Lenz Music, a division of Lenz, Inc., recently raised $5,190 for two Atlanta non-profit cancer organizations—the Georgia Cancer Foundation and the Magic of Life Foundation—at a benefit concert held at Eddie’s Attic in downtown Decatur. Proceeds will be split equally between the two organizations.

The sellout show was headlined by Johnny Clash—a band comprised of Lenz president/CEO Richard Lenz, marketing director Michael Killeen, art director Scott Sanders, and honorary Lenz director of security, Shawn Vinson.

“It is so gratifying to me and our entire company that so many of our friends, family, clients, and contacts would lend their time and money to this important cause,” Lenz said. “In today’s economic climate, non-profit organizations need our support more than ever, and these two groups are quite deserving.”

Nathan Beaver, a marketing manager at Lenz, opened the show with an acoustic set, and Lenz marketing director Michael Killeen performed with his band, the Sweethearts.

The event featured a silent auction with items contributed by the AJC Decatur Book Festival, the City of Decatur, Georgia Shakespeare, Little Shop of Stories, Worthmore Jewelry, John Lenz of the Tall Rocker Company, Wade Medlock, Alice Murray, and Vinson Gallery.

Lenz would like to thank everyone who attended the event and participated in the silent auction; Bob Ephlan and Eddie Owen of Eddie’s Attic for hosting the event; and The Magic of Life Foundation Board of Directors and Rudy Morgan of the Georgia Cancer Foundation for their support through the years.

Georgia Cancer Foundation—based in Atlanta—provides education, early detection, and support for Georgia residents affected by all types of cancer. Through its innovative programs and extensive support group network, the Foundation caters to newly diagnosed patients, those currently undergoing care, and survivors—as well as those in need of low-cost early detection. GCF’s web site is www.gacancerfoundation.org.

The purpose of the Magic of Life Foundation is to educate, inform, and support individuals with cancer and those who care for them. The Foundation provides services aimed at improving cancer survivorship and quality of life from the time of diagnosis, throughout treatment, and in the years following completion of cancer care. MOLF’s web site is www.molfi.org.

This morning, my wife and I were getting ready to send out a birthday card, and we were having our children sign them as we usually do. My two-year-old daughter Ellie took her turn with the pen, and she scribble-scrabbled something on the card.

Afterwards, she dropped the pen on the table and said “I want french fries.”

Where did this come from?

My wife asked Ellie and she replied “McDonald’s has french fries and that’s McDonald’s” as she pointed to the card in which she had scribble-scrabbled a close facsimile to the logo of the ubiquitous American fast-food titan. I just had to take a picture and share, because it’s fascinating to me that McDonald’s has already imprinted their brand on my two-year-old’s brain.

There’s a common statistic thrown about in marketing that says the average American sees 3,000 advertising messages a day. So perhaps it’s no wonder that even very young children are able to identify with a brand such as McDonald’s so strongly.

In one study during the famous “Pepsi Challenge,” 67 people’s brains were scanned during a blind taste test comparing Pepsi and Coke. During the blind test, half the subjects chose Pepsi, and Pepsi generated a stronger response in the region of the brain thought to process feelings of reward.

But when the subjects were told which beverage was Coke, not only did three-fourths said that Coke tasted better, but the scans proved they were also using a different area of their brains—one thought to be tied to cognitive abilities and memory. This indicated that the consumers were thinking about Coke and relating it to memories and other impressions.

In other words, people overwhelmingly preferred Coke because of their positive associations with the brand, not the taste.

The quality of your product is important, sure, but is it as important as the strength of your brand?

Celebrating its fourth birthday this weekend, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival Presented by DeKalb Medical (DBF) is drawing praise from both authors and participants.

International best-selling thriller author Lee Child, appearing on Fox 5’s Good Day Atlanta Friday, September 4, said, “In its fourth year, Decatur is already one of the major book festivals in the U.S. You’ve got to go to the L.A. Times Festival and maybe Decatur. This is now a big deal. It’s all very exciting.”

DBF Executive Director Daren Wang agreed, calling the festival a “tremendous success” and citing the standing-room-only groups at the 900-seat First Baptist Church of Decatur and the 700-seat Decatur Presbyterian Church. The 400-seat Target Children’s Stage was also packed throughout the weekend with families and children lining up to hear popular children’s authors such as Judy Schachner, Jon Scieszka, and Elizabeth Dulemba.

Rob Jenkins, DBF board member and Director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College said that in only its fourth year, the festival has “come of age.”

Jenkins, who has been involved with the festival since early in its history, joined scores of participants in observing the overwhelming success of the event that brought tens of thousands of book lovers to hear more than 300 authors at venues around the Decatur Square.

Jenkins commented that the event ran so smoothly because of the maturity and experience of the organizers and 500 volunteers who worked on the event.

While total crowd figures are not available, organizers estimate a 15 percent increase over last year’s event.

Starting with a packed 800-seat Presser Hall at Agnes Scott College Friday, September 4, for the keynote address on the future of print by Sir Harold Evans, and ending with a Sunday evening picnic by the Southern Foodways Alliance and Concert on the Square by bluegrass group Sweet AlizAbeth, the festival provided something for everyone.

