Posts tagged “brand”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Homeless World Cup – [An interesting reframe of sporting championships and an interesting reframe of 'charity'] The Homeless World Cup is an annual, international football tournament, uniting teams of people who are homeless and excluded to take a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent their country and change their lives forever. It has triggered and supports grass roots football projects in over 70 nations working with over 30,000 homeless and excluded people throughout the year. The impact is consistently significant year on year with 73% of players changing their lives for the better by coming off drugs and alcohol, moving into jobs, education, homes, training, reuniting with families and even going on to become players and coaches for pro or semi-pro football teams.
  • [from steve_portigal] In Scholastic Study, Children Like Digital Reading [] – “I didn’t realize how quickly kids had embraced this technology,” Ms. Alexander said, referring to computers and e-readers or other portable devices that can download books. “Clearly they see them as tools for reading — not just gaming, not just texting. They see them as an opportunity to read.”… “The very same device that is used for socializing and texting and staying in touch with their friends can also be turned for another purpose,” Mr. Chen said. “That’s the hope.” But many parents surveyed also expressed deep concerns about the distractions of video games, cellphones and television in their children’s lives. They also wondered if the modern multi-tasking adolescent had the patience to become engrossed in a long novel. “My daughter can’t stop texting long enough to concentrate on a book,” said one parent surveyed, the mother of a 15-year-old in Texas.
  • [from steve_portigal] Get a Geek in Five Easy Lessons [AMD at Home] – [AMD tries for humor on their corporate blog but ends up with an awkward, dated, false, sexist and generally alienating tone. Was this wise?] It’s hard to find a good man, but not impossible if you’re willing to make a little effort. Working in high tech, I’m mostly around guys all day. And I can tell you that – in general – technical guys are pretty cool. If nothing else, they will always be able to fix the TV, your PC, and the sprinkler system in a pinch. Yes, they have way too many gadgets, but come on, how many shoes do you have? How about just the black ones? So, if you’re single and find yourself at a TweetUp chatting with the cute geek in a backpack, here’s how to speak his language, appreciate his hobbies, and potentially snag a date at Fry’s. (Leslie Sobon is corporate vice president, product marketing at AMD. Her postings are her own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions.)

Cupcake EULA

Warning Sign, Haute Pink Cakes, San Diego, CA, July 2010

The text of the sign:

*If cupcakes are dropped by customers it is our policy to refrost them, and place them in a new box for $1/box. That’s the cost of the box – this could take probably 15 minutes depending on how busy we are)
We do not offer new cupcakes. If you wish to purchase new cupcakes you may receive 10% off the total, but only for that visit, same order.
*Offers cannot be combined. One coupon or offer per customer per day. Military discount not to be combined with Buy One-Get One Free coupons. Coupons will not be taken for day olds.
*We do not take American Express. Also, no credit cards will be accepted for amounts under $7.00.

One has to wonder about the frequency and severity of the exceptions that led this small bakery to break from their pink/fluffy/hip/indulgent vibe with this pre-emptively admonishing lists of warnings and do-nots. The owners have failed to internalize the brand experience they are trying to create with their flagship product.

Putting the brand into the details

We had a fun strategy session yesterday with a local small business owner, uncovering their unrealized business goals and exploring how they can grow. One area that we kept coming back to (and one that honestly I think we could always do a better job at in our own practice) was to consider all the ways that people interact with your brand and to approach each of those creatively, considering how that interaction could be differentiated, improved, and made more relevant to your brand. Here’s a couple of examples.

In Amsterdam, Albert Heijn is the leading grocery chain. As tourists, we needed a cheap SIM card to drop into our unlocked mobile phone. The different options were commodities, all priced identically. But this packaging swayed us. It’s a grocery store’s branded mobile phone service and it is packaged like something you’d find at a grocery store! How charming! Sadly, the printed instructions and the voice prompts were all in Dutch. Worse, even our Dutch-speaking friends weren’t able to get us up and running; we had an account with a zero balance. So while the packaging was persuasive at purchase time, the idea of getting mobile service from a grocery chain now seems rather stupid and I’m only reminded of how we wasted 15.00€.

The bathroom signage at the Belgian Comic Strip Center in Brussels use the same vernacular that the organization celebrates. This is a very simple detail, inexpensively realized, that added a small moment of delight to a necessary errand.

