Posts tagged ‘branding’


Brand, sub-brand or model? China’s getting into a confusing phase

16.02.2021


The Dongfeng Aeolus AX7. But just where does Aeolus sit when it comes to indexing in Autocade?

This is something that might have to come out in the wash, and it might take years.
   I think we can all agree that Ssangyong is a marque or a make, and Korando is a model. Never mind that there’s currently a basic Korando, the Korando Sports (a pick-up truck) and a Korando Turismo (a people mover), none of which really have much connection with the other, name aside. We are as comfortable with this as we once were with the Chevrolet Lumina and Lumina APV, the Ford Taurus and Taurus X, and the Toyota Mark X and Mark X Zio. So far so good.
   But when do these drift into being sub-brands? BMW calls i a sub-brand, but as far as cataloguing in Autocade goes, it doesn’t matter, as the model names are i3 or i8 (or a number of ix models now coming out). Audi’s E-Tron is its parallel at Ingolstadt, and here we do have a problem, with a number of E-Tron models unrelated technically. It’s not like Quattro, where there was the (ur-) Quattro, then Quattro as a designation, and everyone accepted that.
   Similarly, the Chinese situation can be far from clear.
   Many years ago, GAC launched a single model based on the Alfa Romeo 166 called the Trumpchi. So far so good: we have a marque and model. But it then decided to launch a whole bunch of other cars also called Trumpchi (the original became the Trumpchi GA5, to distinguish it from at least eight others). Some sources say Trumpchi is a sub-brand, others a brand in its own right, but we continue to reference it as a model, since the cars have a GAC logo on the grille, just as the GAC Aion EVs have a GAC logo on the grille. (The latter is also not helped with Chinese indices tending to separate out EVs into ‘New Energy Vehicle’ listings, even when their manufacturers don’t.)
   I feel that we only need to make the shift into calling a previous model or sub-brand a brand when it’s obvious on the cars themselves. That’s the case with Haval, when it was very clear when it departed from Changcheng (Great Wall). Senia is another marque that spun off from FAW: it began life with the FAW symbol on the grille, before Senia’s own script appeared on the cars.
   The one that confounds me is Dongfeng Aeolus, which was make-and-model for a long time, but recently Aeolus has displaced the Dongfeng whirlwind on the grille of several models. We have them currently listed in Autocade with Dongfeng Aeolus as a new marque, since there’s still a small badge resembling the whirlwind on the bonnet. The Dongfeng Aeolus AX7 retains the whirlwind, but has the Aeolus letters prominently across the back, but to muddle it up, the AX7 Pro has the new Aeolus script up front. These can’t be two different marques but the visual cues say they are.
   Maybe we’ll just have to relegate Aeolus back to model status, and do what Ssangyong does with the Korando (or Changcheng with the Tengyi). These are the things that make life interesting, but also a little confusing when it comes to indexing an encyclopædia.

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Posted in cars, China, internet, publishing, USA | No Comments »


