Friday (tomorrow) on Good Morning: Barry, Paul and I talk about women who marry for money. I know where this is heading. Barry and I had met author Donna Spangler, who appeared on the show last Tuesday. She’s married to a dentist 24 years her senior. And I have a feeling this segment is going to springboard from that.
First: what is the year again? Their age difference is a load of bollocks in 2006.
Secondly, Donna and Richie are in love. They have been married for eight years. Sure, Richie has money. But the fact Donna has written a book on how to get a rich guy doesn’t mean she’s a gold-digger. Barry and I met them both: Donna is sincere, and Richie is one smart bloke. He doesn’t think with his crotch. And this doesn’t look like one of those last-a-few-years Susan Sangster–Frank Renouf-type marriages.
My view on Donna’s aim is not so much money, but thinking: ‘On the whole, my chances of ﬁnding a rich guy with a decent upbringing who’ll treat me right might be better than my chances of ﬁnding a poor guy with a decent upbringing who’ll treat me right.’
I don’t necessarily mean ﬁnancially rich. I mean everything from culturally rich to spiritually rich. With that richness comes a self-respect, and with that self-respect comes respect for others.
That is way better than a nouveau riche who gets a few million in a windfall but lacks the restraint or self-respect to be able to be nice around others. I’m sure we all know a few of those.
Along with love, Donna sought dignity.
Richie was raised in a value-ﬁlled Jewish household. The fact he and Hef are mates is also irrelevant. If that were the be all and end all, Richie would not have married and would continue par-taying down at the Playboy Mansion.
I somehow think Barry and I will use the spot to defend any ridicule that might be levelled at Donna, in generally middle-class New Zealand. There was plenty of ridicule in a women’s discussion group that went on right after Donna’s interview on Tuesday. There was more envy in the studio than at an anti-American rally in Tehran. My fellow presenters on Tuesday could not handle the fact that Donna uses femininity, intelligence and strength, using her past to attack her credibility.
Aucklanders can take some solace in that we breed as much cattiness in Wellington as they are reputed to. ‘Saucer of milk, table for two, meow.’ Posted by Jack Yan, 10:52
The Associated Press carries a report on the state of the Iranian blogosphere, covered in Forbes and other mainstream media outlets today. The censorship carried out there, it reports, has become worse, though it remains in second place to Red China.
An Iranian Canadian blogger was asked to sign an apology when he went to Iran for his blog writings—and he was one of the lucky ones. One that AP mentions is in jail with a three-year sentence (reduced from 14), ‘arrested and charged with insulting the country's leader, collaborating with the enemy, writing propaganda against the Islamic state and encouraging people to jeopardize national security.’ Arash Sigarchi still faces additional charges of ‘insulting the leader and writing propaganda,’ for which he might get more jail time.
Yet the majority of Iranian bloggers aren’t even political. In fact, they are just like us:
The most common issues are cultural, social and sexual. Blogs also are a good place to chat in a society where young men and women cannot openly date. There are blogs that discuss women’s issues, and ones that deal with art and photography.
The best thing we can do is to show our support for our Iranian virtual neighbours and pay them a visit. In case some day, there are no more Iranian blogs to read, except for those that the government has controlled.
Del.icio.us tags: Iran | bloggers | blogosphere | censorship Posted by Jack Yan, 22:39
Not sure if this will be the last Snakes on a Plane post this month. Nootropic wondered about the verisimilitude of the movie, and began researching, then calling, each of the American airlines to see whether he could bring a snake on a plane.
The majority of airlines gave pretty dull, standard answers, but read JetBlue’s. It seems they have a staff with a sense of humour—making me wonder if I should ﬂy them next time I am in the United States. If this is indicative of a fun brand, I have to wonder what else it does to make my ﬂight novel. Click here for Nootropic’s post. Posted by Jack Yan, 21:59
A nice context for an earlier post I made: Andrea Weckerle has a good summary of an MSNBC piece on profanity at her blog today. I was surprised to note that there was a majority of people using the f word, yet also a majority of men and women who felt bothered by it. Therefore, there must be a group of people who both cuss and yet don’t like hearing foul language, which seems a tad hypocritical.
It may depend on one’s standards as well. I covered bloody hell not too long ago, words which are pretty tame here, but not so in the UK or Canada. Antipodeans are known for being honest and outspoken anyway. However, given the standards in the US over swearing, then I would say the f word hasn’t quite crossed into common, regular usage like the words saucepan or copulating—even MSNBC considers it the ‘gold standard’ of cussing.
To those who use it and are bothered by hearing it, you can make the ﬁrst move. Just stop using it. Easy. You’ll either ﬁnd that (a) your speech becomes better as you are ﬁnding alternative words; or (b) your speech becomes more economical because you have been using the f word as a ﬁller like um or er. Since the majority of people are bothered by it, why not reserve it for those whom you know are OK with it? Posted by Jack Yan, 21:28
I liked the lighting on Two for the Money, the ﬁrst movie the printed edition of Lucire appeared in, a bit more than the dark settings of Snakes on a Plane. No Lucires visible in this ﬁrst trailer and it might be just as well: this looks worse than I thought …
Get your copy of the player here. Posted by Jack Yan, 14:30
I’m pretty lucky to have the Matrix as a radio station here, replaying speeches from Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr and others. Today, a Dr Vandana Shiva address was repeated, and it reminded me about her Earth Democracy movement. Dr Shiva is a physicist and organic farmer, and one of the most eloquent speakers on sustainability issues. An interview with Vandana appeared in Yes! in 2003, and since the planet is not particularly further along on this path, it’s worth linking here.
She also speaks on the attempts by corporations to patent natural, ecological processes, which she fully and rightly considers to be a modern equivalent of the colonization that took place 500 years ago. No one should own aspects of nature—even when I was at law school that was a fundamental rule in the intellectual property class.
It also made me think: if we humans are creating most of the mess on this planet, then we should also be the ones picking up after ourselves. We aren’t the smartest creatures on Earth—if we were, we would be far more conscientious—but we do have the greatest inﬂuence with our words and actions. Since other life and creatures can’t “speak” in the human languages that we do, and therefore have a more limited ability to change their environment, we need to bridge their concerns with the overall destiny of this planet that we all dwell on.
OK, that last sentence made me sound like a total tree-hugger, but even ignoring it, and looking at human life alone, we are doing a lousy job in the west. We can all do something, but the next question that comes is, ‘How can I? I’m busy enough as it is.’
If that’s the case, then your ﬁrst step might not be an actual task, but simply the way one approaches things. Consider the life around you as being equal to you, but without a voice. You are the advocate for the plants in your garden. And the trees in your neighbourhood. Even glancing at them and thinking, ‘I give a damn about what’s happening to us here,’ is a great start, and something we can all manage. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:09
I regularly come across young designers wishing to expand their horizons at Jack Yan & Associates, and Rohan was one who contacted me in February from his Calcutta base. He’s a talented chap, and a good thinker—so I was delighted to hear he had started blogging. His company, Rainscape, has its blog at this URL. Of course it plugs his work—but as you read his entries you might realize why I keep saying India is the next boom nation.
It’s fairly well written, which leads me to my next point. Designers should be able to write, especially self-employed ones, because one often needs to market oneself. If I were starting out now, I would do what Rohan did and blog. Thus, when Peter Pimentel at SmashLab Vancouver forwarded me a link to Ideas on Ideas today, I thought it ﬁtted right in to this theme.
The blog’s latest post, ‘Designers Must Write’, says that designers need to be conscious of the changes to the industry, and need to exercise their creative muscles. Writing skills are among those that need to be exercised. The important paragraph is this:
Not using language efﬁciently is negligent and wasteful. It’s something a professional designer should never willingly do; nevertheless, I ﬁnd that many of us shy away from these tasks, as we don’t feel that they are pure design. It’s sort of that attitude of, “that’s not in my job description”, that seems to keep us from strengthening this capability.
How true. I have virtually based my design career on writing—but then, I have found it to be a strength of mine. Being able to express yourself with the written word has become more a necessity ever since international dealings became everyday with the fax. Only Skype might shift some of the focus back to the spoken word, though not for all. Designers, I would say, are predominantly visual by nature—otherwise we would not be designers.
Del.icio.us tags: writing | designers | graphic design | design | communication Posted by Jack Yan, 09:34
With the Rt Hon Tony Blair here in New Zealand to talk about climate change, the media have been focusing on the topic a bit more. Campbell Live did a story on it tonight. Lucire has a page in its next print issue on the topic, quoting Al Gore—only normal for a magazine that promotes the UNEP. Even a phone call I had today with environmental advocate and model Summer Rayne Oakes got on to the subject. It is truly in the Zeitgeist, where it really needs to stay if we are to do anything about it.
In Peter Begley’s Business Ethics & Corporate Social Responsibility, his latest post highlights how the United States is lagging behind other countries in getting its act together. Perhaps it is no surprise, given the Bush administration’s general unwillingness—at least until the President’s State of the Union address this year—to encourage environmental consciousness. The problem is only going to get worse unless some drastic changes are made, the US and Europe are the two greatest offenders with greenhouse gas outputs.
This matters beyond the usual reasons. For a start, companies that don’t look after the environment face consumer backlashes. This is a rising trend—perhaps not apparent immediately, but it is happening. Certainly it hasn’t subsided since I became interested in these causes in the late 1990s. Consequently, these companies become poorer investments long term, something which an article cited by Peter emphasizes:
Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a group whose members control a total of $3 trillion in investment capital [says,] ‘When Cinergy and American Electric Power are tackling this issue, and Sempra and Dominion Resources are not, that should be a red ﬂag to investors.’
Thanks to branding, it is becoming easier to identify environmental offenders.
Read Peter’s entry here, and the Ceres report he and The New York Times cite here. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:43
DaimlerChrysler is trying to stem losses at its troubled Smart unit and has announced that the Mitsubishi Colt-based ForFour compact hatchback will cease production. It joins the lovely Smart Roadster and Coupé in the scrapheap in the sky.
There has been some debate over whether the Smart brand was wrongly deﬁned, and that this was another DaimlerChrysler gaffe—along with its early mismanagement of Chrysler and the decline in quality of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
I don’t think the brand was bad. The idea is good enough: cars marketed as fashion items. BMW has done it with the Mini, for example. Smart stood for cheekiness, building more on the Swatch culture than anything from Mercedes-Benz.
This may have proved troublesome for DaimlerChrysler, used to selling premium products and ﬁnding it hard to adjust to being a consumer goods’ company. Hence, it never knew what to do with Plymouth (so it killed it), and the model explosion at Mercedes-Benz did lead to its gradual slipping down the J. D. Power surveys.
The original Smart City-Coupé could have been a hit, like the original Swatches. But the Mercedes-Benz ideas came through, namely its premium pricing. Sure, it may have been an advanced little car—and marketing textbooks did dictate that the advancement and fashion positioning should tend to attract a higher price.
But did this work with the brand? If Swatch meant value, then surely Smart would, too? A high price didn’t gel with the way the car was being promoted, with its cute plastic boxes, apeing watch cases, at dealers.
With this chasm between what people thought the Smart brand stood for, and the reality as a pricey toy, the little car never revolutionized motoring in the way Swatch took its market by storm in its early days.
