Yes we can: Barack Obama stays on message
Sen. Barack Obama is doing well in his bid for the US Democratic nomination because he has a consistent brand. You didn’t need me to tell you that. He has consistent visuals and a message that hasn’t wavered much. He hasn’t needed to go into depth, as his nearest opponent is saying, because it’s not part of the Obama brand. And he’s not about to change his tune, showing Americans that his visions can be depended upon.
I see the word Change consistently at Obama rallies, not just spoken by him but plastered on banners and other material. It’s consistently in the same typeface. In fact, his campaign has been clever enough not even to show his name prominently, which might look a little foreign—Change is what appears in bigger letters, Obama taking a back seat. In Texas this week, we normally see Change and Texas on the banners. Not Obama.
It is a very good political technique and one I highlighted at my keynote for the Alliance Party last October. There, I referred to Tony Blair’s 1997 campaign, similarly about change, along with ‘New Labour, new Britain’. He was light on speciﬁcs. John Major, rightly, called Blair a political kleptomaniac. It’s a sentiment echoed last week by one accusation thrown Obama’s way by Sen. Hillary Clinton.
In the words of Sir Robert Muldoon, when discussing his party’s 1990 campaign against a Labour supporter, ‘How can you say we have bad policies if you say we have no policies?’
But after years of one type of administration—it could be argued there’s not much difference between the Bush years, the Clinton years, and the Bush years from the point of view of big business—Obama’s catch-cry is a tempting, appealing one.
Change is something the American people want, so why not vote in someone who doesn’t look like he has played the Beltway game, even if he has been in elected ofﬁce for longer than Hillary Clinton?
By being light on the details, audiences ﬁll in their own dreams. The Obama camp, no doubt, argues that a president must inspire and propel an audience to get involved. In the 2000s, this might well be part of the Zeitgeist: participative politics, just as we talk about brands that have the involvement of their audience in shaping their destinies. Obama has stayed on message—and that’s why he chalks up victories.
In such an atmosphere, McCain and Clinton seem like yesterday’s news, viewﬁnders on where Americans have been, not the future they feel Obama will allow them to determine on voting day, and in the term to come. Whether or not the future unfolds that way is another subject altogether.
Note: this post is not an endorsement for any candidate. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:54
The Vista Group comes to order
I had a great lunch (to which I was on time) with Wellington bloggers Jim Donovan and Mark Di Somma at Vista, which now seems to be a monthly gig, discussing business and branding. Funnily enough, the Trelise Cooper brand did come up (just blogged about it, guys), but we also talked about the theory of the Nod: that two consumers of the same niche product would recognize each other as belonging to an exclusive club, whether that club existed in fact or not. Two Harley–Davidson riders might nod at each other, knowing they have some form of brotherhood.
I wonder if this is a male phenomenon. Would two women with a Hermès Kelly bag do the same, or would they believe the other to be a rival, sparking a conversation and underlining the importance of the brand?
We also discussed lingerie, Lovemarks (God help us) and That Time Mark Endorsed Dan Herman’s New Book (which is excellent, incidentally—review soon).
You can read Jim’s and Mark’s takes on lunch at their respective blogs. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:46
Treliske v. Trelise wouldn’t be easily won
If you read between the lines, you probably could detect I wasn’t terribly thrilled about the Trelise Cooper Ltd. v. Cooper and other case from 2005 to 2007. It was brand-damaging for Trelise Cooper, probably stressful for Tamsin Cooper, and at the end of the day, I had my doubts on whether the burden of proof could have been discharged. We the public might never know.
That damage to Trelise’s brand has had some rub their hands in glee over a new complaint over her registered trade mark, namely her ﬁrst name being used for a brand extension. Karma’s a bitch, they say, sneeringly.
But it still seems unnecessary. The complainant’s trade mark is Treliske, registered in 1993 by a partnership called Treliske Wools. It’s not happy that the Trade Marks’ Registrar allowed Trelise to get her name registered in 2005, actually just after the legal threats were made against Tamsin Cooper. A challenge was mounted in September 2007, but it hit the media in late January.
This time around, Trelise Cooper might ﬁnd herself quoting from the Tamsin Cooper playbook: ‘I’ve been Trelise longer than they have been Treliske.’ Never mind when the mark was entered on the register.
