Zero Marginal Cost: We Can’t Give It Away!


The Internet economy is famous—make that infamous—for disrupting just about every business model, product or service out there, with notable examples being free music (Napster), free news (bye-bye newspapers), free porn and not least of all, free software. Think of all the apps and games that let you download them for zilch and then make bank on advertising.

Combined with the evisceration of middle management over the last 10-15 years (along with the asphyxiation of the middle class) as well as profoundly rising rates of productivity…well, kinda makes you wonder if your next gig is going to be Wal-Mart or not. That is, IF you can get in.

Yet we hear everyday about sales of high-end luxury cars—Jags, Lamborghinis, Ferraris—along with super-premium real estate going through the roof as the plutocracy (the reviled 1 percent) gets richer and richer.

So, what does that mean for us in advertising, branding, and marketing? What are we selling, really? And, just as pertinent, what are we buying, or able to buy?

Inflation is when prices rise rapidly to the point that we can’t afford the things we want or need. Deflation is when people stop spending because they have little or no money, and the cost of goods drop lower and lower chasing the bottom of the market.

All Vonstipatz knows is you’d better have either a skill, or a scam, at your disposal. Although it looks like capitalism has lots of life left in it, we have to wonder when out-sourcing everything from widgets to digits (manufacturing to software design) will cannabalize what’s left of our economy, reducing the United States to a place where the glistening suburbs are the new ghetto, and gated communities come with small armies of assault-weapon-toting goons.

A little too bleak for a Monday post? Naaah. The Dow is still well over 16,000, and I’m a stone cold optimist.

How about you?

What is Life?

“Inanimate” objects seem to be alive. Are they not alive? You be the judge.

Forgive me.

This post is not about branding, per se, or SEO or geo-local-mobile-responsive UI or UX or any of the above.

It’s about Life…and what life is or isn’t—as we toil diligently, or operate recklessly, or wander ineffectually—under the brilliant, burning star we call the Sun.

We’ve all got to work, to pay the bills, to support our children, to build a retirement, to purchase groceries and health insurance and all of that tommyrot we don’t really have much choice about…unless we want to try living off the grid in a rain forest somewhere. Maybe not a bad idea, but…

In the meantime, where do we draw our sustenance? Our spiritual sustenance, that is? What is life? Is it a life without love? And what exactly is love? Where is love encoded in the construct of the universe when we–the beings who experience it (if we are lucky) disappear, along with the planet, when our star the Sun burns up all its nuclear fuel, reducing us and Earth and everything on it into a cinder?

So, as we look up from our computer screens, to look into one another’s eyes…and I hope you will take the opportunity to do this today, for only a few seconds, with purpose and sincerity…what do you see? What animates us?

What indeed is life? There’s a great article in the New York Times on this very subject, that led me to this video, possibly one of the most moving, emotionally poignant videos I have ever seen. Maybe it’s the beautiful classical music on the video that amplifies my emotions; like love, and life itself, what makes such beautiful music what it is?

What intangible qualities constitute life, life that transcends death and reappears over and over in different forms and in different places–both on our planet and throughout the universe?

A nice break from branding and SEO, don’t you think?



Detroit: World’s Hottest New Tourist Destination


Tyree Guyton’s Animal House on the east side of Detroit, before it was burned down in March 2014.

Tom Walsh’s column  in the March 10, 2014 Detroit Free Press about travel speaker Doug Lansky’s same-day keynote address at the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference underscored that one of the world’s emerging trendy travel destinations—post-industrial Birmingham, England?!?—could be Detroit’s future as well…perhaps Detroit’s present!

Lansky’s prime point? That tourists are looking for authenticity first and foremost, and that Detroit has plenty of it, for sure. What with the Motor City’s newly energized notoriety, if you will, with all the international publicity about her bankruptcy, the travails of the Detroit Institute of Arts, that suave and handsome Peruvian guy who just bought the old Packard plant and more, we’re in the news.

And, as any Detroiter will tell you, there is much to do and see in the city and its environs, but you have to know exactly which authentic but obscure rib joints, dance clubs and other attractions are which in order to visit and enjoy them.

Imagine a tour bus, like the red double deckers in London, England or the ones cruising the “homes of the stars” in Beverly Hills, instead rolling up Woodward Avenue, snaking through the bowels of the Rouge complex, comparing and contrasting the lake shore drive in Grosse Pointe to the Boston-Edison neighborhood—and then stopping for some soul food before winding back via Eight Mile? And let’s not forget (what’s left of) Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project, which has already been drawing visitors from around the world.

Why not? There must be 100s of thousands of folks around the world who would love to see it all for themselves, but have no tidily packaged experience to slap their credit cards up against.

Why not?

Meanwhile, I’ve got to go on line to explore how Birmingham, England is marketing. Check out Doug Lansky’s website here: http://DougLansky.Com

iBeacon: Age of Hyper-Local Mobile


Here’s how it works:

Let’s say our typical mobile, smartphone totin’ Joe Schmoe drives by any number of bagel shops on his way to Cubicle City every day. And let’s say Joe just happens to be a health nut who’s into natural anti-oxidants, like pomegranate.

On an average Monday, Joe is zipping by one of those bagel shops when suddenly his smartphone chirps an alert, and a screen message pops up that Bibi’s Bagels–which he just passed–is offering a special on its new pomegranate smoothies with a free pomegranate bagel till 5pm. Joe hits the brakes, makes a boulevard turn and goes for the deal.

That’s only one possible use of Apple’s iBeacon, a technology that’s already been adopted by Macy’s, American Eagle and Target, to target in-store shoppers with special sales they might otherwise overlook, buyer’s reward points that can be redeemed on check-out and lots more.

Even the Miami Dolphins franchise has tested iBeacon out in its home stadium, where deployment is as simple as slapping up the tiny beacon units (as pictured above) at various physical locations throughout the venue. Smartphone users were pinged as to which concession lines were shorter, as well as pushed discount offers on drinks and food and even distributed “digital collectors cards.”

iBeacon is currently operable on an estimated 200 million existing iOS devices from the iPhone 4S and 3rd gen iPad up, with Android soon to become available. ABI Research ( estimates that by 2018, 800 million devices will be using indoor location apps, and iBeacon or one of its like/kind will be as ubiquitous as GPS is today.

With on-the-spot customer recognition and smartphone instant payments at retail point-of-purchase on the verge of widespread adoption, and a possible battle between the likes of iBeacon and competing NFC (Near Field Communications enabled devices) brewing, it will be interesting indeed to see what shakes out. With Apple’s reputation of refined simplicity in all its hardware and software products, iBeacon might just beat the long rumored Apple TV to the marketplace.

Do you have this base covered for you or your clients in mobile, marketing or branding spaces? Are you ready for Hyper-Local?