The encouraging thing about the stuff-up at Runway Reporter was that many people wrote in to the popular fashion web site to tell them, among them industry types such as Paul Blomﬁeld and Murray Bevan. The down side is that it cemented in some older readers’ minds that all Chinese do look the same and there was a genuine resemblance between Mr Kan and myself.
I still think it irresponsible to use race as a humour tool and claim it was all a joke, especially in this day and age.
And Raybon wasn’t too thrilled by it, either.
But, at least I won’t issue a fatwa against the site, but it brings to light that sometimes, multiculturalism is a claim and not a reality.
I recall taking a close (platonic) friend, who is of a different race, to numerous events some years ago, getting photographed by paparazzi all the time, and noting that the photographs of us together never made it into the news. It may well have been, back then (in the old, old days of 2003), too sensitive to show a mixed-race pair in the media. Especially if one of the races is mine. Claims of too much Asian immigration in the news, you know. (Of course there would logically be more Asian immigrants, since it is the most populous continent. Try telling our present Foreign Minister-outside-Cabinet that.)
I could have forgiven this once or twice, but every do over a seven-month period?
When asked, we made it quite clear we were just friends and nothing more. We enjoyed the other’s company.
I won’t cast the ﬁrst stone too strongly, because a few years back I was still quite happy making gay jokes behind the backs of gay friends. Not a good look. Not the sort of person I want to be.
But in the media, I would be far more careful in making sure I would not do anything that would prejudice any group. Two fellas together at an event? Show it. They were there, right? A couple of mixed race? Why not?
I report, you decide.
And I certainly would have been careful not to mix up two people caption-wise, even if at certain angles Robert Verde and Vin Diesel look the same. That is great for an internal joke, and I would have left it there. A public caption is quite another matter. Posted by Jack Yan, 21:54
[Cross-posted] Tomorrow on Good Morning: do we have double standards between men and women? That it’s more OK for a guy to swear than a girl? Are men ‘whipped’ when women are ‘clingy’? When one has friends of the opposite sex, are men more likely to cheat and women more likely to have control?
Barry Soper is away skiing with his girlfriend, so it’s Paul and me, with guest panellist Keith Quinn. Should be fun. Any dirt on Keith Quinn welcome. I am afraid we can’t afford a live cross over to Richard Hammond.
Speaking of whom, Robin Capper alerted me to a Top Gear petition that has attracted nearly 50,000 signatures at the time of writing. It’s to save the show. I’d recommend fans pop by and sign it. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:30
I am a tad late with this, though I did learn the news earlier: the Rover trade mark has been bought by Ford, which had ﬁrst right of refusal when BMW sold it. The Dearborn, Mich. automaker paid £6 million, which means it will likely hang on to its Land Rover unit. It also means that SAIC, which has its version of the old Rover 75 ready for sale, will need to create a brand—putting it at a disadvantage to its rivals in Nanjing, the NAC–MG group.
SAIC may have been better resourced than NAC, but without a brand, it is no better than the many Red Chinese companies wanting to set up shop outside their home market.
Ford may put out extensions to its Land Rover and Range Rover models, though most cannot see that happening in the immediate term. The brand equity is less than what it could be at this point, so Ford is unlikely to use the brand till well into the 2010s, when it has recovered slightly and people are seeing it through rosier-coloured glasses.
That is conventional thinking, and Ford is good at that. ‘We haven’t planned new models for this, so we won’t do anything.’
Sometimes, it is bad having a ﬁxed strategy. Strategies need to be semi-ﬂuid for opportunities such as these.
The Unofﬁcial Austin–Rover Resource’s Keith Adams proposed the Jaguar X-type be rebadged a Rover, so Jaguar could concentrate on its more premium models. In rare disagreement with Keith, I do not think that is a good idea, considering the marque could do with a 2·4 or Mark II-segment model, and there would be too many sheetmetal changes needed to make the X-type less Jaguar-like.
But Keith is on to something, but we need to think just a bit more laterally: could Rover be a brand to slap on to exports of Mercurys to Europe? The Mercury Milan, for example, is smart, looks less modern than its European rivals, and may appeal to many buyers who want a softer, slightly traditional car.
Its Mazda 6 base means it is safe, and it might even mean right-hand-drive engineering won’t be too hard.
The waterfall grille can be easily adapted to fit the Rover Viking longship.
Hardly anyone in Europe knows the Mercury brand.
Ford, in one move, could get better economies of scale with its Fusion, Milan and MKZ, increase its representation in the CD segment, tap in to the remaining Rover loyalists, and have a car that won’t seriously cannibalize its other similarly sized models.
The launch costs need not be great because not enough time has passed for Rover to sink into history like Triumph or Austin has.
And it can market the car, if it wanted to, in nine months.
The Mercury Milan doesn’t even need to be a class leader, because as we have seen, Rover buyers have not been after that for a long time.
The question is: will the new CEO, Alan Mulally, have the guts to put a stamp on his leadership with such a coup early, like Bob Lutz did at GM?
Del.icio.us tags: Rover Ford Mercury export marketing brand branding brand equity Alan Mulally cars automobiles BMW Posted by Jack Yan, 12:28
I realize there have been fewer branding posts of late, because of my involvement in various other businesses. One is Lucire, which is undergoing some changes.
By Friday, our next cover girl will be known as there will be a glimpse on MTV New Zealand here, but I am thinking another issue down the line: who should be au couverture in December?
Chances are it will be shot in New York City, so it should be someone accessible on the US east coast. But she also needs to be recognizable in New Zealand, which remains market number one.
In the past, we have had Theodora Richards (daughter of Keith Richards and Patti Hansen), who has some public interest. But we have also had Brittny Gastineau, Vanessa Carlton, Nicky Hilton, and my friends Stacie Jones Upchurch and Denise Vasi, but I believe their appeal is somewhat limited. We have even had supermodels and that group who might be called demisupermodels.
Vanessa Williams was talked about last year but nothing came of it. I am after a fresh-faced 20-something. Even Jessica Rose (Lonelygirl15) would be interesting, but I still wonder if she would be recognized here among our female target market.
I like the idea of Katherine Heigl, who has ﬁnally gained prime-time recognition here through Grey’s Anatomy—after years of feature ﬁlms playing teenagers. Last time, our schedules didn’t match.
Are there any others? (Note: I cannot afford Charlize.) Posted by Jack Yan, 11:43
You could never make The Apprentice in New Zealand, with any rich guy at the helm. Donald says, ‘You’re ﬁred,’ and Martha said, ‘Goodbye,’ but in New Zealand, that would put you at odds with the Employment Relations’ Act 2000.
I went to law school and I never saw a crock of junk like this: a piece of legislation totally geared toward employees, so bosses cannot ﬁre people.
Not even if they are incompetent.
Not even if they steal from you.
You ﬁre someone, the Employment Court is likely going to award the dismissed employee three months’ wages.
I have never seen a law like this that so offends natural justice.
So, in the New Zealand version of The Apprentice, the star will have to say, ‘I would like to propose that you leave this organization and would like to enter into a consultation process with you, with full legal representation for you. I hope you will accept this proposal.’
And that, ladies and gentlemen, would be crap television.
Because it sure as heck makes for crap business. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:47
If Mr Peter J. Hook, who emailed me September 21, 2005, is reading, please could he contact me again? I’ve only just read your email, Peter, and can help you with that issue you raised. Unfortunately, your Hotmail account is now closed.
Unfortunately, a few thousand emails a week does put me behind sometimes. At least I am not as bad as Ringo Starr in The Simpsons.
There must be a better way of getting through emails.
I would like to do an experiment though. Mr Hook is in the UK, from what I can gather. His old address had the word letterpress in it. I would not mind seeing if we are separated by six degrees, so if someone could help begin connecting us, I would welcome it.
These blogs may be better tools than we think. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:29
Despite what appears to be great support for Top Gear and its injured presenter Richard Hammond on the blogosphere, the mainstream media are reporting as though the programme needs an obit. The Daily Mail today writes, ‘With Top Gear facing the axe’. The same thing happened to MG Rover, doomed more by the British media than by anything else.
