Davis Thinking } analysis and interpretation
In December, Davis Brand Capital announced the 2009 Davis Brand Capital 25 ranking. Toyota ranked #8 overall and was the top-ranking automaker. Since the release, Toyota has issued a series of historic recalls, and the brand has suffered a precipitous fall from grace. So far, the recalls affect more than eight million vehicles worldwide, with Toyota considering still more for its best-selling Corolla. And recall-related malfunctions have caused an estimated 34 deaths since 2000 in the U.S. alone, according to government data released this week. Beyond the direct financial, legal and ethical implications of the recalls themselves, Toyota faces a crisis of consumer confidence comparable to the Tylenol cyanide murders or the Ford Explorer/Firestone fiasco. Rebuilding consumer trust will require much more than a public relations war room and marketing blitz. Toyota faces a fundamental brand challenge that extends deep into its culture, its operations and its core meaning. As the story unfolds and an embattled Toyota hunkers down for the onslaught, important lessons from the crisis are already coming to light.
I'm thinking of Jobs - not the big Steve variety - but the kind being discussed everywhere from Davos to Washington to the Main Street or kitchen table nearest you. The economists can debate how best to create jobs - my thoughts center primarily around how they are changing and how organizations are reading those changes from top to bottom.
We recently voiced optimism that the Super Bowl launch of Dove's Men+Care line would challenge the alpha male ad genre, just as its revolutionary Real Beauty spot from Super Bowl XL confronted unhealthy female beauty standards. On Sunday, our optimism swirled its sad little way down the drain.
Every year, in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl, we learn whose ads passed network muster and whose didn't. This year, CBS generated lively debate by green-lighting Focus on the Family's pro-life spot, while rejecting an ad from gay dating site ManCrunch.com. Much has already been written about CBS's implied endorsement of one "life choice" over another. But few question why slow-to-evolve CBS failed to capture a fraction of the value its platform created for either organization.
Legendary television producer Norman Lear often said it was best to start the story "in the middle." That's where the truth of the narrative is, and the theory held for Super Bowl XLIV. Smack in the middle of a confused and confusing collection of ads was The Who, an embarrassing half-time show of old white men singing of "pinball wizards" in the age of connected gaming, and claiming some distant insight into the "teenage wasteland" of a generation to which they do not belong. Yet, they were entirely relevant context for the general fiasco of this year's ads, asking: "Tell me who are you?" With some notable exceptions, advertisers seemed to have no idea who they were this year, nor who their customers might be.
Last year, the economy in free fall, I expected both Monster and CareerBuilder to forego the silly punchlines and offer a clear message of help and hope to the millions of unemployed Americans watching the Super Bowl. I was disappointed. This year, the jobless number nearing 15 million, I tuned in certain they'd finally get it right. That the employment experts would share their most inspiring success stories: The father of four who, laid off after 15 years at the same company, found new opportunity through Monster. Or the young college grad who, thanks to Careerbuilder, discovered an obscure field to which she could apply her highly specialized degree. Instead we got beaver-fiddling and tighty-whities -- proof these job search emperors have no clothes.
I have a mouse pad on my desk that reads, "Design is a good idea." But for organizations trying to adopt a design-centric approach, what does that mean exactly? John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, recently tweeted "Instead of saying we need to "elevate" art+design's role, we need to instead *reveal* art+design's role." Over the past month, at events with leading design thinkers, I've heard a lot of discussion about the definition and role of design. In the spirit of "revelation," here are some points of consensus I'm hearing from across design disciplines.
When Steve Jobs took to the stage in San Francisco's Moscone Center on January 27, the world knew what to expect: Apple would finally announce its long-awaited tablet. With that pre-determined focus and the anticipatory roar for the next "insanely great" thing, most missed the larger announcement of the day. Steve Jobs did not simply announce the company's latest creation; he completed a task first made public in January 2007, when the company dropped "Computer" from its name to become Apple, Inc. The real news hidden in plain view as Jobs unveiled iPad was the repositioning of the company that created the personal computer.
Recently, Slate's Ben Sheffer presented Apple's case against Gawker's Tablet Scavenger Hunt, suggesting the web pub's Valleywag blog may be inducing Apple employees to violate trade secret law. But to measure the potential loss for Apple solely in terms of trade secrets is to overlook a much larger violation not just to Apple, but to the customer as well.
In what seemed like a tribute to the cute little kid from Jerry Maguire who kept repeating "the human head weighs 8 lbs," Fast Company recently published a Mr. Egghead infographic that illustrated an astounding fact from the brainiacs at UC San Diego: the average American, on the average day, consumes 34 gigabytes of information. And from 1980-2008, bytes consumed increased 350%. That eight pounds can sure pack a punch. For the purposes of explaining the infographic, writer Maccabee Montandon uses information, content and data interchangeably to argue that Americans are ravenous for "data." But hold up -- do we want to gorge on data? I'm not sure I buy his conclusion about our appetite.