Steve Jobs announces “the greenest Apple product ever”

Another revolution from Apple? This one’s alive.

Just when you think the god-like product development powers of Steve Jobs couldn’t go any further, shop he launches a product that creates life itself. Let the hyperbole begin!

Behold: the ChiaPad.

“I really cannot say enough about this latest miraculous, viagra life-affirming, intuitive, and super, super green device, so I will continue to say it for the next 3 .5 hours.”
Steve Jobs at the ChiaPad unveiling

The new device is a joint project between Apple and Joseph products – makers of the classic Clapper and Chia technologies.

The shell of the device looks like an  iPad made of fired clay. But that’s where the similarity ends, because inside, the operating system is pure Chia.

Says Jobs: “You just add water and watch your content grow! It’s that easy.”

Apple officials were quick to dismiss as “fuzzy headed” the critics who have called the device a “closed ecosystem” that can only grow plants approved and sold by Apple.

And they also insist that while the ChiaPad might seem similar to several other devices on the market, the red clay is actually terracotta, and definitely not adobe.

“This changes everything you thought you knew about touch-sensitive herbal neo novelty technology,” says Jobs in the Webcast of the launch.

His demo was of course greeted with rapturous self-flagellation by Apple fans worldwide and long lineups at Apple stores, even though the product does not actually ship for several months.

Other features:

  • Herbal, organic and fully biodegradable.
  • Rain tolerant for true cloud computing.
  • Familiar interface for millions of iSod users.
  • Clap on. Clap off.
  • Thousands of apps available like Herb 2007 office suite, iMow, and Farmville – Monoculture Edition.
  • Battery cannot be removed, and don’t even mention Flash.
  • If you order NOW, we’ll throw in a second ChiaPad at no extra charge along with Ginsu Knives, a new ChiaPhone (data plan not included), and a Chia Head Steve Jobs (right).

Seth Godin on brand packaging: he’s right (this time)

The true job of “packaging” (hint: it’s not just to wrap stuff)

Beg to Differ is focusing on a great blog post today by Seth Godin which asks a question we all need to ask ourselves: “does your packaging do its job”? But of course when Beg to Differ (and Seth)  thinks about “packaging” we don’t mean a disposable wrapper…

Image (uncredited) from
Image (uncredited) from

Mmm. The Land of Chocolate.

Okay, symptoms I don’t always agree with Seth. Actually I almost never agree with him when he talks about product naming (Squidoo?!?) or brand architecture (Apple’s  iMac / iPod / iPhone convention sloppy?!?). But today he’s dead on in his assessment of the packaging for the chocolate product above, from the company Madécasse (pronounced mah – DAY – cas).

Now, you may look at it and say to yourself: hey! That’s not bad. It’s actually really well designed. And you’d be right: it’s a simple, elegant design that looks like craft-made – and probably expensive – chocolate. And again. You’d be right. You’d also be right if you noticed the effective use of repeated elements across the packaging, the solid little icon, and the nice differentiating touch of the little ribbon tied at the top.

You might also guess that this is fair trade chocolate. And again, you are a smart reader.

All very nice. All very professional. Yay.

So what’s wrong with a nicely-designed package?

Nothing wrong. That is, there’s nothing wrong *if* the design also helps customers to find you quickly in a store full of high end chocolate bars – which is where these bars would be most  likely to be sitting.

Nothing wrong. If your attractive design doesn’t actually act like camouflage – hiding you from their eyes.

Nothing wrong. If your design doesn’t also hide the fact that your product has a very different story (Madagascar chocolate! Made in Africa by Africans!) that could create an emotional bond – if only people could see through the wrapper to you.

Nothing wrong. If you listen to Seth for a moment:

I don’t think the job of packaging is to please your boss. I think you must please the retailer, but most of all, attract and delight and sell to the browsing, uncommitted new customer. – Seth Godin

How about you?

When you think about all the “packaging” around your product, service, or person-brand, are you just following the “nice design” conventions? If so, your package may be actually hiding you from your customers.

Instead, think about how the outer packaging acts as a transparent window to the really important differentiators that for the heart and soul of your product.

Or in Seth’s words:

  • The story you can confidently tell. (for more on stories, see yesterday’s Beg to Differ)
  • The worldview the buyer tells herself. (or “Values” see Protecting your brand’s Crown Jewels)
  • And like Seth did, I’ll end by wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day. Why not celebrate by sharing a fair trade chocolate bar with someone you love? Even if it’s not well-packaged and clearly differentiated (yet), it’ll make you feel great!

    iPad, uPad: Apple meets the push-up bra

    Apparently iPad has been enhancing feature sets for a while….

    So of course, health Beg to Differ was riveted on Wednesday by “The Big Speech”. No, stuff not the State of the Union Address: it was the unveiling of a new product by Apple that had our attention. And apparently, we weren’t the only ones watching: so were trademark lawyers for several other “iPads”. But will any of it matter for Apple? Read on.

    A padded insert from Coconut Grove Intimates - with a branded insert of our own.
    A padded insert from Coconut Grove Intimates – with a branded insert of our own.

    Trying to pad the feminine market?

    On Wednesday, our big question was not “what will this miraculous new product be?” Everybody knew that already. It was leaked long ago that it would be a tablet device that would look something like a big iPod or iPhone.

    We were watching to see what they would call it.