See more pictures from Amsterdam here and from Belgium here.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Laptops Look like Race Cars — And Not in a Good Way [] – [Pogue on the ridiculous sticker-on-laptops package] As A.M.D. points out, it’s like buying a new, luxury car­ and discovering that it comes with non-removable bumper stickers that promote the motor oil, the floor mat maker, the windshield-fluid company and the pine tree air freshener you have no intention of ever using….A.M.D.’s research shows that consumers hate the stickers (duh). But they’re not going away, for one simple reason: There’s big money involved. I(Apple famously refuses to put Intel stickers on its computers, even though there’s Intel inside. In doing so, it leaves millions of dollars a year on the table.)…In 2011, A.M.D. will switch to new stickers that peel off easily, leaving no residue; after that, it’s considering eliminating the sticker program altogether. In the meanwhile, it’s going to make affixing its stickers optional. If a computer company chooses not to use the A.M.D. stickers, A.M.D. will still pay it the same marketing dollars to use in other ways.
  • [from steve_portigal] DROID DOES – [Of course this advertising copy is at least partly tongue-in-cheek but I really have to wonder why – even as a joke – this is the sort of thing that we supposedly want out of our devices. The radio ad goes even further, giving voice to the implicit message here by promising to turn you into a machine. Verizon's raison d'etre is to sell phones, I know, but ulp, people, ulp. As we grapple with where we're at with this digi-firehose, Droid is putting a mecha-stake in the ground for us] Turns your eyes into captivated apertures of ecstasy. Its web-busting speed turns your arms into blistering, churning pistons. It’s power, intelligence and intuition. It’s not a better phone. It’s a better you….Its power, ability, brains and skill turn you into a web-rocketing, message-crafting super-you…with web-browsing speed that shoots you from zero to sixty in nanoseconds. It has an intuitive QWERTY keyboard that turns your thumbs into twin, text turbines and steaming diesel email engines.
  • [from steve_portigal] Robert Krulwich on Wondering [Frank Chimero] – Noticing is tough, yet rewarding work, and it begs to be documented. We’ve more tools than ever to do so…Maybe if the noticing started to arrange into larger patterns or there got to be a lot of documentation, I could maybe even print up a book of all the things I had noticed. And wouldn’t that be a nice thing to have on the bookshelf? My Year of Noticing and Wondering — 2010. As a person constantly in a position to produce words or designs or ideas, or whatever it may be, it feels good to give myself permission to kick back and inquisitively absorb things as they come. Part of noticing isn’t seeking, it’s highly reliant on serendipity and unexpected relevancy.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] At The Movies, A String Of Futures Passed [All Things Considered – NPR] – No matter how accurate they may be, all fictional futures — especially alarmist ones — lose urgency as the concerns that fueled them fade. The Cold War paranoia of 1984 and 2001 now feel distant, even if the tech-boom fears in Blade Runner may be a bit more current. This decade, we're uptight about the environment and our increasing decrepitude, so we get Wall-E. In the flower-power era, we were skeptical about social conformity, so we got A Clockwork Orange.
  • [from steve_portigal] Fusion: The Synergy of Images and Words [Steve McCurry’s Blog[ – [Photjournalist assembles series of images of people reading, across the planet]
  • [from steve_portigal] Coca Cola Village Like Facebook [The Inspiration Room] – [The ability to "post things" to Facebook or similar from far away (online or offline) is provocative but perhaps limiting, when the feedback loop – I post and I see what I post appear- is broken as badly as here] Coca Cola Village in Israel is a summer holiday resort designed for teenagers finishing their school years. For its third year experiential marketing agency Promarket provided residents with RFID bracelets (Radio Frequency Identification) to help them share their experiences on Facebook. Teens were able to put a digital ‘like’ on their choice of forty facilities in the camp, from the pool, the spa, to the extreme activities and sport section. If photographed by one of the official photographers, the RFID technology would automatically tag everyone in the photo and upload it to the relevant Facebook profiles…Real world Liking resulted in up to 35,000 posts per cycle…On average each visitor was posting 54 pieces of Coke branded content to their Facebook profile.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Does Language Influence Culture? [] – [Stanford psychology prof Lera Boroditsky examines how it does, and why it does] Just because people talk differently doesn't necessarily mean they think differently. In the past decade, cognitive scientists have begun to measure not just how people talk, but also how they think, asking whether our understanding of even such fundamental domains of experience as space, time and causality could be constructed by language…All this new research shows us that the languages we speak not only reflect or express our thoughts, but also shape the very thoughts we wish to express. The structures that exist in our languages profoundly shape how we construct reality, and help make us as smart and sophisticated as we are…As we uncover how languages and their speakers differ from one another, we discover that human natures too can differ dramatically, depending on the languages we speak. [Thanks @ebuie]
  • [from steve_portigal] Facebook Is to the Power Company as … [] – [The gap between being a customer and being a happy customer. Will Facebook be like Microsoft in a few decades, *still* whining about not being beloved – let alone actively disliked?] It was a typically vexing week for Facebook. On the one hand, the social-networking service signed up its 500 millionth active user. On the other hand, it was found to be one of the least popular private-sector companies in the United States by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Apparently, Americans were more satisfied filing their taxes online than they were posting updates on their Facebook page. It is a continuing contradiction: Facebook is widely criticized for shifting its terms of service and for disclosing private information — and yet millions of people start accounts each month.
  • [from steve_portigal] Digital Domain – Even With All Its Profits, Microsoft Has a Popularity Problem [] – [We want your money and your love!] Microsoft’s enterprise software business alone is approaching the size of Oracle. But despite that astounding growth, Microsoft must accept that, fair or not, victories on the enterprise side draw about as much attention as being the No. 1 wholesale seller of plumbing supplies. Microsoft won’t receive the adoring attention that its chief rival draws with products like the iPad. In a conversation earlier this month, Mr. Shaw explained what prompted him to write his post. “I noticed some pretty critical conversations going on in the technosphere among the technorati,” he said. “There’s a gap between that conversation ­ ‘the company is not doing well, period’ ­ and what the company is actually doing.” In the blog, he writes, “With Windows 7, Office 2010, Bing, Xbox 360, Kinect, Windows Phone 7, in our cloud platform, and many other products, services and happy customers, 2010 is shaping up as a huge year for us.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Report: EPA kills Chevy Volt’s 230 mpg rating [Autoblog Green] – [Thorny problem about how to give an actual rating of a car's performance when that rating is based on gasoline consumption and the car in question doesn't (really) use gasoline! The whole frame of reference for assessing the comparative economical/ecological performance of a breakthrough product is based on a slightly obsoleting technology. Craziness ensues!]
  • [from steve_portigal] How the Old Spice Videos Are Being Made [ReadWriteWeb] – A team of creatives, tech geeks, marketers and writers gathered in an undisclosed location in Portland, Oregon yesterday and produced 87 short comedic YouTube videos about Old Spice. In real time. Those videos and 74 more made so far today have now been viewed more than 4 million times and counting. The team worked for 11 hours yesterday to make 87 short videos, that's just over 7 minutes per video, not accounting for any breaks taken. Then they woke up this morning and they are still making more videos right now. Here's how it's going down. Old Spice, marketing agency Wieden + Kennedy and actor Isaiah Mustafa are collaborating on the project. The group seeded various social networks with an invitation to ask questions of Mustafa's character. Then all the responses were tracked and users who contributed interesting questions and/or were high-profile people on social networks are being responded to directly and by name in short, funny YouTube videos.
  • [from steve_portigal] Who’s Mailing What – [A very specific form of "competitive intelligence"] Every month the Who's Mailing What! Archive receives and analyzes approximately 4,000 to 5,000 pieces of direct mail in nearly 200 categories — consumer, business, fundraising, catalogs, and much more — forwarded to us from a network of correspondents around the country. Why? Because the best way to create successful direct mail is to study other company's mail to see which campaign and techniques show up again and again. If you're tracking a particular area of direct mail — you can go right to that category, see what we've received and discover: Who's mailing what, the offers, the control, the complexity of the mailing, whether there was 4-color work, sophisticated computer work, a poly envelope, a self-mailing format.

