Posts tagged “promotion”

Be a rock star, just like…Spider-Man?

spidey rock star

This designed-by-committee advertainment highlights three benefits, speed, agility, reliability – the third probably not top-of-mind when we think of the web-slinger. And as if this cross-promotion for the USPS Priority Mail and Spider-Man (well, Spider-Man 2) wasn’t ridiculous enough, these qualities will make you a rock star. Just like the US Postal Service. Or Spidey.


That’s it. “Rock star” is officially over. Meaningless. We’ve known this for a while, but this is too far and we must all agree to stop it immediately.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Butlers in high demand, ready for any household job [SF Chronicle] – Are we in a service economy or is this just an upper-crust exception?

The path to becoming a truly top-notch butler is certainly not for the faint of heart – or ego. Hours can be long, and physical labor, depending on the number of staff members, can be exhausting. What is critical is utter dedication to the skill of superior – and tactful – service. An extraordinary butler can look forward to a long career with the same family and a base salary as high as $100,000 or more. The more talented and cosmopolitan, the more desirable. “Most people are surprised to learn that butlers don’t wear tails very often,” Grise says. “I’ve known them to sport khaki shorts and white crew shirts, especially when traveling in settings where they need to blend in discreetly and not draw attention away from their principals.”

Brits Find Writing a Cheddar Anthem That Isn’t Cheesy Isn’t Easy [WSJ] – Perhaps if they settled for jingle or doggerel rather than going for the anthemic, it might be more easily accomplished.

Despite the global spread of Cheddar, Britain has done little to promote the cheese as a cultural icon. There are no well-known poems to Cheddar and, until now, no songs. In the Somerset village of Cheddar, where the cheese was invented 900 years ago, all but one Cheddar-maker has melted away. Other countries treat their curds with more reverence. A French village has erected a statue of Marie Harel, the supposed inventor of Camembert. Last year, a Dutch astronaut persuaded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to send up more than 20 pounds of Amsterdam cheese as he circled the planet in the international space station. The Cheddar song competition hopes to tap into a year of nationalistic pride, as Britain hosts the Olympics and celebrates the Queen’s jubilee. More than 100 entries poured in, from career musicians, church choirs, kids, grannies and a team of crooning puppets.

Don’t Indulge. Be Happy [NYT] – This sort of research continually reveals surprising and counter-intuitive aspects of what influences and is influenced by our emotions.

Imagine walking down the street to work and being approached by our student Lara Aknin, who hands you an envelope. You open the envelope and find $20 and a slip of paper, which tells you to spend the cash on something for yourself by the end of the day. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Now imagine instead that the slip of paper told you to spend the cash on someone else. Being generous is nice, sure, but would using the money to benefit someone else actually make you happier than buying yourself the belt, DVD or apps you’ve been dying to get? Yes, and it’s not even close. When we follow up with people who receive cash from us, those whom we told to spend on others report greater happiness than those told to spend on themselves. And in countries from Canada to India to South Africa, we find that people are happier when they spend money on others rather than on themselves. But what about individuals who are notorious for their struggles with sharing? Surely the emotional benefits of giving couldn’t possibly apply to very young children, who cling to their possessions as though their lives depended on it. To find out, we teamed up with the developmental psychologist Kiley Hamlin and gave toddlers the baby-equivalent of gold: goldfish crackers. Judging from their beaming faces, they were pretty happy about this windfall. But something made them even happier. They were happiest of all when giving some of their treats away to their new friend, a puppet named Monkey.

PLAY video memo pad – I saw this in a store in Barcelona and experienced a small science-fiction moment, when technology becomes cheap and disposable enough that it can be used in ad-hoc ways. It reminds me of when calculators shifted from being a $200 purchase to a freebie embedded on a keychain, etc.

If you only tend to bump into family or flatmates when you’re both queuing for the bathroom, it’s not easy remembering to pass on important information. After a while communications can break down, messages can be misplaced, misunderstandings can occur; and before you know it, you’re having fisticuffs on the landing over something as mundane as replacing the tin foil. Well not any more. Because the Play Video Memo Pad lets you record video messages up to three minutes long for your flatmates (or even your future self) to play back later. A magnetic plate on the back makes it ideal for sticking to the fridge or any metal surface, so it’s always to hand when you need it.

