Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Taste of its own Chinese Medicine

China, long known as one of the biggest sources of counterfeit merchandise and piracy of intellectual property is suddenly getting a taste of its own medicine. Chinese authorities have had to scramble to try to rein in a burgeoning cottage industry of fake 2008 Olympics merchandise. According to the Beijing Youth Daily, Chinese authorities have investigated at least 80 websites selling fake Olympics gear.

There are two things about this report that made me stop and think:
  1. This may be the first time that China has had a brand strong enough to attract the attention of its own counterfeiters and
  2. I'm wondering if this taste of its own medicine will signal an era of stronger protection for international intellectual property.
Thoughts and comments are welcome. Xie Xie in advance.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ripe, Juicy Apples: Quarterly Mac Sales Top 2 Million

Things are looking pretty good in the orchards of Cupertino, CA. Apple just announced its quarterly results, demolishing analyst estimates. The best part about this is that one of the main drivers of this performance was Mac sales, which topped 2 million units in the quarter.

This is the first time Mac sales have ever reached this level and it really validates Apple's strategy, which I will hereby dub "brand resonance". The strategy was to use the iPod and the iPhone to expose a wider range of consumers to the whole Apple "experience". This is the elegant melding of form, function and user experience that is at the core of Apple's brand. The theory (now proven) was that this little taste of Apple would leave consumers hungry for more, and drive some portion of them to abandon their Windows and jump into a Mac. Of course, that will make them more likely to stick with Apple's other media devices, and so the consumer's attachment to the brand will resonate and become stronger and stronger.

As a longtime Mac fan, and someone who loudly protested more than a decade of prophesies of Apple's demise, I guess I'd just say.... I TOLD YOU SO!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Has CAPTCHA been captured?

CNet is reporting that spammers have hijacked YouTube's email-a-friend feature to send out phishing emails. The thing I found most notable in the article is the reference to software that automatically decodes and defeats CAPTCHA. This is a new, and troubling development for anyone who uses viral marketing or web forms.

CAPTCHA is a system that requires a web visitor to retype a set of letters into a form field in order to submit the form. Those letters are presented in a somewhat distorted or garbled image. The idea is to prevent automated scripts from being able to hijack the form. From an online branding perspective, the email-a-friend forms, blog comment forms and contact forms that CAPTCHA protects are critical to developing an effective online brand conversation. If these systems cannot be adequately protected, we may lose some of our most effective tools for online branding and marketing.

If CAPTCHA is indeed in danger, my question to ponder is: "what will take its place?" What type of system can simultaneously be easy to use for website visitors, while being difficult or (improbably) impossible for the hackers and spammers to get around?

Leave a comment. I think this is an important discussion to have now, before our online forms become as compromised as our junk mail folders already are!

Friday, October 5, 2007

King on the Road: Burger King Goes Mobile

Here's a tasty piece of news. Marketwatch is reporting that Burger King has signed a deal for the development of a set of branded games for mobile phones. This follows last year's offering of three Xbox 360 console games featuring "The King" ("Pocketbike Racer," "Big Bumpin'", and "Sneak King") which sold over 2 million copies!

The games will be produced by Mobliss, a company which has publishing agreements with Sprint, AT&T, Alltel, Verizon and T-Mobile, which means the games will have significant consumer availability.

This isn't the first time Burger King has willingly embraced new marketing techniques and reaped benefits. From its successful viral marketing campaign with "Subservient Chicken" to its user-generated content site at PetMoustache.com, BK continues to show itself as an industry leader.

This lastest effort is an equally smart move. "The King" character has rejuvenated Burger King's mind-share and BK's willingness to embrace branded games has really upped the fun level of a brand that has to compete with the world's most famous clown.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Frozen Apples: The Unlocked iPhone Dilemma

In an effort to combat the "unlocking" of iPhones, Apple has made its latest iPhone software update into an assassin, capable of permanently freezing iPhones that have been illegally unlocked to work on networks other than AT&T, or that have been hacked to load unsanctioned third-party applications. This essentially turns the iPhone into a sleek, sexy, $500 brick, perfectly suited for holding down a pile of papers or being used for lively games of spin-the-iPhone.