Yet DaimlerChrysler still lost money on the cars. Someone in the planning department wasn’t doing a decent enough job, using the brand as the lynch-pin that held every other concept in place.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen claimed that its more “normal” city car, the Lupo, had more room and cost less. But that is not what really killed the Smart.
Nor did the lack of foot trafﬁc to Mercedes-Benz dealerships, some of whom took on a Smart franchise. The existing customers weren’t going to touch a Smart, and no new ones came because of the high price.
What killed Smart’s chances was the earlier realization by other manufacturers that small cars should be sold with a fashionable bent. By the time the Smart came out, Ford already had its Ka and Renault its Twingo. Both were fairly functional, spirited in their drive, and didn’t suffer from the whiny powerplant and questionable handling of the Smart.
In essence, the market had value-packed, mass-marketed fashionable cars—the equivalent of H&M—while Smart was trying to tell us it gave you less, and charged more. It was still ready-to-wear, but with prices approaching that of couture.
And the city-car-as-fashion-item principle hasn’t abated. Fiat has its Panda and may come out with a new Cinquecento. Ford will redo the Ka on the same platform. Opel will have a new Corsa soon, while Toyota’s Vitz/Yaris is as funky as they come. Peugeot–Citroën has the 107 and C1, twinned with the Toyota Aygo. Against these, Smart looks like an anomaly, a curiosity like the BMW Isetta is today. At least the Smarts will be respectable and earn a great deal of affection as a classic car in 25 to 30 years’ time.
DaimlerChrysler usually does better with a car’s second outing, and a new Smart ForTwo (ForTwo MarkTwo?) will be out in 2007, the sole car to carry the Smart nameplate. However, the competition looks ﬁercer, and I doubt that DaimlerChrysler knows how to reduce the price of a car to really capture the masses.
Indications show that the next ForTwo won’t be a world-beater like the Mini, the Fiat 500, or the Volkswagen Käfer. It will be just another premium-priced toy, and possibly the last car to have the Smart brand, if things don’t change there.
Del.icio.us tags: Smart | DaimlerChrysler | branding | brand | marketing | fashion | premium | pricing Posted by Jack Yan, 13:03
I watched Campbell Live tonight, with John Campbell interviewing Arrowtown-based designer Tamsin Cooper. The crux of the matter is this: as blogged last year, Trelise Cooper Ltd. took Tamsin Cooper to the New Zealand Intellectual Property Ofﬁce, preventing Tamsin from registering her own name as a trade mark. Just shy of the IPO hearing the case, Trelise Cooper’s people escalated the matter to the High Court, adding other causes of action.
In addition, A. J. Park, the law ﬁrm representing Trelise Cooper, offered an interesting statement to the programme tonight:
Trelise Cooper had hoped that the matter would be resolved without the need to institute proceedings. Unfortunately that has not happened. Her concerns about ongoing confusion left her with no option but to ﬁle proceedings to protect her intellectual property rights.
Trelise is out of the country, so I do not think anyone can criticize her for this statement. But here are some facts as I understand them, and they make the above look like a lie:
• as admitted by Trelise Cooper and Tamsin Cooper themselves on National Radio, Trelise Cooper Ltd. never contacted Tamsin Cooper before taking her to the IPO, so these ‘proceedings’ have been started by Trelise Cooper Ltd. itself;
• neither party managed to have their day at the IPO because Trelise Cooper Ltd. never allowed this to happen—so it was effectively Trelise Cooper Ltd. and A. J. Park blocking any chance of a speedy resolution;
• allowing the IPO to make its judgement would have been the obvious option, as opposed to ‘no option’.
John Campbell conducted a fair and balanced interview, but there is an important point to be made for the respective brands.
The case has propelled Tamsin Cooper’s small brand into the national limelight. It has managed to portray Trelise Cooper as an ogre, bullying a small label.
By escalating the case to the High Court before the IPO could even make its determination furthers the damage to Trelise’s brand. Regardless of Trelise’s personal motives, escalating a case cements the bullying image. It also goes further and further away from the way Trelise would like her brand to be seen—making it lack authenticity.
Now it looks like the plaintiff, Trelise Cooper Ltd., cares less about justice than about making sure it can outspend the defendant, Tamsin Cooper.
This is dangerous territory as I have known Trelise’s family for years. (I also happen to have known Tamsin Cooper for the same amount of time. I never made the connection between the common surname until last year.)
Jack and Trelise Cooper have used the power of branding to create not just the core Trelise Cooper line but numerous brand extensions, but all those are inherently tied to the public image of Trelise herself. But equally, the conduct of the company—Trelise Cooper Ltd.—impacts back on Trelise. I think this will hurt Trelise, as she has spent a heap of time promoting herself and her image on travel shows, in the New Zealand Listener, and other media. This is before the case even begins in the High Court.
As to Tamsin Cooper, she potentially faces ruin because she cannot spend the same amounts as Trelise Cooper Ltd. to defend herself in the High Court.
As with a lot of things that involve lawyers, this is a lose–lose situation on many fronts, regardless of who actually prevails in court.
But law ﬁrms tend to see dollar signs. And to be fair to A. J. Park, and Kim McLeod and many of the folks I know there, even if they do not see dollar signs, their views are restricted to the case only. And that means they do not, and perhaps should not, consider the impact of their advice on the client’s brand.
It’s perhaps guys like me who have branding and legal experience that see the bigger picture. And if I were advising Trelise, I would say, take it back to the IPO ﬁrst and let the case be heard on its merits. Repair your reputation before Tamsin takes advantage of it. Whatever you lose in brownie points in the New Zealand public, she gains.
If I were advising Tamsin, I would say: defend it with all your might—and let the case be heard on its merits. Whatever she loses in brownie points in the New Zealand public, you gain.
Disclaimers: I know both parties (since 2001). I have consulted for both A. J. Park and for A. J. Pietras & Associates, which represents Tamsin Cooper. One of the matters at issue is a photograph on the Tamsin Cooper home page: on the radio, Trelise Cooper has claimed that Tamsin Cooper, who is a brunette, is acting in bad faith by using a model with blonde curly hair—which Trelise has. As I may have to testify or swear, the fact the model has the same hairstyle as Trelise Cooper is coincidental. It was taken by Amanda Dorcil for Lucire (the December 2004 issue, at left) and Tamsin Cooper had no part in the choice of model. And we never thought the model looked like Trelise Cooper.
Del.icio.us tags: Trelise Cooper | Tamsin Cooper | trade mark | passing off | copyright | intellectual property | lawsuit | case | law | legal | proceedings | New Zealand | fashion | labels | brands | branding Posted by Jack Yan, 07:26
I did promise a more conservative post to balance the ones I wrote praising Clinton and Gore. Mind you, I wouldn’t say this exactly praises the President, but brings something he said into question.
The road to Iraq
A few years ago—it would have been 2002 or 2003 now—I wrote to Charlotte Beers, charged with trying to win the hearts and minds of people about President Bush’s decision to go to war with Iraq. I wasn’t too impressed with his speeches, and advised that Tony Blair’s route—concentrating on matters of international law, speciﬁcally UN Security Council resolution 1441—would be levelling with the American people more.
The President took that tack last week at a press conference at the White House, so I felt some pride that mine was the eventual position he took.
I suppose it was inevitable that the President did not take that position initially. Telling Americans that they were going to war based on a UN resolution would seem that the US was placing international obligations before domestic ones. But having studied international law, and with no “side” being taken (frankly, I ﬁnd many arguments on both sides of Congress and the Senate a bit daft), I thought there could be an argument over the legality of enforcing the resolution. Leaving totally aside the question of karma and the sanctity of life. And since I don’t normally leave those questions aside, you now know why I do not practise law despite my qualiﬁcations.
What is interesting, given this eventual recognition of resolution 1441, is a piece that I found today while surﬁng. I was surprised to see it missed by both the liberal and conservative blogs, though less surprised to see it missed by the mainstream media (at least the MSM here). I thought one mob would damn it and the other mob would praise it. But then, even the President did not mention it.
You’ll have to bear with my ignorance about the source, and also bear in mind that regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican is in the White House, it makes little difference to little ol’ me in New Zealand. I am on record as saying I am Confucian, which I imagine in western terms could be labelled centrist libertarian. (Translation: I sit in the middle and wish both groups of politicians would bugger off. It’s time for democratic reform.)
The found article
The source is Investor’s Business Daily, and the headline, dated February 24, is ‘Saddam Had WMD’ (referred by Nanochurch Life & Spirituality). Three paragraphs are probably the most critical to this post:
Inconveniently for critics of the war, Saddam made tapes in his version of the Oval Ofﬁce. These tapes landed in the hands of American intelligence and were recently aired publicly.
The ﬁrst 12 hours of the tapes—there are hundreds more waiting to be translated—are damning, to say the least. They show conclusively that Bush didn’t lie when he cited Saddam’s WMD plans as one of the big reasons for taking the dictator out.
Nobody disputes the tapes’ authenticity. On them, Saddam talks openly of programs involving biological, chemical and, yes, nuclear weapons.
I know how politicized things get in the United States, so I won’t make any assumptions on this piece. Maybe IBD is a conservative source and this is part of a conspiracy. Or maybe there is a liberal-media cover-up. Who knows?
But since it has been carried on Yahoo!, which generally selects pretty good news sources, I would have expected a bit of debate, if not a ‘Bush was right’ cry.
I would also have expected the President himself to gleefully proclaim, ‘I told you so,’ last week. But he didn’t.
Searching on Google, there are a lot of results to the search, “Saddam had WMD”, admittedly from conservative news sources.
My personal position has been that the WMDs must have existed unless every single intelligence agency (including ours in New Zealand) in the world erred. And, may I now add that they could have existed unless Saddam Hussein erred?
Whether that’s a reason to go to, or continue in, Iraq is not what I am addressing here. I am simply curious to know how the mainstream news media work.
Since I am in the media, though not in international politics, I would have seized upon this story to create some debate. Even if I was a greedy capitalist wanting more sales, I would have done that. I would expect a journalistic duty to at least talk about these tapes and see how real they are. It would be worthwhile on both sides—and even strengthen arguments for all.
But the silence has been noticeable. I never heard a peep Down Under.
Ted Koppel believes it
After some research, I understand that Nightline (the ABC one, not the TV3 one here) had aired the tapes partially, and The Washington Times also mentioned them. So that is one liberal and one conservative source. Never heard Fox News mention it.
The news has not been carried forth much.
At Dragonﬁre, Alex Koppelman advances a unique theory: that conservatives are responsible for covering up this information.
Mr Koppelman cites quotations that shed doubt on one John Loftus, who organized a gathering called ‘The Intelligence Summit’ where the tapes were the central focus.
Mr Koppelman ultimately does not judge whether the tapes are genuine or not, either.
I tend to believe they are more likely genuine, if a usually anti-Bush source such as ABC-TV would air them. But it still brings me back to the same point: why such a limited exposure?
Conspiracy may well be the reason, but I would have hoped for something more logical. That other news stories were more important (in which case I could have attacked the media for making bad judgement calls), or that it was old news (again, not a great excuse).
