Julie Cottineau

Posts by Julie Cottineau

Divine Disasters

To this day, the one movie that scares me more than any other I have ever seen is Jaws.

The underwater shots of the dangling legs of unsuspecting swimmers, the music -“dunton, dunton, dunton”, the subtle disruption of the water’s calm surface as the Great White surreptitiously slithers by. All this creates a tension I can barely tolerate.

Cinematic brilliance orchestrated perfectly from script to final cut. Right?
Well actually…no.

I read somewhere that there were serious mechanical issues with the shark. Steven Spielberg had actually planned to show him full on in many more scenes. But the model wasn’t functioning properly. And he had to devise a plan to create the suspense and fear using other methods and other camera angles – and a lot less actual shark.

In the end, I think it’s a much better movie than it might have been if the mechanical shark had been functioning properly. It’s so much scarier than other disaster movies where very little is left up to the imagination.

I love this story.

It shows the power of taking an obstacle (in this case a malfunctioning -and no doubt very expensive -mechanical shark) and turning it into an opportunity for even greater creativity and impact.

It reminds me that when everything appears to be going wrong, maybe it’s time to look at the situation differently and find the “divine” in the “disaster”.

Next time something goes awry in your brand innovation plans, instead of giving up – try channeling your inner Spielberg and you might just turn a mistake into a masterpiece.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

What disasters have you been able to turn into delights?

Lather, Rinse, Repeat


Why is it that many of us get our best ideas in the shower?

Often in the morning, in my semi-wakeful state I get into the shower, not really thinking about anything other than “lather, rinse, repeat” and suddenly a brilliant idea pops into my head.
I stumble and slide across the floor into my bedroom dripping wet and frantically search for a pen and a piece of paper to capture my soon to be fleeting thought.

Usually I bang my knee on my bedside table and have to stop thinking and start searching for band-aids. When I do revisit my scribble after drying off, the note is either too soggy or too quickly written to make any sense of it.

What’s the magic behind the morning shower moment and how can we replicate that hyper-productive thinking in an “drip free” environment where we can properly capture ideas?

This “shower power” may come from the fact we’re in a dream-like state between sleep and wakefulness. But I think that it’s really the fact that we’re engaging in a daily ritual that doesn’t require a lot of conscious thought. This allows for ideas to bubble to the surface without our “critique reflex” kicking in – a mechanism which prematurely shuts off a lot of good ideas.

Showering at work for most of us probably isn’t an option. Instead, how about trying other similar kinds of repetitive actions: strumming a guitar, knitting, doodling, bouncing a ball etc.

Stop deliberately trying to think of something, try shifting gears- and engaging in an activity that helps you essentially…think of nothing.

It might be just the trick to getting those brilliant ideas pouring out.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

What “routine” activities help you get in the groove?

Improve with Improv

Think SNL or Second City. Do these silly skits have anything serious to teach us about building better brands?

Quite possibly yes, if you are willing to step outside of your comfort zone.

My friend Marcy was recently telling me about a class she’s taking at The People’s Improv Theater in NYC . Marcy is an Internet marketer by day. This is just a hobby. She loves the class, it’s a great stress buster and she’s learning something important about human relationships…namely LETTING GO!

Since I (like many of you) view brands as relationships my ears pricked up. Was she onto something here that could help build better brands?

It turns out, one of the fundamental rules for successful improv is to immediately accept and build on the scenario that is launched by your partner.

If your partner starts the scene by pointing at you and saying “why, look you are a big green martian”, the best course of action is to build on this: “Why yes, I am a martian- the very greenest of them all.” Any attempt to resist or re-direct results in a short and not very successful scene.

You need to abandon your secret desire to do a scene about something else. A brain surgeon…or an Arctic explorer. And go with the flow created by your improv partner.

Letting go sound easy? Not necessarily so.

Think about the many brainstorm sessions where you pretend to be open to new ideas, but in reality you are just biding your time until you can get your brilliant idea out on the table.

Next time, resist the urge to re-direct and instead embrace your inner martian. Run with it. Revel in it. Play it out to it’s fullest potential. Later, when it’s your turn to start the scene you can launch your vision of an Arctic world, and since you have set a good example chances are others will be happy to trek across the ice floes with you.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

How have you used improv to improve?

Back to the Future


The current recession has cast a trance of pervasive doom and gloom – making it hard for even the most inspired among us to come up with new ideas.

Well, don’t let the recession get you down. Just skip it. Press the fast forward button to a time in the future and create (don’t wait) for a brighter tomorrow.

Here’s a specific technique called “message from the future”. It was inspired by a birthday party game my daughter and I created. In this game your future self (e.g. brand) sends you a message from the future.

Something like “Hi, It’s me, you’ll never guess what I’m up to these days. My straight A’ s in social studies really paid off. I was just sworn in as the first female president. Boy, is the White House cool! I just re-decorated the Oval Office in zebra stripes and hot pink.”

In the brand version of this game, send yourself a message (multiple messages) from the future.

Be outrageous. Take some unexpected twists and turns. Get a group of open minded people in a room together. Write one message per piece of paper. Place them in a hat. Then take turns reading them. Encourage open thinking. Then take your top 3 and sit down to write an action plan about how you could get there.

Embrace a bright brand future, this recession is a blip on the radar. It too shall pass.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

What’s in your brand’s future?

Jai Ho!


In case you missed the academy awards in January, Slum Dog Millionaire swept the little golden guys including an Oscar for best song with Jai Ho (which literally translates to Victory).

I believe that India will replace Africa as the new nation célèbre and this will have an impact on everything from food to fashion to home furnishings.

Witness the enduring popularity of Anoop (Dawg) Desai on this season 8 of American Idol. Despite a few near eliminations, he keeps rising above the odds (much like the lead character Jamal in Slum Dog).

Hottest colors for spring? Pink, orange, yellow – all the hues of a Mumbai sunset.

Consider how your brand can leverage the Mumbai Mania to spice things up…and perhaps Victory is within reach.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

How do you see the impact of India for brands?