Thursday, November 27, 2008

Good Ol' Corporate Sponsorship

This morning I made my way downstairs at my parents' house to see my sister watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. A fan of musicals, she likes having the opportunity to see lip synced versions of popular numbers from Broadway shows. As for me, I like watching to see if this will be the year when Underdog finally breaks free from his rope holding captors and liberates New York from Hello Kitty's balloon tyranny.

For all the whining about brand sponsorship that goes on today, people seem to let this parade slide. (I can really only think of one other thing out there that avoids criticism and that's Wrigley Field.)

Why is that? The simple answer: It's been around long enough that people cannot extricate the "Macy's" from the cultural lexicon.

What's even more interesting is that if someone tries to change it now, the public will go bananas. Take Wrigley Field again. Recently, with Zell's purchase of the Tribune Company- the owner of the Cubs - there was talk of selling not only the team but also the naming rights of the stadium. That development brought about this miasma of crap:

And finally,

(Props to you if you sat through all of those; I did not. )

Whether we like it or not, our brands have entered some sort of symbiotic relationship with our young culture.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Poorly Used Music In Advertising Part II

Just to show that I am trying to be equal opportunity, I would like to point out an extremely poor music choice made by the Obama campaign used in the video played at Grant Park prior to his speech.

Unfortunately, I cannot find the video. But, the song in the background during this video was The National's "Fake Empire" off of their album Boxer.

Here it is:

Fake Empire - The National

Once again, this is a great song. The only problem is that I don't believe it fits in a video for a guy that just won the presidency in one of the wildest elections in history.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Poorly Used Music In Advertising Part I

I am a big fan of Band of Horses. Their two albums, Everything All the Time and Cease to Begin, are great bits of post REM indie rock. Despite critical success and a few great appearances on Letterman, the only song that's mildly known is called "The Funeral."

Here are some of the lyrics:

I'm coming up only to hold you under
I'm coming up only to show you wrong
And to know you is hard and we wonder
To know you all wrong, we were

It's a sad song... at least that's what most people think. Except for the people who made this commercial for the Ford Edge where they use it.

I find it highly ironic that Ford in trying to be hip seems to have picked a song that encapsulates their current economic situation. While I am sure that most people who saw the ad have no idea who wrote the song, I still find it strange that in the age of internet where we can dissect anything that someone would make this suggestion.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Guns 'N Roses Brand At The Threshold

So we're about to get our free Dr. Peppers! Chinese Democracy is finally going to be released and subjected to the ears of critics and the public at large.

GnR is hardly a band that defined a generation, nevertheless, their most popular album Appetite for Destruction has sold 18 million copies as of September 2008. Their brand, up to now, consists of two things: 1) Good music 2) A classic tale of rock and roll self destruction.

While the band was moving up the charts, Axl Rose - the megalomaniac singer - forced the other band members to yield all rights to the name Guns 'N Roses in order to keep working. After the band broke up, Axl began working on what would become Chinese Democracy for 13 years or so. During this time, the band's brand grew to the point that classic rock stations are playing some GnR's singles. Even my father now knows their music.

What's going to happen now that a new album is about to be released? We are still going to think Axl Rose is crazy. But, are people going to view the Guns 'N Roses brand in the same way? In addition to the early albums, plenty of people purchase GnR memorabilia including the almighty t-shirt. If this album bombs critically and/or commerically, then it could effect the sales of the Axl's perpetual gravy train.

The coming weeks are going to yield some interesting information about an aspect of branding that people don't think about very often. Let's watch and see what happens.

Friday, November 21, 2008

If Being Folksy Is Part of Your Brand

There stands Sarah Palin in front of a trough of red turkey blood. Yeah, apparently she just pardoned one turkey and took a photo in front of death row as my vegetarian girlfriend would call it.

To a certain extent her comment of "Certainly we'll probably invite criticism for even doing this, too ... But at least this was fun" perfectly encapsulates how oblivious her handlers are at maintaining her image. If you watch the video of the actual interview she's not talking about standing in front of the slaughter hut. She's talking about how she believed the media picked on her during the election and how they will probably pick on her for this.

