And now, the €123 computer
A Chinese company based in Macau has come up with a computer that costs €123 (US$146), can be plugged into TVs, has the speed of a Pentium III, and runs on Linux (brought to my attention at The Globalisation Institute Blog).
The Municator might not be the most glamorous out there (and the logo looks naff), but for companies in Red China wondering how they would get their brands known in the west, here’s one method. Produce something for the masses, just as Fiat did with its nuova 500 (Bambina), or BMC with its Mini. While these aren’t parallels, they do show that anticipating the consumer works. Producing something that helps bring poorer consumers into line with their richer counterparts, bridging gaps or democratizing, so to speak, is usually a successful way of establishing yourself.
Never mind if it reaches the west for now: word has already gone around the blogosphere, and the Municator seems to be a more realistic proposition than the MIT $100 laptop. In addition, its entry into poorer markets is foreseeable, and if those consumers can join the information superhighway, it is another step toward breaking down cultural barriers and misunderstandings.
The Guardian’s blog does question the computer’s OS’s (the Thinix OS) legality, which seems to be the only hitch; however, the former democratic cities of Hong Kong and Macau tend to be more aware of intellectual property issues. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:14
The ﬁrst Bloggers Quit Smoking Day
If it weren’t for coComment and blogs, this might never have happened. June 13 is the ﬁrst Bloggers’ Quit Smoking Day.
Two friends of mine, K in Hong Kong and C. Trinity in Antwerpen, are smokers who have toyed with the idea of quitting. But how? C. has a boyfriend who smokes. K has been ambivalent about it. Solution: after encountering each other via coComment and via blogs, they have come together to decide that June 13 is the day they’ll stop. OK, I might have had a little to do with it, but it wouldn’t have worked without their saying yes.
You can see how this all came about, in the comments of a post K made.
If other smokers want to join in, regardless of where they are, they should pop by to K’s blog, K, Speaking!, and you can all do it together, globally. Maybe enter a comment and support them?
Del.icio.us tags: Quit Smoking Day smoking blogs social media support global international Web 2·0 Posted by Jack Yan, 11:00
Restarting globalization, on our terms
I am not sure if the blame can be levelled at the President as Sebastian Mallaby’s article’s headline seems to state (‘Blame Bush—Why Globalization has Stalled’), but it is true that there is an unwillingness among global institutions like the IMF, World Bank and the UN to act in the interests of a single planet. Indeed, they now look like a bunch of ineffective old farts—even though, with the general population’s desire for world peace, the planet is more ready to embrace a global society than ever.
What is our solution? A bunch of new institutions? I don’t think so.
Are we, as citizens of the world, ready to step up to the plate, and maybe use these blogs to do something for the planetary good?
I’m thinking about individuals directing funds where they need to go when it comes to aid projects. But even getting more involved in politics—creating movements through blogs where we can affect local and national politicians. In fact, having politicians who are bloggers themselves, and putting our efforts behind them.
I know these little steps aren’t going to replace the IMF, the World Bank or the UN overnight. But if we get things right at the citizen level, the higher levels will work themselves out. If these institutions become irrelevant, something needs to ﬁll the void. And those of us who have the wealth and these blogs and the technology seem the best equipped to step up to the plate and create a new system of one-on-one (or community-to-community) relationships.
One acquaintance of mine, who worked for some UN-related institutions, said with pride how multilateral agreements saw to the use of cellphones internationally. How you can call in one country and have it supported in another.
Big deal. I don’t use cells, so the agreement is unimpressive. It doesn’t exactly help those too poor to own cellphones, either.
It seems to me that if it is for their own convenience and luxury, then multilateral agreements are easy. Anything beyond that seems hard.
I wonder if the east will do a better job as it ascends, notably India, the world’s largest democracy and potentially the next free superpower.
However, we need to look at our own doorstep in the occident, too, to participate in the global movements of our planet. Maybe by ourselves, or on our street, or maybe in a small consortium of active do-gooders, we can make some changes when our institutions mess up. We’re better prepared to do this than at any time in history.
Del.icio.us tags: globalization global globalism UN World Bank IMF democracy multilateralism Posted by Jack Yan, 09:51
Good Morning, Mr Cruise (and others)
Just so the television viewing public is clear, my recent comments over the last two weeks of Good Morning about the following are not personal:
Tom Cruise’s daughter being called Cruisette;
the unattractiveness of the current Princess of Wales;
Sen. John Kerry’s kisses with his wife looking weird.
Tom, since I promoted Mission: Impossible III on air, your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to please send me a cheque.
It’s OK: some parts of the show are advertorial. And clearly marked as such. No responsible programme should do anything but distinguish advertising and content, even if there are signs that we are headed more the opposite way. Product placement ahead of storylines and integrity.
Mr President, I was only guessing about your sex life, though given what I said, you might want to send a cheque, too.
Please keep the cheque if you really want to punish me for calling the twins ‘hot’. But, Mr President, you know what it is like with live television. All sorts of stuff come out.
For when I do live TV, there’s more reality than on reality TV. What people see is my real sense of humour. No spin, no watered-down stuff. An opportunity to restore New Zealand television to a level of wit that has been missing since Fred Dagg. Even if modern television is moving against this. But if TV keeps moving that way, no one can tell the difference between the programme and the ads—and then they will stop watching.
No, we need great content. I practise every week some clever lines to say to make the meaning come true.
Thus, I think Barry, Paul and I (and the host Brendon) need our own show. Barry is Hannibal, Paul is Face, I am Murdoch and Brendon can be B. A.
Chelsea, can you ask your Dad about our using the phrase The ‘A’ Team?
We’ll be the best thing on telly here since, well, before Survivor dumbed it all down. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:11
‘Get those **** snakes on the **** plane!’
Because of a tiny involvement in the ﬁlm by way of Lucire (magazines in the seat pockets), I have tracked how the movie Snakes on a Plane has been going in terms of public interest. Right now, while Google News hits are plentiful, the overall number of references in the search engine has dropped dramatically:
January 19: 96,900 (blogs; plus original mainstream media coverage after Wired)
February 1: 461,000
February 5: 380,000
February 15: 176,000
March 25: 880,000 (after news of extra footage)
April 3: 4,270,000
April 8: 6,020,000
April 17: 9,700,000
April 28: 5,390,000
Addenda after this post
May 5: 4,360,000
May 18: 2,820,000
June 2: 4,570,000
June 4: 0! (See here!)
June 10: 2,600,000
July 2: 4,950,000
August 4: 11,700,000
August 18: 18,900,000
August 20: 40,400,000
August 21: 47,400,000
August 22: 56,200,000
August 24: 67,500,000
August 25: 60,900,000
August 30: 54,800,000
September 3: 39,400,000
So, either New Line gets radical on the marketing, as I stated earlier, or reschedule the ﬁlm (for earlier). Or get out an additional trailer out as soon as possible, so that conversation restarts. While 5·4 million references to Snakes on a Plane (in quotes) is higher than when the blogosphere ﬁrst talked about it, the downward trend is noticeable. People are having less fun with Snakes on a Plane, and this ﬁlm, given its B-movie premise, needs to be fun, involving and conversation-generating in every respect.
In fact, let mainstream media carry ads for free as teasers. Every publication will have unsold ad inventory at some time, so provide some artwork for us to download to ﬁll gaps—and let us behave like the bloggers! Convergence of media! (We would even consider it for our magazines, for the heck of it, though this last issue was packed.)
I also learned from Roadshow here in New Zealand that we won’t even see it till November (October 5 in Australia), by which time the hype will well and truly be over. So: get those **** snakes on the **** plane!
Del.icio.us tags: Snakes on a Plane marketing Posted by Jack Yan, 01:30
The war on terror online
Saudi Arabia-originating hackers took down numerous blogs, many (most?) of which are American conservative. A new word appeared in one publication (also hit by the hackers): Islamohackers. I don’t condone hacking, but this sort of labelling is what causes more conﬂict (why not, in the past, Sinohackers, or even a label for the many who originate from eastern Europe, both groups which have caused more damage to our servers than these hackers?).
Nevertheless, it is interesting to observe how the war on terror has an online, politically motivated component, with those who support the President being targets of cyberterrorism (a better word, for me). While I know this sort of hacking is nothing new, it is perhaps the ﬁrst time I have posted while it happens—and note how quickly politically inclined actions are met with political reactions and words.
Michelle Malkin is following which blogs have been attacked (link courtesy Randy Thomas). I hope these blogs are speedily recovered—forced censorship of someone’s viewpoints does not silence that person, but makes them come back more vigorously. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:44
The repositioning of magazines
Markoos, in his comment to an earlier post I made, got me thinking about magazines in the age of the web, and now, Web 2·0.
I had wondered about this myself. In 2000, when I discussed doing Lucire as a print title, the prevailing pre-internet-bust wisdom was that print was a retrograde step. In 2006, with the print magazine on an upward trend, there seems to be enough of a market for it.
Web sites have not replaced all print media, but where have they reached in most? Answer: disposable media. Newspapers and magazines which we do not covet, but throw away after a very short time. Hence, some newspapers this year decided to make an edition some would buy, not because they needed it, but because they were made to think it was special beyond the other daily editions. They did so with cartoons of Mohammed, not in the service of journalism or the public, but in the interest of sales.
In an age of environmental consciousness, why waste all that paper if we can recycle electrons instead, especially for media which we would never covet? Get the information like a Vulcan mind-meld, and move on to the next site.
My belief is that magazines need to bridge the gap between everyday media and the coffee-table book. Marcello Grand, when he began Black & White (a photography magazine whose early editions, at least in my memory, had an awful lot of nudity), bridged that—mainstream titillation with artistic merit. With The Robb Report wanting to ﬁnd a new home after so many successes, there is clearly a —niche for the premium magazine (which was the purpose of my post).
However, niches are just that: niches. When ﬁlled, you had better ﬁnd another means of differentiation or positioning, two of branding’s tasks. My view has been that Lucire must reﬂect a sense of covetousness, so people would buy it as an indulgence, a magazine which they would keep. It needs to look good on coffee-tables but be more affordable than an art book. (Fairfax’s Cuisine does this successfully.) Yet positioning it in a too-rich niche would be silly, because you would never reach a mainstream audience. Hence, Lucire has to cover affordable things, too, so it builds afﬁnity—another branding task—and deliver what I say is necessary in the mid-2000s: attainable luxury.
This is a trend with so many premium brands, anyway: BMW 1-series, Emporio Armani, and the like. And mainstream is trying to be premium: to wit, the Volkswagen Golf. Yet few seem to cover this segment. Vogue tries, and probably succeeds because it is Vogue and its brand has created habits for so many over 116 years. But the approach I take, to me, makes sense. Since I was born on the day Condé Nast died, I like to think my approach may well be the right one in this sector for this century.
Del.icio.us tags: magazine media Lucire Vogue positioning brand disposable media mainstream premium attainable luxury market niche marketing marketing branding newspaper Posted by Jack Yan, 00:04
This time, it’s the personal blogs
When you look at the top blogs in coComment, they aren’t the usual famous names. Scobleizer is number three. Instead, the two top slots are occupied by personal, arguably lesser known blogs; the conversations among coComment members, which I would imagine are a useful sample of the blogosphere at large, are taking place on them.
I can draw several conclusions:
blogs are not a new form of journalism or media, because people are using them more for hobbies than as a replacement for traditional news from specialists in that particular place;
the opposite of the above: people are using them as a replacement for news but no longer distinguish daily news-gathering from socializing;
successful blogs are where conversations take place, and they are increasingly taking place on personal sites discussing everyday things;
it’s simply easier to post brief, pithy comments to casual bloggers than responding to the well thought-out arguments of experts, so of course personal blogs are more frequented now than those tied with a profession or industry. (Scobleizer enjoyed a higher ranking in earlier days of coComment.)
I am an optimist. I believe these dialogues are bringing people from across the planet closer together, reducing cultural misunderstandings. We learn our frame of reference is not universal after all. Through it, we’re ﬁnding out more about ourselves. We simply visit different destinations on the web, and since the computer is part of our working lives, the blogs are welcome reliefs on the information superhighway (ah, that retro 1990s term). They represent the promise of the original web: international destinations, where geography is unimportant. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:54
The Viral Garden rates this blog
I was delighted to learn that this blog is among the top 25 in marketing, according to a very time-generous blogger, Mack Collier, who went and found Alexa rankings of the ones he knew of. Mack puts this blog at number 17, a statistical dead heat with Johnnie Moore’s—which is a huge accolade. Seth’s Blog, Guy Kawasaki and Gaping Void are the top three.
It’s still heartwarming to me that between 50 and 100 people a day will pop by to watch me at my hobby, but I have always maintained that if, through it, I can help people, then it makes me happy.
Meanwhile, as of today, Technorati has me ranked at 30,092, which is also heartening.
The weekend looms and another deadline has passed. It may be time to blog a bit more after such a busy week. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:54
I’m at the ofﬁce, late, watching the next issue of Lucire get PDFed for the printer. I’ll be here for some time, as there are some huge ﬁles here, but at least it will give me time to ponder tomorrow’s segment on Good Morning.
