Déjà vu: it’s the 1970s again
Lucire’s features’ editor Phillip Johnson tells me that his New York Fashion Week review for the April issue of the magazine will have a lot of 1970s and 1980s retro fashion. It’s a concern, I told him, because I have just got to the point where 1980s fashion is intolerable. Until last year I could still bear the thought of Heather Locklear as Sammy Jo Carrington. But now, Amanda Woodward’s clothes are beginning to look passé, at least that ﬁrst season’s stuff. (Daphne, you are timeless.)
The 1970s have been trying to bite us on the hind end for a while, in terms of fashion and design. I am not a fan of retro design—a designer’s duty, I believe, is to keep advancing, rather than revisiting. Hence I quite happily speak out against it (things that suck: the Lamborghini Miura concept, the Dodge Challenger concept, the Ford GT) because while revisits can get in new audiences, they pander to old ones. In business, the greatest risk is to take no risks—and retro is a no-risk proposition that will never get the “wow” factor that the ﬁrst Ford Mustang or the ﬁrst Chrysler minivan did.
Clothing, too, has gone back to the past—and while we are more limited here than with automotive design, I would rather we kept progressing. Maybe we all will wind up wearing those silver outﬁts and live on the moon. But till episodes of UFO become reality, I have to wonder what all this re-cycling (the hyphen is intentional) means.
These retro trends only work if we are in a rear-view-mirror mood. We enter these moods typically when: (a) we have just forgotten how bad things were 10 years ago; (b) economic indicators—a “reliable” source—suggest things were, indeed, better 10 years ago; (c) those same indicators forecast a rocky road ahead.
We can probably draw parallels with the 1970s: rising oil prices, America in a war economy, concerns over outsourcing to cheaper production locales. But are we more just as a planet in 2006? I am too young to remember 1972, and I haven’t seen Munich to refresh my memory of the bad fashions, but assuming we aren’t a fairer society, then we have to look at our current situation as a chance—God-given or otherwise—to not repeat the mistakes of the past. If we can admit to mistakes—that it was mismanagement of global economies that led to injustices, and the absence of social responsibility. Once we admit that (and what harm is there for those of us in the work-place today, other than upsetting some university lecturers who gave us facts we never criticized?), we can begin to do things right.
Del.icio.us tags: trends | cyclical | retro | design | fashion | economics | global economy | CSR | social responsibility Posted by Jack Yan, 10:03
If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can ﬁnd them …
I believe it’s ofﬁcial now—had blimmin’ better be since there are only a few days to go: yours truly begins a weekly spot on TV One’s Good Morning called ‘You’ve Got Male’. It’s a panel show where men talk about everyday issues, based on a topic selected by the producers. I start Friday, going out live on March 3, 9.30 a.m. I intend to turn it into something intelligent and maybe we can change the world a little there, too—yes, through the mainstream media. I might be the only brand consultant and magazine publisher out there with a regular network TV spot, but if I’m not, please write in and give me some tips!
I think we can shed some light on understanding between people, even in an entertainment format. And I would like—and I hope I have room—to inject a bit of wit into it. There has been too much talk about how dumbed-down television is these days, so why not revisit the wit of Frasier of Frasier, or Fraser Dick of ‘Dick of the Week’, or Dick Cheney of Quails of the Unexpected?
On the 10th, I’ll be on Breakfast, same network, at 8.20 a.m., also live. And no, this does not mean I will let up with criticism of TV One news. I was told about this gig long before I was dissing its treatment of the Muslim cartoon affair.
Brendon Pongia hosts the overall Good Morning show, while Newstalk ZB’s Barry Soper, SPARC’s Paul Sinclair and I try to make sense of what we have to deal with. Barry is older than the rest of us, which I think bodes well. Every successful show that I have rated as a lad has followed a formula of an old guy, some young guys, and a car, or a variation thereof:
• Knight Rider: a car, a stud, and an old man
• Hardcastle & McCormick: a car, a stud, and an old man
• The Sweeney: a car, a stud, and an old man
• The Streets of San Francisco: a car, an old man, and a stud
• The Equalizer: a car, an old man, and an even older man
• Street Hawk: a bike, a stud, and a bald man
• Solo One: a bike, a middle-aged man, and an old man
• B. J. and the Bear: a truck, a stud, and a chimp
• The Dukes of Hazzard: a car, two studs, and an old man
• Starsky & Hutch: a car, two studs, and an old man
• Miami Vice: a car, two studs, and a not-so-old man
• Minder: two cars, a stud, and an old man
• The Professionals: two cars, two studs, and an old man
• The Persuaders: two cars, two middle-aged men, and an old man
• CHiPs: two bikes, two studs, and an old man
• Special Squad: three cars, one stud, and two old men
I do not know if Mr Sinclair qualiﬁes as a “stud”, but I was told early on that they needed to ﬁnd a ‘young Dad’ for his role. Maybe he does. Looks like I have the part of the swinging bachelor. The car is not announced. Ergo: ‘You’ve Got Male’: no cars, three studs (or men with varying appearances) and an old man (sorry, Barry). If we can borrow a TVNZ van we can be an under-resourced, nouveau ‘A’ Team. Either that or Straight Eye for the Queer Guy.
I’ll try to blog while travelling next week about the sights and sounds of a few different cities—and an Aston Martin I am being loaned. I am practising my Scots accent now. Better pretending to be a ﬁctional Aston owner (James Bond) than a factual one (HRH the Prince of Wales). What I will not do is order a bloody vodka martini and damage the drink by saying, ‘Shaken, not shtirred.’ That Bond is a classless cad.
A more serious post later in the week. Promise. I am genuinely excited as I have always loved live TV, and haven’t done a live spot since last May, so I’ll hope you’ll share a bit of that with me today. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:55
For whom everything sucks
Normally I’d stay away from pessimists, but Cat Morley’s Designers Who Blog looks at Things that Suck, an entertaining look from someone who sees the glass as half-empty. Everything sucks, including American life (ambulance-chasing lawyers), business (spec work in the design profession), and people (Barry Williams, a.k.a. Greg Brady). Cranky Blogger, based in Boston, also writes about why he defected from QuarkXpress to Adobe InDesign.
I can’t live with having to ﬁnd something that sucked each day—it’s the opposite of positive self-empowerment that spiritualists tell us is what we should do. But Cranky Blogger has a point with many of his posts. Every now and then, if you’re feeling down, it may pay to see things through someone else’s eyes—even those of a pessimist—and see if everything in your life sucked. Like all dialogue in the blogosphere, it’s another perspective to learn from. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:24
Now we can talk
I always knew Babelﬁsh was around—and probably was one of the earliest people to begin using it, when the translations were a bit rougher—but in the era of blogging, it’s come into its own.
I might not surf to a foreign-language magazine or newspaper if I knew I couldn’t read it, but I might surf to a single blog post. When Stefan Engeseth pointed me to an Italian review of his upcoming book, One, it was Babelﬁsh to the rescue, since my knowledge of the language is limited to asking directions and ordering food. I replied to the blog post in English. I assume that if the blogger was not an Anglophone, he’d Babelﬁsh my words.
The same thing happened with a Russian post earlier in the year. The language gap may be narrowing, because we like to talk with one another.
Even Turin is now commonly called Torino, thanks to the Olympics. The Italian Job couldn’t manage that. We didn’t have Rome become Roma, or Tokyo take on its Japanese pronunciation, with previous Olympiads—only certain cities in China (Beijing) and India (Mumbai, Chennai) have managed changes in my lifetime. Something is happening out there linguistically, and it’s an area where I can say technology has improved lives and understanding. Posted by Jack Yan, 21:56
Malaysian heat and Qatari Frost
Vincenzo, living in Malaysia, reminds us that it’s not just Red China that has a problem with press freedoms. Ten days ago, he blogged: ‘[With] the resignation of two senior editors due to Squatgate, the suspension of an east Malaysia tribune, and recently the suspension of a night edition daily, Im wondering whether the same stuff will be applied to us lesser mortals who blog on the Internet’.
While the Nostalgia blog says it is ‘quasi-ﬁctional’, it is disturbing that there remains some government interference in the Malaysian press, which appears to be what Vincenzo is hinting at. Perhaps those in that country would care to let me know more.
Partly by contrast, an interview with National Radio’s Kim Hill last week in New Zealand discussed the press freedoms at Al-Jazeera, where HRH the Emir of Qatar tends to be hands-off with the channel. The impression was the channel tended to be reasonably objective—and it was the ﬁrst to interview Israelis on issues in the region, and Al-Arabiya, on which I have appeared, was regarded as an imitator who caught on to a good thing. Al-Jazeera International’s Sir David Frost (interviewed here in The Observer) estimates that several days’ worth of oil revenues in Qatar could keep Al-Jazeera going for a year.
By western standards, HRH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani’s powers may seem great, yet Qatar seems to operate efﬁciently, with a low crime rate.
As a Confucianist, I like the sound of Qatar, though I have never visited there. It appears (although my sources are the ofﬁcial ones) that there is a ruler who treats his subjects fairly; in return, the state functions well. (A similar idea can apply in a democracy.) The minute the state interferes, people feel mistrust—leading to areas of rebellion.
Al-Jazeera may be the ﬁrst global media brand from the Middle East when its international service commences in May—which suggests to me that Doha and numerous other cities in the region will be this century’s bright stars, all through exhibiting a sense of freedom. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:56
CSR in the SAR
Maxx Forum at Hong Kong CSR blogs about the social responsibility records of corporations in the southern Chinese city and, incidentally, my home town. Maxx compiles news on some of the largest companies and their CSR failures and successes, and even reveals how Giordano may have breached some standards on workers’ rights. The site is here.
It’s also good to see that in some parts of Red China, there are folks who are willing to express their views freely—even though Hong Kong and Macau enjoy a slightly different governmental system to the rest of the mainland. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:42
Business Week has an interview with Mena Trott, one half of the design team behind Moveable Type, who believes that blogs won’t supplant mainstream news sites, foresees blog software getting easier to use, and that ﬁltered readership is the next issue in blog design. Sensible, straight answers—neither the doom and gloom of The Wall Street Journal, nor the grand vision of blogs taking over the world. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:38
Remembering Corgis glory days
A nostalgic post: Corgi Toys celebrates its 50th anniversary in July. A 50th anniversary mini-site is up at www.corgi50.com.
Now part of Mattel—and a brand that it hasn’t ruined, unlike Matchbox—Corgi’s anniversary site reveals that the glory days are over. Corgi’s top 40 models, by its own reckoning, is heavily biased toward the 1950s and 1960s; the other decades are relatively sparse.
This was a company that once innovated like crazy: toy cars with suspension, clear plastic windows, opening doors, and it still produces its most famous model, the James Bond Aston Martin DB5 with ejector seat.
Financial difﬁculties which saw to the end of Lesney (Matchbox), Dinky and itself (in 1983) meant that it changed direction toward the end of the 1980s. Corgi would appeal to the adult collector market, and that suited Mattel, which acquired it in the late 1980s, quite well.
The company still designs excellent model cars, with production now in China, but other than London cabs, Routemaster buses and merchandised models, it’s been a long time since we saw additions to the regular line.
It’s all very well focusing on the adult collector, but Corgi is at risk of losing new customers: today’s kids who will grow up to be adult collectors. Relying on us “grown-ups” means a steadily dropping customer base. Younger collectors today won’t have had the nostalgia connected to the Corgi name.
Corgi’s boss realizes this and says that 2006 will be the year where some toys will be reintroduced. The ofﬁcial site, however, shows some Postman Pat toys; while the Vanguards brand has a new Vauxhall Astra and a Rover 75 (which I can ﬁnd in New Zealand for nearly $50). There is a Mini from the Italian Job remake, but even discounted, at £7·99, it’s not exactly the pocket-money fare that will get loads of kids on board. Rover 75s are going for £5·99—bit like the real thing, they are being heavily discounted; a regular Mini goes for £4·99. Still pricey, and hardly “toys”.
The only sign of new toys is in a Corgi Collection—of tanks, airplanes and helicopters. Hardly what Corgi was known for, nor does it connect with the adult collectibles.
I know that Mattel has its Hot Wheels line, which kids love; it also owns a steadily improving Matchbox. However, both brands are strictly American—Matchbox has models that kids outside North America have little connection with. Corgi, once the great innovator, still needs to get those future markets, and it’s a cinch that kids won’t graduate from either Hot Wheels or Matchbox to it, if the brands are so different.
There remains a huge market for the 1:64 scale models, served best these days by the likes of European brands such as Siku and Majorette—who, with their present approaches, will likely retain customers over a lifetime. I realize they are less proﬁtable, but with Mattel’s money, it could ensure future custom.
Del.icio.us tags: model cars | toy cars | Corgi | Mattel | brands | anniversary Posted by Jack Yan, 23:53
A pledge to change the business world
This link was forwarded to me by writer Simon Young. I tried to get a pledge going a few years ago, without much success. This one looks better on the ﬁrst page. Shel Horowitz proposes:
I believe that if I can get 25,000 business leaders—25,000 people to make a commitment to spread the ideas in Principled Proﬁt: Marketing That Puts People First, that we can change the culture of business. Following the ideas expressed in the book The Tipping Point, and the story of the 100th Monkey, I feel, deep in my heart, that once a critical mass embraces the idea that high ethical standards are not only possible, but actually more proﬁtable, society will change.
I have signed up, as there are things I can do to help, though after I clicked on the ‘Submit’ button, I got a page trying to sell Mr Horowitz’s books. I’d rather not have seen that. I have my own ways of getting the word out that I feel comfortable with—and this is one of them. It’s also why I don’t turn this blog into a big spiel about my books or products (other than my involvement in “a day in the life of”).
Criticism aside, let’s see if it has any effect. I hope it has the desired effect—it might even begin to inspire systemic changes in business. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:27
Gore: we face … a planetary emergency
To be “fair and balanced”, I need to start blogging about some Republicans. For here’s another Democrat: former Veep Al Gore, who spoke at TED, linked from Loïc Le Meur’s blog. His Podcast highlights some of the environmental problems we face—and that we can change the world.
An earlier version, delivered in 2004, is at AlGore.org. I wouldn’t criticize the Hon Mr Gore for doing bits by way of a rerun: the issue remains more pressing now than in 2004; and it shows how little progress we’ve made in two years. And there’s more than enough new material in the speech that should make all of us very worried about how the world’s climate has become less stable in the last two years, and why lakes, glaciers and parts of the Arctic ice cap have disappeared. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:53
Adolf Hitler started Volkswagen, after all
I’m surprised at the grounds used in a lawsuit referred by AdPulp today (citing Consumerist). One Matthew Ghali created a web site documenting the bad service he received at Golden Gate Volkswagen. The dealership and its owner, Mathew Zaheri, sued him for $1·5 million, using trademark law!
After arbitration, the parties agreed to what content could remain on Mr Ghali’s web site.
There are very obvious comments that could be made here. Why would a company try to deny a consumer’s First Amendment rights? And the grounds used by Mr Zaheri were ridiculous, though credit to his law ﬁrm—they could have made it worse by making it a case on free speech.
The right way to have gone about this was to admit to some wrongdoing and allow Mr Ghali to document a resolution. Consumer voices cannot be silenced. I hope that the law ﬁrm had strongly advised Golden Gate VW and Mr Zaheri that his lawsuit was, at best, frivolous, rather than extend its palms outward for some fees.
The consequence of this? Golden Gate VW’s brand equity will reduce rapidly as this story is propagated. Mr Zaheri will be thought of as intolerant. And, Volkswagen’s own brand will be harmed because it could not act to help Mr Ghali.
