branding posts

ChittahChattah Quickies March 2nd, 2010
  • Topeka, KS changes its name (for a month) to Google, KS – I wrote about this sort of bombastic advertising in interactions (http://interactions.acm.org/content/?p=1231) referencing the dot-com era's Half, Oregon, and the classic Truth or Consequences, NM
  • Toy Traveling – Travel Agency for Teddy bears and cuddly toys – [Productizing the" trend" of taking pictures of your stuffed animals on your vacation] Is your darling exceptional? Give him extraordinary present – trip to Prague – the beautiful heart of Europe. Except amazing experiences, he will bring back home many great photos and other presents. Do you collect stuffed toys, dolls or other fun “non-living” friends and you believe they also deserve rest and vacation or an outstanding experience in an interesting country? If you do, pack up its suitcase, wish it a nice trip and send it to the Czech Republic where your friend can enjoy the historic beauty of Prague as well as other services that will leave both you and your friend satisfied. Let it go on cool trips, group events and wellness therapy in the heart of Europe – done with respect to your friend and loving care. We are tolerant and unbiased. We will be happy to welcome all kinds of your toys regardless nationality, race, religion, sexual preferences, age or handicaps.
  • A list of UX-related sessions at SXSW Interactive [Nick Finck] – There's a great deal happening at this event! Here's one attempt to filter (including our session on UX methods!)
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With a name like Murder, it’s got to be good… January 15th, 2010

Business strategist Nilofer Merchant presented her branded “MurderBoarding” process at the IxDA SF monthly meeting last night.

While brainstorming generates lots of ideas, you still have to discern the right choices to win. AND you have to get a group of people to believe that IT is the right solution.

The opposite of whiteboarding, the MurderBoarding™ decision process ensures teams creatively generate many potential options before “killing off” options one-by-one until there is single best solution for a specific organization and situation.

Merchant is certainly right that companies often have as much difficulty dealing with the aftermath of idea generation – What do we do now? – as the divergent exploration itself. There’s no question that for many organizations, moving forward from idea generation in a grounded way is a challenge, and it’s great that Merchant has structured a process for establishing decision-making criteria and prioritizing ideas for development. We’ve had to create this type of process too, and have increasingly been working with our clients from research through ideation to evaluating and prioritizing ideation results through the lens of what we’ve helped them learn about their customers.

Merchant’s book, The New How, just came out a month ago, and it’s quite possible that her presentation was intended to serve as a teaser for the book, rather than a standalone piece, but at the conclusion of the talk I felt like I was still waiting for it to start – for me, there was a bit of the “no there, there” feeling to it.

When a process comes along with a provocative new name like MurderBoarding, it can be both affirming and disappointing to find out it’s more or less in line with what you’ve already been doing.

It’s a bit like looking at the ingredients list on your sports drink and realizing that “Electrolytes” are just salt.

If you’d like to know more about our approach to generating ideas (if not murdering them), check out Steve’s BayCHI presentation, Well We Did All This Research…now what?, or catch it live at the Interaction10 conference next month in Savannah.

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ChittahChattah Quickies January 12th, 2010
  • The Beaver gets a new name [CBC News] – An iconic Canadian history magazine is changing its name to avoid a variety of misunderstandings. The current issue of the 90-year-old Winnipeg bi-monthly, The Beaver: Canada's History Magazine, is the final one to have that name on the cover. In April, the magazine will be known as Canada's History.

    "Use of the word 'beaver' on the internet has taken on an identity that nobody could have perceived in 1920," said Deborah Morrison, president of Canada's National Historical Society. "And increasingly, if we put 'The Beaver' in a heading, we would be spam-filtered out."

    The society also conducted market research last year with readers, and the conclusion was that the current name was just not working as an appropriate title, she said.

    "Canadians were twice as likely not to subscribe because of the title of the magazine, even if they showed an interest in Canadian history," Morrison said, adding there were also a lot of people who thought the magazine was a nature publication.

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Portigal Consulting year in review, 2009 December 22nd, 2009

It’s been a busy year and as we head into the home stretch, looking forward to 2010 (supposedly the year we make contact), we wanted to take a look back at the past 12 months and call out some of the highlights.