Barry (who should be back), Paul and I are talking about romance, how real it is, when it wears off, and can it be sustained. As you can gather, we seem to get roped in to the “he says, she says” topics a great deal, but I believe for the ﬁrst time we are not following in the footsteps of envious women. Their segment did not air due to Anzac Day.
It may be time for us to be ﬁrst. We’ve had weeks of men-bashing and a day of Donna-bashing from the women.
But it leads me to think whether romance is valued.
Over the past week, I have been chatting to a female friend down south about this very topic. She’s married, so she says she lives vicariously through me for the single-life stories. And since my last personal post, some of you know I have an interesting life.
She told me that New Zealand women simply did not send out the glad eye quite as well as their overseas counterparts. In Europe, and sometimes in the United States, I know where I stand. Courtship just seems easier, even though, ironically, I grew up in New Zealand. I don’t get dissed by a girl for opening a car door for her because I have offended her sense of equality. They enjoy the fact I stand when they return to or depart from a table. Politeness seems to work nicely. It’s particularly novel when you are heterosexual.
Given my parents had the sort of relationship that made Rob and Laura Petrie look like child molesters, I would say it is possible to retain that romance throughout.
But are those role models there? I don’t, for a second, say that we should all be watching Growing Pains, The Cosby Show and Family Ties duke it out. Modern sitcoms reﬂect a modern society, where executives spend 35 minutes a week with their sons (while they spend 20 hours chatting online), where in the 1990s, Ross and Rachel would not have problems if those two little whiners off Friends just communicated.
As a publisher I feel a sense of responsibility over what I portray to young people. Lucire has a surprisingly high teen readership (we survey 15–24s) and our social responsibility is part of encouraging positive behaviours not just with our own generation, but with the next one. By all means, have media that react to daily life. But how about creating exemplary behaviour?
The rituals of courtship have remained fairly constant for a few millennia, ever since we stopped bashing our potential mates over the heads with clubs and dragging them off to the cave. Some still use a variant of this, except the club is replaced by booze, though the booze is served in a club. But those of us who have evolved a bit from Neanderthal Man like to use charm, wit, and a genuine investigation into whether sparks ﬂy. And when you have to live up to what my folks had, that’s a high bar to clear. However, I know it’s possible.
What chance do today’s kids have? I was blessed with a great family. If the media are all they have, then we could be in trouble when it comes to courtship and romance.
Another friend recently had to take his daughter’s cellphone off her. In the space of 10 days, she had turned from an outgoing, bright girl to a complete introvert after getting her ’phone. Since her parents are not heavy cellphone users, she is getting this from peers and the media. Staring into a screen and calling that “communication”, when it is stiﬂing that very thing, seems unhealthy to me. Interpersonal relationships make the world go around.
Her folks caught this early. Others will not. And basing your entire life off text messaging must really take the spark out of courting.
Since we can’t depend on media, we can’t depend on the state, and family means something very different to what it used to, then isn’t setting the right example down to each and every one of us? We should set exemplary behaviour, not solely because of some cosmic, karmic reason—but because the kids are watching. Everywhere. The “me” decades have not exactly served us any better than the “we” decades. And whether we like it or not, we are in this together.
Del.icio.us tags: romance relationships courtship dating courting responsibility media Posted by Jack Yan, 09:09
Since I am getting more involved in the ﬁnancial world (shock, a marketing guy in ﬁnance?!), I was interested to learn from a contact in that industry that CurtCo, the publisher of The Robb Report and Worth (one of my favourites), is selling its 16 titles. From The New York Times:
The proposed sale comes as that high-end market is exploding. A report last month by the Spectrem Group, a Chicago consultancy, said that the ultrahigh net-worth market in the United States nearly doubled in the last three years, to 930,000 households. There are also more than ﬁve million households with net worth over $1 million, which aspire to the reach the next level of riches.
The company may have cornered this market. Its family of publications has a circulation of just over a million. Besides The Robb Report and a series of offshoots like Robb Report Luxury Home, the magazines includes Worth, Art & Antiques Magazine and ShowBoats International. …
The company has more than $100 million in revenue, which has grown at an annual rate of more than 25 percent.
They do say that if you can carve out a rich niche, changes in technology don’t impact you nearly as much. It seems to hold true in media, too, with CurtCo a relative newcomer to the internet and yet enjoying huge print publishing (and events’) success. The glossy magazine is far from dead. Posted by Jack Yan, 15:09
Denise Vasi v. Kimora Lee Simmons, as played out at Lucire
I never thought this blog would go around rivalling Hollywood and New York gossip columns, but I hear that Kimora Lee Simmons won’t appear in a Lucire feature (she gets into the ‘Scene’ pages, however). I understand from Lucire’s editor-in-chief that celebrity director Brad Batory on our team asked. The reason? Our ﬁrst (public) print edition cover girl, Denise Vasi, is the young lady who’s now seeing her estranged husband, Russell Simmons.
It seems Mrs Simmons feels she would be following in Miss Vasi’s footsteps, and she doesn’t want to do that, though if I were her, I’d see it along these lines: Lucire is better today than it was in November 2004. So in its evolution, it now goes for Kimora Lee.
Mind you, I know Denise, and she’s one of the most charming and delectable creatures on the planet. There’s no way I’d diss her ever, because in my circles, she’s never been anything but a top lady and a great model. And I admit that she has the same effect on men as lava has on a Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream.
Naturally she was one of our guests at our anniversary party last year in New York, being our ﬁrst cover girl. (There was also some pride from African–American fashionistas that we débuted with a minority.) And it seems to indicate that Lucire has as much luck in spotting future talent in print as we always had online. It’s the old “Lucire cover blessing” that held online for years.
It’s hard not to take sides here when one party doesn’t want to appear, even though we have given Kimora Lee and her jewellery company (the Simmons Jewelry Company—I even Americanize my spelling for her) a huge boost in our shoots and in our news coverage. C’mon, lass, you’ll be great in our pages. Remember the Lucire cover blessing.
Del.icio.us tags: Kimora Lee Simmons Denise Vasi Lucire Russell Simmons Posted by Jack Yan, 10:38
Turning direct marketing on its head
My colleague Alan Mitchell, whom I encountered through being a member of the Medinge Group, has a post on his blog about the fallacies under which direct marketing operates. His idea is that harvesting data behind consumers’ backs is not the answer in the 21st century, when citizens are concerned about privacy (behind crime and education in ranking terms). At the core of Alan’s principles is trust—trusting consumers enough so they will volunteer information, when they see ﬁt.
Thanks to Chris Lawer for reminding me of Alan’s post. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:48
Your turn, America
Just because I was one of the ﬁrst people to write about nation brands does not mean I am the best informed. That honour probably falls on a few people, and among that group is Simon Anholt.
I’ve known Simon for a wee while and was very happy to see that the index of nation brands is named for him—since he has had more to do in a high-proﬁle sense with the subject than anyone else on the planet. And on this index, for those who haven’t followed it, the United States comes dead last in the cultural heritage stakes.
Simon believes that the goodwill the US has had over the last few decades has worn off. It’s people like me who still have a fairly romantic notion of what American business stands for, but anyone younger outside the United States might view it very differently. If we do not watch out, the next generation might grow up watching Al Jazeera International and not CNN.
Those at my ofﬁce have heard me lament for the good old days of the great American corporation. Ten or ﬁfteen years ago, my experience was that the American business person could not be surpassed for professionalism or honour. There were obviously exceptions to this, but you saw that on TV. Everyday businessmen like me didn’t encounter them.
Maybe it is the involvement of Lucire in the fashion sector that has seen a few more ratbags come our way. Like my Hollywood friends who note that their town attracts its share of ego-hungry, empty people (the truly successful work their asses off), fashion attracts plenty of those who see it as glamorous and easy—when those of us on the coal face know it is anything but. Looking glamorous is gritty, hard work.
In 2005 alone we confronted about four parties in the United States who tried to con us out of thousands, and in one case, actually made off with $7,000. I don’t mind admitting we were a little too trusting, and that is the price one pays. And then one begins to realize just how some people can associate the behaviour of the few with the entire nation—like those who think Muslim fundamentalists are representative of all Islam. Because it is awfully tempting to slag off all Yanks after those experiences—even the good ones who, like me, bemoan the behaviour of a few who are letting their side down.
I am too involved, I have too much history, and I have too many family members who are proud Americans for me to ever step across that line. Defending American values—the good, universal ones that we all have, regardless of nationality—has almost become a secondary activity. And funnily enough, that has included, at work, reminding young Americans what draws people like me to deal with their nation—things they themselves are surprised to hear.
On a regular basis I see people forget what is written in their own Constitution, behaving in ways that are actually contrary to the values set down by their nation. Mistrust before trust; where a man’s word is worthless. And when Americans visit here, I hear this comment: ‘New Zealanders are so friendly. It’s like what we used to be.’
So how does one repair Brand America? Simon’s book, bearing just that name, has many clues, but I particularly enjoyed his answer to a question posed to him by a Financial Times reporter:
[I]n my experience of working with governments around the world, it seldom is possible for a country to actually change its brand. These are deep underlying prejudices that we’re talking about here.
As I say, nation brands are like starlight. Any astronomer will tell you that the stars you think you see in the sky died millions of years ago. It’s only the light that has reached you now. Today, the modern image of Scotland was single-handedly created by Sir Walter Scott two hundred years ago, that’s how slowly these images move. So it’s simply unrealistic to imagine that one can reverse a decline in a nation’s image overnight, to do it thoroughly and to do it properly, so that you can look back and you can say we ﬁxed that, it’s going to be 5, 10, 15, 20 years.
Now that doesn’t mean you can't do things straightaway and achieve some wind straightaway, and that’s very much were BDA [Business for Diplomatic Action] comes in. But the very ﬁrst step has got to be to understand it, to understand exactly how people see this country or any other country. And that itself is very difﬁcult because it’s about abandoning your own cultural ﬁlters.
One of the things that the Nation Brand’s Index shows incontrovertibly about America is that the criteria which Americans use to judge success are entirely different from the criteria that people in other cultures use. If you go by American criteria, America is top of every list. Clearly, the world does not share these perceptions because the criteria are different. You have to see yourself as others see you.
America’s primary problem in all of this is it has a ﬁxation of universality. It believes that the baseball World Series can be called the World Series, even though there are no foreign teams on it. There’s a cigar shop down the road here, which is called the World’s Greatest Cigar Shop because it’s the best in New York, so it must be the best in America, so it must be the best in the world.
Now, we joke about this, but the fact of the matter is, America’s primary problem is that it has this ﬁxation of universality. Only when it has abandoned that will it start to be able to begin the process of ﬁxing that problem, which is why I used those words “if you like” to understand that American has no God-given right to dictate terms on other thing to anybody. It has to be here, with all that massive power, at the service of other people if they want it.
Now that, you’re absolutely right in suggesting, is a very long process. It’s generational change. It’s educational change. And BDA, quite rightly, are going down to primary school level to talk about ﬁxing this. And in the strategies that I create for some of the countries I work for, it almost always starts with education.
Because to make a population more welcoming or whatever, you are talking about a generation’s worth of change. We can do some things in the short term but the process is a very long one.
I have been querying this after I read it. Yes, it is very convincing. To me, there is nothing wrong with core American values because, as the President said in his second inaugural address, many of them are universal values:
From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this Earth has rights, and dignity and matchless value because they bear the image of the maker of Heaven and Earth. …
Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen and defended by citizens and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation ﬁnally speaks, the institutions that arise may reﬂect customs and traditions very different from our own.
America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others ﬁnd their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way.
The fact different nations apply them at different times and in different ways is where we encounter problems with the ‘ﬁxation of universality’. That is where things slip up.
Simon is correct when he says it begins with education. The problem is not so much that new values need to be learned, but that old values need to be learned and applied. The four fast-talkers of 2005 that I refer to know the vocabulary—they know words like honour and responsibility—but they sure don’t know how to live them. And I can name a few more, even in my personal life, who exhibit cowardice when they talk about honour. The values are there, the words are there, but for some—and from what I can tell, an increasing number—the application is not.
The second change that needs to be made is an awareness of a global society. If a nation’s values are to survive, they need to be strong against others’. But there seems to be little comparison between American values and others’ values in the American classroom. Sure, that is second-hand information and I haven’t visited a US classroom for ﬁve years. But I have the ﬁrst-hand witnessing of how American business is being conducted—and it is not nearly as well as it was 10 years ago.
Why bother with other nations? The greater you want your inﬂuence to be, the more you must engage with others. Through that engagement, new understandings are made. Human society evolves. What we do not need is this to continue (quoting Keith Reinhard of the BDA, in the same session as Simon earlier):
In a National Geographic survey in 2002, four out of ﬁve Americans between 18 and 34 could not ﬁnd Israel on a map. A third could not pinpoint the Paciﬁc Ocean. So this is a job for education in the United States. [According to the survey, ‘About 11 percent of young citizens of the U.S. couldn't even locate the U.S. on a map.’]