    The “i” naming convention was a given with iMac, iTunes, etc. But would this one become iSlate? iTablet? iShtar? Surely not <gasp> “iPad”?

    Nope, iPad it was

    The Fujitsu iPad product
    The Fujitsu iPad product

    Now, we’re fans of Apple branding in almost every possible way, and we lauded the return of Steve Jobs in a previous post. But instantly upon the announcement, we watched the media and the Twitter universe light up with criticism, and some really off-colour humour, about the name sounding like a feminine hygiene product (see the MadTV clip at bottom).

    Even more shocking: it turns out that the hygiene connection was just the beginning. Neither the name itself, or the association with products aimed at females, were unique.

    Fujitsu has already filed suit based on its own iPad product (above), and several others are out there.

    But the one that jumped out at us was the “iPad” product sold by a small Canadian company called Coconut Grove Pads Inc.. It’s a bra insert like the one shown at the top of this post.

    But will any of this matter?

    In a word: no.

    Let’s be clear: I would never advise a smaller client to go with such a name. There are just too many risk factors, as the media have been gleefully pointing out.

    But Apple knows this. And they went ahead in spite of it because, well, they’re Apple. Their market awareness is just too big, and the new product just too smart, for any of this to matter.

    They will settle with Fujitsu after some posturing by both parties, the Twitter wags will get their “Maxi” giggles, and the bra company will get its moment in the sun.

    But most importantly, the name “iPad” will quickly lose its association with MaxiPads and other feminine products.

    Why? Because we will all take ownership of the name as the way to refer to the Apple device – which will push all other uses to the back of the collective consumer brain bus.

    And in the branding game, that’s what really matters.

    What do you think? Are we artificially inflating our opinion? Let us know in the comments!

    Bonus: MadTV scooped Apple on the iPad name in Nov. 2007

    NOTE: This is very funny – but mildly gynecological humour might be a bit “edgy” for more conservative work environments, so view with caution.

    Out of the Woods? Branding the decade that was.

    So what do you call a decade like that one?

    So far Beg to Differ has resisted the urge to comment on the Tiger Woods scandal. But a friend posted a story on Facebook today that seemed like a great way to wrap up the year, advice and the decade. Her four-year old asked her out of the blue if he could take down his Tiger Woods poster – after two years on his wall. When asked why, he said “it just seems like time.”  Indeed.

    As they say: it's hard to see the tree for the Woods with a driver in the rear view mirror: just one of the many brands that have decided not to invite the Tiger into their new decade.
    As they say: it's hard to focus on the tree - or the Woods - with a driver in the rear view mirror: just one of the many brands that have decided not to invite the Tiger into their new decade.

    The rear-view mirror: out with the old

    The end of the year, or the decade, is of course a great time to reflect, dream, plan, concede defeat, or maybe just take a break from whatever little white ball you were chasing.

    But one question burns brighter than any faded Tiger in my mind right now: what do we call the decade that was? Other decades have great names like “the Dirty Thirties,” “The Roaring Twenties,” or my favourite: “the Eighties” (the teenage rugby-pants, new-wave, drama-geek decade doesn’t need another descriptor – at least for me).

    A few suggestions for branding the decade just past:

    The Woods

    Or “the Woodies” if you prefer. Oh those halcyon days when the Tiger was young and seemed infallible. Before we learned the awful truth: that he was all too human… er, actually a major sleaze-ball in his private life. And while that shouldn’t matter, we learned that when you build a brand empire around yourself, that brand is vulnerable to all the same failings that you are – particularly if your brand is built on a false perception of super-human purity.

    But the thing I like best about “The Woods”, is that it implies we’re out of them now…

    The Naughties

    Or “The Naughts”, “the aughts”. Of course “aught” or “naught” are words for zeroes.  My blog-buddy Nancy Friedman favours “the Naughties”. But apart from the Woods, there wasn’t really that much decade-defining naughtiness when you compare it to the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and the “Bill Clintons”. Martin Bishop tallied some more here, but I’m not convinced.

    The Zeros

    Or the “nothings” Nope. Just too depressing.

    The Ohs

    Not bad. Positive spin on the zeros, with a touch of surprise and wonder, and perhaps a nod of the head to my old Denim Blues cast-mate Sandra Oh – but that was the eighties again…

    The Terror Years

    September 11 2001 cast a massive pall over the decade – as did the subsequent war-faring, drum-beating, and hysteria.

    The O-amas

    This one has a nice hopeful ring to it: we went from the evil of Osama to the fresh hope represented by (and hopefully fulfilled by) Obama. Time will tell on this one.

    The Bloggies

    Surely the emergence of social media and the democratization of the news cycle – for better and worse – is one of the defining themes. Or at least to the millions of us who blog about such things.

    The Happies

    Okay, this may just be for me again. But I have to say that this decade – whatever we call it – has been the happiest of my life. I started my branding business in 2000 and have had the privilege to help many dozens of companies, charities, and government organizations humanize their brands. I also got married to an amazing woman, bought a house, had three incredible kids (the diaper decade?), and started a little blog called Beg  to Differ.

    It wasn’t all sunshine. I made some people angry, and didn’t always dot all my i’s or even deliver 100%.  But as I look back, I can’t help but feel great about the next decade – whatever we call that.

    So as you take down the old posters from your wall, think carefully about what the next decade could become for you, your brand, and your tribe.

    My four-word prescription for the next decade:

    Keep making it better!

    Happy New Year!