Either Media Orchard is self-serving and wants heaps of links, or this is a legitimate test of whether Technorati picks up posts properly.
Personally, I am quite happy with Technorati. It updates my ranking regularly, though I have to wonder if going ofﬂine for a day is going to harm things.
But Media Orchard believes some of us should link to a certain post as a Technorati test. I may as well join the experiment to give the folks there a hand. Feel free to do the same—the blog and rationale are here. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:18
This Friday, on Good Morning, I have to talk about contraception. Who buys it, the man or the woman? Who sees to it?
I don’t know about Barry and Paul, but since they are older than me, they may have the same difﬁculties talking about the subject. Or, they might not, because they will have permission from their partners to raise aspects of their family planning.
I was raised at a time when you didn’t discuss your sex life on live national television. No one did. I’m not particularly sure I want to now.
It was enough that Rob and Laura Petrie hinted at it, and left us wondering whose bed they made love in. Was Richie conceived in Rob’s bed or Laura’s bed? A friend and I once worked out that Mary Richards slept with 10 per cent of the available single, straight male population of Minneapolis based on the presumption she was having relationships with the male guest star roles hinted at in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. But we didn’t need to see them in the bedroom.
But sitcoms these days tend to have the couple, married or unmarried, sharing a post-coital cigarette. Oh, maybe they don’t. Smoking is dangerous.
I have no cultural reference to discuss contraception, at least not in a friendly, G-rated way that my 9.40 a.m. timeslot allows.
Do I really want to tell people my brand of condoms? Or who wound up looking at contraception? More to the point, do people really want to know? Is it even possible to do this with a G rating?
I’ve the odd story, of course—but since the other people are not involved in a relationship with me now, then who am I to spill the beans on live TV? Do I call them up today and ask? Of course not.
I read in The Washington Post this quote from Naomi Wolf, which is quite telling of today’s society:
The downside [of feminist sexual autonomy] is we’ve raised a generation of young women—and men—who don’t understand sexual ethics like: Don't sleep with a married man; don’t sleep with a married woman; don’t embarrass people with whom you had a consensual sexual relationship. They don’t see sex as sacred or even very important anymore. That’s been lost. Sex has been commodiﬁed and drained of its deeper meaning.
I think the closest and most innocent that I can recall that might be OK for a G rating is when a friend went on vacation and didn’t prepare any contraceptives ready. Fortunately, I had some on me (don’t ask me why; it’s a not-so-long story).
But I have a good image that I enjoy as a gentleman, and if Cary Grant didn’t harp on about this, then neither should I. I still see sex as sacred and important.
I’m also hoping to embark on something new with someone special, and I thank God she doesn’t know about this blog and this entry yet, and probably won’t be watching on Friday morning. This is not a discussion we need to have now, and she does not need to think I am sex-obsessed. (She does deserve her own blog entry, but only after I have her permission, and that is only going to come after this one is well off the main blog page.)
Suggestions on how to get around this would be appreciated—if the server ever gets ﬁxed. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:40
I have an awful feeling we have been hacked. I can’t get access to our admin programs, and even the Rackspace guys have been locked out of SSH.
You wonder who the sick bastards are who would hack a company that sets out to do good. I realize some hackers have a weird sense of justice, when they target the big corporations. But the little guy?
I can still blog away, but no new posts can get published.
I know a few weeks back, a bunch of conservative blogs were attacked, but politically, I have been centrist (well, Confucianist). But my gut tells me there is some connection. Probably because I don’t insult the American president, ergo, I must be a conservative.
Which does remind me of one thing. I have around two dozen friends on a joke list. Whenever a joke comes through, I am the guy who forwards them, to spread good cheer. Everyone enjoys it when I send a Bush joke, even long-time GOP voters. The minute I send one that is vaguely supportive of the US administration—never mind how many I have sent prior to that that laughs at it (from the Vice-President’s hunting accident to the war in Iraq)—someone complains. The most recent was a cartoon on the UN’s dealings with Iran, which some of my liberal friends interpreted as an endorsement of waging war on the country. I did not think so.
Back in the Clinton days, I remember sending plenty of jokes about the 42nd president—but opinions were not this divided. And I remember being balanced with my humour then, too, so slightly pro-Clinton jokes (it was easy to laugh at Sen. Bob Dole when certain commercials were shown) never received complaints from those conservative friends.
Is it politically incorrect now to be politically correct, or, in my case, “fair and balanced” with my humour? Or are we humans now geared toward criticizing and laughing at larger institutions and governments, to the point where we don’t like hearing hints of support? Posted by Jack Yan, 22:11
Today, Kate at Itisi got a bit of inspiration from an earlier post of mine, and wrote something particularly poignant on her blog:
People should be allowed to use the internet freely, the growing number of calls for restrictions and regulation are, on the whole, being made by organisations who have much to gain from making the web less free. Whether it is a dictatorship wanting to pull the wool over the eyes of [its] citizens, or a religious group crying ‘but think of the children’ or a multi-national company who wish to keep their brand on top, all have a vested interest in regulating what you and I are allowed to see.
She is right. Some groups have everything to lose if things were transparent and honest. Found at Trevor Cook’s Corporate Engagement blog last week was a post linking to a New York Times article on corporate blogging.
The article details the displeasure many companies in the US have because their interns and employees decide to blog. Rather than seeing the funny side, which is what I expected, the Comedy Channel clamped down on one intern.