I can say this through reading of my own people’s experimentation with isolationism in the middle of the last millennium. By the time China reopened itself to foreign powers, the Ching Dynasty was corrupt. It was all too easy for the colonial powers to enter, and for revolution—not to mention the events of 1949 which created a communist dictatorship.
I can also say this because the efforts of one man—Peter Jackson—changed perceptions about New Zealand. Because he applied his principles, in efforts that well surpassed all the (mostly ill judged) destination marketing done by the New Zealand Government. He insisted on creating a sort of Hollywood South and even drafted foreign talent here—engagement with other cultures. And when these lovely ﬁlms of his were released, people began becoming intrigued about New Zealand. If we are the “old America”, then I have to take that as a compliment.
Just last week I was invited to join the American Chamber of Commerce here. I had to ask the executive director what its political afﬁliation was—if it leaned toward one party or another. I need to know that the Chamber can do a better job than I have of dealing with the US over the last 18 years. It needs to tell me that it is here to promote values as they are applied to business, before it even begins to tell me how many dollars of trade it is responsible for. And in that, I think the executive director’s letter missed the point of how I can best be drafted in. Because in this age of doubt about Brand America, I need to know that I am going to ﬁnd fellow members who are the type of American that helped me get started in international business.
I have not made up my mind whether I should join. I believe I am engaging with enough nations, learning their cultures, ﬁnding new grounds and ways forward. I’ll keep up my contacts with the United States, because the overwhelming majority of Americans are righteous and decent. But I hope some of Simon’s words are heeded, to restore the image of the United States of America abroad, and to make those values not only sound good, but mean good and do good.
The greater the nation, the more it must have introspection, and the greater the good it must show the world it is capable of. America, it is your turn again to be great.
Del.icio.us tags: USA brand America brand branding nation branding destination marketing tourism marketing nation brands Simon Anholt national image competitive advantage values American values America American education culture dialogue Posted by Jack Yan, 10:30
We want them (not you) to have the best
Via Things that Make You Go Hmm, I learn that Philips has applied to patent a device to enforce ads on video recording devices (application here). In other words, when the ads come on, there’s a ﬂag that disables the fast-forward button. You then have to watch the commercials.
Just yesterday I was saying how there are companies that have not caught on to the 21st century. And companies that do not have a marketing orientation do perform more poorly, according to countless academic studies over the last 25 years.
Philips is essentially patenting a technology that will be resented by people (it admits as much)—which could also damage its brand. I always heard that the folks at Philips there in the Netherlands were more technically oriented than consumer oriented, and this shows so very clearly with this invention. I’m just surprised that a consumer products’ company would actually set out to create something people would hate, in this day and age.
What year is it again? Posted by Jack Yan, 06:28
A post guest-starring Kim Cattrall, with sex on planes, and hype, pure hype
I thought I was a bit more wit’ it when it came to modern vocabulary—quite happy to repeat phrases from Bro’ Town, calling things dope, and using other phrases as if to say, à la Dr Evil, ‘I’m hip. I’m with it.’
I was going to avoid dealing with personal relationships on this blog, but since the cat is out of the bag that yours truly is “between girlfriends” thanks to TV One (cheers Barry), some aspects of being back on the dating scene in 2006 need to be noted.
Seeing is the term used when you are courting but not doing the horizontal tango with the lady. Apparently, dating and going out have now become tainted with sex, according to my interns.
Other terms have remained constant, however. The metric system has not yet inﬁltrated the mile high club in favour of the 1·6 km high club; so that is, at least, one scintilla of dialogue that can remain in Snakes on a Plane (there is such a scene. Or at least there is now).
But in a small place, there is always the danger two chaps go for the same girl. Or you can be a chap like me and go for two girls. Or both can happen. And it did.
The good news is that Girl No. 2 was also pursued by a friend of mine, thankfully of the same generation as me. In other words, we spoke the same language, and did so today. I discussed with him how serious he was, and if he was, then I would take Girl No. 2 off my radar. Juggling two (well, three) is probably enough for one chap. And the same-generation-speak was clear enough: ‘Let’s say we are exploring some options.’ Which means dinner, but ﬁrmly seeing. Though he is hopeful.
Now you may wonder what this is doing on a business blog. Simple.
One is that even ﬁve or ten years will make a huge difference in convention (so just imagine being frozen for 30 years. Throw me a frickin’ bone here). What may be plain to today’s young people—the internet, blogs, an ability to detect Madison Avenue BS—needs to be taken in to account.
Today I surfed into the Nissan Versa site, for a new model about to be launched in the US. (In Australia and New Zealand, Kim Cattrall ﬂogs the car, badged the Nissan Tiida, which is the same name it has in Japan. The Yanks got the more sensible name, though in both cases the goodwill of old names has been ﬂushed down the toilet.) Yes, the site had all the bells and whistles: Flash, a 360-degree model of the car, images which showed the bad interior—but there was one thing that seemed out of place. The copy.
Nissan tells me that the Versa has ‘Jewel-like faceted headlights / Distinctive, multi-reﬂector halogen headlights light up the road in style.’ But since these lights are de rigueur on so many cars now, this is basically telling me the car has lights. I am sure the NHTSA is happy.
Continuing this, the car has ‘Sculpted exterior bodylines / Uniquely expressive exterior lines look good while creating more space inside.’ Translation: it has a waistline.
The only one on that frame I thought was acceptable (only just) was the hype around the ‘streamlined’ taillights.
I could have been in a Burger King looking at the 1950s ads they have mounted in the restaurants down here, and will have read about similar non-innovations from Ford, Studebaker and Oldsmobile. I am just not sure that young people, or indeed, people my age (hey, I’m still young) go for this sort of marketing-speak. In an age of Toyota Priuses and 1,001 bhp Bugattis, I need to hear that there is some innovation. Trumped-up ways of saying a car has lights don’t work.
The Versa is one of the cheaper cars from Nissan and will probably be its cheapest when it goes on sale Stateside (US$12,000). Maybe this is to make budget buyers feel special, able to talk about jewelled headlights (which I had on my Corgi cars in the 1970s) to shame a neighbour who has bought a Hyundai Excel. But to me, it really seems like the ad agencies have not caught up with the 2000s.
The second point is a dialogue always solves problems. Talking about something as delicate as liking the same girl will defuse so many tense moments on The OC. (Mischa, why don’t you come back and stay at the Avalon? You’re a nice neighbour to have.) I wonder how many of these real “issues” are issues at all.
In business, I’ve seen countless dramas that have plagued a company for a day, even mine. I would wake up and hear about some crisis in New York. And I would call. Problem over in ﬁve to ten minutes.
These only get out of hand because people choose for them to be out of hand. I don’t know whether it is to give them a sense of self-importance over who can have the biggest crisis. But neuroses like that get to me. Either solve it or don’t, but don’t inﬂate it.
I am happy to tell people I have a drama-free life, free of romantic hassles, because I just speak plainly. I don’t see much pride in saying that I have a drama-laden life where some broad is seeing my friend behind my back.
It’s also a matter of practicality. In today’s busier life, I prefer moving on with things. And hyperbole and dramatization make life a little too busy when we should be simplifying everything.
Thus it is life for the young person today, who may well have dramas in their lives—and don’t want any more added to them courtesy of advertising agencies. Your dramas add to their dramas.
First rule of branding: differentiation. So, differentiate by simplicity.
So, Nissan, when the Versa comes out, just say you are selling a car. You are making x dollars per unit. It’s the best price you can give consumers. And that if you want the young buyers to care, tell them that none of the components were made in sweatshops.
Still, I suppose telling people that a car has jewelled headlights is better than Kim Cattrall telling us that she has been getting orgasms driving a car that is a ‘lot bigger’ than she thought.
Well, you can in a Nissan. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:47
What you can do to save the world
Dave Pollard writes 15 steps one can take to help save the planet at his blog today. The 15 points are all great and I would spoil Dave’s words if I were to quote too much here, but I would recommend you check them out. The funny thing is, all are delightfully simple—and all can bring about a major change for the better. Heck, even doing six or seven of these would be better than repeating past behaviours that might not have made us happy. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:36
The best book deal youre likely to get this year
I don’t think anyone could deny that this is a good deal. Stefan Engeseth is giving away 100 copies of his new marketing book, One, which has literally just come off the presses. It’s the follow-up to his earlier, and quite successful, Detective Marketing. All you need to do is download the ﬁrst chapter (yours truly created the layout), give him a darn good reason you deserve the book, and he’ll choose from the best responses. See his blog post today for more info. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:13
Hang on lads, I’ve got a great ID
A few clariﬁcations need to be made to next month’s Lucire, when it hits newsstands on May 8. From my report on Vodafone ID Dunedin Fashion Weekend:
On the night, things progressed smoothly although Viitala had had a few drinks backstage to calm his nerves—and was anything but calm when it was announced he was the winner. His happiness was very apparent to the Dunedin audience …
Translation: he was pissed off his rocker and loving it.
And a postscript, which may or may not be edited:
Postscript: Rimington, who ﬂew back a day before I did, was refused carriage by Wellington Airport’s taxi drivers as his destination was Lucire HQ—considered too short a fare. As this is the second time Lucire staff have been illegally denied a ride in New Zealand in six months (see Lucire November 2005), we say ‘Shame’ on the Auckland and Wellington taxi profession. Taxi company supervisors and the Taxi Federation will be called to speak to drivers on the spot in future.—JY
Translation: we feel shaming you publicly works better than approaching the Taxi Federation for now. TV3’s Target exposed this last year, but it looks like the taxi profession has not learned its lesson. By telling a few tens of thousands of people about it, they may begin to look at alternatives.
As stated in Lucire last year, the reputable Corporate Cabs was one of the companies refusing service. Which goes to show: the more your brand promises, the more I’m bound to notice it when it slips up. Posted by Jack Yan, 03:16
Now this is American talent
As if to remind readers of my point yesterday that young people had wise ideas that, if given the chance, could help all life on this planet, The Philadelphia Inquirer featured today West Philadelphia High School’s sports car undergoing trials for May’s Tour de Sol in New York.
The roadster took out the Tour de Sol, an environmental cars’ race, last year. What’s more impressive is that it was built by high school students who had to raise the ﬁnancing themselves. Then they had to build it from a K-1 kit car, Volkswagen and Honda bits. To top it off, it does 50 mpg with its turbo-biodiesel–electric hybrid system.
If the students were to take out a second Tour de Sol, scholarships, jobs and grants may be heading their and their school’s way.
And before you think it looks like a rough soap-box racer, think again (photos here). This is exactly the sort of spunky coupé Detroit should be turning out—not retro gas guzzlers—to beat the imports and to close the lead the Japanese have on hybrids. Electricity coupled with turbo-biodiesel sounds sensible and, as these students have proven, practicable. Why America doesn’t take that initiative and leap-frog everyone, rather than create cars that are just “good enough” to fend off the imports, I plainly do not know.
Del.icio.us tags: car hybrid energy environment youth innovation entrepreneurship automobile Posted by Jack Yan, 11:43
God likes Frutiger 47
This link (courtesy of Piers Young at Monkeymagic) will be sacrilegeous to some, and funny to others. Some programmers have developed a little applet called iGod, tagged ‘Repenting made easy’. This sort of program can trace its development back to early text editors—I remember in DOS there was one called Jive, where it would translate basic English to jive. Here, the theory is you talk to God and He replies, in Frutiger Light Condensed, although you can eventually catch out the program when it gives you a non-sensical response.
The program does state that it is strictly for humorous purposes only. My view is that the Big Guy gives us all inspiration—to make others laugh, to help other living things—so something which touches my funny bone, religiously themed or not, gets my vote. Christ is risen! Posted by Jack Yan, 03:41
There you have it, 200 posts. It has taken me longer to get there: the ﬁrst 100 were driven partly by the novelty of blogging. The second 100 combined a bit more of my daily life along with my traditional subjects, probably yours truly opening up and becoming more familiar with the medium.
I’m not sure how the blogging cycle will go with the next 100, although I would say the second 100 is more indicative. Like Bond ﬁlms, the ﬁrst three were about ﬁnding a formula; the subsequent bunch, by and large, were rehashes.
Sometimes, however, wisdom comes in everyday things. Daily life is full of gems, if you want to ﬁnd them.
I keep going on about dialogue through blogging, creating understanding between cultures. In this blog’s second week, I linked to numerous Muslim blogs, revealing that Muslims were just as concerned about protests started by extremist groups as, say, Fox News was. These people wrote how these groups did not represent them. And they needed to: given the comments I had received, there are people who were ignorant of the views of the mainstream Islamic world. Those people equated the actions of the extremists with those of everyday people—a similar sin would be saying that Timothy McVeigh was typical of Americans. When the ignoramuses read these other blogs, I can only hope they became less prejudiced, and better informed.