An interview with Eric Ludlum of Core77

In 2009, Industrial Design supersite Core77 took the extraordinary step of launching its own product: the Dutch Master bicycle, made in New York City. While they had experimented with the Fila Blu Fom sneaker in 2006, this effort was marked by a more deliberate consideration for product design over mere cross-branding. I talked with Core77 partner Eric Ludlum about the Dutch Master effort and what it revealed. A condensed version of our conversation was published recently in Ambidextrous Magazine (view the PDF here) while the complete interview (which explores some other issues around craft production and craft consumption) is below.

Eric Ludlum: The Dutch Master project is a natural extension for Core and also myself. Having gone through the industrial design program at Pratt Institute, and then founding Core77, covering industrial design, with Stu Constantine and myself always being on the outside of the industry in terms of actually participating, but then covering it, watching it from the inside. The Dutch Master, and previous to the Dutch Master, the Blu Fom shoe have been our attempts at doing some product development and design.

In particular, the Dutch Master being more of a story than a product. Our background is as a magazine and place where design stories get told. So if there’s any kind of expertise we have it’s recognizing good stories and promoting them. With the Dutch Master, we actually got to write the story and promote it.

Steve Portigal: Was there an aspect of that with the story of the Blu Fom shoe?

EL: The Blu Fom was just a name, and actually, the concept behind it came from the model-making material designers used to use – mostly. There’s not too much use of it now, but the insulation foam that would be used to make the mock ups, either ergonomic models or actual look models of products. Definitely from my experience in school back in the mid-’90s, it was a staple of the process. With Core77, it was an insider take on industrial design. It was our insider wink-wink product. Very quintessential ID project. I think it was 2005 that we came out with it, and it had 300 pairs made by Fila. We worked with Phil Russo while he was there. Again, it really central to the story of it and the presentation on the web, pushing that out to other blogs, other web based media.

SP: So when you had this opportunity to write the story for Dutch Master, what is that story?

EL: With the Dutch Master, we wanted to take the starting point with New York City manufacturing. The interest level was there for a bicycle in Core77 because we’re all very interested in bicycling. A few of us actually commute by bike, so it was a natural product choice for us. But once we started getting down to the actual decision about what it was going to be and what the story was going to be, we were looking at New York City and the disappearance of manufacturing, and how really stunning it is to find something still made there.

That was the Worksman frame, and made in New York City for over 100 years. It formed the basis of the project. From there, it was like how do we create a product around it and extend the idea of New York City manufacturing and local production, as well as trying to be saleable. Hit some market price points that would make the project economically viable for us.

SP: That makes me think about who is the target customer. Did you have a sense of that?

