Marketing Gone Wild

 Bikes, E-commerce, Swine  Comments Off on Marketing Gone Wild
Nov 292012

Looks like Project Danzig is officially in the hands of someone capable of figuring out where all the derailleurs and bottom brackets and photon torpedos are supposed to go. In the meantime, I’ve been confronted with an interesting new bike project that’d be about as different from Danzig as possible. Still kicking around directions, but I tagged in my customer service guys today to gather ideas for the ultimate utilitarian bike. In addition to taking care of customers for a bunch of web sites, they also tend to ride bikes. A lot and in ways that are both remarkably practical and wildly impractical.

In short, they’re the type of people who should be involved in designing bicycles. Some great ideas resulted, very few of them the same. Now we must battle.

While Danzig’s in the oven, I’m focused on the marketing side of my life, wherein logic and self-respect are often awkward party guests.

Consider the Miller commercial up top. Personally, I have a rule that if your marketing idea risks insulting all of humanity, you might want to at least get a second opinion. Miller clearly feels differently.

But the real pros have figured out how to insult much more than just your intelligence. It would never occur to me, for instance, to help sell cars by carefully positioning them behind my scantily clad daughter.

According to, though, a guy named Kim Ridley’s somewhat unique eBay used car marketing angle is to use photos of his daughter (and various other young girls/tattoo-practice-volunteers), each scantily clad and posed next to what appears to be the most heavily curated assortment of shitty cars for sale on the Internet.

You know you’ve achieved Twelve Level Ninja Marketing Mastery when you find yourself wondering if maybe that last ass-shot of your little girl with the Nissan might’ve been just a little much, but then using it anyway.

2014: End of Innovation’s Vacation?

 Bikes, Gadgets  Comments Off on 2014: End of Innovation’s Vacation?
Nov 282012

Between the official rise of 650b to electronic suspension to commoners roaming the aisles at Interbike, next year is going to be all about excitement.

Seriously, while 2013 products are still pretty boring, 2014 is looking ready going to light shit up. Here’s what I’d like to see.

More garage mechanics/programmers developing better electronic suspension than the major suspension companies.

More of this guy’s work, and more U.S. made carbon fiber. Much more.

If there’s a common theme here it’s that do-it-yourself seems to be going high-tech when it comes to bicycles, and that’s pretty great. We haven’t seen this many genuinely new ideas in a long time. I’m more fond of some than others (I’m just not particularly into electronic suspension, particularly after riding plenty of “analog” bikes this year that pedaled exceptionally well).

But it’s all for the better.

Big Deals

 Bikes, E-commerce, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Big Deals
Nov 272012

My oh my. So much going on today. As I write this, it’s 10:45pm, November 26th, Cyber Monday, and my ecomm day job is currently showing 936 orders received today. That’s sort of a new record. I may in fact be experiencing a panic attack just thinking about it.

Yes, I’m pretty sure that was a panic attack.

I came home from Cyber Monday madness only to start my night job, wherein the first thing I did was make a button. What do you think?

Then, briefly, the idea that Anonymous may have kept Karl Rove from stealing the last election flickered across my conscious, and I must admit I hoped this was true.

Then I put some time into emailing a guy about a prototype bicycle frame and let him know that, yes, I think 27.5-inch wheels and 161.7mm of travel seem just about right.

Much work still to do after that, when, somewhere in the midst of a bunch of corporate Facebookalating, I noticed an email from Twitter. I’m normally programmed to ignore Twitter emails, but this one was from the Canootervalve Twitter account I never use. It was to inform me that Billy Cobham had started following me. Billy Cobham is a legendary jazz drummer and composer. He’s this Billy Cobham.

While this was just some sort of accident on his part, I spent the next hour or so of work partially pondering the ramifications. Him following me meant I could actually send Billy Mr. Cobham a message.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Probably, I should not have even done it, but I’d seen him perform once, and it was life-changing. Not in that “I mean this figuratively” way, but in more of a “actually changed my freakin’ life” sort of way. Hell, I’ve read interviews with this man that caused me to rethink my life (his interview in Modern Drummer back in the ’80s where he extolled the virtues of a slower, more deliberate European pace, particularly when it comes to eating dinner).

Now that my one son is becoming increasingly involved in playing the drums, I couldn’t help it. I sent a message to Mr. Cobham–under 140 characters–just to let him know I had the honor of seeing him play once, and hoped my son could see him as well.