Regardless of whom is behind the story not getting more air time, I can’t guess a reason. How about a bit of dialogue between American conservative and liberal bloggers—all civilized, of course—so we can get to the bottom of this? Was President Bush right? Or was our Prime Minister, taking an anti-war stance, the sensible one?
Del.icio.us tags: WMD | Saddam Hussein | Iraq | Iraq war | war on terror | anti-war | George W. Bush | USA | politics | conspiracy | liberal media | mainstream media | conservative | bias | MSM | anti-Bush | media | news Posted by Jack Yan, 02:56
As promised to Cat Morley, who tagged me on February 6 on her Katz-i design blog, herewith are my answers.
Four jobs I’ve had
1. Design lecturer at the National College of Design & Technology—I created the Wellington design theory programme.
2. Lecturer at Massey University—the ﬁrst typeface design programme in New Zealand.
3. Not sure what else. I’ve basically been self-employed for all of my working life at Jack Yan & Associates, and of course, at Lucire.
Four movies I can watch over and over
1. The Italian Job (1969—note the year).
2. Bullitt (if you remake this, I will kill you).
3. Simone (Andrew Niccol rocks!).
Four places I’ve lived
1. Stockholm, Sweden (in Stefan’s ﬂat!).
2. Paris, France.
3. Hong Kong.
4. Wellington, New Zealand.
Four places I’ve vacationed
1. Aschaffenburg, Germany.
2. Bora Bora, French Polynesia.
3. Melbourne, Victoria.
4. Beverly Hills, California.
Four places I would rather be right now
1. Bora Bora, French Polynesia.
2. Papeete, Tahiti.
3. Martinborough, New Zealand.
4. Somewhere on the Coromandel Coast, New Zealand.
Four TV shows I love
1. The Persuaders (hence the title of this blog).
2. The New Avengers.
3. The Professionals.
4. The Paradise Club.
Four of my favourite dishes
1. Char kwai teow, as served at Mutiara.
3. Blue cod, as served at Fleur’s Place.
4. Won ton soup.
Four sites I visit daily
1. Gaping Void.
2. Business Ethics & Social Enterprise.
3. The Beyond Branding Blog—a quick way to see if Johnnie Moore, Tim Kitchin and others have updated.
4. New Millennium PR.
Four people I am tagging
1. Stefan Engeseth.
2. Stefan Liute (to get it into a brand-new area of the world!).
3. Nigel Dunn.
4. Markoos—especially since he has a new job and this will keep him grounded. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:51
I’m not entirely sure what to do when tagged with memes—not long ago, Cat Morley had been tagged with a list where she had to name four of her favourite things, etc. This was among the four blogs she was reading. (Cat, thank you—I wasn’t entirely sure if I had to carry that on, but maybe after I sort through this in my mind, and I can ﬁnd your post again, I will.)
I notice this morning that Andrea Weckerle has tagged me with one from Mediations: the Scoop!, which actually looks like a darn good blog. Its premise:
Journalists appear in ﬁction in many guises and play many roles. Sometimes they provide central characters, often they intrude on the action, their attentions as unwelcome as they often are in real life. Scoop! gathers together these appearances under a variety of themes, some amusing, some trivial, some giving an insight into how the Press works and how it is seen to impact on our society.
I’m sure those better versed in the blogosphere will inform me if I mess this up, but here goes (rules at this link). American ﬁctional journalists are easier (Andrea Sachs in Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada; Crawford Sloane in Arthur Hailey’s The Evening News) but The Scoop!’s Philip Young wants the character limited to UK and European ﬁction.
A mid-Atlantic solution would have been a TV news reporter in an early Raymond Benson short story, ‘Live at Five’, published in TV Guide—one of his early James Bond outings. But Mr Benson is from Chicago, and the story is set there. Darn.
In that case, how about Will Farnaby in Aldous Huxley’s Island? Still on my to-read list, but I admire Huxley a great deal, particularly his ability to take a punt on the future. From what I know of Island, Huxley gives his views on consumerism, globalization, militarism, corruption and spin—and that they remain eeriely relevant today.
Here is the hard part: tagging three people, whose reading habits I do not know for sure, other than they do absorb non-ﬁction (as I typically do). Johnnie Moore, I pick you as you know everything about everything; Simon Young, because you have a strong set of values that suggests that you are well-read; and Jeff Risley, for similar reasons and because your blogging style has a strong narrative. Please know I chose you not to scare you from reading here—this is due to genuine admiration. (And for others I did not name, I enjoy your work as much—but I really can’t guess your reading habits. These three were hard enough to pick.)
I wish coComment was working here, but I keep getting DNS errors. I’m sure I had run across other suitable folks in my travels on the blogosphere.
Gentlemen, apparently “all you need to do” is ﬁnd a ﬁctional journalist, blog about it and the Scoop! blog, tag three people, then go and add your pick at Philip’s site. I’ll leave it to you as I know your schedules are rather full; Johnnie, in particular, due to recent travel and a pile of emails in his inbox. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:52
On the left is an old New Zealand Lotto ticket. On the right is a new one.
I’m all for conservation and creating an uglier ticket as a result. I do remember that when the ﬁxed-size ticket appeared a few years ago, it seemed wasteful.
The game has changed once in format (then reverted), and the tickets have risen in price once, but really, New Zealanders get no more and no less value from the game today compared to 19 years ago, when it ﬁrst débuted.
Yet the New Zealand Lotteries’ Commission, as I understand it (i.e. this is hearsay), is three times larger today than when my friend Hilary began hosting the weekly draws on live TV around 13 years ago. And no, she wasn’t the one who told me.
While I like the compact tickets, my ﬁrst thought at the counter was, ‘They’re paying the chief executive too much.’ For when these changes happen suddenly and we aren’t given a reason, we shan’t know what to think.
Immediately I wondered why the Commission had trebled in size and why New Zealanders were paying for it, then I was reminded that I once planned a novel where the Lotto draws were used to pay out a slush fund for covert activities, where winning tickets could be printed off the computer at will.
I can understand a doubling in size, since there is a mid-week draw now, too, but even then it would still be largesse.
I guess I could stop buying the tickets, but it has become a family tradition with my father and me. So the Commission knows it has a die-hard audience, including a lot of people with gambling problems. And those people don’t really care if any of the money from the Commission is going to worthy causes.
In fact, the draw has been slimmed down: no longer do Hils and the other presenters talk about the good the Commission does in redistributing funds. That’s also understandable, since they used to send a crew to ﬁlm the various places getting the money. However, a mention would still be nice, otherwise we’ll think the Commission is keeping the dough. Especially as the prizes are no bigger, and we just don’t know if it is giving out as much.
Research shows that it is giving out more between 2004 and 2005, not that the public knows without downloading the annual reports. In that case, who is supporting the extra staff? I think it’s us, through our taxes.
But what I would like to see is this: if the tickets are getting slimmed down, and if the economy is so rotten right now, then the Commission should be downsized, if it is not doing that much more work than before. Trimming it to half its size, or even two-thirds, seems logical to me as an ofﬁcious bystander. And, with the money saved from this and from the new tickets—which, believe me, would be a huge saving given my knowledge of printing—increase the grants. Or use it more wisely during the recession that this government is engineering.
Otherwise, there’s going to be a rift between the brand at the corporate level and one at the consumer level. And as we all know, that’s the ﬁrst sign of an unstable business.
Del.icio.us tags: branding | Lotto | New Zealand | government spending | tax Posted by Jack Yan, 07:12
Cranky at Things that Suck notes that there are now 20 types of Colgate (a former JY&A client) toothpaste, all ﬁghting for shelf space. But the down side of this is that no one could possibly know what the Colgate brand now stands for by examining the product—or even Crest, which has almost as many types.
I know that there is oversegmentation in the market-place and all, but I wonder if the market is so segmented that we need 20 kinds of Colgate. Here in New Zealand, there’s Raspberry Coke, Citra Coke, and all these different ﬂavours as well. All for the same reasons.
And here, to my recollection, I have not seen a Colgate campaign for a long time. I might have seen some animated toothpaste man for Colgate Total. But that’s about it. He doesn’t mean a lot to me. I don’t know if the Colgate lifestyle is the one I buy into as a bachelor. I remember Tony Blair said he uses Colgate. That might be reason enough to not use it, for some people.
As a kid, I remember three Colgates. Regular, mint, and mint so strong it would burn your mouth off. I just want clean teeth. I used to be brand-loyal on toothpastes but with all these varieties, I no longer care—because of all the differences, I now view them as all the same.
Reduce the varieties, and I might come back to one brand. Be daring and have a single Colgate that does it all, and that would be bloody compelling. Right now, with all these varieties, I can’t understand what these brands mean—and, therefore, I can’t ﬁnd which brand has the most afﬁnity with me. I have to even confess that I now use whatever has been given to me by a PR company in connection with my magazines, so it is Macleans in my house.
Del.icio.us tags: Colgate | branding | market segmentation | brand loyalty Posted by Jack Yan, 06:18
‘I’m Special Agent Flynn, and I need to get a copy of Lucire.’
Thanks to Andrea Weckerle’s comment on this blog, I have learned (through Rick Klau’s blog) that Snakes on a Plane is shooting extra footage, because of fans. The blogosphere has been talking about this Samuel L. Jackson starrer about an attack on a plane for over half a year, with Lucires in the seat pockets (OK, they haven’t been talking about the latter bit), so much so that New Line is ﬁlming for ﬁve extra days and adding in more gore and nudity.
And, word has it at The Hollywood Reporter, Sam might even say the line that was cooked up by one fan: ‘I want these motherf***ing snakes off the motherf***ing plane!’ (To hear the all the cussing, click here for a mock trailer or see the ﬁlm.)
I don’t know if New Line has approached the bloggers for this material, or if it’s all Creative Commons-covered, but in essence this is open-source movie-making (if I understand the term correctly—or, as Johnnie Moore says, it may be wide open to interpretation).
Whatever the case, the news has reinvigorated interest in the movie. Reinvigorate? Yep: in early February, it looked as though the whole Snakes on a Plane thing had peaked, despite sites such as Snakes on a Blog and folks doing cups and T-shirts at Cafépress. People weren’t using the term to mean ‘Shit happens’ or ‘C’est la vie,’ as was desired by some, including entries into the Urban Dictionary. It was just a ﬂeeting thing that haunted geekdom for a while after a Wired magazine article.
Google references had risen that month from 96,900 (January 19) to 461,000 (February 1). But from that point, they began to fall: 380,000 on February 5 to 176,000 10 days later.
So what is New Line to do? Since the whole history of Snakes on a Plane has been unconventional, they listened. Listened to fans who had not even seen the ﬁlm but were intrigued by the daft name. And they actually did something they thought fans would like. Even the ﬁlm’s logo is from a fan, reports The Daily Telegraph. Google references sit on 880,000 today. People power, boosted by the mainstream media.
New Line, if you are out there, I would ask one of the passengers beat the crap out of a ‘motherf***ing snake’ with a Lucire. Check the contract: I don’t need them returned.
Del.icio.us tags: Snakes on a Plane | Samuel L. Jackson | movie | ﬁlm | brand | blogosphere | Lucire | fans | open source | Creative Commons | New Line | teaser | hype | marketing | promotion | humour | brand evangelism Posted by Jack Yan, 00:13
I missed it, too: Mike Swenson mentions on his blog that last Wednesday was World Water Day. I should have known: water is one of the planet’s most pressing concerns. And conserving it starts at home, with this site that he refers to: Water: Use it Wisely.