EL: I guess there would be two. To some degree, we knew that the bike itself wouldn’t a real profit center for us. There’s the market of the consumer of ideas that’s out there on the Internet. In that case, it’s like a branding exercise for us. To be like, “Here is something we feel represents our nature as a company. Here is a way to communicate it to people.” There’s one market there, which is the much broader market. People consume that product by just seeing it.

Then the actual market for the bike itself: Through the process of developing the bike, the market started to move higher and higher based on this being a craft process where there’s a lot of skilled labor involved with actually producing it. It naturally tends to push the market price point higher. That informs the aesthetics of the products as well. Once you start moving into that higher rent neighborhood, it means that certain things are going to have to look a certain way. So inclusion of other accents on the bike, or an overall aesthetic that matches the rough luck look that you’d see out there in trendy restaurants or hotels.

SP: I had this reaction when I saw the bike, and I saw what it was selling for. I was surprised. I’m not a connoisseur of bikes. I haven’t shopped for a bike. I haven’t bought a new bike in a very, very long time, if ever. It wasn’t an informed perspective, but in general, I think of a bicycle as a commodity product. When I saw that it was more of an exclusive product, with some of what you’re describing it and at that price point, I was really surprised.

It makes me wonder in general about commodities going exclusive. Someone was telling me about heirloom chickens. I believe as a consumer that there’s more quality in those things. I wonder if you have any thoughts about this general movement towards many things being created at a level of – I’ve got to be careful with the word – I’ll call it exclusivity.

EL: Yeah, I think maybe in the case of the chicken as well, but definitely in the bike, the marketplace dictates where the opportunities lie for small run manufacturing or small run production. So the people who are very expert consumers of chickens or bikes, they are a tiny fraction of the overall market. They’re the ones who are willing to pay a premium, so now whatever your product is, it’s going to be a fairly low volume item, meaning that if you were going to have it as a sustainable business, the prices are going to have to have a fairly high margin, so you can keep going.

In the case of the bike, we’re doing them build-to-order, and putting them out there for sale on an ongoing basis. We want orders to trickle in a bit, so that production of the bicycle isn’t a chore that we hate because we’re squeaking just a little bit of profit out of it instead of other things we should be doing that would be making money. For it to be a viable product, it has to have some kind of ongoing benefit to the producer.

I don’t know about the gap between craft production and mass-market, how people would be able to bridge that, some kind of manufactured bespoke or semi-exclusive product. It seems like if the market really does kind of push you to one side or the other.

SP: You’re bringing the the producers frame in. I’m glad to get the benefit of your perspective on it because I think of it as a consumer in categories that I’m involved in as a consumer, like chickens or bikes or ice cream. You made an interesting point early on where you said that looking at what the manufacturing process was going to do to the cost, that then informs the design, the details, the trim, the materials, and so on. It has to be chosen in a way that supported the price point. Is that right?

EL: Yeah, definitely.

SP: So if you’re going to choose to do it in a small manufacturing way, it needs to be done in a way that is beneficial to the producer, and then the sort of details of the design have to send a specific message to the consumer. So you create a coherent story. I hate to bring up chickens again, but kind of a chicken and egg between the whole set of decisions. I guess it comes from choosing to be small manufacturing.

EL: Yeah. As an example, perhaps sports cars or other performance related products. Maybe like high-end electronics. The aesthetic becomes one of communicating that added performance, as an exclusivity or surplus of its abilities. I think that’s something that mass manufacturing picks up on and imitates in the mid-market, like in vehicles, for instance.

SP: There’s a look to an organic farmers’ market. You go into your grocery store, you can find some of those visual cues being replicated.

EL: Right now, it is a trend and will have a life cycle within the marketplace. It starts out as a fringe kind of happening, and then it will move, be adopted, and make its way through. I don’t know if we’re seeing that too much with actual consumer products, but we definitely see it with things like the chocolates or the craft brewing, like micro brews with the larger breweries. Budweiser or Michelob, even though they don’t replicate the taste of craft beers, they’re replicating the packaging and coloration.

SP: I read an article in the New Yorker about the craft brewing movement. They pointed out that micro brewing and craft brewing are actually very different. The scale of micro brewing is enormous relative to scale of craft brewing. You had mass breweries, and you had this micro‚Äëbrewery emerge that entered the public consciousness. That lasted for a while, and now you’ve got this even smaller business able to compete in some way for shelf space and for mind share. That wasn’t possible before.

EL: In that example, micro brews came out at a time when Internet wasn’t around. I feel that the Internet is what has helped drive a lot of the craft – the reemergence of interest in craft across the board. Just from DIY stuff that you see on the web to organizing small social groups or craft fairs or whatever. It seems like it really is the marketing or the communications, essentially. It’s the thing that has changed, where as even in the ’80s when you wanted to make alternative beer, if you wanted to continue to do it and make money off of it, you’d have to scale to a certain size to make it viable. Perhaps now, maybe the ethos of it has come around.

If you can just get by and consider “craft” as a profession and make enough money to support yourself with it, it’s a worthwhile thing to do with your time. Maybe it has gone hand in hand with the actual development of the communication channels that would allow you to sell your product or distribute it to a smaller set of stores or venues has gone hand in hand with emergence of that as a respectable or viable or attractive lifestyle.