Branding ourselves in the 2020s: a revamp for JY&A Consulting’s website, jya.co

05.02.2021

Last night, I uploaded a revised website for JY&A Consulting (jya.co), which I wrote and coded. Amanda came up with a lot of the good ideas for it—it was important to get her feedback precisely because she isn’t in the industry, and I could then include people who might be looking to start a new venture while working from home among potential clients.
   Publishing and fonts aside, it was branding that I’m formally trained in, other than law, and since we started, I’ve worked with a number of wonderful colleagues from around the world as my “A team” in this sector. When I started redoing the site, and getting a few logos for the home page, I remembered a few of the old clients whose brands I had worked on. There are a select few, too, that I’m never allowed to mention, or even hint at. C’est la vie.
   There are still areas to play with (such as mobile optimization)—no new website is a fait accompli on day one—and things I need to check with colleagues, but by and large what appears there is the look I want for 2021. And here’s the most compelling reason for doing the update: the old site dated from 2012.
   It was just one of those things: if work’s ticking along, then do you need to redo the site? But as we started a new decade, the old site looked like a relic. Twenty twelve was a long time ago: it was the year we were worried that the Mayans were right and their calendar ran out (the biggest doomsday prediction since Y2K?); that some Americans thought that Mitt Romney would be too right-wing for their country as he went up against Barack Obama—who said same-sex marriage should be legal that year—in their presidential election; and Prince Harry, the party animal version, was stripping in Las Vegas.
   It was designed when we still didn’t want to scroll down a web page, when cellphones weren’t the main tool to browse web pages with, and we filled it up with smart information, because we figured the people who’d hire us wanted as much depth as we could reasonably show off on a site. We even had a Javascript slider animation on the home page, images fading into others, showing the work we had done.
   Times have changed. A lot of what we can offer, we could express more succinctly. People seem to want greater simplicity on websites. We can have taller pages because scrolling is normal. As a trend, websites seem to have bigger type to accommodate browsing on smaller devices (having said that, every time we look at doing mobile versions of sites, as we did in the early 2000s, new technology came along to render them obsolete)—all while print magazines seem to have shrunk their body type! And we may as well show off, like so many others, that we’ve appeared in The New York Times and CNN—places where I’ve been quoted as a brand guy and not the publisher of Lucire.
   But, most importantly, we took a market orientation to the website: it wasn’t developed to show off what we thought was important, but what a customer might think is important.
   The old headings—‘Humanistic branding and CSR’, ‘Branding and the law’ (the pages are still there, but unlinked from the main site)—might show why we’re different, but they’re not necessarily the reasons people might come to hire us. They still can—but we do heaps of other stuff, too.
   I might love that photo of me with the Medinge Group at la Sorbonne–CELSA, but I’m betting the majority of customers will ask, ‘Who cares?’ or ‘How does this impact on my work?’
   As consumer requirements change, I’m sure we’ll have pages from today that seem irrelevant, in which case we’ll have to get on to changing them as soon as possible, rather than wait nine years.
   Looking back over the years, the brand consulting site has had quite a few iterations on the web. While I still have all these files offline, it was quicker to look at the Internet Archive, discovering an early incarnation in 1997 that was, looking back now, lacking. But some of our lessons in print were adopted—people once thought our ability to bring in a print æsthetic was one of our skills—and that helped it look reasonably smart in a late 1990s context, especially with some of the limited software we had.

   The next version of the site is from the early 2000s, and at this point, the website’s design was based around our offline collateral, including our customer report documents, which used big blocks of colour. The Archive.org example I took was from 2003, but the look may have débuted in 2001. Note that the screen wouldn’t have been as wide as a modern computer’s, so the text wouldn’t have been in columns as wide as the ones in the illustration. Browsers also had margins built in.

   We really did keep this till 2012, with updates to the news items, as far as I can make out—it looks like 2021 wasn’t the first time I left things untouched for so long. But it got us work. In 2012, I thought I was so smart doing the table in the top menu, and you didn’t need to scroll. And this incarnation probably got us less work.

   There’s still a lot of satisfaction knowing that you’ve coded your own site, and not relied on Wordpress or Wix. Being your own client has its advantages in terms of evolving the site and figuring out where everything goes. It’s not perfect but there’s little errant code here; everything’s used to get that page appearing on the site, and hopefully you all enjoy the browsing experience. At least it’s no longer stuck in the early 2010s and hopefully makes it clearer about what we do. Your feedback, especially around the suitability of our offerings, is very welcome.

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Posted in business, design, internet, marketing, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Medinge Group at Dutch Design Week: the contribution from Aotearoa New Zealand