Hardware makers have always struggled with cracks that allowed consumers to get around their licensed content or use their products in ways unintended by the manufacturers, and any consumer who tries to skirt the rules should be prepared for the potential consequences. The question is whether the punishment fits the crime, and what implications can this have for Apple's brand.

It is widely known that Apple is not profiting from the iPhone itself, but from the business relationship with phone providers like AT&T, who get to be the exclusive providers of the iPhone in their respective countries. Apple's position, and profit potential, would be severely impacted if people can just unlock an iPhone and use it with other carriers. This relationship is definitely something Apple must defend. The issue of third-party software installations is a murkier one. Is an attempt to improve your iPhone really an offense that should be punishable by death?

In my own opinion, Apple needs to tread carefully here. Those who unlock their iPhones to try to get around Apple's licensing deals should pay a price for it, although Apple's response of "buy another iPhone" may be a bit extreme. On the other hand, those who "mod" their phones to add new functionality are not trying to erode Apple's business model. On the contrary, they are the company's true fanatics. By permanently freezing those iPhones, apple risks alienating this group of rabid fans. Brian Lam, editor of Gizmodo, called this move "uncharacteristically evil". That is NOT something Apple wants associated with its smiling, happy, groovy brand.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Networked Toybox: Websites Go From Promoters to Part of the Product

I remember my various toy collections when I was a kid. Some of them are still hiding out in boxes at my father's house. I had Transformers (who have just made a comeback), Go-Bots, Legos and some sort of motorized dinosaurs that you put together from parts, kind of like an erector set. I'm entering middle age, so there weren't any websites around back when I had these toys, but if there were I'm sure they would have been marketing them pretty hard, trying to get me to collect all the different characters and variations available. The truth is, it would have worked pretty well on me.

Times have changed, and now every toy brand has a website. Some are laughable, some are spectacular, but up until recently, they have all just been part of the marketing plans for the toys. Times, they are a-changing. A new trend seems to be emerging, where the website goes from being just a marketing tool to being an actual part of the product offering. Instead of being standalone items ("networked" through the imaginations of the kids playing with them), these new toys are the keys to unlock worlds of interactive online content and activities.

From the standpoint of brand development, this is brilliant. The toys keep the brand conversation going. While the kids play with the toy(s) they have, the manufacturers get to continue to expose them to new variations that they can beg mommy and daddy to buy for them. They also have the opportunity to combat boredom by releasing new content over time.

By the time Christmas 2007 rolls around, I'm sure there will be dozens of variations on this trend, but for now, here are four that have popped up recently:

by Mattel (www.ubfunkeys.com)
Clearly inspired by the trendy vinyl toy underground, these small figurines unlock parts of a virtual world filled with games, character background, etc. The software communicates with the website for updates. (Personal note: I give this product line good points for visual style)

Shining Stars
by Russ Berrie and Company (www.shiningstars.com)
This one is from the folks who made oodles of cash peddling Beanie Babies. A cuddly stuffed animal provides the key to an online portal of games and point-based activities. The hook here is that for each animal, the child gets to name a star after it, apparently from real celestial maps. Of course, there is a notable disclaimer that this name registry is not officially recognized by anyone else, but at least the child gets to claim that one unique star within this online world.

by MGA Entertainment (www.myepets.com)
Another one based on plush stuffed animals. Once the toy is purchased, the child goes to the website to register and complete the "adoption" process. From that point, it's all about personalization, activities and caring for this virtual pet. This seems like the old Tamagotchis in a newer form.

by Spinmaster (www.swypeout.com)
This one's about as virtual as you can get without doing away with the product altogether! The only physical thing you get is a USB swipe card reader and some collectible plastic cards that you can swipe through it. Each card gives the kid access to either a particular car, an upgrade or "mod", or a weapon of some sort. By collecting, they can create a customized ride that they can then race against other players through the Swypeout website.

My one final thought on this new trend is that I'm conflicted. The marketer in me loves the potential for creative marketing, branding and entertainment, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm worried that our kids are going to be able to experience any part of life without sitting in front of a computer.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bob Dylan: Master of Viral Marketing?

