at the intersection of brands, media and culture

Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page

Alert: The History Channel Has Run Out of History

In Brands, communications, Consumers, marketing, strategy on April 29, 2008 at 2:18 pm

The History Channel has run out of history. It’s a shame because, like oil, there seemed to be so much of it last time I checked. But alas, it’s true. Napoleonic wars, done it. King Tut, done it nine times. Lindberg, Anne Frank, George Washington, you name it, done it. Which explains their new move toward old growth trees and the reality show Axe Men.

Hypothetical meeting conversation:

“Why not stop covering history and start predicting it? We all know that trees are going to be history so let’s preempt it!”

“Let’s give that man a raise! Brilliant!”

“And we can compete against Discovery and Deadliest Catch. Logging is dangerous too! And not just to the trees!”

Gucci Teams up with David Lynch

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2008 at 6:50 am

Beautiful work, but don’t you dare watch it on a small screen!

Abercrombie, Sponsoring Losers Everywhere

In advertising, Branding, communications, Consumers, marketing, strategy on April 24, 2008 at 4:52 am


Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

The thing I love about strategists and trendspotters is the amount of time we spend thinking about what things “might” mean. We are like brand conspiracy theorists that live slightly to the left of any sane consumer.

So let the debate begin. Is Abercrombie and Fitch subversively getting product placement on national television; or as most of us realize that these backdrops are carefully choreographed, is Obama playing to the mainstream fashion (in)sensibility of America?

OR, is it even more sinister, is Obama covertly courting the gay but-look-like-robot vote?

UPDATE: it turns out it wasn’t an Abercrombie marketing campaign, although I’d argue it became one anyway. So that leaves the decision at the foot of the Obama campaign– which of the above reasons drove them to put these guys in the camera’s eye?

hat tip to adrants

Discovery Something

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2008 at 5:39 am

O2 Memory Project

In advertising, communications, Consumers, marketing, Uncategorized on April 20, 2008 at 1:16 am


Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

I’ve been in London for the past few days and stumbled upon the O2 Memory Project in London’s Southbank. A beautiful industrial cylinder greets passers by and snaps 360 panoramics of the scene every few minutes. On the inside you can see the images that have been captured and through hand gestures go back in time to see what has come before. A nice effort from O2 and Jason Bruges.

Not entirely sure what it has to do with O2, which was probably a missed communication opportunity. The host who I spoke with only admitted sheepishly that it wasn’t actually just a cool art project but that there was a corporate father.

More information can be found here:

Beautiful Russia

In communications, culture, Design, photo, trends on April 16, 2008 at 5:34 am


Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

By accounts of the designers and artists that I spoke with in Moscow, the culture of design and art there is going through a renaissance. Ten years ago it was about mimicking the design language of the West. Then there was a period of transition. The Russian artists of today speak with great excitement about the new opportunities they have to create a whole new design language for the country and to generate pride in the design coming out of the the Russian Federation.

I was fortunate to be in Moscow for the wonderful and amazing photography show. The images were really quite nice but I was particularly struck by a short video by the 25-year-old director Natasha Pavlovskaya. It captured the intersection of photography and video in a way that reminded us photographers that sometimes no image is more powerful than the next and that it is the moment that should be preserved.

I can’t find a postable version of the film but I’ve linked to it here. I encourage you to check it out as it does a great job of capturing the mood, movement and moment of a forgotten Russian print house and those who work there.

The New Russian Design Culture

In agency on April 15, 2008 at 12:29 am


Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

I toured the Moscow-based design studio Art. Lebedev yesterday and fell in love with these “Russian Doll” style tech measurements on display in their offices. Find more products and a bit more about them (they are really cool) at their site.

A Breath of Fresh Air

In Branding, Brands, Consumers, Design, innovation, marketing, strategy on April 15, 2008 at 12:26 am


Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

Going to the moon? In Russia you can now buy pre-packaged oxygen in phallic containers at your local design bookstore. While oxygen bars came and went in the US this new product bets that Russians are looking for oxygen and that it is best when it is portable.

Obama Controversy Proves There is No Local Marketing Anymore

In advertising, Branding, Brands, communications, Consumers, marketing, strategy on April 13, 2008 at 11:31 pm

jesus & walther

Originally uploaded by chaos & career

Much ado is being made by national media about local marketing as of late. First it was Absolut’s campaign in Mexico that depicted the country owning half of America ‘in an Absolut world.’ National media (okay, Fox News) decried it as an assault on our sovereignty and folks started calling for a boycott of the brand all the while missing the point that no one really wants to live in Fresno and we might just want to give it back.

Then came the Obama fracas about how bitter Americans turn to guns and religion and rant about foreign trade deals. And despite his likely correctness on the issue, it isn’t something that one would want to come out and say as Pennsylvania and Indiana gear up for their primaries. Unless of course you were in San Francisco giving a campaign fundraising speech that was closed to the media. Because in San Francisco people are likely to agree with you.

Both of these cases point to the new difficulties of local marketing and delivering messages based upon segmented consumer sentiment. In the local markets where both those messages ran, it signaled clear strategic intent to align with the feelings of the market. But when those messages become national, or global as they are tending to do, they wreak havoc. This is especially relevant for advertisers who use digital media and broadcast to the “world wide” web.

Answers are short on how to move forward. Alienating national audiences is a road to disaster and but marketers (conventional and political) can’t ignore the need to connect to local constituencies in relevant ways. For local brands, creating controversy can be a way to get noticed following a strategy of “who cares that people are talking about you as long as they are talking” since local brands tend to suffer most from lack of awareness. For substantial brands like Absolut and Obama, more care needs to be paid to how local messages will play out in the national media… since as of late there is no such thing as local anymore.

Get Out of the Room!

In advertising, Branding, communications, Consumers, marketing on April 13, 2008 at 2:24 am


Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

There is something nice, predictable, and safe about focus group rooms. The anonymity provided by double-sided mirrors, the predictability of recruits and the comfort of peanut M&M’s. But when the results are nice, predictable, and safe, is it time to try something else?

Now, I know I’ve defended focus groups in the past but it’s sort of like defending why you left the dishes unwashed. Unable to apologize for woeful negligence you double down your defense. And I’ll stick to the fact that focus groups are very useful for testing, for understanding if your message is getting through and for talking to large numbers of people quickly and reliably. But for inspiration and creation whether for products or positioning, nothing beats experience.

I’ve been on a global journey of sorts for a large but daring client who had an appetite for (and a budget that required) a new approach. For less money than traditional focus groups I’ve been diving headlong into the cultures and scenes of Shanghai and now Moscow. While it would have been a lot easier and less time consuming to sit people down in a Moscow focus group room to talk about nightlife, daylife and everything in between, there is nothing like bellying up to the bar, touching the stage at a live show, playing streetball with locals or conducting live interviews at a skatepark to learn about what is going on, how people feel and how to tap into those emotions.

So next time you really want to understand your audience, don’t just bring them into a room or do an in-home. Move with them and among them to understand not just where they are and what they’ve accumulated in their life, but where they are headed.

This picture was taken at around 2am in the Moscow club 16 Tons.