19.10.2020

My partner Amanda and I are part of Medinge’s presence at Dutch Design Week this year.
   Since Medinge couldn’t celebrate our 20th anniversary due to COVID-19, some of our Dutch members, helped by many others, took the opportunity to get us into the event, which is virtual this year.
   We had done a lot of work on Generation Co earlier in 2020, thanks to a load of Zoom meetings and emails. This takes things even further, but builds on it.
   The programme can be found here, and is titled ‘Putting the Planet First: a New Orientation’.
   The description: ‘Instead of thinking about the 3Ps—your challenge is to adopt a new perspective. Always put Planet first. Then people. Then profit.’
   After signing up for free, you can head into our virtual rooms.
   From the page: ‘Only 21/10/2020, 10:00–13:00 lectures and livestreams from members of the Medinge Think Tank: a group of brand experts and visionaries from around the world whose purpose is to influence business to become more humane and conscious in order to help humanity progress and prosper. With international speakers who have worked on these rights and bring in the perspective from indigenous people who co-exist with the rivers.’
   On Tuesday the 21st at 10 a.m. CET is Amanda’s presentation on the Whanganui River, which was given the rights of a legal person in legislation enacted in March 2017.
   Amanda worked at the Office of Treaty Settlements at the time, so this is really her talk. I just set the laptop on the table, with a microphone generously lent to me by my friend Brenda Wallace. Then I edited it in video-editing software with all the skill of an amateur.
   But that’s the year of COVID-19 for you.
   The way the talk came about was in discussion in 2019 with my colleagues at Medinge Group. The concept of legal rights on natural resources and indigenous rights came up, as did the case of the Whanganui River, which is known beyond our shores.
   They had no idea Amanda worked on it, and proudly I mentioned her role.
   From then on she was part of the programme, and it all came together last Friday.
   In the talk, you’ll see me on a much lower chair than her, propped up by a bag of rice that slowly sags as the recording wears on.
   There’s only so much furniture at her Dad’s studio but it was the most comfortable place we could think of for the filming.
   More important are the contents of her talk, which I thoroughly recommend. She worked really hard on the responses over a few weeks to make sure it was thoroughly rigorous.
   It’s followed by a talk from my good friend and colleague Sudhir John Horo. Pop over, it’s going to be a really eventful day in virtual Eindhoven.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, design, leadership, marketing, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, Sweden, Wellington | No Comments »


Don’t rely on an algorithm to choose your brand ambassadors

14.03.2020

Here’s a cautionary tale found by Lucire travel editor Stanley Moss. His words: ‘Photographer Dmitry Kostyukov recently experienced a rich dialogue with an algorithm belonging to a Scandinavian swimwear company. He’d been auto-mistaken for a Y chromosome, and digitally invited to become a brand ambassador. Dmitry accepted, and received the sample suit of his choice, an influencer name and instructions on how to photograph himself wearing the product. This exposes one facet of what advertising has become, commodified advocacy. Following is the text of his statement about the project, filled with reminders of what today constitutes the new paradigm of product promotion. Caveat emptor.
   In other words, don’t leave your marketing in the hands of a program. I haven’t followed up with Bright Swimwear, but I hope they’ll run with it, not just to show that they are ‘progressive’, but to admit that there are limits to how algorithms can handle your brand. (They haven’t yet.)
   If the world desires more humanistic branding, and people don’t want to feel like just a number, then brands should be more personal. Automation is all right when you need to reach a mass audience with the same message, but cultivating personal relationships with your brand ambassadors would be a must if you desire authenticity. Otherwise, you just don’t know the values of those promoting your brand.
   Fortunately, I took it in good humour just as Dmitry did and ran the story in Lucire, and you can reach your own conclusions about the wisdom of algorithms in marketing, particularly in brand ambassadorship.

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Could this happen one day at GM?

22.02.2020


The MG line-up in New Zealand. Could it be part of a bigger portfolio of brands later this decade?

In the context of what has happened with Holden, and Peter Hanenberger’s thoughts on the direction of GM, I wonder how far away we are from seeing these headlines:

Cash-strapped GM sells passenger car brands to SAIC to focus on trucks and SUVs

and:

SAIC builds passenger-car brand portfolio with Wuling, Baojun, Chevrolet, Roewe, MG, Buick and Cadillac

You can almost think of MG as Pontiac and Roewe as Oldsmobile … With the decimation of the GM line-up globally, and the segments they no longer field (e.g. C-segment cars in many markets), will they even have the investment needed to sustain the car brands?
   I know they are saying this was all necessary to fund the electrification of the range and autonomous tech, but isn’t this the same company that nixed the EV1 and failed to make the Volt a Prius-beater?
   The Chinese state wasn’t about creating “Chinese Leyland” when they forced SAIC and NAC to merge. They had much grander plans.