Apart from the long showers and washing my car with a hose, I have to say I am pretty good at conservation. Top marks for everything else on the checklist.
One of the reasons more storms and disasters reach the western world, I believe, is karma. For too long we treat a lot of these problems as “far away”, affecting third-world countries. Katrina was a reminder that clean water is a privilege, and when others need it, we should help in our own way. Even if only to prevent being bitten on the hind end closer to home.
A billion people lack access to drinking water, and water-borne diseases are the number-one killer of people in the world. Check out more at this page at water.org, also cited by Mike. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:01
This is my 155th post, I am in the top 50,000 (48,384) in Technorati (nowhere near Stowe Boyd’s ‘Starting from Zero’ accomplishments), and I am a top ﬁve coCommenter. I guess that’s not bad for someone who, until January, refused to have a blog of his own. When asked how I did it, I replied: luck; the fact this blog is in English; and a lot of links from friends.
A warm thank-you to all those who have helped, who read me regularly, and who put up with the off-topic posts. Thanks especially to Johnnie Moore for giving me the most encouragement. I am now signing off for the weekend (Saturday 3.52 a.m. here). Have a good one! Posted by Jack Yan, 15:49
With the announcement that L’Oréal SA (a Lucire client) is acquiring the Body Shop plc, Chris MacDonald’s reaction was to check if the French company had an ethics’ policy. He wrote, ‘L’Oreal’s public image, at least, includes no such commitment’ to social responsibility—making him wonder if the two companies had compatible values.
The French are particularly good at managing individual brands, even brands of conﬂicting characters. The Body Shop may well ﬂourish under the L’Oréal group, because of its resources, and my dealings with the company show that it combines administration, it will streamline promotions, but it will leave the character of the brands intact.
The problem is that the Body Shop has been a model of CSR, and L’Oréal is not, even if it has CSR practices. Will some of the English company’s activities be at odds with its new parent? Will they be reined in? Because the Body Shop’s brand comes from its vision and the activities that it inspires.
If L’Oréal does change the Body Shop’s activities, then it will turn its new brand into a joke—and CSR will be another “lip service” marketing method with little real-world relevance. Somehow, I think one of the most proﬁtable beauty companies in the world won’t be that unwise: every parent is allowed one renegade child.
Plus the optimist in me says this could be the start of CSR practices making their way across the L’Oréal group. Because you’re worth it.
Del.icio.us tags: L’Oréal | The Body Shop | social responsibility | CSR Posted by Jack Yan, 08:05
Modern Marketing reports in its ‘Open Source TV’ post that Showtime’s The L Word is welcoming fan ﬁction for a story it will ﬁlm. Fans are given a scenario and asked to come up with a script. Prizes are on offer, and it’s helped strengthen the series’ fan base. The link to FanLib’s L Word initiative is here.
Television will head in this direction more and more. The fans are out there, and have been sharing fan ﬁction for as long as the web has been around. For those wondering just how that medium will change, I say this is the clearest indicator, coupled with web-connected television shows that encourage two-way interaction. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:32
This has been discussed on the blogosphere for quite some time, but not in a negative sense: Australia’s latest tourism campaign. Some folks like the TVC, and the tagline, ‘Where the bloody hell are you?’: This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics wrote on March 10, ‘Australians have so perfected the art of bonhomie that they can trade in frankness without being rude.’
I’ve been enjoying the campaign for all the wrong reasons for the last couple of weeks (young Australian models) but it reminds me of the good times and the friends I have there. And in terms of nation branding, it is not unreasonable: it presents a positive face that a tourist will ﬁnd reasonably realistic, and it underlines a sense of freedom and liberty that the antipodes are known for. It connects to the Australian idea of frankness and the campaign has a nice sense of irony and understatement—something else antipodeans do well without being falsely humble. And it makes me, as I write this, very grateful that down here, we have true freedom of speech (perhaps unlike Virginia Beach, where the photograph below left was taken).
And even Markoos over in Queensland likes it: ‘Tourism Australia launched it’s bloody good new campaign to much fanfare (see the tv ad here). It’s a bloody good ad that presents the aussie people as warm inviting people who are laid back bloody and inviting’ (sic).
Having just posted on my standards of cussing, I never thought of this commercial as being rude. But the Brits do: they think bloody is a curse word and the young lady the end has had to make do with the missing word. I believe she is dubbed now, but frankly, I wasn’t listening. How could I be? She is very, very attractive.
I would like to say for humorous effect, ‘Wake up, Brits! She’s prettier and less common than Denise van Outen,’ but I have to bite my tongue. For one, I still hold a Pommy passport (dual nationality). And secondly, isn’t the root of this the same misunderstanding as behind the whole Mohammed cartoon thing? You think it’s wrong, and I don’t.
And the Australian tourism board simply said, ‘We understand the Brits. We’ll alter the ad,’ instead of persisting with it and pissing people off.
Apparently the objection to the word is Victorian, according to National Radio here. There is no etymological connection to the blood of Christ. Instead, it may be literal, or it is connected to aristocrats (the ‘blue bloods’) and negative antics prescribed to them.
The Aussies are taking it in their stride. Their research showed the Brits liked the campaign and weren’t offended, even though evidence from the regulatory authorities there disagreed. They are welcoming it as a PR dream come true: the news coverage of the change—and the fact that www.wherethebloodyhellareyou.com remains a destination for everyone—has propelled this A$100 million-plus campaign into the limelight. Before the launch of the campaign in the UK, Brits had already downloaded the commercial 30,000 times (on March 9).
Watch the commercial here and if you are a young bloke like me, tell me you heard what she said. She could have well been saying, ‘Oy, you bloody perv, my face is up here,’ and you wouldn’t even know it.
Del.icio.us tags: nation branding | Australia | freedom | frankness | liberty | tourism | destination marketing | Australian Posted by Jack Yan, 05:32
Looks like I crossed the 150-post barrier with the last blog entry. That’s a quarter of the posts at the Beyond Branding Blog, where I used to post.
I worked till 4 a.m. today—the ﬁnal days before plating and printing at Lucire can be heavy—and got the news overnight that US and UK special forces had rescued New Zealand resident Harmeet Sooden, plus two other Christian peace activists, from their captors in Iraq.
Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News gave credit to American troops. Reuter said ‘U.S.-led forces’. Radio New Zealand gave credit to ‘multinational forces’. Fairfax was vague with ‘coalition forces’ in print. CNN, from the broadcasts I heard today, identiﬁed American and British forces. The Canadian press (e.g. the National Post) mentioned that Canadian special forces were involved.
I know the United States has many issues relating to its behaviour in this war on terror, but all I ask for is fair reporting. New Zealand media enjoy laying the blame over the Iraq war on the United States’ intelligence over weapons of mass destruction—or, more commonly, at the hands of President Bush personally. It seems like a raw deal for the US military to not get some credit when it has done something good for one of “our” own (well, a Canadian national living here), yet it always gets slammed for the bad things that happen.
I admit ‘multinational forces’ is accurate, but I have to wonder: would we be so anti-war if we were told that ‘multinational forces’, rather than the US and the UK, ‘invaded’ Iraq? After all, we were in the coalition in the ﬁrst Gulf War, and it should be borne in mind that more countries participated in Gulf War II in Iraq than during the Korean War. But my impression is that this war is shown in the media here as an American war.
The six o’clock network TV news will perhaps be more determinative of how mainstream media in New Zealand treat the United States.
At this point, too, semantics aside, we should remember slain hostage Tom Fox, whose tortured body was found two weeks ago. May he rest in peace, more so now that his fellow hostages are free.
War, whomever is responsible, whatever the motive, is a horrible business. Posted by Jack Yan, 03:44
I’ve spent the last couple of days looking over the next Lucire, and pondered whether to let the f word go through uncensored. It’s in an excellent by Fiona Ralph about fashion label Wheels & Dollbaby. In the context, it is appropriate, and it was a direct quotation within another direct quotation—but eventually I stuck with (our) tradition and replaced the uck with asterisks. Perhaps the act of doing so can be called uckstarring.
It’s my magazine; it has to reﬂect my values, and I generally don’t cuss. There are some people I want to get aggro about, and yes, I have used the word, but only in extreme circumstances. If I used it all the time, I would lose a good word for exclamation (how does Samuel L. Jackson cope with those snakes on that motherf***ing plane? Shall we invent a more serious word—like snicklebock—and position it as even more coarse?). My decision may look quaint today, and may look even more quaint in ten years’ time. But one rule of founder-run businesses is true: they retain the personality of that founder.
Further, Lucire is a brand that has a decency about it, and if the f word is not good enough for network television here before 9 p.m., then I don’t want the censor—who actually taught my ﬁrst class in law school—breathing down my neck. I would prefer the magazine to be digniﬁed, even if all its other dealings are transparent, honest and reﬂective of the world we live in. It tries to be productive as a magazine, which is why we reach some passionate, globally minded consumers. It tries to reshape its world to how I would like to see it by being more positive and inspiring. Foul language just doesn’t seem to go with that brand. I leave the cursing to my competitors. (So, can you say the f word in Vogue?) Posted by Jack Yan, 08:54
The Dominion Post newspaper, which republished the Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoons earlier in the year, seems to like giving the impression it is run by ignoramuses with Klan leanings. Even if it has some bloody good journalists on the front line.
Thank God our young people are on to it at Victoria University, my Alma Mater, as Damien Kruz, media student, identiﬁes the racial tags attached to an article where a judge, Anand Satyanand, was tipped by the newspaper to be the next Governor-General of New Zealand.
It shouldn’t matter what the honourable gentleman’s ethnicity is—but for the paper, according to Mr Kruz, it did.
And it is not the ﬁrst time a “minority” has been appointed to the post, so his race is even less newsworthy.
I don’t know if Canada had the same problems when consecutive minorities made the G-G post, but I shall be interested to know. To me, this type of reporting is another sign of the Post being well out of touch with New Zealand society.
I’m not asking for woolly and warm political correctness. I am asking the judge to be considered on his merits. Maybe, in celebrating diversity, his ethnicity might be mentioned once—I’m cool with that. But not this, as Mr Kruz relates (my emphasis):
It is the Indo element of Mr. Satyanand’s ethnic composition that deﬁnes him in the article. The article alienates and relegates Mr. Satyanand to an ethnic group that presently sit precariously in New Zealand’s cultural demographic as ‘new comers’.
I have faith because of people like Mr Kruz. When he begins his journalistic career, he may wind up at the Post. Then, he may be able to change things from the inside.
Del.icio.us tags: journalism | media | newspaper | New Zealand | race | ethnicity | racism Posted by Jack Yan, 08:48
In case anyone thought I was just posing next to a random Aston Martin V8 Vantage in my earlier post, my friend Matt Clark, who runs a client ﬁrm that buys a few advertisements in Lucire, took this pic of yours truly behind the wheel. (Those A-pillars are huge.) It reminds me of an image in Wheels in the 1980s where Juan-Manuel Fangio is driving his Mercedes-Benz, except there, Fangio made the car look good. Here, the car makes me look good.