I would have thought that if one were in the fashion business with a trade mark called Treliske, one would naturally have kept an eye on Trelise Cooper. Complaining now seems late, given how high-proﬁle Cooper has been. She’s been in the public eye especially over Cooper v. Cooper. She’s formed a lot of goodwill over her brands to the point where many of us identify any Trelise Cooper line garment as ‘a Trelise’.
I don’t know the exact details of the case, largely as it hasn’t been ﬁled. The challenge is presently with the Registrar. The hypothetical plaintiff would argue that Treliske and Trelise have to exist in the same market-place. Their mutual existence would confuse the reasonable New Zealand consumer into thinking the goods of one originated from the other.
Here’s where an interesting point arises. Almost because of the Cooper v. Cooper matter, Trelise Cooper is unlikely to have any brand of hers confused with Treliske. Funnily enough, that was one of the claimed reasons over why Cooper v. Cooper was settled. The mere publicity that this new case has given, thanks largely to the “karma’s a bitch” feeling that some in the mainstream media feel, helps distinguish the two, probably even in the minds of people who might never buy from either Cooper or Treliske.
I’m not sure how to pronounce Treliske. I immediately see two short vowels with stress on the ﬁrst syllable compared with two long ones for Trelise and a stress on the second. I may be totally wrong.
The complaint probably could succeed on the grounds (and supporting evidence) that someone less versed with the fashion market would confuse the two, but Trelise Cooper is so darned known in the business to anyone with a passing interest in it.
Who, then, in law, is the reasonable consumer who is the test in such cases?
That same reasonable consumer, I would think, would not ﬁnd Trelise Cooper and Tamsin Cooper related, especially given the suit’s publicity. Trelise Cooper, that time, would have said that such a consumer would be someone in the market for fashion regardless of segment. Treliske is bound to do the same thing, but Cooper may well get off for exactly the same reasons. Thanks to the press, few can be confused now.
Strangely, despite the similarity of the names, this case is actually less clear-cut than the Tamsin Cooper one. There, the parties were arguing name, appearance, sound and design, under trade mark, copyright and passing off. Here, only the name and appearance are really at issue, assuming my pronunciation is right, and design doesn’t come into it. Perhaps there are precedents I am unaware of, and the own-name exception is deﬁnitely more cloudy than it used to be in the past. Treliske isn’t without a leg to stand on, but it’ll be hard proving market-place.
We shall see how the parties play it, but I agree with the Irish newspaper here, even if its well-meaning editorial’s reasoning, which oddly takes us into non-fashion market-places, is off: ‘Making lawyers rich is a mug’s game.’ Posted by Jack Yan, 04:17
Can the Ford Falcon stay relevant?
Now that mid-sized cars are as big as full-sized cars, something has to change.
The Chevrolet Malibu, scooping all the awards in the US, has a longer wheelbase than the Chevrolet Impala. It’s probably more roomy all round.
The Toyota Aurion and Camry in Australia are basically the same size in terms of dimensions.
And the newly launched E241 Ford Falcon and the CD345 Ford Mondeo are roughly the same size, too.
I don’t have the dimensions of the new 2008½ Falcon that was announced on Monday but I’m pretty sure they are not far off those of the supposedly mid-sized Mondeo.
Ford Australia said months ago that when the new Falcon is launched, we’ll realize just how the two ﬁt together.
Here are two cars that look kind of the same, with the Mondeo more aggressive. The Falcon might have six cylinders, with the top XR8 with two more, but it generally looks soft. It’s been styled to look smaller, while the Mondeo has been styled to look bigger. The Falcon has rear-wheel drive, the Mondeo front-wheel. The Falcon is available as a sedan and ute, with the wagon staying on the old shape; the Mondeo has sedan, hatch and Turnier variants, all on the new shape.
OK, to car spotters like me and for Ford fanatics, these spell a world of differences, never mind all the engineering that has gone on under the body and the safety advances that the Falcon represents. I have a huge soft spot for the Falcon in general, too: I remember my uncle upgrading from his XB to XC, and when the XD arrived, it looked magniﬁcent. Everyone living in this part of the world has a Falcon story.
But to the average buyer coming to Ford, not really caring about front- or rear-wheel drive, and looking at how much fuel costs, the four-cylinder, ultra-roomy Mondeo just makes sense.
Even emotively, because I always argue that cars and brands are not totally rational, the Falcon, with the exception of the XR models, doesn’t stir me any more than a grunty Mondeo.