What else can one type, given an opportunity like this? Personally, I could have Mick Jagger’s cell phone number on speed dial, and I’d never call it. Having Beyonce’s private email address would mean nothing to me. But this was really something. After a very, very long and frantic Cyber Monday filled with pace and panic, this small moment meant a great deal to me.

Content’s the Thing

 E-commerce  Comments Off on Content’s the Thing
Nov 262012

It’s Cyber Monday, which means I’m taking some time off from Canootervalve to do stuff that pays the bills. Other than working on the full-suspension bike, though, the big thing in the back of my mind is content.

When Bill Gates declared content king back in 1996, it turned out to be as prophetic as it may turn out to be misunderstood. The original Windows pitch–at least to consumers–was all about empowering individuals to create things. That sure wasn’t how Microsoft ended up paying their bills, but there was a time back then when that emphasis on making content really was a part of the program.

The definition of “content” has changed so much, though. Today it’s become incredibly easy to create text, images and video content that others see. What we do with that has also changed, which brings me to retail, my gig. What’s the role of content on an ecommerce site? Product information, sure, but what else? What is it people expect of content on an ecommerce site? I’m thinking about that more and more these days.

London Calling

 Bikes, Gadgets, Uncategorized  Comments Off on London Calling
Nov 222012

I was up at four this morning to start a turkey. That’s high noon in London, England, a place that I’m increasingly convinced makes Portland look pretty normal by comparison.

Case in point, this London-based site dedicated to “bike taxidermy.” It seems completely impossible that Portland didn’t come up with this first. In fact, I have my suspicions.

But then yesterday I received an email from my boss that included only a single link. This is what happened when I opened that link:

Yes, that just happened. What’s more, since he first brought it to my attention (thank you!), they’ve sold another 27 or so on their way to a goal of one thousand. Personally, I suspect they’ll do it, if only because they’re featuring a horse mask in their video, and horse masks are the hotness right now. Like London.

So come on, Portland! Let’s get off our asses and start selling nose ring mustaches that look like tiny handlebars, or crowd funding a DIY home kit that lets you build your own 2,000 square foot house out of used inner tubes.

Tomorrow, I mean. Today’s just for turkey.

Zero Marketing Gift Ideas

 E-commerce, Gadgets  Comments Off on Zero Marketing Gift Ideas
Nov 212012

Solid gift ideas for the holidays.

I hate marketing.

Don’t get me wrong. I can sell me some shit, and like Liam Neeson, I’ve acquired a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career.” But I’m pretty sure I lack a certain marketing something, that higher level of disdain for my fellow man that’s present in marketing lifers. I like customers. I believe in certain products. That kind of shit gets in the way of marketing.

Maybe it’s just the time of the year. Between the endless ad spot pushes from every Herb Tarlek of local radio station/newspaper/nano-zine/photocopied-flyer-on-telephone-pole fame trying to sell me space, to the sheer mayhem of holiday promotions, I’m looking forward to mid February.

So I’m starting my list of holiday gifts so fucking cool that they need no marketing whatsoever. Conveniently, this also doubles as my holiday wish list.

Yes, that’s a Slayer Holiday Sweater. The nice thing about these items is that they require no explanation.

It’s a ’75 Volvo C-303. Think your new Volvo family wagon is safe? Good luck surviving a zombie apocalypse in that shit. You can’t even fjord water, let alone have the approach angle to scale the really steep stuff. Might as well just give up.

Palm-based flamethrowers really require zero marketing. I wouldn’t recommend this for kids under, like, six. Or anyone over six, either, but you have to admit it doesn’t need a fancy package or celebrity spokesman. It lets you shoot flames. From your hand. Solid.


 Bikes  Comments Off on Showers
Nov 202012

While I’m by no means a 10-level bike commuting master, riding to work regularly in Portland once the rainy season’s started has taught me a few things about myself and my ability to operate a bicycle at night in the rain. Honestly, it’s not really a terrible exerience. In fact, any parallels I’m drawing here between riding at night in the rain and becoming and/or being attacked by a serial killer are almost entirely exaggerated.

Anyway, I made a mental list of observations on my ride home from work last night.