The ﬂip side is that the silenced blogger is the folk hero of the early 21st century. A few who were silenced have gone on to do greater things. I think of my acquaintances, such as Ellen Simonetti, who was ﬁred from Delta Air Lines due to photographs on her blog. The New York Times cites several others, notably Jessica Cutler, whose Washingtonienne blog is now a novel:
But it is the success stories that can embolden a determined blogger. Ms. Kreth was able to create her own public relations business out of the fallout. Because of his blog, Mr. Shannon was asked to be on a television pilot. For Mr. McDonald, the Comedy Central intern, it was the call of literary agents.
They are only celebrities because they tap in to something we all have inside. One is the desire for freedom of speech. The second is that they have managed to go up against bigger organizations and came out as survivors at the other end.
Sure, these blogs are not as noble as those that come out from countries where the blogger is literally under threat of imprisonment or death—those people are truly heroes—but they show how the internet is in a struggle to be free. Many blogs ﬁght the control of government institutions and corporations, expressing something that is a part of being human. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:41
My Swedish is rusty, but for those in Stockholm wanting to attend Stefan Engeseth’s One: a Consumer Revolution for Business book launch, there’s a do on the 31st at So Stockholm. And there will be prizes on the night.
It should be noted that Dame Anita Roddick is one of his book’s endorsers—something Stefan told me at the time but I kept under my hat till it became public.
Good luck, Stefan: we will be thinking of you! Posted by Jack Yan, 23:07
Found via Antony Mayﬁeld’s Open blog, there is a (true or false) story of a consumer who bit back after being sold a faulty laptop. Instead of resigning to the fact he was duped after purchasing a lemon via eBay, he decided to get what he could off the hard drive and post its content accordingly.
The Broken Laptop I Sold on eBay is a blog where the alleged seller’s name and CV are detailed, and even mentions that the laptop gives the buyer full access to his email accounts, information on his passport, and his bank details.
In the 2000s, not only is it buyer beware; it is seller beware, too—because dishonour is more easily exposed than ever. Then, Google will pick it up: people need to be concerned about their personal brands, as I wrote in February. If Amir Massoud Tofangsazan, the seller accused of selling the laptop, is innocent, the 100-plus Google references to date will still be hard to explain away. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:47
Fascinating. I’ve examined the last 31 days of searches, mostly via Google, to see what people have searched for the most on this blog.
Branding? Globalization? Cars? No. The top searches relate to Denise Vasi and Russell Simmons, and folks wanting goss on the pair.
I suppose this could be one of the few blogs written by someone who actually knows one of the parties, rather than a regular gossip columnist. But it is amazing what people can be interested in.
I don’t dis these folks: they are giving me hits, and I can provide some truth about the sort of person Denise is. And we, as humans, do seem to have an interest about celebrities and people in the public eye.
It’s given me some pause for thought lately, too. Last week, I realized that while I have a pretty good reputation, and that I appear on telly regularly, I have no desire to be famous to the point of being hounded. I get recognized for my TV appearances or a paparazzi pic around once or twice a month: that is pleasant and not intrusive. It gives a nice ego boost.
And I don’t mind more, as long as it was about my work. I believe in what I say and write and how I can help people. But if it were about my private life, then that would be upsetting—but it’s this aspect that fascinates so many. Annoyingly, the fascination comes because of bad news in one’s private life, not because of marital bliss and familial stability.
The cynic might say that the public enjoys a sense of Schadenfreude, knowing celebrities have messy lives. The optimist might say that because the public is stable and decent, it becomes interested in impropriety because its members would not involve themselves in similar situations.
I ﬁnd myself believing the former, which saddens me. Those who spread rumours and gossip (not necessarily about celebrities) do so with malicious intent, which brings me on to my next point: should we believe any of the crap in the tabloids and weeklies?
I remember how many emails I received at the end of August 1997, after the car crash that claimed Princess Diana’s life. So many people swore they would never touch a tabloid again. Yet their sales indicate that few kept their promise.
But the fact people are coming to this blog to get information on a celebrity is heartening. This is another area where regular people are getting one up on the mass media. I am a regular person who happens to know Denise. What I wrote was truthful and gossip-free. The public can skip the intermediary of a sensationalist and deceptive headline. If they want to have fun, by all means, they can visit The Superﬁcial; otherwise, individuals hold the real insights.
I can’t be alone. Most of us know someone famous. We might see how media are changing, and the bloggers are making another gain. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:06
Patti Waldmeir reviews Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of a Borderless World in the Los Angeles Times today. It reminds me how humankind has managed to corrupt the original, ideal vision of the internet, to have borders and ill-functioning institutions reﬂected online. However, I remain an optimist: the internet is very much its own beast, and there are still more people outside of the controlling, censoring institutions than inside them. Provided we can come together with a vision of an internet that brings freedom to all, the broken institutions of old can be weakened and done away with. And we then need to subconsciously practise that ideal every day.
It all started in the last decade of the last century, when the conventional wisdom was that globalization, fueled by the Internet, would bring democracy to peoples around the world and defeat all the tyrants. The theory was that like-minded people could come together in cyberspace to govern themselves without the help or hindrance of national governments. The existence of such communities would fatally undermine the power of traditional territorial authorities.
It’s still a useful vision, and when one views participatory Web 2·0 sites such as blogs, I believe we are still changing the world. Media have already changed because of citizen power, and the less efﬁcient, more dishonest institutions are next. The only thing preventing us is the lack of education and awareness as to what a righteously motivated human race is capable of.