Meanwhile, less litigious nations will be laughing at the plaintiffs, because this sort of thing reinforces a stereotype about the United States.
Del.icio.us tags: brand | brand equity | Volkswagen | VW | consumer movement | customer service | lawsuit | whistle-blowing | frivolous lawsuits | law | First Amendment | trademark law | freedom of speech Posted by Jack Yan, 03:20
Jammin for peace
Mike Swenson at Citizen Brand reminds us of PeaceJam, a group with Nobel Peace Prize winners on its board, and summarizes:
Since it was launched in 1996, more than 200,000 teenagers worldwide have been through the program. There have been 105 conferences around the globe in the span of time. Each student has had an average of 45 hours of contact with their teacher, mentor, community leader or PeaceJam staff member to help them identify and implement the 240,000 community service projects that have been completed in ten years. New programs are about to launch for the college and the elementary school levels as well.
Members of the board (the board includes Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama) will be in Denver, Col. in September to continue their “call to action” to help the planet. It’s initiatives like this that make being an adult less guilty: promoting a good cause, while still retaining ownership of the responsibility of making the world better. And to help young people get on the right track, rather than letting them think that the “way of the dollar” is normal for the twenty-ﬁrst century. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:23
Stefan Engeseth has made available a “trailer” for his new book, One: a Consumer Revolution in Business, at his blog. His ﬁrst chapter (layout tweaked by yours truly) is still available, but the “trailer” shows some of his favourite pages and illustrations. The last page of the trailer ﬁle is particularly meaningful. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:11
Xenophobes ’r’ us
During the 2004 US presidential campaign, the overall message we foreigners got was this: President Bush is a nationalistic xenophobe, a dumbass who doesn’t know his foreign capitals, and, if re-elected, will totally end any cooperation with other nations. Bush, they told us, was a down-home renegade that hated everybody except the US of A.
They also told us: Senator Kerry, on the other hand, has the support of international leaders. He is more moderate, willing to cooperate and listen to other nations’ viewpoints, and at the UN, better represents the idea of America as a partner rather than a bully.
Maybe the comparison is true, maybe not. But here’s the impression we are getting from the Democrats’ brand now: they hate foreigners.
They might not. Sen. Kerry probably has high-level friends in other governments who support him. I dare say Sen. Clinton does. The world watches Commander in Chief on TV and is getting used to the idea of a female 45th president, whether she’s black or white. But this whole mess about a company in Dubai wanting to acquire a British company that currently operates some US ports seems preposterous.
For the Democratic Party, it makes everyone there look like xenophobes, unable to see the United Arab Emirates as a cooperative, modern country which not only is a US ally, but, more fatally, it reverses any of the goodwill Sen. Kerry gained during his campaign.
In fact, the news portrays the Democrats, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (whom many non-Americans felt gave the Secretary of State a good grilling during her conﬁrmation hearings), as being unable to get past the word Arab in United Arab Emirates; and that by bringing up 9-11 and the fact that two hijackers were from there, they have become guilty of the very thing they criticized the President about: milking a tragedy for political gain.
By all means, attack this UAE company if it can be found that it was complicit in terrorism or any other crime, and stop this acquisition. But maintain the American tradition of guilty till proved innocent.
The United States has made much of its headway through acquisitions of foreign companies, and the UAE is playing by the same rule book. The legal system in the UAE is actually a combination of traditional Shari’a, Egyptian law, the civil law tradition and common law—the last concept being shared with the US. In other words, it’s a pretty global legal system that is adhered to well.
What next? Get all foreigners to divest their US interests and sell up? It’s the message being sent around the world in non-US media: we can’t see beyond your ethnicity. And even if you’ve seen the error of your ways (allegations that Al-Qaeda ﬁnancing went via the UAE; though remember, too, Al-Qaeda was playing the Wall Street markets, too) and are now an ally, we won’t forgive you. I wonder if President Musharraf of Pakistan is wondering about the Democrats right now. Will Britain be next, because, after all, Richard ‘I love my shoes’ Reid is British, and there were up to nine Britons held at Gitmo?
As a non-American who has no say in whether the Dems or the GOP gets in to the White House, I welcome those who paint a picture of tolerance, not xenophobia. This is where the Democrats got so many brownie points two years ago—and where the Republicans did not win many international “hearts and minds”. In New Zealand, there were expatriate Americans proud to display their Kerry–Edwards banners. (I saw no one display a Bush–Cheney one.)
I realize that if you are a diehard Democrat, you are unlikely to switch sides due to this mess; and the same applies to diehard Republicans. However, as a superpower, the eyes of the world watch. And this one incident makes us wonder just how globally minded either party is. Patriot Act on one side. Xenophobia on the other. Keep up the political pettiness, and we might begin to remember that Secretary Rice is multilingual.
Del.icio.us tags: Democrats | Republicans | politics | globalization | branding | USA | xenophobia Posted by Jack Yan, 21:49
It’s 2007 already!
Automakers are already, in February, selling 2007 models. This seems daft to me, and another example of companies distancing themselves from consumers.
I understand that legally, American companies are allowed to do this, but it gives used car salespeople a chance to make a model seem newer than it really is when it comes to resell. But, it might actually help those who are honest enough to stick to a more traditional sense of model years—BMW, for instance, continues to roll out ’06s right now, as does Volkswagen and Honda.
“Model years” as a selling concept is generally unknown outside North America. The only “deception” that tends to come in is the year of registration: if a car is unsold and sits on disused air ﬁelds or docks for a year, and only gets registered after it’s been in acid rain, then it’s the later date that gets touted in listings in the UK and New Zealand. But even now, retailers are more honest: a 2005 special on Renault Lagunas in New Zealand listed the cars as being 2003-speciﬁcation models (probably priced too high initially, and new models were on their way).
Only in the last decade or so have we seen the next year’s models actually offered with that year mentioned as part of the headline—but then, only from September or October, which, traditionally, was the month that the next year’s models emerged in the United States, too.
Perhaps the whole glitz and glamour of annual model changes in 1950s American advertising never made it out this way, so we don’t use them as selling tools to confuse the consumer.
As a teenager I seem to recall the next year’s models came out, or at least featured, in August issues of American car magazines. The earliest example I can recall where the cars went on sale ultra-early, though I know I am wrong on it being the ﬁrst, were the General Motors C-cars for 1985 came out the previous March. I think the ’Vette might have been part of a similar deal, with ’84s coming out mearly.
But if a car came out earlier, there was always a model half-year in North America—the 1964½ Mustang, one of the most famous cars (and marketing successes) of all time; or, for those really into obscurity, the US’s 1970½ Falcon, which lasted about seven months in production.
Who’s still doing this? Kia. The Hyundai subsidiary releases a sedan in April as a 2006½. It’s a nice tradition, and I don’t feel quite as cheated. And Kia might as well trade on honesty and warranties, since it can’t really trade on emotion and glamour right now. The Average Joe or Jane seems to appreciate it.
Del.icio.us tags: model years | cars | automobiles | marketing | sales Posted by Jack Yan, 21:19
Charities have to market
Having that work deadline this week has meant missing out on some great blog posts. Andrea Weckerle posted on the 22nd at the New Millennium PR blog, one of the best on marketing and PR, ‘In a Perfect World, Charities and Causes Wouldn’t Have to Become Marketers’, outlining how in the real world, charities may have to align with more commercial causes and engage in savvy marketing. I believe I have media properties that want to align with charities. The problem should be easy to solve, but I know I am in a minority, setting up at least one of them because of social responsibility. Read more of her post here—her links, and what she has to say, inspire a lot of thoughts. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:15
In the media: the good, the bad and Slick Willy
It’s not every day I make a woman scream with delight without the involvement of either a very expensive sports car or private behaviour which I won’t detail, but today Lucire gave away a $17,700 necklace by Robinson Designer Goldsmith to a subscriber living in Kerikeri, in rural New Zealand. Took me over a week to get hold of her, and I wanted to do it during ofﬁce hours so my staff could overhear. Eventually, we spoke at 6 p.m., after everyone had gone.
Still, some days, I love being involved in media.
And since TV One, one of the local networks, has not gone ahead to do the announcement, I may as well: watch me live on March 10 on Breakfast, 8.20 a.m. This is one of ﬁve network conﬁrmed appearances this coming month. I’m not sure if the other four are covered by conﬁdentiality, so better safe than sorry till I ﬁnd out for sure, but the ﬁrst is March 3. If I don’t blog at the end of next week, you’ll know why: I’ll be trying to ﬁnish my work before I lose a morning to TV.
Meanwhile, former President Clinton has beaten me on the number of televised minutes in New Zealand this month, and that was just from a single day walking around shopping for pieces at Höglund Art Glass (disclaimer: a Lucire client). Those listening to him speak at the Global Business Forum paid c. NZ$2,000 each—which is a bit more than my fee for an hour. Seven of those people could have collectively bought the necklace I gave away today and probably downloaded the 42nd President’s speech for a bit less. Or, we could have just donated the money to charity directly. I am sure Mr Clinton would not have minded.
None of that particularly disturbs me (much) since I have a bias—I make money from public speaking, and I am not important enough to need security staff. I do know how much time is spent on preparation. What does worry me are the conditions given to the media, according to TVNZ: ‘Media were locked into the event for three hours and not permitted to leave even to use the bathroom. Cameramen were instructed to ﬁlm in one direction only and journalists were forbidden from asking anyone at the forum what they thought of Clinton’s speech’ (my emphasis).
In a month where press freedoms were heavily debated, the rationale given was lame. Said New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Helen Clark, ‘It’s not in New Zealand’s interests for Mr Clinton to be harmed in any way while he’s here on our watch, so the security will be tight.’
I think the Hon Mr Clinton would have appreciated the opinions of others. Not criticizing would be more harmful—something that he himself lives by when criticizing his successor’s strategy in Iraq. Or indeed, any member of the anti-war movement, including Miss Clark herself. It would have been worth asking others just what they thought of the former President’s words. I doubt that someone paying $2,000–$2,500 ($5,000 if you wanted a handshake and pic with the man) would do so to listen to something or someone they disliked. To forbid a journalist from asking questions is like asking an Olympic sprinter to perform with shackled feet.
And, even though I criticized him for policies in ofﬁce (which I do with the current President, too), the majority of former President Clinton’s speeches since he became an elder statesman have all been positive, inspiring and motivational. They have led me to say, ‘Why didn’t he talk like this between 1992 and 2000, cutting through the political BS of Capitol Hill?’ (Yes, I know: a naïve question.)
I have to say that this term, I am not sure what our Prime Minister is talking about. She seems to have replaced her straight-shooting demeanour of her ﬁrst two terms with Applebyspeak. I might have to ask her to see if her quotation was not taken out of context. I hope so.
Apparently, some guy called Michael Eisner spoke, too. Guess we know who was the man of the moment. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:00
Global cover age
It’s nice to get this level of cooperation from the mass media: Lucire Romania’s party last Friday was attended by many of our media colleagues, and has hit the pages throughout the country. I’m sure the appearance of model Monica Gabor, her boyfriend businessman Irinel Columbeanu, and celebrity Mihaela Tatu helped, but I credit a great deal to our team there, led by Valentin and Mirella Lapescu.
The latest Romanian issue features Miss Gabor en couverture (left), the ﬁrst time we’ve had a cover depart from the global issues’. The content remains the same, with the addition of some localized pieces—the philosophy was, from the beginning, to create a global title where the features would unite the planet. I still believe we can, even if I have the odd moaning session.
The rationale this time was that we needed a local celebrity, and Miss Gabor was considered to be most worthy. It goes a little away from my vision; however, I back up Mirella and Valentin’s decision: there are marketing reasons behind it, it helped cement us in the eyes of the Romanian mainstream media, and it was actually quite well shot. They had selected a top photographer, so we were fortunate.
Such talent does exist in New Zealand, but the trouble tends to be the small population: ﬁnding the top make-up artist, stylist, model and photographer in one place isn’t that easy. Hence, Kiwi covers tend to be shot in New York or, very occasionally, Los Angeles.
While I had some initial resistance to the idea of a separate cover, I have to say I like the egotistical element. Having a magazine with the same cover (albeit in different languages) gives a feeling of satisfaction that your principles are being propagated. Having a magazine with different covers appeals directly to the ego, because while you still did the work inside, it gives you the impression that you did twice as much. In this day and age, however, where Business Week has given up the idea of separate editions, I believe my original idea is right.
Therefore, the New Zealand and American editions, whose covers are presently photographed by Gray Scott of Veritas Management, should share their cover image, due to the quality of Gray’s work. A long time ago, we received some criticism that we should put on local celebrities—Charlotte Dawson was even suggested in the early days, though she has since emigrated to Australia. However, I question whether she is a “Lucire girl”. I won’t put on a celeb just for the sake of having one on the cover. I am not alone: at one meeting with an ad agency, the idea of Sally Ridge, who had appeared on a Fashion Quarterly cover months before, was universally panned. Carol Hirschfeld is the only “face” that comes close, and she knows this, but we haven’t been able to work out when, where, how and by whom. To date, we still have not shot a cover in New Zealand.
As the New Zealand edition of Lucire is the “master edition”, we have to be globally minded, supplying to the world—which, regrettably, puts paid to the idea of a celebrity cover featuring a New Zealander, unless it happened to be a New Zealander who was globally known.
We haven’t called Rachel Hunter yet, since I assume we can’t match Sports Illustrated’s payments. Ditto Lucy Lawless.
Del.icio.us tags: Lucire | Romania | media | cover | model | celebrity | New Zealand | fashion magazine | magazine Posted by Jack Yan, 10:28
New Zealand-owned, really
There are plenty of studies on country-of-origin research, but New Zealand is kind of an enigma, even after living here for nearly 30 years. Today, I checked the binding for the next issue of Lucire’s New Zealand edition, and found myself thinking that I should put the nation’s name in there.
For the magazine’s print history, I had resisted this move. I had been advised to put ‘New Zealand edition’ because no one, I was told, knew that Lucire was from that country. I thought that worked against what the magazine stood for: the world’s ﬁrst truly global fashion magazine, where the stories are shared across all editions (never mind I only had the one print one back then).
My rationale was also historic. Vogue, for example, does not always put the country inside the capital O. Certainly the original edition does not call itself American Vogue, even if some of the public does—that would be like saying ‘French champagne’. Harper’s Bazaar is the same. Ditto Elle. So, in this world, why should the lead edition of Lucire be called Lucire New Zealand?
However, we have a problem. Our low opinion of ourselves. The disbelief that, for example, I had the print media licked when it came to online. In print, how could any New Zealander be capable of leading? Ha!
Despite the America’s Cup successes and The Lord of the Rings, for the ﬁrst year of the magazine’s print existence in New Zealand, a lot of people thought I had licensed a foreign title. Or that the magazine is foreign. Because I stood on fresh ground that no one had trodden on before, and no one had peed on it. It was too hard to be believed.
Never mind that with each issue we ran posters shouting our country of origin: just last month a New Zealander answered our country of origin question on our subscription form with ‘Spain’.
We have a higher opinion of Spaniards than of ourselves.
I am just a regular Joe. I’m not a Bill Gates-type ﬁgure with inherited money and software patents. So today, I relented a little. The words ‘New Zealand’ appear on the spine of Lucire’s next issue, if the editor-in-chief agrees. We might as well pretend to be a second-tier nation if no one believes we can be a ﬁrst-tier one.