Dialogue also helps clear up things in one’s own head. Today, I chatted to one of our former interns, Belinda, about wisdom. Belinda is 20, and a nice lass—though like a lot of people her age, she feels that her elders are smarter than she is. However, she is beginning to discover that adults aren’t always that bright. She has just started a business course, discovering people 25 years her senior were asking rather daft questions.
I said to Belinda that oftentimes, wisdom does not come with age. Wisdom resides in all of us. Wisdom—the wisdom a child might have when saying, ‘How come those two people suing each other don’t just talk?’—is not exclusive to the aged. Experience is what we do not have when we are young, but that does not mean that experienced viewpoints are the best.
What experience teaches us (and why we should respect our elders) is which paths do not work. Experience gives us roadmaps; it tells us where the institutions in society hold up how we wish to get from A to B. Experience teaches us to avoid those obstacles. Experience teaches us how some people lie or use euphemisms. Experience ﬁne-tunes our BS meters.
If we stripped every problem down to the basic issues, there would be no need for a lot of our institutions. For example, in the case of a lawsuit, the basic issue is a disagreement and the need for an impartial third party to make a decision. If that third party was respected enough, there would actually be no need for lawyers—or registrars, stenographers, or even jury members. We would return to the village and the tribal elder. We would sort it out at a marae.
The lawyer, I told her, is not necessarily interested in solving a problem. The good ones are, but equally there are those who are there to increase billable hours, get a proﬁle, look like they are productive in front of the client, and boost their egos. I have seen some documents on a few cases I am working on which indicate that justice is the last thing on the lawyers’ minds.
So, I told Belinda, she should never lose her ideals. Whatever desires she has for her future, she needs to hang on to. Experienced mouths might tell her that they are unattainable. But re-examining that, all it means is learning which paths have not worked in the past. The ideals are still valid, but she simply needs to take another route to achieve them.
Finding that new route is the path of the pioneer, the successful person. I gave her the example of the couple who travelled from Oxford, England to Oxford, New Zealand, driving an old Morris Oxford. Belinda, one day, might travel, like a lot of New Zealanders her age. I gave her the Oxford example as one where two young people got to see the world without going a conventional route.
The only thing experience gave me was a set of skills to help Belinda be more conﬁdent and alert to the fact that she is already wise. We all learn different things: I learned how to inspire and motivate. And I hope she learned today that her age is no handicap and that her ideals should be maintained. I would say the same thing to all right-thinking young people out there.
Del.icio.us tags: experience age wisdom Posted by Jack Yan, 10:21
Post no. 200: Chinese economic integration is dangerous
The Red Chinese press agencies are releasing stories today saying that the Red and the Chinese Republic economies should be integrated, citing globalization and investment opportunities.
That sounds good on paper, in the climate of technocracy and globalization. But it masks the game of silly buggers that the Reds have been playing, including forcing a downgrading of the Republic’s WTO status, as recently as this year. That is not the action of an economy that wants to have bilateral relations, much less one it wishes to have integration with.
The Republic—Taiwan, if one were to refer to the island where it is exiled—naturally has concerns about freedom. Since 1949, the Politburo has shown itself incapable of governing, losing a third of its usable farmland, destroying much of history, and continuing human rights’ abuses. Hardly surprising when the people themselves do not have self-determination, which, the last time I read it, was a requirement for a UN member.
But, supporters (like New Zealand’s Labour government) argue, Red China is a different place. It has opportunity and capitalist tendencies. They ignore the intellectual property concerns (admittedly, there have been some severe and high-proﬁle crack-downs), or the fact that joint ventures require state involvement. Licensing (to start a venture) remains tough. However, most telling has been Red China’s management of the Special Administrative Region—Hong Kong and Macau.
Hong Kong has been through three recessions since 1997, when it was “handed back”. (I am not sure to whom, since the government parts of the city were leased from no longer exists. Hong Kong, from my reading of history, was ceded; only parts of the place were meant to be handed back. However, much of that was superseded when Mrs Thatcher went to Beijing and made a new deal, which made sense given the climate and the argument for territorial contiguity.)
Macau has fared a bit better, buoyed by gamblers coming down from the mainland, probably with funds obtained questionably. It’s now bigger than Las Vegas as a gambling town.
But in both cases, there is no democracy. Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, attempted to usher in democratic freedoms through a Legislative Council. Red China disbanded it, putting in a council which is two-thirds appointed by Beijing. Only a third is elected, effectively powerless.
The Republic will be looking on this with the usual sneering suspicion, seeing that the recessions are vindications of its stance.
But there are additional reasons to resist the call of integration. Red China’s record in human rights is known to most people. In addition, its use of sweatshops should be counted. It is on the worker, naturally, that the Red economy is founded—the Politburo sees the billion people as cheap units of production. For the Republic to integrate means endorsing this view and sacriﬁcing something dear to its own philosophy.
The expert calls by the state media are based on the same arguments as used by the west in convincing us about free-market economies. Fine. I accept many of them myself, but not all. Not when they go so far as to push wages down to mere cents per hour, as companies push for ever-cheaper production methods. Not when things lead to the abuse of people. Not even animals are expected to work, at least in the west, for 16 to 18 hours on their feet, but many a Chinese worker is.
In this climate, the Republic of China, and indeed other Confucian economies such as South Korea and Singapore, have had to found their economic expansion on a mixture of innovation and production. As it became too tempting for the latter not to be outsourced, these economies looked to places like Red China. Not great, but tolerable to a degree.
However, further integration has a danger. Greater involvement with Red China has not been shown to be beneﬁcial for innovation. While a corporation ﬁnds production cheap and the proﬁts healthy, as is the case when one initially deals with Red Chinese factories, it loses its incentive to innovate. Its trade secrets shift to the state-controlled ﬁrms. This is not a strong argument: it can be corrected by corporate-cultural shifts. But unfortunately, this is the reality: only ﬁrms that are strong with their cultures can stand it, and we know that anywhere in the world, these are in the minority.
We need to examine the statistics. The Republic, which is already well exposed to Red China in terms of private investment, did poorly economically last year. South Korea and Japan, less exposed percentage-wise to Red China, fared far better. Economic ties have not served the Republic well.
Engagement with Red China is necessary if we are to steer it into a freer society and, hopefully, lead all Chinese people (whether Han, Tibetan, or any other group) into self-determination. But to follow the advice of state agencies, blindly accepting propaganda (oops, I mean, journalism) in the east and west of Red China’s economic miracle (based on ﬁgures released by the Politburo itself), and not questioning articles that make the Republic appear like a petulant, rogue island, are fatal to the global economy.
It weakens one image that all Chinese business people would like to have, I believe: that we are a honourable people who can show that globalization can be done ethically and morally, to the beneﬁt of all. I see the goodwill that expatriate Chinese like myself washed down the toilet each time I read more junk from Beijing, designed to trick the ignorant westerner.
And all it takes for companies in the Republic, or indeed, anywhere, is to think ﬁrst of people, then proﬁts—but alas, such simple shifts in ideals are too hard for so many corporations, as their intellectual and economic advantages are surreptitiously shifted to the Red Chinese state.
Del.icio.us tags: China Red China Chinese economy integration innovation globalization Hong Kong human rights ethics global economy Posted by Jack Yan, 06:53
Refuse to move
It’s Saturday here, which means the garbage collectors will have ventured my way. My trash or rubbish collection day is Friday, but since that was Good Friday, my area has its service postponed till one day later.
The service has been changing over the last 20 years. When I ﬁrst emigrated here, these folks would come on to your property, collect the garbage, and move on. They would often jump fences, but it was all in the name of service. On the last collection day before Christmas, we would buy them a six-pack of beer and three bags of potato chips and leave a thank-you note.
One day in the 1980s, it was all restructured. Supposedly it was to help with efﬁciency or some monetarist garbage. (I believe in efﬁciency and markets, sure, but in this and many cases, where government is involved, it turns out to be BS.)
Right afterwards, we saw to a reduction in service. We would have to take our own trash to the street, otherwise you wouldn’t get a darn thing collected. The bags would have to be purchased, because unofﬁcial bags would be ignored.
Conclusion: no more beer and chips for guys who still work hard, and who perform a vital service. Because the Wellington City Council changed that entire tradition to something colder—just as the banks did in the 1980s and 1990s, and many other sectors I can name. Note to the folks running the joint: you will have to buy your own beer and chips. It is just a faceless, inhuman operation.
And that is a shame. As I said, refuse collectors perform a vital service. I still appreciate them, personally, because this situation is not of their making, but of progressively greedier mayors and councils in this town.
Our rates are as high as ever, the city no longer enjoys nice budgetary surpluses despite screwing us on car parking and other areas (it is more expensive to park on the streets of Wellington than those of Stockholm or New York), and, to signal to us that things are getting worse, the ofﬁcial rubbish bags have been shrinking. They once wrapped nicely around my trash can, now they barely make it to the top. Oh, they have been getting more expensive as well ($10 for 10 around 10 years ago to $18·50 for 10 today).
Wellington City needs to realize we are not stupid. And we might begin to make our own demands one of these days. That is the topic for another post.
But all these little moves point to covering up facts that ratepayers will ﬁnd out sooner or later, damaging the Council’s brand—and making us less appreciative of initiatives the City may want our support over. We get behind The Lord of the Rings and King Kong premières here not because of the mayor, Kerry Prendergast, but because we love home-town boy Peter Jackson. Try doing the same parties without the guy’s endorsement and see if anyone bothers.
The buck stops not at the refuse collectors, but at the desk of our mayor herself, since we know that, while things are relatively stable, we have to live with the Council. She is the one who campaigns with a massive branding effort at each election. (Mayoral elections in Wellington are less often contested with party brands any more, but with personalities.) And she needs to realize that personal brands have the same behaviours as organizational ones: they make her a massive target when things go bad. The stronger the branding campaign, the more strictly you have to deliver your election promises, otherwise the more you are the source of all blame.
She may want to consider that these developments have all happened on her watch, and that the smell of garbage might not be as readily covered up the next time she campaigns. People might just be reminded that things were better before her term began.
Kerry Prendergast’s re-election campaign will be a tough one to ﬁght.
Disclaimer: the mayor and I know one another, but I have no connections with her or potential rivals whom I know of.
Del.icio.us tags: city services mayoral election Wellington New Zealand refuse branding personal branding Posted by Jack Yan, 22:11
First 100 days (Guy Kawasaki style)
Guy Kawasaki and I have been blogging at our own blogs for about the same amount of time. Except he’s a lot more successful at it. Earlier this week, he summed up his experience after 100 days—and I have to agree with every single point he made. My favourite is his eighth point (original emphasis):
8. A tiny amount of people who read my blog are clueless. My favorites are the ones who complain about four things: the top-ten format; the bulleted-list format; the long length of my posts; and my plugs for stuff that I like. This is akin to going into a sushi bar and complaining that it serves raw ﬁsh. That's what a sushi bar does. Long top tens, bulleted lists, essays, and evangelism are what I do.
I especially love the people who threaten to stop reading my blog unless I stop doing one of those four things. Let me get this straight: You’re going to stop reading my free blog? I hope they have a SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Bozo Apparatus) tank because they won’t be able to hold their breath long enough.
How true. Our blogs are about our self-expression and our style. For those of us who write elsewhere, as in magazines and web sites, we’ll adhere to someone else’s rules then. This is our space, just as our homes are our own turf. I don’t complain that Hef walks around his house in his dressing gown with Playmates hanging off his arms. I help people in my own way in my own “home”, and this blog is an extension of my home. Think of it as a home page, differently deﬁned here than with Web 1·0.
Guy, thanks for the great posts over these past 103 days, and thank you hugely for your link to my blog. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:47
A Golf separates the land of the Rabbits
The United States still hasn’t got the Volkswagen Golf V in its market yet, a car which most markets have been selling for a few years. And this week, at the New York International Auto Show, Volkswagen of America announced that the Golf V won’t be the Golf—it will revert back to its original American name (1974–84) of Rabbit (“hat tip” to Uneasy Silence).
Volkswagen’s US Golf sales peaked in 1979, and in 1984, with a global obsession to create uniform brands (Nissan was a good example, abandoning Datsun around this time), the car was renamed Golf, aligning it with the rest of the world.
But VW sales in the Golf sector—yes, some people call it that—are down not because of the name, but because of the delayed introduction of this model, and the company’s failure to expand into niches that Americans want. SUVs and minivans may be passé now, but VW never struck while the iron was hot. You might even say its customer service left something to be desired.
Indeed, it probably has a line-up that appeals to Americans in 2006 and 2007, including the upcoming Jetta Hybrid. Imports from Brazil could bolster its compact and sub-compact line-up. Importing the SpaceFox, the tiny MPV designed to combat the Chevrolet Meriva there, could be an innovation that could take Scion and other trendy brands by surprise. Ditto the Golf Plus. Or Rabbit Plus. If VW had the guts to do it.
Renaming has seldom been shown to solve a problem long-term. And if Volkswagen thinks going back to 1974 and saying there were nostalgic memories of the Rabbit name, I would argue that the 10-year life of the old nameplate in one country is nothing compared to the 22-year life of the Golf name there, reinforced by Americans who travel overseas. If imports are making gains in the US, why depart from a name that makes the brand seem more foreign?