Del.icio.us tags: internet future world globalization government institutions institutionalization media education Posted by Jack Yan, 14:13
Remember the Are You Being Served? episode where Mr Grainger tries to sell a German tourist a German coat during Grace Bros.’ German Week? The tourist, who is accompanied by Joanna Lumley prior to The New Avengers, is infuriated that he has come to the UK only to be persuaded to buy something that he can get back at home. Gents’ ready-made does not make the sale.
The Weekend Herald, the Irish-owned Auckland newspaper, has a story on how Red Chinese tourists venturing to New Zealand are disappointed at their experience. New Zealand destination marketing harps on about the Māori culture, ﬁsh and chips, and fresh ﬁsh. Tour operators kept taking the tourists to Chinese joints to eat, denying them an authentic experience. The main interviewee in the story had never sampled ﬁsh and chips, and never got to chat to an ordinary Kiwi. Even the souvenirs, he says, are made in China, something that can be contrasted to his Australian travel experience.
He was willing, he said, to pay more for souvenirs that had ‘Made in Australia’ on them, which highlights the country-of-origin problem that manufacturers face. It’s one industry where cost-cutting by relocating to cheaper production sites does not help sales. (For more on this, I note the second edition of National Image and Competitive Advantage, by Eugene Jaffe and Israel Nebenzahl, is out.)
And the locals love the contact, so why not? At the wedding I attended, an Alice Springs resident bemoaned how Japanese tourists did not venture into town: they ﬂew in and then ﬂew out. It might be due to the tour operators and not the tourists themselves. But it seems that cross-cultural experiences are key to the tourism industry, and they appear to be denied.
For all the claims about how successful New Zealand’s nation branding is, I have my doubts—and now have more to back me up. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:26
After deadline at Lucire, a team member of mine got married, hence no updates au blog for a while. ’Twas a great wedding—where everything was so representative of the bride and groom’s tastes that all the guests had a good time. (And no, I don’t have afﬁdavits from them all, but it was pretty evident from what I saw.)
Speeches were quick, and the couple did not overdo anything. This was a genuine celebration that was shared with their families and friends. Held at Auckland’s Mantell’s, every table was roughly the same distance away from the head one, so everyone felt equally important. In fact, I have to say it was the best wedding I had been to.
I wonder how many times families try to outdo one another—something that plagues the local Chinese community (and I am sure other expatriates have similar reports). Here, it was left to the bride and groom, who planned something authentic. Feeling, rather than spectacle, was the order of the day. It was their brand, to a T. It’s particularly good advice to anyone managing a “user experience”.
Oh, never mind my attempt at making this blog-relevant. It was a bloody fantastic wedding and I was thrilled to be there for my friends. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:40
For many years, I received the Royal Bank Letter from the Royal Bank of Canada, after being introduced to it by my late friend Winton G. Bear. There were musings on current societal topics and the well researched and written Letter probably formed a great deal of my views on business and life as a young man.
Following a discussion on the meaning of professional at Signal vs. Noise, I was reminded of the November 1990 issue of the Letter in which professionalism was discussed. It remains as relevant today.
It was discussed in that issue that a professional was originally someone who went beyond their work. In the Middle Ages, a professional had professed his life to God. When secular industries got in to professionalism, they had a notion they were there to serve humankind. But the meaning has got to a point where a professional is someone who will do something for money.
I won’t spoil the conclusion of the Letter, in which the modern deﬁnition is advanced. But after 16 years it shows we, as a species, have made less headway than we think. A reminder like the Letter is again needed. (Click here for the November 1990 issue.) Posted by Jack Yan, 21:50
Quite a few blogs have covered the story of Guy Goma, the Congolese data support expert who was mistakenly interviewed on the BBC’s News 24 last week.
If you don’t know the story by now, Mr Goma went to the BBC for a job interview. He shared the same ﬁrst name as the news channel’s guest, Guy Kewney (whose blog entry about this incident is here), and was taken on air, where he had to answer questions about the Apple Corps v. Apple Computer contract case. He did so admirably, but then, being in the computer ﬁeld himself, he was not totally ignorant about the phenomenon of online music.
Comments have been favourable toward Mr Goma. He maintained the air of an expert, which led many to think that experts on the news these days can look authoritative without being so. A few others have said that news has become so insigniﬁcant that trivia pass for it.
Initially, Goma was wrongly identiﬁed as a ‘cab driver’—something which I originally found insulting. Was it because he was black, or did the ‘cab driver’ angle make the BBC’s blunder more serious? Or does this make an assumption that cab drivers are stupid—when in fact, anyone who can memorize London’s maze of streets is a certiﬁable genius?
When I asked the race question on one blog, I was told that most of London’s cabbies are native and indigenous—and that is certainly the case when I visit the city. I can only assume that the incorrect title came up via a game of 以訛傳訛 (it ain’t ‘Chinese whispers’ where I come from) via email and then reported as fact, notably by the Daily Mail.
The original mistake I can understand; however, the subsequent goof seems like a case of the pot calling the kettle black. At least the BBC exposed its own error, rather than hide behind false press statements. This was an innocent mistake to which Mr Goma himself apparently contributed by raising his hand when Guy Kewney was called. It can happen. It is less of a blunder than the intentional reporting of falsehoods.