Mind you, I can’t totally blame them. The BBC itself, says Entertainment Wise, has threatened to cancel the show if Hammond is not well enough to front it. It’s more the fact that cancellation sounds like a fait accompli that I am not enjoying.
Andy Wilman needs to move cameras into the hospital ward. Seriously. Live feeds are expensive, but losing the show would be worse. Park the bloody van with the aerial outside. Have a split screen with Clarkson and May on one side and Hammond on the other like it was the BBC News. (The BBC then can’t tell us that they don’t know how to do that.)
Jeremy Clarkson said, as quoted in the Mail, ‘Swarms of bureaucratic bluebottles are nibbling away at the crash site on York airﬁeld desperately trying to ﬁnd some reason why Top Gear should be banished from our screens.’
I repeat my earlier request that fans should be writing to the BBC now, if they haven’t already. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:10
Robin Capper pointed me to The Sun’s latest column by Jeremy Clarkson, which reveals that not only has brain-injured presenter Richard Hammond gotten up for a wiz and called James May ‘Cockface’, the claims that Top Gear producers dare presenters to do ever-wilder things are total crap.
I have watched Top Gear for a long time. The ﬁrst time I recall it being on here in New Zealand was around the time of the London Motor Show in 1989, with Noël Edmonds presenting. The Honda Concerto-based Rover 200 had just been launched. And it was on at some ungodly hour, like 5.30 p.m. on a Saturday, not the prime-time slot it enjoys today.
Over the years, there has been potential for plenty of injury, but thanks to the production team’s care over health and safety, Hammond’s crash was the ﬁrst serious one.
Angela Rippon could have skidded out of control at a skid pan. Tony Mason could have hurt himself badly when rolling his Reliant Robin. Series producer Andy Wilman might have had a more serious injury as the Top Gear presenter who has done the most nude scenes. I may jest, but the team has done crazier things, too: Toyota Aygo footballing, attempting to drown Richard Hammond to investigate how best to get out of a sinking car, and playing conkers with caravans.
But in 28 years, the Top Gear team has remained relatively safe.
That hasn’t stopped the BBC from giving the series ever-shorter runs, or being its harshest critic. Then, that’s the BBC. Critical of its own government, and now critical of its own colleagues. It is in a self-destructive mood. Anything that there is some democratic support for, it will oppose.
Yet Top Gear makes money like bonkers, with the TV series and a complementary magazine, both of which succeed because they have each other.
While the money motive is not something I cite on this blog regularly, it may be the network’s and the governors’ strongest motivation right now. I say this as the anti-Top Gear brigade, those whom ignore that cars are safer, more stable and more environmentally friendly than the Ford Anglias or Red Chinese motors they will have us drive around in, is loud. It may be outnumbered by Top Gear fans, but there’s no denying that this past week, the car-haters have got very loud indeed.
‘Shall we listen to this whacky minority, because we sure aren’t listening to the majority?’ they will ask.
To whom will they turn? I suspect the only people they can turn to, in this money-making era for the BBC, are the bean counters on the board. As in so many organizations.
And they will say that the majority should win the day.
That shouldn’t stop the rest of us ﬁghting for our show today. Donations for the air ambulance service that rescued Richard after his crash are well into the ﬁve ﬁgures, and that’s English pounds. So there are many of us willing to put our money where our mouths are.
Now we need to start writing to the BBC, and campaigning with Clarkson and Andy Wilman to keep this show on the air. Say we will continue supporting the show or the magazine, or both.
We also need to remind them that it’s not speed that kills or hurts.
Look at Germany. If the road safety lobbyists are right, then that country would be a mess with its autobahn network. Every day would be an episode of Alarm für Cobra 11: Die Autobahnpolizei.
But only four per cent of German fatalities happen on the unrestricted parts of the autobahn. The rest are in areas with speed limits. Reason: crap driving. Bad education. Road rage. People who aren’t disciplined behind the wheel.
If the Germans were less disciplined, they would be apeing Erdogan Atalay after every episode of Cobra 11.
Take New Zealand, a land of crap drivers. We may have turned out Chris Amon but anyone who has driven here the day after driving in, say, California, will notice the steep decline in standards. We lack discipline. And we kill a lot of our own.
The cops say it’s speed, but I say it’s fundamentally the way we treat cars as racing machines, or extensions to our cellphones, secondary to a call that we have to make on them.
And Britain might not be too different since a lot of Kiwis come from Anglo stock.
If Clarkson was worried in his column for the Murdoch Press, then we should all be worried. He knows something we don’t. Or at least, he knows something that we all have guessed about the vocal nature of the anti-car minority.
The bean counters and the governors need to hear us now—here’s the form.
My email to the BBC is on my Vox blog.
Del.icio.us tags: Top Gear Richard Hammond Jeremy Clarkson TV BBC road safety speed anti-car Posted by Jack Yan, 23:59
All motorheads will no doubt be joining me in sending good wishes and vibes to Richard Hammond, the 36-year-old Top Gear presenter who was critically injured in the Vampire, Britain’s fastest car, at some 280 mph. Hamster, we are with you—especially those of us who have to put up with a few other blokes presenting a telly programme.
The latest news is that Richard has suffered a brain injury but doctors say a good recovery is expected. Jeremy Clarkson apparently told the Murdoch Press that Richard did react to a joke he made, by smiling. ‘Hammond’s smile had “convinced me he will live”, he said.’
Update: Hammond is out of intensive care. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:27
We have to wade into the whole obesity debate on Good Morning. One of the quotes we have in our brieﬁng is from the TVNZ site: ‘For example, we pay around $38 million in health insurance claims each year for elective surgery or treatment of heart disease and yet the incidence of heart disease for most New Zealanders is highly preventable.’
I imagine I could quote from an earlier post on the issue, and see if the conversation goes toward corporate social responsibility. However, I have been asked to keep the stories personal—pretty hard, considering I have not eaten at McDonald’s since Sundance 2004 (thanks to Mr Spurlock’s story in Super Size Me).
It is something I need to think about some day. My late mother was careful with my diet, though McDonald’s was permitted during my teen years. However, my high school had a PE programme, so the food went into muscle, most likely. I ate a prepared lunch on most days in my high school years, and you could not buy a lot of today’s junk food at school. We saved money this way as well. And I stayed lean.
These days, I hear of families on welfare giving their kids money to buy junk food. It’s parental thinking that needs to change for the sake of New Zealand’s young people; and for those of us who are older, we need to make time to get the exercise we need.
Thoughts are very welcome—I may check comments before I go on air in the morning. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:42
Word from L’Oréal after my earlier enquiry: no parodies of the name, please, we’re French. Hence ‘Wake up to L’Oréality’ is now, at its PR company’s suggestion, ‘Backstage Pass’. It’s OK. It’s not funny, but it’s OK. (Photograph at left by Nicola Topping for L’Oréal.) Posted by Jack Yan, 09:02
My colleague Ed Daniel sent a link from Netimperative to me, outlining the top 10 online brands in the UK by growth, as analysed by Nielsen/NetRatings. I won’t spoil all the details, but they begin with YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, American Express and Photobucket. B&Q, the DIY brand, may be the one that non-Britons do not recognize. (It does not stand for Bush and Quayle. Though that is not far off what it does stand for.)
As I look through some of them, I am reminded that American Express aside, they appear to follow the steps that I outlined in my online branding paper. American Express may be worth a case study, especially its encouragement of people to use its web site, which, at my last visit, was dead boring. But it has been active in associates’ programmes such as TradeDoubler, which, I imagine, must bring people into its fold.
