Happy May 1 Ontario! Electricity just got more expensive (again)!

Brandvelope client EnergyMobile launches new mobile app. If you’re like me, you prefer not to think about electricity. Or how much you’re spending on it. But a few things have conspired in my life to make power use a real “hot wire”:

Brandvelope client EnergyMobile launches new mobile app

Disclosure: This is an article about a client’s product, dosage so we may be a wee bit biased. But we can also get you a free pass, so read on!

Our house. Big power. Lacking cents.

If you’re like me, you prefer not to think about electricity. Or how much you’re spending on it. But a few things have conspired in my life to make power use a real “hot wire”:

  • 1) Three growing kids. Suddenly, our house has gone from 2-3 loads of laundry per week to 8-10 loads and climbing. That’s a lot of power, and it ain’t cheap.
  • 2) Increasing daycare costs. With three kids in daycare, we’re having to penny-pinch like never before, so suddenly “invisible” costs like food, water, and energy bills are in the spotlight as places to save some money.
  • 3) Ontario time-of-use metering. For non-Ontario folks who haven’t encountered this, rates for power are cheaper during hours considered “off-peak” for a given time of year – basically, an incentive to wash your potty-training toddler’s pee-soaked socks (yes I said socks) late at night or really early morning.
  • 4) Me being an idiot. As I said, energy has never been a top-of-mind concern for me, so I have no idea what a kilowatt-hour means, and I can never remember what time the price changes, or how much money I’m actually saving.
  • 5) Carbon footprint. Last one, but it’s got to be on my list with a seven year old daughter who is becoming militant about making sure polar bears don’t have to swim too far. And while time of use isn’t about using less energy per se, it turns out there are lots of easy things all of us can do to save energy, money, and hopefully, save polar bears without using giant polar water wings.

So we’re trying to save energy, but we need help

That’s why it was so cool to work with Tim Johnson as he developed, refined, and launched this iPhone app (at right). Because it’s really designed for, well, me – and people like me, who want to save energy, but are too busy or forgetful to get into the right habits without help.

Basically, like Tim’s other business Energy Insight (also a Brandvelope client) it’s about making Energy concepts easy to understand and giving people convenient tools to help them do the right thing without getting a degree in electrical engineering.

Here’s the basic idea of Powercents from an Ottawa Citizen article yesterday:

Called Powercents, the smart-phone app by EnergyMobile Studios of Ottawa is billed as a tool to help Ontario consumers make better decisions about household energy use.

“The best way to do that is with good, simple access to information that is not clouded by any specific agenda,” EnergyMobile founder Tim Johnson said.

The main screen is all about Time of Use, and helping you see what the rates in Ontario are right now, and how soon they’ll change, so you can plan a bit better.

But even better, as you can see at right, there are lots of charts to help you understand exactly how much money you’re saving with big power hogs like dishwashers and laundry machines.

So check it out!

You can buy it yourself from the iPhone store. It’s $1.99. And let us know what you think.

Or, get it for free! If you’re one of the first five people to retweet or Like this post, (and you live in Ontario) I’ll send you a code for a free download.

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 sethgodin.typepad.com
Image (uncredited) from sethgodin.typepad.com

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.