When you can’t phone the phone company
Is it just me, or is it daft that Telecom New Zealand, on its ‘Contact us’ page, does not list any telephone numbers? I had to get out my printed phone book to ﬁnd the information I needed. And they wonder why people are cynical about the customer service of the former state monopoly—even if the actual service is actually very good when available. It’s all in the brand, and this online encounter with it is not particularly positive—nor is the Telecom brand, as a whole, that well targeted. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:29
Font work for spring
In a few hours, spring will have ofﬁcially sprung. And to celebrate, I have spent a bit of time working on some of our fonts for JY&A Fonts.
We’ve been considering putting JY Fiduci, the headline font used on the cover of Lucire, on to retail sale and let others use it, too. It was based on Caslon when I designed it, and I was inspired most by the work of Matthew Carter back in 2003. Now, a few years on, I opted for a more conventional Caslon model for the bold, though it’s not totally ﬁnished yet.
This was an abortive font for me for years—I began work on it in 2004 and Kris Sowersby even offered to help me ﬁnish it. (I have actually been working on two of his typefaces, which I won’t show without his permission.) Finally, today, I sorted it out—but I still need to do the bold italic. As usual, I have put the double-f ligatures in.
I originally wanted to do a ultra-bold roman, but on reﬂection it was easier to do this regular bold. Not sure when I will get time to get them all ready for retail sale, but I imagine it will happen before Christmas. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:17
Snakes on a Plane was so last week
The Zeitgeist has moved on from Snakes on a Plane, which is a great lesson. The hype was great, and a lot of fun to be a part of. However, if the product is mediocre, there’s not much positive word of mouth, and the promise of the brand and the resulting image do not match, then it won’t ever stay on top.
Snakes on a Plane was big because of the honesty of the title, striking a chord with postmodern audiences. It was like a well promoted brand backing up an inferior product. The Embassy theatre here in Wellington, where The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers had its première, looked pretty quiet outside (see the Citylink webcam)—because even after a week since the US première, the buzz had ﬁzzled out. By the time August 25 came around, and New Zealand had its Snakes première, it was already old news.
Stateside, Snakes fell to number nine last weekend—a huge drop from ﬁrst, but not atypical of horror ﬁlms.
It was still a success given what it was. It was thanks to the blogs that a mediocre horror got the audience it did in its ﬁrst weekend. But if the product was as solid as the brand, it would have stayed on top for longer.
You can hype anything all you want, but longevity comes from quality, perceived and actual, and other elements of brand equity. Posted by Jack Yan, 15:08
The localization of Lucire
Last night, I uploaded the cover of Lucire Romania to the corporate server, and as you can see, it’s very different from the master edition in New Zealand. The lady on the cover is a Romanian celebrity, Adina, photographed by Florin Radu, while in New Zealand—though it would sell particularly well in the US—we have Theodora Richards (daughter of Keith and Patti Hansen), photographed by Barry Hollywood.
Somehow, print has not shaken off many of the old-media, world-with-border characteristics and that includes the addition of a local celeb au couverture. That makes brand management that much harder to do, in my opinion, but we will have to—and it will be a welcome challenge to see how we can manage perceptions that readers globally develop. I guess I overestimated the homogeneity of markets in the post-internet age.
Now, should we do an Arab edition, imagine how that would change things … Bring it on.
Del.icio.us tags: Lucire localization globalization fashion magazine magazine publishing brand branding brand management homogeneity markets Posted by Jack Yan, 22:54
A global view from Pakistan
My friend Khalid Muhammad has his blog, Behind the Chairman’s Door, up—and it is a very interesting read. I recommend it strongly, as I have been an advocate of reading blogs from other cultures. While Khalid grew up in the American midwest, he is now an international ﬁnance expert based in Karachi, and well placed to comment on the misinformation of mainstream media. In particular, as a Muslim, he can see very clearly just how his creed’s image is being warped by various parties.
I have had the beneﬁt of having grown up with a close Pakistani friend, and having been involved in his family functions. However, that has never helped my Urdu or understanding after-dinner poetry recitals, but I can certainly appreciate getting a different angle on everyday things. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:52
Letter from New Zealand, no. 3
In my latest Letter from New Zealand, I discuss the release of Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, the Fox News journalists kidnapped by a Hamas faction called the Holy Jihad Brigades. I also go on about the Labour government’s failures, and why Dancing with the Stars even needs to be on the TV news, or, for that matter, last night’s Emmy Awards. I must say that the Podcast is meant to be semi-humorous, before anyone out there issues a fatwa against me.
0.48 Springtime in New Zealand
1.35 New Zealand through immigrants’ eyes in the 1970s
2.00 We had values in New Zealand—but the economy is hardly a good legacy
2.57 Praise for Helen Clark, but not her Cabinet
3.13 Hamas and the release of Steven Centanni and Olaf Wiig
5.11 When people turn to terrorism
6.06 The Emmys on the news
6.51 Dancing with the Stars on the news
7.44 The purpose of the news
8.19 Who are the Holy Jihad Brigades?
9.02 The motives of a Hamas faction: show me the money
9.57 Jack Bauer can phone the President on 24
10.58 The branding of Hamas
Click here for the sound ﬁles at the Internet Archive (in two MP3 qualities and Ogg Vorbis). Posted by Jack Yan, 11:21
Detective Marketing: a free trial edition
If readers are after a good deal, August was a great month, from my online branding paper delivered at Medinge to, today, Stefan Engeseth offering a free download of his ﬁrst book, Detective Marketing. I read Detective Marketing’s second and third editions and they convinced me that Stefan Engeseth is a marketing genius who managed to distil a great deal of wisdom into simple, inspirational spreads. Pop over to see if you concur. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:31
Grey hats on the Hamas brand
If radio had headlines, then the overall message today would be ‘Fox News journalists freed; Hamas takes credit’, as New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark thanked the Palestinian National Authority for its help freeing Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and Kiwi-born cameraman Olaf Wiig. I don’t profess to know that much about the situation there, but I do know (admittedly via the mainstream media) that the New Zealand Government has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists, and that Hamas has said it knew the kidnappers and that it did not know the kidnappers. I began to wonder what was really happening.
The journalists’ release was covered as a front-page news item in The Dominion Post—for a small country like New Zealand, it was Wiig’s welfare, not Centanni’s, that kept the kidnapping on Kiwis’ consciences. Fox News’s connection was downplayed, but Wiig’s wife’s attempts to negotiate with various politicians were covered reasonably heavily—English-born Anita McNaught was a ﬁxture on New Zealand network news programmes for years.
Missing from the National Radio broadcast this evening was the fact that Wiig and Centanni had been forced to convert to Islam, at gunpoint.
I’m delighted these two gentlemen have been freed. I can’t comment too much about the media coverage, other than to point out what I see as contradictions.
I am a simple man when it comes to the Palestinian militants’ situation. I had read that a Hamas faction (the Holy Jihad Brigades) was behind the kidnappings, which suggests to me that Hamas did, in fact, know of the kidnappers’ identity. I also understand them to be part of the Fatah movement, according to Time, but when I watched the Palestinian elections, Hamas and Fatah were rival parties. Were these kidnappers members of both?
Meanwhile, Hamas is split into both a political and terrorist wing—at least that is the impression I get living in the west, much like Sinn Fein and the IRA. If Prime Minister Clark says that her position is never to negotiate with terrorists, does Hamas count, with all its terror acts since 1987? And did Israel have any part in the release—a country which New Zealand actually recognizes?
Maybe I am an overly trusting coot, but it’s likely that everyone who has commented on the situation was telling the truth. Maybe the Palestinian Interior Minister, Saeed Seyam, had no knowledge of the kidnappers, or inside connections with Fatah. But that other ofﬁcials inside Hamas did. Having met the Prime Minister here, I can see her biases, but that she would not thank the Palestinian Authority if there were not a legitimate reason for doing so.
Which brings me to my point. Even in the media, it is so very convenient to brand one side the good guys and the other side the bad guys. The truth is usually way too complex, and till one corresponds with people from the region—on both sides of the conﬂict—we can only claim to know the situation in a cursory way.
Would I be on my high horse branding one bunch ‘terrorists’ if my country were occupied, and my people denied basic rights of citizenship? I am bringing an occidental viewpoint that I got through studying international law at university—but I also grew up with stories of how Chinese guerrillas fought the Japanese using tactics that were unconventional at best. So if these Hamas militants were of my own race, would I go and call them freedom-ﬁghters?
Maybe, maybe not. Japanese civilians never got into China during the Sino–Japanese war—we only had to ﬁght the military. Had they advanced that far, would we have succumbed to killing civilians? For I do not believe we are any better as people—Mao Tse-tung managed to kill 70 million of us through his sicko policies. Who needs the Japanese army to commit mass murder?
To keep things simple, the media—the MSM and other outlets—will give one side the black hats and the other side the white ones. Israel has been portrayed as overreacting militants in the New Zealand media over the 32-day conﬂict with Hezbollah; and Amnesty International statements against the Israeli army have managed to make the network news headlines here in prime-time. It is a different story in the United States.
Here, anchorman Mike McRoberts interviewed a Hezbollah leader, while John Campbell—fairly liberal in his Campbell Live show—took strong issue with the Israeli position on TV3 in the earlier days of the conﬂict.
We never really heard a position where the Israelis had white hats, or one where both sides wore grey.
I was little the wiser till I asked a new Lebanese acquaintance of the situation—he is still there, incidentally—and the real story of the different groups has yet to be told by our media. But it is not as simple as black hats and white hats.
And when we come to the capture of Centanni and Wiig, in another part of the Middle East, it is too easy to put a black hat on Hamas, branding all of them terrorists.
But it remains tempting to do so with occidental eyes, and even oriental ones, because we haven’t been occupied to this degree. I realize Hamas has set up extensive welfare programmes in its neck of the woods, but on the other hand, it hasn’t dropped its anti-Semitic rhetoric. And if this year is indeed part of a period of tahdia, then these kidnappings serve to remind us that the situation is far from calm.
Since I am a simple man, with little real understanding of these issues, the news has left me dissatisﬁed. Surely there is more? Maybe the TV news tonight will reveal more. But the black hat–white hat model is hard to break away from, and that is what the media will serve up.
Throw away the hats. I think we are smart enough to take the complexity. On television today, we see not McCloud or The Streets of San Francisco, where we know who the bad guys and the good guys are. On TV are dramas like 24. It is no longer clear who the heroes are. The news media need to understand that if we can follow Jack Bauer and his exploits, then we can follow the different sides in these conﬂicts.
News should not be about branding people and creating sides. News can distil the issues into easy-to-comprehend chunks, which is just what the likes of 60 Minutes and Campbell Live are meant to do with their longer running times. Sadly, even there, as Rathergate showed, some journalists still want to make the news, and not report it.
Which brings me on to branding. What? As a footnote, Hamas does have a real problem communicating what it is about. Little wonder that we foreigners are confused.
Obviously, Hamas was able to bring this kidnapping to a peaceful end. Negotiations would have taken place, probably about how the ruling party would look after the interests of the faction, the Holy Jihad Brigades. That strikes me as Hamas’s brand not being communicated clearly enough at the outset, especially when it won the Palestinian elections, creating disaffection. Someone was evidently hard done by, or felt that the spoils of political power didn’t get to him.
If the brand were clear, then Hamas could unite all factions, in an ideal situation. This would make an interesting project—we have gone on about nation branding in this blog, so how about creating a new vision and direction for a group that wants to be seen as legitimate, despite its terrorist origins and alleged funding from Iran? What would such a project reveal? Would it actually get the group to a point where it no longer needed funding from a state sponsor of terrorism, and ﬁnd it via more legitimate means; and then could that brand not inﬂuence the overall image of the Palestinian terrorities, and strengthen its tourism, enterprise and individual liberties? It could be a tempting goal, the grounds for a new beginning and a new conﬁdence for the Palestinian people—another small step in delivering independence from Israel.
This may be as controversial as the times I have tried to simplify al-Qaeda and turned it into a virtual organization with an overarching brand. But at least I cannot go as daft as rebranding the war on terror. That deserves a blog post all its own. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:55
SAIC owns Rover TM, report Red Chinese media
On August 22, news started surfacing that BMW had sold the Rover trade mark to a mystery buyer. This time, journalists were more cautious, having jumped the gun last time and saying it had gone to SAIC, the Shanghai-based automaker. BMW conﬁrmed the trade mark sale and Red Chinese media waited till Friday before saying that SAIC it was the buyer. (SAIC is still to conﬁrm, but it is the logical buyer, and photographs of its version of the Rover 75 all bore a Viking longship badge.)
As of today, the UK Trade Marks’ Register still shows BMW is the owner of trade mark no. 288516, but the Register can be behind on recording changes.
Ford could still exercise ﬁrst option on the name, and has 90 days to do so, but given its own troubles, I doubt it would be contesting anything extra right now. Provided SAIC does not brand its off-roaders (especially the ugly Ssangyongs coming out of Korea) with the Rover name, Ford is unlikely to kick up a fuss.