SP: One of the threads I wanted to explore with this in the fact that we’re in a recession right now. Lots and lots of ink is being spilled about people giving up on this, not buying new stocks. They’re buying more Spam, or whatever it is we think people are doing.

At the same time, we’re learning about heirloom chickens and Core77 is putting out a higher priced bicycle, for example. Do you see any relationship between those two kinds of forces or events?

EL: With us and the Dutch Master, we knew that it wasn’t going to be a blockbuster for us. It wasn’t going to make a bunch of money. We’re doing it for the sake of doing it, being driven by the impulse to create. The economic climate, that contributed to that. If you’ve got a lack of options to really be productive economically, it is counter intuitive, but there’s a little less pressure for us to measure projects economically. Maybe it’s slightly defeatist, but I guess when it comes back to the value system, if the economic value system is being downplayed for companies or individuals within a certain economic time, you look for other value systems that can justify what you’re doing. In the case of the Dutch Master, the first audience that I mentioned that would consume the idea, if part of the idea was that a web magazine could produce a bike, why not. In a way, it’s an empowering idea. Creating things isn’t solely the domain of big companies or companies that have a focus on producing things. It’s just the idea that we’re pushing forward to that first audience – these things are possible. If you can put together a story behind it, you can probably do it on an individual level.

In our case, it’s throwing support behind the value system of craft, which is basically producing. There is value in making things by hand or just for the sake of producing. A form of expression via product. In our case the economic times have lead us to measure this project in those terms. A large part of it is not economic, it’s more ideas that it represents. I think in the case of crafts on the web, or with industrial design or furniture design, and people who are students or fresh out of school people who end up making projects that aren’t necessarily going to be produced ever, but will go out onto the blogosphere and get a fair amount of publicity, they’re being paid in “ego bucks.” Their idea is receiving some kind of play, not necessarily a direct relationship to some benefit to them in the future, either job offers or having their objects picked up. It’s rewarding itself because they do have this new venue that wasn’t there ten years ago. The web allows their ideas to receive some kind of feedback. It allows them to gather some momentum and enthusiasm from the audience. There’s certainly a part in Dutch Master of getting positive feedback. That’s just encouraging that there’s some kind of payment and producing something that people like. It’s untethered from economic – or the marketplace.

SP: A lot of the projects highlighted on Core77 are things that might fall under the label of bottom of the pyramid, really amazing design solutions where somebody takes materials that are worth nothing and solves some incredible problem through a real clever use of design. You guys have highlighted many of those stories. I don’t know what the price of the Nano car in India is, but it’s some manufacturing and design revolution that will create change in that society by producing this affordable vehicle. It makes me wonder about could Core77 create a story around a bicycle or something else. A $49.00 bicycle that has a story, showcases a different set of design values that you guys also champion.

EL: Certainly. In that case, there’d be a different starting point for us. The starting point we took with the Dutch Master, which was the local manufacturing in New York. Our price point was predestined to creep higher and higher. Resetting it to the starting point of a rural Indian manufacturer and their capability, whether it’s metal forming or some other natural resource that is readily available that could be packaged into something, that would definitely lead into an entirely different product.

The story is that the first audience for that would be the same. Ultimately, with the Dutch Master, the story we were trying to tell to our audience, which we always focus on more of the insider aspect of our total audience. So the people who are actually involved in the design that we really want to speak to. I think the Dutch Master might have been one of trying to show that we have some affinity for the values of craft versus the values of mass-market manufacturing, whereas in the case of that project, more of a humanitarian aspect, it would be communicating to the audience that it’s a worthwhile application of design. I think both of those ideas are generally accepted already. It doesn’t need too much pushing from us, either of them. I guess if we do have any thought leadership role within the industry, it would probably be more on that side, the humanitarian side. So perhaps for the next project.

SP: I’m so interested in this idea of a story as a starting point. It’s not what I expected. I think about my own consumer perspective, say being in a grocery store and seeing 28 different kinds of eggs that are 99 cents or $1.29. Next to that on the shelf are eggs that are $7.00. They’re markedly different. When I look at A versus B, the producer of B has some explanation for me about why this thing is better. So my assumption is always that these are the best eggs possible. They’re healthier. They taste better. The chickens aren’t abused. They’re heirloom chickens. The thing you get for paying four or five X of the commodity solution is better. You’re going to experience that. That’s not the point you’re coming from. It’s been really clear that you’re not really thinking about it in terms of those things. You’re starting with a story and a vision for what you want to put out there.

EL: Yeah, I think that it’s the result of who we are as an organization. We’re a magazine. Stories are our strength. For some other organization it would actually be the manufacturing knowledge or the design skills of that. I think it’s the nature of the organization. We try to be self aware our own abilities, what we could actually pull off. Actually make something interesting out of it. Those people who are focused on the ten-cent price difference with their eggs, their organizational capabilities are distribution, efficiencies, or whatever else. Obviously, we’re in a position to just launch things, but they’re not essential to our core business. They have to have some revenue generating aspect to them, but the storytelling aspect, since we’re in the business of generating editorial, if they do have a strong story to them, it could come out of the editorial budget if we’re looking at it that way. The product development is the development of a story, which would then be told in the magazine.