Perhaps it is the exception that proves the rules—it has never been the smartest looking or the most widespread of cards. Graphically, American Express is all over the place. Yet I carry two of them. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:36
Observing Trelise Cooper of late, she has really been building up her personal brand once more after it took a knock on the (still pending) intellectual property lawsuit against fellow fashion designer Tamsin Cooper. Interviews with magazines, Holmes, Breakfast and others have ensured her image is rebuilding—it helps that she is one of the few New Zealand designers to sell in any quantity in the US and the media would be foolish to ignore her. There’s little mention of the lawsuit at present, since it has become old news, at least till it gets to the High Court at the end of the year. And the media have been rather polite in not pushing the question, for now.
An article not too long ago in the Herald on Sunday on the lawsuit quoted yours truly, and was generally more pro-Tamsin—showing that in a David v. Goliath case, the public will side with David. I should make it clear that I was very balanced, and the journalist can conﬁrm this—though mostly my pro-Tamsin quotations made it through into the newspaper.
It has been interesting observing this case, and how each designer’s public perception has changed. Tamsin Cooper is more successful in written articles and seems to have received a great deal of public sympathy. Trelise Cooper’s star went down for a bit but she has managed to generate enough new lines (lingerie, children’s wear) and buzz to rebuild her personal image.
Both are useful promotional tactics at times of conﬂict. The smaller party can use the underdog image to get its point across: it lacks the budget of the larger one in promoting its way in the media. There is a lot to say about taking a business-as-usual approach, too—if it is genuine.
The larger party is probably doing just what it should: take a business-as-usual approach in the hope that that business will be more compelling an item in the media than their interest in fashion-industry cat ﬁghts. It can work, but it does come with some risks—conﬂict will still sell news.
Fortunately for both parties, the High Court will be unmoved by most of this, as the case seems reasonably clear. But at least neither side will be entering the court room believing there to be any media-created disadvantage now. Posted by Jack Yan, 19:05
I didn’t spot this September 7 article till now: ﬁve 20-somethings were asked to go without cellphones for 48 hours in The Dominion Post. They had organized their entire lives with them, using them as alarm clocks and socializing tools (a few had two phones). But the repercussions of going cold turkey were not too bad: the most text messages missed was 18, plus two voice messages. No one seemed to miss their phone because they had no means of taking a fuzzy, low-resolution photograph or play a video game.
As I read the ﬁve testimonies, things did not seem too serious, civilized life did not end, and the consequences were by and large positive. They felt withdrawal and wondered where their phones were at times, but these were natural—and nothing that can’t easily become a “new normal” after a short period. One young woman used her phone as a distraction for when she was bored.
‘When I was with friends,’ wrote ofﬁce administrator Emma Bramwell, ‘I felt completely focused on them rather than wondering if someone was going to text me.’ After 48 hours, she had eight messages.
Four a day—four people who could easily be asked to call Ms Bramwell on a regular telephone or use some other means of communication.
I thought about how much money they and their friends saved in a country where cellphone calls are ridiculously expensive.
The cellphone as a social tool has its advantages and I can see a lot of plus points for personal safety. But I still enjoy having “me” time—I have never owned a cell, will likely never own one, and I even enjoy being the odd one out. Those whom I socialize with are my genuine friends who want my company and arrange it, not people who text or call me because they are merely bored. Posted by Jack Yan, 18:40
There will be a Blogger outage at 4 p.m. Paciﬁc time today, in case anyone ﬁnds any problems with this blog at that time. I may be on my Vox blog if I get time. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:42
Martin Payne has very kindly published my online branding paper at Pool, writing a very nice introduction to the piece at the site:
When use of the Web started to become commonplace, many claimed that it would never be possible to build brands on-line and that traditional marketing tools will still be required. Others including the Pool editor disagreed with this view. Since then, many brands have been established using on-line media only and have become larger than off-line rivals. Jack Yan’s article notes the way in which the on-line medium can be used to build brands in a different way.
It was also a delight—since the 19th is my birthday—to have spotted my blogging story at Toby Bloomberg’s Blogger Stories (he also publishes The Diva Marketing Blog). While I believe in social media, I admit I was a blog sceptic for a long time. Toby leads with that, and then allows me to tell my blogging story in my own words, and how I did not believe the community was there in the blogosphere till recently. I hope you enjoy them. Posted by Jack Yan, 18:57
There are some people who are incredibly nice out there. Hearing that my copy of Beyond Branding had been stolen, Bookrunner Ltd. in Sussex, England, which sells some of its books via Abebooks, Alibris and Amazon.com, has offered to replace mine gratis with a ﬁrst edition. To Anneke Bugle, thank you for your kindness. It restores my faith in people a great deal.
I believe kindness does lead to other things: I will tell my friends, and they will tell their friends. Goodwill does spread, especially in this day and age when reputations are often made or enhanced through mentions online, and successful searches for a company name in Google. This is also one of those times I am proud to be British (I have dual nationality)—you can enhance your country’s image through such gestures.
I hope Bookrunner has the success it deserves for this incredibly kind gesture. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:12
A New Zealander, Bruce Robinson, is stuck in a Polish jail and is losing his mind, according to his parents.
Robinson was jailed as an employee of a British company connected with the Katowice international trade hall collapse, which killed 67.
His parents have have contact from the Foreign Minister outside Cabinet, Winston Peters, who says he will not interfere with the legal proceedings of another country. Essentially, New Zealand has abandoned Robinson.
The Foreign Minister might need to review his position. Because it is his job to interfere with the legal proceedings of another country. It is his job to interfere with others’ sovereignty. At least, that is what I am led to believe. Or, at least, that is what I would be doing in his shoes.
Otherwise, all we would need is a Home Secretary or Minister of Internal Affairs, as we call him in New Zealand.
A normal foreign minister would negotiate with Polish authorities to hold Robinson in a New Zealand prison pending trial, perhaps on humanitarian grounds.
A normal foreign minister might even go so far as to suggest that Robinson could be tried here under Polish law.
A normal foreign minister would do more than send some cop-out message to Robinson’s distraught parents who, knowing the New Zealand Government would not help, are ﬂying to Poland to see their son.
If he has no place in affecting others’ sovereign decisions, then Mr Peters should not have gone to Washington to see Dr Rice or Sen. John McCain, to persuade them to change their stance about free trade with New Zealand. He should have simply left well enough alone.
I had thought having a foreign minister outside Cabinet had no constitutional basis. The guy cannot speak for the government, because he is not part of the Cabinet. As far as I can tell, he is irrelevant.
With the Robinson incident, he does not need critics to point that out. He seems to be fairly successful at demonstrating that he is little more than ornamental.
But for an ornamental guy, I have to hand it to him for his techniques at swaying a line of questioning, and to appear as the calm, collected minister when being grilled. Part of the charm, I believe. But I wonder just how much longer than can last, as the audience becomes cleverer, and the illusion is revealed more frequently as his mistakes grow.
The Winston Peters act is in danger of becoming painful re-runs. Like that time I saw Bruce Almighty ﬁve times because it was on ever single transcontinental ﬂight I took. But that is another story. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:54
As predicted, the Lonelygirl15 videos have continued, and they are now on Revver, which will commercialize the clips with advertisements. Have demand, will supply.
So, at the end of the day, the Lonelygirl15 series wasn’t selling anything but itself.
While the hype won’t be as big now—for one, the mainstream media have been on the story, which makes it uncool—there are probably enough people who want to see how Bree’s saga ends, even if it has become harder to suspend reality now.
Its creators need to ﬁgure out, however, if the ‘Is it real?’ inquiry was part of its appeal. I never watched a single video in its entirety, so the mystery was what drew me in. If I start becoming interested in teenage girls, at this age, call a cop.
The next teenage girl I expect to take an interest in is either my own kin, or someone a future son of mine introduces into our home, and that’s a very different sort of interest.
Del.icio.us tags: Lonelygirl15 Bree Jessica Rose YouTube Revver Posted by Jack Yan, 13:38
Danny’s about to ﬂip
Never mind Snakes on a Plane: the ﬁlm I really want to see this year is Casino Royale. It’s more than just going to a Bond ﬁlm: if you are my age, or younger, this will be one of those rare times when we will see a brand new Bond movie directly based on an Ian Fleming novel. It will likely be the last time this will happen, unless Eon loses its mind and decides to do remakes of the other ﬁlms. (It’s, therefore, a shame the ﬁlm posters, and I presume the movie titles, don’t say ‘Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale’.)