The scenario of MGs and Rovers being rivals, contesting international markets while being steered by Red Chinese management, seems to be closer to reality than ever. How the trade marks will contribute to their brands is anyone’s guess, but SAIC has the money to throw at it. NAC, the owner of MG, will have to think outside the square on this one.
Del.icio.us tags: Rover MG Rover SAIC trade mark brand BMW Posted by Jack Yan, 07:07
Blogger turns seven
Wow, talk about a geek phase this week: MySpace, Vox and now, Blogger. I notice Markoos is using the new Blogger beta (what the heck is that logo of?), which has some extra features, probably to ﬁght the new services coming on stream. And, I should mention, since I am the man who remembers anniversaries, Blogger did celebrate its seventh birthday last week.
Evan Williams, who founded Pyra, which developed Blogger originally, wrote on his blog on August 23, 1999:
We just launched a cool new tool at Pyra. It’s called Blogger. It’s an automated weblog publishing tool. … Blogger FTP’s your updated weblog page to your own server after each post. This means you can have everything “under the same roof,” as Jack [not me] put it the other day … no one even has to know you're using Blogger.
Reading these words makes me feel a little nostalgic, and takes me back to the days when we were licensing content to the AltaVista Entertainment Zone. The internet held so much promise. They were innocent words, explaining a new concept to the public. Can you imagine what we must have been like to not have had an idea about this concept in 1999? Now, of course, the existence of such a tool is so obvious and part of daily life—to the point where blogger is a regular word. A television salesman may have had to give a similar spiel back in the 1950s: ‘It’s like radio, with pictures.’
Who would have thought he’d sucker me in to using it four years later and that I prefer it to the likes of Vox, Wordpress et al? Happy birthday, Blogger. More than any other venture, I think of it as the one that helped turn everyday people into self-publishers.
In fact, I thought some of the earliest adopters of Blogger were certiﬁable weirdos, and that was what turned me off. These were people with few design skills, but needed a way to get their voices heard. Prior to them, we early HTML-based web publishers could keep the internet relatively clean, among a select few who could put together a web page that looked smart and got an audience. After Blogger, and its successors, others managed to get online.
The good news is that among the weirdos there were gems, too—smart people who deserved to be heard. But even by 2003, I was a sceptic—and I know I have this record of being a digital pioneer, having started virtual companies in the 1980s and got into digital publishing in the early 1990s. Why? Because it was still hard ﬁnding the smart people, at least outside the computing industry. Yet in marketing, they were beginning to emerge as a community, reaching a critical mass that touched my own network of people (namely Johnnie Moore)—and from their sites I discovered the rest: Gaping Void, Steve Rubel, and the rest.
But I agreed with my Medinge colleagues that a Beyond Branding blog in 2003 made perfect sense to update what we wrote in the book; though it still took me two years after that before I got hooked into becoming a weekly, then daily, blogger. And here I am, certiﬁable myself, where 40 posts a month is a quiet month. Sad bastard.
Del.icio.us tags: history digital internet publishing Blogger Posted by Jack Yan, 06:36
After reading a bit more about Vox on the Six Apart site (though the information really should have been in an ‘About us’ page at vox.com), I see it would be great for my friends Lynda and Kev, who have an infant daughter, and they occasionally share photos via a public web site with their friends. While that’s OK Down Under—where Amber Alerts are unknown—I can imagine that they would not feel comfortable if they knew weirdos could see their web site. For folks like them, they could restrict who got to see Amelia’s photographs, and Vox comes into its own.
I had been chatting to Randy Thomas about Vox both at my and his Vox blogs, and we’ve come to the conclusion that it is great as a private service, but less so as a public one. At Vox, I can probably post things that are very private and restrict their audience. I can share romantic notes with Brigid, though I must say that email is better for that, but I can foresee such a use, if not by me, then certainly by others with their subjects of affection. And blogs have become de rigueur in so many people’s lives that this all makes some sense.
Vox, therefore, bridges the gap between the two in this former structure:
Blog (read by all)
Now, this has become:
Vox (read by selected few)
Blog (read by all)
Plus, Technorati and coComment do not seem to really like Vox, so it is probably best used as a repository of private thoughts, at least for those with blogs elsewhere. If Vox is your only place to blog, then I imagine the ability to allow all members of the public to see a post will fulﬁl your aims.
The world has changed to a degree where the blog is a legitimate means of staying in touch. I would not be surprised if this year’s Christmas cards had blog addresses, for those technically inclined families. Posted by Jack Yan, 02:09
Post no. 400: MySpace goes to print?
Antony Mayﬁeld reports that MySpace may spin off its site into a print magazine and leverage the brand—and I concur with his statements:
… what we’re actually talking about is a cheap way of “leveraging the brand” (cashing in, in layman’s terms). But unless it added to, reported on, or included member contributions in an interesting way in its pages it would be nothing more than a brand crossover / exploitation.
Especially being one of the few people on this planet who have extended an online brand into international print titles. Without doing this, the title will not work.
Perhaps wisely, such an extension would be done with Nylon magazine, which makes some sense, especially endowing MySpace with the print title’s cool and trendy image. (Conversely, Nylon has a MySpace page.)
Meanwhile, I would like to thank all readers for supporting me at this blog since it started in January, especially as this is my 400th post. It is a double celebration, as Feedburner reports that 232 of you now receive this blog via your RSS readers—the ﬁrst time I have crossed the 200 mark there.
It is a small number compared to the older, more established blogs, but I am delighted with the growth, especially after the reader jump I was very lucky to get in July. Thank you.
Del.icio.us tags: brand extension print MySpace magazine leverage branding Nylon News Corp. Rupert Murdoch publishing brand Feedburner Posted by Jack Yan, 09:12
Designers who undercharge
I hear occasionally from graphic designers who feel guilty about charging too much for their work. This profession often begins at around NZ$30 an hour and can creep up into the two hundreds, so no wonder. Some hang on to those old ideas about charging two-ﬁgure hourly rates.
But, I tell them, what about all the times you undercharged? The times when you forgot to add on the time taken to bill, or to recover an amount for a late-paying client? Answering repeat emails, or doing alterations that you considered too minor to raise an invoice for? But, as I read on Signal vs. Noise, experience?
Sometimes, the inspiration hits us immediately, and we can distil a client’s essence into a graphic instantly. Matt Linderman writes of how Paula Scher—who, in my book, is yet to do a bad design—came up with Citibank’s logo in seconds.
Scher said, in a video, ‘How can it be that you talk to someone and it’s done in a second? But it is done in a second. It’s done in a second and in 34 years, and every experience and every movie and every thing of my life that’s in my head.’
That does count for something. I am not advocating ripping off clients, but you have to have those jobs that balance the ones where you have spent days thinking about it—and thinking time is not billable.
It’s about valuing your time. That’s why I support Cat Morley’s No-spec.com campaign, and why I dislike those folks selling ready-made logos—which can never, except through freak coincidence, express a client’s existing vision and strategy. Designers have a strong part to play in business success, and need to be valued accordingly. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:36
False-idol worship ends in Hollywood
Isn’t it funny how old media are saying the internet could not make Snakes on a Plane a better performer on the one hand, and are now reporting, with the Paramount–Cruise/Wagner break-up, that the movie business is slow anyway?
As I wrote earlier this week, Snakes has beneﬁted from the internet, and if it were not for the blogosphere, things would have been far worse for what was essentially a horror ﬁlm with limited appeal. I would not have mentioned it myself had it not been for company involvement, as I never see horrors.
However, Hollywood’s trend toward smaller stars is no surprise: it has been bubbling under the surface for some time. A particularly good column in the Murdoch Press by Chris Ayres cites the end of an era beginning with the departure of now-Governor Schwarzenegger; Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor, has always been slightly ahead of his time when it came to career planning. Three years on, his choice to turn to politics seems particularly prudent—just as once upon a time, he decided to enter the movie business. And to think we ridiculed him, when he has been interested in politics for an awfully long time.
Budgets are one reason in the high-proﬁle dumping by Paramount of Tom Cruise. Movies are making less money and stars are demanding more of the cake. It was never going to be sustainable.
Tied in with the shift has been everything from No Logo, the criticism of monolithic brands, and the desire of the moviegoing audience for decent story-telling, not over-the-top special effects. (The Lord of the Rings was the height of this; at least Peter Jackson combined story-telling with his visual effects; and perhaps Jackson proved that big actor names doth not an Oscar winner make.) There was only so much visual stimulation that people were prepared to take—and a phoney cartoonish James Bond surﬁng a pressure wave in Die Another Day was a step too far. At least the Harry Potters have a great storyline.
But this has also been an issue of personal branding. Any personal brand has to tie in with the mood of the times, the Zeitgeist; it cannot stay still. There, too, there has been a shift; if in commerce, organizational brands now need to appear homely, smaller and uniﬁed with the audience, then distancing yourself from everyday people is not a good strategy to take. And Mr Cruise did just that—sure, jump on couches (at least that gave me good ammunition on television for myself)—but to criticize Brooke Shields for her use of Paxil, or to go on just a tad too much about Scientology, are steps that planted a divide between Cruise and audience. That audience ultimately included Sumner Redstone, the chairman of Viacom, which owns Paramount Pictures. A similar criticism may be levelled at Mel Gibson, though I applaud the man and his publicist for the apologies to the Jewish community.
These can be contrasted to the low-rent name of Snakes on a Plane, Samuel L. Jackson’s own personable approach to the movie’s promotion, and the ﬁrst major movie that seems to have studio and blogosphere combined. It is One.
Survivors may include Bruce Willis, with his genius of appearing like the everyman, unless word of his contract perks gets out more. But somehow I doubt we will see the mega-stars team together to form a latter-day United Artists, away from the studio system. That would only serve to distance themselves more, unless, tied to its formation, they talk about studio pressure, and how the new ﬁrm will serve audiences ﬁrst.
Thus, the next stage will likely be toward stronger stories with an almost clean acting state, as Hollywood builds up a bunch of actors that we will, in ﬁve to ten years’ time, call our stars. Think of where Gene Hackman was in The French Connection. Or, perhaps we should be casting our eyes to other movie-making centres, from Bollywood to Miramar.
After all, New Zealand has just had its own academy awards, at which The World’s Fastest Indian (of which Sir Anthony Hopkins was its star without taking home an impossibly fat pay cheque—an example to other actors, I bet), No. 2 and River Queen scooped prizes. The irony here is that this ceremony was once networked when we had some cringeworthy productions; now that we make world-class stuff, it is a footnote on the late-night news. But that alone is a sign that New Zealanders are not in to worshipping stars, or Aucklanders, for that matter; the movie business Down Under is in the business of making movies.
We might not have Hollywood’s promotional budgets, but we can increasingly rely on grass roots’ campaigns to get the word out. That may be the future of movies, with clips of the best, downloaded the most, via the likes of YouTube. Give away your video production diaries, rather than sell them on DVD. Use that to attract further ﬁnancing, breaking that stage up into a round of initial funding and a second round of more money. And, team up with us—regular folks—to build your audience. We’ll buy in to the experience, but only if you let us.
Del.icio.us tags: movie movies ﬁlm ﬁlms Tom Cruise Paramount studios Viacom trends Mel Gibson stars Hollywood New Zealand Posted by Jack Yan, 23:02
Snakes on a Plane’s hits peak
Yesterday’s Google hits for the phrase Snakes on a Plane exceeded 67 million, but fell below 61 million today.
This may mean another strong weekend for the ﬁlm nonetheless, as the chatter reached its highest point on Thursday—enough to encourage those curious about Snakes to go along to the cinema in the US. It also opened in New Zealand today, but there has been far less excitement here. Imagine how bad it would have been had Snakes stuck to its original release dates for Australia and New Zealand of October–November.
But with declining Google hits, the craze may ﬁnally be dying down (New Line may be worried about DVD sales, as the ﬁlm hasn’t been that good). The pre-première buzz on the internet—and speciﬁcally the blogosphere—was unprecedented, and Snakes on a Plane was one of those odd blips in 2006 that illustrated that enough people could come together to back something, sight unseen. That human spirit of being a part of something remained, even if it was for something daft. It certainly did not look like it was going to be the war in Iraq.
We do live in a postmodern age for marketing. I wrote in one of my ﬁrst posts on the subject that Snakes on a Plane was compelling primarily for its honesty, its unadorned title. People understood it, and in an age of complex communications, simplicity and an understandable premise are compelling. I believe it showed that people would be willing to get on board for the frankness alone—and not for any other reason. It supports those many writings that I have done where transparency is the key to great marketing and branding. Snakes on a Plane promised no more and no less than that. No one ever said it would be a great ﬁlm, and it has delivered on its title.