Now that I have caught me making a total tosser of myself au blog, I have to wonder why. When I drove a Porsche 911 I couldn’t care less about who saw me, nor did I blog about it. True, I didn’t have this blog at the time, but I had the Beyond Branding Blog at which I could vent.
Therein lies the secret of 21st century marketing: ﬁnding afﬁnity. People expect to be able to. When that connection is made between a consumer and a product, the consumer will talk the product up to the hilt, becoming its evangelist. And if you have a product that is little more than a commodity—and competing cars share many of their components, after all—it is this afﬁnity that will make the difference.
Why else would Ford and GM own so many brands? Each appeals to a different sector of the market, not income-wise, but psychologically. Understand that psychology, be present at the causes or events that that type of consumer supports, and you have yourself an audience. And if you don’t know those causes, then ﬁnd out using a web site or other means of research—the process itself creates afﬁnity.
In Aston Martin’s case, it has a heritage that I love, but it might want to start thinking about how to win future consumers, especially if the V8 Vantage will raise the company’s output and the cars become more commonplace. Some parts of the past can be used: the fact David Brown, when he owned Aston Martin, kept the workforce going for as long as possible while losing money on each car, appeals to me. It may be expressed in the Ford of Europe commitment to its Works Council, signed in 2003. If the carbon ﬁbre and aluminium are produced using a process that has little impact on the environment, then it is an added bonus that links in perfectly to the brand’s desired high-tech direction (away from the old world ideas of the last V8s and the Virage).
One thing is for sure: exclusivity is a declining notion for Aston Martin, as James Bond’s lifestyle becomes more attainable for the average Joe. Something else needs to be there for the decades to come.
Del.icio.us tags: Aston Martin | CSR | social responsibility | heritage | brand | branding | history | exclusivity | marketing | James Bond | consumer | afﬁnity Posted by Jack Yan, 06:29
Randy Thomas’s blog reminds me that it’s been a year since Terri Schiavo had her feeding tube removed. The story faded out like so many in the media, after building up to a crescendo, and we are no more civilized or developed as a human race one year on. The issue is still as divided now as it was before.
My good friend and Lucire photographer Doug Rimington worked in a hospice when he was younger and saw the pain people were in. Room after room of human pain and sorrow. And he fell in to the camp that was opposite to mine. Having seen my own mother pass away in 1994 to cancer, I know the experience caused her pain, but we were all brought together even more as a family. The meaning of life became stronger for us. Therefore, I sided with those who believed Terri to be “alive”, ﬁnding that the nurses who swore that she was cognizant of her surroundings were unjustly silenced by the mainstream media.
I respect both sides of the argument. I don’t think any less of Doug because he disagreed with me. He was a bit surprised to ﬁnd that there were nurses who were silenced, and, to be frank, so was I—though I admit I found those statements on a site connected to Terri’s parents, who wanted her feeding tube to remain in. Therefore, there was bound to be some bias.
So, in 2006, where are we? We seem to get behind the latest causes as told to us by the mainstream media, and when the story has passed, we don’t seem to care much. Was Terri aware of her surroundings? If not, were those nurses lying under oath? And how come the mainstream media hardly featured those nurses’ statements?
Perhaps by contrast, New Zealand television interviewed a Kiwi who found herself in a vegetative state and recovered, and she claimed she was fully aware of what was going on while she could not speak.
I believe we don’t look enough into spirituality and how, when our bodies fail, we are still capable of having awareness. There, too, one ﬁnds sceptics who believe psychic abilities are conﬁdence tricks. Instead, as a human race, we overestimate the ego and the celebrity of certain human beings—witness how we treat movie stars by raising them on to a pedestal. And with stories like Terri’s, we underestimate the ability of the human spirit—even though every day we make decisions based on instinct and those undeﬁnable aspects of our lives.
Our priorities are all mixed up. Whether we agree with Terri’s tube being removed or not, I say we champion the human spirit and will, before we champion ego and idolatry.
To do this, more of us need to value human life before we pick up another tabloid or weekly talking about Tom and Katie, Brad and Angelina, or some other celebrity.
Otherwise, nothing will change.
Del.icio.us tags: media | Terri Schiavo | celebrity | mainstream media | MSM | human spirit | life | tabloid Posted by Jack Yan, 12:45
Author Ronald Wright was interviewed today on National Radio (audio link here). Mr Wright wrote A Short History of Progress, which theorizes that history keeps repeating itself, and that progress is often followed by collapse. Right now, he believes, we’re headed for the same fate as the Romans, or many of the earlier groups that disintegrated spectacularly. Around us, there are more pollution, inequity, and irresponsibility with the way we treat our planet, behaviours that have happened many times prior to collapses in the last 10,000 years, whether we’re too busy building giant heads on Easter Island or using wet agriculture in Babylon.
Nothing has changed much, but Wright says if we play our cards right, we might save ourselves from a nasty scenario. The message may not be new, and I have not read his book to judge its depth, but I say we need all the reminders we can get. There is little harm in leaving a smaller environmental footprint on this earth—even little things like using both sides of a piece of paper. Or being aware of the choices we make for automobiles—do we really need a gas guzzler? Can we ﬁght the negative consequences of laissez-faire capitalism causing great inequities in terms of global incomes, simply by being aware of what we buy and whether the products are made ethically?
Indeed, I think we have been repeating the same behaviours for a lot longer than 10,000 years, being a believer that there were civilizations long before this present history. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:37
I might have to use this photograph by Helen and Chelfyn Baxter as my ofﬁcial publicity pic. The Aston Martin V8 Vantage may be inferior to the Porsche 911 dynamically, as my quick drive out to Bethells Beach near Auckland revealed, but it turns heads like crazy. A few moments before this pic, tourists near where I am standing thought, ‘Bugger the Maori artefacts. Let’s look at this.’
The Aston shows that the brand and how it’s expressed are the heart-felt reasons for spending NZ$245,000 or £79,995 to buy one of these cars. The brand ideas have to include the whole James Bond mystique—which came about because Ian Fleming included a DB3 in the Goldﬁnger novel, and the car was updated for the ﬁlm—along with the underdog impression—how for most of its history, Aston Martin never made a penny. The car looks bonkers cool.
If it were logic alone, the 911 would be the better choice—more kit, more grip, better handling and better acceleration. All that was obvious without measuring it with scientiﬁc instruments, which won’t please Aston boss, Ulrich Bez, formerly of Porsche.
But I would still choose the Vantage, which did win Lucire’s Car to Be Seen in for 2006. The Henrik Fisker looks, the sexy styling, and even the fact that the admirers seem to be a better class than those who wound down their windows to compliment me on the 911 Carrera. There’s a quieter appreciation for a car that looks inﬁnitely better—and those looks seduce me enough to live with those slight inferiorities. Most importantly, the brand values of Aston ﬁt more with my admiration for the underdog; if it weren’t for them, those inferiorities would not be covered up quite so effectively. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:04
Antony Mayﬁeld posted at the beginning of this month about The Times doing a global edition of its online newspaper. He notes that The Times, a News Corp. property, already ranks 14th globally for news, and:
Sensibly, the paper is signalling its commitment to competing for readers on the world stage. UK national newspapers have a great opportunity globally, due to the prevalence of the English language, the quality of their content and reporting infrastructure, and their ability to—often—eschew parochialism.
My feeling tends to be that online, there should be a global edition ﬁrst and national ones second. The former should be the default, and if people wanted domestic news, they could opt for it, or choose a ‘UK’ setting themselves.
Everything about the way consumers are changing shows this to be more appropriate, particularly in the online sphere where international communication is de rigueur. Still, having a global edition is better than none at all. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:36
A quiet time on the blog, because of some personal and work matters. One of them relates to an assault against me and a Lucire staff member—and I found out today that despite four arresting ofﬁcers, the New Zealand Police seems to have lost the entire ﬁle. As far as the fuzz is concerned, this incident never took place on August 12, 2005. Convenient for the assailant, but not good for those of us who want to press charges.
Tomorrow begins my private investigation into this by following up the arresting ofﬁcers. Normally we have the cleanest cops in the world, probably save for some Scandinavian countries, so I am sure there is an innocent explanation—not that that helps me or the staff member, or a frightened witness. The police ofﬁcer I spoke to today was apologetic—and totally puzzled on how, in this age of computerization, he could not ﬁnd anything. I am puzzled, too.
So, yes, company CEOs and people who appear on TV, even as little as I do, have to deal with crap and waste a lot of time doing so.
Speaking of the fuzz (very bad segue there), Johnnie Moore has a link from the excellent Open blog on how members of the Met are getting into trouble over blogging. In Open’s Antony Mayﬁeld’s eyes, this masks deeper problems inside.
However, a fun tool today found via Ben Casnocha’s blog: a site that generates, on the ﬂy, a map with the countries that you’ve visited. Here’s mine, with Africa and South America untouched:
The same site has one for US states, where I am not doing too well either:
Click on the maps or the links above to trial the applications. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:29
Thanks to coComment—a useful tool to track comments—which put me on to Unhandled Perception, I learned about Copyscape, a web site that helps authors track whether someone has plagiarized their work. This is likely to become a hotter and more important issue as the 21st century unfolds. Just type in your web page and the site hunts for others that duplicate its contents. (Try Copyspace here.) Posted by Jack Yan, 01:43
A quickie today as I am tired from having started the day too early for TV: thanks to Paul McNamara, I found this link from Indiana University, called CenSearchip. You can compare the search results given to Red China, and those given to the United States. Checking for Tiananmen Square, for example, yields 37,200 results for Google China and 3,200,000 for regular Google—and to make it easy to see what is covered, the program gives a tagcloud.
As I commented at Paul’s Buzzblog: what happens when, one day, the free Chinese people seek out the Politburo’s conspirators? Will they touch Google and Yahoo! again?
Try out more searches here. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:24
Further to my Wal-mart post today, this Dutch site notes (acknowledging Marketing Vox and The New York Times) that the retail giant is recruiting bloggers to help ﬁght its negative PR. Not sure if it will work: according to the report, some bloggers are republishing releases verbatim, and with today’s smart blog-surfers, who are pretty clued up on advertising, this could yet backﬁre. It could also harm the bloggers who have carried the releases verbatim. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:52
At this link is a pretty old article about company valuation, but it is important to remember that in the seven years since it was published, not an awful lot has changed. Intellectual capital (even informal networks which can be counted as part of it) is not necessarily counted on a company’s balance sheets.
I’m no accountant, but I recognize that valuation is the source of some of our ﬁnancial ills today. The quest for ever-higher quarterly results leads to short-term business decision-making—in contrast to outﬁts like Toyota or, for that matter, many of the United States’ most successful companies before they became obsessed with delivering a share price before good products and services.
A shift may be a good thing. A brand’s value rests less on its share price and more on its inherent equity and the connection between each branding stage (vision, research, exposition, image). Considering this notion, because it actually involves people, may determine corporate performance far more accurately than the traditional balance-sheet items. In fact, I’ve used it myself to see where a company might head in the years to come, with some accuracy. Certainly no worse than playing the market based on advisers’ tips.