What gets me is how many foreign companies do manage to pretend to be Kiwi just by “being average”, including Fashion Quarterly (not Jeanne Beker’s one), which might have been started by a New Zealander, but is ultimately owned by the late Kerry Packer’s family in Australia. And the usual: Just Juice, Eta, Grifﬁn’s—all French. Yet a lot of the Kiwis I know are among the brightest people in the world. Also the most decent, by a country mile. Being ﬁrst-tier should be normal. Do I just hang around a different crowd?
Del.icio.us tags: country of origin | Lucire | New Zealand | fashion magazines | tall poppy syndrome Posted by Jack Yan, 11:38
I have been blogging at my own space for a month as of today. I’m on a work deadline, so there are fewer posts this week, but with 94 posts up after this one, I have the feeling I’ll crack the century by the end of the month.
It has been what I expected, and more. Thanks to Johnnie Moore, Hugh MacLeod and Kris Sowersby for the encouragement to go it alone, away from my initially sporadic posts at the Beyond Branding Blog. Here, I ﬁnd I am more myself and explore more issues than I otherwise would. And even though I paid for the web space at the last place, I feel more “ownership” here. Good ol’ personal branding. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:33
What not to wear
The Muslim cartoon affair boils down to some very simple things. Most readers of this blog know I have little time for dictatorships and the human rights’ record of Red China (whose ﬂag is not shown at left). I had another meeting with the Chinese government rep yesterday (see earlier blog entry), and wore a suit to which I customarily afﬁx a Kuomintang lapel pin—featuring the standard from the Republic of China’s ﬂag.
The decision to publish or not to publish is the same as the decision to wear or not to wear.
The thought process should have been akin to this: (a) this gentleman might get offended; (b) I don’t know his political views, but it’s best to play it safe so we can have a dialogue; (c) not all Chinese agree with what the Politburo does; (d) I might as well take it off, because I stand to gain more when we are chatting on friendly terms. This man is not my enemy. He is a potential friend. He approached me for a business deal. Our personal politics do not come in to it.
I’d rather effect change through personal cooperation. Nothing would be gained by angering him—it would only piss me off, too. As it so happened, we had a very good and open chat about business. I voiced my concerns about press freedoms in Red China.
However, I will publish what I see ﬁt. I felt I got that across. I believe he doesn’t feel a fashion magazine like Lucire can get too political. Even the Chinese living within the conﬁnes of the Bamboo Curtain are eager to see investigative journalism that is critical, or, rather, honest. Marxism, after all, is not a Chinese word. If anything, I’m in allegiance with the will of the people of China. Just not the government.
After we parted, I put my lapel pin back on. I’m back, writing away and taking advantage of living in a free society. Posted by Jack Yan, 03:23
Jedi a petrol price
In January, I predicted that the per-litre price for petrol in New Zealand would hit $2. Transport energy specialist and doctoral candidate Michael Saunders agrees with me, as reported in The New Zealand Herald today, but for different (though related) reasons to those I outlined:
Mr Saunders, studying for a PhD at the University of Sao Paulo, said the current imbalance in supply and demand meant there will be no end to increasing oil prices, leaving New Zealand vulnerable to massive balance of payment deﬁcits. New Zealand’s debt blowout last September caused by rising oil import costs made news around the world, he said.
I still wonder what it will take for people to realize the message sent by the peak oil experts out there.
Plus, shouldn’t we band together, send out a mass email, where everyone listed on it (name and town are noted) demands BP (or a nominated oil company—I use BP hypothetically) sells us petrol at a ﬁxed price, say $1·10 a litre (where the company can still proﬁt)? Fiftieth person forwards the ﬁnished email to BP. If there are enough of us doing it—say the number gets to 25,000 in New Zealand—then BP might get the message.
Acceptance of the deal would mean BP stations carry a list of those on the mass email can receive a set discount on their petrol, on presentation of their driver’s licence and evidence of location.
If it is worried, it could limit the deal to certain days.
I suggest this because we all have the power to negotiate the prices of many things that we once took as untouchable. How about it? Shall we experiment? Are there enough of us to do a national campaign?
After all, in March 2001, New Zealanders managed to forward an email asking atheists to note ‘Jedi’ down as their religion in the Census, as an experiment to see if it could get it recognized. It caused sufﬁcient stir for the Statistics’ Department to say it would not recognize such a declaration (even though it would be declared as legal and truthful by the person ﬁlling in his or her census form), and for the BBC and other media to get hold of the story. There is even a Wikipedia entry on the phenomenon.
We’re willing to do it for something silly—then, maybe the way of the Jedi is not so silly—so why not act the same way for something serious? Posted by Jack Yan, 12:47
Ad agency emails client, loses account
The anti-ad movement will love this one. I can’t name names, but if I get my hands on the message, I’ll be sharing it, complete with information on its writer.
One of my staff (I won’t even name the country, but I guess your odds of getting it right are one in three) presents in front of a potential client’s ad agency. She recounts Lucire’s online record of being more highly ranked in Alexa and Google than vogue.com. Ad agency person does not believe her and stops short of calling her a liar, even though all the facts are independently veriﬁable—just because the agency is ignorant of online media.
Agency emails client to rubbish Lucire staff member and the magazine in general.
Client drops agency because it senses the agency is out of touch and can’t face facts.
One criticism I give of media in this blog is that they fail to adjust to a more wired world. Rather than adapt, they try to pull the new world down—a Wall Street Journal article highlighted by Johnnie Moore and others is representative. And just because this agency hadn’t given a damn about the internet until my staff member visited it, it tries to pull down not only one title, but the entire medium.
I wonder if this is typical. Let’s hope not, for the clients’ sake. If it doesn’t even get Web 1·0, then it has no hope in Web 2·0. Fortunately for us, this client acted by pulling its custom. Good guys 1, bad guys 0. It now does its media buys directly. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:04
Changing the world, one step at a time
Jim Hancock asked himself how we can sustain movements that we know the world needs. I write and run a few groups here and there, but he and the International Justice Mission (which does sound like a league of comic-book heroes) went one further:
The solution was ﬁnding a way to see the world through the eyes of someone who wasn’t so numb to pain and hope. That turned out to be four American kids who were alert and articulate (and possessed a signiﬁcant emotional vocabulary). We took them to South Asia for ten days—to look over their shoulders and into their eyes as they became eyewitnesses to oppression.
The IJM, which has been successful at extracting children out of forced labour and has done other noble things, hosted the trip.
The result is a video-based curriculum that Jim produced called The Justice Mission. It has a Christian perspective, which oddly turns some people off in secular societies—and it shouldn’t. The motivation is exactly in line with what we all want for this planet: fairness, justice and peace.
Jim feels it’s only one step because the numbers are too great, but that we should focus on the task at hand, rather than the statistics. I hope it is another effort that begins changing the world for the better, because, as Alan Hirsch points out in a post by Steve Addison, the over-segmentation of western markets means it is harder for huge movements to take place these days. Now, if only we could network all these movements together at one site, and to do so equally, so we know we are not alone …
Google Global Movements, anyone? It’ll be a good way to undo the damage last month with the censoring of results in Red China. Posted by Jack Yan, 20:54
When slogans fail
My research showed that a slogan only works if it is memorable, pithy, and aimed at both internal and external audiences—used in place of a vision statement. However, what sort of slogan is ‘Where customer satisfaction is not an option,’ pointed out by Markoos?
It’s for a Ford–Mercury dealership in Wisconsin. Not many happy days with this slogan for internal or external audiences. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:30
Dave Pollard advances in How to Save the World that the education system predisposes us to a sense of learned helplessness. Corporations, we are communicated, solve our problems, and that we should join them to ﬁx them; entrepreneurship is not championed.
These aren’t Dave’s words exactly, and they are a crude summary (it’s best to read his post), but there is a lot of truth to his view. At business school, we were usually more impressed with cases that involved KFC or General Electric or Xerox, not the regular guy in the same town who was exporting 90 per cent of his products, taking risks.
New Zealand may be more fortunate in that there are university papers that deal with the smaller companies. Although I had disagreements with some of the course content at the time, the 200-level management paper at Victoria University had elements on innovation and entrepreneurship. I know that AUT in Auckland even has a Stanford grad as an entrepreneurship professor.
However, it didn’t stop the same phenomenon from happening, which Dave writes as:
So we have people coming out of high school and university who must rely on ﬁnding menial corporate jobs or exploiting connections in high places to get plum jobs they don’t deserve, since they cannot provide for themselves. They do not know how to ‘make a living’.
Ergo, most of the folks in my class wanted to join big ﬁrms. No point stressing out for yourself and being your own person. Very few wanted to make a real change in a smaller outﬁt. Same at law school: join a big ﬁrm and get lost in the paperwork.
Yet all great economies, including the western ones, were founded on a sense of risk-taking and entrepreneurship. History has shown us that. And we can only stay ahead of the curve and keep living standards high if we continue to innovate and create new ventures.
I agree with Dave that there’s no conspiracy per se, but the right things aren’t getting communicated. In most things, we are not helpless, but we are trained to be, so we don’t question the communiqués of big businesses. And maybe we should question. Question convention. It’s the only way to break through the social conditioning that limits so many of us. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:49
Toward an internet that talks at you only
Lawrence Lessig is one of the smartest guys in the world. And when he speaks, we should take heed. Right now, he is concerned that the “read–write” internet is becoming a “read-only” one, where corporations are using it to further their own proﬁt motive, away from the creativity of people. As reported at if:book:
The cable and phone companies believe that since it’s through their physical infrastructure that the culture ﬂows, that they should be able to control how it ﬂows. They want the right to shape the ﬂow of culture to best ﬁt their ideal architecture of revenue. You can see, then, how if they had it their way, the internet would come to look much more like an on-demand broadcast service than the vibrant two-way medium we have today: simply because it’s easier to make money from read-only than from read/write—from broadcast than from public access.
The law of copyright, too, is being moved away from the idea of authorship to one where monopolies can be formed—something that has been creeping in over the last century. And that can only be bad for creativity, and for democracy. It’s more reason the internet should not reﬂect our less than stellar world—but be an ideal, global frontier for the unity of all humankind.
I’d like to hear what we can do about this. My most ready suggestion is being aware and voting with your dollars away from corporations that have a tendency to control “our” media.
Del.icio.us tags: internet | media | proﬁt | copyright | monopoly | culture | creativity | democracy Posted by Jack Yan, 22:39
Managing Brand Beckham
The Independent today has an article on how the personal brand of football player David Beckham adds value to the team brand of Real Madrid. Beckham is referred to as a ‘marketing phenomenon’, and he probably is: from dolls to football shirts, though no Simpsons cartoon voices yet.
Or, put another way, Real has a personiﬁcation of its brand in Beckham, with all its inherent risks (ﬁction in tabloids, his performance each season). However, it means a soccer team cannot just manage its on-ﬁeld performance and its games. It must adopt all the trappings of brand management, gauging audience reactions, and analysing its image. It needs to inject glamour to pump up its players, and Beckham’s marriage to a Spice Girl is Real’s Heaven-sent gift, where the glamour was already there when United sold the player for a reported £20 million.
In football, or any sport, brand management is tougher, because the product life cycle cannot be planned as readily. Personal branding is less reﬁned as a discipline, though there are tools (such as Managing Brand Me). It is truly dependent on people: speciﬁcally, it is dependent on their manner and moral standing. In which case, a football team brand may be one of the most easily affected ones out there: fans will react instantly to rumour and misreporting, a bad game, or real misbehaviour off the pitch. Brand research here could be one of the easier parts of the whole process.
Bottom line, however, is this: a corporate brand is very much like a personal brand. Behave in line with the values you say you have, and all is well. Go against it, and there will be reactions. And, the more media and communications’ channels you reach, the more you can affect your brand’s perception—and reach is something that David Beckham brings to the table in droves. Posted by Jack Yan, 21:35
These days, I have joined the throng of those saying there are liberal, biased forces at work in the media. And I have come across these biases in my daily work in the media—but I have to take this into context: many believe the media seem to have a force that opposes their beliefs.
I can cite study after study of liberal media bias, but some of these studies are linked to conservatives. Not long ago, I came across one from California, although Johnnie Moore dug a little deeper and found that the researcher had right-wing afﬁliations (see his link here).
It wasn’t that long ago when I heard, however, complaints about big business involvement in media, and that they tended toward the conservative. That Diane Sawyer worked for the Nixon administration (plus, you can’t spell Sawyer without sway). There was a feeling of conservatism in The Evening Post in New Zealand in the early 1990s—I have practically made the opposite charge of late.
Why these perceptions of bias? Partially, I believe the media to be responsible. They have shown that they are not on the side of truth, but on the side of sales. The Muslim cartoon affair, blogged here, is an example. I chatted about Dodi Al Fayed and Princess Diana’s deaths with my team today, and how some of the captions to tabloid photographs were pure ﬁction.
People talk. And the truth gets out. If there is no trust, then naturally that is replaced by suspicion.
Media are coming to the table not with clean hands, but an existing image of inaccuracy held by audiences. If that is to change, then media need to get real about their standards.
Otherwise, there’s going to be room for a citizen media service which attempts to be truly “fair and balanced”, perhaps automated by algorithms that measure political bias. It could stem off Google News, or someone else might want to give the Californian boys a run for their money.
Media will survive—even newspapers—if they deliver what people want. That, to me, means depth, impartiality and relevance. No more stories on Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, please, because ultimately, they don’t serve anyone. It’s time to re-earn the public’s trust. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:37
A diplomatic diplomat
Maybe the Red Chinese are reading this blog. And decided that statesmanship begins at home.
I had an interesting evening meeting with an ofﬁcial of the People’s Republic today, for business. No mention was made of some of the things I’ve been saying (such as at this link), though according to his interpreter they had seen me in one of the newspapers. Apparently, I have a ‘reputation’ in Red China and they have heard of Lucire.
I was up front enough to tell him that I was descended from Kuomintang members. Instead of opposition, I had a lovely reaction about Chinese traditions, and even a discussion about superstition.
There are two ways to win someone’s support. One is to take the abusive route, which the former Red Chinese ambassador to this nation took with me. The other is to act like an adult. I have to say I was impressed. Maybe they have been reading this blog and taking things to heart. Who knows?
I might not change my views about self-determination and human rights, but like in all things, a dialogue is a start. And tonight, I had a dialogue. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:24
Web 3·0 and the Book of Revelation
Tim Kitchin blogged a few days ago about Web 3·0 at Steal This Brand. Makes some sense: as brand consultants, we try to get a lot of people acting as one person—the corporate person. So, if Web 2·0 is about social media and personalization, then the next iteration may take on a persona that includes certain corporate traits. The commercialization of fun sounds ominous:
All of the assets you currently share ‘for fun’ are going to be commercialisable assets, and the GYM club are going to be creating competing but interoperable trading mechanisms to reward you for those assets.
Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft may want to own us, just like those implanted chips that an American company uses to track its employees—which some feel was covered in the Book of Revelation.
In the 21st century, let’s tread carefully out there and support things outside the large ﬁrms. The redistribution of wealth sometimes has to begin with our choices. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:43
When the public works
Last Sunday’s International Herald–Tribune had an interesting editorial on the disparity emerging in India. While Bangalore and the tech sector are booming, adding one million jobs, the rural sector is not; and if one is born female, expect to have a harder life than a male baby. Kevin Watkins writes that if girls had the same death rates as boys, 130,000 deaths would be averted.
Fortunately, India is on the case. There is legislation for $2·5 billion spending to target poor rural areas with public works’ programmes. Mr Watkins does not underestimate what a massive change is still needed, but it signals that the Indian government is responsible. It has made money from tech; now it is time to see if a multiplier effect can begin economically through prudent government spending. This is simple economics with an unmissable opportunity.