But I was interested to read that TV news can fool us into thinking the talking head is an expert. I never saw myself on the prime-time TV One network news on March 12, but a lot of people talked about it. Some people thought they saw me on a rival network because they were predisposed into thinking that TV3 offered superior news. And through the years, I had been quoted in non-televised media (CNN.com, The Daily Telegraph, and elsewhere), but for some reason, television does elevate you.
Mr Goma has become a phenomenon within and without the blogosphere, appearing on other TV show interviews (on Channel 4, ITV and the BBC itself), while I imagine Mr Kewney’s web publications have beneﬁted hugely from the blunder. The mistake has generated fame for two men, another topic for media studies’ classes around the world.
I don’t expect TV news to change drastically overnight, but if people are questioning the relevance of the medium, as the Goma interview exposed, will it begin to suffer the same fate as newspapers? After all, if we can get news directly from the people in the relevant neighbourhoods or specialist areas, and video cameras are becoming more widespread, then surely videologs of news will be a commonplace thing by the end of the decade?
Del.icio.us tags: BBC Guy Goma news TV news tv newsmedia media blogosphere fame newspapers race authority blooper expert expertise perception Posted by Jack Yan, 07:19
An absence of posts from me this week as I have had to travel out of town, plus Lucire’s deadline was moved forward as two staff are taking leave next week. I came on to Good Morning after having eight hours’ sleep—that’s eight hours over the last two days—dealing with a topic I have no knowledge of: mothers-in-law. It didn’t help that I didn’t know the topic till Thursday night, when I ﬂew back to Wellington.
I suppose Barry Soper compensated as the chap has been married twice, and Sarah Bradley (the hostess of the show) said I could always use ex-girlfriends’ mothers. I imagine I could. In this day and age, when marriage means less and de facto relationships are, in the eyes of the law, elevated, mothers-in-law may require no connection through marriage.
Still, there were two reasons preventing me from being more lively. First, I didn’t feel right discussing ex-girlfriends and their mothers. Those relationships no longer exist, and I don’t have any real yarns from them anyway. Secondly, I just didn’t have good material. There wasn’t anything on Qantas Radio’s comedy channel that I could pinch.
I made the odd comment inspired by Alfred Hawthorne Hill (a.k.a. Benny) and acknowledged him as the source, plus a reference to Monster in Law, being the ﬁrst person to call Jane Fonda ‘Hanoi Jane’ on live television here for some years. It was for humorous effect, rather than reﬂect any political view, but I am not sure if Brendon, our host, got the reference. I called Paul ‘the great white hunter’ (he hunts as a hobby, and was venturing north that night), and referred to Vice-President Cheney, stealing a gag from the US president. Bush jokes go down well here, though hunting jokes less so (we recently had a trial about an accidental shooting where the victim was killed).
Mind you, there were plus sides to yesterday’s segment. There was no power back in the studio for reasons unknown, so we ﬁlmed outside. Then it began raining. We were given umbrellas, though with all the great stories from Barry and Paul, there was no opportunity for me to break out into a Gene Kelly routine, or to pretend I was Patrick Macnee. Again, this was done off-camera when I referred to Sarah as ‘Mrs Peel’.
So, not an episode particularly worth watching this week if you were inclined to go to the site. I won’t be keeping my recording of it. It’s not trademark Jack Yan, and I should know about trade marks. Doesn’t go with my personal brand.
Back in the green room, and the temporary make-up room given there was no power there, either, Carolyn Taylor and her nine-year-old clone Angela Steele from Top of the Class (I kept calling it Head of the Class before I realized Howard Hesseman was not involved) hung out with us (or we with them). The show was named by one reviewer as the ghastliest on our screens, which may mean that the concept will ﬁnd its way to America just as variants of Popstars and Dancing with the Stars have. However, Miss Steele is a delight and a real celeb (as opposed to being someone famous for nothing) in the making. She seems a well balanced and polite child, which gives me some hope about the shape of the country in 2030. With a voice like hers, you wonder if she will be the next Olivia Newton-John.
A few musos clariﬁed for me that the lounge artist I liked on Groove FM was named Richard Cheese, and I felt better informed. Some prototype apples were there, codenamed T22, though we were not allowed to try them. It was remarked that the T22s needed a brand name, which is the tenuous way I can link this post back to what this blog is about. I could not think of any: most apple names seem a bit daft, anyway, at least the ones that weren’t were borrowed by Apple Computer years ago. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:19
Just so Mr & Mrs Tom Cruise and their daughter Suri are aware, my jumping on to the Good Morning couch last Friday and my declaration of ‘I love Katie Holmes!’ was meant as a humorous aside to our Mother’s Day special. I have to remark that doing so felt completely unnatural, that soft TV-land couches are not good for balancing on, and when standing on Good Morning’s one, my head is cut off at the top, since camera operators don’t like changing height on live television. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:40
Back story: in April, Lucire ran a PETA advertisement that asked consumers to boycott KFC for cruelty to the chickens it used at its restaurants. Yesterday, I received a letter from the CEO of the New Zealand franchisee. While she forbids me to reproduce her letter in any form, it’s my choice for me to reproduce part of my reply to Restaurant Brands’ CEO Vicki Salmon. I encourage KFC to reproduce my letter in any form in any medium.
We refer to your letter of the 10th inst., referring to an advertisement in the April 2006 issue of Lucire for PETA.
Please note that your concerns should principally be directed at the advertiser as this advertisement did not originate from us, though we have considered your position.