Bob Dylan has always been a pioneer, a messenger with messages to deliver and a true gift for musical communication. Now, with the help of a UK design firm, he is part of the new era of viral marketing.

Dylan Messaging, a very cool microsite promoting the upcoming release of his greatest hits compilation, allows visitors to send out a custom message to their friends in a very unique way. Your message, chopped into 10 small pieces, is superimposed on the stack of posters revealed one by one by a very young Bob Dylan in the famous opening scene of the documentary "Don't Look Back" (the popular INXS video for "Mediate" was an homage to this same scene).

In addition to being very well implemented, this viral marketing vehicle helps demonstrate a winning formula:

(cultural phenomenon)
+ (personalization)
+ (activity focused on broadcast) = viral marketing success

This same formula was immensely successful for the online marketing efforts for the movie "Snakes on a Plane", featuring customized voicemail messages from Samuel L. Jackson. While Dylan Messaging may not have the same broad audience appeal, I'm sure it will be a big hit among its target demographic of Bob Dylan fans.

Back to the Business of Branding

Sorry for the hiatus, folks. I know it's been a while since I posted anything. In addition to the usual game of "dueling vacations" between ourselves and our clients, expanding our office and making several high-powered additions to our team, we're embarking on our own, exciting rebranding process. I may post some intermittent updates on this initiative, or I may just hold back and make it all a big surprise!

At any rate, back to business and some new posts about online branding...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Tale of Two Burgers: PetMoustache.com vs Gofbot.com

Throughout the history of modern marketing, there have been some truly legendary rivalries. One of the biggest has been between the Clown and the King. In other words, McDonald's vs. Burger King. This rivalry has been going for a long time and certainly shows no signs of slowing. At the same time, there has certainly been a shift in the balance of power in the marketing to the adult demographic in recent years. The current balance (in favor of Burger King, in my opinion) is obvious by looking at new campaigns from both camps that debuted in recent days: "Gofbot.com" from McDonalds and the Western Whopper mustached campaign (featuring PetMoustache.com) from Burger King.

I'll lead off with Burger King. Ever since they revived their mascot, in the form of a regally dressed, slightly creepy king with a permanent plastic smile, their marketing has been interesting, innovative and eye-catching. In this campaign, they are touting the limited-time-only Western Whopper by giving this sandwich the supernatural power of growing a western cowboy moustache on anyone who eats it. In the TV commercials, we see various types of consumers happily savoring the Western Whopper with a big bushy moustache growing on their face, whether they are teens, old ladies playing cards, or even a lucky basset hound that gets to finish his owner's burger. All of this is interspersed with western music and shots of The King doing a bit of an old-west jig.

The commercials themselves are attention-grabbing, but in keeping with Burger King's commitment to online marketing (which goes all the way back to Subservient Chicken) they don't stop with just the commercials. At the end of each commercial, they show the URL for PetMoustache.com. This microsite lets visitors upload a photo of their own face from their computer (of course, I'm sure you could use a friend's face instead) and grow, trim and style a moustache on top of it.

Burger King really brings together an all-star collection of viral marketing and interactive branding features in PetMoustache.com. They give visitors to PetMoustache.com the ability to send customized, singing telegram emails to their friends. They also provide several incentives for visitors to register (

McDonald's new commercial promoting the venerable Big Mac focuses on a startup "dot com" company that claims its forthcoming website will be "bigger than the Big Mac". This creates tons of buzz and hype (obviously suggesting that anything bigger than the Big Mac must be the end-all-be-all). When the site finally launches at the end of the commercial, the "visitors" counter rings up a grand total of three visits. A delivery guy (eating a Big Mac) says "I guess it wasn't bigger than the Big Mac".

It's an okay commercial, but nothing particularly memorable. At the same time, the name of this fictional company, GofBot.com, is repeated many, many times through the commercial. This creates a great opportunity for McDonald's to take a few more cheap shots at dotcom mania and build up more brand exposure for the Big Mac. McDonald's has squandered this opportunity. All that exists at GofBot.com is a single, poorly prepared page, that is only slightly humorous. It does link across to the main McDonald's website, but to a fairly uninspiring "burgers" subpage.