With 12 additional venues, ranging in size from 75 seats at the Decatur Conference Center Stage to 300 seats at the Old Courthouse, back-to-back events all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon were at or beyond capacity.

On Saturday night, those lucky fans who bought tickets early to the only festival-sponsored paid event, a sold-out concert at Agnes Scott honoring the 100th anniversary of Eudora Welty’s birth, were thrilled to hear Kate Campbell, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Caroline Herring, and Claire Holley perform in honor of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning writer from Jackson, Mississippi.

Comments filled Twitter and Facebook over the weekend from excited book lovers and festival attendees.

From Karlene Barger of Sandy Springs, “I think this is the best book festival yet. I especially enjoyed being one of the 1,100 or so people who attended the ‘Vampire’ session with Charlaine Harris, and Michael Malone was also wonderful! A very well organized (and fun) event!”

Decatur’s Steve Vogel wrote: “Just got back from the Decatur Book Festival — what a great event! Props to all who made it happen and those who came and enjoyed.”

Melanie Wright of Lawrenceville posted on Sunday, “The Decatur Book Festival yesterday was wonderful! Excited for today’s line up! No better way for me to spend Labor Day Weekend!”

Rachel Moore Hawkins of Auburn, Alabama, wrote:  “back from Decatur! Had a BLAST! Got to spend time with The Mama, see old friends, make new friends, hang with some truly kick-a** writers, and meet awesome bloggers. Oh, and got Richelle Mead to sign a book. All in all, a fabulous weekend!”

Interviews available upon request.

“We had record sized crowds for the Vampires session and Charlaine Harris signed everything she could in the allotted time. We also had a lot of compliments from booklovers, saying thanks for putting on this event.  The authors were great, the crowds patient and the weather beautiful.  We will be contacting the publicity departments of Random House, Penguin, Simon and Schuster with photos of how well their authors drew crowds in hopes that they will continue sending us such well-known writers.”

–Doug Robinson, owner, Eagle Eye Book Shop.

We have been proud and excited to organize the programing for — as well as do book sales at — the kids’ stage for the last four years (and the teen stage for the last two), and the 2009 festival was no exception.

The illustrators and authors sent to us increase in their prestige every year, and it’s because the publishers know what an awesome festival this is. But they aren’t the only folks responding with tons of enthusiasm — we had fantastic crowds and sales in the store and at both stages this year, and we’re particularly proud of how packed The Escape teen stage was. We are raring to go for 2010!

–Terra McVoy, Co-Director, Youth Programming, AJC-Decatur Book Festival, & Bookseller Extraordinaire at Little Shop of Stories

Bookzilla SketchOnce upon a summer’s day, Daren and Tom, the masterminds that run the Decatur Book Festival, asked Lenz to create the identity for the 2009 festival. They wanted the imagery to be a departure from the previous year, which was a serene, fertile literary garden of Eden. This year’s festival is going to be filled with surprises, twists and turns, and unexpected events. Obviously, this was not going to be your run-of-the-mill book festival.

Daren and Tom told me that the 2009 festival was going to rock Decatur like a book hurricane and attack the downtown area like an H. G. Well’s story.

What would this festival look like? Apocalyptic imagery started racing through my mind. Attack of the 50-foot Woman, the marshmallow man that almost killed Bill Murray, King Kong clinging to the Empire State building, the 80’s video game Rampage, and of course the long-legged Martian machines that emerged from the ground.

You know who else emerges from below? Godzilla!

I could see a hipster poetry-slamming Godzilla emerging from his slumber in Lake Avondale blazing a path down College Avenue to destroy Decatur with a hail of firey adverbs. Sounds great, right, but how would I take the Godzilla imagery and apply it to a literary event? Easy. I’ll just give ol’ Godzilla a book for a head with razor-sharp pages for teeth, the kind that would give you one heck of a paper cut. I added the wayfarer style glasses for a nice scholastic, yet hip flavor. The menacing bookmark tongue was the perfect way to finish off his noggin. Of course, he ended up with book spines and a fountain-pen tail.

My monstrosity needed a name, and Bookzilla was it.

Since I created a monster, Bookzilla needed something constructive to do, or rather destructive. Bookzilla decided to go directly down to the Decatur Square and mow down some of Decatur’s most beloved landmarks. The Old Couthouse, the Gazebo, a drinking establishment, etc. Total Decatur Demonic Destruction from above!

I quickly sketched the idea in my trusty sketchbook—handcrafted by Daren Wang himself—and showed Daren, Tom, and Mary Flad the grisly scene. It was complete with soccer moms running for their lives. Since they all have a unique sense of humor, they really seemed to like it. Bookzilla was born!

Since I don’t use a laptop as my production machine, I sometimes find myself away from my production computer without that important file that I need to work on after hours. It became frustrating, because I knew there were plenty of choices of software that would allow me to create a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, but I didn’t know which software package to choose. Paralysis by analysis.