When organizations advertise with us, they are responsible for ensuring that their material is not defamatory, misleading or deceptive. They are legally and solely responsible. We imagine Restaurant Brands has encountered such advertising contracts with the media it uses and, therefore, ﬁnd it surprising that you have come to us. As with most publications, advertisements do not carry with them any endorsement from the publisher.
We have discharged our responsibility to be vigilant and had a written exchange with PETA when we ﬁrst saw the advertisement’s artwork, speciﬁcally over whether its claims applied to KFC in New Zealand. PETA informed us:
it actually applies all over the world. We have done numerous demonstrations in Europe, China, India … etc. against KFC.
… We can provide contact information for PETA, or it may be reached via www.peta.org. We strongly recommend that you address your concerns with them directly.
I still don’t get why KFC contacted me. Has it never encountered an advertising contract before? Does it not know that ours is the conventional position?
Secondly, why attempt to bully a publisher? Do they not want my cooperation in stopping the advertisement? Not from what I can gather: we are the target. A wiser move would be to ask for my help, nicely. Lesson one: leaders are meant to inspire, not create conﬂict.
Guess we won’t be seeing her company win any Medinge Brands with a Conscience prizes. (I did joke with members over a “dumb brands of 2005” award. Hmmm.)
I’ll be a gentleman and assist her with her threat, I mean, enquiry, but speaking for myself, her letter puts me in a position ﬁrmly against KFC. Sure, I see letters with legalese every day, but this has to rank as one of the least intelligent, as she alienates me immediately. Obviously, Ms Salmon does not know about my legal training—she probably thinks I’m some illiterate immigrant Chink. Lesson two: don’t burn your bridges before you begin.
I’m personally boycotting KFC now—and God knows Lucire staff members have been frequent customers (to the point where we get discounts at our local branch). I believe my whole ﬁrm will join me. Some of our staff have already boycotted it for health reasons, and others are vegetarian.
I’m not boycotting KFC for the reasons in the PETA advertisement, which at this moment might not apply to the New Zealand market—I can’t tell you how they don’t because Ms Salmon has forbid me to—but I am boycotting it because I can’t fathom how unbusinesslike the franchisee is. Lesson three: everything is part of your brand, including your correspondence. Failing to live it undoes any positive marketing that you have done.
I hate to think of the sad corporate culture Restaurant Brands must have, if her letter is any indication of how it operates.
KFC has just lost itself a few customers from our head ofﬁce, and I imagine my international staff will follow suit. (Oh, when I boycott, it sticks. I have not shopped at Woolworths since 1993, and McDonald’s since 2004.)
Del.icio.us tags: KFC boycott brand correspondence PETA Posted by Jack Yan, 11:34
Adfreak reports more misbehaviour from Wal-mart:
According [to] this story in the South Florida Sun–Sentinel, a Wal-Mart consultant sent a letter to rural landowners that said if they refuse to sell their land, earmarked for a new, 925,000-square-foot distribution center, the company will ask the county to invoke eminent domain.
The ofﬁcial explanation was that this was a ‘miscommunication’, but even miscommunications have their origins from somewhere. Even if this was not Wal-mart’s eventual policy, it must have been considered to the extent that the letter was sent. Caveat emptor, America, not just of what you buy, but from whom you buy. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:24
I ﬁrst saw this on Johnnie Moore’s Weblog, citing The Weekly Wire (which I must have missed last week), and confronted it again today via the ofﬁcial press release from Fiat. With 500 or so days to go till the launch of the new Fiat cinquecento, a retro-styled automobile designed to evoke memories of the 1950s Bambina, Fiat is inviting people to design the car online.
Well, not really. Fiat is inviting people to customize the 500 concept car that it showed earlier. Since the actual design of the basic car will have been frozen by now and in to tooling, that’s about the best it can do.
It’s not a bad effort, mind. It’s interactive enough and it’s clear that Fiat wants to repeat what BMW had achieved with its Mini: an indication of which accessories and colour schemes will be the most popular for the car. Most Mini buyers spend thousands customizing their cars with everything from chrome details to Union Jack roofs, such is the consumer desire for individuality, and a look at what Fiat is offering in its customization kit on the web follows the same theory: Italian ﬂags, Abarth stripes, and chrome hubcaps. You can get the car pretty thumping with the available bits and pieces. Viva la bambina!
Eventually, more companies will get to a point where customer input will be necessary far earlier, given how NPD is, well, developing. In 1996, I had a feedback form on our corporate web site asking for input into a new font family. And I actually developed new typefaces based on customer feedback—JY Décennie was designed from scratch because someone at a major newspaper sent through her wish list. It became project there as I liaised with her and it was a contender for its redesign.
It’s a further indication of the One concept espoused by Stefan Engeseth in his new book, and a continuation of the customer-centric trends that my Medinge colleagues and I have been writing about for years.
I shouldn’t be criticizing Fiat for claiming that customer input is “designing a car”. I should applaud it for attempting to unite with potential customers, and trying to ﬁnd a way out of its ﬁnancial difﬁculties. And for returning to doing what it does best: creating delightful small cars to mobilize the masses. A little 500 is just what the world needs right now as petrol prices continue rising, and customization will make every buyer feel special. The site is at www.ﬁat500.com—and personally I would like to see this car do well.
What a pity no one is doing something as innovative as the original Mini though, and the Loremo is still some way from production.
Del.icio.us tags: customization Fiat NPD Posted by Jack Yan, 09:55
Well, I’m convinced. After meeting Vincent Heeringa of Idealog in person, and his head of sales, Ben, I have to say this is a man with a plan.
