people on staff, I am not sure if it would be possible to avoid negative press.  It’s literally a numbers game at that point.
When you analyze their previous logo, it was incredibly befitting for who they were for the past decade or so.  The letters are big, block-shaped and have sharp corners representing the strength, power and maybe the “bully” in their corporate persona.  Add the star instead of a hyphen, color the whole thing in a conservative navy blue and you have the makings of “Wal-Mart The Conqueror”.
Before I get a letter in the mail from their legal team, let’s move on to the new logo.
The colors are not as cold or defined.  They are soft and warm.  The font choice is less “blocky” and the shape is slimmer.  There is also the proverbial “sun burst”.  When all else fails, add a sun burst.  Why not, it represents the source of all that is life.  It can also be used as a eureka-moment icon and it looks a lot like flower pedals.  Who doesn’t like flower pedals in their new logo especially when everything and anything ENVIRONMENTAL & GREEN sells in this economy.


The reasons for this transition from their previous logo to this new brand is so obvious that I just couldn’t resist blogging about it.  An image makeover was badly needed and of course the first place to rightfully start was the retail logo.
What do you think?  Will you see Wal-Mart in a new light?  Maybe, you are already a Wal-Mart fan and are blissfully hypnotized by their super low prices (made in China).
Amazing what a simple logo makeover can do, isn’t it?  What does your company logo say about you?


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