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Don’t give the keys to the company Twitter to just anyone

02.02.2020

A few thoughts about Twitter from the last 24 hours, other than ‘Please leave grown-up discussions to grown-ups’: (a) it’s probably not a smart idea to get aggro (about a joke you don’t understand because you aren’t familiar with the culture) from your company’s account, especially when you don’t have a leg to stand on; (b) deleting your side of the conversation might be good if your boss ever checks, although on my end ‘replying to [your company name]’ is still there for all to see; and (c) if your job is ‘Chief Marketing Officer’ then it may pay to know that marketing is about understanding your audiences (including their culture), not about signalling that your workplace hires incompetently and division must rule the roost.
   I’m not petty enough to name names (I’ve forgotten the person but I remember the company), but it was a reminder why Twitter has jumped the shark when some folks get so caught up in their insular worlds that opposing viewpoints must be shouted down. (And when that fails, to stalk the account and start a new thread.)
   The crazy thing is, not only did this other Tweeter miss the joke that any Brit born, well, postwar would have got, I actually agreed with him politically and said so (rule number one in marketing: find common ground with your audience). Nevertheless, he decided to claim that I accused Britons of being racist (why would I accuse the entirety of my own nation—I am a dual national—of being racist? It’s nowhere in the exchange) among other things. That by hashtagging #dontmentionthewar in an attempt to explain that Euroscepticism has been part of British humour for decades meant that I was ‘obsessed by war’. Guess he never saw The Italian Job, either, and clearly missed when Fawlty Towers was voted the UK’s top sitcom. I also imagine him being very offended by this, but it only works because of the preconceived notions we have about ‘the Germans’:

The mostly British audience found it funny. Why? Because of a shared cultural heritage. There’s no shame in not getting it, just don’t get upset when others reference it.
   It’s the classic ploy of ignoring the core message, getting angry for the sake of it, and when one doesn’t have anything to go on, to attack the messenger. I see enough of that on Facebook, and it’s a real shame that this is what a discussion looks like on Twitter for some people.
   I need to get over my Schadenfreude as I watched this person stumble in a vain attempt to gain some ground, but sometimes people keep digging and digging. And I don’t even like watching accident scenes on the motorway.
   And I really need to learn to mute those incapable of sticking to the facts—I can handle some situations where you get caught up in your emotions (we’re all guilty of this), but you shouldn’t be blinded by them.
   What I do know full well now is that there is one firm out there with a marketing exec who fictionalizes what you said, and it makes you wonder if this is the way this firm behaves when there is a normal commercial dispute. Which might be the opposite to what the firm wished.
   As one of my old law professors once said (I’m going to name-drop: it was the Rt Hon Prof Sir Geoffrey Palmer, KCMG, AC, QC, PC), ‘The more lawyers there are, the more poor lawyers there are.’ It’s always been the same in marketing: the more marketers there are, the more poor marketers there are. And God help those firms that let the latter have the keys to the corporate Twitter account.

I enjoyed that public law class with Prof Palmer, and I wish I could remember other direct quotations he made. (I remember various facts, just not sentences verbatim like that one—then again I don’t have the public law expertise of the brilliant Dr Caroline Morris, who sat behind me when we were undergrads.)
   It’s still very civil on Mastodon, and one of the Tooters that I communicate with is an ex-Tweeter whose account was suspended. I followed that account and there was never anything, to my knowledge, that violated the TOS on it. But Twitter seems to be far harder to gauge in 2019–20 on just what will get you shut down. Guess it could happen any time to anyone. Shall we expect more in their election year? Be careful when commenting on US politics: it mightn’t be other Tweeters you need to worry about. And they could protect bots before they protect you.