I would not be the least bit surprised if, by 2050, the top cities in the world are Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, Budapest and New Delhi. The trick is to keep a long-term vision in sight. Singapore managed to, so we know India can do it for the betterment of the entire nation. Short-term ideas and three- to five-year turnarounds in policy don’t help any nation. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:42
Blog from your heart
My friend Jonar Nader, the author of the frightening novel Z, told me that despite 24-hour news channels, there are still around seven stories that go around the world. I have yet to see an American news channel cover, for example, the problems going on in Nepal and Maoists there saying they could execute the king. A check of Technorati indicates that the biggest story today is Vice-President Dick Cheney shooting his hunting partner. Conclusion: people are no better informed now than at any other time in history.
It’s tempting to hop on the bandwagon. I got annoyed with the Muslim cartoon affair and blogged three times about it. This gave me a lot of hits, more than the Beyond Branding Blog from which this one grew. And I can imagine what other bloggers might think in those shoes: blogging about current affairs and complementing the mainstream media will get me hits. I will continue—because as a blogger, I would like to be heard. I’ll cover their stories ahead of mine.
Dick Cheney accidentally shooting a guy is about as interesting as Fred Smith accidentally shooting a guy. I’ve only mentioned it by way of example, and yes, I’ve linked it so I can get a few extra hits. But it is not the focus of this blog. It’s not the story that interests me beyond this example—other than a joke I cracked a couple of days ago about the President’s desire for tort reform beginning with shooting lawyers. It’s a start.
As bloggers, I believe we should uncover our own stories, as at OhmyNews.com. The world is more interesting if we report on the things that we are passionate about. Trade journals and specialist magazines exist for that reason; and if there are conspiracies behind governments and mainstream media—the Muslim cartoon affair indicated there certainly is meddling and that the reasons ofﬁcially advanced on both sides are probably untrue—then we would do well to not fall into their trap.
So, really, what stories are interesting today? We are all important, as are our voices and what impacts on each of us. One of the best ﬁnds for me this month is Jeff Risley’s blog—because he writes from the heart. Our spirituality, our beliefs and our lives are, in my view, as deserving (if not more deserving) of coverage on our respective blogs as some guy who, this time around, was a bad shot. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:30
Sometimes you never know
In December, I scripted a radio ad for Lucire. Yes, I could have farmed this out to someone, but I enjoy doing the marketing for my own properties. In this case, it was ﬁne last December, but now that it’s about to go on air, it might be a little inappropriate, and was the subject to a quick change. Plus the pronunciation of Lucire had to be tweaked so the r was not trilled in the VO. Wait till the last line of male dialogue and let me know what you think.
Lucire radio advertisement by the Radio Network, MP3 (466 kbyte) Posted by Jack Yan, 08:18
A union with Iran
On Johnnie Moore’s Weblog today, there is a link to The Observer, where it was discussed that bus drivers in Teheran were denied permission to form their own union. They proceeded anyway. The government’s reaction:
The company's managers and Islamic council called in the paramilitary police who arrested the union's six ofﬁcers and beat workers until they agreed to renounce the strike. Bravely, the majority refused. The state's thugs then targeted their wives and children.
These same thugs belong to the same group who added three extra drawings of Mohammed—blasphemous by their own standards—to get Muslims annoyed by accusing the west of creating them.
In Red China, the abuse of workers there is likely to result in some form of uprising, if their interests are not seen to. Paying 20¢ an hour in sweat shops is hardly the sign of a fair nation. It was through years of abuse of the poor by the Ching Dynasty that saw to the overthrow of empire in China in favour of a democratic republic in 1911. In Iran, there appears to be a gulf between government and citizenry, if some of the few reports making it out of the country, and through blogs, are accurate. And if these abuses of everyday citizens continue, then things on the inside are boiling more than the west has been reporting—never mind what its foreign policy is.
Brooding Persian looks at everyday life in Iran and alludes to the corruption of some government ofﬁcials and the spin emerging from Teheran; Iranian Prospect, in a slightly guarded style (given who might be watching) believes that some governments were behind the Mohammed cartoon protests. We need to take heed of what is emerging from citizen media, because some of these writers are putting a great deal at risk: some 20-something bloggers have even been arrested, according to the BBC.
Once again, dialogue can help us. If we ﬁnd out the truth, we can make up our minds about what people are going through within the country. We don’t have to rely as much on mass media to paint an accurate picture, when we have virtual neighbours who are willing to share—and, in some cases, risking their security and safety to share.
Del.icio.us tags: Iran | corruption | union | bloggers | citizen media | blogging | Mohammed cartoons Posted by Jack Yan, 10:44
Why I dont use Firefox
I’ve had a full-on day away from The Persuader Blog (which is actually quite healthy sometimes—as I could probably spend all day here), and will have a few posts coming up. But one thing struck me today: Firefox and how, after so many iterations, it still cannot support some common Unicode characters.
This is a problem for a typophile. Speciﬁcally, Firefox and Netscape 6 and 7 do not support ligatures and double quote marks properly. Before you send me a lot of emails about this, let me share this: I run a Windows system, and friends have sent me screen shots from their Macs so I know they are OK. I also run Adobe Type Manager. But regardless of whether I use PostScript Type 1, TrueType or OpenType fonts, ligatures and double quote marks always show up in another font in Firefox.
Here’s how this page shows up in Firefox (ligatures highlighted—note the different heights and weights; the quote marks are too small to be noticeably different at this reduced size):
I have sent bug reports for Firefox and Netscape, to no avail. But I experience these things on three different Windows computers of three different vintages with three different settings—so I refuse to believe I am alone.
It’s been my computing life: to buy bits and pieces and ﬁnd that my situation is not in an FAQ, or that tech support personnel have never come across it before.
Except I’m beginning to doubt that I am unique in that way. And I am sure that when things go belly-up with your computer, tech support or customer service makes you feel like you are the only person in the world who has had that problem, no matter how polite the rep is. The only exception I can recall off-hand are the people at Rackspace, who always go out of their way to help, and never make me feel I have a problem they have not seen before.
I’ve had to reinstall McAfee VirusScan many times; I still can’t access LinkedIn using Internet Explorer; and for years I told Telstra that it was the wind that was causing my broadband disruptions to the disbelief of the support staff (I was eventually proven right, but it took over two years). Last year, between three people and two support people in two countries (well, Apple Australia never answered, so you had better make that one support person in one country), it took us 90 minutes to ﬁgure out how to burn a data CD on Mac OS X because the CD-ROM icon did not show up as it was meant to, and as it was described in every single manual and book we had.
I’m not asking an awful lot of the software manufacturers—just use the same set of standards. I don’t want to open Firefox for LinkedIn, and Maxthon or IE for the other sites: that is ridiculous. I don’t care about the politics behind Mozilla and web standards’ consortia: I am a regular Joe who wants the products simply to work. In your manuals, write in English—not computerese. And keep forums so we can go and solve our own problems and not bug you. Track the conversations there so you can answer my questions when I call—too often I have come to you and you are clueless, but I eventually ﬁnd it answered, after having Googled different keywords, by a regular person on a forum who ﬂuked his or her solution. When I am on these forums, don’t have your staff insult me for trying to help other customers when you fail to.
I believe conversations solve problems, so I will be interested to hear if anyone out there has ever come across my Firefox problem. There is still nothing on Google, and this problem has been around since Netscape 6. Surf over to the post where the above screen shot was taken here and see if you have the problem: it’ll make me feel better.
The reality that I have come to realize is that the public seems to be able to help me more than any technical support department can usually, even when I have paid for it. At the very least I won’t feel alone.
Del.icio.us tags: Firefox | Mozilla | browsers | technical support | customer service | typography Posted by Jack Yan, 07:51
How to Save the World (and other blogs)
Nick Smith has posted to say he’ll be back next week at the Life 2·0 blog, so while he’s away I began going through his blogroll. It’s an impressive collection, considering Nick’s blog is relatively new (though older than mine). I commend readers to check it out: based on our posts, Nick and I see eye to eye on why we are here on this planet, but I have not had as varied a blog-reading experience as he has had.
Among the collection is the Salon blog, How to Save the World, Jack/Zen, and BrainFuel—all of which are intelligent, content-laden destinations. Life 2·0 is here. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:28
I didn’t graduate from Evil Medical School
At the Emergence Marketing blog, I came across the Gematriculator, a program that claims to calculate how good or evil a web site is, using the principles of Gematria, described at this New Zealand page.
I was encouraged to ﬁnd that Lucire is 69 per cent good, and that Jack Yan & Associates is 67 per cent good; however, this site is only 61 per cent good, so I must be putting a bit of evil in here myself. In fact, I am more evil than the New Zealand Labour Party.
It’s probably all a load of cobblers since Dr Evil scores 72 on the goodness scale and the Labour Party outranks the Dalai Lama, but there is still fun to feeding in sites and seeing how they do. The top and bottom ones on this list are interesting.
99 The Vatican: the Holy SeeJudge for yourself here. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:31
Dodge Down Under: it’ll work this time
Dodge is about to enter the markets Down Under with its own brand. This time, it’ll work, as the company has deﬁned its brand cleverly enough and incorporated that thinking into its products—with the Caliber and Nitro the ﬁrst cars to début.
The differentiation comes from Dodge’s desire to be ‘unapologetically American’—we read that as ‘bold’ when the idea was ﬁrst discussed by Chrysler VP Joe Eberhardt. Look past the marketing talk and you realize this statement is not equalled by other automakers:
In describing the Dodge brand, Eberhardt outlined how the brand will expand globally as the company intends to reinforce its brand identity with full-of-life, street-smart people with strong self-expressive tendencies who like to drive bold, powerful cars and trucks.
Which means Dodges will have hairy chests and that trucks will remain an important part of the product mix.
Plus, there are enough antipodeans weaned on American TV shows to know what a Dodge is—not to mention the heyday of the Charger, Challenger, and even the Coronet and Monaco. The sign of the ram is not unfamiliar, and certain Dodge trucks have been ofﬁcially sold Down Under, albeit in limited numbers.
The last Dodge to sell in any numbers, in New Zealand at least, were locally assembled versions of the Commer PB van, by now called the Dodge Spacevan, in the late 1970s—hardly a good use of the Dodge Brothers’ name, jarring with the American image. At least the Dodge pick-up, or ute in antipodean parlance, was based on the Australian Chrysler Valiant, closer to an American concept.
Dodge’s latest approach is far more convincing than what Chevrolet has been doing in Europe with rebadged Daewoos. Chevrolet, to everyone, is American. GM Arabia positions it as an American brand, even if the products come from Australia and Korea; GM South Africa does the same. GM’s approach ignores the brand’s existing image and its pre-Daewoo European range of trucks—not a smart move when trying to reposition.
Dodge’s failure in the past to crack these markets had to do with a mix of intellectual property issues and less than inspiring products. Few models were built in right-hand drive.
They also did not express the values antipodeans held about American cars. While the reality is that Americans buy compacts and intermediates like the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry, stereotypes stay for a long time. It’s why the Chrysler 300C has done well: it’s the long-held idea of a butch American vehicle, continuing a tradition of American sedans sold Down Under including the AMC Rebel, Chevrolet Impala and Ford Galaxie 500.
The Caliber may be an American car in a compact form, but its styling expresses the notion of American trucks and SUVs, also part of the image—thanks in part to television (and in part to Ford, with its Explorer).
Chrysler’s previous entry with Dodge products, in the pre-Daimler era, saw the Neon and Caravan sold as the Chrysler Neon and Chrysler Voyager. The Neon failed to convince buyers—despite a generous speciﬁcation, the engine was too large to be a credible Honda Civic rival; and the build quality was not on a par with two-litre Vectras and Mondeos. Other products such as the Intrepid—which probably would have given the full-size Australian cars a run for their money—never made it into right-hand drive.
Only the Austrian-built Voyagers—closer to the Caravan with its cross grille than the Plymouth Voyager—managed to make any headway, and that was due to a market with few rivals and a continued love affair with the station wagon. The Opel Sintra was never offered Down Under, and the Renault Espace was overpriced.
Dodge promises it will introduce new product every six months Down Under, which equates to the period in which consumers have been shown to get bored of a product range. In other words, Dodge will ensure there’ll be decent showroom trafﬁc.
It might not become mainstream overnight—but recall that Lexus started in these parts with only the LS 400. And it had no image to build on. Škoda had its Batman Begins moment with the Favorit. As long as there is a long-term plan, and you’d expect DaimlerChrysler to have one after many uncertain years, then Dodge will become more familiar than the Korean brands. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:52
Ah, remember when visions of the future were more far-fetched and imaginative? When designers took it upon themselves to advance, rather than regurgitate? The space-age future of moon living, ﬂying cars, inﬂatable chairs?
The FutureWire blog linked to the 2001–2 site called Retro Future, which reminds viewers of those heady days. Things haven’t been quite so heady and hopeful since the World Wide Web started connecting people in a big way 10 years ago. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:01
Yahoo! and Google kowtow—would I?
I thought about the above question today. Would I enter the Red Chinese market with my products? Probably, but unlikely. There is some call for it at the moment, and we have had partner ﬁrms investigate the possibility for at least one of my businesses, but my heart is never in it. So would I cooperate with authorities of an unelected totalitarian dictatorship whose diplomats publicly insult me to disclose the names and other private information of my customers? Not on your life.
The more I think about it, the more I dislike these decisions to compromise your brand and your very essence for the sake of market entry.
The argument even I advanced was that cooperating with the legal institutions of one nation was better than not providing your service to its nationals. It is also better, I thought, for people to go to Google than to Baidu or a state-controlled, Chinese-owned service. But what is the difference now? And what damage does that do to the brand when China is democratic because, history tells us, this is likely to happen? Would you like to be branded a collaborator?
While Baidu and others might make it outside China—they already serve many—hypothetically, I would rather have the support of all my existing customers, who create enough of a groundswell that future free Chinese will opt for my service. Let them crave for it now—in Google’s case it had a reputation for justice. When freedom rings, be there for the people. Watch the queues like Moskva’s McDonald’s did when it ﬁrst opened.
These institutions are not legal, per se. The government is not elected. It fails the most basic requirement of membership in the United Nations—that the nation state be self-determined.
It might mean I will miss out on some dollars. But while I run this ﬁrm, I will have a clear conscience. If our products go into Red China, then I doubt I will change my tune. If compelled to change, I will make the decision to withdraw.
Del.icio.us tags: Google | China | Yahoo! | branding | brands | human rights | democracy | freedom Posted by Jack Yan, 08:45
They’re corporations, Tom, but not as we know them
Every time there’s some mess in the United States regarding the nomination of judges, someone brings up the Founding Fathers of the nation and what they intended in the Constitution. The Matrix radio station in Wellington, New Zealand (107·5 MHz) has been doing its rounds with American history of late and it may be worth remembering just what the Founding Fathers thought of corporations.
As summarized at Norma Sherry’s site:
Before our independence, the [Americas] were governed by Britain. Two companies, the East India Tea Company and the Hudson Bay Company[,] ramrodded their will upon the businessman and in actuality were the true rulers of the early colonists. As for Great Britain, it was distracted in numerous battles and wars with countries in Europe. Not until its victory in 1763 with France in the Seven Years’ War, or the French and Indian War, did Britain give the [Americas] the full weight of its attention.
The East India Tea Company was a corporate abuser and had Parliament enact laws so it could have a monopoly on tea. With this fresh in mind, the constitutional conventions took place. (The same Company later demanded that in exchange for Chinese tea, it would trade opium rather than currency or metals—and tried to get as many Chinese hooked on drugs as possible. When they could not sail in during the Opium War, the American Forbes family did.)