Until 1979’s Moonraker—and with the exception of 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me—all James Bond ﬁlms had their bases in a Fleming novel, even if most of the 1970s Bonds bore little resemblance to their source material. The moviegoing audience in the 1960s went to the Bonds, with many who had read the books already knowing how the story ended. Despite this, the movies still reached a zenith with 1965’s Thunderball, which still holds the records as the James Bond ﬁlm that got the greatest number of bums on cinema seats.
In other words, in November and December, many of us will experience something that our parents did: go to a Bond where we know the conclusion. Even though we know the ending, we’ll still savour the experience.
Then again, is this so novel? We know that any action movie—the Die Hards of this world, for instance—will see the hero prevail. I saw the Richard Chamberlain mini-series The Bourne Identity long before I saw Matt Damon take the role. In fact, if the good guys do not win—such as Terminator 3’s downbeat ending—we leave the cinema feeling low.
It’s not having to guess the ending that draws us to a ﬁlm, but following a story, and seeing the dramas and action unfold. Much rather like life, and much rather like brands.
It’s knowing a legend or a story behind a company that makes the brand unique and compelling. That draws us in to being a customer or any audience member that happily has a connection with the brand. It’s only human for us to be that way. Hence Snakes on a Plane’s life outside of the movie was compelling: it was part of the legend. And the legend, as audiences found out, was far more compelling than the product itself.
And when it comes to Casino Royale, the excitement is not because some of us know that the last page in Casino Royale has the word bitch in it. The excitement is knowing there will be a darned good yarn, based on a fairly decent Fleming book. Experiencing the story is more important than knowing the product. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:01
I’ve just had to check with L’Oréal, one of Lucire’s major advertisers, whether I can call my article on the night of L’Oréal Colour Trophy ‘Wake up to L’Oréality’ (some of you may be singing ‘I’ve Got You under My Skin’ right now).
It is a tricky thing, parody. On the one hand, a humorous article may be welcome by readers. On the other hand, some of that humour comes at the expense of the client’s trade mark, and usually, that is a no-no.
I play it on a case-by-case basis, but other companies may not be as open. It depends how much one wishes to be seen to be controlling—and as Google has shown us over the last few years, levity toward the logo might not be a bad thing if an irreverent culture is what one has to project.
Might as well let people play than having your logo the subject of vandalism in anti-globalization contexts.
However, from where I sit, the Lucire logo is sacrosanct and cannot, ofﬁcially, be modiﬁed without my say-so. I would certainly think twice before allowing a parody of the name. This is despite my otherwise nice-guy approach to most things.
We shall see what comments come from L’Oréal.
My favourite bit in the piece, in addition to a more polite reference to Charmaine Guest’s love scene in Skin & Bone that I have already referred to on this blog:
While waiting in the wings, I chatted to Mint Condition’s Fiona Webster, who ran me through which envelope to take up with me, and to hosts Mikey Havoc and Jaquie Brown, whose asymmetric cut brought some comments that evening. We compared notes on John Campbell’s swearing.
We at Lucire are thinking of you, John! Posted by Jack Yan, 12:09
This edition of the Letter is less on branding, and more on the week that was, beginning with my reminiscences about 9-11 and my 30 years in New Zealand, which I commemorate today.
0.19 9-11 and the summer of ’01 in New York
3.11 At Wellington Fashion Festival, September 12, 2001
3.41 Visiting Ground Zero on September 11, 2005
5.51 I hate cellphones
8.16 New Zealand Post’s $80 million postal codes do not work
9.16 Don Brash’s alleged affair
10.33 My 30th anniversary of arriving in New Zealand
12.01 A proud New Zealander
Please download or listen to this edition of the Letter at the Internet Archive in various formats. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:34
New Zealand Post spent NZ$80 million on new machinery, new postal codes and ﬁring some of its staff. We were encouraged, nationally, to switch to the new codes as soon as possible, as after a while, the old ones would not work.
As the above illustration shows, the new ones do not work, either. The mailroom supervisor at the Marion Square postal centre (suggesting this package wound up at the wrong branch) has crossed out the new postal code and substituted it with the word ‘Kilbirnie’, making me wonder if the $80 million spend was just a farce. And after we started printing stationery with the new codes.
This is a perfect illustration of the necessity to get internal staff on side with any campaign before you inform the public. And that public campaign was in May–June. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:04
News that the Leader of the Opposition may have had an affair outside of marriage has been leading the headlines here in New Zealand. It’s believable: the current Mrs Brash was the “other woman” when her relationship with the good doctor began, and now she ﬁnds herself in the position of the woman scorned.
Predictions are falling both ways, though more in favour of Don Brash. The wisdom seems to be that Brash will survive this, and that his affair humanizes him. But since he had campaigned on being the candidate with traditional values at the last General Election—for instance, refusing to debate strongly with the Prime Minister because she is a woman—the “Teﬂon Don” approach could yet backﬁre on him.
If he had been anything other than the leader of a values-led, slightly traditionalist party, I would say the affair would wash off him. But this contradicts Don Brash’s brand. It contradicts the National Party’s efforts, contrasting the liberal nature of the Government. I don’t care how it humanizes him. If our British readers want to consider how John Major’s affair with Edwina Currie might have been perceived had it been revealed while he was in ofﬁce, then you get a similar picture.
While National did not invent sleaze, and both sides have plenty of skeletons in their cupboards, Don Brash is in dangerous territory this coming week. And this coming week is a long time in politics. If someone who expresses National’s core values can be found to be ready to lead, Brash risks being gone by lunchtime.
Strangely, Brash’s best solution may well be candour and to show that talking straight, and admitting the truth, is in line with his party’s values. It worked for Major, and it may work for him. But talking straight is hardly this politician’s strong suit—even if he had been a conscientious Reserve Bank governor, once upon a time. Somewhere along the line, he learned how to speak Beehive double-talk.
George Clooney has a better chance in politics right now. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:14
This is a long-made promise (September 3), so it’s time I fulﬁlled it now.
Marcin Musiolik very kindly informed me about NoPhoneTrees.com after my post last month on Telecom New Zealand’s web site (which has no telephone number information).
It’s an amazing service, although if I were to test it, I would have to make an international long-distance call. Here’s the principle:
Our mission is to help users skip phone trees and connect with a real human on the customer support phone lines at many companies throughout the U.S. Users simply choose the company they wish to call, and we'll dial the company directly, navigate their phone tree, and call them back when they are in queue for an operator or customer service representative. The service is available for free, and we've gotten some great feedback so far.
The thing this signals is that we demand great customer service, and we shouldn’t be left holding the line for a human to answer. We also shouldn’t be made to go through half a dozen menus, because ten to one the “specialist” who answers the call is the same one who would have answered it if you fed in a whole different bunch of options.
Stateside, I imagine this dehumanizing techology has got to a point where NoPhoneTrees.com is a necessity. If I were living there, I would use it. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:05
Oh, great: only now that the story has broken all over the world has our mainstream media in New Zealand got on to the Lonelygirl15 story. I thought I was late with it, since it has been going since mid-year and I have only talked about Lonelygirl15 for maybe a month on this blog. I tell you, the MSM ignore the blogosphere at their peril. The best stories are here. But they still pretend it didn’t exist and that the internet is not taking away readers from newspapers and TV. Ha!
Meanwhile, its creators deny that the stunt was to promote a new Hollywood ﬁlm. Jessica Rose, the actress from Salisbury, Md., who grew up in Mt Maunganui, New Zealand, hired to play Bree or Lonelygirl15, has begun doing interviews as herself. One of the ﬁrst is on MTV, and another with the Associated Press, which proves my earlier point that this will be a marketing phenomenon for the actress, who will have a shelf life beyond the YouTube videos. She needs to be careful she doesn’t ﬁzzle out, so now is the time to go forward with any plans for the Jessica Rose brand, and not the Lonelygirl15 one. She must have considered them, and considered what she needs to do to remain relevant in this very ﬁckle business.