I’ll leave that as food for thought as I have to get up early for TV. Today’s topic on Good Morning: compromises. How much do you need to compromise? Watch TV One in New Zealand at 9.30 a.m. NZDT, or streamed online at the Good Morning mini-site. The time translates to Thursday, 8.30 p.m. GMT, or 3.30 p.m. EST. (We put our clocks back this Sunday, which will affect these time zone conversions.) Posted by Jack Yan, 11:38
I know this is a tad recursive as Peter Begley from Business Ethics & Corporate Social Responsibility found the CorpWatch blog through here, but his latest post today highlights yet another disturbing fact about Wal-mart.
When I was at B-school, doing conjoint business and law degrees (I didn’t believe in anything then), Wal-mart was a management textbook darling. No more. I doubt anyone would hold up the post-Sam Walton Wal-mart as a shining example of modern business, considering it forces prices down and can, according to my colleague Simon Anholt, collapse an entire national economy by deciding to buy its coffee from another place.
The latest incident makes me wonder if the Walton kids were waiting for the old man to croak so they could run amok and build shrines to the family. For they are building a museum, and Ms Alice Walton has just forked out $35 million—that’s more than what John Travolta gets for one ﬁlm—for a painting. A painting.
Peter quotes from an Alternet posting:
It might not even be, as Wal-MartWatch.com points out, that the price of the painting equals what the state of Arkansas spends every two years providing for Wal-Mart’s 3,971 employees on public assistance; or that the average Wal-Mart cashier makes $7·92 an hour and, since Wal Mart likes to keep people on less than full-time schedules, works only 29 hours a week for an annual income of $11,948—so a Wal-Mart cashier would have to work a little under 3,000 years to earn the price of the painting without taking any salary out for food, housing, or other expenses (and a few hundred more years to pay the taxes, if the state legislature didn’t exempt our semi-immortal worker).
The CorpWatch post about Wal-mart is here, while Peter’s post may be found by clicking here.
Sure as heck smacks of the sort of behaviour that usually leads nations into revolution, whether you believe in karma or not. It will be interesting to see if corporations are as susceptible. I think so, as they are identiﬁed by a brand as much as a nation is by its ﬂag and the uniforms of its secret police.
Del.icio.us tags: Wal-mart | social responsibility | CSR Posted by Jack Yan, 05:19
I know: you’ve been thinking, ‘Where is the good stuff?’ The last few days I’ve blogged about things I’ve read, editorializing and ranting.
In fact, I did spot a post at This Blog Sits at the Intersection of Anthropology and Economics, probably not the longest title in the blogosphere, but certainly the longest among my blogroll. Grant McCracken discusses Birkenstock, and how the brand is remaining authentic by focusing on existing customers rather than expand (“inauthentically”?) into new ones where its message might be diluted.
So far so good. The last thing you want is a brand to pretend it is something that it is not. It would be like asking Sylvester Stallone to take on a romantic role. (However, I vote the man does comedy: if Twins II were to be made, and the original actors are unavailable, how about Sly and Bob Hoskins?)
I agree totally with Grant and add one more thought. Birkenstock, and other brands which have the level of following that it does, does another thing well: it blurs where its staff ends and its customer base begins. The best customers are strong advocates, probably as strong as any ofﬁcial marketing activity approved by the company. They come back time and time again to the product. Others are encouraged to adopt it.
Thus, you have a brand that actually gets new customers without Birkenstock expanding into new markets consciously. New customers think, ‘My goodness, I don’t have that level of engagement with my existing shoe brand. This looks good.’ And there you have the secret of branding in the 21st century: customer engagement.
It works for some things. FMCG is probably an area where this wouldn’t work as effectively, at least not without some cultural shift: whatever happened to the ‘new generation’ weaned on Pepsi-Cola? Did their kids or even younger siblings follow suit after this generation saw all those Michael Jackson or Michael J. Fox ads? No. The marketing department and customer base were separated. How about involving them next time in developing a new ﬂavour and seeing if they can be engaged again?
I won’t be switching though. I have the required level of engagement with my current brand, Dayton Boots of Vancouver, where I have talked up the company like crazy. Last month a story was partly devoted to my shoes, so that brieﬂy they were better known than me. I am Dayton’s advocate and unofﬁcial marketing department.
Del.icio.us tags: brand | branding | Birkenstock | Dayton | consumer advocate | marketing | authenticity Posted by Jack Yan, 23:44
Light relief for tonight before I get back to work: ‘Hu’s on First?’ from Where the Dolphins Play; found via Right On!. Abbott and Costello will live forever. Remember, since I’m Chinese and I’m joking about it, this isn’t racist. Like Mel Brooks doing Jewish jokes. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:11
Harold Hutchinson’s column in the TCS Daily today reﬂects my views on what the United States has done to the United Arab Emirates, an ally on the war on terror, a state that promotes religious freedom, a country that cracked down on an anti-Semitic outﬁt. He also correctly states that if two 9-11 hijackers were from the UAE, then the US should treat the UK in the same way (because Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was from there), and ditto with Germany (the location of the Al-Qaeda cell that planned the attack). My earlier views are recorded here, but my negative comments toward certain Democrats apply equally to Republicans who are dividing the party for little more than securing a few nationalist, xenophobic votes for the mid-terms.
I thought in times of war the ruling party should be behind its president. And to show allies some degree of respect. Why was the UAE helping the US again? Probably not to get stabbed in the back.
The bigger picture is that this goes against the world we say we want: one where differences aren’t politicized, and we are against terror, and for harmony. Xenophobes are an ever-shrinking part of the electorate globally, encouraged only by fearmongers and politicians. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:36
The International Herald–Tribune today has an article on how the big three soft drink makers—Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cadbury Schweppes—have 80 per cent of the world’s market sewn up. Independents can’t really compete, particularly in developing countries where companies like Coke actually help build the infrastructure to get its product to people, and where antitrust laws aren’t strong.
I realize this talk is early, but when some of these nations have a stronger virtual structure, which will creep up more quickly than a physical one, then open source soft drinks could be a way to go. Have just enough standardization out there, but permit others to produce the drink, to compete with the conﬁdentiality that surrounds Coke’s formula. Transparency trumping secrecy: not a bad model to spread around the world.
This is not a new idea. The Danes have open source beer, Vores Øl, uses a traditional formula injected with guarana. The recipe is published under the Creative Commons licence: anyone can make their own.
But one that can take place right now are open source fries. In New Zealand, McDonald’s has made some play on its claim that it sells the country’s favourite fries. But I prefer the fries I make, which aren’t too dissimilar from those at my local ﬁsh and chip shop. The only problem: the individual ﬁsh and chip shops around the country are hardly united and most aren’t branded, so even if they coincidentally used the same recipe for their fries, who’ll know? No brand encompasses them all.
Therefore, go open source. Have a published recipe and a brand, and allow all to use that brand freely. Kiwichips. Kiwifries. Whatever. But make them a little distinctive—maybe create a unique seasoning.
They will have an immediate number of distribution outlets, and it would be a great experiment in seeing if individuals can take on major corporations. I am not dissing McDonald’s (this time)—I have an academic interest in seeing if this works.
It is the sort of thing that can take place in countries like New Zealand, which have a healthy level of entrepreneurial activity and enough balls to carry it out. It also ﬁts with the generosity of spirit New Zealanders have. Any takers?
Del.icio.us tags: open source | New Zealand Posted by Jack Yan, 05:25
I was watching an old UK documentary on the late John Z. De Lorean. In it, he successfully defended himself against the FBI for having been found with a briefcase full of cocaine, and then asked the public for money for his defence fund. When Googling “defense fund” in American English, there are some six million references; even with the proper spelling Google comes up with 274,000. Question: if that is the case, then why are they not adopted in New Zealand, where there is a strong social conscience and certainly enough people putting their hands up over things we believe in? When I think about it, since I get involved in several cases each quarter, some people out there deserve one, but no one ever thinks of setting one up. Posted by Jack Yan, 15:53
Two quickies referred to me by Helen Baxter (The Business Blog for Kiwi Creatives). One is Blackspot Shoes, designed to ﬁght the likes of Nike by being socially responsible. From its introduction: ‘Earth-friendly, anti-sweatshop, cruelty free, and pro-grassroots, Blackspots are the only rough-and-ready shoes designed to give toxic megacorporations what they need the most: a swift kick in the brand.’ Down side: Blackspots is sometimes intercapitalized (BlackSpots). Even anti-brands need to have consistent branding if they are to work. Anti-brands are brands, too, as much as they don’t want to hear that.
Connected to Blackspot is Adbusters, which most readers will be familiar with. They’re keeping an eye on Canwest, the parent company to TV3 and More FM here in New Zealand. The odd thing, as Helen relayed to me, is that these subsidiaries have decent people who don’t necessarily follow the head ofﬁce’s directive. After brieﬂy touching base with some TV3 folks last week—viz. anchor John Campbell and his producer and collaborator Carol Hirschfeld—this is true. Nevertheless, ‘Canwest Watch’ produces some food for thought about the top layer of management at TV3’s parent. You decide. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:50
Cat Morley (Designers Who Blog) has set up a site called No!Spec, about the difﬁculties graphic designers have when a potential client requests work to be done for nothing. It’s something I have been against for years, especially when AGDA campaigned against it with its members.
The idea is that the designer gets zilch in order to “pitch” for a job. Hours are invested, and ideas, more often than you think, are appropriated. It devalues the work of all designers. I’ve added one graphical link in the sidebar, but you can surf as readily to her site from here to see how you can help. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:21
Having been away from the blog for a week, I am catching up today. Jeff Risley’s post on Generation Y provides interest, and his ﬁnishing paragraph sums up why things need to change in the west if we are to keep up with a rising east. I won’t spoil it for readers as the closing, plus the entire post, make great reading here. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:10
It looks like the ﬁrst Chinese-built MGs will roll off the assembly lines at Nanjing Automotive in early 2007, now that its revival plan has been approved by the Politburo—speciﬁcally the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). R&D and manufacture will be in Red China.
Now that this has been ofﬁcially green-lighted, one wonders if the British media might champion the return of the English brands, or will they continue to diss them—one of the reasons that contributed to their downfall in the ﬁrst place? Because the criticisms, such as the cars’ dated design (even if other models that are as old seem to escape their attention), are as valid as they ever were.
Somehow I think the media will have more than enough to cover. For Nanjing won’t be alone in remaking these cars: Shanghai Automotive (SAIC), its rival in bidding for MG Rover, apparently owns rights to the Rover 25 and 75 models, the latter being virtually identical to Nanjing’s MG. SAIC made life difﬁcult for Nanjing during the bidding, but it’s likely the NRDC will coordinate the cars’ manufacture between the two companies. Besides, SAIC has its hands full with its joint ventures, and in my book it had more than lost face when it cried foul over PricewaterhouseCoopers’ purchase process. Still, material exists there for a soap opera.
Whatever the case, if MG Rover is to return, it will need new models. These older ones might be all right in generating a bit of cashﬂow, but without investment for new vehicles, they will become pensionable, Chinese-market oddities like Nanjing’s current Seat Ibiza-based models, or, for that matter, the Indian-market Hindustan Ambassador—which is also based off a British car.