I think I suffer and we suffer at Core77 from the solipsistic tendencies of designers in general. We want to make stuff because we want to make stuff. Your initial response to the bike with the price point and the use of our social capital in support of a cause being misdirected as you point out in your example of with India. We sometimes don’t tend to measure things along that kind of good of the whole, where as maybe we’re just focused on what is going to make our day-to-day more interesting, and what is going to maintain our interest level in something. Given that Core77 is a collection of people, Allan being a definite advocate of the green humanitarian side of things, but perhaps not being involved in the manufacture of something, like with the Dutch Master, this came from a different place. than the editorial face of the organization. It’s just a different thing. If it seems a little perhaps trite in its origin, I think that possibly it is.

Note: Since this interview was conducted, Core77 has alluded to plans to open a retail space in Portland, OR. I can’t wait to see how the ideas Eric was talking about do or don’t manifest in the new store.

Homer Simpson’s Duff Beer: Barley, Hops and Cultural Stories?

My first column for Core77, Homer Simpson’s Duff Beer: Barley, Hops and Cultural Stories? is up. Here’s an excerpt (but click through to see the whole piece):

We were in Rome a few weeks ago – essentially the bonus portion of my trip to Munich to speak about culture at the UPA conference. Turns out it’s cheaper to buy separate return tickets San Francisco-to-Rome and Rome-to-Munich, giving us an extra opportunity to explore. Upon arrival into Rome, we took the train into the city, with jet-lagged eyes upon early morning haze, grabbing clues from the random bits we could see out the window. As we passed through a train station, I spotted a young woman on the platform wearing a sweatshirt that read "Duff Beer" with the typeface and logo that is probably familiar to anyone who’s watched The Simpsons. I was intrigued at the notion that the Simpsons was popular enough in Italy that the young-and-hip would be not only be wearing clothing from the show but something more obscure than, say, Bart exclaiming "Non hanno una vacca, l’uomo!"

While the Duff website (in German) makes liberal use of the (dare I say it) comic Simpsons font, the copy emphasizes just regular beer stuff and offers no content that connects back to the actual Simpsons television show. This may be the most quiet, understated bit of post-modern marketing, evar. Even if the product doesn’t mention Homer or Springfield, we the consumer have Homer in our minds. We bring that experience to it. Sure, that information is not technically present in the product, so in theory one might come upon the product with no knowledge (that was the premise of The Gods Must Be Crazy). But Homer is everywhere in the culture (probably even in the Kalahari) – you probably can not feasibly experience this Duff Bier without that context.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Swedish Artist Michael Johansson’s Shipping Container Art [Inhabitat] – [What makes this 3D collage so appealing: is it the scale? The playfulness? The clever conversation between shapes?] Shipping containers are often repurposed as houses, apartments and studios, but Swedish artist Michael Johansson sees them as building blocks for his sculptures.
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Saad Mohseni Is Afghanistan’s First Media Mogul [NPR] – [Afghan Star producer Saad Mohseni is seeding culture change in Afghanistan by broadcasting shows depicting alternate social mores] Through reality TV, dramas, and soap operas, Afghans are able to see things they hadn't been able to watch for years. Women talking to men, for instance.
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Tesla Raises Shocking Amount in NASDAQ Debut [Fast Company] – [Tesla takes it public. I have only anecdotal evidence as to the performance of their vehicles – the last time I was on the road next to a Tesla Roadster, it effortlessly smoked my turbo Miata – but Tesla seems like they're doing things right] For all its ambitions to revolutionize the electric car industry, Tesla Motors has only posted a profit once, back in July 2009. It has released just one car (the Roadster), and sells 10 vehicles per week. And yet Tesla's first day of public trading on the stock market has been an indisputable success.
  • [from steve_portigal] Nicolas Hayek, 82, Dies – Introduced Swatch – Obituary (Obit) – – By the 1970s, the vaunted Swiss watch industry was in jeopardy. Japanese watchmakers had begun to undercut Swiss prices. And public tastes were shifting from the finely wrought analog timepieces in which Swiss artisans had long specialized to the pale flickering faces of mass-market digital watches. In the early 1980s, with no apparent remedy in sight, a group of Swiss banks asked Mr. Hayek to compile a report on how the watchmaking industry might best be liquidated. Instead, he merged two of its former titans, Asuag and SSIH, which between them owned brands like Omega, Longines and Tissot. Mr. Hayek bought a majority stake in the reorganized group, known as SMH. In 1983, SMH introduced the Swatch. Lightweight, with vibrantly colored bands and breezy novelty faces, it was remarkably inexpensive to produce. (with 51 parts, as opposed to the nearly 100 needed to make a traditional wristwatch.) It retailed for less than $35 when it was first marketed in the United States later that year.

Harley-Davidson Invites Cognitive Dissonance

Harley-Davidson is probably close on the heels of Apple as one of the brands most cited as an admirably authentic brand, with people who aren’t merely customers purchasing product, but rather fans evangelizing and incorporating/reflecting the brand into every aspect of their being…

…and employees/executives who walk the walk and talk the talk.