While Benjamin Franklin and one other supported the idea of corporations—at least for creating projects for the public good—others opposed it. I hope Ms Sherry permits me to cite a slightly bigger chunk this time (my emphasis):
It is the accumulation of disgust for the corporate mentality that prompted Thomas Jefferson to proclaim, “I hope we shall take warning from the example of England and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our Government to trial, and bid deﬁance to the laws of our country”[.]
Therefore, when our founding fathers deliberated on the text and content of our Constitution, the despicable maneuverings of the East India Tea Company and other British corporations favored high in their collective memories. This new country was going to assure corporations would know their place.
… In the beginning, and for many years of the United States of America, corporations could exist only if they were granted a charter by the state in which they would conduct business.
… Charters were issued with the combined approval of the citizenry and the legislators. … Rules were clearly deﬁned and any deviation would result in the revocation of the charter; likewise, if their operating conditions were unacceptable, this too would result in the loss of their charter. If the corporation was dissolved its assets were divided among its shareholders.
… Incorporated businesses were not permitted to land holdings or make any political contributions or attempt to inﬂuence legislation. They could not purchase or own stock in other corporations. They were strictly and explicitly charted for the purpose of serving the public interest.
To put it in modern parlance, corporations could only exist with a charter and strict corporate social responsibility. I understand the American railroad was born with such corporations (though one could debate the operating conditions for workers), and when one examines the growth of Japan and Korea, there were notions of lifetime employment, with constant innovation as the means through which that could be achieved.
So while we dig out constitutional conventions and argue the Founding Fathers for everything from ﬁlibusters to the appointment of US Cabinet members, we don’t seem to dig them out too often when there are corporate abuses and scandals.
Yes, the laws have changed since these formative steps, but we ignore their origins at our peril. Just as America was formed because of a chasm between the ruling class and everyday people, some corporations—not just American ones—may cause history to repeat itself. The battle, this time, will not be fought over nations, but markets.
The more word of abuses get out, the more likely consumers will react against the perpetrators. And in some cases, the solutions are so simple: an extra quarter-dollar on a pair of shoes, compliance with basic laws on employee welfare. For consumers now expect corporations to reﬂect their values, just like they were meant to in the beginning—why else is BP telling people that it is installing solar panels in some stations and reusing water from its car washes? And if they ﬁnd out the promise has been broken, wait for it to spread on emails virally, or for it to appear on blogs. Keep the promise and watch dividends grow, as well as customer bases in unexpected places—the places that one has helped.
Del.icio.us tags: corporations | history | USA | CSR | social responsibility Posted by Jack Yan, 04:37
A time for acceptance
It’s hard to quote a politician without some people getting steamed up, but the exchange of views between President Bush and HM King Abdullah of Jordan at the White House made a lot of sense, in particular His Majesty’s statement on acceptance and humankind’s commonalities, which are stronger than any differences we might have.
Rather than quote everyday bloggers this time, I quote King Abdullah—whom, incidentally, is descended directly from the prophet Mohammed:
And we have to continue to ask ourselves, what type of world do we want for our children? I too often hear the word used as, tolerance. And tolerance is such an awful word. If we are going to strive to move forward in the future, the word that we should be talking about is acceptance. We need to accept our common humanity and our common values. And I hope that lessons can be learned from this dreadful issue, that we can move forward as humanity, and truly try to strive together, as friends and as neighbours, to bring a better world to all.
The full press statements between the President and His Majesty from February 8 can be found here (thanks to Gina Cobb for the link). A video link at the RNC can be found here. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:31
Lawyers should be nice
I can’t divulge the company names involved here but it involves a friend of mine running a web site. It has a forum. Copyrighted images were posted there, not that he wished that to happen. Now the copyright owner is on his case, which is ﬁne, as I would be, too, in their shoes.
They want to know who posted the material (the poster is anonymous, and he doesn’t host his own board). They also want the post to be removed ASAP.
He wrote back politely to the American lawyer to ask what he could do to assist and got a fairly nasty reply back. It told him to seek legal advice and it would not comment on the Copyright Act 1976.
A better solution would have been to advise my friend of how they both could move forward.
It seemed pretty obvious that the client and lawyer didn’t have a clue on how these forums worked, and my friend does not know that much about copyright law. Perfect: an opportunity to cooperate.
The lawyer could do this without breaching client–attorney privilege. After all, by working together, they might be able to ﬁnd a solution to tracking down the anonymous poster. It’s in the client’s best interests. If my friend merely deleted the ﬁle as they demanded, both parties would never be able to trace the poster—not without a degree in advanced computing, anyway, or full access to the hosting company’s logs. Right now, that isn’t an option. It’s like asking for a gold-plated toilet: it’s possible, but it isn’t particularly viable.
My friend could propose a solution such as warnings on his forum that would keep the publishing company happy long-term. And the lawyer should agree, if he really was serving his client.
But no: the adversarial approach is the name of the game in the legal profession, and it isn’t limited to the United States.
We have had to patrol a lot of web sites over the years for our own material, and that of my colleagues. We might learn of an infringing web site, for example. All the “hard” approaches of my colleagues tended to fail, or at least it did not get the result they wanted without raising the blood pressure of all involved.
We would write in, explaining the situation, how little the original owners made off their work to begin with, and could they please remove certain ﬁles?
Within a few hours I had agreeable responses. Occasionally, they would comment on my colleagues’ approach and how impolite they had been.
Cooperation and dialogue aren’t solutions just for cross-cultural misunderstandings. They can help you on copyright matters.
All my friend now has is a sour taste with the publishing company’s titles, thereby damaging their brands. Which is good for me, since the more people know they are run by a bunch of idiots, the happier I’ll be.
I hope that if we were to ever hire lawyers and take copyright infringement matters out-of-house, we won’t deal with idiots who opt for bullying tactics ﬁrst. We have a few pretty good ones we use in New York and yes, they do advise me occasionally for free—because now I have become an even more loyal client.
Sounds to me like this lawyer is getting everyone mad so he has more billable hours. I’ll be noting his name to avoid him in the future. He probably watched too much LA Law when he was training.
Del.icio.us tags: law | lawyers | professional conduct | ethics | brands | cooperation | dialogue | copyright | intellectual property | copyright infringement Posted by Jack Yan, 22:01
Yahoo! aids jailing of civil servant
Red China has given 35-year-old civil servant Li Zhi an eight-year prison sentence—after Yahoo! provided the Politburo with data on him. The crime was apparently ‘subversion of state power’—which I take to mean the guy had an opinion and stated it on the internet. Reporters sans Frontières (link thanks to Starling Hunter) calls him a ‘cyberdissident’ who has been wrongly imprisoned, and lists him with Shi Tao, a journalist who got 10 years thanks to Yahoo!-supplied data.
I have not been a fan of Yahoo! over some of its recent actions, as it has lost the sense of its original brand. The two-guys-in-a-garage image disappeared long ago. It might be argued that when Google caved in to Communist demands, it jumped the shark as well with regard to its brand—even if surveys disagree with me. Yahoo! is not exactly endearing itself in trying to recover its brand: I can actually understand (but do not endorse) censorship from Google’s point of view, but to actually be part of imprisonments offends me.
The company could even have covered up some of its data—how would, after all, the Internet Security Bureau of the Politburo know? Blame it on the computer—Yahoo! is pretty good at doing that, after all. The solution was simple: just subject these Bureau folks to the sort of customer service it gave me and Atul Chitnis, and lose them just like it lost us. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:44
Time to Lego
Starling Hunter, a professor based in the Middle East, has compiled a list of the countries boycotting Danish goods on his blog—but notes that there are netizens coming to Denmark’s rescue:
A counter-boycoot [sic] has begun in the blogosphere designed to encourage the sales of Danish goods, presumably to help Danish companies make up for lost revenues from sales in Muslim countries. A search on the term “‘Buy Danish’ + boycott” in Google returns almost 54,00 hits. Among the top results is End the Boycott which carries a list of Danish products, a list of other campaigns and other facts about Denmark.
So while the bans are taking place, it’s over to bloggers, netizens and some members of the mainstream media running a ‘Buy Danish’ campaign. It doesn’t appear to have any ofﬁcial connection to Denmark, HRH Crown Princess Mary, or any Tasmanians.
It might not save Danish companies from losing revenues overall, but like all things in the online world, it represents voices. Consumers voting not with dollars, but with wishes and words.
I might not like what Jyllands-Posten did, but I don’t think a blanket banning of Danish goods gets at the right people. It only causes resentment. Evidently, there are enough people who feel the same way.
I would only support a ban on goods if the company itself had wronged and remained unapologetic—which also ties in to giving consumers a proper voice. And a lot of Danish companies have done right by our world—and a Lego-less world would suck. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:22
The Economist: dont ignore the blogs
The twentieth-century corporate world might be ﬁnally getting that we have gone beyond 2000. As linked from Antony Mayﬁeld’s Open blog, The Economist looks at ﬁrms which have either been forced to, or chosen to, deal with customers who blog.
It shows that everyone, in the west, potentially has a voice, which means principles such as the ones we go on about in Beyond Branding, or Living the Brand, or Stefan Engeseth’s One are more important. These books have a similar theme: work with your customers and help them achieve their goals.
Companies that do that are rewarded with stronger brand equity, more reasons to buy (if they know you are helping them with aiding their social conscience, as well as supplying goods and products), and even faster innovation processes.
Companies that don’t are in for a hard time—namely criticism from their audiences. A new program used by Evolve24 claims to be able to analyse blogs to see how a company’s reputation rates, according to The Economist.
The newspaper (as it is registered) details the issue with Diebold, but even better known, to me, is the damage that blogs caused to 60 Minutes and Dan Rather’s career. Sadly for Mr Rather, people will remember Memogate before they remember his long career.
‘Increasingly, companies are learning that the best defence against these attacks is to take blogs seriously and ﬁx rapidly whatever problems they turn up,’ writes The Economist’s correspondent.
The article puts corporate social responsibility into quote marks, though, as if it were a hackneyed term. It is a danger I mentioned with sustainability: the term has been abused in some cases, for the sake of excusing or hiding corporate misconduct. I fear CSR going down the same route, but it may well have begun.
We just have to keep hammering away at the real meanings of words like branding and social responsibility, in the hope that their tools are properly used. Humankind has an odd way of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, when branding remains one of the most powerful tools that can be exploited for the best, most noble reasons.
Del.icio.us tags: blogging | corporations | corporate social responsibility | consumer movement Posted by Jack Yan, 05:47
Potential new worlds, at the rate of a blog a second
It must be satisfying as a founder to see this: Dave Sifry, the man behind Technorati, released his ‘State of the Blogosphere’ a few days ago. It’s been picked up by most blogs, but I wanted to highlight one statistic: a new blog is created every second. In the time I have taken to type and proof this, and add the links, a few hundred blogs have sprung up.
It means more than a million blogs a year, and I am sure the rate will increase. If each one of these bloggers has inﬂuence over his or her network of people, then we might see some real change.
The whole Muslim cartoon affair has brought me into contact with regular Muslims and Arabs, thereby passing the lies of governments, extremists and media. Forming these networks remind me once again of the promise of the internet as a global force, something that we are in danger of forgetting as the web tries to mirror the geopolitics of the real world.
The web must remain a frontier where there are no borders, for otherwise there would be no purpose to it. It would simply be another boring medium that adds to the din, stress and confusion of everyday life. Through the web, we should rightly perceive someone halfway across the world as a neighbour, because for the ﬁrst time in our lives, it is now possible. We might actually create unity and make the world a better place.
Del.icio.us tags: blogging | unity | blogosphere Posted by Jack Yan, 13:56
A war veteran at 13
I have blogged about child workers in some developing countries, at least in a peripheral sense, abused by the quest for the dollar for shareholders in a faraway land. Girls in their early teens injected with contraceptive drugs against their will; threats to take jobs away from some folks in South America who are earning 30¢ per hour—so that they can be given to others in China doing 21¢.
I thought this was bad till a Save the Children volunteer reminded me of another plight involving children: the kidnapping of kids to force them into becoming murderers in conﬂict-heavy countries, particularly parts of Africa. Boys and girls are forced to become some of the 120,000-plus child soldiers—other than those girls forced and beaten into sexual slavery.
I promised the volunteer I would draw attention to this here, so please do examine these links:
Amnesty International;The blog entry is particularly good and has further links. Choose a charity, I say, or examine which ones get most funds to the right people. If you have some links on this issue, please do post them. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:21
Stefan Engeseth’s long-awaited One: a Consumer Revolution for Business, published by Cyan, is nearing release. On his web site, the ﬁrst chapter is now available for downloading. It’s an uncorrected proof—I have helped a bit to tinker it and get it looking better for its next iteration—but it should give everyone an idea of the theories that have made Stefan popular in his ﬁeld in his homeland. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:05
EFT-POS and oil companies are evil
My father gave me a petrol—gasoline to our American friends—coupon today that entitled me to 4¢ a litre off, for the Pak ’n’ Save pumps in Petone, a suburb outside Wellington, New Zealand. But, he warned me, the pumps were unmanned, and that I should take his credit card, which has a PIN for electronic funds’ transfer.
I may blog and I may have set up one of the world’s ﬁrst virtual companies, but I have never EFTed before. Ever. I have used an automatic teller about three times in my life, and only twice did it work. I do not carry a cellphone and ﬁnd them ghastly. Essentially, I do not adopt technologies for which I have to change—technology should change with me. It’s what it’s there for: to make human lives easier.
So, how do the unmanned pumps of Pak ’n’ Save work for a man who has no idea, not even a clue, about EFT short of calling a bank and arranging a wire transfer, or sending a PayPal payment? I would consider myself pretty smart—I have four degrees, and am very ﬂuent when it comes to the internet—so is EFT user-friendly?
No. First of all, Pak ’n’ Save had put up a sign. It informed customers that they would no longer receive their discounts as cash, but as extra fuel. Problem: I did not intend to ﬁll the car up with $20 and leave it at that. I was getting 4¢ a litre off. I’d be putting in the nozzle and going all the way.
How was Pak ’n’ Save going to give me my extra fuel? Would a man run out from across the road, where the supermarket was located, and give the fuel to me in a can? Essentially, I took it to mean that the coupon would not be effective.
I then read the ﬁne print. Perhaps being a typeface designer (inter alia) I should have noted the point size of the type. Let’s just say it was small. If you were pumping for the ﬁrst time, you would naturally read it. If your eyesight was any poorer than mine, you would not have a hope.
I learned enough that the petrol was being supplied by the nice folks at British Petroleum (which makes me wonder why they could not sell it for 4¢ off per litre as a matter of course at their own place), and that these pumps were unmanned now that a trial period had ﬁnished, but there was an intercom system if I really got stuck. Apparently the trial was so successful that they didn’t people to stand around and guide folks.
Not wishing to trouble anyone, I set about working. The trial was successful, after all, so I could borrow someone’s pet orangutan and it could use this gadget and pump gas. And I would play it by the book, because this was unfamiliar technology. I was there, anyway, and it would have cost me more to go to another gas station to ﬁll up there. I followed the instructions.
‘Insert card,’ read the digital display.
Still nothing happened.
So, having given up, and concluded that the whole Pak ’n’ Save coupon gag was the biggest con and they should be reported to the Commerce Commission and that the people at BP should be brought to trial in Nigeria, I took out my card.
The machine wheezed into life, belatedly. Remember this was quite a long time.
It asked me to feed in the coupon code.
On a very worn keypad, probably banged on by angry customers, I fed in the digits.
It then asked me for Dad’s PIN. I fed that in.
‘Press cheque, saving or credit,’ it asked next.