The Winner
A visit to Alexa shows that both website have been getting traffic, a clear indication that the mere mention or presence of these URLS in the tv commercials are driving consumers to check them out. From the perspective of branding, Burger King is embracing this traffic, and McDonald's is wasting it. In this head-to-head, we're declaring the King is still the King.

Monday, June 18, 2007

VitaminWater: Cool, refreshing branding

"Try crossing the antarctic without your wooly underwear. Try Essential. Try it!"
"Try swimming the Atlantic when you just swam the Atlantic. Try Revive. Try it!"
"Try giving an Amazonian howler monkey a Brazilian bikini wax. Try XXX. Try it!"

These imperatives, shouted out in a cocky British accent, accompanied by the same words in bold print and bold colors is just a sample of VitaminWater's new marketing campaign. All I can say is that this new marketing campaign for VitaminWater is an attention-getter.

VitaminWater, from Glaceau (bought out by Coca Cola a few weeks ago) has always worked to build a strong consistent brand through their heavily coordinated and very recognizable packaging, but now they are working to build up their brand on the air and online. Accompanying the TV campaign is a really intense, Flash-based website at www.glaceau.com.

There are a lot of things to appreciate about this website when it comes to branding. First off, it's an intense rush of motion and interactivity, with bottles of VitaminWater front and center and almost larger than life. There is absolutely no ambiguity about the point of the site or the real stars.

Then there's the color. VitaminWater's product line is completely color coded and the site is decked out in that same juicy color scheme. As you move from product to product, the entire interface adjusts to colors that complement the specific product. This blends with typography (thanks to the fact that you can embed fonts in Flash) that is a perfect match to the product labels.

And with that, I offer my own homage:

"Try packing five gallons of branding into a sixteen ounce bottle. Try VitaminWater's website. Try it!"

Thursday, June 7, 2007

want2Bsquare - A brand tries to own the square

About a week ago, the strangest commercials started airing during Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. The ads featured what seemed to be a shady medical facility in an eastern European country, where a doctor (who looks a bit like Christopher Walken) is finishing a procedure to mold his patients heads into the shape of cubes (something they are apparently very excited about). The commercial ends with a URL, www.want2bsquare.com. There is no mention of the product, no English spoken, and no recognizable brand or logo.

Of course, this is designed to create curiosity. I usually resist these attempts (I try to be the cat that doesn't get killed), but this one was too bizarre and cryptic. I had to see what it was about. What did I find when I went to that URL? An equally bizarre, but incredibly rich and well-constructed immersive Flash-based website full of strange activities, games and animated creatures. Who is behind want2Bsquare? Scion, the wildly popular customizable brand from Toyota.

I've got to say that I'm impressed, both by the depth and detail of the want2Bsquare site, and by the bold and unconventional way that Scion is approaching this campaign. Unlike many other marketing campaigns, the original brand identity is NOT plastered all over this site. Instead, they are intensely focused on the shape. Everything is boxy, square or cubic. This is clearly a reflection of the boxy, square shape of the Scion xB. A quick Googling turns up a related (and similarly sponsored) want2Bsquare art exhibit in New York and LA.

It is the notable lack of Scion branding involved in this campaign that makes me realize just how audacious a move this is. With the want2Bsquare campaign, Scion is trying to OWN the shape. They are trying to claim one of the main primitive shapes and build a strong enough association that when people think of a square (or the word square) they think of Scion.

This is really bold! If you think about how Nike is intimately related to both the shape of its "swoosh", and even the word "swoosh" itself, then you'll realize they type of Holy Grail that Scion is going for. This might be overly ambitious (or I might be reading too much into it), but at least they are off to a good start.

Want2Bsquare? I just might.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

London 2012 - A Killer Logo?

Apparently, the day-glo colors and graffiti-inspired shapes of the 1980's will be completely back in vogue by the 2012 Olympics in London. At least, that's what I gather by looking at the new logo and website for the 2012 Olympic and Paralymic Games. When I first loaded up the site, I was certain that I hadn't found an "official" olympics website. It seems that even the organizers themselves aren't confident, since one of the main activities of the site is to encourage the public to create OTHER designs.