And it can’t just be because Rabbit is a cute, friendly name like Apple. If you look at the most butch and expensive Golfs, I can’t imagine them being anything like rabbits. Not even the Were-Rabbit from Wallace & Gromit.
The change signals a trend away from the sense of globalization, and I suppose I should brace myself for the return of the Volkswagen Dasher for the buyer saying, ‘What the heck is a passat?’
Del.icio.us tags: Volkswagen VW Golf renaming brand globalization Posted by Jack Yan, 22:40
Why are there *** snakes in the *** bank?
This is more an example of people being aware of related news thanks to the Zeitgeist, in this case the movie, Snakes on a Plane. From the Uneasy Silence blog, which I have frequented more of late, there is a link to a Reuter report of a man releasing his pet snakes inside a bank in South Africa:
He later threatened to blow up the bank, demanded payment of 10 million rand (933,000 pounds) and eventually released what he described as his “pet” snakes in the bank, SAPA said.
Note, however, that this incident predated the commencement of ﬁlming of Snakes on a Plane. Who was ﬁrst? (Actually, the ﬁlm script was.) In which case, why, all of a sudden, were snakes in the Zeitgeist in 2004?
Plus, Flickr reveals people are doing Snakes on a Plane parties.
Del.icio.us tags: Snakes on a Plane | Zeitgeist Posted by Jack Yan, 22:07
Labour loves rich fat cats, hates giant chickens
A giant chicken was handing out ﬂiers today on Lambton Quay. And from what I know from watching Family Guy (left), giant chickens are not safe. You can wind up having a massive ﬁght with them.
It turns out the giant chicken—OK, a guy in a chicken suit—was campaigning for an animal action group, the Wellington Animal Rights’ Network. ‘Over 2·5 million hens suffer inside battery cages in NZ,’ read the ﬂier’s headline.
I thought it was a ﬂier to promote the purchase of non-battery eggs, which I have been buying for some time. I’ve seen the prices fall as more consumers become clued up. But the battery-egg people know about this. By rebranding their eggs as ‘Farm Fresh’ or ‘Country Fresh’, consumers have been fooled—I know, as my father was one—into thinking they are non-battery.
It had a bit more. It told us that the Green Party’s Sue Kedgley rightly has a bill in Parliament, the Consumers’ Right to Know (Food Information) Bill, that will legislate so that battery hen farmers will have to label their products accordingly. We were to write to our local MPs to get them to support the Bill.
That would have been the end of the post till I discovered that Ms Kedgley’s bill is the one designed also to ﬁght the New Zealand Government’s proposal to end country-of-origin labelling for food.
Yes, you read this correctly. After all the great social policies espoused at the time of the 1999 election, Labour is even further to the right than the right-wing parties on these issues, selling out their voters.
Oops, didn’t I say this in the 1980s?
Ending country-of-original labelling is the opposite to the global trend, which is to inform consumers. The government’s move seeks to deceive consumers to make less healthy choices in food. GE crops, food laced with chemicals—things New Zealanders say they do not want. We expected the government to act accordingly. The Australian government has—in fact, Kiwis selling there have to comply with strict country-of-origin labels.
Ms Kedgley said in a press release:
The Government’s astonishing stance has been taken in spite of the Australia–New Zealand food policy-setting body announcing this week in a policy directive that it supports mandatory country of origin labelling of food. At present the labelling is mandatory only in Australia, under a temporary arrangement, and voluntary in New Zealand.
Ms Kedgley said she understood our Minister of Food Safety Annette King had voted against this policy directive at the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council meeting in Sydney on Monday.
“Ofﬁcials have told me that not only did Ms King vote against the policy directive, but that the New Zealand Government intends to keep ﬁghting the introduction of mandatory labelling in this country, and may even opt out of any future joint standard on the issue,” Ms Kedgley said.
“It is scandalous our Government is opposing our right to know what is in the food we eat and where it comes from—particularly when New Zealanders eat a greater proportion of imported food per head of population than most OECD countries.”
In the months I have blogged, New Zealanders have seen in the news:
• the Minister of Finance, Dr Michael Cullen, telling Japanese investors not to buy New Zealand dollars in the same month certain bonds had to be paid, thereby collapsing the Kiwi dollar from around US$0·7 to US$0·62 so goods cost more;
• a coming free-trade deal with Red China;
• now, the relaxing of country-of-origin labelling requirements.
These all point at one thing: doing Kiwis out of jobs and keeping as many New Zealanders in the dark about “buying foreign” as possible. They favour those who want to source cheap goods from Red China and work in US dollars. Their US dollar holdings are worth more, allowing them to buy more products from an unelected state with a questionable human rights’ record, and sell products made by Chinese workers for 15 to 22 cents an hour to New Zealanders.
I am an exporter. I make royalty income as well, all in US dollars. I do bloody well out of the currency losing its value. I should shut up.
But not when I know I am one of the very few exporters, working in a country where the government has actively discouraged exports. I get no emails from Positively Wellington Business, a fact which thoroughly surprised a journalist today. I get no responses from New Zealand Trade & Enterprise’s Wellington ofﬁces, whether I phone, email, write or make personal requests (and I have to deal with another city). I have had friends, who actually do get answers from T&E, to outsource their production away from New Zealanders and into Asia. First-hand, I know Labour’s policy is to discourage exports as much as possible, no matter what they say.
Given that Labour wants New Zealand to be a net importer—I mean, it has had seven years to show me otherwise, and the balance of trade ﬁgures should show that—then a weak currency will only serve to make things less affordable for New Zealanders.
I do not believe dealing with Red China sends the right signals, when we should be ﬁrmer on its conduct. And creating the potential to misinform consumers goes totally against our desire in the 21st century for transparency. Food ﬁrst; what next?
To Labour voters, I ask if supporting right-wing fat cats was what you envisaged when you cast your vote in 2005. Because these policies only help importers who want to destroy Kiwi jobs.
You can do something about it. Write to your local MP and ask them to support Sue Kedgley’s bill.
I never thought I’d see the day when I’d blog about supporting a Green bill, but there you have it. I have to say the lady is right and the government is wrong. In fact, the government makes us a laughing stock among western countries on these issues.
I say we get some balance and sense back in to the country. As an exporter, show me a bit of respect by helping me give my fellow countrymen jobs, lower my taxes, and let the currency go down when we are good and ready to deal with it. By all means, let us have free trade, with lower tariff barriers—but when we are ready, as a nation, to capitalize on it.
Oh, Prime Minister, Ministers, I said as a nation. Not as a bunch of rich fat asses in a boardroom. If you want to keep your jobs, note that there is a difference. The former group is the one who put you in your jobs, and we sure as heck can take them away from you. (Only thing is, who can we vote for? Beats the crap out of me. Miss Clark and Dr Cullen might yet have the last laugh. But not before generating a lot more poverty by their term’s end.)
Del.icio.us tags: New Zealand | exporters | jobs | animal rights | consumer | transparency | genetic engineering | poverty | politics | policy | globalization | patriotism Posted by Jack Yan, 08:30
In the year, 25
Dannie Jost posted a nice comment at my earlier post today. I had been to Dannie’s blogs numerous times, especially to get a dose of European life. Earlier this month, she posted 25peeps.com, a very simple web site that’s quite indicative of how Web 2·0 is behaving. The premise is simple: 25 images on its home page, vying for room. If your photo is submitted, the least popular is pushed off the page. It’s about staying power.
It’s indicative of Web 2·0 not from the more serious social-media side I normally discuss. It’s indicative because it is an interactive application, done reasonably cheaply, that allows people to have fun.
And for free. Free access to web sites was the great promise of Web 1·0 before many players decided to earn money from it. Old media outlets knew they were sitting on gold mines of archives. In came the ecommerce systems to charge for access.
Call me an idealist, but I retained the free model for all my Web 1·0 sites, and with Web 2·0, it seems that promise will be kept for a lot longer, allowing the sharing and the dialogues to continue. Gone are the days of expensive-to-maintain sites for fun destinations like 25peeps.com or Flickr. The more of these, the more the web will be an enjoyable, global, uniting force. I hope I am right. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:16
Confessions of a blog addict
After being a blogsceptic till around December last year, the irony has hit me: I am the top commenter at coComment, a service used to track comments on blogs (and some forums).
I alternate at the top of the league table with fellow blogger Ryan Benson, whose Ryan’s Blog is the most commented on in the service, with one of the most commented topics. Kind of nice to share the top spot with someone I like—as I mentioned to Ryan, it’s better than someone we each hated. We will probably stay neck in neck and one of us will reach 1,000.
Let’s just say I saw the light of Web 2·0 and am a true believer. The dialogue since I began this blog in January has been nothing short of amazing, and I feel I’ve made some real friends.
Let’s also hope blogging stays fun. The blog-spammers are already making it less savoury, just as they essentially ruined email from being a wonderful, novel means of communication. In my chatting to Stefan Engeseth earlier this evening, he relayed the story of one person who had given up using email—he could not be bothered with the crap.
Thank God I do not use cellphones. I have about as many channels of communication as I can manage for now. I’d like to retain some semblance of “me time”. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:24
Rumours from the grassy null
A few little matters today.
Megan Robinson is running a poll on Thread on favourite (New Zealand) fashion magazines. If you are a Lucire fan, please vote for us. I’m not sure how long the poll will go for.
We may have traced the person who began some negative rumours about Lucire, and she’s the editor of a well circulated fashion magazine. All it takes is an eyewitness who hates you and becomes a grass. Any more speciﬁc and I might be ungentlemanly and reveal who she is.
You have to wonder that in a market-place where we have found room for ourselves, and they have maintained a very strong position, they wouldn’t need to be petty and catty. I didn’t believe it as the ABCs didn’t bear it out, but a client told me they were in decline. I guess if you have to start rumours about someone else, then you must be.
Her brand will forever be tarnished. Pity I don’t think I can ask our grass to reveal herself though the information is credible.
Sooner or later, this stuff gets out into the public—and then what? Why bother jeopardizing yourself?
You’d be hard-pressed to ﬁnd someone on my team who would publicly say, even as a quip at a party, anything negative about a competitor. The “worst” I ever say publicly here is that Fashion Quarterly (not the Jeanne Beker one) is Australian-owned and if New Zealanders want to buy New Zealand-owned, they should choose us. And that is merely a statement of fact.
Speaking of team members, my congratulations to JY&A’s Amanda Dolheguy (above left, in wanky publicity photo). Amanda runs our Christchurch, New Zealand design afﬁliate Delineate, and recently got engaged. It took us seven years to learn to spell Dolheguy and now that we’ve mastered it, she is going to become Amanda van Kuppevelt. I knew all those Dutch jokes post-Goldmember would come back and bite her.
In which case I need to cool off lawyer jokes. And tell jokes about supermodels. Or Charlize Theron. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:43
United Nations bans traditional Chinese fonts—serif fonts next?
The headline is not totally playful. 莫維平 in the Republic of China (I am sorry, I can’t Latinize his name) blogged today that the United Nations is taking steps to give ofﬁcial recognition to simpliﬁed Chinese type. And removing recognition from traditional Chinese. (An English-language blog post is here; a news article here.) The western equivalent would be like saying that any Latin script with a lowercase g like the one in Times or Georgia would no longer be UN-sanctioned, but that the g in Helvetica or Verdana would be.
Simpliﬁed Chinese is a form of type that is a “formalization” of Chinese script, a bit like how the Futura typeface can trace its forms back to humanistic hand-lettering. Traditional Chinese may best be equated to traditional roman type that traces its roots to the Trajan column in Rome.
After 1949, the Communists favoured simpliﬁed script, perhaps in an effort to break with the past. The free Republic based in Taiwan, and Hong Kong and Macau, retained the traditional styles.
I am unsure of the way the United Nations presents its argument, but it is evident that pressure has been brought to bear by the Politburo in Beijing. The UN, ignorant about Chinese affairs as usual, acceded to the demand.
One argument is that 90 per cent of Chinese use simpliﬁed anyway, but this argument does not really wash when placed into a typographic context. Equally, most people writing in the Latin alphabet adopt single-storey as and gs, although double-storey ones are retained in formal typography.
維平 wrote (my translation), ‘Abolishing traditional characters, without doubt, is another kind of cultural persecution.’ He is correct: all this does is weaken the cultural base of Chinese hand-lettering and typography.
If westerners were told that they could no longer use serif fonts, for fear they would not be recognized at the UN, then you can begin to understand what 維平 means on his blog and why many Chinese are upset.