After a few weeks of research, I found an unobtrusive and secure VPN tool called Hamachi that allows me to connect to my office computer from my home computer and vice-versa. Wikipedia offers the following definition of Hamachi: “Hamachi is a centrally-managed zero-configuration virtual private network (VPN) freeware application capable of establishing direct links between computers that are behind NAT firewalls without requiring reconfiguration (in most cases); in other words, it establishes a connection over the Internet, to create conditions very similar to that as if the computers were connected over a local area network. ”

There are three reasons I ended up choosing Hamachi:

First, it is easy to install, runs easily without configuration headaches, and is platform-agnostic. All I did to get it working was download the software and install, type in the passwords, and the network was running. Both my home computer and work computers sit behind NAT routers, and my Mac at home and my Windows XP machine at work acted as if they were peers on the same network.

Second, it is free. At this price, it is easy to download and test, and I don’t have to worry about byzantine licensing issues.

Finally, there was a good review and discussion about the security features of Hamachi on the highly-regardedSecurity Now podcast. Basically, Hamachi encrypts data in a manner that makes it almost impenetrable: When a Hamachi peer sends data to a member of the network, it encrypts the data before sending it through the Internet. At the other location, the authenticated peer verifies that the data has not been altered or duplicated and decrypts it.

I feel like I made the right choice: Hamachi has saved me countless hours, and it can save you time too.

Lenz, an integrated marketing company located in Decatur, GA, recently assisted DeKalb Medical in launching a re-branding effort that includes a new hospital name and logo. Lenz also worked with the hospital and another agency, Milwaukee-based BVK, to develop an advertising campaign centered around the tagline, “Pushing Beyond.” The campaign features print, TV, online, and radio ads, as well as billboards and bus wraps.

“‘Pushing Beyond’ is descriptive of a new attitude at DeKalb Medical that says we are dissatisfied with the status quo in healthcare. Our culture as an organization is to stretch further, address the broader issues patients and families with illness face, and to do whatever it takes to help. Sometimes we do the unconventional and sometimes that surprises people, but we embrace innovation and respect the passion our employees and physicians have for their work. Our patients feel it and it’s time to share this attitude with our community and those unfamiliar with us,” said DeKalb Medical president and CEO Eric Norwood.

With its newly improved and strengthened services, DeKalb Medical found a new name would help “reintroduce ourselves to our community and signal a new era,” Norwood said. By dropping “Center” from its former name, “DeKalb Medical Center,” the hospital hopes to more clearly communicate its three-campus system that includes DeKalb Medical at North Decatur, DeKalb Medical at Hillandale, and DeKalb Medical at Downtown Decatur.

Richard Lenz, president and CEO of Lenz, said he is “proud to support DeKalb Medical because they care about the health and overall well-being of the community.”

Cheryl Iverson, vice president of business development and marketing at DeKalb Medical, expressed gratitude for Lenz’s hard work. “We’ve been thrilled to find and work with Lenz, which is right here in our own community. Their approach to helping us launch the name, logo, and campaign actually personified the “pushing beyond” attitude we’re communicating. It’s been a great partnership.”

DeKalb Medical is a not-for-profit hospital system serving approximately 500,000 patients annually. A leader in progressive medical technology and compassionate care since 1961, the hospital system includes the 451-bed DeKalb Medical, the 76-bed DeKalb Medical at Downtown Decatur, and the 100-bed DeKalb Medical at Hillandale.

Leadership DeKalb has a new look and added functionality thanks to a grant from AT&T and help from Lenz, Inc., a Decatur marketing, public relations and design firm.

Executive Director Sara Fountain selected Lenz, located at 119 East Court Square in Decatur, to create a new Web site for the organization.

“We wanted a site to capture the energy, vitality and unity of Leadership DeKalb,” Fountain said. “We selected Lenz from a number of firms because of their design and technical expertise and their commitment to our community.”

The new site is leadershipdekalb.org.

Founded in 1986, Leadership DeKalb is a non-profit leadership development program that trains and builds a network of ethnically and culturally-diverse, well-informed leaders and emerging leaders who are committed to addressing and resolving issues that impact the quality of life in Georgia’s DeKalb County.

The Leadership DeKalb Class of 2009 is comprised of 56 business and professional leaders who either live or work in the county. Participants will complete a 10-month education program in June 2009. Topics include DeKalb’s police, justice, health and education systems; opportunities and challenges related to the county’s ethnic and cultural diversity; and issues surrounding business, development, and social services.

Leadership DeKalb, in short, is a group of leaders dedicated to making a difference in their community. However, with members spread out across the county and across varied professional fields, communication amongst the organization was becoming an increasingly difficult obstacle.

The web, among other things, is the tool of the 21st century to connect people. Lenz understands this basic premise, and was therefore delighted to provide Leadership DeKalb with not only a modern and attractive online presence, but also a powerful means for connecting their members.

The new LeadershipDeKalb.org allows members to update their information, pay member dues, view photos and videos, check the program schedule, and volunteer for upcoming events – all with a few clicks. Thanks to a custom developed CMS (content management system), program leaders can post the latest news releases and feature fresh content on the homepage by filling out a simple online form.