at the intersection of brands, media and culture

Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

More Authentic Commentary

In Uncategorized on August 31, 2008 at 10:13 am

Vintage Motel Sign

Originally uploaded by photo316

Steve Portigal has some photos over on his blog from Celebration, FL, the Disney founded community that appears to try to bring back the closeted perfect veneer of the 1950s for the modern world.

Coudal also has a nice link to the Draplin Project which echos what many of us have found to be true when driving America’s lost highways. “What happened to great American roadside signage?” And appropriately making the point that new doesn’t always mean better.

explicative-laced video here:

Manufacturing Authenticity

In communications, marketing, strategy, Uncategorized on August 30, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Picture 8

Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

Writing authenticity into a strategy deck is sort of like putting on the applause light in a sitcom. Everyone nods in agreement and comments on your ability to speak the truth. I suppose if my goal in life was to simply be rehired again and again I would probably write it in more often. Then again, there is a distinction to be made between an authentic brand and a brand that simply markets authenticity.

When it comes to marketing authenticity brands typically pursue one of three strategies:

1) Since 19XX
Brands are good at making up arbitrary dates in time and being since then. Granted, you may have never heard of the company and they say they have been around since 1827… but just trust them. They’ve been a small cottage industry and have just decided to advertise in Vogue.  Check out 8-year-old Hollister for a great example of this ploy.

2) Associate with authentic people
Book Willie Nelson, Sofia and Francis Ford Coppola or Johnny Depp and watch your sales soar! When in doubt borrow credibility and you can pay it off later at 12% interest. Musicians are particularly good for this since they advance an image of not caring what anyone thinks. Louis Vuitton tried this recently with Keith Richards.

3) Tell a great backstory
This story need not actually be authentic but needs to seem authentic. Brand X was created by ex-Iditarod racers to combat the elements so it should be be good enough for your kid to wear going sledding right? Charles Shaw wine benefited from this early on as consumers and the press perpetuated a backstory for the brand that spoke of a scorned ex-wife who wanted to humiliate her winemaking former husband by putting his name on cheap wine. The truth behind Two Buck Chuck is slightly different, of course.

These examples notwithstanding, Showtime appears to have taken the backstory to the next level. Now, I’ll go ahead and make all apologies in advance to the Duchovny family should David actually have a sex addiction. On the other hand, I will shake the hand of the Showtime executive if he doesn’t. See, David stars in a pretty great little show over on Showtime called Californication about… wait for it… a man with a sex addiction. Oh yeah, and the new season premieres next week. If you’re going to remind people about a series that may have taken too long to come around again… why not do it by suggesting that the whole thing might actually be true?

ESPN Wants to Sleep with You on the First Date

In Uncategorized on August 22, 2008 at 2:34 pm

Picture 5

Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

Working a lot with web companies, one of my main complaints has always been the registration page. First, there is the question of when to ask for registration information. Companies want it any way they can get it. Users need to see a return, or a potential return, on the investment of their time and data… and trust you to use it for their benefit. Personalization? Awesome. Spamming me to death? Not awesome. It’s sort of like a first date. Let’s get to know each other slowly and eventually we’ll make a commitment to each other and we’ll be in it to win it.

So, it’s the time of year that I get girded up for fantasy football. After a brief false start with my old client Yahoo! we’ve moved the league over to ESPN where things are supposed to be a breeze. BUT, then I come to this page with eight different boxes pre-checked for me to receive information, solicitations, backrubs from ESPN, Disney and their partner companies. Oh, and I could give them my cell phone number… umm, no thanks.

I guess I’m glad that the one box they didn’t precheck was, “Yes, I’m interested in getting information on ESPN fundraising.” SERIOUSLY?? What is ESPN fundraising and why on earth would you put it in a registration?

ESPN, I think we are moving too fast. But it’s not you, it’s me. Ok…it’s you.