So what would make this trainwreck of a logo even more of a mess? How about animating it in a way that fails the Harding FPA machine test, which identifies video content that can cause epileptic seizures? Yeah, that would count as a double-disaster. According to CNet, they had to remove the video clip from the London 2012 website. This confirms that the London 2012 online brand is bad enough to actually kill someone. That HAS to be a first!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Microsoft Surface: A touch of cool for the Microsoft Brand?

Microsoft and "cool". Those are two words you don't see together very often. Given that this is the largest software company in the world, with products covering the whole spectrum of our computing lives, that's a bit of a sad statement. I'd say that makes Microsoft Surface blogworthy. Finally, Microsoft has come up with a product that makes people "ooh" and "ahh".

Microsoft Surface, for those who don't know, is a tabletop computing platform that lets users interact with a 30-inch, full-color, fully touch-sensitive work area. Now, when I say "tabletop", don't think about a computer that goes ON a table. Think about a table whose flat top surface IS the computer!

How is this different from a traditional touchscreen that we're all used to? The Microsoft Surface can simultaneously track multiple touchpoints. This means you can use two hands, ten fingers, or even more if you have another person sitting there with you, all at the same time! This technology is definitely something new and has a great, futuristic feel to it.

Don't expect to see one of these in real life all that soon, since they're going to take a while to get to market and they'll be pretty pricey (at least at first). Frankly, I think that the commercial success of the Microsoft Surface will really depend on the appearance of truly innovative, elegant software applications that take advantage of it. This marriage of new technology and exciting software is something that is old news for Microsoft's adversary Apple, but Microsoft itself doesn't have the best record in this area.

Commercial success aside, the biggest benefit from Microsoft Surface could be the injection of coolness that it brings to the stodgy giant from Redmond. Microsoft has been losing serious ground in several key areas to Apple and Google. Both of those companies are fully tuned in to the public's idea of cool. At the same time, one of Microsoft's latest and largest attempts, the launch of the Microsoft Live brand, has been widely acknowledged as a failure.

How has Microsoft leveraged the cool factor of Microsoft Surface in its branding? The Microsoft Surface logo is colorful, modern and elegant. The Microsoft Surface website is bright and energetic, although given the excitement of the product, it is not nearly as interactive as it should be. It remains to be seen if Microsoft will be able to leverage the initial excitement about Microsoft Surface to breathe some life back into its brand image, but at least this proves that the brand still has a pulse.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

MySpace: Is the Magic of its Brand Fading?

There's an interesting dynamic that occurs whenever a brand is spawned from concepts such as audience empowerment, personal expression and community. Brands like Digg, LiveJournal, Wikipedia and even Google (now the #1 brand in the world) have all gained much of their power from the consumers perspective that they are working to empower us. Of course, nothing defines this as much as social networking sites like Friendster and, most of all, MySpace.

MySpace's entire brand has grown from providing its users with the power to express themselves, post their info, share with their friends and meet new ones. Of course, along the way MySpace became one of the most heavily visited websites on the Internet, became the most significant alternate channel for bands and musical artists to break out, and it was purchased by Rupert Murdoch's Fox Interactive Media for half a billion dollars (a price that now seems to have been cheap).

Now, here's where things get tricky. Much of the appeal of MySpace is the ability for users to customize their profiles (adding images and media, restyling stylesheets, etc.) and communicate with each other. By making these activities easy and pervasive, and constantly pushing the envelope on profile customization, MySpace has actually started to descend into semi-anarchy.

The site has become flooded with everything from sexual predators, to pornography marketers, to ponzi schemes, to profiles rigged to install malware or divert visitors to dubious external websites. While there are some features to allow a user to block requests or messages from unknown profiles, there are still many threats lurking within this community of over 100 million members. To add insult to injury, Fox Interactive actually wants to recoup their investment, so the site has become more and more crowded with advertising and promotions.