Mission accomplished. Let the next craze begin. But I guarantee it will be another simple premise—the sort of behaviour that led so many of us to buy ‘We Are the World’ records 20 years ago. Posted by Jack Yan, 07:39
Idealog hits a high
I was pleased to learn through Simon Young’s Leadership blog that Idealog, the magazine which yours truly endorses in a big way (and have done since it began), has hit a 12,221 circulation here in New Zealand. In a small country, that is a hit, especially for a business magazine. The Jack Radar is faultless.
I am glad the Idealog folks thought highly of my comments, too, and I hope I helped in some way to get them to this circulation. A few weeks ago, I noticed they used something I wrote (‘it is the strongest début issue of any magazine I have ever seen’) as a quotation to help promote the magazine. Being facetious, I started a blog post below, but was afraid people would not get the humour and thought I was being a braggart:
Idealog, the business magazine that I have waxed lyrical about, has talked up its sponsorship of the Australian version of Dragons’ Den here. I was chuffed to note that the folks there have quoted me as an endorser, followed by Kevin Roberts.
Bit like when my friend and colleague Charlie Ward began his coffee-table books on branding: I wrote the ﬁrst one, Kevin the second one.
And Beyond Branding: How the New Values of Transparency and Integrity Are Changing the World of Brands predated Lovemarks: the Future Beyond Brands by a year.
Thanks, Idealog, for getting the order correct. It is nice to lead the pack on an endorsement list as well. At least you blokes know who is ﬁrst with these ideas, and inject them with a dose of forward thinking.
I am glad I didn’t post it, because on the magazine’s subs’ page now, they have put Kevin before me, darn it.
Oh, guys, how come Kevin and Robert Roydhouse have their company names underneath theirs and I get ‘Publishing entrepreneur’? Ahem, I do own a few companies, and I would have thought the Medinge Group directorship could be a fairly marketable claim. Ironical the only brand expert there doesn’t have his company brand mentioned. But small matter: your success is what I am raising a glass to: well done!
Idealog’s success illustrates that people are interested in business, especially entrepreneurship—and Māori in New Zealand are among the most entrepreneurial races in the world. I imagine we have to be self-starters, since we aren’t going to get that much help from government.
Speaking of serving, I have seen my three mentoring clients now. Each has an interesting business, and I seem to ﬁt in perfectly. The ideas are not obvious—if they were, these business people would have tried them already. All I am doing is opening eyes, not telling them how to run their businesses.
Three months ago, I wrote:
I volunteer for government bodies and tell them I will provide my exporting, branding and marketing knowledge for free. I am, after all, still the only active antipodean at Medinge. My record is pretty sharp. But, as with my lament over exports, no one has ever taken me up on my offers.
Since the exporting bodies do not want me, I am doing the next best thing: through the mentoring programme, all my clients would not mind exporting. You can’t keep good Kiwis down, no matter how hard some of these government departments try. Idealog is contributing to that effort, respecting free enterprise and championing Kiwi ingenuity. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:36
In the interests of being fair and balanced, Andrea Weckerle followed her earlier story about Joe, the Goodwill worker who was ﬁred for giving some unsaleable furniture away. (It turned out they were baby items.) She wrote in the comments of this blog earlier today:
I spoke with Aimée P. Walters, Goodwill’s Director of Marketing & Communications, today and she shared the organization’s side of the story. Apparently the organization has a very strict policy regarding donated goods—and takes immediate action if such policies are violated.
Please visit Andrea’s post on the matter and go down to her August 22 update. I’m glad some of us in the blogosphere follow up—unlike some folks in the mainstream media, and I am grateful to Andrea for clearing up the facts.
Update: Ms Walters has left a comment on the blog which is certainly compelling—and that the interaction between the private eye posing as a customer and Joe lasted all of 16 seconds. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:37
Next week, once Stefan Engeseth gets over his cold (autumns can be tricky times in Stockholm), we may be doing a Podcast. This is all dependent on how well I can get Audacity to function with Skype—has anyone tried this?
I am hoping it will be suitably loose—Stefan and I go back nearly ﬁve years (which also means we have aged by ﬁve years)—and we have spent enough time together to have gotten on one another’s nerves over the years! (I know him well enough to say that the silhouette on Detective Marketing’s third-edition cover is his.) Somewhere along the line, I reckon we will talk about branding and his latest book, One. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:07
Vox news live
Robin Capper was very kind and sent me an invitation for Vox, the new Six Apart blogging service. As Robin describes it:
it’s another blog service in the vein of so many but it’s very simple to use and includes an element of social networking.
I have set up a blog there and cross-posted the Snakes on a Plane post from last night (and got more responses), but being stuck with set templates (even though there are heaps) doesn’t help promote my personal brand. This site, after all, is an ego site—part of it was set up to put my favourite stuff on to. Like all brands, mine has a certain look, beyond the tone, knowledge and the world-beating humility. This blog is a forum so that potential clients see some of my thinking behind the projects and know that I am human (though with the output I have had, that may be open to question).
I appreciate the facilities of the Vox blog and Six Apart has done a ﬁne job. I also like the blogs I have discovered there—Robin’s and Randy Thomas’s. Maybe I am just too much of a fussy bastard, for I do like the functionalities of Vox, the three-column layout, and even the ease of posting. But it just doesn’t look like me—I hope Robin will forgive me for saying that after his generosity (he had two invitations, and one went to me).
I will continue cross-posting because I think the site has potential, I am interested to see the feedback, and I do not believe a day is enough to gauge its effects. But, like Randy and Robin, my non-Vox blog will be the master, with more posts than the others. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:14
Snakes on a Plane is number one—thanks to the blogosphere
Snakes on a Plane is the number one movie in the US, and its Google references surpassed 47 million—which does make it a certiﬁed hit. I know earlier I had my doubts, especially when the Google references started falling and interest began waning—and we wondered if August 18 would ever come around. But as I wrote last week, the fans did come back, and there were events to promote the ﬁlm after all. Now it has more internet references than some other number-one hits I had been keeping an eye on.
Here in New Zealand, the première was given as a fourth-quarter date but I notice that that no longer applies. Snakes premières August 25.
And what of the movie? The reviews aren’t great, but Samuel L. Jackson is enjoying himself in the publicity machine, including a Rats in a Deli spoof in Rupert Jee’s Hello Deli on The Late Show with David Letterman. The fans are enjoying themselves in this phenomenon, which, with hindsight, will be one of those fads that people a generation from now will wonder what we were on. Like the Moonies, the Pet Rock or Slime.
What is sad, however, is that old media are quick to criticize the internet, blogs and citizen media. From The New York Times today:
“Snakes,” which opened for midnight screenings on Thursday, drew a respectable number of fans on Friday, but fell off 18 percent on Saturday and was expected to fall off still more on Sunday, as have other horror ﬁlms in the past.
“We see that Internet interest in a movie doesn’t necessarily translate to good box ofﬁce,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, a company that tracks the box ofﬁce. “To some, the marketing was more exciting than the movie. Everyone was talking about the movie. But you have to convert that talk into moviegoing, otherwise it’s just talk.”
My view: don’t blame the internet. There are many reasons the billings fell off, and one should ask how much New Line spent on promotions. The newspaper says $20 million in addition to fan support. I would argue that it wasn’t that hefty for what is a horror ﬁlm—hardly mainstream. In fact, because of its genre, the fact Snakes reached number one illustrates the opposite of The New York Times’ conclusion. The bloggers did have a say, and they drove a lot more people to Snakes than we would normally expect—ten to one non-horror fans went along. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:28
Lonelygirl15’s tribute site: the mystery deepens
I just discovered (via Del.icio.us) the site at the Lonelygirl15 domain, which was set up a month before Lonelygirl15, a.k.a. Bree, put up her ﬁrst video on YouTube. It is called A Tribute to Lonelygirl15, trying to look independent of the YouTube videos, with this on its ‘About’ page:
Welcome to the website I made for my very favorite video blogger … Lonelygirl15 (and her pal Danielbeast). I think her videos are clever, funny, interesting and inspirational. You never know what she's gonna do next. I hope you enjoy her videos as much as I do!
Logically, if it were a real tribute, the domain name could not possibly have been registered earlier—a fact mentioned in my last post on the subject. (Forgive me if this is not news, but I’m over 30, and not exactly Bree’s target audience.)
It’s sophisticated marketing, and an example of how we do not expect monolithic, portal-like brands on the modern World Wide Web. Not everything needs to be at a Yahoo! domain—the prevalence of Gmail accounts, even for businesses, is an example. We now expect certain (even a lot) things to be “outsourced” to external domains—hence, there is no sin for a large company to have a blog on Blogger, or a network to put videos on YouTube itself. If anything, this shows a connection to the public, a shift toward the One model that my friend Stefan Engeseth writes of in his book.
So far, Lonelygirl15 has played this marketing game according to this new book—I shall be interested to see what emerges from this point. Whether she is promoting something else, or herself, you have to admit this has a massive audience.
Del.icio.us tags: Lonelygirl15 marketing web brand Web 2·0 YouTube Posted by Jack Yan, 02:50
Fellow Medinge member Tony Quinlan has set up a new blog, which I began linking not too long ago from the right-hand column. Called Partum Intelligendo, Tony looks at areas of his expertise: communications and narrative. He is far better informed than many of his colleagues dealing in these areas and his blog complements others’ among the Medinge Group rather well.
While I am sending you off-site today with other people’s blogs, Andrea Weckerle at New Millennium PR discusses a disturbing matter at Goodwill of Central Virginia, to which she had been donating things. It turns out that one of its own people was ﬁred when an “undercover” staffer posed as someone needing goods from the place, but could not pay for them. Joe, the chap on duty, took pity on her, and decided to give her the furniture that no one would pay for anyway, and would be disposed.
Result: Joe got the sack.
Here’s a man living the brand and the spirit of his organization—supposedly—only to discover that it cares little for people, and it’s all about the proﬁt. At least, that’s what it seems to me, now that I know how it deals with its own people who try to further its aims. (Note that Andrea’s story has been told to her by an eyewitness, and it would qualify as hearsay. Still, I have known Andrea to be always reliable, and I expect her contacts to be, too.)
There is something very sick with America if Goodwill considers its actions normal, acceptable business conduct. I’d accept this happening in some faceless, greedy, proﬁt-driven corporation, but Goodwill?
I’d like to hear its side of the story and how this NPO could possibly justify Joe’s dismissal. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:12
A deﬁnitive guide to online branding
Just online: my 2006 Medinge Group paper, to be ofﬁcially delivered at our annual conference in the Swedish countryside. For a while, I have wanted to write a deﬁnitive guide to online branding, and update my research from 2001 with examples of Web 2·0. How should companies be structured to grow their brands online? How does the online branding model differ from the ofﬂine branding one?
The paper was written back in March, but for various reasons, I opted to hold off. It does mention Snakes on a Plane—as does a press release from my ﬁrm today—as well as Flickr.com and Google.
You are welcome to read it, around the same time as my Medinge colleagues, either at our old CAP Online site, or as a PDF.
I’ve sort of timed it for my personal return to brand consulting, as Lucire restructures itself back into the Jack Yan & Associates group fold—so please let me know if you need my and my team’s help. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:30
Google can save its trade mark
Earlier this month, I left a few comments on blogs in the wake of the Oxford English Dictionary saying it would include Google. My warning: this was the ﬁrst step to the brand becoming generic, and we should be careful to always capitalize it in writing.
Naturally, in speech, we now commonly use the word as meaning, ‘to search for something using the Google search engine’, and that that is part of everyday life in the opening decade of this century. No one can stop that.
I traced Google’s coming of age—or loss of trade mark value—when Jennifer Lopez referred to it as a verb in Maid in Manhattan in 2002, and I imagine some intellectual property lawyers have been alert since then.
Antony Mayﬁeld has been tracing the happenings on that front, initially with a post last week that indicated lawyers have indeed sent letters to media. Quoting Search Sense:
According to a report in The Independent, though, Google has been contacting media asking them to say “ran a Google search” rather than “googling” something.
There’s been no conﬁrmation or comment from Google on the subject …
while Out-law.com takes my view of the matter, cited in a follow-up post at Antony’s Open blog.
It is dangerous ground. Already I have been saying that Google, with its entry into Red China and its censorship, is becoming more and more like another regular American ﬁrm, its differentiation weakening. We can be informed of what Google considers correct usage—but with lawyers involved, that can often build resentment. Worse than losing your trade mark value and rights is all your brand equity, when you become just another corporation that doesn’t live your brand. Get us on side, and we will help. Offend us, and we will not.
Hence, it is trying hard to sound friendly, as Out-law.com reported:
Google no doubt hoped that a light-hearted example would avoid the company sounding oppressive. It has to send letters like this; but its lawyers know that it has only limited powers to dictate how the brand is used. So the letters are seeking support, not threatening litigation.
The risk for Google is that it ceases to become a brand altogether. If it becomes generic, the brand can be struck from the register of trade marks, leaving the owner without rights. This has happened before: escalator, aspirin, pogo, gramophone and linoleum were once registered trade marks that became victims of genericide.