For starters, Idealog is more a media brand than a magazine. You can see this from the web site. And the folks there have some great things that follow from the latest issue, with a cover story on Generation C.
It’s not for me to say what those plans are—Vincent and his team should do that, and I don’t blog about things from private conversations that aren’t public already. But I am even more convinced at how Idealog can grow its inﬂuence in business. It has a character about it that lives the things it preaches in business.
Vincent admits that doing a magazine about creativity and business is an idea others can copy, but I am not sure others can pull it off quite so cohesively.
I used to be inspired by Fast Company, but not any more. Its lovin’ feelin’ is gone. It was just a little too tied to the dot com boom, in my book. However, I am inspired by Idealog, which has even become a must-read at this ofﬁce. For me, I believe that Fast Company could have done something like Idealog when it repositioned, but it missed the opportunity. There is not enough in the American magazine to make me expand my thinking and be positive about that.
Sure Idealog’s stories are local, but of any magazine that I have seen from New Zealand, it’s the only business one with a potential to repeat its formula in other countries.
For those who think Fast Company has become dull, that Inc. (which I do like, too) doesn’t get to the heart of creative thinking, and that Business Week just ain’t pretty, I say there is only one choice, regardless of where you are from. After meeting its founder and understanding more about his vision, Idealog gets my recommendation more than ever.
Disclaimer: Vincent paid for dinner. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:44
Carlos Ghosn is a tough talker who follows through. The new président–directeur général of Renault, the man who turned around its Nissan unit, said last February that the French automaker can do better. Half its proﬁts come from France, 80 per cent from Europe, and half from a single car line, the Mégane.
I own a Mégane, and have been happy with the quality, styling and the reliability—but VP Patrick Pélata, who was with Ghosn at Nissan, reckons that the designs have been too idiosyncratic, too anti-customer. Consequently, Renault is in need of a brand image, says Ghosn; by focusing on the traditional segments it has not managed to innovate into the niches.
Renault does need ﬁxing, because if it is to be a global player, it needs to think less like a France-only ﬁrm. But this road of pleasing customers is fraught with dangers.
The last time Renault went on about creating a car for the customer, rather than taking risks and advancing things for the customer’s lifestyle, we got the 9 and 11. These two models, sold as the Alliance and Encore through AMC dealers in North America, were two of the dullest vehicles that came from the régie. For customer clinics are to be taken with a grain of salt, and even if Twingo II has not done well in them, it need not mean a wholesale change.
By all means be customer-centric, but not to the extent where progress is prevented; the designer sees a bigger picture including what customers may want. In fact, we say we want better gas mileage, maybe even a car that does away with fossil fuels altogether. We say we want a car that is environmentally friendly (Renault does have good environmental policies). Engage us in new ways that other car makers have failed to do. Take the lead on design and don’t let us hold you back, but address those big concerns that we consumers all share. Then we will ﬂock to you.
The Modus is not the cleverest car in the Opel Meriva class; the Mégane II does polarize opinions. But they have contributed to a brand that proclaims itself as the créateur d’automobiles, one that pioneers in an industry that often stiﬂes. Individuality is a great trait to have in any brand, because a brand must differentiate. The image is secure, something for Renault to build upon.
Say it pursues these niches. It should do so in a way that is very Renault, with individualistic cars. There is a way, as Ghosn and Pélata know from their time at Nissan, to achieve this goal without diluting a creative, innovative image. Nissan once made Bluebirds; now it makes Muranos.
I am a fan of design director Patrick le Quément, even if there are veiled references to him by Pélata having taken Renault design in the wrong direction. He was one of the men who took Renault, if not all of Europe, out of its design rut; European cars have a desirability that wasn’t around when Renault was churning out the 11 and 19. Le Quément himself recognizes that the Mégane II’s daring isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; his Fluence concept car shows a more cohesive, ﬂowing look, though it is a triﬂe plain, sort of an updated Floride. You can begin seeing its inﬂuences in the new Renault Clio, a new hit and another European Car of the Year winner for the ﬁrm.
I would suggest that the thing wrong with the Mégane II is that it is not an elegant car. Elegance is what unites consumers; imbalance polarizes. The Ford Falcon EA169 always was right in the details but not as a whole car that could have beneﬁted from a longer wheelbase.
Renault needs to keep an eye on just what needs ﬁxing. It is wise to do so while it is still in the black, and it does some things right. I say the brand is where it needs to be: a great place on which new, exciting products can be built to achieve M. Ghosn’s goals.
Del.icio.us tags: Renault Carlos Ghosn design brand Patrick le Quément Posted by Jack Yan, 05:15
When a brand’s good times are over, you notice it. Holden, the darling of General Motors, decided last year (as covered in one of my blog posts) that it would begin badge-engineering Daewoos rather than bring in Opels. Fine, for the bean counters. Not so ﬁne for the consumers. Being less consumer-friendly goes counter to the way brands should be heading.
New Zealand still tends to be more European than Asian in its outlook, given the origins of the majority of the population, and the overall sensibility. Street signs are pictorial, people prefer hatchbacks to sedans, and Ford seems happier ﬂogging Focuses and Mondeos than Lasers and Telstars. At least the Euro cars have a following.