So here lies the conundrum. The MySpace brand was built on freedom of personal expression and a fanciful wonderland of communication. MySpace can't really prune back these features without alienating at least some portion of its user base. As recent history has shown, an alienated user base can make a pretty big stink (witness the recent revolts at Digg and LiveJournal). At the same time, the increasing quantity of parasites and threats (and intrusive ad placements) are turning MySpace into a less-than-desirable neighborhood. The effects are starting to show too. MySpace's growth has leveled off and begun to decline, while that of rival FaceBook (with a cleaner, safer interface) has taken off.

So what is old Rupert Murdoch to do with his troubled brand? Do you make bold moves that cause short-term pain in the name of long-term viability, or do you keep taking baby steps and hope that the brand doesn't rot out completely by the time you get things under control?

I have no idea, I'm just glad I don't have to make that decision.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Doritos X13D - THe Flavor of Interactive Branding

OK, this is a very cool concept. Doritos develops a new flavor (pretty tasty, I might add). Rather than just slapping a name on it and releasing it, they put it in a black bag and give it a codename "X13D". Then they develop a promotion that encourages consumers to figure out what the flavor its themselves, visit a new microsite (http://x13d.doritos.com/), and participate in a contest to name the new flavor.

Here's where it gets even better. In the past, a promotion such as this might hinge on a big cash prize, a fantastic vacation, new car, etc. So what is the prize that Doritos is offering in this promotion? 100 of the people who submit a name will be selected to become Doritos "Flavor Masters", getting a year's supply of chips (who figures out how much that is, anyway?) and membership in a tasting test panel for new flavors.

How cool is this? They're leveraging the consumer's sense of creativity and the new trend of audience participation to generate brand excitement without even having to put up an expensive prize. This isn't the first time Doritos has leverage the huge trend in user-generated content. In a move that helped draw attention to the prospect of crowd-sourced advertising, Doritos recruited fans to create their own Doritos Super Bowl commercials, and the winners were aired during Super Bowl XLI.

Although consumer-created advertising is proving to not be a big cost saving for the companies sponsoring it, it certainly gets the attention of the consumers themselves. In my book, that's a tasty reason to keep the consumer participation going strong.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

iPhone Killers: Brand Prophecy and Aspiring Challengers

Ahhh, the Apple iPhone. While this is an offshoot of the overall Apple brand, it is also certainly a power unto itself. The story could easily be the fodder for a Hollywood movie.

For years there were whispers, rumours and secretive stories told around the light of a flickering LCD screen. One day, they said, Apple would create a cellphone and a new age of mobile communications would dawn. Old empires would be toppled and new creativity would flood the earth.

When Apple finally announced the imminent arrival of the cellphone-messiah on January 9th , the media coverage was absolutely deafening. The day of reckoning was officially on its way and, as far as the media was concerned, the iPhone's dominance was already set in stone.

Of course, as soon as you have one person saying something is a "sure thing" (much less millions of people), it's only a matter of time before challengers arise. In this case, the rumblings started in a mere 9 days, when Engadget reported rumors of a supposed Google phone as a possible "iPhone Killer".

The parade of would-be iPhone assassins has continued all spring. Here's a timeline:

January 18 Engadget reports on the rumored "Google Switch"

February 15 LinuxDevices.com talks up the Neo1973 from FIC

March 28 Switched.com reports on the Helio Ocean

May 9 Gizmodo hypes up the forthcoming "Media Monster" from Motorola

May 21 Cool Tech Zone reports on the ultra-pricey LG Prada

Whew... that's a LOT of killers for a device that hasn't had a single unit sold and delivered yet. That's the amazing thing about this brand. It's so powerful that the entire industry is treating it as if its been on the market for years with a big chunk of market-share. In the process, they continue to feed and magnify the hype.

And so we find ourselves walking those last few miles to the great event. Will the iPhone's actual arrival be like the Big Bang? or like a wet match? Will any of these supposed challengers steal its thunder or knock it off the top spot? Who knows, but it'll be a great show to watch!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Geico Cavemen Evolving into a TV Show

A mascot can certainly be a powerful part of a brand, but how often are they powerful enough to actually spin off on their own? I guess you could say this was "thousands of years in the making", but a couple of cavemen have just managed to make the leap from commercial mascots to tv stars (rather than the more usual other way around). The Geico cavemen, famous for standing up against the discrimination of Geico's "so easy a caveman could do it" slogan, will have their own sitcom on ABC this fall.

