Thursday, October 30, 2008

Comcast Tower Breaks Curse of William Penn

In the category of strange and wonderful comes the story of William Penn's hat. Not the real hat, but the sculpted metal hat on top of Philadelphia's City Hall. For decades, nobody was allowed to build a Philadelphia building taller than that hat. In 1987, One Liberty Place rose above the hat, and a 25 year sports championship drought followed. This led to the story of Billy Penn's Curse.

Well, as the Comcast Tower was completed and became Philadelphia's tallest building this year, ironworkers of Local Union 401 attached a small figurine of William Penn to the final beam of this new icon, in the hopes of breaking the curse. What can I say? It worked. It's one year later and the Philadelphia Phillies have won the World Series, for only the second time in franchise history and for the first major sports championship in Philadelphia in a quarter century!

Here's to curses and their subsequent breaking!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Unbutton Your Beast: Levi's Lets it Out

There's a beast in my jeans and it wants to talk to you! Yeah, that's the basic premise behind Levi's new "Unbutton Your Beast" viral campaign. Unbutton Your Beast is simple, bold, funny and exposes you (pun intended) to the brand and the product being pitched in an unmistakable way. I give Levi's a big thumb's up for stepping up, and "going there" with this viral campaign.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Seinfeld + Gates + Windows = Seinfeld * 0.5

Well, the first Microsoft ad featuring Jerry Seinfeld has been released. It's featuring Bill Gates and doesn't mention Microsoft or Windows at all. That's fine by me. There's a ton of debate about whether the ad was good or not. Debate is fine by me as well. Here's the ad:

I'll weigh in with this opinion, either Jerry is very rusty in his delivery, or this combination is just too awkward. This doesn't capture the magic of either Seinfeld's standup or the old show (even though it tries to mimic the "much about nothing" style). I'll reserve final judgement until I see the next installments of the campaign, but if this is their answer to Apple's "Mac vs. PC" ads, I don't expect a monumental shift in public opinion.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chrome Browser from Google: How Shiny Will it Be?

Google is developing its own web browser, called Chrome. I guess it was only a matter of time. Google owns the search industry, and has been developing boatloads of other applications and information services, some of which are hits and some of which sit largely unused. Now we come to the next step in Google's evolution, where it works to tie everything together into a true platform.

Will the Chrome browser be the thing that does it? How heavily will it integrate Google's also-ran services such as Google Finance and Froogle? I have no doubts that compelling and intelligently designed new features will appear in this browser at a ridiculous pace. After all, that has become a key element of Google's brand of innovation with services such as Google Maps and Google Docs.

Will that be enough to overcome the obvious privacy questions that will accompany Chrome? Whether real or imagined, there will be a veritable chorus of concerns voiced (many of them being seeded by Google's frightened competitors) about where your private information could end up. Ironically, that has also become a key element of Google's brand.

Chrome could be a turning point, or just another stone on top of the fortifications. Since nobody actually has their hands on it yet, we'll have to wait and see!

For more, see: Official Google Blog: A fresh take on the browser

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Endurance Training - Building a Faster Tomorrow

Endurance sports and branding... what do they have in common? We recently launched, a site dedicated to the science of endurance training and featuring the innovative muscle recovery product ARX and it gave me the opportunity to contemplate this question.

An endurance race, whether it's running, cycling, swimming or a full triathalon doesn't begin with the starter's pistol. It begins long before that when each athlete makes the decision to enter the race. From the moment the athlete sets that goal, everything they do and every decision they make will take them a step closer or a step further away from reaching that goal.

This is a perfect analogy to branding. To run the strongest race and build the strongest brand, you have to continually reinforce the things that will carry you to victory. The logo, the messaging, the visual branding, compelling ads, diverse channels and a strong, happy customer base that spreads the gospel of your brand. Training and strengthening each of these areas will help create a stronger, faster brand that has real market endurance.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Scrabble vs. Scrabulous = W-A-R

Having a strong and valuable brand is great, but sometimes you are forced to defend the castle of your brand and your intellectual property, and it can get pretty ugly. The unusual brand story of the day is the latest chapter in the Scrabble vs. Scrabulous saga.

