Yesterday, a friend linked to the video below, wondering why Ashton Kutcher and advertiser popchips would post such a “racist video”. Then an online debate broke out about whether it is racist or not. I won’t paddle into that one, but I will offer this…
Yesterday, health a friend linked to the video below, wondering why Ashton Kutcher and advertiser popchips would post such a “racist video”. Then an online debate broke out about whether it is racist or not. I won’t paddle into that one, but I will offer this…
(Guitar Riff. Maniacal laughter.) WIPEOUT!!!
Anyone who’s had a joke fall flat knows that humour is a tricky balance. It’s like surfing a wave. You’ve got to ride the edge between keeping your audience laughing and “sucking water” (so to speak).
But “edgy” humour is an even bigger wave, and humour dealing with controversial topics like gender, race, is the biggest, nastiest wave of all. Only the most skillful comedians can hold themselves on that edge without making people angry. Peter Sellers did it brilliantly in The Party by creating a character that with stereotypes, but ends up making most of us love him. Will some people be offended? Sure they will. But most will sense the risk, see your skill, and cringing, go along for the ride.
Ashton Kutcher? Sorry my friend. Stick to the small waves.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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”?
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.
A unique logo design gets dumbed down by board-room egos
This morning, check whilst Beg to Differ was checking our favourite blogs, advice looking for signs of hope in this new decade, order we noticed the sad tale of a re-branding effort -or more accurately a logo design project – at do-it-yourself travel site Expedia.com (via Brand New). Seems that their distinctive, fun little logo wasn’t good enough for “the golf shirt test”…
What’s the “golf shirt test”?
That’s where an executive evaluates a logo, tag line, name, etc. in terms of how it will look on their golf shirt rather than how well it works for customers.
In this case, it’s logo design. The old design was kind of goofy, maybe a little clip-arty cartoonish, and yes, a bit retro (read “old-fashioned”). But it did just what it was intended to do: it conveyed a clear brand idea. It captured a bit of the excitement and adventure of travel, while giving target customers a strong symbol to help them find, remember, and engage with the service.
Now that might seem like a good thing. But that’s just because you’re thinking like a customer.
Instead, think for a moment like a corporate executive who wants to hit the golf circuit with the big kids from IBM, AT&T, etc., with their important-looking corporate swag. You don’t want to stand out; you want to blend in. And alas, a fun, humanizing image can make a VP feel positively bush league – or worse, like dot-commie.
I get that. I worked for Corel during the heyday of Mike Cowpland and CorelDRAW. So I had to wear ugly shirts with giant rainbow-coloured balloons in the board rooms of Samsung, HP, Compaq, Apple, among others. I understand feeling self-conscious about a dorky shirt and wishing you could just change that bloody logo. (Note: please don’t look to Corel for an example on this one).
The new logo
So when I saw the new Expedia logo design and branding tag (at right) I thought: aha! Golf shirt logic!
This new logo looks just incredibly… grown up. No more fun cartoon plane. Just a generic white jet icon against a boring blue globe. An executive with this logo on a shirt could blend right in with the leaders of airports, international aid agencies, government programs – maybe even defence contractors.
Paul Leonard, VP of brand marketing at Expedia, seems to have golf shirts on his brain. Brand New quotes him as saying:
“The whole look and feel is “less cartoonish”… We were striving for a more timeless and classic aesthetic. It’s a little less whimsical and more sophisticated.”
“Timeless.” “Classic.” “Sophisticated.” All words that are proxies for “Won’t make any impression at all.”
And one assumes Mr. Leonard also chose that very golf-shirt friendly tag line “Where you book matters.” (It’s a shame he forgot to decide why it matters – or if he did, he forgot to tell us).
One also assumes that the he also approved the generic look and feel of the new Web site – with no troublesome differentiating features to help consumers distinguish it from, well, anything else in the travel industry.
Dear executives: it’s not about you
I could go on. But brand managers, please: you need to help your corporate masters understand that branding is not about making them look good on the golf course!
A brand is about three simple things:
Helping customers find you;
Giving them reasons to choose you; and
Creating a relationship that will help them choose you again.
And sad to say, those three things just *might* not look pretty on a golf shirt.
SciFi becomes “SyFy”. Brand New lists this as one of the best of 2009. We Beg to Differ.
But apart from the SyFy choice, and the provocative choice of the truly awful Aol. brand as their #1 identity of 2009 (Brand New’s Armin can’t find anything negative to say about the designers at Wolff Olins apparently). For a review of this identity that is totally on the mark, see Fritinancy.
Where we agree
But because I love their blog and wish them well for the New Year, I’m going to focus on five identities that Brand New is totally right about. But don’t take my word for it, read Brand New for yourself.