Del.icio.tags: Chinese | typography | script | calligraphy | lettering | United Nations | UN | Politburo | Red China | China | freedom Posted by Jack Yan, 10:28
The globalization sceptic
I do not discount the views of the three books on globalization in this coming week’s New York Review of Books. Globalization and Its Enemies, How We Compete: What Companies Around the World Are Doing to Make It in Today's Global Economy and End of the Line: the Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation might be summed up (very basically) by the idea that global forces do not affect everyday people, who tend to think local and more inward. Yet I do not believe an insular, closed society—which is not what these books advocate—is a way forward. However, a healthy level in questioning globalization’s tenets, as I do here, can only beneﬁt those greater issues facing us: creating dialogue, turning rivals into neighbours, creating world peace and human happiness. Till you get the books, the review is a well thought out piece. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:08
Globalization can be good
In today’s Los Angeles Times, Niall Ferguson defends globalization, fearing that there are certain moves in politics and media that threaten its end. He observes the furore over illegal Mexican aliens in the United States and steps to recognize them, and less recently, the acquisition that was colloquially known as the Dubai Ports’ Deal.
The last time globalization died, some historians say, it was an American backlash that killed it. A century ago, the world economy was in many ways just as integrated as it is today. Migration rates were comparably high, as was trade in relation to output. Capital ﬂows today are bigger in relative terms, but a century ago they were more evenly distributed between rich and poor countries. After 1914, however, globalization fell apart, and by the 1930s the world economy had fragmented—with disastrous consequences for growth and employment.
The great disruption caused by World War I certainly did a large part of the damage, sinking thousands of tons of merchant shipping and severing international telegraph cables. Even before war came, however, globalization was already dying the death of a thousand legislative cuts. As early as 1882, the United States had introduced the Chinese Exclusion Act, the ﬁrst of a series of measures designed to restrict immigration to white Europeans. Quotas for other ethnic groups were introduced between the wars so that by the mid1930s, the ﬂow of new immigrants to the U.S. had all but dried up.
Through my readings, I have seen that there is a connection between the freedom of capital and the movement of people, and economic prosperity. In the 1930s, the Depression had seen to a dangerous economic course. By the end of World War II, economists like Keynes had looked at ways that the state could create progress, to prevent some of the errors of the past.
By the 1960s through to the 1980s, the managers who held more sway in western economies began to abandon Keynes in favour of monetarism—a movement which gave rise to the corporate raiders of late-1960s Britain (such as Slater Walker) and Rogernomics in New Zealand.
Some of the monetarists had a point: there were inefﬁcient state enterprises that needed reform, but in proclaiming their new edict they threw the baby out with the bath water. The state was to be rolled back, with subsequent effect on branding. Private enterprise began taking on the trappings of state, with their strategies affecting the welfare of everyday people (to wit, Wal-mart); while the state began looking more commercial, the few state enterprises needing to compete in a commercial reality.
I am not sure if we have achieved a sense of balance. Those who advocate restrictions on large corporations like Wal-mart, which has been mistreating some of its workers, could also be throwing the baby out with the bath water. The spectre of protectionism, the severing of global ties, the closing of borders, are perilous at best as they restrict the freedom of movement of people, and of their capital. Diasporas sending money back to the old country creating some sense of global equity, or even plain old learning found through international travel, will suffer. How do we cast out the bad, and retain the good, in globalization?
The great sin is not so much the politics behind policies, but the removal of human emotion from them. Humanity wishes to be free, happy, productive, helpful: they are not units of production.
We are at a stage where globalization is real—in that global networks such as the internet, and these blogs, link people of all creeds and cultures together. This is still largely slanted toward richer nations, as my maps of the 9th inst. and February 1 show, but the positive forces are there.
Working against these, as some of the moves that Mr Ferguson covers and worries about, is working against the basic desire of people: to have a united world, free from conﬂict. The fact politicians spend millions of taxpayers’ money to talk to other politicians suggests that dialogue is the way forward. This also underpins the job of all journalists. This is an age where that level of internationalism in dialogue is available to more people than ever.
So rather than ﬁght policy against policy, or even nation against nation, we all should ask ourselves honestly, especially those of us in positions of inﬂuence: do our actions beneﬁt that global desire of humankind?
It is a simple question, but obviously not one that is asked often enough, when Wal-mart refuses to sign a pledge to pay maternity leave to Bangladeshi workers—even though it’s the law. Or when politicians talk about restricting access to immigrants, although in Europe, as Mr Ferguson points out, they are needed to help fund an ageing population.
There is nothing wrong with creating capitalist global markets and global dialogue, nor is there anything wrong with allowing the state to participate in the market. There is only something wrong when the considerations of humanity are divorced from them.
Del.icio.us tags: globalization | economics | humanity | emotion | global | society | world | internationalism | global economy | humankind | corporations | CSR | social responsibility | globalism | freedom Posted by Jack Yan, 06:11
The Daleks are running the asylum
Antony Mayﬁeld blogged yesterday about how some headline writers may have to bend to the search engines’ wishes. Google News is now such an important destination for many people for their daily dose of current events that publishers fear that it won’t pick up the more creative headline.
Quoting The New York Times:
The search-engine “bots” that crawl the Web are increasingly inﬂuential, delivering 30 percent or more of the trafﬁc on some newspaper, magazine or television news Web sites. And trafﬁc means readers and advertisers, at a time when the mainstream media is desperately trying to make a living on the Web. …
In newspapers and magazines, for example, section titles and headlines are distilled nuggets of human brainwork, tapping context and culture. “Part of the craft of journalism for more than a century has been to think up clever titles and headlines, and Google comes along and says, ‘The heck with that,’” observed Ed Canale, vice president for strategy and new media at The Sacramento Bee.
This is daft. I thought technology was here to serve us, not the other way around.
Google News won’t pick up Lucire headlines, thinking their ﬁrst paragraph is it. Fine by me: the ﬁrst paragraph is pretty descriptive. And Lucire, the web edition, has been getting search-engine trafﬁc for quite some time—any online publisher knows that.
My solution to these woes? Wait it out. Never sacriﬁce your creativity because that makes you human. And certainly do not sacriﬁce it for a machine.
If, that is, Google is interested in bettering its technology to match what people are doing.
Let’s hope that impetus for improvement is there.
Technology works for humans. End of story.
Del.icio.us tags: media | journalism | technology | Google | news | emotion | humanity | search engine Posted by Jack Yan, 05:29
Report card, please
Today’s map of visitors (thanks to Blogﬂux) may not show a record number, but it is typical of most days, with an international audience.
I ﬁnd these quite fascinating, as I desire for this blog, and indeed, all my sites, to reach a global audience. The reality is that so far, the audience of this blog tends to come from English-speaking countries, with some exceptions in Europe and Asia. It can be compared to an earlier map from February 2006, which shows that I have not been able to hang on to visitors from Africa, South America and other countries in Asia.
Admittedly, there were visitors coming by after the blog was introduced on various services around February 1, but they may well have found content here that didn’t encourage repeat visits.
Back in January, I had stories not just on branding but press freedoms in Red China, and with my unfamiliarity with blogging, refrained from adding too many personal notes. I imagine this is a pattern that many blogs see: a commencement with hard-hitting posts that spurred the original establishment of the blog; but then a sense of comfort, and familiarity with regular readers, sets in. Life also moves on, with my TV spot, and the progress of my work. Commenting on others’ blogs, too, has kept me occupied.
Exceptions that spring to mind include many collaborative blogs, such as CorpWatch, plus How to Save the World.
So how am I going with blogging? Comments are welcome. Is the mixture between serious and personal good, or has the balance been upset?
Before I forget, I need to make a few quick thanks to people who have been making me look sharp on television. Remember those credits in the 1960s and 1970s? Unfortunately, they won’t put ‘Jack Yan’s wardrobe by Botany 500’ on Good Morning, mainly because I am not a star, so:
Suits by Mandatory and Escena
Boots by Dayton Boots
Shirts by Silkbody and Mandatory
Hair by Joanne Smith/Balliage
Thanks to Fi and Clare at Mandatory for styling me. Posted by Jack Yan, 03:13
Airport ’06: Snakes on a Plane needs to avoid jumping the shark
The Snakes on a Plane phenomenon continues to grow, as people take more photographs in a tribute to the yet-to-be-released ﬁlm. We’ve had had T-shirts, blogs, sound ﬁles, logos and general mayhem on the blogosphere about this Samuel L. Jackson movie—in which copies of Lucire can be found in the seat pockets. (You’ll probably have to see the ﬁlm to spot them, as I didn’t see them in the ﬁrst trailer.) Earlier this week, Jacqueline Passey posted a picture of her being attacked by plastic snakes as she ﬂew back from Costa Rica. She is not alone: Flickr is ﬁlling up with them.
Google references for the search “Snakes on a Plane” are at 6,020,000 today, up c. 1,500,000 from March 4, though between that date and now I had seen 8,000,000. The Toronto Star wondered yesterday if the movie could jump the shark before its August release. It is not the ﬁrst time that Snakes’ Google hits have slipped.
It does appear that this brand is being driven more by the public than the studio—which has used a logo from a fan, incorporated a line suggested by another, and has shot ﬁve extra days’ footage due to internet buzz. So if New Line expects to keep the buzz going, it needs to work with the same people to spread the word. The teasing may need to begin now with the studio’s sanction, with fans mounting their own campaigns, with as much informality as possible.
How about it, New Line? Be radical and release some materials so we can go and do your promotion for you? A press release to say you won’t sue if these materials were used around the web and in other media? Maybe even letting me market the ﬁlm in my magazines, since they are on the plane? It could be the most memorable movie-marketing campaign this decade, sparking a new trend in promoting ﬁlm.
Del.icio.us tags: Snakes on a Plane | marketing | promotion | teaser Posted by Jack Yan, 10:13
Wardrobe malfunctions become bigger issue than poverty in India
I have always blogged very highly of India and even its politicians, but spending time in the legislative council arguing over the “wardrobe malfunctions” at Lakme Fashion Week is an exercise that beneﬁts few.
As Amodini wrote in her Review Room blog:
Now reading the [article], one could be forgiven for thinking this was a matter of state importance, you know, akin to the other problems of starvation, malnutrition deaths, abject poverty, bride-burning, dowry, eve-teasing, molestation etc. But no, this is a case of a model losing her clothing while on the ramp. …
The culture where one split-second image of a woman’s bottom on television causes a Legislative assembly debate, but scores of stories of women molested, killed at birth, or murdered engender no response?
To the legislators and police ofﬁcers of Mumbai: don’t fall into this trap. Having the United States and its moral policemen go on and on about it after the Janet Jackson Superbowl gaffe is quite enough for one decade.
I somehow think the moral ﬁbre of most Indians is strong enough to weather one accident, and this wasn’t exactly shown in front of Superbowl-type audiences. Next issue, please. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:47
Dyslexics have all the fun
Earlier this week, my good friend and spiritual brother Stefan Engeseth addressed his dyslexia in a blog post. For those who wonder why an author and blogger has typos, here’s the reason.
I have known for many years about Stefan’s condition. But it has not prevented him from creating great books, with novel and brave thoughts about marketing. Naturally, the books themselves are proofread and presented with perfect English (or Swedish).
But he sees advantages, which ties in well to my earlier discussion with Ryan Benson about disabilities. Dyslexia is not a disability—it is almost an extrability, if I may invent a word. Stefan wrote:
But I ﬁnd [dyslexia] fun and it helps my spelling it also makes me more creative. When I go to different blogs ore websites I often end up in another place because I spell it wrong. So dyslectic bloggers do ﬁnd more new thinks on the Internet (and have more fun surﬁng)!
Consequently, Stefan has been able to incorporate serendipity into his work, his books often drawing from these accidents. He even advocated it in his ﬁrst book, Detective Marketing, where he suggested people get off at the wrong ﬂoor in a building, to broaden their experiences. I agree these are great ways of creating dialogue, human connections, and living a life where one can never complain of being in a rut! Posted by Jack Yan, 07:32
Postmodernism does not exist (yet)
One of our team brought up postmodernism in marketing yesterday, and I began looking for some references. When I was doing my thesis, the European Journal of Marketing had a special on postmodernism, and one of my lecturers prior to that, David Stewart, was quite in to the postmodern concept about 10 years ago.
I always had my doubts about whether postmodernism, in marketing at least, was a real concept. In design, modernism brought order; postmodernism, at least expressed in graphics, tended to be “slightly messier”, from a layperson’s point of view. Postmodern automotive design was typiﬁed by the Coupé Fiat, Alfa 147 and Ford Scorpio, or so thought Stephen Bayley in Car in the mid-’90s. Ten years on, these vehicles look dated, as much as vehicles designed during what could be termed the modern era. They hardly look daring as we became accustomed to them; and the shapes just seem like modernism with embellishments. (If the Coupé Fiat is postmodern, then surely so was the Triumph TR7.)
Postmodern graphics just reminded me of futurism, and some of the chaotic work just prior to that. We are talking mid-1900s. David Carson, Beach Culture, et al did not suggest anything that novel to me—sure, they were clever and I admired them, albeit with a slight aloofness brought by snobbery—but it was not a movement beyond modernism that was unprecedented in history. I also had my doubts at law school that critical legal studies were postmodern, when there were functioning models like Confucianism that could be, at least to me, a resulting, efﬁcient model for law and society remedying a period of chaos. (Or, for that matter, many Paciﬁc island models that are still practised among numerous Polynesians, which seem superior to many occidental ones.)