I have a soft spot for these British brands, so naturally I hope they will come back, regardless of who makes them. I am betting there are Brits who feel the same: at least Nanjing wanted the company to make better cars, rather than force its original collapse. Nanjing also comes from a fast-growing region and has a point to prove: that while it doesn’t have as many friends in the Politburo, it wants to make a decent go of it all.
They may yet succeed. The goodwill for the MG brand remains high, and the cars will be sure to ﬁnd buyers as a result, although Rover is about as lame-duck a brand as one can get. It didn’t take that long to fall from grace from the days of the innovative P5 and SD1—showing how losing sight of a brand vision can harm a company. As this is Nanjing’s—if not Red China’s—only credible locally owned exporting automotive brand (Geely and Zhonghua still sound odd to western ears) with that invaluable idea of heritage, it’s bound to protect and build on it more than British Aerospace or BMW ever did.
Del.icio.us tags: MG Rover | SAIC | Nanjing Automotive | branding | brands | Red China Posted by Jack Yan, 02:54
Back last night, after a very tough week away. The poor laptop has a trojan which no anti-virus or anti-trojan program can ﬁx, despite staying up each night till 3 a.m. attempting to solve things. All the trojan-causing pop-up ads do is ruin the goodwill and reputation of the companies that appear—now I know whom not to deal with. However, my Dunedin experience was delightful, while I managed to have a good meeting last Tuesday in Auckland with the Comte Audoin de Dampierre to exchange notes on Aston Martins (he has owned nine of them).
Sometimes you have to go away to reap some good karma—the Vodafone ID Dunedin Emerging Designers’ Awards saw victories for two young people who had come an awfully long way: Jarno Viitala of Helsinki and Lucie Marquis of London. For me, it was a chance to go on stage to represent my fellow judges.
While the Aston Martin was fun, Dunedin’s BMW dealer, Cooke Howlison, loaned a used 320i, which managed to get a ﬂat tyre on the second night. Whatever I would get would be a step down from the Aston, but the breakdown aside (to which the AA said it could send someone in an hour’s time while we searched for the toolkit), it was a reliable means of transportation for the four days. The down side was that no one smiles at you, and when you break down, hardly anyone offers to help. It is a down side to driving Bavarian.
I managed three interviews with TV One and one with the local Channel 9, and the nice folks from the Otago Daily Times managed to slip in a few quotes from me. I guess I must have ﬁtted in with their stories’ ﬂow—the standard of reporting remains high down there in Dunedin, so the quotations were not gratuitous. In fact, I was impressed with the local media. I usually am impressed with Dunedin in general, where values still rank highly among everyday folks. That seeps through into Dunedin commerce and society, and, as I understand from the latest census (though this is hearsay), a population growth after decades of fairly static numbers.
I’m a bit of an old hand at the ID shows now, always looking for new angles for the stories. This time around, a behind-the-scenes special on judging the Emerging Designers’ Awards will give my piece a bit of differentiation, while the travel piece—which I traditionally do when I go there—is a little unresolved.
Photographer Doug Rimington and I were shown around the Otago Settlers’ Museum, which may turn out to be the bigger story than the originally planned one. In either case I won’t spoil the plot too much.
It’s good to be back, but travelling makes you very tired. Even during my last overseas trip I managed to blog; not this time, with back-to-back responsibilities, which, given the great nature of Dunedin, I hope I have again in 2007. Posted by Jack Yan, 21:20
Day one in Auckland has been fun. We presented the necklace to Lisa Brandon, who was delighted, and I got to catch up with jeweller and goldsmith Ken Robinson and his son Michael, who designed the piece. I picked up the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, and it’s a head-turner. Before I even left the gate, a young woman photographed the car exiting. Earlier this evening, Nigel Dunn took some pics of the car which will likely appear on his blog. This car turns heads. Fortunately, it is not yellow.
Im back at Mollies, one of the hotels to stay at in Auckland. Which is ironic that the rumour mill, I have heard from Wellington, is saying that Lucire is going bust.
Its about as far from the truth as I have ever heard in 19 years of business. I have increased my staff numbers. The team is getting new cellphones. If I didnt have the Aston I would still have the Mercedes company car in this city. I have a suspicion that members of the MSM fear us: one regional publishing ﬁrm recently subscribed, and I suspect it is due to a sudden dose of fear. One colleague already had rumour kill her business, which is not hard to do in a small country like New Zealand; and I do know that one broadsheet attempted to publish a hatchet piece on me and our editor-in-chief. We declined the interview.
Fortunately, I have enough people who know the truth who hear these rumours and (a) report them to me, and (b) tell those who have heard it that they have just been handed a crock of BS.
The minute you think the establishment may have accepted you because you have proven yourself in two media and two continents over nine years, the ugly head of the antipodean tall poppy syndrome rears itself.
Im afraid this is actionable in law, and I dont think I should be digniﬁed about it and move on. To that end, I have put out a few feelers to see who has been issuing these rumours. People forget I have a law degree and have never lost a case. Ten to one I am in the city of origin. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:29
The Business of America is Business, a link to Tuesdays with Mantu, a new book about a copywriter, Rich Siegel, who decided to string a Nigerian 419 scam artist along for seven weeks. He creates an alias, Mr Richard Inhande (geddit?) and, in the process, invents circumstances of his own. Then he compiled it all into a book, available at Amazon.
From his introduction at his web site:
I had no idea the correspondence would continue for the next seven weeks. Or that I had four daughters. And a wife, Maude, with a bad case of Verticulitis of the Ovum. I had no idea I’d be quoting the literary works of Brian Boitano. Or bowling against the Modesto Nipple Twisters. I had no idea I’d be forging passports, booking ﬂights to Togo or writing my own obituary. I had no idea I would be re-incarnated as Ukrainian emigrant Boris Beecha Kockoff or the curmudgeonly Holden McGroyne.
Mr Siegel had to fake a decapitation to end the correspondence, though he also used a forged letter from one ‘Joe Mannix, PI’ to get out of another transaction (not published in his book). In the letter, Mr Mannix states that Messrs Barnaby Jones, Baretta and Colombo concur with his ﬁndings about the suspect dealings of the Oblowo & Oblowo law ﬁrm, though one Insp Clouseau happened to disagree.
Mr Siegel is generous, too: he ‘is generously offering half of all book royalties to these co-authors. All they need to do is apply for an American visa and meet him at 419 Tinkerbell Lane, Fantasyland, Disneyworld, USA.’ Posted by Jack Yan, 04:37
I may blog less next week: on Monday, I will be in Auckland, collecting an Aston Martin V8 Vantage for two days’ motoring, and presenting a $17,700 necklace from Robinson Designer Goldsmith to our reader, Lisa Brandon, the winner of a Lucire subscriber prize. I ﬂy back on Tuesday night, only to get some sleep before departing south on Wednesday morning for Dunedin, the most Scottish city this side of the planet, till Sunday.
With both the Aston and Dunedin I will have to speak with a Scots accent for the full experience. I’m judging the Emerging Designers’ Awards in the southern city, while attending Vodafone ID Dunedin Fashion Week. On Friday, as mentioned, is my second live TV broadcast of this month, on Breakfast, 8.20 a.m. NZDT. I understand BMW is lending me a car for Dunedin, so I will remember not to smile and treat stop signs as merely advisory. Tossy City of London broker cellphone optional. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:50
I caught up tonight with Lucire UK web editor Simone Knol, who has been vacationing in her native New Zealand for the last three weeks (I collected her from the airport). Mon and I got on to the topic of politics (not sure how) and neither of us could remember who the leader of the Conservative Party is. Thatcher, Major, Hague—and our recollection ceased. She may live there, but I have less excuse: I helped the campaign in 1997, and still hold a British passport.
I assume this is due to Labour taking over much of the Tories’ territory, so much so that the party remains anonymous during the campaign. Ah yes, Michael Howard—it just came to me. Now, who is the current guy? (No need to tell me, for I will Google straight afterwards.) The conclusion: the Conservative brand lacks differentiation, symbolism and communication—not just spin.
Finding its true origins and reminding people that it can do its traditional areas better is one thing; ﬁnding someone transparent enough to counter the spin of the current government is another. A comprehensive environmental policy may be a way to get ahead, taking on some of the socially responsible angles usually handled by Labour.
Transparency will provide all three elements—the differentiation, symbolism and communication—of the brand, connecting with a more no-nonsense consumer—I mean, voter—of 2009–10. While the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Tony Blair, can be accused of being a ‘political kleptomaniac’ (John Major’s words), there’s not much Labour can do against a slimmed-down Conservative Party that bands together behind this idea. The trouble is the usual institutionalization that afﬂicts most political organizations—something that Mr Blair had to confront before he took his party to victory in 1997.
Del.icio.us tags: UK | Conservative Party | Tories | Labour | Tony Blair | politics | campaign | elections | transparency | brand | branding Posted by Jack Yan, 12:10
The Loremo is a lightweight car with a 15 kW engine, does 160 km/h, and sips fuel at 1·5 l/100 km; a GT model does 36 kW and 220 km/h. We’ve all seen minicars before, but there’s nothing quite like the Loremo—and nothing priced quite like it, either, at under €11,000 for the base model. Shown at the Salon de Genève, it illustrates that these fuel-efﬁcient prototypes need not look like those French boxes on wheels.
This is a vision of a future I like, and it may be the next big thing: a classless, stylish car that addresses the greater concerns of the planet. Let’s hope it makes serious series production (2009 is mooted), because I believe consumers are crying out (or soon will be) for something like this. It also should provide cause for concern for established automakers, who haven’t been able to deliver much beyond the regular format. (A PDF is here; “hat tip” to PSFK.)
Del.icio.us tags: car | fuel efﬁciency | future | style | Loremo Posted by Jack Yan, 10:47
I’m not a fan of Toyota, despite championing the Prius hybrid car in Lucire and not protesting its nomination in the Medinge Group Brands with a Conscience awards this year. Most of my objections are historical: as a company, it was part of the Japanese war machine, and as with certain political groups, it shields its involvement from an honourable Japanese public.
Our photographer, Douglas Rimington, whose mother is Japanese, tells me of circumstances where Japanese tourists learn of their nation’s appalling World War II record for the ﬁrst time when seeing monuments in Asia and Australia dedicated to the dead. It makes me wonder how much the genuine apologies made by individual Japanese, independently of the Diet, such as Toshiki Kaifu, Tomiichi Murayama, Junichiro Koizumi and HM Emperor Akihito were covered or actioned at home.
I remain in two minds about this. If a head of state offers it, such as the Emperor, it is as near enough to ofﬁcial as we can get. I have no reason to doubt the remorse shown by many Japanese ofﬁcials over the years. Here are national leaders kowtowing.
The other side of me says that if the Diet has not endorsed it, and Japan is a constitutional monarchy in a similar manner to the UK, then how real is such an apology? Surely the Emperor has not acted on the advice of his ministers. Prime Minister Koizumi continues to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, commemorating some war dead—including war criminals—undoing many earlier apologies, even if this action appeases certain groups. Hence, you get the position of a lot of Chinese people: an apology is insufﬁcient if it has not had the endorsement of the Japanese parliament. Let’s not even start on what happened in Korea.