It’s something lost on Holden. For a while, Corsa (a.k.a. Holden Barina), Astra and Vectra were making it Down Under; even the Tigra is being sold in Australia. Holden leapt hugely in the market-place because it offered a tiered range that everyone understood. Once upon a time, the top sellers in New Zealand were easily recited: Ford Escort, Ford Cortina, Ford Falcon. Holden’s Astra, Vectra, Commodore were easy to remember, too.
Now, with the need to ﬁt in Daewoo products, Holden is ﬁnding it hard. The Daewoo Kalos is now the Holden Barina, devaluing that name once more. The Daewoo Lacetti is the Holden Viva. And, we hear, though we keep praying it won’t happen, the Daewoo Tosca will be the Holden Vectra.
No surprises today when news of the Euro NCAP crash-test results hit the airwaves in New Zealand. The news is pretty old, which goes to show just how long it takes some journalists to get the information—it broke in Australia in February, and the results have been around for longer. (Car safety, incidentally, is not my patch.) The new Holden Barina achieved a two-star NCAP rating, about the worst you can get. Its predecessor got four stars in a 2002 test. Holden disputes the results, but I think the brand’s damage has been done, especially with this quotation at GoAuto:
[It] was singled out by Europe’s leading independent crash test body for having what it describes as “the unacceptably high risk of life-threatening injury to the driver's chest.[”]
No one is saying the Daewoo Kalos is a death-trap, but it’s not hard to see how the rumour can begin.
After all, the new Holden Barina is the 2002-launched Daewoo Kalos, a car deleted from New Zealand in 2003, rehashed. It’s not that much newer and certainly less sophisticated than the previous Spanish-built Barina, which was an Opel Corsa C. It handles more poorly, and it essentially reminds you how much better Europeans make small cars compared to Koreans.
I believe people will pay the premium to get a Ford Fiesta now, and Ford must be rubbing its hands with glee, thinking back to the heady days of the 1970s when Escort and Cortina ruled the charts. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:43
My last post was meant to be the comic relief for the weekend, but I could not resist this one. It’s a year old, from the Winterson.com blog, and shows just what happens when Chinese movie pirates base a DVD’s English subtitles on the Chinese translation—in this case for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. This could well be Babelﬁsh not working properly, or, that the Jedis are Presbyterians, that the Dark Side uses anal probes to annoy pilots, and that Anakin Skywalker is concerned about being cuckolded. Click here to see the screen captures. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:09
My friend and colleague John Campbell is doing a story on cellphones on Campbell Live on Monday. I have written the below to him, for his research.
I am yet to have kids and would like to some day, so I refuse to have my testicles irradiated.
By the same token, men no longer need to get vasectomies if we can shove a couple of Nokias down our pants.
Text messaging is vaguely above Morse code in sophistication and the amount charged is like paying $3 million for a Ford Focus. Or NZ$1·71 for a litre of petrol. I mean, that’s just dumb.
I don’t like the idea that people change their habits to suit the technology. I thought technology was here to bend to our will. If we created robots, would we allow them to control us? That would be like having a dead guy run the country. (Obvious exception was the ﬁgure of the long-dead Leonid Brezhnev running the USSR with Gorby sitting behind him operating a foot pump.)
I once was asked to text-message someone. On a borrowed cellphone, it took me half an hour to tap in the goddamn message. Getting uppercase was not intuitive. (If I wanted all lowercase, I would have gone to the Bauhaus and studied design. This is the Queens English, for crying out loud.) Took me æons to type out café.
Why they have not got to the point of letting me talk into the phone and creating a text through speech recognition, I don't know. Or is that too close to making a call?
At LOréal New Zealand Fashion Week 2003, I got out my electric razor and pretended to press buttons on the front, and everyone thought I was texting.
Mobiles are rotating things you hang over a cot.
I am not sure if I am allowed to promote another network’s show based on my TV One contract. Ah, screw ’em. What are they going to do? Cut my pay? Posted by Jack Yan, 06:37
I know a few snippets about Bloggrrr.com, a new service for bloggers being launched in Switzerland. The idea: bloggers can rate others’ blogs, and it is qualitative—so bloggers need not be in the Technorati Top 100 to get well known. Through Christian Leu, I can tell you that it has a wee commercial up here. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:45
I was interested and a little disturbed (in a good way) to note that English is now behind Japanese (and, half a year ago, Chinese) in terms of blog posts, according to Technorati’s Dave Sifry (see also Ballpark.ch). The French are probably panicked because they have fallen behind Russian. All this is more cause for using services like Babelﬁsh, as I relayed in February.
It illustrates that English is slipping as a global lingua franca, and that fact is tied to the decreasing brand equity of English-speaking countries. Whether this means a fragmentation of languages or the rise of a new dominant one is unclear; but English can only re-establish if English-speaking nations can show themselves to be moral and professional leaders, not the language in the service of technocrats. Right now, the blogosphere—surely the most immediate written indicator of global trends—shows that that authority is being lost, and that the rising economies are elsewhere.
Markets like the United States may be large, but some are concluding it may not be worth the heartache (the furore over the Dubai ports’ deal, etc., which I always warned had greater repercussions)—except, perhaps, for Red China, still eyeing it as a nation of 300 million consumers. But clearly, being a consumer nation is not enough to keep English on top.
It is the turn of businesses in English-speaking nations to assert a sense of ethics and moral authority, and only then will people see that learning the language is a good thing. But it will take a long time—just as it took a while for English to have lost its goodwill. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:42
Idealog’s third issue is a must-buy: not only does it talk about Generation C—those folks who use YouTube and Flickr a lot more than me—but founder Vincent Heeringa, surely one of the more visionary commentators on New Zealand business, has a column on the sorry state of marketing here.