Well, I didn’t know that. I had fed in the PIN. Surely the machine could work that out? Just give me some gas, you imbecile!
Since shouting did not seem to work and it revealed there was no midget inside the pump watching with a hidden camera, I hit ‘cheque,’ since I hear Prague is a very nice city.
‘Transaction declined. Printing receipt.’
The receipt blew away since the designers of the receipt catcher did not seem to realize that Wellington is a windy city.
I tried again. I inserted the card.
I continued waiting.
In frustration, I took the card out, and the pump wheezed into life. I then ﬁgured out that the insertion of the card did nothing, but its removal did. Would it have been so hard for someone to have programmed that? In the days when Pak ’n’ Save was trialling this system, did no one ever complain to the attendant that an instruction of ‘Insert card’ when you actually meant ‘Remove card’ was illogical? Was the attendant under orders from Pak ’n’ Save management to never report a single thing if customers got confused? Supposedly.
This time, in case I had fed the PIN in wrong, I tried it again. Then, I wondered if Dad had got the digits mixed up as we had discussed that happening a few days ago.
You get the picture. I tried different combinations. And got nowhere.
Many minutes later, I drove off and searched for a pay phone to call Dad. He told me he was certain of the PIN. I went back to see if I could try other permutations.
Having established that it was the ‘Credit’ option, all ﬁnally went well. I put in as much as the tank could hold, standing there breathing petrol fumes because there was no way to lock the trigger so it would pump by itself. The machine did discount the per-litre price by 4¢—so what was the notice all about? It only served to confuse.
I pumped the gas; no man came out with extra petrol in a can. If Pak ’n’ Save asked me to deduce for myself how the machine worked, with none of their notes and small print, I might have spent less time there. Way too much information—and not good information. A case of GIGO, as we learned as kids about computing: garbage in, garbage out.
I shall be sending Pak ’n’ Save a bill for my time. I am now addicted to petrol fumes. Mmm.
And I hate multinational oil companies and their brands even more after that. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:47
New Zealand’s own extremists
New Zealand dairy company Font Error, I mean, Fonterra, ran full-page ads in some of the Arab press to emphasize its country of origin. Fat lot of good that did after two Fairfax newspapers in New Zealand published the Jyllands-Posten cartoons. Fortunately, while some trade deals are in jeopardy, Muslim-extremist protests have not called for a New Zealand boycott (which, incidentally, would drive the New Zealand dollar down and seriously harm exports). But Kiwis should not be surprised, nor should we question why Muslims have become angry about the blaspheming of their prophet—peace be unto him, as our Muslim neighbours will add—if a ban or violence takes place.
I can imagine it now: shops that even hint at one particular culture are vandalized. Cars from the country are damaged—never mind they are owned by locals. Expatriates feel fearful, even though the majority of their nationals disagree with what has happened. Goods are banned, from toys to wine. Where did this chaos occur? Damascus? Beirut? No. New Zealand. In 1995.
The French government tested nuclear weapons at Mururoa Atoll in the mid-1990s. And instead of realizing that 75 per cent (a ﬁgure I heard then) of French people shared their views, a few New Zealanders took to protests. They caused criminal damage. Anti-French sentiment ran high. I attended that year’s 14e juillet celebrations in New Zealand with not a little concern. Boycotts began in the mid-1990s that held for over half a decade, in some cases.
These folks did not publicly call for the death of François Mitterand: that was a notable distinction. But to say that the reaction of some Muslims was unexpected? Pull the other one. Doesn’t take a giant leap of imagination to go from New Zealand in 1995, with its small population, to the violence in some of the hot-spots around the world in 2006.
Then as now, I’m not in favour of boycotts because they usually do not target the people who are responsible for an action.
For two newspaper editors in New Zealand to sit smugly across from Muslim leaders at a meeting today and claim they meant no offence is ridiculous. Of course they meant offence, as they ﬂexed their muscles to show their power was not waning. Today, they climbed down from their free-speech excuse. We all know the press is free: no point needed to be made here, and no public interest was served.
One of the newspapers claims that 56 per cent were against the publication. That’s probably asking: freedom of the press or refraining from offending Muslims? The real question is: do you agree with the personal aggrandisement of a few editors? The percentage might rise on that.
So they apologized, unlike TV One and Canwest’s TV3, who are ﬁnding it hard to do that. How hard is it?
At the end of the day, we, too, have enough people among our own population who are capable of causing similar mischief. Once again, Muslims and the Anglos that make up most of the New Zealand population may have different creeds and cultures—but, per capita, we have just as many ratbags. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:32
Choosing between India and China
Dr Jeremy Siegel has analysed the differences between India and China in his column, in a far less political fashion that I have being doing. However, he draws very similar conclusions to many of my earlier posts. Thanks to Peter Begley’s Business Ethics & Social Enterprise blog for the link. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:31
The winner fakes it all
Does a tribute band contribute the original brand? Stefan Engeseth thinks so, after chatting to one of the members of Waterloo, an ABBA tribute band in Sweden. American fans have approached Katja Nord (as Anni-Frid) and commented on how young she still looked, thinking her to be the original. In our conversation tonight, Stefan informed me that Waterloo’s research into the original ABBA costumes, for instance, is incredible. Like Elvis impersonators, they keep a legend fresh for new generations.
But do such tribute bands and impersonators further the original brand? Or are they so commonplace now—Elvis and the Beatles are done time and time again—that they do little for positive brand associations? Parodies of TV shows on, say, Saturday Night Live can’t be said to improve on their reputation; the difference is that many impersonators and tribute groups like Waterloo take their act incredibly seriously. Like Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman in The Man on the Moon, they become the character.
But brand equity depends on one thing: the name. The proprietary brand assets, in David Aaker’s parlance. These tribute bands and impersonators are like cues: they remind you of something, but this one element of the brand is not necessarily enforced. Not even for a supergroup like ABBA—who look to Mamma Mia! and other avenues for living the brand today. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:52
Pimped by The Business Blog for Kiwi Creatives
I had a great chat with Helen Baxter today. British and European colleagues may remember her name from the EU’s Knowledgeboard, where I ﬁrst met her. And others might know her name from her record label, TMet Recordings, or her media company, Mohawk Media. I’m honoured that she blogged about this blog today—pimping, I believe the term is. Outside this virtual world, the last time I heard that was in the Sweeney! movie. It’s on The Business Blog for Kiwi Creatives, where there are some great entries and links for the New Zealand business person and entrepreneur—even a Podcast with yours truly. Thank you, Helen, for “pimping” this! Posted by Jack Yan, 11:38
Iran to publish Holocaust cartoons
I don’t plan each day’s blogging with a theme, but it so happens that today’s two posts mention Iran.
Gina Cobb posts that Iranian newspaper Hamshahri has launched a competition for cartoonists to depict the Holocaust. Remember Iran’s president is the guy going around saying the Holocaust never happened.
I was against the publication of the cartoons in Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, so I feel pretty secure in saying this competition is a load of garbage.
Will Jewish groups and their allies react with protests and burn down Iranian embassies? Somehow, without extremists igniting ﬁres, the reaction might be quite different. And will the same media republish these based on their high-and-mighty “public interest” banner? Hamshahri might ﬁnd fewer willing allies through the wire services and cartoons making fun of the Holocaust are hardly unusual in some parts of the middle east.
I wish the dialogue were more genuine, however. It’s certainly nicer battling things out using the press than literal battleﬁelds. But the authentic voices remain the bloggers’.
Politics aside, the guy who comes second with an idea usually doesn’t get the same attention. Anyone know what Buzz Aldrin said when he got on to the moon? I don’t. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:31
Why some resent globalization—and what we need to do
Iran’s Mehr News agency has a few things to say about globalization today. For a globalist like me, even I have to concede they have a point. Too much exploitation has gone on in an effort to fool nations outside the ﬁrst world.
From an outsider’s perspective, Iran should seriously consider complying with IAEA requests if it has nothing to hide—but it is still interesting to see globalization advanced as a reason the nation has been working on nuclear power. However, I shall be interested to learn from our Iranian neighbours if they view the IAEA as an instrument of the west, out to harm them—because that, too, is worth learning about. We need to understand where the differences in our viewpoints really lie and, like so many things, I don’t think it’s in the obvious that the media and respective governments tell us about.
On many counts the Iranian news service is right, if we leave politics aside and concentrate on its globalization message. How many times has a wonderful new principle been coopted by establishment thinking? In recent times, some questionable ﬁrms have got on board the “sustainable” bandwagon. Triple-bottom-line, I am told, can be subject to trickery as much as other accounting methods. To read in an Iranian news service that its correspondent believes the west uses the globalization banner while plundering a host country’s resources does not seem to be too left-ﬁeld when one considers the experiences of sweat shop workers.
While I advocate what I call moral globalization, which almost seems naïve four years on, I also believe in cleaning our own doorsteps. And if we don’t have our faults pointed out, we may never know how we hurt others—even if listening to criticism about yourself is not the easiest thing to do. Groups such as the National Labor Committee do that well. But has anything changed?
Each decade we say that the next will be the caring and sharing one. We actually get worse: at the end of each decade, we ﬁnd out the last one has been “the me decade”. It shouldn’t take a crisis to spur us to act. We should be able to do that, fuelled by our own desire to live our life purpose and leave the world in better shape than how we found it.
But the turn of this decade—this century—brought with it hope in the form of citizens being able to share their experiences. The blogosphere has turned from a world of “people with diaries” to commentaries, op-eds and cutting-edge thinking. In these blogs we share viewpoints, we criticize one another, but I hope we ﬁnd out our similarities over our differences. We discover some common enemies out there—and possibly discover that the institutionalization of human endeavour slows down our progress. As individuals, most of us want interactions that are mutually beneﬁcial, without a quest for organizational power. The difference is, at least in most of the ﬁrst and a good part of the second world, we have a voice. It is our task to act: we can’t leave it to those who don’t have a voice in the third world.
So to act, I have my personal bans against companies that I think are hurting the world. I retain hope in conversations begun on the blogosphere between regular people, even if there are some right nutters out there, too. Dialogue can reveal truth.
Del.icio.us tags: globalization | global | institutionalization | dialogue | Iran | networking Posted by Jack Yan, 00:31
Quick plugs for Ronald Reagan Day
Some quick plugs for today, February 6: since I began blogging here, I’ve met some mighty nice folks. One is Lyn Perry at Bloggin’ Outloud, who has taken it upon himself to organize a blog award. My colleague Stefan Liute was kind enough to blog about me this week, for which I am grateful.
Finally, Stowe Boyd’s /Message blog put me on to Cocomment, which is in beta phase and requires an invitation code. To me it seems to be the sort of service that could bring more blogs together. It essentially harnesses your comments on other blogs and puts them together in one place. Services like Furl and Del.icio.us are still less than attractive graphically, but as blogging evolves it will be interesting to see what else comes up that become the musts of this world. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:57
I haven’t had time to absorb these ﬁndings yet, but they are of interest: a summary of a study into teenagers by energyBBDO Chicago, on David Kiley’s blog. Some can be predicted: teenagers feel there is too much advertising, and there is a sense of unease. Others are useful updates to a study I made of teenagers and the youth market about four years ago. The full study is here, in PDF. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:32
The real voices of Islam: the bloggers
My two posts about the cartoons from Jyllands-Posten have been the most popular here, thanks to a boost from Der Spiegel and Guardian Unlimited, and on the web, the comments seem to be divided into two camps. There are those who are presently reasoning—Gina Cobb is one of the best exponents of this—and those who are being belligerent against Islam, putting all Arabs and Muslims into the same category. I also have begun reading the (majority) moderate voices from Arab and Muslim bloggers whose viewpoints run counter to those who are saying that their faith is inherently evil.
Let us—Muslims, westerners, everyone else—step back and trace this event a little. These cartoons appeared in a Danish (not Norwegian, as TV One last night reported in its second item) newspaper in September, in a title that hardly anyone in strongly Muslim countries read. It was pretty bad taste then, but you could still argue a freedom of the press. I would have been more respectful, but there are publishers who feel the right should have been exercised. However, remember the sort of government Denmark has: it’s not exactly rosy when it comes to immigration, with one of the more vocal parties part of its present coalition. I recall the last election campaign there where that party was quite vocal about kicking out certain ethnic groups, in statements which some nations might regard as uncivilized.
By the time of the republication of these cartoons, we already knew what reaction it would provoke among Islam. That seemed to be gratuitous: ‘We’ll publish it because we can—and guess what? We can then report on the clashes!’
And knowing at least one of the publications and its editor-in-chief’s typical behaviour in this business, I can guess that their decisions rested with a childish, gleeful rubbing of hands in wishing to create antagonism and little more. In that respect, those titles failed their duty to further the agenda of their readers, a point I made in an earlier post: ‘The media’s duty needs to be very similar to the wishes of citizens if we are to survive. And I sense the world would rather we have unity over discord, in which case we have failed to further the agenda of the public we supposedly serve.’ It was an act of desperation in a time when newspaper circulations are falling. Follow the money.
That ﬁnancial agendum can be followed to a logical conclusion: a mainstream media reporting on violent clashes. Thankfully in New Zealand, Muslims led a peaceful protest in an exercise of their freedom of speech, not that it mattered to those who showed embassies being torched. I am not ignoring the fact that the violence happened, but they are not being balanced by the viewpoints of, say, Muslim bloggers.
Some in the mass media are serving their publics and have refrained from publishing the images of Mohammed (and I join Muslim writers in adding, peace be on him. It is a nice, respectful touch). The Guardian, for instance, felt there was no need to (linked by Ms Cobb):
It would not be appropriate, for instance, to publish an anti-semitic cartoon of the sort that was commonplace in Nazi Germany. Nor would we publish one which depicted black people in the way a Victorian caricature might have done. Every newspaper in the country regularly carries stories about child pornography, yet none has yet reproduced examples of such pornography as part of their coverage. Few people would argue that it is essential to an understanding of the issues that they should do so.
Certainly in New Zealand, now guilty of republication, the appearance of the images in two newspapers served no end other than short-term gain, some massaging of their editors’ egos in a view that they effected some event (hardly the duty of a journalist), and exposure for titles that everyone knows anyway. (With respect to bloggers and readers of the Islamic faith, I will not even link them.) It has damaged the nation’s already precarious exporting record.
What of those moderate voices? They exist in the blogosphere, and it would do wonders if those of the Islam-is-evil persuasion were to search for them before blasting all of that faith. Do they know, for instance, that Al-Jazeera never broadcast any beheadings—but that it is a useful myth? I would even ask them: do they know any Muslims?
As I commented below to a fairly civil post from one of my readers, one of my oldest friends is of the Muslim faith. Over the years I have had the pleasure of connecting with his community. He is not alone among my Arab and Muslim friends and acquaintances: you’d have to live in a vacuum to not have had contact. Either they are all very good actors and they are waiting for the right time to kill me, or we in the west have a very poor understanding, post-9-11, post-July 7, of Islam—oddly enough, a charge levelled at me and Ms Cobb by a few people.
It can be equally argued that Timothy McVeigh and his conspirators were Christian fundamentalists—which is exactly how the Middle Eastern press spoke of them after that awful April 19. They are hardly representative of all Christians or all westerners. But it can be as tempting for someone in another country to draw that conclusion, just as so many have been tempted to lump all Muslims crudely into one basket.