Since I haven’t Instagrammed for ages—I think I only had one round of posting in mid-January—here’s how the sun looked to the west of my office. I am told the Canberra fires have done this. Canberra is some 2,300 km away. For my US readers, this is like saying a fire in Dallas has affected the sunlight in New York City.
   I’ve had a big life change, and I think that’s why Instagramming has suddenly left my routine. I miss some of the contact, and some dear friends message me there, knowing that doing so on Facebook makes no sense. I did give the impression to one person, and I publicly apologize to her, that I stopped Instagramming because the company is owned by Facebook, but the fact is I’ve done my screen time for the day and I’ve no desire to check my phone and play with a buggy app. Looks like seven years (late 2012 to the beginning of 2020) was what it took for me to be Instagrammed out, shorter than Facebook, where it took 10 (2007 to 2017).

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A couple of days before it became official: thoughts on PSA and FCA linking up

01.11.2019


Companies in FCA’s and PSA’s histories did once produce the Plymouth Horizon, so historically there is some precedent to a trans-Atlantic arrangement—not to mention the type 220 and 179 minivans and the commercial vehicles currently in PSA’s and Fiat’s ranges.

This is a few days old, but it’s nice to know that these hurriedly written thoughts on a private Facebook group reflected what I read a day later in the automotive press.

   Copied and pasted from the above (and yes, I know it should be e-208):

I read that as well, Jonathan. Elkann would be chairman and Tavares the CEO. I guess Fiat had to move on from talking with Renault while they have their internal squabbles. While some praise Marchionne, I thought it was foolish to let the less profitable marques suffer as he did—the global economy doesn’t stay buoyant all the time and at some point not everyone will want a hotted-up Alfa or Maserati. Especially as there seems to be no cohesive platform strategy. I think Fiat realizes the shambles it’s actually in despite what the share price says. There is some sense to have PSA platforms underpin a lot of Fiats (let’s face it, very little of the Fiat range is on a Fiat platform—there are GM, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Ford and PSA bits—and the old Grande Punto platform can only go so far), but the more premium marques will still have to have unique platforms.
   Fiat really needs to do some rationalization of its own before approaching others but my sense is that it’s gone too far down this road and has no investment in either next-generation B- (Jeep Renegade) or C-platforms (Giulietta) where a lot of European sales will still lie. Its only real prize here is Jeep.
   Tavares will be able to slash a great deal and Europe could look good quite quickly, but I doubt anyone has any focus on the US side of things other than Jeep. PSA has some limited experience in South America but it won’t be able to integrate that as easily. And neither has any real strength in China despite being early entrants, with, again, Jeep being the exception. (Peugeot, DS and Citroën are struggling in China.)
   He had claimed that PSA was looking at some sort of alternative retail model for the US, but it also seemed a bit far off.
   If this happens, I think Tavares will “do a Talbot” on anything Fiat-related in Europe, eventually killing the Fiat marque (with maybe just a 208e-based 500 remaining), and keep Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Jeep. Chrysler will remain with the Pacifica, Dodge might still have the Durango, but everything else would get the chop unless they consider bringing in a rebadged 508. Ram and Fiat Profissional will stay as separate entities. Fiat do Brasil will get some PSA tech. Then there might be some logic to what is left but I still feel Fiat has to get itself in order first.

   On reflection, maybe I was a little harsh on Sergio, as ignoring the mass-market brands has left FCA, with a portfolio of specialist and premium ones, a reasonably good fit for an organization that has the opposite set of strengths.
   One question remains: which is the cheap brand, the Plymouth, here? You can’t always go premium: sooner or later, economies weaken and people will want something entry-level. There may be wisdom to retaining Fiat in some shape or form. One more 108 variant can’t hurt …

Anyone notice a pattern here? That any company that owns Jeep eventually diminishes its own brand. Willys, Kaiser, AMC, Chrysler, and Fiat are either dead or no longer the forces they once were. Renault managed a controlling interest in AMC with 46·4 per cent in 1982, but that was bought by Chrysler five years later. At some stage, we must tire of these massive vehicles, and already there’s a suggestion that, in the US at least, nonconformist younger buyers are eyeing up sedans. Great if you’re Nissan in the US (and China), not so much if you’re Ford.