The letter is supposedly the same as the one that the company has used since 2003, which was covered by the BBC, according to the Press Gazette (also referred by Antony Mayﬁeld).
In any case, a spot of social responsibility would get more people on Google’s side. What has it done to balance accusations of kowtowing to Beijing? Would Google care to help fund some programmes advocating information freedom? Live your brand and all that stuff about doing no evil, and we will be more than happy to work with you.
Del.icio.us tags: Google trade mark trade marks intellectual property brand social responsibility brand equity CSR corporate social responsibility branding Posted by Jack Yan, 01:17
Home is where the dollars go
Last week, the good folks at Business 2·0 put together a map of Web 2·0 sites outside the United States. While Sweden’s Bubblare.se (kind of like a YouTube) is missing (then again, it is in Swedish only), it does give a good idea of how social media are global. I was pleased to see coComment there.
It looks like the promise of the World Wide Web—where countries that are not expected to come up with world-serving sites do (something I was quite aware of when I started Lucire)—is being fulﬁlled. One issue is the use of English as a global lingua franca: I did not know that Spurl is Icelandic, for example, or that Feeds 2·0 is Greek.
On the internet, it makes little difference. As I found with old media, however, world-class design can sometimes be absent of national characteristics. As mentioned before, for the ﬁrst year, Lucire’s print edition’s most regular comment was, ‘I didn’t know it was Kiwi.’ Should it matter?
In some cases, yes. If the nation brand can contribute to its success, then there should be some overt recognition of its origins. In print publishing, this seems to be the case. It’s why I am ﬁnally considering putting the New Zealand ﬂag on to the cover of the home edition of Lucire. (I refused to do this before, because the home editions of Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire have no national indicator—only its foreign editions do. But I suppose we in New Zealand are not used to being the home of an international magazine’s home edition.)
On the internet, I ﬁnd it irrelevant, and that in time, national indicators will mean less, even for magazines, as print globalizes as well. I may be a little too ahead of my time on that one: right now, the focus is on maintaining national brands, even when they are owned by multinationals, in order to fool unsuspecting consumers that they are buying domestically owned and made.
Eventually, however, some companies will succumb to endorsement branding, where the parent company’s name is mentioned, to appease shareholders and to make them feel big. Nestlé does this with its brands; and at times BMW (with Rover, in the mid-1990s), Ford (a global campaign starring Charlotte Church linking all its brands in the late 1990s), and others have, in moments where they have been confused with the direction of theirs. I give it a few more years before this becomes a trend, and globalized multinationals are, for inexplicable reasons buoyed by the media, more welcome than they are now. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:50
Sex doesn’t sell
Heidi Dangelmeier’s team at 3iYing knows a thing or two about marketing to girls, so much so that the entire ﬁrm is built around it. In its latest ‘Girl Improved’ column (referred by Ypulse), the 3iYing team criticizes the sexual imagery in campaigns such as those for Abercrombie & Fitch (which could never stay away from it):
from a girl’s perspective the erotica in marketing is excessive, dirty, uninformative, and most importantly, a huge turnoff.
I don’t believe it signals a change in values, but with the push of the sex-sells message in marketing going to extremes (we have heard conservatives go on about music videos already), it was bound to hit a mainstream nerve, sighing, ‘Enough is enough.’
I’m too young to remember the forces that brought forth Ms. magazine, and watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show is hardly going to educate me on what had happened in the early 1970s. But there may well be parallels. My only knowledge is from some feminist legal theory readings we had to do in my ﬁrst year of law school.
The 3iYing team suggests that the raunch be cut, since modern girls and young women are far more sophisticated and empowered, and hardly want to be seen as a means to sex.
Years ago, I said the same thing about marketing to young people in general: the stereotype is BS, and that talking down only serves to increase cynicism. If you want people to respect you, talk to them like human beings.
Therefore, some of these rules at 3iYing might apply to both sexes. Its conclusion, that while sex has its place, mental intrigue and authenticity are more compelling. Sounds right to me. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:58
Today’s Good Morning ‘You’ve Got Male’ segment was probably the funniest on record, with Paul Sinclair making a joke about men marking territory. Our topic: tidiness. Better head on over to the site in case it’s still there—normally, it should be accessible till Monday morning, New Zealand time (Sunday night GMT).
However, we did not go on till 10.10 a.m., which is over an hour into the show, rather than the usual 9.40 a.m. So you may need to fast-forward through the broadcast to ﬁnd us. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:04
Brief feed note
Just so readers know, I have this blog’s feed permanently set to “full”, i.e. the whole post should be in the RSS and Atom feeds. However, that doesn’t stop Blogger from doing what it likes.
I realize some of you may have received a digested version—it is not my doing! If you have a way around it on the Blogger platform, please let me know.
On a related technical note, thanks to Feedburner, there is now a link after each post to Digg, if anyone wishes to include my writings there. Posted by Jack Yan, 15:24
Start more Oases
The mainstream media (TV3) here devoted a few moments on a pro-peace march during the Israeli–Hezbollah war, where 10,000 Jews and Arabs marched side by side in Tel Aviv, Israel. Their aim was to show that they had more in common with one another than the politicians would like people to think.
It is not the ﬁrst time such an effort was undertaken in the Middle East. Nor will it be the last.
There is the Oasis of Peace, or Neve Shalom
The school there is bicultural, bi-national and bilingual, while the town is planning to expand from its present 50 families, adding an extra 90 housing units. It made me begin thinking: must this be the only Oasis of Peace? Can we start more online in these lands, seeking donations, as initiatives where families who wish to live peacefully can settle? Can blogs be a ﬁrst step, to see who might be interested in living in such a place? Posted by Jack Yan, 08:27
Lonelygirl15’s selling something
I haven’t seen people pore over details like this since, well, Rathergate. Lonelygirl15 has been the subject of debates over whether she is a phoney, and if she is, then it’s the loss of innocence for YouTube, probably like when the ﬁrst spam arrived and ruined everyone’s email experience.
Lonelygirl15 has been posting her teenage adventures on YouTube, but those analysing the videos, buoyed by a blog post from The New York Times, think they’re a little too polished, notably the lighting.
A netizen, Liam, has found that the Lonelygirl15.com domain was registered a full month before the ﬁrst YouTube video, and that has convinced Costa Tsiokos (referred by Adfreak) that Lonelygirl15 is a marketing ploy—but we just don’t know what she’s selling yet. He’s not alone.
So, for those of us expecting a medium to remain of the people, for the people, and by the people, think again: the corporations look like they are in. They have found a name that looks amateurish, so “home-made” is in and trendy. And the techniques are designed to sucker the early adopters of us, surﬁng YouTube with our broadband lines, in. The colleagial atmosphere that once prevailed email, then the blogosphere, then YouTube, may disappear.
But unlike spam, there is a difference. We can opt not to watch these videos. In which case, things might not be ruined as much as I think. We may be savvy enough to spot the phoneys. The next few years after Lonelygirl15’s product announcement will be interesting to watch. Whether it harms the brand she represents, for pulling the wool over people’s eyes and sparking off the cynicism of Generation Y, will be where my interest will lie.
Del.icio.us tags: Lonelygirl15 viral video marketing Generation Y YouTube brand branding Posted by Jack Yan, 07:58
A quick question to those in the know, and to show that I am still a bit of an amateur at the blogging thing despite my output: am I using Del.icio.us right?
I have been making tags for my posts and sticking them on Del.icio.us so others can ﬁnd them. The tags are mildly different from the Technorati ones I use. I see it as a helpful tool to categorize my better posts.
I know many use it to bookmark everything they love, but I tend to blog about those, or bookmark them internally. So, is my usage of the service acceptable, or, more to the point, useful? Posted by Jack Yan, 02:41
MG to OK? SAIC owns Rover brand?
MG’s American plans are more advanced than NAC led the British media to believe in its earlier press conference, when its CEO Yu Jianwei said there had been little more than a letter of intent for starting an HQ and plant in Oklahoma.
Both an article from the Norman Economic Development Foundation, which talks of a ‘world headquarters’ for MG in Oklahoma, and the latest statements from the US company CEO, Duke T. Hale, suggest very advanced plans.
Hale said that Yu was unfamiliar with the west and may have misunderstood the question, though British media were convinced otherwise.
Hale’s optimistic ﬁgures for MG sales may give observers some cause for concern, but his method—targeting an internet-savvy buyer—has some merit in restoring the brand globally. The problem is that the internet-savvy consumer is likely to know that the cars are old-tech, BMW-era product. However, Hale cites the Mini as an example of how a brand can be revived if marketed and branded right. Certainly it was absent for decades from the US market, and the right product ensured that it picked up rapidly.
If the world HQ for MG is indeed in Ardmore, Oklahoma—where there are tax breaks because of a deal with the Chickasaw Nation, and where $30 million is expected to go to payroll there—then it seems a waste of the centre of excellence that the Longbridge, England location represents.
The British may not have been great at running its car companies, but as sites such as Keith Adams’ Unofﬁcial Austin–Rover Resource reveal, they are not short of innovative ideas.
The Resource notes that while MG is making announcements of world-beating, rival MG Rover bidder SAIC has released photographs of its highly modiﬁed, long-wheelbase Rover 75, along with initial speciﬁcations. It is also rumoured—something ﬁrst told to me by Dan Lockton, before the trademarks’ ofﬁce revealed any changes—that SAIC, which has deeper pockets than NAC, has bought the Rover trademark from BMW for £11·5 million. A press conference will take place on August 22, according to the Birmingham Post.
This should be quite a battle. NAC has less money but a stronger brand. SAIC has more money and a brand with questionable brand equity. When the cars hit the market—especially as the 75 saloons have a shared base—it will be interesting to note just how much the stronger MG brand will further NAC’s sales. However, the smaller company needs to make sure all is well with the product—without it, a brand can only give a short-term sheen, and nothing more.
Update 1: the UK trademarks’ ofﬁce still shows ‘Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft’ as the proprietor of trade mark no. 288516, the Rover name for use on motor cars. MG (trade mark no. 490091) is owned by ‘MG Rover Group Limited’, which is part of NAC now. It has no need to acquire an additional name.
Update 2, August 16, 1.55 p.m. GMT: deal, what deal? SAIC and BMW China say a deal over the trade mark is not imminent, as reported in the Associated Press. The British press—Financial Times included—may have jumped the gun.
Del.icio.us tags: MG Rover MG Rover NAC SAIC brand branding Oklahoma UK Duke T. Hale Posted by Jack Yan, 00:00
A call to support literacy
I support John Mennell’s MagazineLiteracy.org whenever I can, and I was pleased to learn that he has started a blog. On his blog, he has discussed the topic, ‘Magazines are dead’, and that digital media are now as much a part of the landscape to aid literacy as any others.
I urge others to support MagazineLiteracy.org. Last year, we promoted it via Lucire whenever we could, along with the Magazine Publishers of America (since we can’t seem to join the New Zealand equivalent, which is full of Australian-parent mags anyway), and connected John with our good friend Stacie Jones Upchurch.
Why magazines? Well, they are more colourful and accessible than the books that we normally associate with literacy projects, and reach a wider audience. Given that’s the case, they have the potential to encourage more people to learn to read.
John is pretty careful with funds and makes sure as much as possible go to the cause, for which he works tirelessly. So, if any folks are out there can help MagazineLiteracy.org get to its next level, please visit the site and get in touch with John. Posted by Jack Yan, 07:41
Brands and the Middle East conﬂict
My colleague Ed Daniel shared this link with me, with a view to discussing how it could analyse competing brands. I thought that the interactive graph there was useful as it is, revealing the factions at play in the Middle East conﬂicts. It is important to remember that it is not a conﬂict between two parties, which the graph highlights.
But I do take Ed’s point. Most organizations are not just about company and client. Distributors, wholesalers, advertising agencies, potential recruits, politicians—all these are likely to be audiences who are affected by the actions of the brand. Granted, some don’t have a fully direct connection, but they are part of the mix.
Thus, al-Qaeda and Red China are both on the graph—perhaps there is no direct connection, but the actions of one impact on the other. While the brand has no direct impact on a wholesaler, which has to manage its own brand, its branding activity will help drive the wholesaler’s bottom line.
When one considers branding, one may have to consider that the message needs to be consistent with all audiences. Posted by Jack Yan, 07:13
Your business mentor (and Fred Grandy as Your Yeoman Purser)
It looks like I have been accepted into the business mentoring programme here in Wellington, and coincidentally, I have been matched with one reader of this blog. Of course, everything I do for the programme is totally conﬁdential. But I hope to be inspired by the folks I meet.
I went in expecting to do one client per month. I walked out with three.
I would recommend the programme to those needing help, or looking to help. It is totally charitable—I believe I can claim something like 60-odd cents per kilometre for the petrol, and a tiny amount for incidentals. And being in my business, I have to be extra-careful that my advice does not go into paid consulting, to preserve the integrity of the programme.
One-on-one consulting for free sounds just the ticket, and a good way to get back into the community. Plus, all the reporting I do post-meeting is online.
