Trunk Club’s Brilliant Failure (7/22/2015)
Posted in marketing opinion

Trunk Club is a brilliant idea. Explain the concept to just about any guy, and you’ve got their attention. That’s why countless men have signed up and the company displays many of the markings of a successful startup: mass adoption, ongoing investment, big name acquisition, incredible reputation, countless copycats, and solid, consistent PR.

But who actually needs Trunk Club? As it turns out, no one.

They’ve claimed to have solved a big problem: helping men shop. They pair you with a stylist, solving for men with bad taste. They help you discover new brands and new styles, solving for the potentially stale wardrobe. They make it really easy to return items you don’t want, solving for men who are time constrained. And best of all, the first Trunk you receive is like Christmas morning, delivering sheer joy to its recipient. But similar to the credit card statement you get the week after Christmas, Trunk Club is insanely expensive and not worth repeating month after month, putting its intended subscription model in jeopardy.

The minds behind trunk Club missed something fundamental about their target audience.  Most men find something they like and then get the same thing in lots of variations. And once you’ve discovered your new favorite shirt or new favorite brand, you don’t just want to get more in different colors or patterns, but you want to do so at the lowest price possible.

Trunk Club helped me discover my favorite shirt, the incredibly flattering, impossibly soft, and extremely comfortable v-neck t-shirts made by Velvet Men. I was so happy to discover these shirts that I was willing to pay $60 for my first one. But then when I wanted to buy 5 more, I found them for half as much elsewhere online. Future Trunks introduced other new products, but I had already found my new favorite.

This brings up a key point in product marketing: discovery and re-engagement are two unique phases, both of which are extremely important to long-term success. The most successful brands have loyal customers who want to continue to engage, purchase, and recommend time and time again. Trunk Club is brilliant when it comes to discovery. But the Truck Club discovery experience isn’t worth repeating. It costs too much. And the thrill of discovery quickly fades away, leaving you with too many new clothes, new options, and returned Trunks.

Trunk Club’s designer-clothes-at-full-price model is actually quite fair and appropriate for their concierge experience. They deserve to make a handsome profit to compensate for their valuable service of discovery. But why not then offer a second service that lets you buy more of the items you like at a competitive price? Until they figure out how to retain customers and provide an ongoing positive experience, Trunk Club will remain stuck in an unending acquisition cycle. My colleague Jamie Scheu describes this problem as being stuck on a treadmill. Once you get on, you can’t ever get off. Whether that treadmill is being fueled by ongoing paid media, ongoing new product launches, ongoing publicity events, or ongoing store expansions, it’s a very expensive situation to be in.

Trunk Club could have avoided this problem by doing two things: better defining their core target audience and then creating an experience that builds upon, aligns with, or improves the existing behavior of that target. Their current target is a nonexistent, oxymoron of a guy. Someone who is digitally savvy enough to be an early adopter to their service, but not savvy enough to conduct competitive online shopping; someone who loves clothes enough to want to spend big money each month on new clothes, but doesn’t love clothes enough to have their own sense of style and taste; and someone who wants to discover something new, but then wants to re-invent themselves again and again each month. So they’ve been catering to a very rare breed of man: the guy with bad taste who is constantly reinventing himself and has unlimited resources to do so. I’m sure that guy exists somewhere, but there’s not enough of him to drive sustained growth and ongoing business health.

Within Marketing, most brands ask for help attracting more new customers. If your brand has an impassioned core of users who regularly re-engage, its true that you have a discovery issue and acquisition/awareness marketing will likely help drive your growth and success. But if your brand is struggling to find its core audience and keep them loyal, all the new customers in the world aren’t going to help fix your re-engagement problem and drive long-term brand health. Trunk Club may have convinced themselves and their investors that their innovative experience is the next big thing, but in reality they’re just another brand with a product problem, stuck on the new customer treadmill.

PMC 2014 Bike-a-Thon (7/26/2014)
Posted in charity

PMC 2014

There’s a Lot Riding on This

Today I’ve committed to riding in the 2014 Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC). Next weekend, I will join 5,500 cyclists in the PMC ride, an annual bike-a-thon that raises money for research and care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. This year’s goal is $40 million!

And as a symbol of solidarity with all the other riders, young and old, I’ve decided to complete the entire ride on a single-speed bicycle.

I hope I can count on your support

The PMC raises more money for charity than any other single event in the country, $414 million since 1980 and $39 million last year alone! This success is the result of a lot of people riding for, and caring about, a cure.

I’ve made a personal commitment to ride and raise $1500. So I hope you can help me achieve this significant goal.