True cred all around. But Harley-Davidson is a bit of a schizophrenic brand. It’s impressive that the brand is able to credibly support two sets of core customers who seem like they would be at best uncomfortable with each other: hard-core lifestyle biker dudes and chicks (anti-establishment, subculture) and weekend-warrior gentlemen or gentlewomen hobbyists (well-to-do, mainstream).

Across from the Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee sits a new high-end boutique hotel to draw motorcycle enthusiasts. The Iron Horse clearly caters to the income bracket of the weekend-warrior…

…but holds bike events there that celebrate and attract hard-core bikers. These pictures, courtesy of Stefanie Norvaisas, were taken at a recent “Bike Night” at the Iron Horse.

Then again, perhaps I’m being unfair. Maybe there’s more overlap between these two types of “users” than just looking at the extreme points of the scale would suggest. So often we think we have the customer figured out only to have those assumptions shaken up after a bit of fieldwork. It’s easier to pigeonhole and design for one imagined (probably exaggerated) type of customer, or persona. Harley-Davidson has shown that by celebrating the blurry lines between customer types a brand can invite strange but surprisingly comfortable bedfellows.

See Also:

  • Steve discusses Harley in Interactions magazine. Ships in the Night (Part I): Design without Research

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Ring Pops Inspire Mariah Carey Fragrances [] – [Perhaps this is the future: multi-layered endorsement/licensing/line-extensions/cross-promotions] Mariah Carey’s Lollipop Bling, three fragrances that Elizabeth Arden based on candy flavors and that will appear in stores soon, is the product of a partnership with the Topps Company, which makes Ring Pops. “Topps sells tens of millions of units of candy,” said E. Scott Beattie, chief executive at Elizabeth Arden, which also has fragrance licensing deals with celebrities including Britney Spears, Danielle Steel and Elizabeth Taylor. “Combining their customer base with Mariah Carey’s fan base and our fragrance base is a great way to cross-promote all the brands.” While the scents “take a candy element as a thread to be woven in a fragrance,” they do so in a way that “elevates candy into a prestige environment,” she said. (Thanks, Gavin!)
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Bowman vs Google? Why Data and Design Need Each Other [OK/Cancel] – [Tom Chi's thoughtful post on how engineering and design need to work together] "Design is really a kind of multi-variate optimization of extreme complexity…I’ve often said that 'Art is about freedom while Design is about constraints.'”
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] INTERVIEW: Sougwen [Design Noted from Michael Surtees] – [Nice reframing of drawing from a method of artifact production to a way of creating experiences] "I’m pushing a process with my work that counters the preciousness that some designers find fascinating. My performances are expressions of drawing as an activity, not about making a pristine or perfect image."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] David Brooks Defends the Humanities [] – "Let me stand up for the history, English and art classes, even in the face of today’s economic realities. Studying the humanities improves your ability to read and write. No matter what you do in life, you will have a huge advantage if you can read a paragraph and discern its meaning (a rarer talent than you might suppose). You will have enormous power if you are the person in the office who can write a clear and concise memo. Studying the humanities will give you a familiarity with the language of emotion." [Brooks veers into strange territory with his idea of the Big Shaggy, but makes a compelling argument for how powerful an education in the sometimes seemingly-pointless Humanities can be in the world of business (a message well-received by the girl with a degree in Art History).]
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Does the Internet Make You Smarter? – – "The case for digitally-driven stupidity assumes we'll fail to integrate digital freedoms into society as well as we integrated literacy. This assumption in turn rests on three beliefs: that the recent past was a glorious and irreplaceable high-water mark of intellectual attainment; that the present is only characterized by the silly stuff and not by the noble experiments; and that this generation of young people will fail to invent cultural norms that do for the Internet's abundance what the intellectuals of the 17th century did for print culture." [Clay Shirky's article is peppered with great insights about the intersection of information-sharing platforms and culture.]
  • [from steve_portigal] Banana museum splits for new digs [] – The 17,000 items, everything from a "rare" petrified banana to a banana-shaped boogie board, was lovingly collected over 38 years by Ken "The Bananist" Bannister. The Bananist, who sells real estate for a living, kept it at his International Banana Museum in the Mojave Desert town of Hesperia. Plans are for the museum, listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest collection dedicated to a single fruit, to reopen in January in this dusty town on the edge of the Salton Sea. Garbutt, who unlike Bannister was never much into bananas, is busy learning everything he can about the potassium-rich fruit that can be served in a variety of ways, including fresh-peeled, deep-fried or frozen and dipped in chocolate. He plans to open the museum next door to Skip's Liquors, which his family has owned since 1958. He says he hopes it will boost business there.