  • The grass is always greener. Figuratively, I mean, not because of all the rain (though it is pretty freakin’ green). I mean that on those days I crack and use the car to get to work, I miss the bike horribly. It doesn’t help that I save only ten to fifteen minutes on my 13-mile trip. The only upside is really that I get to listen to NPR on the radio. Conversely, I’d be lying if there weren’t nights, like last night, when a car would be genuinely swell. My car isn’t currently what one could describe as “waterproof,” though, so I guess it makes the bike seem not so bad.
  • I suck at riding a bike. Particularly one that’s partially submerged. I thought I’d developed decent skills finding paths through fairly ugly rock gardens and stuff on a mountain bike back East, but riding in the dark at night in a downpour with headlights and stuff ricocheting off everything is a whole different sack of rabid ferrets. My route has some of the best urban bike infrastructure ever built, and still, in a strong downpour it’s pretty clear that bike lanes are the part of roads that used to be called “gutters.” The water itself isn’t bad; it’s all the shit under the water. Everything I take pains to avoid riding over in better conditions becomes pretty unavoidable when it’s submerged in three or four inches of black water. My neck was killing me tonight from riding “strong like bull” over a section of submerged chicken nugget-sized stones on asphalt that make holding a line particularly interesting.
  • I’m prone to whimsy, or maybe just hallucinations. Passing certain backlit porch railings in the rain at night causes me to see weird animations. Like those flip-books, you know? Something fixed in position behind the railings tends to look like it’s moving when glimpsed through the slats of the railings as you pass. In some cases, it’s enough to cause me to unconsciously gear up, a Pavlovian response to “dog running off porch” situations that I must’ve developed at some point.
  • Rain pants are awesome until they become totally not awesome. Depending on the downpour, after about the first hour, rain pants magically transform from a really great idea into riding inside someone’s skin that’s just slightly larger than you. Try not to remember this the next time you’re wearing rain pants in a downpour for an hour.
  • It’s all about establishing your humanity. Briefly covering your headlight with your hand is the quickest signal to an oncoming car that you, like any other human, dislike high beams in your face. Seriously. Any action you can do while riding to help establish your humanity helps. Just read a great article that talked about staring right into the goddamn soul of the lady in that SUV who’s about to turn into you as you cross an intersection. Same rules apply at night. Quick cover and release of your headlamp says you are not, in fact, a mere flickering blog of obliteratable light floating in the inky blackness. You are a thinking, feeling human being.

Even in rainpants.

Mood Ring of Fire

 Bikes, Gadgets  Comments Off on Mood Ring of Fire
Nov 192012

Took some time off last week to travel up to Seattle and see Rush. I’m an old drummer, which makes this sort of pilgrimage mandatory behavior. But I think taking the kids to a packed, three hour concert was a little off the wall, even by my standards. From what I could tell, they were the only seven-years-olds at the show, and they stayed awake the entire time (thanks partly to fire and explosions).

Probably bears mentioning that I didn’t just take the kids to a concert; I took the kids to one of the first concerts to be held in Washington state after they’d voted to legalize marijuana.

At first, I’d assuming this was just negligent, half-assed parenting on my part. After thinking about it a little more, though, I’m pretty sure it follows in a long line of sketchy but calculated parental decisions common to my family. That’s much on my mind this week, given the whole Thanksgiving thing. I’m thankful I had parents who were remarkably level-headed but sometimes chose to hang out with people who were not that way at all. See, exposing your kids to some massive doses of human stupidity–when done correctly–has a distinct preventative effect.

More on that later, but I’ve been away from bikes, too, and maybe that’s a good thing. While 650b mountain bike wheels and hydraulic disc brakes for drop bars continue to slouch their way toward the limelight, the here and now of bike high-techery has to be mind reading helmets that display your mood using LEDs. No, I couldn’t make this stuff up.

According to, somebody has actually invented a bicycle helmet with LEDs that change color depending on your level of alertness and general happiness. As seen in the photo above, these lights ring your head and communicate–based directly on your brain’s activity–how you’re feeling. Finally, a way to express your mood through tiny lights that circle your head. I only hope someone finds a way to tie this technology into MonkeyLectric’s wheel lights.

How awesome would it be to have your mood translated into furious profanity and images of total destruction drawn in colorful lights right on your spinning wheels?

Some more updates this week on a bunch of stuff that’s probably semi-important to be, at least financially.