Please donate to my PMC ride at one of the following links:

Click here to make $25 donation

Click here to make a $50 donation

Click here to make a $100 donation

Click here to make a $250 donation

Click here to make a $500 donation

Click here to make a $1,000 donation

Click here to make a donation of any other amount

Click here to make a donation from a Fidelity Donor Advised Fund

Every donation brings us closer by the mile.

Thank you,

To learn more about the PMC, please visit


Presented by


New Balance

Media Partner



Founded in 1980, the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) is an annual bike-a-thon that today raises more money for charity than any other single event in the country.

CreateTech 2013 – Bridging Creativity and Technology in Advertising (10/04/2013)
Posted in Uncategorized

This week I attended the CreateTech conference, held by the 4As. It was incredibly informative and useful. It presented a lot of new ideas to me, and helped confirm some existing thinking. For those of you who couldn’t attend, here are some of my key take-aways.


This was not your older brother’s tech conference. All of the most impressive speakers were women. Yes, it was a technology-centered conference, attended by a few hundred advertising leaders, but the strongest, recurring themes were collaboration, passion, convergence, and poetry. What does that mean? The future of digital is less about a bunch of nerdy guys coding and more about dynamic teams cross-pollinating human-centric ideas and bringing them to life in iterative phases.

Tech Education and Labs

Many of the agencies that were present had well developed technology groups and more than a few had internal innovation labs and education programs. One great quote summarized the current climate: “What we do for FUN on the weekends will be what we do at WORK in 2-3 years”. In order to stay relevant, agencies have to do more than hire the best and brightest, they have to keep their employees cutting edge through ongoing training and experimentation.

360i has developed an internal education program called 360iU, in which employees can be trained with graduate-level classes. Several other agencies have built internal technology labs, where employees have the space to play with emerging software and hardware, building prototypes that may or may not get folded into paid, client work. Because “the maker community can be over-fascinated with what’s new”, it’s not valuable to fixate on innovation for the sake of being innovative, but rather find ways to better meet clients’ business needs and leverage the latest tools to do so. Frequently clients lean too far towards the extremes: those who don’t have an appetite for trying new things, and those who want to use “shock and awe” tactics without any goals or strategy. The Oreo tweet is a great example of how clients look at the resulting buzz from one single moment, rather than at the teams and systems that were in place during the live event or the many failed attempts that preceded the single success. There’s a lot of testing, trying, failing, and learning required to build a communication strategy that approaches real-time. And many clients aren’t willing to pay for those pre-requisites.

As the discussion about labs continued, it became clear that a common problem is utilizing these resources beyond superficial eye-candy. “Agency labs need to be more than just a stop along the client tour.” To generate excitement and interest, both internally and with clients, cool projects need to be built. But to avoid labs become a wasted opportunity to meet business goals, cool needs to be balanced with useful.

Doing Innovative Work

So, you want your agency to do amazing, innovative work? Easier said than done. “If your company says they’re ’embracing digital’, they’re already about 10 years behind.” To really embrace digital, it needs to be embedded within the culture. Companies need a culture of hacking and a process that has collaboration at its core. Hacking is taking something built for a particular purpose and using it in a different way that hasn’t been seen. This applies to products, tools, and people. Marcel DuChamp was a pioneer of hacking. He took disparate objects and integrated them to flip the ordinary on its head. That was 100 years ago, but the need to try things, break things, and re-work things has never been greater.

As innovative as it was to combine a copywriter and an art director 50 years ago, we now need to rethink this classic duo and build our teams on the fly, to meet the particular needs of each project. What happens when you pair a programmer and designer at the onset of a project? What happens when you pair a strategist and a producer? It’s almost impossible to create amazing work without getting everyone in sync, communicating, and collaborating as early as possible. Frequently this means “going to the meetings you weren’t invited to”.

Nimble Development

There’s no room for perfectionism when you’re moving at the pace of innovation. GoogleX has developed a term called “pretotyping”, which builds on the lean-startup concept of creating a minimum viable product to save precious time and resources. Pretotyping is pretending that you have a prototype. Don’t waste time building code for an app unless you’ve proven that people want to participate in your experience. Can you build a paper prototype? Can you simulate the experience with existing tools, cobbled together? Do that first. Learn as much as possible. And go into the true prototyping phase with confidence that you’re already on the right path.

