Where does your brand start?

Or, more importantly, where does your brand stop?

Years ago buying products meant going to a store (physically) or at least opening up a catalogue (sorry America, that’s how it’s spelled). Side note: it’s weird how when I was a kid the notion of shopping from home seemed either rural, or something that you didn’t want to admit. And now, with this Internet and World Wide Web — it’s almost a trend!

Today, brands are reaching out in so many different ways – both to sell and to create awareness (which eventually creates sales, so I’m told). Whether it be traditional advertising, social/digital marketing, websites or in-store. And in some case, stores. For example, Apple – you may have heard of them. They make a few consumer products. They had a great leader – but he’s dead now. Yeah, that Apple.

Hard to believe that the First one opened in 2001, or that there are 421 (as of this date) worldwide. Apple wanted to have their own experience when showcasing the products. Ultimately they wanted control over that experience – hence the reference to the dead leader, Steve Jobs. I think he understood more than anyone the importance of owning your brand – not just physically, as in the products. But almost spiritually – how the store allowed you to move, how you interacted with the products and overall be in the mindset of Apple.

Above and beyond that Apple has moved to taking that control further. Basically having mini stores in other retailers. It’s not uncommon to find an Apple display in a Best Buy or a  WalMart. It’s part and parcel of having that power – the sales weight combined with an unflinching attitude. But, that approach is slowly seeping into other brands. Now you can be standing in front of a branded sales area for Beats (by Dr Dre) or Bose, or a few more. And the real estate that they take up varies. Depending of course on product depth and how much they’re willing to pay for that space.

It is quite a natural progression for brands that are setting their own tone – through product development, unique product offerings and stand-out company personalities. It’s really just another place to harness and expose a brands wherewithal.

Where will the next level of brand-takeover be?

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How small is your brand?

Often, we see the world of brands in terms of large – and derivatives of such. Numbers point to the worldwide retail locations of Apple; burgers sold in a McDonald’s; how many Subway restaurants you can see in one block.

But, big branding is also about small branding.

How often have you looked at the tiny aspects of any product – are they an extension of the brand? Or just some off-the-shelf component. Over the years I’ve been amazed at the attention to detail (and to the brand) so many companies have worked at to convey. The best example I can think of right now (there are countless more) is the Nike logo that appears on the pull-tab, on a zipper, on a my sports bag. This swoosh is maybe 8 points in size (take that metric system!). It is embossed in the plastic – therefore only visible if you look carefully and the light catches it the right way.

There are larger versions of the swoosh on the bag itself. And on this bag they are subtle – being applied as if a version of using Varnish on a print piece. That actually was one of the reasons I purchased the bag. I was not wanting a flashy item, but I did want it to be a Nike.

There are myriad brands around the world that are recognized by a shape (e.g., Coke), colours (e.g., IKEA) and design (e.g., Ferrari). But all of these cases, and many more, the true beauty is in the details that each of these companies put into their iconic artifacts. It’s something that we all could be better at – whether it be a multi-national or a personal brand. How many people put the effort into customizing their social media exposure – twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages, etc. Hey I’m the first to admit – I don’t do as much as I should for my own brand.

Do you?

The Marketing of …

Computer technology truth Number 1 – if you can’t buy it – is dosen’t exist.

Computer technology truth Number 2 – if you can buy it – it’s out of date.

This was never more truthful than yesterday as SONY presented the PS4. Their new gaming console replacing the (gulp, it’s really been that long – crap I’m getting old) 7-year old PS3. Ultimately SONY presented air. How they were even allowed to get away with that is a testament to our content-based society.

We are so obsessed with content – we are willing to accept it in any form – even if it’s vapour-ware. And the PS4 is the king of vapour-ware. I would not be as upset if there was a box, a hint of what was to come. But nothing.