When researching the topic as relating to marketing to answer our team member’s question, postmodernism is thought of as the consumer empowerment movement—where individuals determine brands’ meanings, not organizations. It is perhaps a more obvious representation of an existing concept being put on to its head: that organizations no longer owned brands, but consumers controlled them through emails, tattoos, and blogs. Individualism, freedom of choice and new social movements are cited as some of postmodernism’s hallmarks in marketing and branding—but is this that new?
The romantic notions of individualism have been with us for some time, and whatever is happening in branding, such as in Stefan Engeseth’s book One, seems to be a logical extension of that. Freedom of choice was the promise of consumerism in the modernist era. As to new social movements: while I am no sociologist, the movements are the same as they ever were, only we are forming more useful groups across planets thanks to electronic communication. Again an extension of what has gone before.
For some reason, I think postmodernism will simply be seen as an extension of modernism by the historian of the mid-21st century. Until our institutions actually change, or our behaviours become far more responsible, and we begin treating the planet’s inhabitants as one, I don’t believe we have a new movement. The next great movement is either a highly pessimistic one (where we destroy ourselves through carelessness in environmental policy and in military strategy), or a highly optimistic one (where, through the planetary emergency we ﬁnd ourselves in, we consciously make a shift to a more caring society where neighbourhoods are globally and virtually structured).
If the blogosphere can grow strongly and quickly enough, then the latter is more likely, as people band together and share their thoughts. Misunderstandings—particularly between states—evaporate into the past. The next generation of politicians, brought up with the internet, seek real relationships via the internet separate from irrelevant and detached institutions. The internet could be the best BS ﬁlter for a generation that can instinctively detect marketing-speak, spin and political gobbledegook. And then we can talk about postmodernism.
Del.icio.us tags: postmodernism | globalization | globalism | global | consumer movement | modernism | marketing | branding | brands | environment | history | internet | blogosphere | design | cycles | policy | Confucianism | politics | romantic | individualism Posted by Jack Yan, 06:51
The dangers of political correctness
Earlier today, I said on a friend’s blog that Daniel Tammet, the British entrepreneur who learned to speak Icelandic in a week and holds the European record for reciting the number of digits in pi, had the traits of an idiot savant. We proceeded to discuss political correctness given my usage of the term idiot savant—and, given my work in branding, it is interesting to see how the labels we give to people work. One of my comments is below.
Is [the savant syndrome] really a disability? I view it as a gift. This is the stuff of genius.
And political correctness is pretty ridiculous. Everyone is now so scared of offending everyone else. Take the term actress. There are people who are actually offended by its usage and insist on actor. I can’t see why. As long as the user of the term is not a sexist, and has no intent at being sexist, then it should be permitted. It does what it is meant to: describe someone. The French love their term actrice, which is where actress comes from. You would never ﬁnd a French actress who wanted to be called an acteur. To her, it would be insulting toward her femininity, which she prides herself on having. And she is right: women are not men. And women are not inferior to men.
It is also ironical that if political correctness is meant to make things respectful toward others, it actually isn’t respectful to those who wish to use more traditional terms, who now fear retribution! Perhaps those people who use these terms can be the “vernacularly challenged”, their “shortcomings” treated as a disability! Pretty soon, everyone can be classed as having some shortcoming—and we get back to where we started, prior to the political correctness movement, and prior to Marxism.
The only way PC works is if people removed their judgement from various words. So, if someone viewed ‘disabled’ as being a negative term, then PC fails, because the same judgement can now be made in 2006 toward that word as in 1980 with the word handicapped. The same prejudices exist.
You bring up the disabled. I have friends who are, either physically or intellectually, judged by the standards of “the able”. Political correctness, in my view, actually highlights these issues, which is great as far as, say, accessibility design goes. But when that highlighting gets to the point of making these people “inferior”, because others are making judgements about the language used to describe them, then political correctness is not good. PC has not helped us because we have not got to the root of prejudice, and that is (mis-)education.
What education needs to do is to teach people to consider anyone who is different as an extension of themselves—and stop using labels to describe them. Gay, disabled and other terms have come to have stigmas attached, just as more insulting terms, because many people are not taught to stop (pre-)judging them as inferior. We all have some degree of disability—one person cannot swim, another cannot run fast, yet another has an aversion to doing math. Are they water-motion-disabled, movement-challenged and numerically incapacitated? These terms actually make their situations worse because now they feel “abnormal”. Stigmatic labels have been created and limit them to within a discrete box.
So if the intention of the author is good, then he should not be held to task for expressing himself honestly. After all, the author is not the one who made a judgement—it is the others who have made that judgement for him, supposedly better authorities for what went on in his mind, and stuck him with their charge.
Here, idiot savant remains the correct term. Savant, alone, is not the correct term. The word idiot was never used alone, either (and if it were, it can be offensive, sure), so the disability community has (or should have) nothing to worry about. Most people are happy with idiot savant together—at least those who don’t judge the term. You could argue for the term autistic savant, which is correct, but what of those people who have a prejudice against the term autistic as being equated to handicapped? We are back to square one.
This is different from swearing, where the words are intended to be offensive—and few other interpretations can be drawn. If a word slips out without intent, it can still be offensive, given its roots.
I realize this is a long response, Ryan. I am not dissing you, personally; more the way political correctness forces many people to be on alert when they have no need to be if all parties have a good intent.
I believe Daniel Tammet to be a superior human being because he functions in society based on its standards, while retaining his gift. He possesses the best of both worlds. Are idiot savants ‘disabled’? Not in my book.
I should also note that blogger Ryan Benson, with whom I was having this discussion, posted with the purest of motives, too, so it was a frank exchange of views. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:37
The car of the future can ﬂy
‘Has Jack lost his marbles?’ ‘Are the memes getting to him?’ You may well have asked as much after my posting a huge list of the cars I have driven. The list is nearly as long as that of the girls in Arthur Fonzarelli’s black book. But there was a purpose to it.
When I look at this list, I see which brands have survived and which have died—Triumph being one close to my heart as it was what I drove as a high school student.
Each person is almost the sum of his or her brands. And brands themselves may want to target certain psychographics, repositioning themselves to suit. This is usually done based on historical data, which is why not many brands in the automotive sphere manage to crack new segments (exceptions include the Toyota Prius and the original Chrysler T-115 minivan). If Škoda wishes to be the new Volkswagen, and Volkswagen wants to be the new Audi, they make changes to their brands and communicate them to the desired segments over a period of time. Eventually the old images disappear in favour of the new ones, with the better coordinated marketing programme speedier in deleting the old notions.
But they must also understand that the segments change. I begin this list driving very humble cars: at age 13 (probably illegal now, but this was before the learner-licence system in New Zealand) trying out an HC Viva on country roads outside Masterton. That much is normal: as my income increased, I could afford newer vehicles. It also illustrates that the premium brands are moving into the mainstream, as evidenced by the Audi A3—given that the old Audi 50 was never sold Down Under, as far as I know. The engines have gotten bigger, which is not necessarily a good sign as fuel economy drops.
If we keep extrapolating these trends, one would presume that by a certain point, a Lincoln Town Car would be suitable for me. That is the model a lot of automakers depend on—the upward movement of a buyer over a period. Hence, Crown Vics, Mercury Grand Marquis and Town Cars are sold to older buyers, being the biggest cars Ford makes in its mainstream lines with the exception of the Ford Fairlane and LTD in Australia. Matlock drove a Marquis.
But are boomers going to be quite as easy to coax into these behemoths? Probably not. There may be less loyalty than before. There has been a period of consumerism where they think they want something more special than what their parents drove. They have seen fashionable crossover vehicles in a smaller size, like the Ford Edge.
So if those companies toward the bottom of the list wish to retain me, then they need to look at delivering what I want as my tastes change. Given how many older people bought smaller, rather than bigger, Jaguars (the X-type cannibalized XJ sales), size does not matter. No wonder Mercedes-Benz has had a hit with the small SLK: the trend toward the large cars has waned.
The ideal next bunch of cars need to be as stylish as the Aston and Porsche, as fuel-efﬁcient as the Peugeot diesel, and as practical as the Ford Territory. They will cross so many segments that “crossover” will become a nearly useless term, as all vehicles will combine obvious features from everywhere. Above all, they will be classless, as the distinction between premium and mainstream disappears in the automotive market.
Del.icio.us tags: future | cars | automobiles | design | marketing | segments | market | baby boomers | premium | brands | mainstream | branding | psychographics | trends | automotive industry | crossovers Posted by Jack Yan, 06:53
My motoring life (so far)
I have been trying to think about the cars I have driven or owned over the years. For fun, here is a compilation of my motoring history—with many gaps to ﬁll. I’ll update this list from time to time and add some commentary later. Note that I have not owned all these vehicles, and those marked with asterisks are (or were) owned by friends who have asked me to drive them for short periods (e.g. they were drunk and I was a designated driver, or we swapped cars to try each other’s out). Leases and rentals are included.
1973 Vauxhall Viva 1300 Saloon
1978 Triumph Toledo 1500 (a very unusual New Zealand special)
1984 Ford Sierra 2·0 L Turnier
1985 Nissan Pulsar 1·3 SG 3-door
1985 BMW 535i Automatic (probably my ﬁrst self-shifter)
1985 Peugeot 205 GTI 1·9
1987 Citroën BX 19 TR
1988 Lancia Delta 1·6 i.e.
1989 Citroën AX 14 TRS cinq portes
1989 Fiat Tipo 1·4
1989 Opel Vectra 1·8 Viertürig
1989 Peugeot 309 GR
1989 Peugeot 405 GR
1989 Peugeot 405 SRI
1989 Pontiac Le Mans 1·5 SE 5-door
1990 Fiat Tipo 1·6
1990 Honda Civic 1·3 3-door*
1992 Honda Accord 2·2 EX Sedan*
1992 Opel Vectra 2·0i GLS Viertürig
1996 Nissan Skyline GTS 25t Spec II (R33)*
1996 Peugeot 406 ST
1996 Holden Barina 1·6 SRi
1997 Hyundai Sonata Mk III 2·5 V6 Automatic
1997 Peugeot 106 GTI
1998 Ford Escort 1·4i GL 5-door
1998 Ford Mondeo 2·0 GL 4-door (CDW27)
1998 Holden Vectra 2·5 CD 5-door
1998 Mercedes-Benz ML 430 Automatic (probably my ﬁrst V8)
1998 Renault Mégane 1·6 RT Coupé
1999 Toyota Celica 2·0 Liftback*
2000 Ford Contour 2·5 SE Automatic
2001 BMW 320i
2001 Ford Mondeo 2·0 4-door (CD132)
2001 Ford Mustang V6 Automatic
2001 Ford Falcon Futura (EA169)
2001 Subaru Legacy 4WD Wagon
2002 Holden Commodore Acclaim
2002 Opel Astra 2·0 TDi Comfort Funftürig
2003 Ford Mustang V6 Convertible Automatic
2003 Holden Vectra 2·0 CD 4-door
2003 Holden Commodore Acclaim
2003 Jaguar X-type 3·0 SE Automatic
2003 Peugeot 206 GTI
2004 Ford Mondeo 2·0 4-door
2004 Ford Mustang V6 Convertible Automatic
2004 Holden Commodore Acclaim
2004 Peugeot 307 HDi cinq portes
2004 Mercedes-Benz C180 Kompressor
2005 Alfa Romeo 147 2·0 Twin Spark Lusso 5 porte
2005 Audi A3 1·8T Quattro Dreitürig Automatic
2005 Audi A4 1·8T Quattro Automatic
2005 Audi A4 2·0T Quattro Automatic
2005 Audi S4 Automatic
2005 Ford Focus 2·0 Zetec 5-door (C307)
2005 Ford Territory TX Automatic
2005 Holden Astra Classic 4-door Automatic
2005 Holden Vectra 2·0 CD 5-door
2005 Mercedes-Benz SLK200 Kompressor
2005 Peugeot 307 1·6 cinq portes automatique
2005 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet Tiptronic (997)
2005 Škoda Octavia 2·0 FSI Automatic
2005 Škoda Superb 2·5 TDI Automatic
2005 Volvo V50 T5 Automatic
2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Updates after original blog post
2001 Holden Commodore Mk II Executive Automatic
2005 Aston Martin DB9
2006 Mercedes-Benz S500 AMG (W221)
2006 Mercedes-Benz B200
2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS500
2006 Citroën C4 2·0 SX Diesel
2006 Citroën C4 2·0 Exclusive
2006 Renault Mégane Estate 1·9 DCi 130 ch
2007 Audi TT 3·2 V6 quattro
2007 Ford Focus 2·0 Funftürig Automatik
2007 Audi A4 3·2 Cabriolet
2007 Peugeot 207 HDI 1·6 Turbodiesel cinq portes
2007 Audi Allroad quattro 4·2
2007 Audi S3 2·0 Turbo
2007 Mercedes-Benz C200 Kompressor Avantgarde
2007 Renault Clio 1·6 Dynamique cinq portes automatique
2007 Audi S5
2008 Mini Cooper S Clubman
2008 Ford Focus 2·0 Funftürig Automatik
2008 Audi TTS
2008 Audi A3 1·8 Cabriolet Automatik
2008 Audi A3 Sportback 1·4T Automatik
2008 Audi A5 3·2
2008 Audi A4 1·8T
2008 Audi RS6 Avant
2008 BMW 135i Coupé
2008 BMW 120i Cabriolet Automatik
2008 Peugeot 308 SW automatique Posted by Jack Yan, 12:35
All the news that’s ﬁt not to spark off our insecurity
In my last blog post, I referred to Joanne Black in the Listener. She wrote in her March 18 column:
When I worked for a Fairfax newspaper, the in-house rule was that the words Trade Me should never appear, at least not with capital letters and not in that order. Trade Me was the enemy. Trade Me was “robbing” Fairfax of millions of dollars’ worth of classiﬁed advertising and our response was to act as if it didn’t exist. A proﬁle of Sam Morgan, perhaps? Not in our newspaper. When we simply couldn’t provide a proper news service without mentioning something for sale on Trade Me, the item could be referred to as “for sale on the internet”.