So where are these views? For a start, Jamal, a Muslim living in London, is one who recently linked to me. He doesn’t condone the violence, nor do numerous Arab and Muslim bloggers who are being ignored: Natasha Tynes at Mental Mayhem in Jordan (who has been following the incidents almost daily), Mahmood at Mahmood’s Den (who reckons national bans are daft), Omid Paydar in Free Thoughts on Iran (saying that dialogue would be more productive for Islam than protests), and Lahoree, a Pakistani Muslim living in Toronto at Hardly Innovative (who feels violence is a waste of energy). These blogs also condemned earlier bombings, according to Global Voices, but that wouldn’t be good “news” if we reﬂected a uniﬁed planet Earth with shared values, right?
South African journalist Ethan Zuckerman is another gentleman who has Muslim friends, who blog, and summarizes their thoughts at his blog. (Mr Zuckerman recalls how apartheid created bias in his country’s reporting.)
And to relieve ourselves from the intellectualizing, Steve Miller brings the whole matter down to earth (a link also provided by Gina Cobb).
If our media don’t connect to their audiences by providing them with self-actualizing reasons to buy, then they will die. Newspapers and their brands are particularly mired in uncertainty now, as Rupert Murdoch pointed out in a speech last April (linked from Fulﬁl). Without the courage to change, the bloggers, who are more reﬂective of everyday views, will rule the roost.
Del.icio.us tags: Islam | Mohammed | Muslim | media | cartoons | Jyllands-Posten | branding | newspapers | Islamic | stereotypes | mainstream media | Denmark | MSM | bloggers | prejudice Posted by Jack Yan, 22:34
From the plane-arium
I’ve documented brand evangelism with Star Trek and The Simpsons. Meanwhile, here’s one for South Park, where you can create your own characters. It’s the way to go with brands: show a bit of generosity and let the public help with your marketing, as fellow brand stewards. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:51
To New Zealand’s Don Brash: stop counting and start absorbing
Regular readers know I have been critical of New Zealand’s Labour government, but at the same time I wrote to the Prime Minister around May 2005, foretelling her she would win a third term. It’s not just because Helen Clark is a heck of a nice lady in person, but she has no credible opposition.
People turn to the National Party not because it has a better plan, but because they see it as ideologically in tune with them, or because they want to vote Labour out of power. A change, some might argue, is needed. Business conﬁdence is low and I am dreading the fall in the New Zealand dollar, because I can’t see how that helps a net-importing nation while no exporters are being properly supported.
But life under the Opposition won’t work, either. They have given every indication that they are party of economic geeks, which is well and good for some. But New Zealanders are still sore from the capitalist changes of the 1980s and 1990s, and in that context, Clark’s liberal leanings tend to feel more familiar, less inhuman.
The bean counters won’t succeed because they constantly ignore the one thing New Zealanders like being valued on: culture. And, if you want to trace that back to its roots, the New Zealand brand.
That brand is one of innovation, independence and inspiration—and a lot of other I words—and it includes, as part of its mix, an appreciation of the Māori culture.
All I sense from the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Don Brash, is a series of mixed signals. Dr Brash is a former governor of the Reserve Bank, so it is only natural he steers his conversations to economics, an area in which he feels comfortable. He and I largely agree on the notion that the Minister of Finance has mismanaged the growth of the economy. But I am not sure that his economic discussion takes into account the nation brand.
I have heard little about how the culture is to be built upon, and how innovation programmes might be funded. Hard economic questions endear only the initiés, not everyday New Zealanders. And that is where he has not won the “hearts and minds”—he may be the most sensible, economically minded leader out there, but politicians need more than intelligence. (Thus, Shadow Finance Minister John Key, as his image stands now, is not the answer for the Opposition’s leadership.) Speaking out against Māori, in terms of abolishing their seats, might appeal to white New Zealand, but in the absence of an alternative (e.g. integrating later, Anglo cultures with Māori culture, acknowledgement of the Māori language in everything from currency to street signs, an acceptance of Māori models and structures of governance to run alongside the surprisingly dominant Westminster ones), Māori should rightly balk at their suggestion.
Speeches should not be aimed at the majority, because that says you are counting votes and treating people like numbers. Speeches should be aimed at the heart and soul of what a nation stands for, and in Opposition, you have a lot more time to think about it, and a greater luxury to say it. This is what George W. Bush does well—you can debate all you like whether he means it or not, and whether the reality lives up to the promise. But he knows he only reaches half of the electorate, and hopes that his thoughts on ‘America’ sift through to enough members of the other half.
For Brash and National, this will take some training in what the nation brand stands for. National has already done the research. But if it is to stand a chance at the next election, it needs to connect to what this nation means, not just what the party means. And it needs to integrate this sincerely and wholly into its thinking, because it is something the Prime Minister has been able to do rather well in her ﬁrst two terms—and might again master in her third.
Del.icio.us tags: New Zealand | politics | economics | nation branding | culture Posted by Jack Yan, 01:31
Trying to get a decent feed
A quick note to readers getting this blog via RSS or Atom: I have set Blogger to supply this blog’s feeds in full, but it sometimes, by itself, opts to provide edited ones. Please know this is not to do with me—it’s a glitch with Blogger.
If you go into Blogger’s help pages, this fault is actually under the ‘Resolved issues’ category!
I can only suggest reloading to see if it will provide a new feed, but I will notify Blogger in the meantime. (Your own enquiries there would be helpful, too.) Posted by Jack Yan, 11:32
The discontent over globalization
My 50th post here—though I have lost count of the number of blog posts in total. (I do know that I posted the 500th at the Beyond Branding Blog.) And it’s a brief one, though poignant, as it refer to a post that addresses (partly) why globalization has so many upset: politicians failing to state what is actually needed.
I also think a lack of innovation is to blame. By all means, shift some jobs overseas—but have something for your own people.
A lot of South Korea’s growth was due to the duty by a corporation or chæbol to provide lifetime employment by law. Thus, if a job was to be moved abroad, then the corporation needed to innovate and create something that could make use of the home country’s core competences.
Some may say that that led to inefﬁcient corporations, and Korea has since changed its law—from what I recall under dubious circumstances. The result, nevertheless, is that Koreans can ﬁre people like most western economies can.
But Toyota seems to be doing all right. It’s just shown a very ﬂash Lexus at the Detroit Auto Show, with 19 speakers, room for 4,000 songs on its hard drive, and an eight-speed automatic gearbox—a real leap ahead. There’s a promise of a hybrid model—an even bigger leap for a full-size luxury car.
The car might look as dull as dishwater, but the business model is clear: the Lexus will be made in Japan, where the company can be assured of its quality, and Toyota is quite happy to shift production of lesser models to plants nearer their customers, in Red China, India and the Czech Republic. Just like Fiat did, once upon a time.
This is not clever or new stuff, but it keeps a company growing. Downsizing is necessary sometimes, but I wonder if it’s as often as Wall Street-pushed companies make out in order to keep quarterly results high.
The old ‘Japan can do it’ lesson is still there to be relearned. Never mind the early days were subsidized and exporting to Japan is still a tough thing to do. There are areas where we can absorb the lessons without letting go of the free-trade ideals that many economies live with.
If we had kept innovating at the pace we were expected to in the 1960s, we might just have wound up with that futuristic vision of the more optimistic ﬁlms then. I am being a little facetious, but let’s face it: a car built in 2006 is not as big a leap over one made in 1986, as that car was a leap over one made in 1966. And it’s far easier to write about the solutions than to implement them.
However, we do need to start thinking of others: companies on the stock exchange are there not just for stock holder gains, but for the betterment of their communities. When they win, we all win, through the multiplier effect alone—and who cares if the short-term price is down if there’s a clear, long-term path that you know will work out? Watch your instinct before you watch the tickers. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:13
The Mohammed cartoons—and what they say about western civilization
Gina Cobb posted her thoughts on the cartoons about Mohammed and the effects of their republication at her blog. I responded with the following, which may be worth repeating here. This is further to my post yesterday on the topic, which has been the most-read piece on this blog to date. (Marvin was a gentleman who had a contrary viewpoint on her blog.)
I agree with Gina. This is not wholly about censorship and allowing others to come in and gag us. This is about the fact that in the age of citizen media, we are all ambassadors for our culture, and a horrible job we are doing of that. Diplomatic relations rely on a sense of decorum and respect. These messages, of taking a stab at a stereotypical Muslim way, could have easily been achieved by illustrations of, say, Arafat or various al-Qaeda members. I would argue, looking at other cartoons (including some I was referred to that really made some distasteful comparisons between the President, Prime Minister Sharon, Hitler and Satan) that most cartoonists would take stabs at people, not their beliefs. There is a happy medium to be found here—just as there is some sense of refrain on network television that they don’t cuss before a certain hour.
We would be wrong to analyse this issue through western eyes, saying that if we are OK with funny jokes about Jesus Christ that the Muslims ought to be cool with jokes about Mohammed. Once upon a time—we only need to look back 75 years—we, too, would have been offended as a culture with images of Jesus in a cartoon. This does not make the Muslims and Arabs 75 years behind us—but this should be something borne in mind on why the Danish newspaper and the republications have caused offence.
If we are proud of our western heritage and freedoms, then we should act like it. Civility and civilization are marked by the human abilities to refrain from acting like animals, and respecting customs and codes. The United States was certainly capable of doing so during its heyday of the mid-20th century, its ﬁnest hour, although I reserve judgement on its racial record at that point; and China’s greatest period of prosperity, the Sung Dynasty, was marked with the same sense of civilization and pride. Nations that retain that sense enjoy freedom—and also harmony.
As Gina says in her original post, the west has made some great gains in the freedoms that you talk about, Marvin. And we did this without insulting their beliefs. Indeed, we did this while respecting them—and showed those who might sympathize with the terrorists that that was better. Now we are reversing those gains and losing a ﬁght of ‘hearts and minds’, as the President might put it.
Relations between nations are like relations between people. Just as I don’t expect, on my ﬁrst meeting with Marvin, to be punched in the face by him, the Islamic world doesn’t expect to get a black eye from a cartoonist in a commentary. Marvin would tolerate my making a joke about him, probably, but I expect if I bring his mother’s sex life into it, then I’ve got a kick in the teeth coming (whether physical or in sense). Same thing here, except most Muslims seem to ﬁnd this far more grave than a quip about a parent’s private habits—this strikes at something very dear and precious to them, and, as Gina says, we should be having dialogue, not alienation, with the Muslim world.
Del.icio.us tags: Mohammed | Islam | Muslim | Arab | media | civilization | censorship | culture | freedom of the press | culture clash Posted by Jack Yan, 22:16
A how-to guide to insulting Islam
I have a lot of sympathy right now for Arabs and Muslims who were offended by the publication of cartoons mocking Mohammed. It’s another example of media irresponsibility: as if the newspaper that published them, Jyllands-Posten, didn’t anticipate this reaction.
As a media owner, I keep a careful eye on this sort of thing. When we ran a picture of Gov Schwarzenegger in one issue of Lucire, I made sure the Democrats had someone: we ran a photo of former governor, Gray Davis, in the same issue. While it’s not always one-to-one, I am sensitive—as I know how politicized some of our readers might be. Some people are anal enough to keep count.
That’s just over mere politics. Now we are dealing with something far deeper, more meaningful.
It is a shame that this foolishness on behalf of Jyllands-Posten has made Danish expatriates in the Middle East uncomfortable—and some are distancing themselves from their homeland’s behaviour. The Danish government has refused to intervene, which says very little about its understanding of foreign affairs.
I would have let this stand, as there are enough bloggers dealing with it. But for this: now other media are publishing the cartoons. Why? One newspaper’s actions might seem to be foolish, but now this just seems malicious: no one can claim ignorance on how offended Muslims can be through blaspheming their prophet. And yet so many in the west like to portray Islam as an intolerant faith. What hypocrites these media are, with their prejudices.
This is far worse than the racist cartoons that were published in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with Chinese in pigtails and Russians in Bolshevik costumes, being made a mockery. Then, it was just about other races. This time, it is about the holiest ﬁgure in a religion, short of Allah Himself.
The publications have served to unite Arabs and Muslims around the world. It’s a pity that a lack of respect for them and their most sacred beliefs will lead to disunity between them and western Europe.
The media’s duty needs to be very similar to the wishes of citizens if we are to survive. And I sense the world would rather we have unity over discord, in which case we have failed to further the agenda of the public we supposedly serve.
Del.icio.us tags: Islam | Muslim | Arab | media | newspaper | blasphemy Posted by Jack Yan, 05:26
How to stop the matrix resetting itself
When we talk about globalization, I occasionally think about history, because we have been here before. The last great era of globalization was at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, and one company that rode that wave was Singer, who got its sewing machines into most of the world. I imagine sweat shops still use some Singers.
But the last time we had globalization, we still wound up trying to kill each other in World War I. Now we still maintain the idea that trade will conquer all—after all, that was the same theory behind the European Economic Community and the World Trade Organization.
If we aren’t that much smarter as creatures this time round, what makes us think we’ll avoid annilhating ourselves?
It might pay to examine why we wound up corrupting the globalization process last time. Then, it was political and karmic: companies wanted to make use of their trade to line their pockets. Familiar enough. In some cases, it was about supplying things the other nation did not want: forcing China to accept opium, rather than silver, for example. Now it’s about paying workers 25 cents an hour—if that. Countries built their empires to support trade, distancing themselves from the individual voices that were being trampled on. The rise of communism wasn’t about an ideology: it was about creating a voice that could be heard against the free-marketers. These days we choose to ignore folks dying of diseases that are curable, but the proﬁt motive isn’t there to help them.
I support the idea of one planet, one people (shall we abbreviate this 1P1P?)—I love the idea that someone in Syria might be my neighbour because the internet makes that all possible. And Skype, and even cheaper air travel. Globalization—if it weren’t such a word shamed by WTO protesters—would be my mantra.
I would imagine most people feel the same way: that there is no harm in thinking of someone in another country as a fellow human being. The ﬁrst thaw in the Cold War probably happened not with Reagan or Gorby, but with Phil Donahue, hosting a show where he connected, via satellite, everyday people from the United States and the Soviet Union, in their respective nations’ studios. One Russian said, ‘I would like to come over there and shake your hand.’ And we realized our “enemy” was much rather like us.
Wherever you go, there is a version of “the American Dream”, whether you’re in Washington state or in the Palestinian territories. Everyone just wants to feel fulﬁlled and do their part in life.
So what can be different? What can we do so we don’t reset the Matrix and wind up 100 years behind our time?
This time, most of us have a voice. The internet, in the west at least, has been the great leveller. It might even become that in some régimes where it is gradually expanding: Red China, Myanmar, Iran. But it is up to the west to make the ﬁrst move, to set a pattern about the internet’s usage, since we’ve had it longer.
In my earlier post I offered the notion that the virtual world was a reﬂection of the real one, with the same geopolitical concerns. But why does it have to be? Why not create, with Web 2·0, a world where the promise of a single planet can be fulﬁlled and not wait till Web 3·0 or when we start another war?
Through the web, we can unite individual buyers and sellers and philanthropists, breaking them out of the state structures that have so far prevented them from contacting and beneﬁting one another.
While we are still bound by the laws of each nation, we can begin with very simple tasks. Merely contacting someone else and offering help would be a start. Forming groups using the web—nothing new, mind you—is another thing we can do. But the difference I am writing about is an attitudinal one: for the time being we are making one-on-one changes. However, if each of us sees each connection as one for our community, can the changes become greater?
For instance, most of you reading this blog will have a contact in a foreign country, probably, say, through LinkedIn. We have, for instance, an idea for a business that we might already be doing in our nation. How about this: why not give them the same techniques and see where they wind up? Don’t charge them a royalty until they are on their own two feet, and then make it a reasonable percentage.