Be Generous to Your Users

The culture of startups right now is on the wrong track, as it’s being lead by engineers. YCombinator and other start-up incubators are all too often building products and funding ideas that have no audience. It’s a mistake to first build, and then try to get users. “Don’t let the technology itself lead the discussion.” Instead, “engagement and intimacy should be the goal of everything we do. We need to take in our audience’s point of view.” And for this reason, the next generation of technology leaders will not be engineers from MIT, it’ll be women with liberal arts backgrounds who learned to code as a hobby; it’ll be teenagers in Africa with old computers and slow internet connections who extract 100% of the value from the resources they have; it’ll be people who are good listeners and let the behavior of their audience guide their projects.

The Next Generation of Innovators

Who was the most impressive speaker at this conference? It wasn’t one of the ten different chief technology/innovation/creativity officers; it was Rachel Law, a twenty-something technologist who has only worked in advertising for six months, but figured out a way to hack browser cookies, making online identity liquid, transferrable, and entirely controlled by the user.

Where Do We Start?

We start by talking with each other. “Passion is infectious”, so those of us who are already passionate about getting more technical, more creative, and more innovative need to stop being so quiet about how we feel. Tell your co-workers, tell your clients, and, most importantly, tell yourself over and over.

Trending on Twitter – David Bowie! (1/08/2013)

This morning Twitter is all a-flurry over the new album release by David Bowie. What makes it a newsworthy story? He hasn’t released an album in ten years; the first single is iTunes only, which indicates Bowie is digitally astute; there’s a digital stream of the song available, so people are excited to share news that leads to instant gratification; lastly, this is the kind of news that wins you cool-kid points for knowing before any one else, which makes it all the more reason to retweet and share.

Top tweets:

Disclaimer: I still haven’t listened to the song. Did you? Is it any good?
Update: I’m listening to the single now. It’s really refreshing to hear that he didn’t change his sound dramatically to adapt to the modern world. This is unadulterated Bowie.

Music Trends of My Friends (1/07/2013)
Posted in Social Aggregation

I’ve been playing around with the Facebook API, using it to read open graph data from my friends. I built a quick prototype that scans for music.listens and aggregates the top songs among your friends. Here’s some top music in my network that I discovered using the app. Thanks everyone for choosing to share your listening data!

#1 – Thinkin About You by Frank Ocean. Listened to by 8 friends:


#2 – Gold on the Ceiling by The Black Keys. Listened to by 5 friends:


#3 – Shake it Out by Florence + The Machine. Listened to 39 times by 3 friends:


#4 – The Stable Song by Gregory Alan Isakov. Listened to 17 times by 1 friend (you know who you are!!!):


#5 – The Falling Snow by Damien Jurado. Listened to 16 times by 1 friend (and thankfully so. I love this song.)

Top Trending Tweets – Humor and One Liners (1/07/2013)

Today is monday of the first full week back to work.  Most people are probably dragging ass today, reluctant to return to their jobs and probably still adjusting to wake up at a normal hour.  What we all need is a kick in the pants, or maybe a little inspiration.  This is evident from the trending tweets in my automaton app this morning.  People seem to be ignoring politics, news, and current events in favor of great one-liners and generally amusing, uplifting content.

Here are some of my favorite examples:

Visual ConCensus – US Census DataViz (12/20/2010)


A final version of my US Census data visualization project is finished and has been on display at NYU’s ITP Winter Show.  The project visualizes racial and income data across the United States by coloring individual zip codes and plotting them on a map.  A configurable user interface allows users to toggle on and off a series of filters, focusing on individual states or particular demographics.  Within the data lie a multitude of stories, all of which are there for the user to discover and be provoked by.

Link to watch a video demonstration of the application.

Link to download the application (supports Mac OSX 10.5 or higher).

Visual ConCensus – User Interface Design (12/06/2010)


CaCarma – Mobile Media Final Proposal (11/16/2010)

For my final project in Mobile Media, I plan to make a mobile web application for drivers.  The app would have two major functions:

1. Help drivers avoid speeding tickets through a publicly shared speed-trap tagging system.

2. Help drivers travel at a constant speed without using cruise-control, by inputting a desired speed range.


In the “trap tagging” mode, drivers simply tap the screen to tag a speed trap at their current location.  When a driver approaches a tagged trap, they are notified ahead of time of its location and encouraged to slow down.


In the “target speed” mode, users input a upper and lower limit to their speed.  Should they drive too fast or too slow, the app notifies them with visual and auditory cues, assisting them in staying within their desired range.

InfoViz Midterm (11/01/2010)

I have continued working on the US Census Data visualization project for my midterm.


Link to Video Demonstration

Link to Complete Processing Sketch