  • [from steve_portigal] G.M. Backtracks on Chevy Memo [] – [The nickname, when authentic (we're looking at you "The Shack") is a powerful way of people to take ownership of a brand meaning. GM inadvertently unleashed some real passion around this issue] Responding to negative reactions to an internal memorandum discouraging use of the word Chevy, General Motors moved on Thursday to explain its strategy and to reassure consumers that it still valued the popular nickname for Chevrolet. The memorandum asked employees to “communicate our brand as Chevrolet.” For decades, Chevrolet and Chevy have appeared interchangeably in advertisements, and the Chevrolet Web site uses both terms. But after a strong public reaction to a report in The New York Times on the note, G.M. issued a statement on Thursday that said the memorandum had been “poorly worded.” The statement said that the memorandum reflected Chevrolet’s strategy as it expanded internationally, but that the company was not “discouraging customers or fans from using” Chevy.
  • [from steve_portigal] Angry clowns decry armed robbery by impostors [] – [An interesting and surprising example of protecting brand identity] About 100 professional clowns who make money by performing on public buses marched through Salvadoran capital Thursday to protest the killing of a passenger by two imposter clowns. On Monday, a man was shot five times in the face and stomach when he declined to give money to two assailants dressed as clowns who boarded a public bus. No one has been arrested. The protesters — wearing oversized bow ties, tiny hats and big yellow pants — marched down San Salvador's main street in an effort to both entertain and educate passersby. Several held signs insisting that real clowns are not criminals. "We are protesting so that people know we are not killers," said professional clown Ana Noelia Ramirez. "The people who did this are not clowns. They unfortunately used our costume and our makeup to commit a monstrous act." (via BoingBoing)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Virtual Seminar: Deep Dive Interviewing Secrets by Steve Portigal [IxDA Munich] – “Deep Dive Interviewing Secrets: Making Sure You Don’t Leave Key Information Behind”, Steve Portigal’s virtual seminar will be shown in our next meeting. The seminar lasts 90 minutes and it will be followed by a discussion. June 30th 7 p.m., IDEO, Hochbrückenstraße 6, 80331 Munich
  • IndieReader – For Self-Published Books and the Readers Who Love Them – IndieReader is a venue for you to find and purchase books published and produced by the people who wrote them. Think of these books like handmade goods, produced in small numbers, instead of the mass-marketed stuff you'd find at a super store. And every book on the IndieReader site is reviewed prior to acceptance, guaranteeing that you'll find the "cream-of-the-indie crop". Why is this so important? Because today more than ever, almost everything we produce gets co-opted by corporate culture, turned into a business model, reformulated and churned out like soap with the simple intent to appeal to as many people as possible. In a world where almost everything is packaged by committee, IndieReader offers you books with a single voice: the writer's own.
  • The Expanding Definition of Craft Beer [] – In a world where Nabisco sells “artisan” Wheat Thins, the designation of Samuel Adams as a craft beer seems perfectly fair. But the Boston Beer Company, the brewery that was founded in 1984 and makes Sam Adams, is on the verge of outgrowing its coveted craft status — at least according to the Brewers Association, a national trade group that defines craft brewers in part as producing fewer than two million barrels a year. The federal government defines small brewers similarly, imposing a lower excise tax on those that stay under the two-million-barrel threshold. Mr. Koch predicted that Boston Beer would surpass the two-million mark by 2012. But help may be on the way: John Kerry introduced a bill last month that would increase the yearly production limit for small brewers to six million barrels.
  • Icing, a meme drinking game with Smirnoff Ice [] – The premise of the game is simple: hand a friend a sugary Smirnoff Ice malt beverage and he has to drink it on one knee, all at once — unless he is carrying a bottle himself, in which case the attacker must drink both bottles. Amid suspicion that the trend is an elaborate viral marketing campaign by Smirnoff, which the company has denied, new icing photos are posted daily on various blogs, Twitter and Facebook — including scenes from graduations and weddings — and sent directly to a Web site, The game has exposed the mercurial line between guerrilla advertising and genuine social media trends, raising questions about how young consumers can know when they have co-opted a brand for their own purposes, and when that brand has co-opted them.
  • Rethink the Book project from Berlin University of the Art – In cooperation with the schoolbook publisher Cornelsen Verlag a student group of the „New Media Studio Class” experimented with the digital possibilities to think anew the book as media. They linked the book by visual codes with methods of "Augmented Reality". They embeded sensor technology for new forms of interaction and used new methods of production engineering like "laser cutting" to model the book as an object or to publish personalized schoolbooks. In the exhibition they show several prototypes like electronic origami paper or an interactive periodic table.
    (via @cora_l)

Step Across the Border

I didn’t mind when Facebook invaded my privacy (just kidding, Mark Z), but now they’ve got my turkey sandwich!

7-Eleven has rebranded much of their packaged ready-to-eat food with the FarmVille game logo. (To be accurate, FarmVille is actually a product of Zynga, a game company, and not Facebook. But I’ve only ever come in contact with the game via Facebook, so that’s the association I make.)

The experience of seeing the FarmVille branding in meatspace (no pun intended) rather than on a screen was an odd one, as though something had jumped a border in my life and was inhabiting new territory.

In slightly tangential news, here’s another odd cross-promotion I saw recently:

Free bananas with your purchase of Nilla Wafers. No idea what this one’s about, unless it stems back to 2007 – the year in which Nabisco sponsored a banana pudding pie-eating contest at theme parks around the country….


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