Well, she was right. The media is going to pick on her for this because all she had to do was turn around and let them take her picture with a different background. In addition, she brought this criticism on yourself.

I know there's a wing of the Republican party that likes their candidates to appear folksy, which is fine. Our history is filled with plenty of folksy personalities who shared a great level of wisdom: Mark Twain, Will Rogers, and Woody Guthrie to name a few. Apparently, though, the Republicans believe that folksy means knowing nothing beyond your front porch.

Folksy is not oblivious.

Maybe the Republicans should go back to the images that they understand because there will never be another Ronald Reagan: old men from the Northeast who despise government waste and paying taxes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The NYT Online is Killing Me

I try to read as many newspapers as I can during the day. Don’t ask me why, I really have no good explanation for my news consumption. In order to read online I highlight the text with my cursor. Usually, this is a pretty good way of keeping focus and staying on track as I read and scroll.

Recently, the New York Times online decided to add a greater level of functionality to the stories posted on their web site. This includes a strange new function that causes a question mark in a speech bubble to appear every time I highlight something. If I accidentally click on the bubble the site navigates me away from the page to some sort of internal NYT search engine.

This is driving me bananas. I am all for Web 2.0 ideas converging with 1.0 stuff, but – seriously – don’t screw with my news.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Problem With Google Analytics?

I added Google Analytics when I started this blog. It’s a pretty interesting application. The program provides metrics of all sorts on who is reading the blog. One of the most interesting parts is called the “map overlay” which shows where in the world people are reading the blog.

Apparently, someone in Tucson read the blog. What’s interesting is that I post updates on Facebook and I don’t think I know anyone there. So, there are a couple of potential conclusions I can come to:

1) One of my friends is in Tucson
2) My popularity is growing
3) There’s something wrong with Google Analytics

After some Facebook stalking, it doesn’t look like anyone is in Tucson. As for being popular, I can’t even get my mom to read this. So, after talking to a friend of mine here in the Chicago area about my Tucson reader he said that it might have been him.


Well, he uses a wireless internet card from Sprint and, apparently, when he logs on to any Google program the ads are never for his area. Could it be that these cards randomly generate new IP addresses or find some strange link through cell phone towers? I don’t know for sure, but it seems that if these cards proliferate a significant portion of Google’s data could be incorrect.

One Extra Note:

This minor phenomenon happened prior to my posting of the blog on Linkedin.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Me liking a management book?

I hate management books. A majority of the people who spend their time figuring how to synergize the optimum needle movement never get beyond five words when speaking to me. It's not because I think these people are stupid; I think they are lazy. They would rather seek outside definitions to define very specific issues, which - most of the time - do not come close to describing the situation.

Recently, in my investor relations course, I was asked to read Ram Charan's What the CEO Wants You to Know. The book is not some miracle of business communication. It doesn't try to ascribe new meanings to existant terms and euphemisms. What it does do is encourage the reader to speak in simple financial terms. That's right finance. While the examples are a little dated - he cites Jack Welch and Gateway Computers - Charan strips business communication back to what it should be and it was an extremely refreshing experience.

Before you think that I am all about Charan, I should note that he also wrote a book called Game Changers. "Game changer" is the new "paradigm shift" and "groundswell." People are starting to overuse it and I am sure you will hear me complaining about it in the near future.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The End of TRL

I haven't watched MTV in years. In fact, I stopped watching MTV in high school when TRL became the only program that aired music videos. When MTV announced the end of the program came the thought that maybe they'd go back to airing videos. Of course, that's highly improbable.

With youtube enabling artists of all sorts to have a media outlet, MTV has lost its need to air videos. Moreover, genre specific blogs clump videos together and make mini MTVs for enthusiasts.

So, what's next for MTV? More reality shows like The Hills? Either way, I won't be watching.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fed Ex and Nuance

Lately, Fed Ex and BBDO have produced an excellent series of ads. But, the commercial entitled "Exception" is probably the best for its use of nuance and color.

Okay, the punchline is obvious. What is not so obvious is the fact that the man in denial is wearing a dark brown shirt that sort of resembles a UPS driver. Is Fed Ex trying to say that UPS employees and customers are in total denial?