Previously: Our 2008 review

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ChittahChattah Quickies November 1st, 2009
  • National Geographic: The fragrance – In the new National Geographic range there are two natural scents available: Japan Tatami and Nevada Desert Flower. These are two gorgeous and authentic scents inspired by tradition and natural wonders.

    Japan Tatami is a fresh and soothing scent inspired by the Igusa grass, traditionally used by the Japanese to make Tatami mats. This authentic fragrance has a fresh scent with dry herbs and chamomile touches.

    Nevada Desert Flower is a delicate floral fragrance inspired by the natural wonders of the Nevada desert, where the Nevada desert flower only has a chance to bloom when winter rains are heavy. Its scent combines the sweet notes of apricot and green herbal notes enhanced with fresh spices.

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The unholy child of anthropology and marketing? Or a great idea…or both? October 30th, 2009

Michael Cannell posted yesterday at Fast Company on design firm Blu-Dot’s fascinating new campaign, in which they are going to give away chairs by leaving them on the streets of New York, and then use GPS embedded in the chairs to track them down. According to Michael Hart of Mono, the ad firm that developed the idea with Blu-Dot:

If all goes according to plan, the video crew will use the GPS to find the chairs a few months from now. They’ll knock on doors and interview the owners–homeless people, Apartment Therapy readers, whoever they turn out to be–about why they took the chairs and how they use them. “Where does great design end up in New York? What sort of a person invites these chairs into their homes?”

Wow – there are so many layers to this. The brilliant experimental marketing layer, the Big Brother-ish invasion of privacy layer, the genius “guaranteed-to-get-talked-and-written-about” PR layer, the “no-marketing-message-included” layer reminiscent of “no-brand” brand Muji, the Chris Anderson “free” layer, and finally, the anthropological, archeological, design research find-out-where-the-chairs-go layer, which in and of itself would be a great conceptual art project or social experiment.

This project–what do you even call it? Is it a project, a campaign, an experiment?–really takes the openness and creative potential of contemporary marketing and runs with it.

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ChittahChattah Quickies October 4th, 2009
  • Things I Would Rather Read On Paper – I recently built up a hefty backlog of unread articles, and the prospect of reading them all on a laptop or iPhone screen seemed like more of a chore than a pleasure. I should really get around to actually reading some of these things that I'm saving to Read Later. Something had obviously gone wrong. I had personally curated a series of articles, blog posts and essays that I was genuinely interested in, but somehow the resulting collection felt like a to-do list, yet another inbox on my computer waiting to be un-bolded. What I really wanted was a nicer user interface to these articles. So I copy-and-pasted the text of my unread articles from Instapaper into a PDF, uploaded it to Lulu.com, and ordered a single book.
  • As innovative products are introduced, category boundaries are continually shifting and new categories emerging – Lexar Media, a digital photography start-up founded in 1996, sold memory cards. They used a variety of signals to persuade early adopters, especially professional photographers, to classify the memory cards that store pictures as similar to the silver halide film used in analog cameras.

    Lexar Media’s product was put in gold packaging similar to Kodak’s film cartridges, given a speed rating to create an analogy to ISO ratings, labeled as “digital film” on the package and in advertising, and placed in the camera section of retail stores.

    Sony promoted a competing categorization, labeling its cards “Memory Stick” and advocating their use for many of the company’s consumer electronics devices, including digital music players, handhelds and digital camcorders. Other companies also adopted this broader memory classification, so Lexar Media’s success in establishing memory cards as analogous to film was short-lived, and the company stopped promoting the cards as digital film.

  • Will Piracy Become a Problem for E-Books? – Until now, few readers have preferred e-books to printed or audible versions, so the public availability of free-for-the-taking copies did not much matter. But e-books won’t stay on the periphery of book publishing much longer. E-book hardware is on the verge of going mainstream. More dedicated e-readers are coming, with ever larger screens. So, too, are computer tablets that can serve as giant e-readers, and hardware that will not be very hard at all: a thin display flexible enough to roll up into a tube.