Next step may be ramping up the international public speaking and lecturing again, and then those books … I am savouring the possibilities. And, somewhere along the line, sorting out the regular paid work.
Update: Podcast version with more rambling. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:20
Letter from New Zealand, no. 1
I am more of a writer than a speaker, though after some folks heard me on TV, they thought I had a good voice (and I confess, I would enjoy narrating a TV documentary). Thus, an experiment: this ﬁle is a rehash of my blog post on terrorism from yesterday, with a few odds and ends thrown in. I am no Alistair Cooke, though I tried. Thanks to Randy Thomas for introducing me to Audacity.
If readers enjoy it, I may do a few more of these. The ﬁle is around 4 Mbyte—more at the Internet Archive. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:45
A hundred landmark cars
Paul Gover has a list of his 100 most signiﬁcant cars in the Murdoch Press today. The list starts off pretty well, but gets more dubious as you go down—but bear in mind that Gover is writing partly from personal experience (he has driven a ﬁrst-generation Lancia Lambda), and it is Australian-centric. I would be hard pressed to name a strong 100 myself.
At a quick glance, I can’t spot current vehicles—most, if not all, are historical. The Lotus 7—now a Caterham—is there, and one could argue that Gover refers to current cars when he writes of the Toyota Landcruiser and Prius.
It could also mean there’s not much out of today’s crop that could go down in history, unless the Tesla Roadster and others take off in a big way. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:12
Terrorism boosts the virtual community
The terror plot unveiled by Scotland Yard this past week is expected to impact business travellers, who won’t be willing to give up their laptops and Blackberrys (via the TP Wire Service again). But I expect to see a rise in virtual working, a trend that began in the 1990s, extending to higher levels of management that normally have travel perks. It won’t stop cultural connections: it will put them more online.
Technology has improved to a stage where we can use webcams and the like to conduct meetings—that is now the norm in so many companies, anyway. The model will simply grow more.
In the 1990s, before I travelled extensively, I formed strong relationships through email, faxing and phoning. We’ll simply have to use our imaginations more, and redevelop our internal trust of other people—something that I have noticed diminish in the business world over the last ﬁve or six years.
Emphasis will shift from the extroverted leaders to the introverted ones, especially those who are good at managing things without face-to-face meetings. This shift had happened before, reversed with cheaper air travel.
It doesn’t mean we will all retreat to our own nations, inside our own borders. No terrorist has ever been able to change a basic human condition of wanting to learn, connect, and better ourselves.
And they won’t target the virtual company structure, for they themselves rely upon it. Setting up an alternative network will merely attract the attention of law enforcement agencies, so if anything, they need to preserve these communication channels.
Ironically, if trust and cooperation increase through virtual working, they might have created the opposite effect of what they were trying to do. Those of us who are against terrorism might discover our strengths through being geographically apart, making our own lives better. It is one of the silver linings that I see in August 2006.
Del.icio.us tags: terrorism virtual companies travel business networking communication community Posted by Jack Yan, 02:28
Twenty-ﬁve years of the IBM PC
It’s not much of a branding story, since it became so generic, but it certainly is signiﬁcant in the business world: today is the 25th anniversary of the IBM PC (courtesy Tom Peters’ wire blog). August 12, 1981 was when International Business Machines ﬁrst launched the PC, not expecting it to be a core part of its business.
Back then, I was impressed with the BBC Microcomputer and my Radoﬁn TV game console. At that age, I wasn’t aware of open architecture and the signiﬁcance of ‘IBM compatible’.
With 16 kbytes of memory, you couldn’t do much with it. No cool games. Just boring spreadsheets and business applications. Now, who would use those?
[PS.: Windows Firefox users, is the ﬁ ligature in the heading showing in the same font as the rest of the text on your computer?] Posted by Jack Yan, 02:16
After days of silence, Coca-Cola speaks out on pesticide scandal
Peter Begley said it better than I did, when blogging about the cola pesticide scandal in India.
Rohan, who lives in India, says it is a political ploy rooted in anti-Americanism, and provided a link to an article in the Economic Times that explains the Indian Standard used. The Houston Chronicle says that the standards used by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) are proposed norms, and that the regulations in India are not ﬁnal.
Regardless, Peter’s tips on the analysing the ethics of the situation deserve examination, especially as Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola have not done enough to defuse the situation beyond buying Pepsi some ads.
From what I can tell from my news search, Coke and Pepsi have left others to do the talking, such as the Indian Agrochemicals Promotion Group, an industry group. Only today have I seen Coca-Cola India making a statement, without addressing the CSE’s allegations directly—and that only serves to fuel the crisis. That’s nine days before we heard a response from Coke in the mainstream media.
Instead, Coca-Cola declared its manufacture safe, by saying, ‘No detectable level of pesticides in Indian soft drinks when measured against the EU criteria in independent lab study.’ Further, in the Indian Express story:
Coca Cola has asserted that its soft drinks have been regularly tested and evaluated by a world renowned UK Government Laboratory—Central Science Laboratories (CSL)—and conformed to the stringent standards. “All tests show that our soft drinks are below the EU criteria for pesticide residues in bottled water,” the cola giant said.
It claims it uses the same standards worldwide, something that some American buyers might dispute as it is believed that Mexican-made Coca-Cola is superior to the American-made variety, and given an earlier scandal.
That time out, it was over pesticides as well:
Three years ago, the New Delhi center had carried out similar tests and had said it found the soft drinks sold by Coca-Cola India and PepsiCo India contained pesticide levels that were respectively 30 and 36 times higher than EU standards.
Coca-Cola itself might wish to point to the outcome that time: an August 2003 study by the Indian government that deemed its products safe and a subsequent endorsement by its Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. It could hint that the current mess is political. As Rohan mentioned, Coca-Cola has been the target of anti-American sentiment before.
One would think that Coca-Cola learned from it 2003 experience in India, especially with petitions that were sent to its Indian operation and its Atlanta head ofﬁce that outlined the contradictions in its earlier approach.
Coca-Cola India’s web site has a fairly useful statement that could be communicated with greater clarity, stressing its compliance with Indian law. It may well have stated this to media, but if it has, then it has not been picked up with much success. (My italics.)
Tests are conducted regularly at an independent national and international laboratories such as VIMTA (Hyderabad) for Product Water / Sugar Syrup / Packaged Drinking Water, MWH Laboratories (California, USA) for Packaged Drinking Water and CSL, a world-leading UK government laboratory in London for ﬁnished beverages. These are amongst the few laboratories in the world which have the required ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for pesticide residues testing. The tests conducted reveal that our products meet with all Indian and international applicable standards including those being considered by the regulators in India.
But for now, its response appears to be more double-talk from Coca-Cola India’s PR department—and I believe Indian consumers deserve a great deal more transparency. The CSE challenge should not be hard for Coca-Cola to meet, if such standards are in place, especially if this is mere anti-Americanism. The more Coke stalls, the more suspicious the public will become.
Pepsi has chosen to remain silent other than its ads, which, in my view, makes it worse. But you would expect that from number two.
Del.icio.us tags: Coca-Cola Coke Pepsi-Cola pesticide anti-American scandal India Posted by Jack Yan, 01:04
A thousand comments and still going
As a social experiment, it certainly has a sufﬁcient sample: Randy Thomas’s ‘Longest Comment Thread Ever’ crossed the 1,000 mark last week, as yours truly entered the 1,000th comment. I blogged about this thread earlier, and, separately, why we rally around certain blogs for the commenting.
It shows that people are willing to engage in conversation, free from the constraints of topic. There have been a few larger gaps in time now, as people surf to Randy’s newer posts, but it remains a fascinating Web 2·0 experiment (now on its second page), especially as it draws new people in to the fold. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:26
Where are Jaguar’s suitors?
I was thinking about potential suitors for Jaguar yesterday, and my attempts to make a Korean connection, when a Daewoo Leganza overtook. Now, Daewoo, as it was, no longer exists, but of all the Korean companies around then, it was one that wanted to be Jaguar—when one considers that the Leganza’s styling, by Giugiaro, was based on his Jaguar Kensington concept of the early 1990s. (There’s a hint of Toyota Aristo here, too, which Giugiaro also designed.)
Giugiaro remembered how Jaguars were futuristic with amazing proportions, and sought to re-create it on XJ12 Series III running gear and modern clothing. With hindsight, his ideas would have probably saved Jaguar from the mess it is in now, especially with younger buyers. Kensington still looks good today.
But as the always-clear Jerry Flint pointed out in Forbes this past week, there are no real suitors for Jaguar. His solution: get someone to run the division who understands luxury cars. His eyes are on Dr Ulrich Bez, the man who turned around Aston Martin. He might be right, and it is sure better than ﬂushing a few billion down the toilet. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:07
Snakes on a Plane’s excitement builds
I stand corrected on the amount of Snakes on a Plane fan-generated marketing going on out there, thanks to Mack Collier and Jackie Huba.
As Jackie summarized at her blog: ‘fans have organized parties at midnight showings, including throwing paper airplanes and rubber snakes at the screen’; ‘Damnation, makers of some of the ﬁrst SoaP t-shirts, is organizing a movie-watching party’; ‘SoaP fans can meet up to watch the movie in their city on this online forum or attend one of 40 parties sponsored by Fark.com’.
I would still love to see the outcome of the earlier-blogged movie competition (the one with Lions on a Bus) at this time, blog activity hyping the ﬁlm beyond attendance (e.g. Snakes on a Blog), an online première for folks who can’t be there, and pre-première coverage, maybe by fans on YouTube (some earlier videos exist). However, the forum has some Snakes buzz, and I did concede from the beginning that 11 million Google references to the ﬁlm title, in quotes, is incredibly high.
I still take my hat off to all these parties’ organizers so far, especially remarkable as it’s all for a ﬁlm that no one has seen yet. Posted by Jack Yan, 21:45
Al-Qaeda: as a brand, brought down to size
With the latest airline terror plot blown by Scotland Yard and undercover agents, there is a lot of talk once again about terror cells, the al-Qaeda movement, and whether the latest suspects have any connection to Osama bin Laden. I keep saying: if you study al-Qaeda as a virtual brand—something I have plenty of expertise in, considering I have started all my organizations virtually—then it is easier to bring it down to size. And yes, all al-Qaeda-style attacks can be linked back to the core terror group, just as they would with a franchise or a worldwide virtual team—which is what these cells actually form. The al-Qaeda “head ofﬁce” has its press releases, and even brand extensions.
Brought down to size, as I wrote back in 2004 and again earlier this year, we have less to fear from these cowards. Besides, all great movements spread contentment and love, not fear. Thus, like a brand that promotes fear and doubt, al-Qaeda is headed to powerlessness.
Del.icio.us tags: brand branding al-Qaeda terrorism terror plot war on terror Posted by Jack Yan, 13:58
‘New Zealand Made’ means New Zealand-made: how hard is that?
I don’t normally repost press releases here, but today’s big story here—in terms of fashion—touches on several areas that I would write on. Therefore, I was compelled to issue a media statement, which follows.
Lucire publisher takes issue with changes to New Zealand Made
Wellington, August 12 (JY&A Media) Lucire, one of the few locally owned fashion magazines, and the only one translated and published in Europe, has urged Sue Bradford and the New Zealand Green Party to keep the late Rod Donald’s vision of a New Zealand Made campaign intact.
Jack Yan, the magazine’s publisher, has taken the opposite view to Icebreaker CEO Jeremy Moon, who believes that the campaign should be extended to New Zealand-designed but foreign-made products.
‘With respect, Mr Moon probably is not aware of the late Rod Donald’s wish that the New Zealand Made campaign be used to boost local jobs,’ he says.
‘I have been an advocate of globalization, if done morally. I know Icebreaker has chosen ethical manufacturers. I applaud Jeremy. But that is not the issue here.
‘Mr Donald was concerned by how globalization did not always help the host nation, and how Kiwi jobs were being farmed off abroad.
‘The textiles’ industry has been particularly hard hit of late, and Mr Donald knew this.
‘To turn something that Mr Donald believed in into a pro-globalization campaign would be a mockery,’ he says.
Mr Yan says that the textiles’ sector’s exports ‘plateaued’ in 2004 and appeared to continue declining, based on available ﬁgures. He puts the blame on outsourcing.
‘There are clever ways of outsourcing, and there are daft ways. The clever way is to outsource those elements of production that are simple, and to retain a local production base for more complex or innovative ones. The trick is to innovate enough so that both countries beneﬁt,’ he explains.
‘However, a lot of companies outsource, without realizing that they are giving away trade secrets to Red Chinese companies, among others,’ he says. ‘New Balance has already been a victim of a Red Chinese contractor reverse-engineering, and has spent millions in lawsuits. I do not think New Zealand companies are well equipped enough to ﬁght this threat.’
Earlier this year, he proposed that a textiles’ sub-brand be created to endorse the sector, separate from the New Zealand Made campaign, to protect local jobs.
