Posts tagged “USA”

Out and About: Julie in LA

Despite my relative proximity to it, LA is not a city I’ve had much occasion to visit. But I was there last week, with Tamara! Here are a few snaps I took in-between fieldwork interviews and client pow-wows. Most of these are from Venice Beach, with the exception of the last shot, which was taken in Burbank.

Napping Aliens
Clad in familiar brands (LA Lakers, Spongebob Squarepants, USA), this pile of patriotic aliens comes across as just another family of worn-out tourists.

The face, three ways.

Stickers in your face
Upper left is a riff on Shepard Fairey’s original Andre The Giant Has A Posse sticker. This one reads “Chopstick Charlie has one crazy posse,” then lists Chopstick Charlie’s dimensions at 5′ 11″ 150 lbs. (Note: If you are easily offended definitely do not look too closely at the nose and lips stickers).

Shapes and figures
I discovered a moment of serenity and geometry in the midst of the madness.

Something surreal
Magritte and the Surrealists are clear influences here.

Retail guillotine
It’s all about the body.

Environmentally friendly
The neon juxtaposed with this message of environmental consciousness comes off as deliberate irony! See Tamara’s Out and About: LA for her shot of this unique dry-cleaning establishment.

Harnessing the marketing power of the Obama brand

This NYT article about the prevalence of President Obama’s image as an artistic subject reminded me of two pictures I took recently in Amsterdam:

Obama Burger, Amsterdam, May 2009

Yes Weed Can, Amsterdam, May 2009

The first poster mashes up J. Howard Miller’s iconic Rosie the Riveter (We Can Do It!) image with Obama (Yes We Can!), in order to sell a burger. The second puns on that Obama slogan in order to sell a t-shirt referencing a supposedly common tourist activity in Amsterdam.

More collisions between brands of leaders and brands of products and services, previously

Imelda Marcos – brand name for new fashion line
Hitler’s Final Days
Dictator Kitsch
Limits to Dictator Kitsch?

Croatia probes Hitler likeness, jokes on sugar packets
Backlash against Citroen Mao ad
Target pulls marketing campaign featuring Che Guevara

More pictures from our travels in Amsterdam are here.

National Post

According to a study of national personalities

which found that this time-honoured perception of our oh-so-unique Canadian psyche — and other cultures’ stereotypes of themselves — are in fact just so much hooey.

‘These stereotypes are as Canadians see themselves and Americans as they see themselves,’ said Robert McCrae of the U.S. National Institute on Aging, a principal investigator of the study on national personalities around the world.

‘Canadians think they’re extremely agreeable; the Americans think they’re very disagreeable,’ he said. ‘Canadians believe that they’re very calm and not irritable, very even-tempered, whereas Americans think they’re more anxious and hostile.

‘The fact is Canadians and Americans have almost identical average personality traits.’

In a measure of five main areas of personality, covering a total of 30 traits, Canadians and their U.S. cousins fell roughly in the middle. Not only that, but they weren’t all that different from other cultures around the globe, researchers found.

The study, published in the latest issue of Science, collected data through personality questionnaires given to thousands of people living in 49 countries.


This AM outside the hotel, in front of the WTC site on Church St., is some kind of motorcylist rally. There are a lot of Harley-looking bikes (I’m just looking out the window, I can’t tell) and a guy in a monk-outfit standing on top of a trailer announcing stuff. Finally, the manly chant of “USA! USA! USA!” has come wafting through the windows. I have no idea who these people are (and they may disperse before I make it out to find out), but it seems always interesting here.

Update: the waiter in the restaurant says that these are all people who contributed in some way to a commemoration of September 11, and are there in support/acknowledgement of that.

FreshMeat #20: Pun Americana

FreshMeat #20 from Steve Portigal

               (oo) Fresh
                \\/  Meat

Anecdotal evidence indicates FreshMeat causes happiness!
Cute ideas about putting a friendly face on a brand
Recently, I gave a presentation about conducting user
research in other countries (in this case, Japan). I
explained the phenomenon of “kawaii” (cute) – a prevalent
design aesthetic that cuts across age and gender. Most
people will recognize “Hello Kitty” as an example of
Japanese cuteness, but in North America that’s simply a
toy-like brand for young girls. In Japan, many businesses
will use a cute image as the “face” on their organization,
in order to present themselves as friendly, inviting, and
of course, non-threatening.

But kawaii is everywhere in Japan. The police use a kawaii
character as their mascot. Stores sell dustpans, tazers,
and dish brushes that are anthropomorphized with eyes and
a mouth.

Some quick examples here and here.

Anyone designing products, brands, services, etc. for the
Japanese market needs to at least be aware of kawaii,
and so I emphasized this to my audience.

One person spoke up and reminded us of the characters that
western companies created to personify their brands,
especially in the 50s and 60s. (For a great collection
of these mascots, check out the book
Meet Mr. Product: The Art of the Advertising Character

It was a provocative comment, because in my fervor to
describe the ubiquity of kawaii imagery in Japan I had
forgotten about something similar in our own culture. Kawaii
is a powerful style of communication (and perhaps mode of
thought) in Japan, and it manifests itself in many ways,
one of which is cute characters to personify a brand, and
of course, the Japanese are not unique in putting faces on
brands. Point taken.

Later, I began thinking of other ways that we create
inviting brands in our culture, beyond the usual
tools of designing logos, retail experiences,
environments, web sites, etc. I realized that in the
shopping mall we’ve got a new, unique form of
Americana/Canadiana/etc…the pun-brand.

Just for groans, check out these names of mall stores:

My Favorite Muffin
Once In A Blue Moose
Northern Boarder
The Athlete’s Foot
Foot Locker
Romancing the Stone
The Stitching Post
Between the Sheets
Humphrey Yogart
Close Encounters
The Hotdogger
Banana Republic
Asian Chao
Bare Escentuals
Bead It!
Bubble Gun
Corda-Roys Originals
Sox Appeal
We’re Going Nuts
Deck The Walls
Pops Corn
The Nutty Bavarian
Soul To Sole
Whole Addiction
Time Zone
Finish Line
Site for Sore Eyes

Okay, take a deep breath! Starts to get a little
painful there, doesn’t it? Notice that sometimes
it’s hard to “see” the pun; when the brand has
established itself so well (i.e., Foot Locker)
it becomes a new “thing” rather than a clever
combination of words. It also seems that the
pun-brands that have been more successful are
(relatively) subtle – I don’t ever see Humphrey
Yogart going national (estate litigation aside)
because it’s just too broad. And some pun-brands
don’t work unless you already know what they are
selling (i.e., Whole Addiction is a body-piercing
concern…get it??).

Obviously, being punny is not enough. Like
any face being put on a business, a thoughtful
approach that is executed well and considers the
audience is essential. The Foot Locker brand
consists of more than the name, and it all
works in harmony. And let’s not forget the
Foot Locker mascot, called The Striper! (see
him here)

A great article about kawaii can be found here and there are a ton of kawaii links here.

Nice piece on visual puns in advertising is here.


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