Archive for June 2010
Ashton Kutcher is a figure I find so unsavory that it is difficult for me to see him as worthy of anything other than endorsing POS Clothing. He is the "dude" who stays at the party an hour too long, holding court and announcing his own coolness long after others have started to yawn. Image is hard to change. That said, the man is not stupid, and very well may be ahead of the pack in terms of social media and brand endorsements. His innovative partnership with Popchips, Inc. proves the point well enough. Kutcher built his fame on mild talent, good looks, and a variety of attention-grabbing stunts (whether via Punk'd or geriatric marriage). His cultural relevance, though, came through a carefully engineered drive to be the first person to have 1 million followers on Twitter (@aplusk now broadcasts in real-time to more than 5 million people). Mr. Kutcher saw what other stars -- and major brands -- have missed: that building an audience and managing a direct relationship with it is the way forward. Notably, his work with Popchips does not involve MadAve's services. It is the latest example in what I've written about as the the trend toward post-agency markets.
Even though I've beat up on Volvo before, on a personal level I'm a lifelong fan of their cars. On a professional level, I have profound respect for Volvo's clear, consistent brand management. That's why their new advertising partnership with "Twilight: Eclipse" is so painful to watch.
PBS chef and 1999 James Beard award winner Lidia Matticchio Bastianich is a stark contrast to the Food Network's lineup of chef entertainers. She exudes knowledge and offers simple, clear instruction on her PBS show Lidia's Italy. There's no pageantry or pretense -- just a serious chef with a love and appreciation for Italy's many classical, regional dishes. Yet while I'm a fan of her show and her approach to cooking, her brand strategy lacks the refinement of her recipes. As meticulous and knowledgeable as she comes across on her program, the translation of the promise she establishes isn't consistently translated across her many ventures, most notably her restaurant Lidia's in Kansas City.
"My dad just got iced." I saw this status update on Facebook the other day and knew it probably had nothing to do with hockey or joint pain. A wee bit of research revealed that Icing is a new drinking game wherein someone gives a Smirnoff Ice to someone else, who must get down on one knee and chug it. If the person being "iced" pulls out their own concealed Smirnoff Ice, called "ice blocking," the icer has to drink both bottles. People are icing and getting iced all over the country largely due to the promotional efforts of now defunct website www.brosicingbros.com. Whether the game (and website) was conceived by Smirnoff parent Diageo (they deny having any part in its creation or promotion), or bored frat boys isn't important. Icing reveals the value of understanding complex social relationships, not simply studying (and catering to) demographics.
I know a high school English teacher who refuses to use red pen when editing her students' work. "It's like bloodletting, all that red ink on paper. It weakens writers," she says. So she bisects her students' sentences in blue, convinced the color, not the cutting itself, does the damage. Similarly, employees from cubicle to corner office play a "track-changes" version of pass-the-patient with nothing but the best intentions. More often than not, what starts as a second opinion leads to a few minor stitches for a split infinitive, then escalates to invasive surgery as personal styles and legal hedging trump purpose. At the end of the procedure, the writer's left with a Frankenstein's monster of crowdsourced pieces and parts that no longer effectively communicates or resembles anything remotely human.
Twist Worldwide, a global visual intelligence firm, presents quick views and insights into the moments that are working in today's retail environments. Enough with self-impressed trend consultants who claim to see the future: Twist sees the present with clarity and provides practical intelligence on how to make your business better today. Over time, patterns emerge and possibilities get realized. But first we have to see what is right in front of us. This week: back to basics.
Last week, Santa Clara hosted the first global augmented reality event - gathering the developers, creative directors and engineers from around the world who are driving nascent “augmentation” technology into our immediate reality. If you said “Say what?” to that sentence, you will appreciate the following. In the first keynote of the conference, WIRED’s contributing editor Bruce Sterling defined a singular challenge for the assembled that had very little to do with technological wizardry and everything to do with communication: create and shape the language of this brave new world.
Last weekend, I took my two preschoolers to Six Flags. We walked through Bugs Bunny National Park, past Tweety's Twee House and Yosemite Sam's Tugboat Tailspin, my five-year-old nervously eyeing the 6-foot tall anthropomorphized rooster waving menacingly at her. "Mommy, what is that?" "Oh, that's Foghorn Leghorn," I explained. Then her wee brow furrowed. "Who?" The child had no clue. Neither did the heat-stroked fourteen-year-old inside, I bet. It was then I realized Six Flags has become less theme park than museum, teeming with cartoon icons put to pasture when cross-dressing, gun-toting, homicidal role models fell out of favor. Bugs, Elmer and Wile E. have joined Minnie, Donald and Pluto at the edge of obsolescence. Can WB bring them back from the brink?