Fonts in Use – Once again, the power of the Internet to crowdsource significant databases of elements of the real world, tagged and categorized.

Fonts In Use is a public archive of typographic design indexed by typeface, format, and industry. We document and examine real-world typography with the goal of improving typographic literacy and appreciation. The new version, launched in July 2012, introduces the Collection, a much larger database open to contributions from visitors. Any kind of image is welcome in the Collection, as long as type is clearly visible.

Curious Cross Brandings of the Day

A trip to the hairdresser today exposed me to some curious brand extensions and promotions.

First up, the military:

What kind of mousse is best for high and tight? Is that a regulation headshave, maggot?

Comes with its own gunny sack? And dog tags!

Secondly, The Muppets. Via Muppettes mini nail lacquers. Why the Frenchification?

Wocka Wocka is now a color! These marketers aren’t even trying! What do you say, Statler and Waldorf? Boooooo!

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."

Cutting Thru Clutter at SXSW

As David Armano writes about SXSW “Hundreds of vendors, brands and companies vie for your attention.” This was certainly one of my big surprises from the recent SXSW event (my first time attending). From the huge attendee bag o’ crap with every kind of sticker, sample beverage, light-up pen, button, pamphlet, coupon, invite, brochure, and screen cleaner imaginable, to the half-dressed-skinny-girls inviting us to try a WiFi cafe, I was struck how by showing up in Austin I was essentially a captive audience to be marketed to. There was free food-and-drink (the Ice Cream Man on 6th street hands ice cream to passerby, with a Nokia napkin; the Sobe people were giving out psych-ward-meds-sized portions), free electricity (via Belkin and Chevy), and on and on.

Pepsi had large area with several zones, including tents for…I guess…video conferencing. I saw people hanging out at the bar drinking small portions of Pepsi, but not many making use of this service.

Bing had a fleet of Town Cars, as well as hostess-y types that would offer you a free ride.

This bus was promoting the new book from Tony Hsieh (of Zappos). I just saw it driving around, or worse, idling. I never saw anyone get on, or off. Was it an eco-nightmare billboard? Or some sort of service? I think it’s kind of creepy!

Sidewalk advertising, of course. Let’s hope they cleaned it up after, or that the city was prepared to fine them. I haven’t checked out this URL, but feel free to and let us know in the comments. Or, really, why bother?

There are three concurrent/adjacent festivals: Interactive, Film, and Music. Each of them serves up an insane range of options, well beyond what we normally encounter in our choice-flooded lives. The net effect (and my theme here) is that content creators are expected to shout louder (or more interestingly) to create awareness for their product. Here are ads for all sorts of things, including a cryptic phrase about a hurting vagina (which turned out to be from a movie).

Those posters don’t go up by themselves. It takes work.

As Austin reached beyond-critical-mass, 6th Street, the live music area, was closed to traffic. People were passing out more pamphlets and flyers promoting their events. And here’s where many of them ended up.

Just because.

Drawing attention to yourself to promote an event.

iPad guy was the triggering noticing event that led to this post. On my second-to-last night I saw this guy walk by, with a cardboard iPad around his neck (yes, kids, this was before the iPad was actually available). I yelled out “Hey, iPad guy!” and he stopped and let me take his picture. We introduced ourselves, and I asked him why he was wearing an iPad around his neck (see, that ethnography experience comes in handy!!!). His answer? So people will talk to him, like I did (turns out he works for a Search Engine Optimization firm, so…). While SXSW is a hyper-condensed environment, it represents some early-adopter aspects of typical daily life, and so I was struck to see the continuum between the promotion of Pepsi, Sobe, Bing, an indie film, an indie band, and an individual.

I’ve had my experience with guerrilla methods of promoting myself (from wearing a giant sombrero when campaigning for student government, with the slogan “the little guy in the big hat” to wearing a very loud SpiderMan tie when interviewing for jobs at a CHI conference long ago…only to be upstaged by the guy with a resume-dispensing-box with an embedded recording of him giving his elevator pitch) but the past seemed quainter, where the extreme needs (getting elected, getting a job) permitted extreme norms. But at SXSW it seems like everything is a promotion for something and I feel just a little bad seeing us take our lessons on how to connect with each other from big brands. Is this an exception or an emergent norm?

