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Archive for January 2010

At Issue } essential reading

NBC Gears Up to Fix Prime Time

Sam Schechner
Jan 22, 2010

NBC has mopped up its late-night mess. The network now faces a more challenging task: rebuilding its evening hours after years of cost cuts and creative missteps. NBC executives are saying they plan to spend at least 30% more than last year to develop TV series for the fall, and 20% more to market the shows, although they didn't attach a dollar figure to the estimate. The General Electric Co. network, which has seen its ratings and profit slide since 2005, is working on 18 to 20 pilot episodes for new shows, up from 11 last spring.

Branding is a Dangerous Concept

Tom Asacker
Jan 21, 2010

2010 is the beginning of a new era for business. We've mastered quality. Squeezed every drop out of efficiency. Saturated the marketplace with innovation. And we're using advanced information and communication technologies to reshape the very fabric of our marketplace concepts and relations. So what's next? Certainly not "branding;" at least not in the conventional sense. The notion that a marketplace offering is a static, transactional thing that needs the right injection of cosmetics and communication to bring it to life is flawed thinking in today's environment.

The Scale Every Business Needs Now

Umair Haque
Jan 21, 2010

Here's what the economic historians of the 23rd Century are going to say about the 20th. "They built giant, globe-spanning organizations, that employed tens of thousands of people working around the clock, to produce... sugar water, fast food, disposable razors, and gas guzzlers. Perhaps the defining characteristic of the paradigm of 20th Century capitalism was its astonishing lack of ambition. Rarely in history has such a void, a poverty of imagination been so deeply woven into the fabric of humankind's economic systems."

Now at Starbucks: A Rebound

Claire Cain Miller
Jan 21, 2010

Young people wearing hoodies and chunky glasses are sipping microbrew beers and espressos, nibbling on cheese and baguettes made at a local bakery and listening to a guitarist strum and sing. The scene could be at any independent coffeehouse around the country. Instead, it is at a Starbucks-owned shop called 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea. The new store, one of two in Seattle’s trendy Capitol Hill neighborhood, grew out of a series of brainstorming sessions by a group of Starbucks employees after Howard D. Schultz, Starbucks’ chief executive, told them to “break the rules and do things for yourself.”

Blogs, YouTube prompted Supreme Court's Campaign Finance Ruling

Declan McCullagh
Jan 21, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court's sweeping ruling on Thursday that invalidated large chunks of campaign finance law arose in part from an unlikely source: the rise of Facebook, YouTube, and blogs and the decline of traditional media outlets. A 5-4 majority of the justices concluded that technological changes have chipped away at the justification for a law that allows individuals to post their opinions about a political candidate -- but threatens the ACLU, the National Rifle Association, the Sierra Club, a labor union, or a for-profit corporation with felony criminal sanctions if they happen to do the same on their own Web site or blog.

Apple Sees New Money in Old Media

Yukari Iwatani Kane and Ethan Smith
Jan 20, 2010

With the new tablet device that is debuting next week, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs is betting he can reshape businesses like textbooks, newspapers and television much the way his iPod revamped the music industry—and expand Apple's influence and revenue as a content middleman. In developing the device, Apple focused on the role the gadget could play in homes and in classrooms, say people familiar with the situation. The company envisions that the tablet can be shared by multiple family members to read news and check email in homes, these people say.

Why Brands Should Embrace Technological Change

Avi Dan
Jan 20, 2010

It took the telephone 45 years to penetrate half the homes in America; radio, less than 20; color TV, 15; computers, 10; cellphones, eight; and the internet, a mere six years. The speed of change is accelerating. Five years ago Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Hulu and the iPhone didn't exist. Today Facebook has 350 million members; Twitter boasts 30 million; and Hulu is the second biggest "channel" in America, having surpassed Time Warner Cable. Technology now has profound impact on consumer behavior. Take brand loyalty, for example. Smartphones enable consumers to comparison shop on the basis of price at the point of sale. The democratization of information may result in commoditization of brands as consumers make purchase decisions by searching for the lowest-priced product. Technology may also alter the purchase cycle and give rise to powerful third-party influencers, counterbalancing paid media's "management" of the purchase cycle. These are transformational shifts for brands.

A Product is NOT a Brand

Laura Savard and Mark Gallagher
Jan 20, 2010

Having a great product is no longer a guarantee of success. A Bain & Co. survey notes that 80 percent of CEOs believe that their product is differentiated, but only 8 percent of consumers agree. To truly stand out in the market, a product must embody the characteristics of its brand. But, with all the hoopla around branding, it’s no wonder that companies are continually lured into believing that their brand is their product and their product is their brand.

How Corporate Branding is Taking Over America

Naomi Klein
Jan 20, 2010

In May 2009, Absolut Vodka launched a limited edition line called "Absolut No ­Label." The company's global public relations manager, Kristina Hagbard, explained that "For the first time we dare to face the world completely naked. We launch a bottle with no label and no logo, to manifest the idea that no matter what's on the outside, it's the inside that really matters."

Virtual Dashboards: The Next Must-Have?

Joseph B. White
Jan 20, 2010

Your iPhone operates by the touch of your fingers. Why not your car? Auto makers are starting to roll out a new generation of dashboard technology that substitutes touch-sensitive pads and displays for knobs and switches and videogame-style graphics for drab two-dimensional displays. Technology created to power games, mobile phones and computer displays is now being adapted—and often significantly improved—for those two-ton hand-held devices that come with four tires and leather seats.

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