Originally rumored to be in pilot mode back in March, the series is now officially a go, with ABC announcing it as part of the Fall 2007 lineup a few days ago. The series will revolve around three cavemen living in the modern day and presumably struggling with modern prejudice about their lower position on the evolutionary scale.

From a branding perspective, it's certainly an accomplishment when you create a mascot with such charisma and appeal that it can cross over and "become" the product instead of simply selling the product. For Geico, it's a grand-slam homerun. They get to benefit from the exposure when the show airs, and from all of the publicity that it is even being made in the first place. Here's an interesting tidbit, by the way: although this is very, very rare, this is NOT the first time it has happened. Back in the late '80s, the California Raisins (the claymation-animated ones) had their own TV show.

I'm sure Vegas will be running a line on whether the series will make it through a full season, but even if it doesn't, it's a great case study on branding!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ahoy! Old Spice tries to break into a new audience

So how do you take a brand that most people probably associate with their grandfather or great uncle and rejuvenate it for a new, younger audience? You develop a slogan that plays up the concept of experience, you hire one of the greatest tongue-in-cheek comedy actors of our generation and you write some hilarious commercials designed to make that bit of gray hair a badge of honor.

This is exactly what Old Spice (a Proctor and Gamble brand) has done recently. This is very smart. With a name like "Old Spice", they were never going to be able to portray it as a cool, young product. The new slogan "Experience is Everything" suggests that those older gentlemen out there living the life (with their yachts, mansions and classic sense of style) are onto something that us young guys wish we had. It's a great example of taking a potential brand weakness and spinning it into a strength.

Here's the original Old Spice commercial. Pay special attention to the painting behind him as he walks.

Here's the new Old Spice body spray commercial. This is very confident and well executed. Note that there isn't a single word spoken about the product, yet the message comes across loud and clear.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Comcast Channel 1 : Tuning in a new brand

How do you make a major new brand without having to create a new service or product? Ask Comcast.

After years of successful growth for Comcast's On Demand service, the Philadelphia-based cable giant decided to give its popular service a new identity, rebranding it as "Channel 1". All of a sudden, comcast channels are full of commercials for "ch1", and the site even has a new, Flash-based, video-filled website at http://www.comcastch1.com/

The thing that's so beautiful about this is that Comcast didn't have to develop anything new in the actual service offering. They already had a great product that had a pretty bland identity (and frankly, I could never remember if it was "OnDemand" or "InDemand"). By simply rebranding it, they have managed to breathe new life into the offering. Plus, they made it easier for people to remember how to get to the service (just punch in channel 1 on the remote control).

Are there other companies with "sleeper brands" out there that just need a new face to reinvigorate them? Probably. As I find them, I'll mention them here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Super-Powered Brand

What do Comcast, Burger King, Kraft, 7-Eleven and Target have in common? They're all caught in the same web of brand cross-promotion!

Spiderman 3 has taken over theaters across the country, setting box-office records and simulataneously unleashing a tremendous wave of product marketing tie-ins. The interesting thing about this, and other movie/product tie-ins, is that the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. The movie brand gets incredible visibility in physical locations as well as on TV (case in point, I saw a commercial break tonight where three out of four commercials had something to do with Spiderman), while the partnering brands get to leverage the excitement over the movie to help them seem current and stand out in the crowd.

For a truly popular, mass market movie like Spiderman, it really is a win-win and the movie comes out looking like... well... a hero.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A new brand is born!

Welcome to the inaugural post of a new blog focused on the world of online branding. My name is Jeff Greenhouse and I am the President of Singularity Design, an interactive marketing agency specializing in online brand maximization. This blog is intended to provide a place for us to post our varied thoughts and observations about the remarkable evolution of online branding.

We've come a looooong way, from the days of academic gray pages and blue links to today's world of RSS feeds, fully dynamic flash sites with video, and a myriad of other tools to fight the war for consumer mindshare. I'm looking forward to sharing my musings and hopefully spurring lively discussions about the past, present and future of this exciting media!