Will she go into old media? Or will she prefer to conquer the web? The fact she has not received any acting offers so far suggests the people in power are watching—so play it carefully and with class and dignity. Humility works in the new Hollywood.
Stars are born, but stars can also fade. Tread carefully, Jessica Rose.
Del.icio.us tags: Jessica Rose fame New Zealand Lonelygirl15 marketing Bree brand phenomenon stardom Posted by Jack Yan, 23:49
Thanks to BlackOps, Lonelygirl15 was a Kiwi all along.
The Wall Street Journal’s blog reports that Lonelygirl15’s idea was hatched by a 27-year-old lawyer, Greg Goodfried, of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp in Los Angeles. Lonelygirl15, or Bree, was played by 20-something Jessica Rose, a New Zealand-born, LA-based, New York-trained actress. (Some put her age at 19.) Guess we do churn out “celebrities” occasionally, and at least this one has more Google references than Charlotte Dawson.
In addition to Goodfried, the other brains behind Lonelygirl15, in an announcement orchestrated by the Creative Artists’ Agency, were Miles Beckett, 28, a web fanatic; and Mesh Flinders, 26, a screenwriter, reported the Los Angeles Times. The gentlemen are now clients of the Agency.
What may follow are more appearances for the gentlemen, but especially for Rose. Managed right, she might not be a one-trick phenomenon on the late-night chat-show circuit: it depends, now, how she will manage her personal brand and fame (or infamy). But a name like Jessica Rose suggests that she has thought, to some extent, that she would be marketed.
Del.icio.us tags: Lonelygirl15 hoax New Zealand personal brand personal branding branding Posted by Jack Yan, 13:57
A year ago, at this time, I was trying to get to sleep because I knew I would have to get up early to get to Ground Zero to join others commemorating 9-11. I got up around 6.30 a.m. and took the subway in to Manhattan, and met a woman who had travelled there from California. In fact, most of us had come a long way. I spotted two Australian caps among the crowd.
When 9-11 happened, it was 9-12. Here in New Zealand, I was woken up around 6.30 a.m. by Edward Hodges, who called me after he learned of the attacks. I had returned from New York only weeks before, so this was a surreal moment. But it never hit me: I tried watching the news, the commemorations, and I felt distant. Maybe it was my mind shielding me. That’s why, in 2005, I had to go.
Although I had one friend who was killed in London last year, on July 7, I lost no friends on September 11. The people who died were friends of friends. The boyfriend of one of my team could not get back into his apartment. A colleague’s ofﬁce had to be shut till the area was cleared. That was about it.
I still have pictures, when researching a story, of 9-11 itself, taken from Soho by friends. They showed the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers ablaze. I even had images of those falling to their deaths. I doubt I will ever publish them. But even then, it was still some event, some tragedy, in a foreign country. I must have had ice water in my veins.
But last year, it ﬁnally hit. I saw the ﬁremen at Engine Company 10 mourn the loss of their colleagues, and comrades from Europe came to join them. I saw the notes people had signed on memorial boards. I saw tears. An old man wore a T-shirt commemorating his son, a ﬁreﬁghter who perished in the World Trade Center. Cops were there: hard, big blokes who could have stared down crims had tears to contend with in their eyes that day.
It touched me because these were people like me. Of every race. Every creed. Every culture.
Condi started talking below, but it didn’t matter. I was already in the moment.
Where are we now? I remember doing business in New York was easy. People trusted you. Shook your hand. People were globally minded, thinking, ‘What borders?’ I can’t do business in New York anywhere near that readily any more. Suspicion ﬁrst. Get a cast iron contract. Weigh people down before you make them your friends.
The business environment in New York, which is all I really knew, changed drastically that day. That is what the terrorists robbed the US of: not its wealth, not its power, but its trust of cross-border dealings.
A friend of mine, who was a waiter in New York, told me that people were nice to him—a gay, black man—for about two weeks. After that, the mood soured. He was back to being just a waiter. But something was worse.
My Arab–American friends told of people reading Arabic-language newspapers, published in the United States by Americans, getting kicked out of restaurants and cafés.
There was something seriously wrong. And if we are to show the terrorists that they are insigniﬁcant, cowardly bastards, then I long for a return to the America I knew and started working with, and in, in the 1990s.
I still stand by my words written on September 11, 2001. If I had a blog then, these would be on it.
Del.icio.us tags: 9-11 prejudice USA New York NY NYC September 11 World Trade Center WTC photography commemorations Posted by Jack Yan, 06:55
My only copy of Beyond Branding, the book I co-wrote with my Medinge colleagues, has gone missing. I expected that I may have lent it to staff, but tonight, my curiosity got the better of me: what else is missing?
The following books are missing from this ofﬁce, and there’s no way that they all could have been loaned. Some cash has gone missing, too. If anyone has bought them from a single seller in New Zealand, then you may have bought stolen goods. None were available on general retail sale here.
I have no recourse legally under New Zealand law if you were a bona ﬁde buyer, so I won’t be going after you. But I do want to get to the bottom of this theft and will be reporting it to the police on Monday.
• N. Ind (ed.): Beyond Branding: How the New Values of Transparency and Integrity Are Changing the World of Brands, 1st ed. London: Kogan Page 2003.
• M. Kelly: The Divine Right of Capital: Dethroning the Corporate Aristocracy. San Francisco: Berrett–Koehler 2001.
• R. Mathews and W. Wacker: The Deviant’s Advantage: How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets. New York: Crown Business Publications 2002.
• M. Lewis: Next: the Future Just Happened. New York: W. W. Norton 2001.
• J. Yan: Typography and Branding. Christchurch: Natcoll Publishing 2005.
By coincidence, the missing books are ones that I do not have signed by their authors, and were in excellent condition. So someone knew what they were taking and had the opportunity to inspect them.
My second copy of Typography and Branding is still here, luckily. It was a very limited edition and probably can’t be replaced.
If anyone wants to donate old copies, I will gratefully accept! I normally would pick them up while travelling, and I can’t justify the shipping expense for replacements while here in New Zealand. Call me a tightwad. Posted by Jack Yan, 15:01
I spotted an article yesterday in The Record about Red China’s changing school curriculum, beginning in Shanghai. Propaganda about Chairman Mao is out, replaced by commerce and globalization. But numerous other historical Chinese ﬁgures are out, too.
Joseph Kahn wrote:
Zhou [Chunsheng, a professor at Shanghai Normal University,] said the new textbooks followed the ideas of the French historian Fernand Braudel. Braudel advocated including culture, religion, social customs, economics and ideology into a new “total history.” That approach has been popular in many Western countries for more than 50 years.
Braudel elevated history above the ideology of any nation. China has steadily moved away from its ruling ideology of communism, but the Shanghai textbooks are the ﬁrst to try examining it as a phenomenon rather than preaching it as the truth. …
The new textbooks de-emphasize dynastic change, peasant struggle, ethnic rivalry and war, some critics say, because the leadership does not want people thinking that such things matter a great deal. Ofﬁcials prefer to create the impression that Chinese through the ages cared more about innovation, technology and trade relationships with the outside world.
This makes some sense, and I welcome any move away from propaganda and indoctrination. But for my tastes, it doesn’t go far enough. It would be a shame if Chinese students never heard about Mao’s ill-fated moves and killings that led to the deaths of 70 million Chinese—who needs Japanese invaders while that’s going on? Or, for that matter:
The Shanghai textbook revisions do not address many domestic and foreign concerns about the biased way Chinese schools teach recent history. Like the old textbooks, for example, the new ones play down historic errors or atrocities like the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and the army crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989.