We are great innovators, since Vincent, but we are not good at commercializing those innovations. Foreigners come in and New Zealand becomes more a playground for them. He even brieﬂy mentions how designers recently came together and said that design was a ‘key enabler’ but I sense he did not think as much of that—in fact, I was far more critical of the resulting document and called it a selection of words which I won’t republish.
Instead, our marketing has been backward and exhibits little of the innovation New Zealanders are capable of in other sectors. It smacks of 1980s’ textbooks. The talent is here, I would argue, but it happily goes offshore because no one domestically gives two hoots.
I have been invited to speak on marketing here and there, though I don’t get paid much domestically. Being a marketing visionary isn’t as widely appreciated. I get a pretty tidy fee from Europe and the United States.
I volunteer for government bodies and tell them I will provide my exporting, branding and marketing knowledge for free. I am, after all, still the only active antipodean at Medinge. My record is pretty sharp. But, as with my lament over exports, no one has ever taken me up on my offers. Conclusion after many years: New Zealand says it wants to export, but doesn’t. Government policies have been mixed at best, and the evidence—static exports as a proportion of GDP over 40 years and a largely static mix of those exports—speaks for itself.
Vincent is 100 per cent right, which is why Errol Saldanha set up a branding association for Kiwis at Kiwibranding, though we are yet to actively market it.
I do not necessarily believe it is in creating associations of hundreds of people, because you get hangers-on who don’t contribute. Smaller groups like Medinge are having greater effect because we are active. We have been discussing a new programme which will act as a form of outreach in ﬁnding other visionaries, something which I will share later.
I believe that within our current marketing associations there is room for cleverer thinking; and the media should be more on to it with this subject. They should look at, perhaps, New Zealanders who have found success abroad and analyse them from a marketing and branding point of view. And Vincent’s own suggestion, of joining a dialogue at Idealog, is another ﬁne idea.
Del.icio.us tags: New Zealand marketing branding Idealog export Posted by Jack Yan, 21:40
Looks like old media follow new media more and more regularly. With the (decreasing) hype surrounding New Line’s Snakes on a Plane, Lisa Gutierrez of Knight–Ridder Newspapers got the idea about calling airlines to see whether one could literally get snakes on to a plane—something Nootropic already discovered in March as being unlikely.
To Ms Gutierrez’s credit, she does investigate further, including tips on what to do if you actually encounter snakes on a plane. Shooting and saying ‘Why are there *** snakes on a *** plane?’ are not recommended. Nothing in there about using Lucires in the seat pockets of Paciﬁc Air 121 to whack the snakes.
New Line needs to think carefully about issuing another trailer, considering its Google references have fallen from a peak of 9,700,000 to 4,360,000 today. Posted by Jack Yan, 03:30
I’ve come out of seeing Mission: Impossible III—it was interesting to note how many countries got this movie before the United States. Normally here in New Zealand it’s the other way around and we get movies later.
It spawned several thoughts. First, this movie has nothing to do with the TV series other than the Lalo Schifrin theme and the idea of a guy getting a mission. We all know that by now: after 10 years, the movie series’ action has become the image most people have.
In fact, when I walked into a bookstore the other day to enquire about the Mission: Impossible TV series on DVD, the girl at the counter asked with huge surprise, ‘Was it a TV series?’
This is how brands work. Every brand has an image. In a rebrand, new images are desired. Their success in people’s minds depends on the strength of the old image, the quality of the branding programme, and, it has to be said, the expense and impact of the new campaign.
Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner have produced a series of ﬁlms that have created a strong new image, so much so that even diehard Mission: Impossible fans like me did not even contemplate a movie with any aspect of the TV series.
And the movie delivers in a big way, with just enough red herrings, and never-ending action. It is another Hollywood blockbuster with sufﬁcient explosions for a mass audience.
This makes Mr Cruise quite an expert on rebranding. He is attempting to do just that with his wife, whom I understand he wishes to be called Kate Holmes, rather than Katie, now that she is a Mom. Katie Holmes has changed tremendously in the last year in terms of her personal image; perhaps it is only right that her appellation changes now, to suit the new brand.
Right now, it doesn’t sound right. Give it another year. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:45
I am afraid Lucire chickened out from using the above advertisement given that this week’s cover story in the New Zealand Listener is ‘The New Kiwi Anti-Americanism’, written by the excellent Joanne Black. Instead, we went with something rather more tame, below (some minor copy changes were made since). The heading is actually something our readers tell us and it is the most repeated comment we receive.
The print ad is destined for Her Business. I can’t help thinking we should have used the one above. Or am I being too old-ad-world?
I designed the typefaces, incidentally.
Posted by Jack Yan, 05:37
This is the New Zealand way of doing business. Instead of involving a dozen lawyers, licensing agents and a whole bunch of people, Peter Jackson did a simple negotiation with the national museum, Te Papa. Peter needed a biplane engine for King Kong, which the museum secured. In exchange, it could have The Lord of the Rings exhibition for an encore.
Granted, there would still have been a lot of folks involved in actually getting the exhibition in there—the model my friend Bridget MacDonald stands next to in the photograph in this Fairfax article is one piece—but it shows that at least among some folks, a handshake is enough. Everything else beyond consensus ad idem is just using money.
The lawyer-laden way of doing business in some nations just seems such a world away from what we are accustomed to here. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:47
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