My friend Denis Kenward, whom I met when interviewing him for Lucire, just ﬂew off to India to teach artisans on two tsunami-affected islands his techniques for doing jewellery made from shells. Right now, the Indians have the machinery but do not know how to use them in order to create the effects on Denis’s pieces. Instead, they are doing each piece by hand and spending a day. Denis has gone to show them how he makes his works in 10 minutes.
The man is getting next to nothing ﬁnancially but the karmic reward must be huge. I don’t think he’s going to be after a royalty, but it is a small, internet-initiated event that can help a lot of people. Sure he had hassles with his visa: that is the real-world element. But the virtual world had the venture all mapped out ﬁrst, and the real world just snapped into place. Intention and reality.
The cynics might fear that the country receiving the intelligence will use it against the originator, but are these nations as selﬁsh and immoral as that? Nine times out of ten—if not 95 out of 100—trust given is trust returned. We need to be secure about ourselves. We all want cooperation, not suspicion. And the world might just become a better place as a result of that.
Del.icio.us tags: globalization | globalism | philanthropy | free trade | commerce | karma | internet | web | networking Posted by Jack Yan, 00:04
Googling Jesus Christ, communist style
I’ve seen comparisons between regular Google and Google.cn on searches for the Falun Gong cult and Tiananmen Square, but not Jesus Christ—until I came across the Sharon Hughes blog in the United States. According to Sharon, regular Google turns up 168,000 references in the images’ section, versus 10 in Red China.
Remember that religion is, contrary to common belief, ofﬁcially recognized in Red China, according to its own constitution. But it seems the normally soulless Politburo is concerned about someone whom a spirit-less Communist would consider died 2,000 years ago.
Controversial few days here: politics and now religion!
I commented on the topic last week (see here), and my opinion of Google hasn’t changed hugely. But I have had to revise my estimation of the Politburo downwards, as I can’t see the threat of the Church toward its capitalist-leaning members. They always seem to run scared from something. Posted by Jack Yan, 14:24
Counterpoint: Al Qaeda is weakening
Although I say that Al Qaeda’s decentralization is typical of a virtual organization becoming more mature, the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization has published an article to say that this is a sign of weakness. Author Fawaz A. Gerges says that Al Qaeda is a skeleton of its former self: ‘Now bin Laden and al-Zawahiri focus primarily on providing spiritual inspiration and overall strategic direction to jihadist factions.’
Nevertheless, he offers some advice to the Bush administration: it should not rest on its laurels. The public relations’ side of the war has proved a disaster. I can understand that: the American brand has distanced itself from its former image of generosity. Claims of freedom run counter to the Patriot Act—whether you agree with the legislation or not, it has an image problem.
While those two examples are mine, click through to the article here. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:41
What’s brown, yellow and Kiwi?
If you ever needed evidence that New Zealand was coming into its own as a national culture distinct from the Empah, then the current campaign by Coca-Cola brand Lemon & Paeroa—which, once upon a time, was a New Zealand-started and owned drink—is a reminder of earlier times. That time is the 1970s, with L&P’s brown and yellow logo being the height of fashion; people now look back through rose-coloured glasses at summer days from 30 years back, drinking the distinctively Kiwi drink and eating ﬁsh and chips.
Coke has tied in some radio stations into the campaign but it is essentially an evocative one—not unlike Huffer T-shirts from a few years ago that use the 1974 Commonwealth Games’ logo.
The country is not “all together” yet—race relations aren’t sorted, and the lack of recognition of the Māori language in everyday life is laughable—but it’s an automatic human trait to ignore the worries of the past and remember only the good things. In which case the L&P campaign is a sure winner.
Never mind that it lacks verisimilitude—the logo in the 1970s had a harsher, egyptian typeface—looking to the past is an easy strategy to take. The campaign itself isn’t innovative—though it attempts to rope together radio and internet and some individual participation (shoot yourself digitally enjoying ﬁsh and chips and drinking L&P)—but it is signiﬁcant from that greater cultural perspective. This is to a Kiwi what an image of a black cab is to a Londoner, and it has not happened in any great way before. It is, of course, aided by the fact that the 1970s can easily be memorialized thanks to colour TV footage—it seems all that more real and close, wide lapels and bad hair aside.
New Zealand isn’t, after all, just about Hobbits and yachting and the All Blacks. The down side to such campaigns—that New Zealand was a cool and happenin’ place in the 1970s—is that it all too easily trivializes a culture. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:46
The reinvention of marketing: one simple idea
Found via Joseph Jaffe’s blog, Bob Liodice of the ANA addressed the reinvention of marketing yesterday. In it, he acknowledges the power of technology in raising consumer awareness, and how brand equity elements such as loyalty are no longer as much of a given since audiences have competitive information.
I hold on to the old models of vision leading to brand equity, but Mr Liodice is right that branding needs to be heavily considered in modern marketing. He suggests, at the top of his list, that marketing communications need to be reinvented in the face of a ‘consumer-controlled, constantly changing marketing environment’.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say the environment changes so much that the model has to be reinvented, but a simple respect of the audience and its power will result in a healthier marcom model, no matter what. Realizing that chief brand ofﬁcers—a term I think was coined by Chris Macrae—are only stewards, rather than deciders, of a brand’s meaning is part of that, and creating models that respect and accommodate consumer views is the fundamental difference between Branding 1956 and Branding 2006. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:57
The language of life
Thanks to the support of others who linked me, rather than any genius of my own, this blog now has the same number of readers as the old Beyond Branding Blog (and it’s still growing). Thanks to Blogﬂux, I can see where readers are coming from (roughly); and the map above is interesting.
It shows, roughly, where the English speakers with good internet connections are. You’ll notice a divide between countries in Europe which have dubbed programmes and those with subtitles—the latter are comfortable with comprehending English. Scandinavia has a lot of blog readers.
Brazil is the most wired nation in South America—and that is evident from the map, even it’s just one hit.
Lebanon, South Africa, India, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea and Hong Kong have brought forth visitors—the Hong Kong visitor is apparently from my old neighbourhood of Ho Man Tin. You would expect expatriates there or people who are well versed in English. Meanwhile, English-speaking nations of the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia (on the coast) and New Zealand (including myself) are well represented.
Some of my ideas about helping people in poorer countries presume a lingua franca of English, but judging from this map, is that realistic? We really need people who can bridge the divide (linguistic and digital) and identify the most active and vocal members of the communities we target helping. Therefore, we need to meet many of these groups half-way by at least learning a part of their languages if we are sincere about raising their living standards and closing the rich–poor gap. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:13
Beyond the State of the Union 06
The President’s State of the Union speech has already been published online, at Think Progress. As expected, President Bush cements his decision to not opt for an early withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, and hits back at suggestions to the contrary:
Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy.
With so much in the balance, those of us in public ofﬁce have a duty to speak with candour. A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country, and show that a pledge from America means little. Members of Congress: however we feel about the decisions and debates of the past, our nation has only one option. We must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand behind the American military in its vital mission.
This remains a touchy subject in a nation as politicized as the United States. The First Lady gave an excellent interview to David Frost not long ago, essentially stating something that if you want peace, sometimes you must wage war. She stressed that her husband was opposed to war—but that it can be a necessity for the greater good.
I took quite a strict interpretation of resolution 1441 at the United Nations Security Council at the time the US was debating to go to war—but whatever one’s political bent, America is involved. So what should America do?
A pledge needs to be carried out. History is littered with broken promises from the US Government, and I would like to see it not break this one—for the reputation of the country. The United States has won friends in the past not because it has pursued paciﬁst policies: anti-American sentiment was high during President Carter’s administration down here; pro-American sentiment was high during World War II and in the years after it. President Clinton made friends internationally while defying the UN Security Council in 1995 (Bosnia), 1998 (Iraq) and 1999 (Kosovo), with much of the public here remembering him as a globally minded leader.
Why? Was it because the Clinton presidency was globalist in its nature, wanting to help the world—even if it encountered hiccups along the way? Businesses came on board with a wish to work with other cultures, not really seeing the borders. I remember American businesses being sensitive, even caring, in their quest to form alliances. They had learned the lesson of falling behind Japan in productivity and innovation—the late 1980s and early 1990s were a period of growth in the US’s business maturity: many business books written during that time has a conciliatory, international outlook. And they were years I was introduced to dealing with the United States.
The Bush presidency did not start out with this aim, but circumstances have compelled it to nation-build and to have a more robust foreign policy than the President might have indicated during his 2000 campaign. But it has found itself at this point in 2006, having to repeat the events of September 11, 2001 as its justiﬁcation, and is in desperate need to brand the war as one of freedom and liberty.
It might be, and it might not be. I am interested in politics, but probably not enough to manage a debate on this blog this week. But from where I sit, the only course open to President Bush—or if I were in his shoes, with the same pressures—is to keep pledges made publicly to the United States’ Iraqi allies. In my book, that means staying the course.
There are good reasons not to do this. A trillion-dollar deﬁcit is no cause for celebration. It offends my Confucian—I suppose libertarian (not liberal) by western standards—nature. Americans may feel domestic problems are more pressing, and George W. Bush is the president of the United States, not of other territories. There is no immediately foreseeable harm to having a date for withdrawal, even as a target. And it is extremely hard to see why security in a foreign land can mean economic and societal prosperity in the US. Or so the arguments go: for each one there is an equally impassioned argument to the contrary.
Others will argue that the deﬁcit is a necessary evil for the time being while the country is waging war. That if the United States sorts out a foreign problem, it will lead to greater security at home. That a date for withdrawal simply gives terrorists a target date to regroup and to take over territories from which the US is departing. That the United States had no choice but to be involved in war after being attacked on September 11, 2001: foreigners made the US a global policeman, not the United States and not the President.
So in the midst of these conﬂicting arguments, I believe the job of a leader is to set an example. If the President says that promise-keeping to an outsider is the order of the day—for the sake of this argument I conveniently ignore areas where things are less clear—I can see American companies wanting to build bridges with others in foreign countries.
This happened 10 to 15 years ago, and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the innovations and the new models I cooked up with American partners in business, where we had equal input. I enjoyed the presumption that we were equals in a deal. This happened when the President’s father and President Clinton were in ofﬁce: a Republican and a Democrat.
But of late, dealing with American businesses has been difﬁcult. People talking big and not following through. Others adopting adversarial positions. Trust being eroded.
Many Americans I speak to regret how business has taken a tumble. They, too, notice it in dealings with their own compatriots.
Haven’t I just shot my own argument in the foot? If the President is so high and mighty, surely I wouldn’t have these troubles working with his nationals?
Here is where I see the example being set and the message being communicated as being two different things, and this is where the problem actually lies.
A few years ago, I submitted some research to the National Security Adviser on branding. I offered the viewpoint that the US needed to have a uniﬁed brand, and that the work of Ms Charlotte Beers at the time was insufﬁcient (or, at best, it needed more resources). This was a bit before Simon Anholt became as active as he is today in nation branding, but it was at a time when I felt sure that Dr Condoleezza Rice would be asked to be Secretary of State in President Bush’s second term (yes, I predicted he would win).
I do not recall in depth the actual brand that I proposed to Dr Rice, but I touched on the disunity between the White House and the messages actually getting out of the country. Most relied on the US’s liberal media outlets, which have been shown to be biased, most recently at a university in a liberal state.
The media have created disunity, and that in turn affects the public. The fuelling of one political viewpoint has meant that the public perceives a tyrant for a president, if they rely on the network television programmes. Surprisingly, Brit Hume’s show on Fox News, blasted by some as being right-wing, has been found to be one of the most balanced; as has Gannett’s USA Today newspaper. However, not every American turns to these news sources. And not every American can believe the President when he says the economy is strong, or that he is keeping government spending in check.
So what can one do? Side with the Republicans and spread the cheer in the hope that that will balance the bias? Or simply be more selective about what we read, watch and listen to?
Or do we, too, stand out here with our own example and hope we can lead?
Maybe this is why the bloggers are rising and the mainstream media need a rethink.
And, I would even venture, actually supporting the President on some of his more visionary ideas, especially ones we can agree on. If we can start with where we agree, we can create dialogue in areas where we disagree.
Taking Iraq aside, there are positions which I believe even President Clinton would be happy to endorse:
We must also change how we power our automobiles. We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips, stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years. Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 per cent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past. …
Yet the destination of history is determined by human action, and every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing. Lincoln could have accepted peace at the cost of disunity and continued slavery. Martin Luther King could have stopped at Birmingham or at Selma, and achieved only half a victory over segregation. The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others. Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: will we turn back, or ﬁnish well?
I say, as world citizens, let’s work with the United States on the areas that better all our lives. And even get the nation thinking of becoming not just less oil-dependent, but moving away from fossil fuels altogether.
Del.icio.us tags: George W. Bush | State of the Union | war on terror | Osama bin Laden | USA | politics | nation branding | media bias | liberal media | mainstream media | alternative fuels | fossil fuels Posted by Jack Yan, 02:13
The BB is sleeping
With one post shy of 600, I gave the Beyond Branding Blog the coup de grâce today. It’s not dead, but it is now an aggregate of selected BB authors’ work.
It wasn’t easy. For those of you who began reading my blog because of the BBB, you’ll know that from May 2005, I was there regularly. Prior to mid-2005 I was a one-post-a-quarter guy. Then I caught the blogging bug.
I recall one post from another blogger saying, not in these exact words, that the BBB had lost a bit of its loving feeling prior to my starting. Maybe that was true: most of the bloggers who were there regularly had gone off to their own blogs—Johnnie Moore is perhaps the best known among us. And we found greater authenticity and ﬂexibility in our own spaces. And Johnnie told me recently that just prior to my going “on duty” at the BBB, he had planned to shut it down.
It had become, after all, less of a collaborative blog, and the rise in the BBB’s ranking of late had really been down to me. So in mid-January I posed the question: are you coming to read me, or coming to read Chris Macrae, the other blogger there regularly? I resisted time and time again to start my own, which Johnnie had encouraged me to do (once in mid-2005, and again when he called me over the holidays).
I had good reason to be suspicious. My experience in the early years of blogging was that it attracted idiots with very little to say—something that had changed a lot since 2003. Jessica Cutler might have changed all that as she made blogging mainstream: there is gold in gossip, and there are people wanting the low-down on low-brow. One acquaintance, Ellen Simonetti, was ﬁred from Delta Air Lines for, inter alia, keeping a blog. A sad reﬂection of our society, so maybe it was time for me to have my space. To put back some optimism into the virtual world. But I do justify ex post facto.
After encouraging messages and one phone call, I decided to depart and admit that Johnnie’s way was right after all. Chris, as some of you know, has many blogs, so his participation wasn’t for want of an outlet. Evidently he felt that BBB readers deserved to know of his other networks and his concerns, and, nobly, kept up his writings there.
However, when it is a blog run by one person, it is no longer collaborative, and that, to me, seemed to be a terrible breach of a promise we make each time someone buys a copy of Beyond Branding. We tell them they can continue the dialogue on our blog. But technology comes to the aid of our promise: by aggregating individual authors, we at least provide the right ﬂavour, and when I looked at the BBB today, apart from my messages announcing the changes, it actually began to have the ﬂavour of the ﬁrst month we were online.
Using Feed Digest, which Johnnie had signed up to earlier, four blogs were chosen—I’ve just added Ton Zijlstra’s as a trial. The Feed Digest admin has been particularly helpful in testing the Atom and RSS feeds for us.
Now we are all blogging independently, and doing so freely. We are no longer tempering our posts to suit other authors’. But the odd thing is that the passion seems to have returned. It’s this passion, not writing style or rigid formality, that seems to drive sites like Ohmynews.com so well. I hope the loving feeling is back—and that that will be useful to those Beyond Branding readers who wanted to extend their reading. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:19
NoteEntries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.
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