My favorite content from SXSW:

Check out more of my SXSW pictures here.

Slides and audio from Integrating User Insight, my presentation with Aviva Rosenstein, are here.

You may also like License to Shill, a FreshMeat column from 2004.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Topeka, KS changes its name (for a month) to Google, KS – I wrote about this sort of bombastic advertising in interactions ( 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!)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Social science meets computer science at Yahoo [SF Chronicle] – Yahoo Labs has bolstered its ranks of social scientists, adding highly credentialed cognitive psychologists, economists and ethnographers from top universities around the world. At approximately 25 people, it's still the smallest group within the research division, but one of the fastest growing.

    The recruitment effort reflects a growing realization at Yahoo that computer science alone can't answer all the questions of the modern Web business. As the novelty of the Internet gives way, Yahoo and other 21st century media businesses are discovering they must understand what motivates humans to click and stick on certain features, ads and applications – and dismiss others out of hand.

    Yahoo Labs is taking a scientific approach to these questions, leveraging its massive window onto user behavior to set up a series of controlled experiments (identifying information is always masked) and employing classic ethnography techniques like participant observation and interviews.

  • Domino’s "The Pizza Turnaround" [YouTube] – Domino's Pizza uses customer research to spawn product redevelopment, and then uses that process to promote their improved product. Note the negative quotes posted on the walls of their office.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • 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.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood says MP3s sound good enough – [In ReadingAheda we explored the "Gold Standard" of previous generations of technology]
    SASHA FRERE-JONES: Is the MP3 a satisfactory medium for your music?

    JONNY GREENWOOD: They sound fine to me. They can even put a helpful crunchiness onto some recordings. We listened to a lot of nineties hip-hop during our last album, all as MP3s, all via AirTunes. They sounded great, even with all that technology in the way. MP3s might not compare that well to a CD recording of, say, string quartets, but then, that’s not really their point.

    SFJ: Do you ever hear from your fans about audio fidelity?

    JG: We had a few complaints that the MP3s of our last record wasn’t encoded at a high enough rate. Some even suggested we should have used FLACs, but if you even know what one of those is, and have strong opinions on them, you’re already lost to the world of high fidelity and have probably spent far too much money on your speaker-stands.
    (via kottke)

  • Yoostar lets anyone act opposite Hepburn, Brando – It's a consumer-level greenscreen system, so you can record video of yourself composited into classic movie footage. While it's amazing that this is being productized at a consumer level, the reviews make it clear that it's riddled with difficulties and limitations.
  • Microsoft tries Tupperware-party-esque promotion for Windows 7 – If you can find 9 friends and provide a decent pitch, you could be chosen to host a Windows 7 House Party and win a free signature copy of Windows 7. There are four pre-defined categories for the party: PhotoPalooza, Media Mania, Setting up with Ease, and Family Friendly Fun.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Nike Experiment: How the Shoe Giant Unleashed the Power of Personal Metrics – Using a flood of new tools and technologies, each of us now has the ability to collect granular information about our lives—what we eat, how much we sleep, when our mood changes.
    Not only can we collect that data, we can analyze it, looking for patterns, information that might help us change both the quality and the length of our lives. We can live longer and better by applying, on a personal scale, the same quantitative mindset that powers Google and medical research. Call it Living by Numbers—the ability to gather and analyze data about yourself, setting up a feedback loop that we can use to upgrade our lives, from better health to better habits to better performance.
    Nike has discovered that there's a magic number for a Nike+ user: 5. If someone uploads only a couple of runs to the site, they might just be trying it out. But once they hit 5 runs, they're massively more likely to keep running and uploading data. At 5 runs, they've gotten hooked on what their data tells them.
  • To Sleep, Perchance to Analyze Data: David Pogue on the Zeo sleep monitoring system – Just watching the Zeo track your sleep cycles doesn’t do anything to help you sleep better. Plotting your statistics on the Web doesn’t help, either.

    But the funny thing is, you do wind up getting better sleep — because of what I call the Personal Trainer Phenomenon. People who hire a personal trainer at the gym wind up attending more workouts than people who are just members. Why? Because after spending that much money and effort, you take the whole thing much more seriously.