Fans of the Blue Oval, I am one of you. I don’t want to see the Falcon lineage end, even if the absence of a new E241 or “FG” wagon is ominous for the line. But this A$700 million investment could have been so much more.
General Motors spent a billion Australian dollars to develop the Holden Commodore and its platform, which will be used for automobiles like the Chevrolet Camaro. From this platform, Holden was able to get sedan, wagon, long-wheelbase sedan and utility, for both left- and right-hand drive. General Motors has been able to realize its investment by exporting the Commodore and Statesman models to South America, the Middle East, east Asia and the UK as Chevrolets, Buicks and Vauxhalls. They even come here to Kiwiland.
Ford has spent seven-tenths as much to get a sedan and utility. There might be a wagon, who knows? The cars all right-hand drive. They sell in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Maybe a few other places: the UK for folks converting them to hearses and some taxicab companies in Hong Kong.
Ford Australia boss Bill Osborne, who has been in the job for a couple of weeks and had to launch the Falcon as part of his gig, says he can’t believe the Falcon wasn’t engineered for left-hand-drive exports.
There are rumours that Ford’s head honcho, Alan Mulally, has ordered a Falcon for himself. So the CEO likes the car, and he wants to drive it in the US.
It’s a huge opportunity missed at FoMoCo, as it winds up production of the Panther full-size Fords such as the Crown Vic and Mercury Grand Marquis. The Falcon could have been a worthy successor: it’s a tough, rugged car that Australians love, and it just happens to have reﬁnements for civilian buyers.
This car could underpin a new Mustang. Knight Rider with an Australian accent.
While Ford has a global rear-wheel-drive platform in the ofﬁng, the Falcon could have been a good pilot vehicle to try out in North America for a few model years. How about exporting the XR8 to beat the other Aussie car in the US, the Holden-based Pontiac G8?
Even if Ford types get annoyed, because as I have covered on this blog before, there is an awful lot of politicking at Ford, then sell the car as a Mercury. Remember when Mercurys were hot and had the best V8s in the business?
Mulally knows this, and I think he’s the sort of CEO Ford needs to say: ‘We are one company. We need to work as one company. Not little ﬁefdoms with little territories.’
For too long Ford North America has adopted a “not invented here” syndrome and blocked the sale of European-designed models. Ford fans might want the C307 Focus there, but they’ll have to make do with a rebodied C170. The excuse might be that the C307 is too expensive to sell in the US, but how does Ford manage to sell the Mazda3 on the same platform at a competitive price?
Americans are quite happy to look at premium compact cars. You and I see that. Ford might not.
The only place in North America where C307 is sold is México.
When constantly buyer-unfriendly decisions are made—even one Ford executive likens the US Taurus to Homer Simpson—you have to question if Ford is customer-focused enough in 2008.
There are signs of change. Mulally says that the next Taurus looks great. But if the Taurus and the Mondeo and the Falcon are all the same size now, then why do we need the Taurus at all?
The nameplate, once a proud Ford model, now sells about a seventh of what the Toyota Camry can manage in the US. It has tanked—while Mondeo and Falcon are still respected in their home markets.
Americans will love the E241 Falcon on the specs, though they might want fancier styling. With Toyota successfully cutting costs in automotive architecture, and Ford having multiple platforms for cars the same size, then some more serious work needs to be done—especially on the whole ﬁefdom mentality.
The Aussies obviously have engineering brains—how about sharing them with the American consumer? Or the South American? Or the Middle Eastern? Or the Chinese and Korean?
Yet things don’t seem to have changed too much since the days when we talked about Ford France and Ford of Britain, all developing their own models to the exclusion of every other part of Henry’s kingdom. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:16
The Da May code
[Cross-posted] I have been a regular reader of Autocar since 1980 (and the rival Motor since the 1970s) but did not know about this hidden message in the 1992 Road Test Yearbook, which I bought 15 years ago. James May, of Top Gear fame, was one of the team that put the Yearbook together (he was features’ editor then). He was ﬁred over an incident where he put in a hidden message, using the initial caps of each road test summary in the Yearbook.
It took Wikipedia to tell me—so it is good for something after all. (However, Wikipedia is incorrect at the time of writing in that it does not give the full quotation.) The message is, with punctuation, ‘Road Test Yearbook. So you think it’s really good, yeah? You should try making the bloody thing up. It’s a real pain in the arse.’ (The picture from Wikipedia is posted at my personal blog as well, minus the ﬁrst 16 letters.)