I know that all the big guys present products to come – Apple, Microsoft – hell it even happens at Auto Shows (with concept cars galore). But at least in all of those cases there is something tangible (even if it’s only tangible for our eyes, it’s at least something). Specs. That’s pretty much what we were offered. A piece of paper with numbers. The actual console won’t be available until later this year – even the date is vapour-ware. It’s like meeting a couple that says they are engaged and have no date for the wedding – guess what – you’re not engaged.

Guess what – there really isn’t a PS4.

There may be one in the future – but now there is not. So, thanks for the tease SONY – but until I see a machine and a delivery date you might as well nickname it Unicorn.

iWrong

Steve Jobs was right (mostly) but every once in a while – stubborn.

He and (his road trip buddy) Jon Ive have shaped and paradigm shifted the crap out of the computer experience sphere. From the iMac to the iPod, from Siri to iCloud. They have put the user first.

And it is because they create such glorious user experiences that I can’t understand their total lack of experience for users’ when it comes to input devices. I speak directly about the mice that Apple has produced since the puck (c. 1998) and the iPad.

Of mice and Jobs

The history of the Apple mouse (or mouse like parts) from 1998 – Puck, Orb, Orb (with micro ball), Wireless touch and Trackpad. All of this to avoid (for whatever reason) a mouse with actual 2-buttons. And the micro ball to try and be a mouse on a mouse (instead of a scroll wheel). I believe that Mr. Jobs had such anger for all things MicroSoft (or PC) that his refusal to even consider these options has kept me from using any of the above mentioned Apple products. I have proudly used various MS mice over that 15 year period. Both wired and wireless (my preference is wired).

I like the fact that it has two buttons – plus a scroll wheel (which is also a button) and two alternative buttons (any of which) can be programmed via software in the system preferences. I find the functionality of the mice to be far superior to that of Apple and the ergonomics kick Apples’ products (which hurts a little to type out loud).

A fist full of stylus’

The main thinking that gave us the touch mouse and trackpad is front and centre in the iPad. In the Jobs biography, Walter Isaacson indicates that Steve felt that no stylus was needed for the iPad – people have five stylus on each hand. Here, fundamentally is where these products fail.

If, in the history of creating artifacts, we only accepted what our bare hands could achieve – we would be living in a world not unlike the sets from the original Planet of the Apes. One of the things that makes us (humans) us, is our ability to leverage tools into more tools. It is precisely this standing-on-giants-shoulders that allows us to move forward – bigger – smaller – faster.

If Steve was correct that we each have up to ten stylus available for the iPad (and other devices) – then that should show in other areas. For instance, art galleries would be filled with finger paintings! But they are not. It’s not that a finger painting can’t be good, it’s just very limiting.

How do you feel about these Apple input devices?

Backlash and the Social

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Apathy: lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern

Parody: an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect

ING Direct yesterday responded yesterday to a social media backlash against one of it’s television ads. View Marketing Mag article and commercial here. ING Direct has apologized and indicated that the ad will be pulled.

I think in Canada – like no other country – we have the ability to be offended on behalf of others. Make any kind of taboo comment (or near taboo comment) and watch the face of people react as if you just kicked their puppy. The commercial in question mimics/parodies the formulaic aspects of many Mental Health awareness ads. That is to say a sombre voice over, moody short-focused camera work and the reveal – suffering from RSP.

On the ING Direct Facebook page (as well as others) there is backlash to the ad – some even calling for a CRTC investigation.

Now, before I sound like an apologist, Mental Health is a serious issue – but to be fair so are many other things (causes and events). Everyone one of us has some degree of something that gets to us mentally – and effects us. Some are large, major concerns (bi-polar, deliberate self-harm, etc.) and others are things as innocuous as scratching of skin or in one of my daughters’ case – hearing velcro torn apart. Too be truthful that last one does bring me joy every once in a while.

But at what point do we – as a society – totally give in to any and every offense taken (Quoting British Comedian Jimmy Carr – Apple Podcast – Offense is taken not given). It’s been the reclamation of words by groups, it’s been the banishment of peanut butter (and sometimes kiwi) and most recently even the request to cut down oak trees in Toronto. I understand that there are myriad things in this world that people find offensive. But if we start shaving off our ability to lighten the mood of any offering we are headed towards a dull, boring light.