‘I did not want to suggest anything that diluted Rod Donald’s memory. Nor did I want to suggest anything that insulted those New Zealanders who were pushing for local manufacture. Those are the Kiwis taking the hard way out, and they need this country’s support,’ he says.
Mr Yan says he is not a Green Party supporter, though he has pushed for strong ecological and environmental aims with Lucire and his work at the Medinge Group, a Swedish think-tank on branding meeting this month. He was also one of the ﬁrst people in New Zealand to write about place branding, as CEO of JY&A Consulting and a leading brand consultant.
‘I am aware that what companies like Icebreaker do, not to mention the work done by many of my friends in the fashion industry. They bring in export dollars and create high-value, intellectual capital-based jobs here.
‘But there is room for something separate from New Zealand Made to be created in these situations.’
Mr Yan pointed to New Zealand Trade & Enterprise’s New Zealand, New Thinking campaign as a sign of what could be done, but speciﬁcally for the fashion and textiles’ sectors.
I have to be politically correct in these, which is the only annoying thing. I don’t think a great deal of some of these New Zealand branding campaigns, because history has shown them to be ill-considered. So notice I was conditional enough. Some days, I dislike the lack of transparency in press releases—including my own.
To the Greens, don’t give in to Labour Party pressure or to any of its capitalist friends. If you have a policy, stick to it. It will mean more in the long run, whether others or I agree with it or not.
Del.icio.us tags: globalization New Zealand manufacturing outsourcing fashion industry Posted by Jack Yan, 13:36
The cyclo travels west
Found at Marketallica, the Cyclopolitain cyclos of France is another example of the French taking an Indian concept and making it their own.
As mentioned at this blog, Indians may balk at the Reva, a microcar from their country, but the French ﬁnd favour with it. And now, another Indian concept—that of the autorickshaw—has been adapted by the French, who not only believe it to be ecologically sound, but an opportunity to advertise. (Perhaps I should mention, out of cultural pride, that it was probably the Chinese who came up with the original rickshaw idea.)
There is a major difference beyond the design: a tiny electric motor helps propel the Cyclopolitain cyclo—a name, incidentally, used in Cambodia and Vietnam. The cost of taking one, according to the company, is similar to that of a bus—though you can get dropped off as though you were taking a taxi. Ideal for the crowded cities of today, as we in the west look enviously toward the bicycle-driven cultures of Asia. They, meanwhile, look toward the motorized and smoggy landscapes of the occident.
The grass always seems greener elsewhere, but I personally think Cyclopolitain has the right idea. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:38
Arguing on Good Morning
Tomorrow on Good Morning—already announced on air by Brendon today—Barry, Paul and I will talk about arguing. The theory among all us fellas is that women are better at it, and hold an encyclopædic knowledge of all our misdeeds.
We are meant to talk about what arguments we have with our partners, and whether arguing is healthy.
I have been a bachelor for more years than I have been attached, and since things ’twixt Brigid and me are still new in the grand scheme of things (though if I was Dubya and she was Laura, and we courted at their pace, I would be proposing this month), there hasn’t been any cause for disagreement or argument.
I imagine we look to our parents as examples, and I can only remember about three instances in 20-plus years where there was some greater disagreement. The chasms lasted about a day each time. I think they knew that arguing is not healthy, and they had a solid enough marriage where the pluses outweighed the minuses considerably.
I have a funny feeling twice-divorced Barry will rule the airwaves with the things that may have caused his marriage break-ups. I’m such a nice guy, after all, so who would argue with me?
Apparently, we received a few viewer complaints about the “wall of penises” episode. Someone accused Barry of being homophobic after he made reference to Steve Gray, a gay member of the cast, and a quip about prostate exams. Just so viewers know, and from what I can gather between Barry and Steve, that gag was originally raised by Steve in the green room. Even though you don’t see it on air, Steve has the dirtiest mind of the lot of us.
Therefore, Barry is neither a homophobe nor anti-gay, and the joke was initially Steve’s.
Finally, The Economist can probably end all our programmes if its August 3 article on the different brains of men and women got out. Says it all, really, but without the humour. Posted by Jack Yan, 02:39
Blogger outage today
Just so folks know what Blogger has been reminding me about all day: there will be a scheduled outage at 4 p.m. PDT, so if you cannot access this blog from then, or post to it, that will be why. I believe that time translates to 11 a.m. NZST or 11 p.m. GMT.
Update: this has been postponed to tomorrow, August 10, 4 p.m PDT. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:43
Coke was it
I had already blogged about how Coca-Cola had lost its loving feeling earlier this year, but I didn’t expect there to be a backlash that goes beyond the sort that Naomi Klein might tackle. There are now Indian states that have banned Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, either from locations near educational institutions, or across the entire state, wholesale.
In Kerala, government ofﬁcials have banned cola manufacturing altogether.
As explained by Times Now.tv:
These bans come in the wake of CSE [Center for Science and Environment] ﬁndings that on an average, they contained pesticides 24 times higher than the standards set by BIS [Bureau of Indian Standards]. The CSE ﬁndings indicate that the levels of pesticide in samples of Pepsi produced in the Bangalore plant exceeded the BIS standards by 23.2 times.
The levels could lead to cancer, according to the government departments.
The health minister of India does not believe state governments have the authority to enact these bans, and the matter is before the food and drugs’ commissioner there, according to The Times of India.
It is not the ﬁrst time the cola manufacturers have been banned—the same thing happened in 1977. Coca-Cola re-entered in 1993. The articles I have read so far in the Indian press do not indicate if Coke wishes to ﬁght the claims and defend its brand.
We already have the problem of Mexican Coca-Cola tasting better than the American variety because of the sugar used, and now pesticides?
Coke should present its own take on the pesticides and be serious about it. If they’re there, then the obvious consumer demand would be that they are removed.
It’s not just addressing Indian consumer concerns and keeping its bottlers in business there. With a globalized world, stories like this travel fast—and I am now curious to know if pesticides are used in any other country’s Coca-Cola.
This is another side of branding: if your brand is so strong, you risk bad news travelling faster, to all your markets. For Coke’s own sake, I hope we hear its answer soon. Posted by Jack Yan, 15:25
Back on the circuit
I am back on the public speaking circuit for the northern autumn (I am “for hire” after a year’s absence), something I have missed doing, but to balance the money-making there, I have volunteered for the mentoring programme for Business in the Community in Wellington, New Zealand. On the latter point, I was inspired by Ron Entwistle, who has volunteered as well. Sometimes, all a business person needs is empathy, to know that he or she is not alone.
Ron sees something like 12 to 20 people a month. Because of my schedule, I plan to start on one.
I’ve been advising folks on a pro bono basis who ﬁnd me after my speaking gigs, but I thought: why not get in contact with some who have applied through the BITC programme? They would be people who want mentoring, on a less casual basis. In some cases, they may have troubled businesses. It could be a good adventure. Posted by Jack Yan, 12:42
Mitsubishi goes from style leader to product-pusher
Checking out July 2006 foreign car sales in the United States, now that the ﬁgures have been out for a few days, it’s clear that (most of) the best improvers are those with brands that are very “in” at the moment. Toyota has a 10·8 per cent increase in sales, year to date, compared with the same period to July 2005. Honda is up 9·5 per cent, and Suzuki, with its Grand Vitara, is up a creditable 32·3 per cent.
It’s not all good news for the Japanese automakers. Mitsubishi is down 9·5 per cent, Nissan is down 7·1, and Renault–Nissan unit Inﬁniti is down 14·3 per cent. Isuzu, which hardly sells Isuzus in the US any more, is down 35·7 per cent, and may as well be a dead brand there—despite celebrating 75 years of production in Japan next year.
Nissan’s fall is a surprise to me, though the company says with new product in the pipeline for the next few months, we should see a rise. The Altima, Maxima, Versa and Sentra should come on stream.
However, Mitsubishi’s fall isn’t, and it reminds me of how the brand can affect one’s perception—even when product planners do the same thing.
In 1988, Mitsubishi New Zealand replaced its successful Sigma—the car sold as the Galant Sigma in Japan—with a new-shape model. It was on the same platform, but with rounded edges, it looked smaller than its predecessor. Print advertising campaigns stressed that the car was on the same platform and was ‘big’, while the TV campaign, starring Gordon Jackson from The Professionals, emphasized the Galant’s safety and strength.
Knowing that there would be a perception that the new car was smaller, the New Zealand management convinced Japan to continue sending kits of the old model, but equipped it with the company’s three-litre V6. It would be Mitsubishi’s effort in challenging the six-cylinder market dominated by the Australians.
Rebadging the old Sigma as the V3000, a badge rather than a model range name in Japan, Mitsubishi managed to score, and even the Ministry of Transport—our then-highway patrol to our American friends—bought them for its ﬂeet of cop cars.
Although the V3000 was in fact a smaller car than the Galant, and was dimensionally mid-size, Mitsubishi made a decent dent in the full-size, six-cylinder market. When its successor was launched in 1992, based on the larger Australian-made Verada, Mitsubishi reused the V3000 moniker.
Fast forward to the mid-2000s, and Mitsubishi does something similar. It takes the 2003-launched Galant from the US market and gets its Australian arm to do some tweaking (spending A$600 million doing so), resulting in a car that looks basically the same, sold with an essentially identical 3·8-litre V6. With Galant being associated with mid-sized cars, and Mitsubishi wanting to tackle big Australian cars, it uses the 380 name. Yet the car has not reached sales’ expectations, and is now on to a ‘Series II’ version—in less than a year. Six grand was chopped off the base price in Australia.
In fact, I even went and criticized Mitsubishi for being so foolish, selling an older-shape mid-sized car and pretending it was a new, full-size one. This was at odds with my own position back in the late 1980s.
I can only assume the brand is tarnished. Never mind what Mitsubishi did in World War II—there’s a useful Mitsubishi Sucks web site that covers that—the company has been less than clear about what it stands for.
In the 1980s, it was a style leader, coming out with new directions in design that suggested that Japan knew the way forward when it came to cars. Mitsubishi had begun carving that direction with the 1978 Mirage and its Silent Shaft engines. It was the ﬁrst automaker in Australia to ﬁt a factory turbocharger—and Todd, the New Zealand importer, the ﬁrst in New Zealand to assemble a turbocharged car. Even in the 1990s, Mitsubishi could depend partly on its sporty, technological image.
But by the turn of the century, Mitsubishi was so mixed in its offerings it could never sustain the same economies of scale it once enjoyed.
The Lancer Cedia was launched in some markets in 2000, while others made do with a previous-generation model that Mitsubishi kept on the market for four more years. By the time the Cedia launched in New Zealand, it was already a whole model cycle in age, based on Mitsubishi’s earlier four-year model changes. Similar things happened with the Galant until the 380 was launched.
While it was in disarray, there was little for the company to get excited about. It could hardly reinforce its brand and claim any superiority against other Japanese marques. Toyota and Honda were streets ahead.
And while it won rallies with its Lancer Evolutions, they did not look like the older model that was still in the showrooms. So why participate in motor sport anyway? Wasn’t the whole idea of having a factory team to encourage showroom trafﬁc and people buying a car that resembled what was on the sports’ news?
Instead, Lancers seemingly went to older drivers looking for a sensible car. The people who bought Austin 1300s and Volvo 340s once upon a time. The Galant was junk. And the Diamante, despite a makeover from Frenchman Olivier Boulay, looked like a bloated pig—enough for it to be rapidly withdrawn from the US market soon after.
While the Airtrek—Outlander in some countries—and Pajero were decent entries, Mitsubishi could not rest on niche vehicles alone to uphold its image.
The brand went from innovative to pensionable in a very short time, selling old-tech Japanese. Toyota may be able to do that with its ﬁrst-generation Avalon, till recently still made Down Under, but at least it has the “old faithful” image to rest on. Mitsubishi always played second, or even third, ﬁddle to the more experienced Japanese exporters.
Today, Mitsubishi’s New Zealand range is more cohesive than it has been in a while, with current-generation Colt, Lancer and 380 as its main passenger cars, but I still do not know what it stands for. The ancient, previous-generation Galant, according to its web site, is still on sale: this car was obsolete in 2003 in the US. A new truck is en route, and it could help liven things up—at least it looks the business.
But for now, advertising for the vehicles lack emotion, other than a commercial that shows the cars—minus the embarrassing Galant—accompanied by a rock soundtrack. If Mitsubishi means performance once more, as the full-range TVC shows a Pajero rocketing through the desert, then I can hardly notice it on the showroom ﬂoor. Nor can I really see it on the web site, which has very little to entice younger buyers.
It should not be hard to rediscover the glory days, if Mitsubishi had the will. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, it was by offering a competitive range that appeared more modern than Toyota’s and Nissan’s. Now, it is just pushing product, and, in some sectors, not very good product at that. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:38
Happy Danes are here again
We have seen maps of which countries are richer, and which are warmer. But Dr Adrian White, social psychologist at the University of Leicester, has put together the world’s ﬁrst map of happiness, based on an 80,000-strong sample. (Thanks to Dr Deborah Serani’s blog.)