No one had spotted it internally, but readers eventually asked the magazine if they had won a prize.
On Radio 2, May said in an interview, ‘So I had this idea that if I re-edited the beginnings of all the little texts, I could make these red letters spell out a message through the magazine, which I thought was brilliant. … It took me about two months to do it and on the day that it came out I’d actually forgotten that I’d done it because there’s a bit of a gap between it being “put to bed” and coming out on the shelves. When I arrived at work that morning everybody was looking at their shoes and I was summoned to the managing director of the company’s ofﬁce. The thing had come out and nobody at work had spotted what I’d done because I’d made the words work around the pages so you never saw a whole word. But all the readers had seen it and they’d written in thinking they’d won a prize or a car or something.’
Shame he was ﬁred over this. I thought the British sense of humour would have seen him through. But then, he might not have gone on to do his other things. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:46
Facebook book out on Amazon
[Cross-posted] Although I have ﬁnally tired of Facebook, my friend Jason Alba has co-authored a book on the service, called I’m on Facebook—Now What?, to which I contributed brieﬂy.
I would recommend this as a how-to guide for those unfamiliar with social networks. The authors employ a lot of the tricks I use for the service. Do get it if you are new to Facebook, or even if you are not so new to it.
Print edition retail is under US$20; subtract US$8 for the ebook.
For those a bit more advanced on marketing, I’ll be recommending some more books shortly, once I get through a few more chapters. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:40
Chinese domain name scammers
[Cross-posted] Since November, I have received scam emails from a company called China Net Technology Ltd. A page about the scam can be found in the comments here.
The MO: a company ﬁnds a dot com and sends them a letter, saying that another company plans to register the same name, but for various Chinese territories (with the cn, tw and hk sufﬁxes, among others).
Your expected reaction: you panic and decide to negotiate with the company, because it claims it is a registry service for domain names.
Their response: they send you a form for the domain names, at outrageous (thousands of dollars) prices.
Initially, I was so naïve I started talking to these people. They did highlight a few domains our company planned on getting, so we registered those—but through our regular domain name registration service, paying a normal price.
When they sent me the form, I said, ‘Forget it.’ I knew how much these names were actually worth and how they were probably phonies. Their response, sensing that the deal was about to slip through their ﬁngers, was to say that the company wanting to register the domains was known for porn.
By this point I didn’t really care.
It got more suspicious as these emails kept on coming, either from another company or from the same one, but claiming yet another group was planning to register the same domains. I’ve had three more for one dot com and another for a dot org, same MO.
Ergo: these are scammers.
I was lucky. According to the E-consultancy page I cited, some folks even get called up by the scammers. I was fortunate that I was travelling when they ﬁrst emailed me, so they never ﬁgured out where I was.
So while you should protect your domain names, if you are interested in Chinese ones, do not get suckered in by these folks. Use your regular registry service or a respectable company. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:15
Ten murders so far in 2008remember when we had three a year?
[Cross-posted] We’ve ended January 2008 here in New Zealand with 10 murders. The government is saying this is an anomaly, but is it?
Crime has been rising in New Zealand steadily since I have been observing the numbers and for older New Zealanders, the latest ﬁgures are a disgust.
I am not overly surprised, given the rising gap between rich and poor, suggesting a mismanagement of the economy and an absence of jobs, while values and education have suffered at the same time.
Those older New Zealanders who can remember back to the 1950s remember a country with roughly half the population and 18 convictions for murder between 1951 and 1957.
I realize actual murders and successful convictions are different, but assuming that there were a couple of murders in this period that didn’t lead to a conviction, then we’re still looking at 20 over a seven-year period from January 1951 to December 1957.
That’s roughly three per annum. If there’s double the population now, then we should expect statistics to show that there are six per annum for 2008.
Remember that medical science wasn’t as advanced, so if we adjust for that, then maybe this estimate isn’t actually that far off.
In this election year, I wouldn’t buy any party line that says things are all right. I wouldn’t even buy policies that talk about tougher sentencing. Because neither of these address the root problem.
We need policies in New Zealand that say: we will address this rich–poor gap.
How? Well, how about recognizing what’s going on instead of kowtowing to multinational corporations operating here?
Since the end of Muldoonism, New Zealand has become the poster boy of the technocracy, doing everything that the economic experts said should work: privatization, free markets, the ending of tariffs.