    With the new devices in hand, will book buyers avert their eyes from the free copies only a few clicks away that have been uploaded without the copyright holder’s permission? Mindful of what happened to the music industry at a similar transitional juncture, book publishers are about to discover whether their industry is different enough to be spared a similarly dismal fate.

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You drive us wild, we’ll drive you crazy September 15th, 2009

As a followup to yesterday’s KISS post a reader emailed me to suggest some makeup brands that KISS shouldn’t endorse. Of course, the band did do their own makeup product, back in 1978.

It’s not until you look back to their heyday that you really realize how far the brand has collapsed. While it’s still a goofy commercialization of a rock band, the KISS Your Face Makeup Kit enables us to imitate the band’s look, while the ad also shows kids miming to KISS songs with tennis rackets. The ad and the product tell a story that is authentic to how people were experiencing the brand. Skip to 2009 and you have to ask just what relevance (or resonance) does KISS as M&Ms have?

sp78
Steve Portigal (center) and friends miming to KISS songs with badminton rackets, Burlington, ON, 1978 (without the use of KISS Your Face Makeup Kit)

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You show us everything you got September 14th, 2009

kiss

When you’ve already really, really, really sold out a long, long, long time ago (see previous posts about KISS Kondoms and Kasket and KISS Coffeehouse for just a few examples), where do you go next? Perhaps KISS is such a wholly inauthentic brand (note brand not band - this has long ceased to be about the music) that they are therefore actually authentic in their own Seussian-logic-justified way. They were always cartoons, now they are candy-coated cartoons.

Thought exercise: Is there a product or brand that KISS shouldn’t endorse/brand/co-brand? Or wouldn’t?

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ChittahChattah Quickies August 3rd, 2009
  • A thoughtful consideration (that could have so easily gone curmudgeonly) on the changes in how (and how much) we consume art – Cameras replaced sketching by the last century; convenience trumped engagement, the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look. It became possible to imagine that because a reproduction of an image was safely squirreled away in a camera or cell phone, or because it was eternally available on the Web, dawdling before an original was a waste of time, especially with so much ground to cover.
  • Michael Pollan on the cultural shifts revealed by themes in food-related TV entertainment – The historical drift of cooking programs — from a genuine interest in producing food yourself to the spectacle of merely consuming it — surely owes a lot to the decline of cooking in our culture, but it also has something to do with the gravitational field that eventually overtakes anything in television’s orbit…Buying, not making, is what cooking shows are mostly now about — that and, increasingly, cooking shows themselves: the whole self-perpetuating spectacle of competition, success and celebrity that, with “The Next Food Network Star,” appears to have entered its baroque phase. The Food Network has figured out that we care much less about what’s cooking than who’s cooking.
  • Nine Reasons RadioShack Shouldn’t Change Its Name – Best one is " RadioShack has problems beyond any issues with its name." Also they did already change name from Radio Shack to RadioShack.
  • Radio Shack: Our friends call us The Shack – Do they really now? More proof that you can't simply declare yourself cool. Promo or overall rebranding, it reeks of inauthenticity.
  • Understand My Needs – a multicultural perspective – A Japanese usability professional compares the norms of service that retailers provide in Japan with those elsewhere (say, his experience living in Canada), and then contrasts that to the common usability problems found in Japanese websites. Culture is a powerful lens to see what causes these differences, and how usability people can help improve the experience.
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Garbage and Municipal Branding July 23rd, 2009

fashioncenter
The Fashion Center garbage bags, Fashion District, New York City, 2004

leuvengarbage
Stadhuis garbage bags, Leuven, Belgium, 2009

While there is likely a practical driver to these branded garbage bags (controlling the distribution of the special bags ensures that only authorized parties can make use of garbage pickup services), it’s surprising to see them labeled with symbols of pride. Sure, every surface is a branding opportunity and every communication is a change to stay on message, but is this a good thing or a bad thing here? And does it differ between residents and visitors?