I criticize the way Japanese textbooks gloss over World War II history, and I’m going to be just as hard on my own culture. Like so many cultures, it appears we want our children to repeat the errors of the past, but that’s going to be a hard point to argue against in what is, despite the changing emphasis, a totalitarian socialist régime. Mao is not going to be painted as a bad guy right now—that is still left to those living in the safety and freedoms of the west to expose and expound. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:58
The blogosphere can suffer form the same malaise as old media in following up a story. The case of Laptopguy and Amir Massoud Tofangsazan has not really been updated since the early days.
For those who do not remember, ‘Laptopguy’, revealed to be Thomas Sawyer, was an “internet vigilante” who was allegedly ripped off by Tofangsazan, when purchasing off Ebay. The laptop that arrived did not meet Tofangsazan’s claimed speciﬁcations, but it did contain a number of personal ﬁles, which the buyer promptly posted on a blog.
A follow-up site that got so much trafﬁc of netizens criticizing both parties (but mostly the seller) posts less and less relevant satirical pictures, but not that much more. We don’t know if the police got far in investigating Tofangsazan, who allegedly ripped off one Debbie McInerney who claimed to have bought an iPod off him.
It seems it is another passé blogosphere story, and it has not piqued the interest of the mainstream media, either, from which some blogs depended for their news. Sawyer and the follow-up blog appear to be silent on progress, as is Wikipedia. Sawyer himself may have got past his initial dismay as well, and justice may well have been done: the teenage Tofangsazan is unlikely to be employed by anyone who has had contact with the story. If Sawyer wanted to the public to know that Tofangsazan was a scammer, then he succeeded. In June, Sawyer even gave Tofangsazan a way out and requested the money be donated to charity.
This could be a natural close to the story, until we hear from the parties once more. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:21
That’s it for Lonelygirl15, who has been revealed as a fake, according to Wikipedia (sic; original links):
On September 8th 2006, people claiming to be the creators of Lonelygirl15 claimed it was a fake, on Lonelygirl15.com saying (in part): ‘the biggest mystery of Lonelygirl15 is “who is she?” We think this is an oversimpliﬁcation. Lonelygirl15 is a reﬂection of everyone. She is no more real or ﬁctitious than the portions of our personalities that we choose to show (or hide) when we interact with the people around us.’
According to the LA Times, an IP tracker was placed on a myspace page to which the user lonelygirl15 was lured. According to this tracker the person using the LonelyGirl15 username did so from a server of the Creative Artists Agency, A Hollywood casting agency.
On September 9th, a day after independent ﬁlm makers claimed to be behind the Lonelygirl15 videos, the Lonelygirl15.com site became inaccessible.
I imagine some of us can say, ‘I told you so,’ but questions remain unanswered: what was she selling? Was it an experiment in social media? Was it an attempt to create Pretender or Lost-like mysteries surrounding occultist Alestair Crowley and seeing how or if we’d be hooked? Was it to market the Creative Artists’ Agency? Who asked Californian attorney Kenneth Goodfried to register Lonelygirl15 at the US Patent and Trademark Ofﬁce?
And will there be enough fans who will suspend reality and demand that the story continues anyway, because they want to see how it ends, and because the footage is probably already shot?
Now there’s your money-spinner, right there.
Del.icio.us tags: Lonelygirl15 hoax Posted by Jack Yan, 23:32
Anthony Mayﬁeld notes at Open today that YouTube’s Geriatric1927 is not the only Brit OAP in social media, but Jeffrey Archer has joined the ’sphere. The man has served his time, and personally, I’ll still remember him for A Twist in the Tale and Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, rather than for perjury. And for being the bloke who used to stand behind John Major and hold his jacket during election rallies.
It will be interesting to see if Jeffrey Archer’s Ofﬁcial Blog will help restore, in some way, the man’s reputation, or at least humanize him to some extent. After all, as Antony notes, it is very well written. Will there be a Jeffrey Archer online persona that gets fans, like Lonelygirl15? He could well ﬁnd that this will help confront some of his former negative press—and thus opens another battleﬁeld between old and new media, over which is more inﬂuential. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:45
Adfreak noted a link today about the mid-terms in the United States, from Good magazine: what if Hillary Clinton and Rick Santorum, who have raised the most money out of any politician during their campaigns, had to wear their sponsors’ logos, motor racing-style? Check out the illustration in a very tidy online mag. Posted by Jack Yan, 07:06
I admit I wasn’t deeply touched by the early death of TV entertainer and zoo owner Steve Irwin—of course, I feel sorry for the Irwin family, but I didn’t fall into the same sense of deep mourning that Australia seems to be going through. I was not an Irwin critic, but I was not an Irwin fan, either. I just never warmed to his show, though I did see his movie when it was aired on TV. But as Australia loses another international name—Peter Brock—I do feel great sadness.
Brock was my motor racing hero was a boy, and I watched for his Commodore crossing the line at Bathurst each year. He may have won the event more than any other driver. His Holden Dealer Team sold souped-up cars with huge success, and the guy made a mint as a businessman. I followed his ﬁrst controversy, when doubts were cast over his Energy Polarizer, which led to his split with Holden (Holden eventually formed Holden Special Vehicles, or HSV, to ﬁll HDT’s old niche). Brock, a New Ager, supposedly tried to bring those values to his company with the Polarizer, but this was labelled as quackery at the time.
The man was a motor racing genius and a legend—a suitable tag for him, and I would have said that even if he were still alive. Americans might equate Australians’ affection for him to that for Texan Carroll Shelby. Brock’s death today, at age 61, during a rally, is a loss to the Australian motoring community, to Australian sport, and to the Australian nation. Farewell, Peter Perfect.
Del.icio.us tags: Peter Brock Posted by Jack Yan, 05:46
At TV Ark, there is a 1989 Coca-Cola commercial, where a bunch of teenagers are singing a song called ‘Tomorrow’. This was shown worldwide, at the end of a decade that I remember as being relatively US-friendly.
Ronald Reagan had been in the White House most of the decade, and we in New Zealand tended to look favourably upon imported TV commercials. They had higher production values than our own, and hearing an American accent was no great sin.
How times have changed. I have spoken many times about how Brand America can be restored, and I still believe ﬁrmly in that, given the decency of most Americans. But this acceptance has diminished. A higher hurdle needs to be cleared if nationality is brought into the dialogue.
You don’t really notice the gulf till you view the ad again, and think, ‘That made me feel good about Coca-Cola. It was a darned good song.’ And, maybe, ‘Go, USA!’
But I dare say most New Zealanders—used to seeing locally made TV commercials now that are rather ingenious—think American ones are inferior these days. Companies do not do better by having an American connection: those commercials are now dubbed with an antipodean accent, particularly those from S. C. Johnson.
Today, it’s American commerce as well as politics that have some folks upset about the US. In Fairfax’s The Dominion Post today, the top headline in the international pages was, ‘Bush admits secret CIA jails’. This certainly wasn’t the main thrust of the President’s speech that he gave overnight (New Zealand time). Ownership by American companies of local brands such as Keri (orange juice) by Coca-Cola is downplayed. The Ford Motor Co. supports the All Blacks’ rugby team, localizing itself.
So what is the solution? Just like with anything else, I believe it lies in the connection between people. We know the US has less than a stellar nation branding programme, because it cannot decide which department should oversee it. Cynics will say that such a programme, when delivered by the USA, will be overly commercial and insincere. One such example was covered by Neill Archer Roan on his blog when entering Washington, DC—and if it was indicative, then Brand America needs more serious thought.
Freedom and liberty are still marketable values, and these can be so well tied to any marketing done by the United States. During the Reagan era, the marketing was done relatively well. Even with the President’s father’s term, the Gulf War was marketed well, along the lines of Kuwaiti freedom from an Iraqi aggressor. Defence, even of another, is easier to market than war.
The concern comes with the misunderstanding—or misdeeds, depending on your political afﬁliation—of the current administration’s foreign policy, which probably provides the greatest thrust for anti-American sentiment. In New Zealand, Republican administrations do seem to be regularly met with negative press if one compares the lack of outrage over President Clinton’s decision to enter Kosovo without a UN resolution, and the serious outrage over President Bush’s decision over Iraq.