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Baojun doesn’t scream ‘premium’ and ‘next-gen tech’ to me

10.10.2019

I have to agree with Yang Jian, managing editor of Automotive News China, that Baojun’s new models ‘obviously’ failed to reverse the brand’s sales’ decline.
   It is obvious given that the vehicles are priced considerably above the previous ones, and despite its next-gen tech, there’s no real alignment with what Baojun stands for.
   There might be a new logo (débuted January 2019) but GM expects that this, the new premium products, and (I would expect) other retail updates would undo nearly nine years of brand equity.
   The associations of Baojun as an entry-level brand run deeply, and the new models are like, if you’ll pardon the analogy and the use of another car group, taking the next Audis and sticking a Škoda badge on them. Except even stylistically, the new Baojuns bear little resemblance to the old ones—they’re that radical a departure.
   I wonder if it would be wiser to keep Baojun exactly where it was, and let it decline, while launching the new models under a more upscale GM brand, even one perceived as ‘foreign’ or ‘joint venture’ by Chinese consumers.
   DaimlerChrysler made the mistake of killing Plymouth when it was surplus to requirements, then found itself without a budget brand when the late 2000s’ recession hit. Chrysler, once the upper-middle marque, had to fill the void.
   There’s a reason companies like GM and Volkswagen have brands spanning the market: they feed buyers into the corporation, and there’s something for everyone.
   And while it’s possible to move brands upscale, creating four lines where the base model prices exceed the highest price you have ever charged for your other base models is just too sudden a shift.

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Keeping the Victoria in Victoria University of Wellington

08.08.2018

 

A letter I penned today to Prof Grant Guilford, Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington. I support the official adoption of a Māori name (I thought it had one?) but removing Victoria is daft, for numerous reasons, not least the University’s flawed research, dealt with elsewhere.

Wellington, August 8, 2018

Prof Grant Guilford
Vice-Chancellor
Victoria University of Wellington
PO Box 600
Wellington 6011
New Zealand
 

Dear Prof Guilford:

Re. Name change for Victoria University of Wellington

There have been many arguments against why Victoria University of Wellington should change its name. Count me in as endorsing the views of Mr Geoff McLay, whose feedback the University has already received.
   To his comments, I would like to add several more.
   First, since I graduated from Vic for the fourth time in 2000, branding—a subject I have an above-average knowledge of, being the co-chair of the Swedish think tank Medinge Group and with books and academic articles to my name—has become a more bottom-up affair. In lay terms, all successful brands need their community’s support to thrive. Not engaging that community properly, and putting forth unconvincing arguments for change when asked, fails ‘Branding 101’ by today’s standards. I don’t believe those of us favouring the status quo are a minority. We’re simply the ones who have engaged with the University.
   As an alumnus, I have a great deal of pride in ‘Vic’, so much so that I have returned to support many of its programmes, namely Alumni as Mentors and the BA Internships. The University’s view of market-place confusion is, to my mind, a defeatist position, one which says, ‘Oh, there’s confusion, so let’s cede our position to the others who lay claim to “Victoria”.’ That’s not the attitude that I have toward our fine university.
   The alternative is to stand firm and build the brand on a global scale, something that is more than possible if the University were to adopt some lessons from international marketing and branding.
   I have done it numerous times professionally, and for New Zealand companies with strictly limited budgets, and the University has an enviable and proud network of alumni who, I suspect, are willing to help.
   Vic has told us for years it is ‘world-class’, and I expect it to stand by those claims—including confidence in its own name, not unlike the great universities in the US and UK. A lot of it is in the way the brand is positioned. Confidence goes a long way, including confidence in saying, ‘This is the real Victoria.’
   Kiwis are adept at being more authentic, something which a strong branding campaign would highlight.
   As alumnus, and fellow St Mark’s old boy, Callum Osborne notes, if there is to be a geographic qualifier, New Zealand has far more brand equity than Wellington, so if a change is to occur, then ‘Victoria University of New Zealand’ is an appropriate way forward.
   ‘University of Wellington’ says little, and there are Wellingtons elsewhere, too.
   This isn’t about apeing others, but being so distinct in the way the University communicates, symbolizes and differentiates itself to all of its audiences. To be fair, I have only seen pockets of that since graduating, yet I believe it is possible, and it can be unlocked.
 

Yours respectfully,
 

Jack Yan, LL B, BCA (Hons.), MCA

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