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ChittahChattah Quickies July 19th, 2009
  • Chicago's Sears Tower is now Willis Tower – Willis Tower was to be introduced to Chicago by Mayor Richard M. Daley and others on Thursday during a public renaming ceremony hosted by Willis Group Holdings. The London-based insurance brokerage secured the naming rights as part an agreement to lease 140,000 square feet of space on multiple floors of the building, and has said it plans to bring hundreds of jobs to the city. The 110-story skyscraper has been known as Sears Tower since it opened in 1973. Its original tenant, Sears Roebuck and Co., moved out in 1992 but its sign stayed. The company's naming rights had expired in 2003, but it continued to be called the Sears Tower. A real estate investment group, American Landmark Properties of Skokie, now owns the 1,450-foot-tall building.
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ChittahChattah Quickies July 9th, 2009
  • Core77 launches a product: a limited edition "curated" bike with a $1500 price tag – Core77 has been insanely brilliant at facilitating design discourse and ultimately design itself for a very long time. They've experimented before in launching their own product, I think, (I seem to recall a shoe) but this is a big leap, with this fancy-shmancy bike. To those that know what makes for a great bike, it may be a truly wonderful object, but it seems to manifest the worst part of design: elite hipsters making artificially cool stuff for other designers who revel in the semiotics of exclusivity, rather than what I believe Core77 can better champion: the design field of talented passionate people solving tough problems in unique, beautiful and successful ways. I challenge Core77 to take this (hopefully successful) experience in Launching Products (no doubt an insanely difficult thing) and apply it next to Launching Products That Make A Difference To Everyone (or at least Helping Others To…). The MoMA design world doesn't need Core77, but the real design world so badly does.
  • R.I.P., Oscar Mayer – The 95-year old retired company chairman dies. He was actually the third Oscar Mayer to run the company, co-founded in the 1890s by his grandfather, Oscar Mayer. "They began using the Oscar Mayer brand name in the 1920s, stamping it on the country's first packaged, sliced bacon, which the Mayer brothers introduced in 1924 — an innovation that earned them a U.S. government patent."
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ChittahChattah Quickies June 19th, 2009
  • 'Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed' inventor dies at 92 – The inventor of the "Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed," which brought weary travelers 15 minutes of "tingling relaxation and ease" for a quarter in hotel rooms across America during its heyday as a pop culture icon in the 1960s and '70s, has died.
  • Vending machines for Gold? – While it's just a plan at this point, it seems that the idea is more about disruption and promotion than simply "vending."
  • Let’s Embrace Open-Mindedness – My article published at Johnny Holland, considering the challenges in living up to the standard we set for ourselves. And there's a story about cheese, too!
  • Why some cultural products and styles die out faster than others – To investigate how cultural tastes change over time, Berger and Le Mens analyzed thousands of baby names from the past 100 years in France and the US. (Because there is less of an influence of technology or advertising on name choice, baby names provide a way to study how adoption depends on primarily internal factors.) The researchers found a consistent symmetry in the rise and fall of individual names; in other words, the longer it took for a name to become popular, the longer it took for the name to fade out of popularity, and thus the more staying power it had compared to names that quickly rose and fell. The effect was robust, occurring in both countries and across various time windows.

    According to the results, the quicker a cultural item rockets to popularity, the quicker it dies. This pattern occurs because people believe that items that are adopted quickly will become fads, leading them to avoid these items, thus causing these items to die out.

    (via Lone Gunman)

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The Hand-made’s Tale June 1st, 2009

Real real…

hand-tied-cup

At Verve Coffee Roasters, my favorite cafe in Santa Cruz, each cup of coffee comes with a cup insulator hand-tied from a napkin by the person serving it. It’s a nice little touch that makes that cup of coffee seem special and folksy.



and fake real…

att-flyer

AT&T, keepin’ it unreal with a fake photocopied-annotated-and-passed-around-the-office flyer–a piece of marketing collateral that they mailed to my house. (It’s crumpled because I threw it out, then decided to write about it and rescued it from the trash.)

What are companies thinking when they send us stuff like this? Fake real, with its pretensions to authenticity, is even worse than fake.

Related posts:
Quickies: Fake Authenticity
Don’t Brand Me, Bro
This Space Available
Meet the new authenticity

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