    In the same way, the Zeo winds up focusing you so much on sleep that you wind up making some of the lifestyle changes that you could have made on your own, but didn’t. (“Otherwise,” a little voice in your head keeps arguing, “you’ve thrown away $400.”)

    That’s the punch line: that in the end, the Zeo does make you a better sleeper. Not through sleep science — but through psychology.

  • Baechtold's Best photo series – While they are framed as travel guides, they are really more visual anthropology. A range of topics and places captured and presented in a compelling and simple fashion, illustrating similarities and differences between people, artifacts, and the like.
  • It's girls-only at Fresno State engineering camp – This is the first year for the girls-only engineering camp. Its goal is to increase the number of female engineering majors at Fresno State, which lags behind the national average in graduating female engineers. Nationwide, about 20% of engineering graduates are women. 20 years ago the national average was 25%. At Fresno State, only 13% of engineering graduates are women.

    Jenkins said he hopes the camp will convince girls "who might not have thought about it" that engineering is fun, and entice them to major in engineering.
    (via @KathySierra)

  • Selling Tampax With Male Menstruation – This campaign, by Tampax, is in the form of a story featuring blog entries and short videos. The story is about a 16-year-old boy named Zack who suddenly wakes up with “girl parts.” He goes on to narrate what it’s like including, of course, his experience of menstruation and what a big help Tampax tampons were.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Lu's: A Pharmacy for Women is North America's first women-only pharmacy – In Vancouver's tough Downtown Eastside where many pharmacies feel risky because they focus on dispensing methadone to heroin addicts. The welcoming atmosphere of the new full-service pharmacy was designed in conjunction with the University of British Columbia's school of architecture.
  • Alaska Airlines to fly San Jose-Austin 'nerd bird' – The route which connects the two tech hubs has been dropped by American, the original Nerd Bird carrier, and then picked up by Alaska, starting September 2.
  • Would you like ketchup with your cake? – To commemorate its Canadian centennial and thank Canadians for 100 years of support, Heinz has created The Great Canadian Heinz Ketchup Cake — an ideal dessert for any celebration. It's red, perfectly spiced and delicious. Think carrot cake without all the work. "We all think of ketchup as the perfect complement to hotdogs, hamburgers and fries, but its unique taste makes ketchup an ideal flavour enhancer for many recipes, including desserts," explains Amy Snider. The professional home economist and culinary nutritionist works with Heinz. "Heinz Ketchup not only adds great flavour to the cake, but it also creates a wonderfully moist texture."

    (Thanks, Mom)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Ruins of Fordlândia – Henry Ford's miniature America in the jungle attracted a slew of workers. Local laborers were offered a wage of thirty-seven cents a day to work on the fields of Fordlândia, which was about double the normal rate for that line of work. But Ford's effort to transplant America– what he called "the healthy lifestyle"– was not limited to American buildings, but also included mandatory "American" lifestyle and values. The plantation's cafeterias were self-serve, which was not the local custom, and they provided only American fare such as hamburgers. Workers had to live in American-style houses, and they were each assigned a number which they had to wear on a badge– the cost of which was deducted from their first paycheck. Brazilian laborers were also required to attend squeaky-clean American festivities on weekends, such as poetry readings, square-dancing, and English-language sing-alongs.
  • Fordlandia: The Failure Of Ford's Jungle Utopia – Henry Ford tries to build a Midwestern American company town in Amazonian Brazil – for the rubber, even though you can't grow plantation rubber in the Amazon. Absolute epic failure results: they were unprepared both industrially and culturally. "But the more it failed, the more Ford justified the project in idealistic terms. "It increasingly was justified as a work of civilization, or as a sociological experiment," Grandin says. One newspaper article even reported that Ford's intent wasn't just to cultivate rubber, but to cultivate workers and human beings."
  • Report Non-Humans – Marketing for upcoming sci-fi flick District 9. See my interactions column "Interacting with Advertising" for more discussion on the "tricks" of hiding advertising in the aesthetics of real informational signage. Is it okay here because we're in on the joke?

All This Machinery Marketing Modern Media

Tons of great stuff in this Tad Friend New Yorker article about the marketing of movies. The codification of the marketing process revealed in the article provides a bit of insight about how we discover and experience this particular class of product.

