at the intersection of brands, media and culture

Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Knee deep in work

In communications, Consumers, culture on March 4, 2009 at 7:18 am

This has been the theme from the last few weeks. However, on my cold walk to work I made a comittment that I would make a focused reentry into the blogosphere. And while my phone is filled with snapped pictures begging to be released from their iPhone purgatory, for now I deny their crys.

A while back I wrote a post about manufacturing authenticity which I still believe in as a last resort. But I came across two interesting posts this morning that made me consider the general lack of culture through which things are emerging.  The first is an interview from the newly discovered A Continuous Lean in which Mr. G. Bruce Boyer discusses Ivy League style and how it emerged from a class culture and came to signify it. He makes the assertion that today’s fashion is a mash-up but that it is all about costuming rather than authentic references.

Second link comes from Daily What and is a very authentic list of what it takes to be cool. I’m moving my way up the cool scale as we speak and I’m currently seeking individuals who can speak “European” so that I may learn from their skills.

Maybe that wasn’t the best name after all…

In communications, culture on February 10, 2009 at 7:15 am

Weird weekend.

In culture on February 8, 2009 at 11:04 am

Originally uploaded by aknacer

In summary, NY is summery today, and yes, it is early February. I’m sure I will go back to shivering in my boots within mere hours but in the meanwhile the whole world has seemed to go topsy-turvy.

First of all there is the continued saga of Peanut Corp of America. This story reminds me of the Somali Pirates in that I just can’t take the whole thing very seriously. It seems like either A) a comic book where the baddies break into Peanut Corp. to do dastardly deeds, or, B) a company founded on an SAT question wherein Peanut Corp makes 8,000,000 jars of peanut butter and 1/3 of them are chunky so how many of them have salmonella? (BTW, is PBOA’s logo for real? If they didn’t already have problems…)

Secondly, I walked past a woman and her dog today. When the dog sneezed the woman said ‘God bless you.’ It felt like I got sucked into an Evangelical Buddhism whirlpool.

Speaking of whirlpools, Michael ‘Gold-Medal’ Phelps has earned his place in history as one of the most driven pot smokers alive, and then, strangely, the first companies to stop their sponsorship deals are Subway and Kellogg’s.

And lastly, this is the weekend of the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, FL where grown ups run around in Pirate costumes and ask strangers if they do ARRROBICS. Somali pirates, RPGs and common sense are unwelcome.

Brand rejuvenation, without even trying

In Branding, Brands, culture on December 12, 2008 at 3:02 am

Workers place the final “S” of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Waveland, Mississippi
Originally uploaded by cabraham

Brand consultants love to present analogues of the hip, cool companies that have transformed their category.  Target, Apple, BMW Mini, Prius, Dyson, Cirque du Soleil. It becomes sort of a circularly successful argument. Consultants want to work on cool brands, they convince their client that they could be a cool brand by pointing at other cool brands that they had worked on.

I remember having some conversations with Wal-Mart a few years ago. It was during the big Target surge and at least half of the room wanted to go into chase mode and start the style revolution from Bentonville. As the heads shook, there was some steep dissent from those who wanted to stick to the guns, noting that they were far more profitable than Target and that they owned a compelling proposition.

Today, it looks like Wal-Mart did the right thing. They stuck with their price centric positioning and only slightly moved toward a benefit orientation from “everyday low prices” to “save money, live better.” Yes, they also put in some wood paneled flooring and such, but as Wal-Mart has proven, if you own low-prices credibly you will always be in consideration. And increasingly in this economy, they are winning share of the wallet because price trumps cool.

No, they aren’t quite as hip and edgy as Target, but they continue to be far more profitable. Had they done what most marketing consultants would have recommended, they would likely be in a poorer situation today. It’s just a nice reminder that at the end of the day branding isn’t about making a brand hip and cool. It is about making it relevant and enduring. Right now Wal-Mart is looking pretty relevant.

Innovation that is just LoudEnough

In Brands, communications, Consumers, culture, marketing on December 8, 2008 at 6:03 am

Innnovation is typically focused on a few different paths. There are consumer needs, cultural trends, marketplace/technological opportunities, brand led innovation…and the often overlooked product difficency innovation.

There is an iPod development story that suggests that Steve Jobs is slightly hard of hearing. As a result, in his characteristic, idiosyncratic way, he demanded that the volume on the iPod be louder than on other MP3 players. Hence the ear blasting sound that you can now obtain.

Now most of us would probably just turn down the sound. But one company created this is a crafty little targeted product for hip, yet concerned mom and dads. LoudEnough are earphones for kids where you can set a maximum decible range for your little ones and keep their ears safe and sound. It’s a nice innovative product that solves a need (or creates one) while taking advantage of a product deficiency. The branding also nicely straddle the gap between communicating to mom/dad the purchaser, while still appealing to kids.

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.

Brands, Advertising and Culture

In advertising, Branding, Brands, communications, Consumers, culture, strategy on March 31, 2008 at 9:39 am

We talk a lot more about culture and context in branding these days. And while a few very special brands have created cultures in their own right (BMW MINI, Brand Jordan) it is getting harder and harder to do it because consumers don’t really need new brands. (although they still want new experiences)

Existing brands are starting to dig deeper into culture to find human truths and connect with an existing culture. For example, I started seeing this ad for Toyota around the time of the Super Bowl. Looks like fun right, Big Wheels down a crazy hill? The nice part about it though, is that it actually happens. The spot doesn’t rely on creating a made up scenario but rather about figuring out what is already going on in the world that appropriately reflects the brand culture and attitude.

Toyota commercial here:

Video from Little Big Wheels 2008 SF

My Better Is Better

In advertising, agency, Branding, Brands, communications, Consumers, culture, strategy on March 24, 2008 at 1:36 pm

Love this work for capturing the competitive spirit of Nike and making me want to be an athlete again. Besides, I can’t get that bloody song out of my head but funny enough I don’t mind.

AKQA, Please Stop “Referencing” Other Agencies Work…

In advertising, agency, Branding, Brands, communications, Consumers, culture, strategy on March 24, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Am I the only one who thinks these ads are awfully similar? It’s not like Wieden didn’t win a Gold Lion for the Honda work and AKQA didn’t notice. Moreover, at least W+K’s work for Honda had to do with the product, what does this spot for AKQA have to do with beyond some nice visual effects?

The original Honda Ad from W+K:

Pot Noodle from AKQA:

Additionally, Ad Age is becoming worse than its brethren Ad Weak when it comes to honoring creative. And yes, I say that both because they like this ad from AKQA as well as the pro-leprocy/violence Skittles work from Chiat.

How Much Better is This Than Reality TV?

In culture on March 12, 2008 at 5:25 pm

NBC, Bravo, Fox and other reality TV shillers could learn a thing or two from the entertainment value Brought to You By a few hundred prisoners in the Philippines. The guys in the orange jumpsuits who first earned international fame through their incredible ability to enact both choreographed dance moves to “Thriller” and heinous crimes against the community are back at it again. This time with Soulja Boy and MC Hammer. And no, you can’t touch that.

Hat tip to the ever interesting psfk.