Denmark leads the happiness scale, and for those who have not been in København during the last day of term, I can conﬁrm that the uni students are pretty happy people. Switzerland, Austria, Iceland and the Bahamas follow. New Zealand is 18th, and the United States is 23rd.
At the other end of the scale, the Democratic Republic of Congo is 176th, Zimbabwe is 177th (no surprise there), and Burundi is 178th.
Interesting who came out on top as I would have thought the Finns (6th), Swedes (7th) and Bhutanese (8th) would be higher than the Swiss and Austrians. New Zealanders will probably care that we beat the Australians, but like with many of these global indices, I still say, ‘We can do better.’ Posted by Jack Yan, 07:54
Ford may sell Jaguar, with Land Rover as sweetener
Ford may sell Jaguar, with once-proﬁtable Land Rover as a sweetener, and retain minority shareholdings and technical links with both—if reports surrounding Kenneth Leet’s strategic recommendations are correct. And Ford will now have to consider if it is going to be in for the long term, or react as Wall Street is so prone to doing on a quarterly basis.
I advocate sticking it out, if I were on the Ford board. These brands are worth something to Ford, and allow it to have economies of scale across market sectors. But, as so often happens, American investment groups don’t seek the long term. Not after so many years of losses. I wouldn’t blame them so harshly this time.
The Observer’s report on Sunday made some sense when Julian Rendell wrote:
Despite its troubles, Jaguar still offers a huge amount to Ford. Alongside Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin and Land-Rover, it is one of the few British car marques to retain global credibility. The brand still offers plenty of heritage to exploit; its designers and engineers know luxury saloons and sports cars inside out; its factories are relatively new; and there is a dramatic new sports saloon due to launch around 2008.
The question is whether Ford wants to be around to take advantage of all this, or whether it needs to sell up quickly to offset the worsening position in North America.
A well-placed industry expert in the UK is convinced a sale is planned. ‘I know they will sell it,’ he says. ‘It is quite logical. Jaguar has never made money and the prognosis doesn’t look good.’
It is true that in 17 years of Ford ownership, Jaguar has made money in only a handful of years. In that time it has absorbed around $5bn of investment—at least $1bn of that going into emergency recapitalisations.
But those ﬁgures don’t tell the whole story. It could be argued that Jaguar has been starved of investment. Over 17 years, an average of about £200m a year is not enough to keep pace with rivals such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, whose model ranges now dwarf Jaguar’s. And, crucially, Jaguar’s German competitors have had diesel engines for years. Jaguar only got its ﬁrst diesel in 2003.
Someone will beneﬁt from all this. Renault was linked to Jaguar not long ago, and now Hyundai is. If the east is rising, then I would not be surprised, and the Korean company might more than readily use Jaguar’s and Land Rover’s technology in its more humble offerings. It might not even need deep pockets as so much of Jaguar’s future models are already sorted. The X-type’s R&D is advanced, and the S-type is nearly ready.
Hyundai emerged when a British Leyland boss went over there to help South Korea start on automobile manufacture. Nissan got its start with building Austins under licence. MG and Rover are in Red Chinese hands. The east may now beneﬁt not from technology, but from England’s great brands. It is almost the next logical ﬂow of assets as the region strengthens further and ﬁnds itself needing to compete more aggressively in ﬁrst-world economies.
Whether there is any strategic ﬁt remains open to question—and Hyundai itself has not shown itself to be that conscious of branding, in its 30-plus-year history. The cultural question may well be greater than that of capital.
The same issue might be plaguing Russian automaker GAZ right now, but it does have former Ford of Europe COO Martin Leach in its employ.
Del.icio.us tags: Jaguar Ford Land Rover transfer technology brands Hyundai branding luxury brands premium corporate culture capitalization investment Wall Street GAZ Posted by Jack Yan, 13:43
Finding Smart money by not Dodging Colt
The Smart ForFour is not a particularly great hatchback. It’s overpriced, and not really better than the Mitsubishi Colt on which it’s based. But it does look funky, and if it were not for DaimlerChrysler’s cold feet over the Smart brand, could have survived a little longer for the automaker to make its money back on the tooling.
Although this piece of advice is probably too little, too late, DaimlerChrysler could have thought of its brands a bit more, and how it could spend very little for larger gain.
Smart ForFour could have easily been given a very tiny makeover, be rid of its whacky colour scheme, and turned into the Chrysler Java—the small, entry-level hatchback that the company promised in the 1990s and previewed as a show car.
It even looks mildly like how I recall the Java, if it were painted more conventionally. Chrysler then has something vaguely Euro-friendly to tempt entry-level buyers—especially in France and Italy where superminis are loved—and there would be fewer complaints about the cars being too American.
And besides, it can’t be any worse, at least styling-wise, than the awkward 2007 Sebring.
While the negotiations with Mitsubishi and Nedcar are well over, and the Colt platform is probably not available any more, it would have made some sense.
I keep seeing these missed opportunities: am I alone? This would have been Dodge Colt redux, but with more individuality in the design. I am not reinventing the wheel here when I suggest Chrysler rehash a small Mitsubishi hatchback. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:17
Managing the personal brand
I have had a few postgraduate students ask me questions about branding, as usual, but one was slightly outside the norm. She wanted to know about celebrity management and how one could be a personal brand. (I did refer her to Thomas Gad and Anette Rosencreutz’s Managing Brand Me as well—they have an excellent personal-branding model in there.)
One question was a bit too hard to respond to in a short space, but I thought my answer was worth publishing here. (I had better not post the question to preserve her methodology, in case she is competing with other students.)
This may be too numerous to list here, but one unusual factor would be to communicate to the celebrity that they have to subscribe to certain aspects of the vision and strategy [that is set for him or her]. This is not as odd as it seems, nor is it a case of restricting one’s freedom.
Remember, that in an ideal situation, the desired image the celebrity wishes to have is an “improved” version of themselves. A personal branding régime can be thought of as self-improvement for the personal image, just as exercise is self-improvement for the physical body. Thus, keeping a celebrity on the “straight and narrow” is akin to being a personal life coach, but done with the additional aspect of how (more) external audiences perceive that person.
But as we found out last week with the Mel Gibson situation, this is not always an easy task, for celebrities are only people. Then, too, so are corporations—they are legal persons—and humans within them will stray, even with the best branding programmes.
The tricky thing, as I see it, is having someone deal with managing the changing images of the client, in the age of Web 2·0. For a company, I would advise that they be fed back and acted on rapidly, because for an organization, the brand can no longer be an immovable block. It is ﬂuid and organic, in order to demonstrate responsiveness; visions need to be relatively loose to enable the organization to take advantage of new opportunities. This is why so many start-ups and small companies innovate so well and rapidly, and is the cornerstone of a good R&D process.
Conversely, personal brands may need to become more rigid, if they are part of a celebrity-management programme. Too much change and ﬂuidity can negatively impact one’s authenticity. They often harm the celebrity and make him or her seem clueless—and the last two Democratic presidential campaigns are testament to taking these ideas too far. Both Al Gore and John Kerry had campaigns that were reactive, while George W. Bush went for a more consistent approach.
Vision has to stay reasonably constant, and that that should drive the personal brand. An understanding on how to shift audience impressions toward the desired image is important, and that should be the main aim of personal brand management, if it is being done by an outside party.
The bottom line is that branding strategies and techniques can be used to manage celebrity images. The process is the same, and the way communications reach audiences is the same. One is merely trying to sell a persona—which brings us neatly back to the comment on Johnnie Moore’s blog last week—with differences in the intensity of the approach.
Del.icio.us tags: personal branding branding personal brand brand management brand strategy celebrity image personal image Posted by Jack Yan, 12:35
A new internet sport
Earlier this year, I highlighted a book called Tuesdays with Mantu, written by a copywriter, Rich Siegel, who decided to waste the time of a Nigerian 419 scammer by posing as a victim called Richard Inhande.
Today, Andrea Weckerle refers me to something even grander: an entire site, 419 Eater, where some folks have got together and turned 419-scammer-baiting into a sport.
To me, this makes sense. We can put up all the ﬁlters we like, and delete as many emails as we like, but to really get up these idiots’ noses, why not scam the scammers?
The MO is genius, but it takes time: pretend to be suckered in, and drag it out for as long as possible. In that time, the scammers are being suckered themselves, preventing them from seeing to more gullible, unsuspecting victims.
While those wishing to spend time on baiting 419ers will be fewer than the victims they can reach, it still damages these scams on the internet. Maybe it will get to a point when 419 scams will no longer be worthwhile. We can only hope. Posted by Jack Yan, 09:43
In national plan, Malaysia aims to brand
The Malaysian Business Times has an article today where local branding expert Peter Pek says the nation is 10–15 years behind South Korea in the profession:
He said Malaysia has not been strong in branding and has not placed much importance in it until now. People are starting to realise that they need something else and that the product alone cannot survive.
“The Government knows that we have to move away from being an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) service type of country to become brand owners. I feel that they are aware of this and it is in line with our economic policy.
“We need to become owners of intellectual property like brands, and we need to build these brands,” Pek said.
When I travelled to Malaysia in 2002 to inform business owners of the same, I recall that many folks did not take kindly to it. Oddly, and if I may generalize, the Chinese were the sceptics, while the native Malays accepted the suggestions. The overriding criticism was that I did not give them a how-to on how to get rich. But there is no formula to branding: I could only give general guidelines, and that wasn’t good enough.
Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, the Government announced an extra RM100 million to the RM100 million branding and promotion grant available to small and medium enterprises here.
Grouping branding and promotion together indicates that the government considers the two to be closer than they really are.
But branding is for the long term—a generation or more—a promotion often less so. To me, branding has more in common with the aims of the RM600 million in the country’s Strategic Investment Fund. (Nevertheless, I applaud Malaysia for at least identifying an issue and trying to do something about it.)
Branding is about deep, internally directed research, and a clear vision. It’s about interaction with consumers, and making use of every single channel available. We, as brand consultants, can only do so much: perhaps akin to a doctor, we can only help a patient that wants to get better. The organizational will has to be there, too.
Pek has a better idea than most, from what I can tell—he is certainly making the right noises. Hopefully, he will be more successful than I was in waking businesses up to the notion that there are no hard and fast rules to branding, and any useful solution must be unique to the organization.
Del.icio.us tags: branding Malaysia brands government national plan Posted by Jack Yan, 13:31
And now, Red China blocks Feedburner feeds
Steve Rubel notes that Red China is now blocking Feedburner feeds (referred by Robin Capper).
This is a huge pity, as Feedburner is one of the better RSS services out there—I have watched my stats go up of late because of the feeds it provides from this blog. It is yet another example of Red China trying to control what the Chinese people may or may not access—and yet another action that will only serve to frustrate a population that is noticing, year after year, just what freedoms others have—and what it lacks.
Last week, Peter Begley emailed me to discuss a bit more about what he saw in China. While I won’t reveal our discussion publicly, I did note that Chinese government misdeeds in the last century caused two political revolutions. Censorship is a dangerous course to take today, as media phenomena are different. Rather than being driven by a few bodies, the blogosphere has shown it is driven by the many. The Politburo’s only solution is to shut down the lot—and that can hardly be competitive given Red China’s international trade ambitions.
One hundred and three Chinese intellectuals have already protested the closure of one site and demanded internet freedom—taking a huge, life-threatening risk themselves. It’s a tiny number out of a billion people, till you realize that protesters in the past have been met with jail terms. Beijing needs to be concerned, since, according to the Harvard Law School, Red China will have more people using the internet than any other country shortly.
Del.icio.us tags: Red China Chinese media freedom internet Posted by Jack Yan, 08:37
Brands versus commodities
With apologies to William Blake, Brian Phipps gives the low-down on brands versus commodities on his blog. And he is right: I use the word interface when describing brand’s connection with consumers; he talks of ‘the shortest distance’. I hadn’t thought of comparing it with commodity as Brian has (not even after describing the TV news as a commodity), but he is right on the money.
While he invites people to comment because he believes there could be holes in his theory, I say the sheer simplicity and elegance of it mean that it stands up well to scrutiny. A bit like e = mc². Posted by Jack Yan, 08:03
Snakes on a Plane: 13 days to go
The Snakes on a Plane marketing machine seems to be moving, but oh-so conventionally. With 13 days to go before the movie is out Stateside, I expected a lot more. Google references are now in the 11 millions, which is the best they’ve been, and posters are being spotted—one is photographed and shown at Icysarcasm’s Bad School Assignments of Doom. But there seems to be less of the same fascination in the blogosphere—it has become, as I had feared, just another movie, though audience numbers will be buoyed by many who blogged about it in 2005 and 2006. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:38
Kiwi TV through British eyes
Part of my chat with Johnnie Moore surrounded yesterday’s episode of Good Morning, where I was a bit quieter than usual on the topic of ﬁnances. As readers of this blog know, ﬁnances are not where the beginning and the end of life are. Secondly, it was way more fun listening to twice-divorced Barry Soper go on about his experiences with carving up matrimonial property.