Scrabble has a long and detailed history. It is truly one of the great games of all time and, although many challengers have tried to introduce other word games to compete with it, none has come close to toppling this giant. The game has tournaments, passionate devotees and has even been the inspiration for the book Word Freak by author Stefan Fatsis.

It was undoubtedly this passion and addiction to the game that led XXXXX and XX to develop Scrabulous, an online game made popular as a Facebook app that is (in my opinion) a pretty blatant derivation of Scrabble. With Scrabulous pulling attention away from the official Scrabble game and brand, and Hasbro finally launching an official Scrabble game on Facebook, its no surprise that Hasbro sued the makers of Scrabulous and finally, as of yesterday, succeeded in having the game removed from Facebook and the North American Scrabulous site shut down.

So... definitive victory for Scrabble, right? Well, apparently they are still a letter short of V-I-C-T-O-R-Y. It seems that the ravenous fans of scrabulous (or possibly someone even closer to the upstart brand) did not take too kindly to the shuttering of the game, and someone hacked the official online version of Scrabble, knocking it offline for the past 24 hours.

I'm sure the online version will come back online. I'm also sure that, while there may be a few additional skirmishes, this war is mostly over with Hasbro as the winner (at least domestically). So as the generals at Hasbro reflect on this war over a glass of brandy by the fireplace, the brand-related question that I'm still pondering is this:

Was it better for the Scrabble brand for Hasbro to wait until their version of Facebook Scrabble was ready before taking down Scrabulous, or would it have been better to "nip it in the bud" when the game first appeared?

Any thoughts?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cuil vs. Google

A picture is worth a thousand words.... and these two pictures are worth 120 billion web pages:

Cuil vs Google 1

Cuil vs Google 2

Note: Ironically, as of the posting of these images, Google was able to present 372,000 relevant results for the unquoted search terms a search engine better than google, essentially proving that while many people write about creating a better search, nobody seems to succeed.

Cuil Steps Up to the Plate and Strikes Out

People love to take aim at leading brands, and almost nobody has a bigger target on their back than Google. Launching a competing search engine these days almost guarantees news coverage, but often doesn't deserve it. The challenger-du-jour today is Cuil, which claimed to launch with three times the number of indexed pages as Google.

I checked out Cuil and was thoroughly unimpressed. It took me less than thirty seconds to come up with three big strikes for Cuil:

Strike 1: Name - I have no idea how to pronounce this name. Is it "Quill", "Kweel", "Quell", "Coil"? I fully realize that it is almost the Holy Grail to have a four letter domain name, but from a branding standpoint, if you have a brand that people don't know how to pronounce, it's very hard to spread by word of mouth. Add to that the fact that no matter how you say it in casual conversation, nobody would be able to guess how to spell it, and this seems like a bad branding move for Cuil.

Plus, on top of that, while Google's name (which is arguably a more intuitive spelling than the actual word it is based on) has symbolism in reference to what it does, the best I can find for Cuil is an acronym "CUIL" standing for "Common Usage Item List". Ironically, this acronym is anything but commonly used.

Strike 2: Interface - Some other reviewers and myself will have to agree to disagree on this topic. Cuil's approach of presenting multiple columns of paragraphs which are not cleanly aligned is unintuitive and hard to visually navigate. I cannot tell if the second most relevant result is supposed to be the top result in the second column or the second result in the left column. The need for a user to scan Cuil results BOTH left-to-right and top-to-bottom makes it much harder to process and know one's place when moving through multiple pages of results.

Strike 3: Results - The third strike for Cuil, and the most devastating, is its seemingly anemic ability to find results. This is the meat-and-potatoes for a search engine and it does not perform well at all. While a search for "Singularity" did turn up results (and a listing for Singularity Design), a search for "Singularity Design" turned up nothing (no, I didn't use the quotation marks in my search either). Likewise, there were no results for "award-winning design firm", "wide plank flooring" or "weather 19103".