So much for freedom of the press. When Loop, an inﬂuential Wellington magazine, closed, it netted a paragraph in the Evening Post, as it then was.
I know what Sam Morgan felt, after facing a boycott myself from The Dominion Post (as informed to me by staff and former staff there). I am glad to see the boycotts lifted for both TradeMe (now a Fairfax subsidiary) and myself.
It makes you question just how reﬂective a newspaper is of its community, not to mention the other charges that might be levelled at it.
This great institution, supposedly acting as though it were a fortress, is scared of a few independent business people, and will pretend they do not exist.
Fairfax’s behaviour answers my concern over the Cooper v. Cooper case. I now know what not to do. Objectivity must be upheld. That is my duty as a publisher. Going back to ﬁrst principles is not a bad thing, for the longevity of a brand.
Del.icio.us tags: boycott | branding | newspapers | TradeMe | freedom of the press Posted by Jack Yan, 02:24
The TradeMe sale: why wasn’t a Kiwi doing the buying?
When Sam Morgan sold TradeMe, the local, easier-to-use rival to eBay in New Zealand, for NZ$700 million, the Minister of Finance, Dr Michael Cullen, took credit. His view was that thanks to his economic genius, conditions were right for TradeMe to be acquired by the Australian publishing group Fairfax, which owns a bunch of newspapers as well.
No one asked Dr Cullen the obvious question (well, I did, at the Thorndon blog, but my comment never appeared): if the economy were so rosy, why wasn’t it TradeMe doing the acquisition? Because, Dr Cullen, the conditions are not there.
Now there is a company worth $700 million in the hands of foreigners. Not that I mind on a personal level. Aussies are decent people. I have yet to meet one I dislike, though I’d hate to run into some of the blokes Markoos has been blogging about lately.
Why moan about it? Well, I am not convinced that foreign ownership does this country much good, even if the Minister thinks it does.
Joanne Black writes in the New Zealand Listener about the sale, and about how she had tiny budgets when she worked for Fairfax. True: I know a lot of Fairfax journalists, and there never seems to be any money in it for them. Their pay is pretty crappy. Now they hear that there was $700 million sitting in the coffers. How? Because, naturally, proﬁts should rightly go to the investor. I do wonder how Fairfax journos feel about that though, given prior protestations of insufﬁcient funds.
Thus, TradeMe’s proﬁts could have stayed in New Zealand, but not any more. Dr Cullen has just done himself out of a company that could have contributed nicely to our tax coffers.
The collapse continues: ﬁrst the currency, and now the encouragement of revenue slipping away.
I am ﬁne with the global economy—I rely on it—and I realize these deals happen daily. But for a politician to take credit for it and tell us it’s a good thing—well, he should have stayed out of it and not attempted to make political gain. This is Sam Morgan’s moment to shine and he should be applauded for building up a business that has made him a multi-millionaire—not for someone to come in and take credit for being so benevolent in providing him with the right economic climate.
On the plus side, Sam’s Dad, Gareth, who netted NZ$47 million through the sale, announced Monday he’s giving it all away to charity.
Del.icio.us tags: New Zealand | politics | economy | TradeMe Posted by Jack Yan, 21:45
Cooper v. Cooper: lawyers and brand management don’t always mix
As updated at an earlier entry, I received a telephone call from Kim McLeod at A. J. Park & Son, representing Trelise Cooper Ltd., today.
I’ll blog about two things, one of which concerns me directly. I might as well, while this is fresh in my mind. As readers know, evidence in the pleadings includes the suggestion that Tamsin Cooper is passing off her goods as Trelise Cooper’s—and Tamsin’s web site photograph, which features a woman with a hairstyle similar to Trelise’s, is used as proof.
As explained on this blog, live on radio last year, and live on television last week, the photograph is a coincidence. Yet, I have heard a claim that A. J. Park did not know of the situation behind this photograph when the High Court pleadings were made last month.
Since I know Kim from having worked on a few cases with him—as he is now a reader of this blog he may be able to recall exactly how many—I somehow think he would not be negligent. Therefore, I wonder if the client has given him the full story.
And it makes me wonder if Lucire should remain the ofﬁcious bystander. Both parties get coverage in my title. In the May print issue, out on May 8, Trelise Cooper garments feature either on one page or two pages, prominently, in a lovely shoot by Anna Lund.
Kim was looking after the interests of his client and was right to call me. He knows of my legal background. My evidence has helped him on a number of cases in what I like to think were signiﬁcant ways, for clients much bigger than Trelise Cooper. And there were a couple of things we didn’t see 100 per cent eye to eye on today. They are minor. But we spent more time on them than necessary.
Legalese doesn’t faze me. I caned everybody in my IP class at uni. I don’t like feeling patronized, even if I pull the Lt Columbo thing in some of my dealings with people (it’s called humility. Wonderful invention).
As the publisher of fashion magazines internationally, an author of branding books published here and in the UK, a practising brand expert, a law graduate (heck, I was suing people before I graduated), a business graduate (thrice!), a regular contributor to academic journals, and a regular witness on intellectual property cases, I know what I am talking about. On this case, no one knows more about the authorities and issues than me.
So now I think: maybe Lucire should not run those photographs.
Let’s just say that if the Trelise Cooper camp trades on negativity, then I have to question whether I want brands like that associated with my own.
Lawyers serve a vital, important function in society: viz. the seeking of justice. It’s why I went to law school. I have maintained that ideal, keeping one eye on justice and truth in all my work.
It’s normal for lawyers to be details’ people. In doing so, it’s human to become defensive over your own patch. Yet as a result of arguing minutiæ, the involvement of the legal profession seems to generate negativity where there was none.
Would I have felt that way if matters were left alone? I might not have focused on Trelise Cooper Ltd. in my blogging today, to be sure.
The Tamsin Cooper camp has remained fairly quiet with regard to Lucire other than purchasing some ads. The ad department does not control editorial.
We have tried hard not to tip things one way or another, but our brand values state that Lucire must be empowering for readers. To me, that means understanding karma and whether others contribute positively to ours, and, by extension, our readers’.
After today, I am not sure if Trelise Cooper is generating good karma.
Yet it’s not going to help any party, if I am called as a witness, if my publications show any bias.
It’s a dilemma that we can address in the way we know how: with benevolence. Let both designers feature. Stay above it all till one of the parties really pisses us off over something important. Then I will make up my mind on who is good, and who is evil. And whom I may blacklist in the interests of our readers.
Kind of proves the point of what I wrote earlier.
Del.icio.us tags: Tamsin Cooper | Trelise Cooper | intellectual property | law | branding | brands | lawsuit | Lucire | publishing Posted by Jack Yan, 10:12
When the power goes out
Over the last seven days, there have been a few glitches in New Zealand. Parts of Auckland went without power. Last week, Sky TV subscribers got blank TV screens.
The reports rolled in on the radio and even the blogosphere: people went out. Parents talked to their children. People discovered they could get by without these toys for a night and had a good experience as a result. No one went rioting.
While it’s important to have shelter and warmth, which electricity brings us, these faults are fairly pleasant during the mild weather we have. And bringing things back to ﬁrst principles of human relationships—people connecting with people—seems rather nice. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:26
Turn on the sun
With Americans on to daylight saving now (even though my computer still insists that the time zone is ‘standard time’), they might look to the skies and wonder: whatever happened to Jimmy Carter’s dream that we would be using solar power to generate 20 per cent of the country’s electricity?
It’s unfair to put any blame on the former president. At least he provided a grand vision for 2000, which successive Republican and Democratic administrations have put aside while other issues were sorted. And the private sector has been quietly making solar cells more efﬁcient: the cost of generating 1 W is now $3–$4, down from twice that 10 years ago, around $20 30 years ago, and $300 50 years ago. Some predict this will fall to $1 by next year—which means there will be very few excuses left for not harnessing the sun’s energy.
Even in 2004, Business Week was upbeat about solar’s progress. I think it’s about to hit mainstream, ﬁnally—with some massive gains to be had.
The house of the future, as I imagined it around the time of President Carter’s speech, might come to pass. I am toying with getting a massive satellite dish to get a few foreign channels. Then, if I can get solar panels on the roof, I’ll be another step closer.
And you know, I never envisaged owning a ﬂying car.
Del.icio.us tags: solar power | energy | future Posted by Jack Yan, 12:39
Thirty years of Apple
In all the April Fool gags, most people have missed that April 1, 2006 marked the 30th anniversary of the founding of Apple Computer. Michael J. Miller took a jaunt down memory lane in his PC Magazine blog, after having covered Apple for its three decades in the computer media.
I’m sure we all have had some contact with one of the world’s iconic brands. The name itself reﬂects its founders’ desire for an easy-to-use, friendly computer, rather than something over-technical.
I still remember learning computing on Apple II Pluses and the advanced Apple IIe. The Apple IIc, the portable, was one of the best-looking computers around—showing that clever design for smaller computers did not begin at Apple with the iBook.
I’ve kept the original 1984 brochures for the Macintosh, plus a few for earlier machines. They truly reﬂected the Apple principle of humanizing technology. The Mac promised, ‘If you can point, you can use a Macintosh.’ Never mind the price was well beyond what I could afford as a teenager in the 1980s. A subtle rebranding saw the use of Apple’s version of the ITC Garamond typeface appear for the ﬁrst time, suggesting computers were now a part of everyday life. The word Mac began overtaking the word Apple when people referred to their computers. The word font began replacing the word typeface, thanks to the Mac. To this day, the 1984 Macintosh is what I visualize ﬁrst when someone mentions ‘Mac’.
There were dark times after that when Apple attempted to be a consumerist company, putting that ahead of its pioneering spirit. Such moves usually prove fatal to organizations in the long term. The Newton was a little too far ahead of its time as a PDA. But the iMac was just right for fashion-conscious consumers who wanted a basic computer in the late 1990s. And the iPod sub-brand probably beats the the Apple brand these days in terms of recognition.
Brand-wise, Apple has gone from a company that makes computers to one that comes up with category-busting technology. In fact, that category might not even exist at the time of the product’s launch. It appears Apple’s product developers look at people, not technology, ﬁrst.
The entrepreneurial spirit has been retained after 30 years, something that can be credited to Apple’s leadership and its commitment to its brand and culture. It’s in direct contrast to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the brand was simply used to sell computers, and not unite the team.
If there’s anything marketing observers can take away from the 30th anniversary of Apple Computer, it’s the notion that being faithful to the brand, before the ﬁnances, of a company can be better for longevity and innovation.
Del.icio.us tags: Apple | brand | branding Posted by Jack Yan, 01:39
Spiritually intelligent leadership
Danah Zohar’s ‘Spiritually Intelligent Leadership’ in Leader to Leader (“hat tip” to Management and Leadership Articles) says what needs to be repeated more: that ﬁnancial capital is not as important in business as social and spiritual capital.
It’s a vicious cycle out there. Because capitalist society places an emphasis on the money aspect, those with a real vision, which takes into account emotion and spirituality, are in short supply.
I rather like Danah’s analogy of a wedding cake:
This obsession with material gain has led to short-term thinking and the narrow pursuit of self-interest. It is true that any kind of enterprise we want to engage in requires some kind of ﬁnancial wealth if it is to succeed in the short term. But for leadership to inspire long-term, sustainable enterprises, it needs to pursue two other forms of capital as well: social and spiritual. These three types of capital resemble the layers in a wedding cake. Material capital is the top layer, social capital lies in the middle, and spiritual capital rests on the bottom, supporting all three.
She goes on to reveal her 12 principles of spiritually intelligent leadership, and I realize these are ones that I have applied in 19 years of business. It’s great to have them summed up, because we all have off days. When I’m down, I tend to forget one or two of these principles—so by seeing them broken down, I know what I can address that day. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:03
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With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.
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Copyright ©200210 by Jack Yan & Associates. All rights reserved. Photograph of Jack Yan by Chelfyn Baxter.