EA Making the Most of Viral Media

In Uncategorized on August 22, 2008 at 9:21 am

Brands often have active second lives on the Internet. Blogs and message groups go aflutter talking about minute details, questioning product performance and communication campaigns, all things that don’t often get the same level of in-depth discussion on city streets. Recently, I’ve seen a few of my clients actively go online (as themselves) and start to communicate with consumers and join in on the discussion– essentially taking down the industrial age wall between producer and consumer.  That said, this YouTube response from EA is probably the best I’ve seen.

Watch Tiger Woods walk on water:

Hot Brand: SIGG

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Picture 4

Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

I remember the 00’s when Nalgene was making a big push and it seemed like every Patagonia-wearing, Tumi-toting person was carrying around a clear plastic bottle of water, or vodka, depending on what side of the market crash they were on. Now that health practitioners have claimed plastic bottles unleash chemicals into our bodies and that bottled water has been deemed irresponsible–SIGG has become the hot new thing. A well-designed product with a connection to the arts and part of a 1% for the environment group, they’re making a splash here in the Bay Area and are doing so without throwing around a bunch of marketing dollars. They appear to be doing so well in fact, that they shut down the order fulfillment portion of their website as they are having difficulty keeping up with demand.

Microsoft Surface Starts Shipping

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2008 at 12:20 pm

It’s always nice when your work actually comes to market. As a non-parent I haven’t gone through the “Oh, it looks like a mini-me” thing yet so this is as close as it gets. Oh, it looks like a version of my strategy. Unboxing photos posted over at gizmodo.

Has Wheaties Changed Their Brand Focus?

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2008 at 10:01 am


Originally uploaded by richardzx

New York Post reports that Golden Boy Michael Phelps has opted to have his mug displayed on boxes of Frosted Flakes, thereby bypassing the offers from General Mills-owned Wheaties.

Wheaties certainly appears to be continuing to purport its brand as a health conscious breakfast cereal; however, for them to not push Michael Phelps to be their box top boy questions how much they are willing to pay to do so. Unfortunately, without the continual athlete endorsements that they have enjoyed I fear they will succumb to being just another strangely named breakfast cereal searching for an audience. (Grape Nuts anyone?)

Fashionable Politics

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2008 at 9:07 am

The Washington Post announced that Obama has taken on a Target-like strategy to bring some (more) panache to his campaign. Coordinating with designers to create custom Obama merch that will be available via the web for trend-setters across the land.

“Now it is enthusiastically and abundantly about style. The Barack Obama campaign, which has been actively courting the fashion industry, has coordinated some 20 or so designers who are creating official merchandise for the candidate’s Web site. It is the first time, as far as Seventh Avenue long-timers can recall, that a quorum of the fashion industry has organized its financial resources and creative energy around a single presidential candidate.

The mix, available online next month, ranges from T-shirts to tote bags and will lend a bit of runway panache to the Obama brand. The list of participating designers, which includes Derek Lam, Isaac Mizrahi, Tracy Reese, Charles Nolan and Diane von Furstenberg, covers the full spectrum of the market, from high-end to inexpensive. Other names have been bandied about but not confirmed: Beyoncé, Russell Simmons, Michael Bastian, Vera Wang.”

For Your Next Presentation

In Uncategorized on August 19, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Picture 3

Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

This has been floating around for a while but I hereby make a bet with you, the Interweb: if someone can send proof of actually using this in a presentation I will send you $1 (pls. include $1.50 for shipping and handling). You know you want to. I know I want to.

The Reason Segmentation Is Dead

In Uncategorized on August 19, 2008 at 11:01 am

As brand strategists, we’ve been looking at the slow death of traditional segmentation analysis for a while now and talking clients through other ways to group their audiences. This video shows you why the hassle:

Steve points us to another fun article from The New Yorker. My favorite quote: “In sharp contrast to last year’s similar polling question, conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles for Indiana State University, only seventy-five per cent of respondents this year thought “with certainty” that they were being interviewed.”