What’s your take on the reaction of ING Direct and the backlash that caused this maelstrom?

Future marketing

Prometheus – the much anticipated prequel to Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi movie Alien is set to be released in June. The future marketing for this movie is in full swing.

Trailers

The trailers (commercials) used to be something that movie-goers had to sit and watch in theatre while waiting for the start of the movie they paid to enjoy. These were, at a time, a gift – a surprise. Today, for the most part these have been generating buzz on the internet. Trailers can be found on Apple and IMBD and sometimes that may not be there – based on their ridiculous plots/themes they might need to reside elsewhere. Some trailers come out so early that you forgot you saw the trailer when the movie hits the theatres (mostly the one’s near you). There have even been times when the trailer contains scenes that don’t make the final cut.

Future Commercials

There are many movies that have been set in the future and to help set the tone show commercials (or at least commercial concepts). Some glaring examples – Back to the Future II, Blade Runner, Minority Report and who didn’t want to vacation on Mars after Total Recall. These little gems in movies allowed someone to add an editorial comment, a little jab at a present day situation – think Demolition Man and the fact that all restaurants in the future are Taco Bell.

TED 2023

Just to be clear – TED 2023 has not happened (as far as I know). TED is the amazing collection of conferences put on every year and the we get to experience the results. The producers of Prometheus have taken future marketing one step further by producing a segment from TED 2023. It’s not going to be in the movie. It’s there merely to set a back story for the movie.

To recap – a movie made today about events in the future that prequel a movie from 1979 has produced a clip from the yet to happen TED 2023 to set up a back story for said prequel. If that is not a 360° example of future marketing then I have no idea what would be.

What’s your favourite future commercial?

Entropy might be the solution

Entropy – lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder: a marketplace where entropy reigns supreme.

As we save more and more files to our computers, and subsequently our back-ups, and to their back-ups – we are left to wonder how to organize them all? What to name them? Does it matter? Should it matter?

Computers are organized on the premise of paper – documents, files, folders, etc. Problem is computers are not paper – on this I will fight you! But as any new system/endeavour is developed, it relies on an existing set of syntax and vocabulary to describe, even define it’s being. My favourite example of this borrowed lexicon is Web pages – I’m not sure what they should be called, but pages just seems woefully inaccurate.

To this end whatever legacy system and language is attached to a process handcuffs the forward movement of refining these said processes/ideas. Take for instance the organization of files. We produce hundreds, perhaps thousands of files every year on our computers. And for the most part we try to organize them like they’re paper. We create folders based on clients, projects, specific pieces within projects – that might contain folders for different items or application types. They might even be organized into files we create, or received from vendors and those supplied by the client. Some files are for admin purposes (P.O.s, Work Orders, etc.) and others might be final art – heading off for that rare printing.

We can organize these files by docket number, project type, client, date, etc. Some of the files are required for more than one project – like logos, repeat graphics and text that might show up all the time (addresses, boiler plates, etc.). A lot of being organized comes down to the individual and how diligent they might be, and for those that know me – know this isn’t me. That’s not to say I don’t try – I really do. But I think that there are some things that I think can be built into these computers to help.

Apple and Google have started to implement nice features – Smart Folders and Labels, respectively. I like the idea of these – being able to organize based on conditions (Smart Folders) or on tags (Labels).

I think it could go further.

If, for example, I’m working away in InDesign I think that it should be helping me find InDesign files. Right now it will keep track of recent files (a setting I can control in preferences). And when I go to open a file I can (on an Apple) refine the search with the spotlight bar. But, what if there was a list being generated automatically based on the InDesign extension (or multiple extensions – .indd, .idml, or whatever other formats might exist for any given application). What if labels could be applied to files by just dropping then on top – or smart labels. Then using those as criteria in any action like saving or opening.

The computer is a wonderful place that can be as organized as you want physically – but it can be organized for speed and logic by software.

How would you want to organize your files?