Ask yourself, even in the last ﬁve years, can you afford more or less of the things you want in your life? I don’t care if you are a student or a wage-earner or even a small business boss. The answer is probably no.
When will we wake up and realize that these policies have driven a wedge between the rich and poor in a nation that once prided itself on being a fair, just, middle-class country?
Since Labour sold off so many state assets in the 1980s, something National continued doing in the 1990s, we now have a lot of things in the hands of foreign corporations.
Now, if these corporations were running these assets more efﬁciently, logically the government should be able to increase its tax take, which leads to more money for hospitals, schools and social services.
But the idea of being a private corporation that spreads its activities across different countries is the ability to minimize the tax you pay, by writing some of it off with the operations you have in other places.
So the opposite has happened. Meanwhile, these corporations have shed staff so the people who used to work there wound up on the dole, and there’s less money to pay out.
The rich in cahoots with the big companies have done well while everyone else has suffered.
To make up the shortfall in government coffers, the Labour Government introduced Lotto and basically became the biggest attraction for gamblers. Now we are reporting a rise in calls to gambling helplines.
The other idea behind liberalizing our markets was so New Zealanders could go and compete globally. But how were we expected to make that leap? Even the richest New Zealanders of the 1980s didn’t survive the decade in good ﬁnancial shape.
We need to innovate and create and start new businesses but the support, as any entrepreneur will tell you, is not there.
Yet New Zealand is a place of great, novel ideas that often stay dormant, unless that Kiwi goes offshore and has a foreign company become interested.
I have repeated this example many times: if TradeMe was really that successful, it would have bought Fairfax, not the other way around.
The solution must be to have New Zealanders own New Zealand businesses, so that New Zealanders have jobs and taxes and proﬁts stay in New Zealand.
This is not about putting the barriers back up. The multinationals have embedded themselves too much into New Zealand.
We can only hope to create global businesses that do for us what the multinationals have done here. We also need to encourage entrepreneurship at the small- to medium-sized business level so that everyone can have a chance to get his or her idea off the ground, beating the world. We are still blessed with a fairly good internet infrastructure that can become a useful tool for New Zealanders.
We need to consider tax policies that help the poor and penalize the sources for the inequity in New Zealand. The next government needs to play, essentially, Robin Hood. It needs to create policies for the middle class of New Zealand and what makes them happy wage-earners or self-employed business people, because that is where the majority of the tax will come from. ‘Teach a man to ﬁsh and he will eat for life.’ Time to stop handing the ﬁsh out and pretending it was a conjuror’s trick. (It was only cool when Jesus Christ did it with the 5,000, anyway.)
And while I am a globalist at heart, this economy is too small at this point to allow technocratic policies to have free reign, without someone seeing to the interests of the Kiwis that need the most help. I want to see food banks disappear in ﬁve years because everyone has a job.
An innovative government that might create new businesses itself can be a useful agent in the business community. In the 1970s and 1980s, New Zealand’s dual-fuel natural gas infrastructure is still a dream for most countries. Yet a huge percentage of the nation’s cars ran on natural gas back then, able to ﬁll up at the majority of stations across New Zealand.
Government participation in a modernized Keynesian model could just work in 2008 and one only needs to look at Singapore and Malaysia for nearby adaptations of the very policies New Zealand had only 30 years ago.
No one can claim they are paupers, and Malaysia itself did ﬁnd, in 1997, that the technocratic way of thinking didn’t work for them. Having a strong man as a prime minister worked in its favour as Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad was able to say what he thought of the corporations wreaking havoc on his country’s ﬁnancial markets.
And with relatively little corruption in New Zealand, government innovation is not a bad idea, provided these state enterprises do not get overmanned to the levels they were at in years past.
Remember, Absolut, the people who make the vodka, is a government-owned enterprise. No one seems to urge the Swedish Government to divest for the sake of the technocracy.
Then, those who might ﬁnd themselves in similar situations to the 10 murderers won’t suffer from envy, depression or rage.
In the 1950s, New Zealand had about nine people unemployed. In the 2010s, we should be looking at 18. Full employment is key and the policies we are following now—policies which Labour and National predict they will essentially follow—won’t lead to any change in our rising crime rate or the widening gap between rich and poor, which neither party has even mentioned in the lead-up to the 2008 elections. Posted by Jack Yan, 22:01
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