The ﬁnance topic was too easy, because the partner who should be in charge should be the more numerically inclined of the two, and this is not dependent on gender. I came to the conclusion early as we led up to the 10 o’clock news.
It was also interesting to hear Johnnie’s viewpoints on the Good Morning advertorials, which he described as ‘quaint’ to a Brit, and which I described with a word that I probably should not use here. Having said it, they keep the programme ﬁnanced, and the King of Shaves product range sold on it is really good (that was not a paid endorsement), if I did not get so many smellies and shaving foam from L’Oréal in my thank-you basket for presenting and judging Colour Trophy this year.
But do advertorials work? They are everywhere, and here in New Zealand, the related infomercials usually come on at night when hardly anyone is watching. I know air time is cheap then, but their prevalence suggests that some people do buy as a result. As for me, I am way too cynical because the endorsements are elicited via payment and, therefore, are as trustworthy as Winston Peters in a high-level meeting.
Johnnie noticed these, as well as the New Zealand fascination for having advertising on buses touting the bright-smile anchormen and women as semi-celebrities. He is right that these are about networks putting fake glosses on programmes which people care less and less about.
Not long ago, I noticed that the news was no longer the most-viewed programme here on TV; 20 years ago, the News (or whatever it was called) had all seven of six o’clock shows in the top 10, along with Coronation Street. The Network News was revamped with new, youthful presenters in 1988, when now-departed Richard Long and Judy Bailey were hired in the 1980s. Long and Bailey eventually disappeared for younger clones of themselves in the mould of Simon Dallow and Wendy Petrie, who have done their time as journalists, but Walter Cronkites they are not.
But youth cannot save the news as more of us surf for it, and make up our own minds. Television news needs a rethink, in an age when news is rather commodiﬁed, and the same stories seem to do the rounds.
Differentiation is as important with content as it is in branding, certainly for supporting stories. Kick up an investigation into corruption and don’t chicken out this time. See who is behind the globalization forces forcing closures of Kiwi businesses. Do stuff. Even John Campbell disses Telecom (grilling its CEO), and that is his primary sponsor.
TV One’s campaign about getting the vox populi the drinking age, showing Dallow and Petrie among the public and shot with a hand-held camera, seems contrived: do the story already, or at least try to inject some unscripted improvisation on a pressing issue into the bulletin. You really cannot put a sheen on to gutsy news reporting—you just have to do it.
Del.icio.us tags: news media TV marketing advertising branding differentiation Posted by Jack Yan, 06:04
The person and the persona
I had a wonderful conversation with Johnnie Moore earlier today, while he’s holidaying in Nelson, New Zealand. We chatted about branding, our respective lives, and our respective blogs. I won’t spoil any future posts he might make, but I recommend, as I am sure he will, a comment made on his blog in response to his post on Laura Ries discussing the Mel Gibson incident.
When it comes to all brands, it is important to distinguish the person (corporate or human) and the persona—something that was succinctly put by Uri Baruchin at ‘Brand Mel’. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:43
Jaguars can’t leap when their paws are tied
Those Jaguar sale rumours just won’t stop. But in a country where Aston Martin has outsold Jaguar before—that’s right: Kiwis are more inclined to be James Bond than Inspector Morse—The Wall Street Journal’s report today that Ford may divest Jaguar is totally believable.
Pity: I believed Ford could make a go of it, if it were not for its own troubles, and the old Jag generation design approach. If anything, the XK8 sports car—the gorgeous one—heralded the next stage for Jaguar, hinting at exciting product on the way. The next S-type has already been previewed to dealers, who give the wedgier, forward-looking saloon a thumbs-up.
Alas, Jaguar is part of an American company that forces quarterly results for its shareholders, not long-term solutions. With all Ford units down Stateside, and being forced out of the US number-two spot by Toyota, Dearborn has pressed a panic switch.
Rather than look at creative ways out, it has reacted, like so many corporations will do when times are tough. Either increase sales or cut costs. And if Jag is bleeding, then Ford may not wish to treat skin cancers any more, but amputate. Bill Ford’s love of alternative energies, social responsibility and running Ford in an innovative way have had to take a back seat to the usual concerns of the board. Being a boss doesn’t always mean holding all the power.
Del.icio.us tags: Jaguar Ford Bill Ford management Wall Street shareholders corporations quarterly reporting vision Posted by Jack Yan, 14:20
How Chrysler designed the Sebring
As I am on a deadline at work, ponder just how Chrysler—now the US’s number ﬁve after Honda beat it in sales—came up with its Sebring design. In a word, this car is ugly—this is what happens when one tries to incorporate a brand’s elements so strongly that the overall product design suffers. ‘Ooh, let’s put on a hood like the Crossﬁre’s!’ ‘Let’s try to make the rear window slope like it, too!’ ‘Hey, why don’t we do a grille like the one we have on the minivan?’
For those of us expecting a scaled-down, muscular Chrysler 300 that could knock the socks off the Camry and Accord, this was disappointing. By all means, brand—but not to the point of sacriﬁcing a product’s overall attractiveness.
But JD, a car blogger in Washington, DC, may have the mystery solved at Autoerratic. In ‘Autoerrathmetic Vol. 8’, he poses his theory on how DaimlerChrysler arrived at the Sebring’s design. Check it out—I think he’s right, and it’s a simpler explanation than the one I came up with. Pity: the old one may have driven like a dog, but it looked great. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:38
Another blog with faces
I got a very nice email from Thomsen Young today, noting that I had been added to his Blogs with a Face site. You’ll see me on the bottom row, next to Jamie Oliver. The idea is to link blogs with their creators’ faces, and, I expect, to drive trafﬁc to us.
There are a lot more of us here than at 25 Peeps, but each photo is tiny. However, it gives a neat effect, showing that the blogosphere is not made up of lines and dots (as most diagrams of it have shown to date), but real people. (There are some logo exceptions.)
I am by no means among the ﬁrst people—I notice that Thomsen has quoted, on his home page, Randy Thomas and Pajamas Media.
Thomsen, I am delighted to be added, and I hope your blog keeps growing. Others can submit to Thomsen via a link on his blog’s home page. As with 25 Peeps, I am discovering new people, which I would not have before. Such is the nature of the blogosphere. Posted by Jack Yan, 01:21
Mel Gibson needs to do what he says
The mea culpa approach works wonders, as Mel Gibson will likely ﬁnd after issuing a speciﬁc apology today (his full statement is at the BBC News site) for the anti-Semitic remarks made by him when arrested for driving under the inﬂuence (allegedly of tequila) last week.
It’s simple PR: denying something most know as fact will serve to alienate; admitting it defuses a situation. A cynic would say that it’s a shrewd move on the part of a money-motivated Hollywood actor, producer and director. A Gibson fan would say it is in line with his faith to admit a wrongdoing, and seek forgiveness sincerely. But either way, it will lessen the public fascination for his sexist and anti-Semitic statements.
I have said prejudiced things myself, though consciously I do not feel such prejudices and believe I have got over them. I admit that in the past, before I knew better, I made derogatory remarks about homosexuals—before ﬁguring out that prejudice against them was not unlike the racial prejudice I encountered in my life. To my knowledge, I haven’t blurted out anything inﬂammatory while squiffy. However, being the son of an alleged Holocaust denier, Gibson may well have been raised to see the ofﬁcial Jewish and Vatican positions on everything from the Holocaust to Jesus’ death as wrong, and these are deep-seated teachings that he may hold, but not consciously practise.
I am no Gibson apologist and concur with his statement that the remarks made were despicable. I hope some good comes from it, forcing others to examine their own views, and whether they, too, have deep-seated prejudices that can surface at the wrong times. If they are not in line with who we are (or who we say we are), we should seek to be rid of them from our system.
The daggers may be out for Mel now, but he has ducked controversy before in the wake of his The Passion of the Christ, and thanks to the mass media dropping the story because of his mea culpa, he will again.
Given that that is how things may pan out, the Jewish community may wish to see if Mr Gibson will be sincere about meeting with its leaders, and truly taking steps to learn about himself. But I think he needs to be.
This incident will remain a shadow on the Mel Gibson personal brand for some time. All brands are affected by existing images, and removing one that is so controversial—this, for some, goes beyond drug-taking—can take a long time. It can be sped up through visible action: that Gibson follow up just what he promised, and allow the Jewish community to publicize it, not his own press relations’ team.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that in many Australian reports, Gibson is now ‘Australian-raised’. Not long ago he was claimed as one of Australia’s own—much like how Hawaii-born Nicole Kidman is today. Posted by Jack Yan, 21:57
Clearing the Fog
There are a few services out there on the web that analyse blogs, not least Mapstats that I had mentioned last month. While being frustrated with Kinja—some service which doesn’t seem to be able to crawl this site or add others efﬁciently—I noted a link to a readability analysis tool from Juicy Studio.
For those wondering how good their writing is, this site is an excellent resource.
I discovered the following about this blog, copied and pasted from Juicy Studio’s site:
Total sentences: 1,387
Total words: 12,946
Average words per sentence: 9·33
Words with one syllable: 8,736
Words with two syllables: 2,495
Words with three syllables: 1,144
Words with four or more syllables: 571
Percentage of word with three or more syllables: 13·25%
Average syllables per word: 1·50
Gunning Fog Index: 9·03
Flesch Reading Ease: 70·31
Flesch-Kincaid Grade: 5·77
The last three ﬁgures are the party trick for this tool. Gunning Fog details how many years of education one might need before reading this blog, with 17 being the highest score (a postgrad). A score of 9·03 puts this blog around the same level as a popular novel.
The Flesch Reading Ease score is based on an index of 0 to 100, and the higher the score, the easier this blog is to read. I would say 70·31 is not too bad here, considering there are specialist topics from time to time.
Finally, the Flesch–Kincaid Grade also suggests how many years of education one requires in order to read this blog—which puts this at a ﬁfth- or sixth-grade level.
For those who have some writing online, Juicy Studio’s tool could be very useful. For me, I am glad that my rough target—that this blog has some smart things to say, but retains its accessibility—seems to be conﬁrmed by the ﬁgures. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:03
Three years of blogging
August 2006 marks three years since I began blogging. Picture it: Wellington, August 11, 2003. I had just got back from California and the “Total Recall” election. Not much to the post, but it was written to provoke thought as Beyond Branding, the book I co-authored with Medinge Group members, headed on to the market.
Johnnie Moore, perhaps unsurprisingly after how successful his blog became, entered the ﬁrst post.
I didn’t think much of blogging, since I had a working knowledge of HTML and found it limiting. Few blog templates were customized—I did my best to hide the Beyond Branding Blog’s humble Blogger-based roots, and Johnnie believes I succeeded when he exclaimed in email).
And there were many strange people inhabiting the blogosphere, I decided. No, I wasn’t going to join, I told John. Then I did, regularly. As late as December 2005, I was a blogger in denial. No, I would not set up my own blog. Then I did.
I haven’t been great at sticking to my guns on this, which is pretty uncharacteristic of me. Well, at least I don’t have a cellphone.
Back then, I don’t believe I returned to the BBB for another quarter after my ﬁrst post—a far cry from my habits today.
I may still be in denial. Then again, Johnnie called me an Über-blogger last week. I may need to see Blogoholics Anonymous. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:14
Unconventional marketing (needed) for an unconventional car
Wired has done a great piece on the Tesla Roadster, the electric-powered sports’ car out of Northern California, backed by dot commers. I believe it’s a winner because it can deliver lightness, speed and range. But I reckon Tesla needs people like us blogging away and helping with its marketing, because 616,000 references on Google sound very few. It’s far fewer than Snakes on a Plane, yet it is way more important.
And why not blog? An unconventional car demands unconventional marketing and WOM. We are ﬁghting big-spending multinational oil companies, like in that ﬁrst Sweeney! movie.
Tesla will never spend as much money as Toyota, so its coverage in the mainstream motoring press may be minimal. And I wouldn’t want to see its demise when it holds the promise of a more energy-efﬁcient future.
Pessimism? Well, how many of us have heard of the Venturi Fetish? This is a French-made all-electric sports’ car, which might not have the Tesla’s 250-mile range (the Fetish tops out at 220), but it is pioneering and sexy. It came out at the Paris show in 2004, and I have heard little of it—despite being an occasional reader of L’Automobile and getting its annuals (it must be mentioned down the back). Plus, I was a huge MVS Venturi fan.
I hope Tesla won’t get buried because of journalistic ignorance, and that we can help spread the word about this huge step forward in automobile history. It needs to be in far more than Wired magazine. And with not one, but two, cool sports’ cars on the market now, something is beginning to shift. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:44
NoteEntries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.
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Copyright ©200210 by Jack Yan & Associates. All rights reserved. Photograph of Jack Yan by Chelfyn Baxter.