But I have no desire to make my Japanese friends feel bad, and all of them know the truth since they grew up in the west. It’s not like “our side” comes to the table with clean hands, either—we only have to point out that our ally, the United States, used atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, and locked up Japanese–Americans on account of their race. Mao killed millions of Chinese through his policies.
And everyday Japanese citizens cannot and should not be judged by the actions of a few lobbyists and Japanese politicians, who block endorsements of these apologies. Regular Japanese and Chinese want to move on, which is why there tends to be a pan-Asian–American movement in the States. We have more in common than the dividers like to claim, but as long as there are groups within Japan trying to revise history, this issue won’t go away.
Nevertheless, I admit to some degree of bias when I choose products. The main reason: at a corporate level it is still nice to see some degree of honesty, and I don’t think Toyota has shown it. It contributes to historical revisionism, according to Michiko Hasegawa, trying to paint Japan’s World War II record in a positive light.
Hence, when Lucire’s Associate Publisher met with Toyota to see if we could do a deal together, she detected a sense of displeasure in my voice (I said I would back her, but it must have sounded insincere), and the deal was nixed in favour of one from Mercedes-Benz—a company that has acknowledged its part in WWII to Jewish groups. (If we don’t acknowledge, we don’t reconcile, and we don’t move on.)
Despite my own wishes to point out the deaths of 10 million Chinese during the Sino-Japanese conﬂict (the Holocaust cost six million lives, I am told, though I always understood it to be more), I try to report on Toyota with balance, and have done so on both this blog and at the Beyond Branding Blog. The company has done well, after all, and the thrashing it is giving many other automakers is down to clever planning and execution.
But it’s worth highlighting, too, that Toyota’s environmental record is not as green as it might seem.
While I support the idea of hybrid systems being installed in larger cars, such as Toyota’s plan to place them in its full-size Lexus sedan and in a mid-size SUV, the Bluewater Network points out that the automaker is in cohoots with the Detroit Big Three in suing California over the state’s attempt to reduce greenhouse gases. It has opposed tougher fuel economy regulations in Washington. Some highlights from its web site:
• Toyota is part of a group of automakers quietly stiﬂing efforts in Congress to raise national fuel mileage standards for passenger vehicles.
• Despite recent signs heralding the coming of global warming, including melting glaciers, higher global temperatures, and severe storms and hurricanes, Toyota continues to litigate against the world’s ﬁrst law to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from vehicles.
• Toyota’s argument that it is pushing for “tough” national greenhouse gas standards in place of state standards is news to us. Toyota has not proposed or requested Congressional action on a national standard. To the contrary, Toyota has a long record of working with the major automakers to oppose increases in fuel mileage standards. For Toyota to claim, in a recent Associated Press story, that it wants to improve federal standards shows how far its rhetoric is from reality.
It is easy to argue that it is more worthwhile supporting a company like Toyota, who at least hasn’t been sleeping or been blind to consumer desires for more fuel-efﬁcient vehicles, while Detroit turned out truck after truck after Hummer. However, kudos should go more to Honda, which most Chinese like me have less trouble supporting (note how many Honda “rice burners” there are in Asian–American communities), since it was founded by Soichiro Honda—a man who loved cars more than money—in 1948. Bluewater actually states that Honda is the greener company, with ‘best ﬂeetwide fuel mileage of any major automaker.’ Sounds good to me. They also seem better built, if the examples I see here in New Zealand are any indication.
Therefore, by way of endorsement, and of support for the Japanese people and more ethical Japanese ﬁrms, have you driven a Civic or Accord Hybrid … lately?
Del.icio.us tags: Toyota | World War II | WWII | Honda | Japan | Japanese | atrocities | Chinese | environment | greenhouse gases | gas mileage | fuel economy | history | revisionism Posted by Jack Yan, 01:18
It’s nice to see some support for Denmark out there, with a pro-Denmark rally in New York, as reported at several sites linked from Instapundit.com today. The blog also reveals that the Mohammed cartoons have been published more in Muslim countries, quoting Tim Blair:
The forbidden cartoons of Mohammadness have been published more widely in Muslim countries than in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada combined. In Malaysia alone, three newspapers ran images—compared to just two newspapers in Australia.
I have the same rule for Islamic media as I did for western media, which I have already blogged. The prophet shouldn’t be depicted because there’s no point to raising temperatures when there is a bigger picture involved here. It’s surprising that numerous Muslims are blaspheming their own religion to show that the west misunderstands them (not to mention the fact that certain extremist groups are offending the majority of Muslims by adding their own illustrations and claiming the west did them). The ﬁrst publication I can forgive; the republications I cannot as easily.
Just as I said then, this is nothing to do with press freedoms but certain parties wanting to create divisions. It is fortunate for them that there are willing media, including some in Muslim nations. And on this planet, there are more people wanting those divisions to disappear than to be deepened—showing how far extremists and some media are away from everyday people. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:40
According to the Blogger Dashboard, I have one-ﬁfth of the amount of blog posts here than the Beyond Branding Blog saw in its original incarnation. That’s in six weeks, versus 34 months. There’s just something great about blogging at your own place. Technorati, too, has recognized this, and while I’m a long way from Johnnie Moore, another ex-BB blogger; Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void; and Stowe Boyd, whose “starting from zero” posts are very fascinating, I’m ahead of the BBB.
In Stowe’s tradition, Technorati places this blog’s rank at 73,040 (223 links from 33 sites)—and I did start from almost nearly zero here. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:14
When I see New York Times headlines saying Google is worried about its share price, then read the article and discover it’s doing things to raise its revenues, then it sure reads like money ﬁrst, culture last. It’s now selling print ads, which sounds interesting; the meeting was no longer quirky, but CFO-formal; and that Google has apparently ‘matured’ by eliminating fun.
Jordan Rohan, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said that Google’s presentations were more polished and professional this year and that executives addressed the questions most in the minds of investors.
“The company appears to have matured signiﬁcantly since its ﬁrst analyst day a year ago,” Mr. Rohan said.
“Investors have been successful,” Mr. Rohan said, “in communicating with the management they can't be this funky renegade company.”
What it suggests to me: Google is a short-term buy, just like any other American company on Wall Street, that will spawn fewer innovations because its focus is no longer on the strong things that made it great to begin with. Interesting message to send, considering the next generation of investors are as cynical about ﬁnance’s traditional messages just as much as advertising hype.
Long-term visions, not short-term pandering, built America.
Del.icio.us tags: Google | share price | innovation | corporate culture Posted by Jack Yan, 10:16
The Nuclear Arms’ Non-proliferation Treaty has produced one useful side-effect: a programme called Megatons to Megawatts, where uranium from weapons from the former USSR is turned into electricity. Russia should get $8 billion from the sale of the uranium fuel, and some 10 per cent of the United States’ electricity is from Megatons to Megawatts. There’s more at this entry from May 2005, which I found via Benjamin Kalt’s Free World blog. It’s one way to reduce the love of oil that the US leads.
Hopefully these nuclear weapons will be reduced to a point where we won’t need to hear the n word or, more accurately, the President’s intentional mispronunciation of it. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:30
I’ve done my little spot on network TV, on Good Morning, for this week. Wouldn’t say it was fantastic, though my co-panellists, Barry Soper and Paul Sinclair, are excellent, and the host, Brendon Pongia, kept things moving well.
It’s the usual rush of live TV that I enjoy, though prior to airing I was told that my pin, with the Lucire logo, could elicit complaints from the producer. However, I was also told in advance that the name of the magazine would be announced on air—it wasn’t. Not exactly the best way to get someone in the best mood before they go on air.
A bit of quid pro quo, since the pay is appalling, would have been appropriate. I observed the other rules: I didn’t mention Lucire myself in anything I said. Cooperation is the name of the game, or at least it should be, in business. Just prior to our segment, they did interview a cyclist emblazoned with sponsors’ logos, none of whom had paid consideration themselves. My logo is part of my attire, too.
It’s either this or my Mohammed cartoon pin (since this network had little problem showing those images).
Still, next week’s Breakfast live cross should be easier, albeit earlier, with fewer of these non-commercial restrictions. Or I hope so. Posted by Jack Yan, 21:39
An obvious notion but it took my seeing it on Hugh MacLeod’s blog to ﬁgure out it would not be a bad idea: please feel free to add me to your Technorati favourites.
For those wondering about the telly appearance, when I say it’s Friday 9.30 a.m., that translates to Thursday 8.30 p.m. GMT and 3.30 p.m. EST. Doing some guerrilla tactics here: I have been told that Lucire won’t appear in the subtitle, but that it will be mentioned in the intro. That’s not good enough, so I am wearing a Lucire pin, made from an old pin plus the logo cut out from my business card stuck on top. If President Bush can wear Old Glory on his lapel, then I should be able to wear this. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:25
This month, we should see a new brand measurement system (mentioned at Stefan Liute’s blog, referencing Mark Ritson in Brand Republic). WPP and Millward Brown Optimor are said to have a measurement system that surpasses Interbrand’s well publicized but ﬂawed one, run regularly in Business Week. Apparently, brand equity is more accurately measured by MBO’s methodology. I tend to favour Likert scales and analyse the connection with vision—but this is more useful within a single organization, though at least you get an idea of antecedent and consequence. I’ll be interested to read how MBO did it this month—probably via ﬁnding a standard way to convert brand equity measures into a monetary amount, which I am sure was David Aaker’s original motive when he developed his notions. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:22
The BrandXpress Blog has a post on the top 10 brands for 2005—as far as American teens are concerned, surveyed by Energy/BBDO. And it differs from the lists from the Medinge Group, brand experts at Brandchannel, and the Landor end-of-year survey I’ve covered.
Sony is tops, followed by Nokia and Adidas. These do not really surprise me: each has made an effort to lead in their ﬁelds, and Adidas seems to come off with less “hard sell” than Nike. My theory is that that turns modern teenagers off, but the fact Nike came fourth frustrates that. However, some BBDO folks actually agree with me—which is good, as my theory comes from my own, earlier Gen Y research, which I hoped would have some similarities to research on today’s teens.
A big surprise is Nestlé’s showing in ﬁfth. Once upon a time, young people protested against and banned this brand for the poisoned baby ﬁasco. But it seems that hatred does not get passed on from generation to generation.
Cadbury, Coca-Cola, M&Ms and Kodak—the last is hardly a youth brand in my book—round out the top 10.
There’s no Apple or iPod here.
Also insightful were the changes since 1995. Back then, Coke led, and Nokia was not to be seen. Pepsi was ﬁfth but it has since fallen into being unfashionable—no more multi-million-dollar campaigns helmed by Michael Jackson. Colgate, Disney and Reebok were present.
These surveys are perhaps useful from the point of view of ﬁguring out what has youth appeal. Innovation, marketing sophistication and even the impression of wholesome values seems to have helped the 2005 top 10, lessons to bear in mind when this group becomes even more afﬂuent in a few years’ time. The old ways, put simply, do not work—something many marketing and branding authors have been saying for many, many years. Of course, that’s too hard for the establishment to accept, holding on to their copies of post-war marketing books.
Del.icio.us tags: branding | brands | teenagers | teen | marketing Posted by Jack Yan, 05:54
NoteEntries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.
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Copyright ©200210 by Jack Yan & Associates. All rights reserved. Photograph of Jack Yan by Chelfyn Baxter.