The business began to change in 1973, when “Billy Jack,” about a rebellious ex-Green Beret, was reissued by its writer and star, Tom Laughlin, after a Warner Bros. release fizzled. Laughlin’s company, Taylor-Laughlin Distribution, saturated the airwaves with television spots aimed at twelve different demographics-“carefully calculated overkill,” as one Taylor-Laughlin executive put it.


“Jaws” opened “wide” in 1975, on four hundred and nine screens, at the time a large number; big studio films now open everywhere on more than four thousand. And if you’re in that many theatres you need huge audiences as soon as a film opens-so you need a movie that sells itself.


Marketing considerations shape not only the kind of films studios make but who’s in them-gone are lavish adult dramas with no stars, like the 1982 “Gandhi.” Such considerations account for a big role being written for Shia LaBeouf in the most recent “Indiana Jones” (to attract youthful viewers as well as Harrison Ford’s aging fans). They also account for the virtual absence from the screen of children between the ages of newborn (when they appear briefly, to puke on the star for the trailer) and that of the Macauley Culkin character in “Home Alone.” Why have a four-year-old character, when one who is ten will prompt ten-year-olds to find him “relatable,” and four-to-nine-year-olds to look up to him?


An unexpected corollary of the modern marketing-and-distribution model is that films no longer have time to find their audience; that audience has to be identified and solicited well in advance. Marketers segment the audience in a variety of ways, but the most common form of partition is the four quadrants: men under twenty-five; older men; women under twenty-five; older women. A studio rarely makes a film that it doesn’t expect will succeed with at least two quadrants, and a film’s budget is usually directly related to the number of quadrants it is anticipated to reach. The most expensive tent-pole movies, such as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, are aimed at all four quadrants.

The collective wisdom is that young males like explosions, blood, cars flying through the air, pratfalls, poop jokes, “you’re so gay” banter, and sex-but not romance. Young women like friendship, pop music, fashion, sarcasm, sensitive boys who think with their hearts, and romance-but not sex (though they like to hear the naughty girl telling her friends about it). They go to horror films as much as young men, but they hate gore; you lure them by having the ingénue take her time walking down the dark hall.

Older women like feel-good films and Nicholas Sparks-style weepies: they are the core audience for stories of doomed love and triumphs of the human spirit. They enjoy seeing an older woman having her pick of men; they hate seeing a child in danger. Particularly once they reach thirty, these women are the most “review-sensitive”: a chorus of critical praise for a movie aimed at older women can increase the opening weekend’s gross by five million dollars. In other words, older women are discriminating, which is why so few films are made for them.

Older men like darker films, classic genres such as Westerns and war movies, men protecting their homes, and men behaving like idiots. Older men are easy to please, particularly if a film stars Clint Eastwood and is about guys just like them, but they’re hard to motivate.

and finally

If the poster shows a poster child, the movie is for kids. Posters are intended to tell you the film’s genre at a glance, then make you look more closely. Horror posters, for instance, have dark backgrounds; comedies have white backgrounds with the title and copy line in red. Because stars are supposed to open the film, and because they have contractual approval of how they appear on the poster, the final image is often a so-called “big head” or “floating head” of the star.

The bear that saluted me

I thought this advertising bear in Shinjuku was cool, and so stopped to take a picture. The bear saw me and posed with the typical Asian two-fingered V-gesture. After I took the photo, I did my best gaijin attempt at a bow. The bear returned the bow, and then saluted me.

Without a common language (indeed without a common species) we had an interesting opportunity to share our knowledge of each other’s culture in gestures. And although I rarely salute my friends and family, I understood its intent as a gesture-of-Western-origin.

Japan is quite impenetrable to the outsider, and it’s easy to subsist on a parallel layer, free from the possibility or opportunity for everyday interactions. In our two weeks that moat was crossed less than a dozen times (i.e., the couple in a cafe who smiled and waved at me when I peered in the window and inadvertently triggered the sliding door, letting in some very cold air; the couple who saw us eating Taiyaki (cooked sweet batter filled with bean paste in the sahpe of a fish) and explained what it was, what is was called, and compared camera models) and each time was rewarding in its own small way.

But making this connection with a bear, in the land of kawaii, was briefly and intensely magical.


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