This is a fatal flaw for a search engine in my book. I don't care how many pages a search engine indexes if it cannot process a large number of my searches. Everyone is learning that the trick to getting the right answer is to ask the right question, and Cuil doesn't seem to be able to grasp those questions.

Search term: "successful competitor to Google in search"

No results found.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

2008 Rice in Crisis - Every Grain Counts

OK, bear with me.... this may seem off-topic, and it may seem like I'm just venting, but you're only half right. I'm a fan of Indian food and a very analytical gourmet, and something has been decidedly off about my recent experiences with Indian cuisine. It wasn't the spices or the meat that took these meals down a notch, it was the rice. While the increases in the cost of oil and corn have stolen most of the headlines, the price of basmati rice has surged 200%. This price increase (or possibly the other supply-demand factors fueling it) seem to have forced Indian restaurants to shift to regular old white rice.

Two questions are probably in your mind right now: "Why is this bad?" and "What does this have to do with branding?" It makes sense that you'd ask that.

This is bad because basmati rice has a firm texture and distinctive flavor that is one of the hallmarks of authentic Indian cuisine. It's not just an accompaniment or delivery mechanism for the rest of the food. It's an integral part of the meal and the flavor.

This is relevant to branding because it helps to illustrate that every aspect of the way a consumer experiences your brand plays a vital role in their overall perception and level of satisfaction with it. When I experience bland, mushy rice at my favorite Indian restaurant, I find myself second-guessing my attachment to their brand. I know that its tempting to make adjustments and substitutions when external conditions increase price pressures, but if I stop coming to the restaurant, that could be an especially costly grain of rice.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Art of Arrival

With so much boring repetition in TV commercials, I love to see a corporation take a bold creative step that still makes a strong, well-directed brand statement. ANA Airlines, from Japan, has done just that in a very refreshing way. In "The Art of Arrival", they have adopted the style of anime, Japan's unique animation genre known for its imaginative, dramatic stories and its cinematic style to convey the feeling of freedom and joy that travel on ANA Airlines can bring.

The Art of Arrival concept itself is wonderful, because of the self-awareness it shows. We all know that unlike other forms of travel, with even the best air travel the journey itself is never the reward. The arrival is the joyous part, and they've captured that joy.

Beyond concept, the execution on this commercial, from start to end, is absolutely fantastic. I had never heard of ANA Airlines before, but I will certainly remember them now. "The Art of Arrival" is a masterpiece of the art of branding!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tricked Out Mouse: Adobe Site of the Day for 1/15/08

Wow... what a week! We got the news last night that Tricked Out Mouse was selected as the Adobe Site of the Day for January 15. Adobe reviews and filters hundreds of submissions every day and picks just one site per day to be featured in the Adobe Showcase.

With designers and agencies the world over vying for attention from the undisputed leader in creativity software, this recognition is a serious honor. Score one for Singularity!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Tricking out a brand

There are few things that are as much fun as breathing fire and creativity into an established brand. We had an opportunity to do this recently and I have to say that the end result is pretty damn cool!

Singularity Design recently launched Tricked Out Mouse, an interactive promotional microsite for Kensington Computer Products Group. The site lets visitors "trick out" a boring, beige, two-button computer mouse as if it was a wild hot rod. They can pick a paint job, wheels, headlights, ground fx, roof accessories and various other customizations. From there, they can pick a backdrop, and a set of tunes to play and then name and save their creation to display to the world.

To make this a more compelling marketing vehicle, we tied in a prize giveaway featuring Kensington products. The key here (and to really effective online branding) is to really tie the concept, message, execution and supporting details to the brand identity and business objectives. I like to think of it as a layering process. The more layers you add that reinforce the brand identity (carefully blended), the more clearly that identity will transfer to the minds of the consumers.

The site launched in December, and it has received visitors from over 75 countries (all of whom are now more familiar with Kensington's brand), received great feedback from end users and industry experts alike, and been featured on industry sites like Ads Of The World and NewsToday.

Visit the site at