The goodwill the US had with 9-11 seems to have faded into history if I look at the mood here, though of course we are still touched by the individual stories and tragedies.
But the second element is more clear-cut. American commerce, from the likes of Wal-mart et al, give a negative image of the United States abroad. Where, once upon a time, the likes of S. C. Johnson would be positive because of its family values, today’s American company is associated with doing little for the environment. Despite the efforts of ethical American ﬁrms engaged in social responsibility, the companies that spring to mind with being leaders from their nation are Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Both were grilled by politicians earlier this week for contributing to childhood obesity, and the fact both companies are American may not be a coincidence.
It stresses the need to not only engage in corporate social responsibility, but to be seen doing so.
Right now, after all, the trend is not about monolithic brands doing good, but niche brands breaking through glass ceilings. So bigger ﬁrms have this obstacle to ﬁght, at least till a sense of corporate branding rationalism—how’s that for a new term?—re-emerges.
That could happen if a large enough company can be seen to do good, and others wish to be seen to be aligned to it. Bill Gates may well have kicked off yet another revolution in CSR, with his and his wife’s Foundation. That’s something we could not have predicted ﬁve years ago when we wrote the Medinge Manifesto and hatched the idea for Beyond Branding. Microsoft? Aren’t those the guys who made dodgy operating systems?
Back then, Simon Anholt (I followed) spoke of the E-initiatives programme from Hewlett–Packard, about equipping third-world nations with IT infrastructure, and how that was compatible with its obligations to Wall Street.
These are great American initiatives, but neither is tied to the image of the US as a whole. If anything, the Gates Foundation highlights where American governmental efforts and those of American big business fall short—Mr and Mrs Gates are seen as world citizens, transcending borders, just like their causes. Unless you followed U2 or rock, you’d have to think twice about where Bono comes from.
Somehow, they may be emerging above their countries of origin. Maybe the Gateses and Bono and Angelina Jolie are world citizens. And maybe nations are beginning to lose meaning in this interconnected world of ours, where we reach out to other individuals, because of who they are, and not whose passport they hold.
Del.icio.us tags: brand branding Brand America America USA US American world citizen Microsoft Wal-mart Coca-Cola McDonald’s Bill Gates politics commerce business CSR social responsibility Posted by Jack Yan, 04:38
Under the weather today with a cough—my ﬁrst ’ﬂuey episode this year—it was a bit hard getting up for Good Morning. It also explains my deeper Barry Crump voice, which is easier to do when ill. Today’s topic on communication was suggested by yours truly—the last time we did a panellist-suggested topic, on health, the suggester (Paul Sinclair) was also sick, to the point of being absent from the episode. I think there is a pattern emerging.
So, for me, it was not the best, but judge for yourself at the Good Morning site.
The image that Barry Soper and Brendon Pongia referred to so coyly was a cellphone-transmitted one of breasts (a $10,000 boob job), in case people wondered. But we could not say that on air. Well, the rest of us could, but Brendon, being a gentleman, probably couldn’t.
Suzanne Innes-Kent, in the green room, suggested (while noting it was a ‘gross generalization’) that women tended to interpret emails in the negative ﬁrst while men tended toward the positive. There were some comments about yours truly and cellphones (a gadget which I do not use).
I’ve had a busy few days, but hope to be back on deck blogging this weekend. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:24
CEO Ulrich Bez could front an MBO of Aston Martin, reported the Murdoch Press today. This gives me conﬁdence as well: Bez has led an independent company before (Porsche), has sufﬁcient contacts in the car business, and can probably raise the £1 billion needed for the brand and facilities. And it was Bez that took Aston Martin to its current success, going for the luxury-brand marketing style, as opposed to its old-world craftsman approach, that the company has, and establishing its VH architecture.
Earlier, I had hoped that if Bez stayed at Ford, he would be shifted to overhaul Jaguar, rather than see Ford’s investment in that brand go to waste with a sale. But if he wishes to lead an MBO and stay on Aston Martin’s board, then it will be good for the brand. Even if the luxury goods’ companies win Aston Martin, then they would be stupid to remove the good Doktor, a German who has proven he understands the company’s brand (and its differentiation, legends, soul and Britishness) with every step he has made there. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:23
Georg Kacher reported in Car yesterday that Ford will sell Aston Martin to one of two luxury goods’ companies.
This makes total sense for either Richemont or LVMH, both in the running to acquire the Aston Martin brand and facilities.
For starters, their corporate cultures are likely to be compatible with Aston Martin’s. There are already Bentley and Bugatti fashion accessories, so the luxury goods’ groups are not exactly extending themselves too far.
Aston Martin itself has been moving toward a luxury goods’ marketing process over the last few years, rendering it more compatible with these companies. Little details such as the starter button on the cars—despite their naff typeface—are meant to appeal to those buyers who delight in the small touches which set help justify spending a great deal more on a product. The marketing method includes creating a sense of exclusivity and using legends to sell products—and Aston has plenty of yarns.
The fact that it had not made a penny in its pre-Ford days is heroic—the sort of legend that actually makes a brand seem more exclusive. Ironically, this could ensure stronger ﬁnancing. In the 21st century, such legends help create strong differentiation and, therefore, a stronger brand—particularly appealing to the likes of Richemont and LVMH. There is, too, the James Bond factor—which will contribute its share to enticing a buyer.
Richemont says that its brands are about style, quality and craftsmanship, even if cars do not ﬁgure in its usual areas of jewellery, watches and writing instruments. LVMH is as diverse, but it has managed to show that fashion, beauty and alcohol can be very similar, when marketing to a comfortable, rich niche.
The issues are twofold. I agree with Robin Capper that Ford is selling a golden goose, which makes little sense for a troubled company. Aston Martin was meant to be a testbed for its advanced technologies, so where will they go now? To Lincoln?
Secondly, the new owner will need to retain some links with other automakers, maybe even Ford. While it is likely to be able to secure ﬁnance for Aston Martin, economies of scale are still important in the car business. Kacher writes that Aston Martins share few components with other Fords, but when it comes to R&D, not many companies can be totally independent. Before Ford came along, Aston Martin, under Peter Livanos and family, and Victor Gauntlett, could not even afford to develop its own airbag. Aston’s testing procedures could suffer without Ford.
But this will not be a story like the one where Coca-Cola took over wineries in the 1980s. That failed, not because Coke’s FMCG management styles did not ﬁt with wine-making, as the textbooks say. I argue that it was because the brands and cultures could never ﬁt.
Here, we are talking about luxury goods’ companies that have had huge success as brand stewards. The question is whether the brand will be a strong enough reason for Aston Martin’s ﬁt to succeed in a group that has had little to do with cars. In the opening decade of the 21st century, which, in many industries, is more about consumerism than innovation, seeing Aston Martin alongside Louis Vuitton or Baume & Mercier might not be unrealistic.
Del.icio.us tags: Ford Aston Martin LVMH Richemont luxury luxury goods brand branding brands brand management corporate culture legends differentiation Posted by Jack Yan, 11:21
I have lost my post on the Ford sale of Aston Martin twice now—because I chose to do a Google search while blogging. (If you ever get to read it, it will be at least the third time I will be entering it from scratch, with the frustration, and lack of purity in tone, that repetition entails.)
I assume that Google has changed its code that renders itself fully incompatible with Maxthon, Internet Explorer and Firefox—all of which I have tried. The result: the browser crashes or hangs when I attempt any search.
I shall be interested to hear if anyone else has come across this, which has been happening to me periodically since Friday night New Zealand time, three times during a Skype session to Simon Young, and twice tonight. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:14
Randy Thomas tagged me for Labor Day in the US with this meme. I spotted it among my Technorati Favorites, though, curiously, my end-of-month posts never made it there. (Apologies to those who “favourited” me.)
I was going to put this on my Vox blog, but decided to come here ﬁrst—after all, I had blogged responses to memes here before.
