Wednesday, May 31, 2006 

Creedence Again Live Video

A little taste of Dan McGuinness as John Fogerty. This clip was taped May 26, 2006 by my brother Jeff with his Canon GL1 camera; he was standing in the balcony of the Liberty Theatre in Ft. Scott, Kansas for a show we were doing there.

I think this cut of "I Put A Spell On You" really showcases Dan's excellent voice & range. FYI, I probably need to trim back that blond wig I'm wearing a bit...

Saturday, May 06, 2006 

Totally Chipotle® - Get Addicted.

Before we get started: Does anyone else besides me find it interesting that Chipotle Mexican Grill doesn't feature even one thing with chipotle on the menu? You'd hope they (McDonald's) would be required by the US Patent & Trademark Office do at least satisfy that one thing before their lawyers start coming after products that really do use this amazing smoked pepper (and that’s another story for another time). When you look at it from that angle, they may as well call their chain "Basil" or "Arugula..."

TOTALLY CHIPOTLE®. Here’s the first entry about something that’s been a big part of my life for quite awhile now. If, for a moment, you could compare this creation to a child, here’s what I think would be a fair assessment: “Unique; attracts loyal friends & fans; ahead of its time; award-winning; Has lacked proper resources to flourish; Unfulfilled potential.”

BEING AHEAD OF YOUR TIME ISN'T ALWAYS A GOOD THING. In fact, it usually means you starve until the rest of the world catches up. In my experience, if you can figure out how to be about one year ahead of a trend, you're gold. I suppose this also speaks to wondering why most artists don’t enjoy true success until after they’re dead. I first launched Totally Chipotle in 1998 - the better part of a decade ago - and although I suppose a 5 - 10 year turnaround isn't the worse thing, you hope to enjoy the rewards before you need a walker and hearing aid to deal. While the product has enjoyed a smattering of success here and there, (depending upon your definition of success), let's just say it hasn't yet earned enough to retire on. And it’s also been on “hiatus” for a few years, too. However, from a business perspective, there are some inarguable points I can’t ignore, all pointing towards re-launching the brand. That said, I’m one of those just stupid/stubborn enough to give it another go, even after being “jumped in” with the retail game and all its dirty secrets. I just finished re-designing the label, and am currently poised to re-launch the brand with its new look. So now, I invite you to consider some facts, and see if you agree with this decision.

1. CHIPOTLE. The first argument for relaunch is that this pepper – and its somewhat tricky pronunciation – are much more familiar in the U.S. culture than 10, or even 5, years ago (thank you Chipotle Mexican Grill & Subway Sandwiches). You now hear the correct pronunciation of the word on national commercials (“cha-POTE-lay,” vs. the common “cha-POLE-tee”). Chipotle is no longer pioneer territory in this country.

2. TOTALLY CHIPOTLE FANS. To this day, I get emails and calls from around Illinois, asking where they can get either the Bloody Mary Mix or the Party Sauce (remember, this is after being out of production for years). To me, that’s affirmation of the standout, unique quality of the product. And yes, it’s also incredibly frustrating not having this product available.

3. TRADEMARK. I have a registered trademark on Totally Chipotle. Although the name was originally conceived to help folks with the proper pronunciation, I feel – and have been told – this is one of the better names for a chipotle-flavored product.

4. GOOGLE. Fourth, I was amazed & happy to see what happened when I recently Googled "chipotle." As you'd expect, Chipotle Mexican Grill - and the highly suspect number of supposedly uncompensated "fan" sites, like - dominate the top slots/rankings. However, without one dime of advertising spent, and a real skinny 2-page website, comes up on the very first page. While I'm not sure how this happened, and it's not the same with Yahoo or other search engines, I'm more than satisfied with that one.

5. TRACK RECORD/REVIEWS. Totally Chipotle products have, at one time or another, been on the shelves of some of the best retail shelves in Chicago, including Niemann Marcus (getting into stores was never an issue). They’ve also been positively reviewed by both the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune piece, however, was a beauty: Their food editors held a blind-taste contest, and voted my bloody mary #1 (beating some big brands, such as Mr. & Mrs. T’s and Tabasco). Hell yes.

LABEL DESIGN & BRANDING. My good pal & fan Monte Beauchamp designed the original labels, and I think they’re great, except for one key point: The Rock & Roll Chef wasn't then, and isn't now, famous enough to move merchandise on the name alone. Monte (creator/editor of Blab!, pretty famous in his own right) is a long-time friend, co-conspirator, art/creative director, boozer, freak, visionary, muse and nuisance. He won't admit it, but he's also a great illustrator/cartoonist. He's my kind of "flawed genius." As evidenced by the quality of artists featured in Blab!, he's also got a great nose for world-class graphic talent, and he's always giving me unsolicited compliments about my music & art talents. It's hard not to love getting attention from someone like that (who is constantly pestered by artists dying to be featured in his publication), and one who is also very supportive.

LABEL REDESIGN. With respectful apologies to Monte, I just redesigned the labels, de-emphasizing the Rock & Roll Chef. More, having spent more than a few hours in grocery stores around the country sampling products and/or doing cooking demos, my hope is that these new labels accurately address a few things I’ve learned from watching and interacting with consumers. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say my main goal is to stand out on the shelves, and help the product be purchased independently, without advertising or promotional dollars telling them to (which, by the way, is the holy grail for any product). FYI, I have a theory that, once a consumer physically picks up a product, there’s at least a 50/50 chance their next move will be to put it into their cart, which means a sale.

NEXT TIME: I’ll periodically revisit this topic, share some war stories, etc. Leigh Hanlon has promised to do a few tabletop shots, so there will be some photos of the “new-look” labels soon.