1. Are you craving anything and if so, what?
This morning, I craved Belgian wafﬂes—gaufres. Leuven did some pretty nice ones for me for lunch.
2. What is the weather outside, and do you wish it would change?
It’s overcast and windy. I wish it were sunnier. It’s spring!
3. What two web sites do you think you will go to next after you are ﬁnished here?
I might visit some blogs—I was more proliﬁc in commenting, and I wonder what K and Kate are up to. I haven’t left comments with their blogs for a while.
4. Do you wish you were somewhere else and if so, where?
This sounds soppy, but anywhere with Brigid. Which, I imagine, means London—for now.
5. Do you wish you were someone else, and if so, who?
Heck, I would never wish I was someone else.
Folks whom I tag: K, Kate, Cas and Robin (only if you guys want to do this!). Posted by Jack Yan, 09:30
A busy weekend for me, but I didn’t want regular readers to be without a business post—especially as I have been known to be a “weekend blogger”. I blog most days, but the weekends have typically been heavier than a “mere” four posts.
Having started volunteering on the mentoring programme, I am mindful that I do not want those seeking us to overwork themselves—unless that is their stated intent. And these were steps that I, too, took, when re-evaluating where I wanted my life to head.
It’s easy for businessmen to advise on how to increase work—those of us who have been to B-school know the ways. But there was no course on how to decrease work and maintain an ideal work–life balance: de-marketing was a footnote in one of the textbooks, and that wasn’t even a standard one, but one I chose myself. What if one wanted to spend more time with one’s children, for example?
For those who don’t want to overwork themselves and burn out, or aren’t happy in their work, I would ask: what makes you happy in life? If work isn’t making you happy, but something else is, then the logical thing to do is to increase that something else.
For me, recently, I came to the conclusion that while I could work 18-hour days, I needed to be content doing so, and that meant removing some of the negative inﬂuences in my life.
What kept me awake? What prevented me from having a deep sleep? What conditions did I have back in the days when I was bringing in a ﬁve-ﬁgure sum a month? Usually, they were the smallest things, such as the tidiness of your work space to how many phone calls you got. For me, solutions came in the form of answering services and equipping myself with voice-recognition software.
The solution is often not to walk away from something—which some folks do when they change jobs—but to re-examine what elements are wrong with where you are.
The minute we leaders feel under pressure to lead, then we need to be alert to that—and make some drastic changes. Because leadership is about reading signs in a stress-free way and steering an organization accordingly—not be under pressure to ﬁnd those signs and desperately seek solutions. Calmness is the number-one condition of good leadership.
Openness is the second condition: openness with clients, creditors, suppliers. Solutions can often come from one’s community of people.
Contentedness is the aim throughout: there is no point having a stressed-out boss. That is never going to help the bottom line, even if that is the business’s stated objectives.
Leaders are charged with not just leading, but creating. We must create rather than react, for reactions are repetitions of old behaviours that have proven not to lead to contentedness.
The process can take months, but those who feel their lives are heading in the wrong direction should begin it now. The earlier the evaluation comes, the sooner the solution arises.
A branding analogy might be this: maintain your personal brand, and do not lose sight of it. But if you are unhappy, re-examine how your brand is being interpreted. If the things you are doing are taking you away from that, then make some changes. Thinking of yourself as an organization may seem less human, but it is not a bad way to do an audit. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:42
I promised I would blog about Ian Bradley’s Don’t Rock the Boat: the Man the Navy Tried to Sink, which is an interesting tale about how the Royal New Zealand Navy tried to oust him in 1980—and the ensuing court case that he won in 1988.
It’s a 584 pp. autobiography printed on gloss paper with dodgy typesetting, but the tale is interesting enough: Bradley spent his life from 15 till retirement in the Navy, but there are signs that the powers-that-be didn’t like the idea of him being the chief of the country’s defence forces. So, a process of character assassination began, which Bradley uncovered after he was dumped, without explanation, from the Navy in May 1980.
I admit I went straight to the controversial chapters, though much of his earlier naval career is covered in depth, including serving HM the Queen Mother on board HMY Britannia.
The book is relevant in showing that the establishment can indeed go and target one person and destroy his or her reputation—and unless you have the balls and a decade’s worth of persistence to ﬁght for it, you could go down sinking. Not that he knew it would ever take that long, because he trusted the system.
This is not a tale from some conspiracy theorist, or an anti-democracy campaigner, but from a proud, intelligent New Zealander who has managed to highlight a serious fault in the system—one which, he notes in his introduction, has not been mended. In fact, three Governors-General have ensured that despite his legal victory in the High Court, justice itself has not been served.
One can only tread carefully, ensure good karma and keep sufﬁcient records of one’s business—these helped Bradley in his ﬁght. While his book is hard to ﬁnd, interested readers can contact me via this site and I will pass on any enquiry to Ian, via his daughter Sarah. Posted by Jack Yan, 02:54
My post from last week about Tom Cruise’s fall from grace will go off the home page of this blog with this entry, but this one is related: Peter Jackson’s news that he will produce a remake of The Dam Busters, to be helmed by ﬁrst-time director Christian Rivers, could not be better timed.
Our seventh form physics teacher, Doug Bell, was a bit of a movie buff, so we had to watch the original movie for class, as well as Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
More important is the fact that Hollywood is moving away from its big-star names, something that Jackson had tapped into from an early time. My friend David Patin put it well when we were chatting in Paris, before The Fellowship of the Ring was released: ‘Jackson picks actors whom you have seen, but you are not quite sure where. That draws you in.’ Naomi Watts fell into the same category, though admittedly the remakes of The Ring ﬁlms were higher-proﬁle.
It may have been borne of necessity, but the way Hollywood managed to make money from his Lord of the Rings trilogy without having major stars could well have heralded its distancing from the likes of Cruise. And, as I wrote on the 25th, it is part of a larger trend.
One can bet that the new Dambusters will have names that are big, but not Tom Cruise-big; and that Jackson, once more, will remind us that he was the single man that changed the face of the New Zealand economy.
To the world, Jackson signals that ‘New Zealanders are not in to worshipping stars, or Aucklanders, for that matter; the movie business Down Under is in the business of making movies’—something I wrote last week.
Here, he is a man who ignored the government telling him to go to heck and that his idea of turning Miramar into a world-class movie production centre was a joke. By doing that, ﬁlm is as big an industry as forestry in New Zealand now, in a country where earnings of NZ$2·6 billion is a lot for a four million population. This country owes him.
One man made a difference—which should tell all New Zealanders that the word can’t, so beloved of this government, is a load of bollocks. The politicians, the public bodies, the civil servants, the institutions and the establishment all failed against one man’s dream and vision. The parallels with the Dam Busters’ story should be noted.
Del.icio.us tags: establishment institutionalization Hollywood ﬁlm movie ﬁlm industry movies Peter Jackson New Zealand economy Tom Cruise Dambusters The Dam Busters remake vision leadership Christian Rivers Posted by Jack Yan, 23:27
An excellent episode of Good Morning today, as we had Capt Ian Bradley (retired) of the Royal New Zealand Navy join Barry, Paul and me, as we broadcasted outside. He is a fan of our ‘You’ve Got Male’ segment and was so happy to be with us. We enjoyed his yarns hugely, too.
For those wondering, Ian is Sarah Bradley’s father, and he has written an autobiography, which I will write about over the weekend. I saluted when I met him off-set.
For those watching online, fast-forward to 1.07 in the show, as we were on after the news again.
As it was a Father’s Day special, Ian played a huge part in the show, and even cooked in place of our chef. I managed to get in a pro-Robert Muldoon quip, which must have been the ﬁrst one uttered on New Zealand television since decimal currency was introduced here in 1967, and remarked that the best way to run Wellington was to conduct a séance with a former mayor—a joke that didn’t seem to get much reaction. Watch it for Ian’s stories today: they make Barry’s, Paul’s and mine pale in comparison. Posted by Jack Yan, 15:10
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