Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The bubble project

I came across this piece on Rocketboom. The Bubble Project, the brainchild of former agency creative Ji Lee, gives people a voice to combat the one-sided corporate monologue. Nice initiative. And it seems be spreading around the world. Evidence of our pent up desire to be heard.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Creative destruction

I'm fascinated by the concept of creative destruction. It sometimes appears in articles debating the merits of corporate bailouts or the long-term silver lining found in a recession.

The premise behind creative destruction is that new and more innovative companies arise from the ashes of old and tired companies. From AOL, we get Google. From Radio Shack, we get Best Buy. From GM, we get Toyota. (And Toyota needs to be watching folks like Hyundai.) You get the idea.

How about the agency business? Where are the examples of creative destruction in the field of marketing communications? The models we might have pointed to several years ago -- media agencies, digital agencies -- haven't turned the industry on its head as we had expected.

What would be the hallmarks of an agency that feels fundamentally different and new? An agency that redefines the business? This is what I'm thinking about. Would love to hear suggestions.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

How to squander a big idea.

I don't understand Tropicana's new packaging.

For years Tropicana was easily identified by its iconic symbol of a straw inserted into an orange. Nothing could say fresh orange juice faster or clearer. It's a unique and ownable mnemonic that nails the brand benefit.

But Tropicana dumped this for, get this, a picture of a glass of juice. What could be more generic? Along with the new typography, the packaging exudes the feel of a store brand or a generic knock-off of a national brand. The existing packaging needed to be refreshed, but I think they went way too far by dropping the orange and straw.

This speaks to the fragility of great ideas. It takes years to build and own an iconic idea, but it takes only one bad decision to squander it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Question for Microsoft

"Life without walls?" What walls?

One clear observation from CES is that the walls separating TV, phone and computer have come tumbling down. It strikes me that Microsoft may be answering a question few people are asking.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Report from CES

Tech companies should be more familiar with the Prius Principle. Toyota's hybrid succeeded because it didn't ask us to change behavior. Instead it reshaped existing behavior. (Exactly why plug-in cars aren't widely embraced.)

This is the filter through which I viewed CES this week. Which technologies will succeed because they found a way to tap into our current behaviors?

That's why I'm doubtful about 3-D TV. Yes, I put on the glasses and, yes, I was amazed. But, no, I don't think I'll invite my friends over to watch the game and require them to sport Roy Orbison-esque glasses. (To be fair, there is buzz about the future potential of 3-D without the glasses. We'll see.)

I'm also not sure about Polaroid's new digital camera that can also print out photos. Who wants to carry around a paper photo? Invoking the Prius Principle, this runs counter to how we currently share photos.

TV widgets seem to be the big idea this year. The Prius Principle bodes well for this new platform. After all, we like watching TV and we like MySpace. Why not do them at the same time? The underlying technology is backed largely by Yahoo and Intel and is going to be available on new sets offered by LG, Sony and Samsung.

Sony also has promising ways to bring more content and interactivity to our TVs. BD-Live and the PlayStation Store enable viewers to download new content to view on their TV, as well as to upload and share personal media with friends.

Samsung also demoed ways to seamless mesh our personal media and our TV sets. Their blu-ray player can stream content from NetFlix and Pandora. Their new sets also feature a USB drive (WiseLink Pro) that launches a menu to access photos, music and video stored on the jump drive. (Using jump drives passes the Prius test.)

Whereas Panasonic unveiled a 150" TV at last year's CES, this year thin is in. Sony has a Bravia that is only 9.9mm deep.

However, the technology that really impressed me is Sony's Flex OLED. Organic LED TVs are already hitting the market. They are brighter, use less power and are thinner than thin (3mm). Flex OLED, although still a concept, will bring about bendable screens. Imagine a laptop that opens to reveal full screen covering the entire area where the keyboard used to be. Or video screens bent around our wrist as jewelry (my idea, not Sony's...I'm keeping my day job).

If you think screens are ubiquitous now, just wait til Flex OLED makes its debut. Ditto for the new vending machines that will be tested this summer at Simon Malls throughout the Southeast. They are basically touchscreen TVs that also dispense cold drinks. That too passes the Prius Principle. I like TV. I like Coke.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What does IBM want us to do?

IBM is confusing me.

The company's recent "Stop Talking. Start Doing" campaign staked out an action-oriented positioning to appeal to business managers who've grown tired of new- age consultant blather and instead want to see real results.

Now IBM is running a new print campaign under the banner of "Think." Admittedly, the campaign has a different focus -- i.e., how to create a smarter planet by solving the climate, financial and energy issues that bedevil us. But wouldn't "stop talking / start doing" have applied to this as well? It seems to be what the world needs to do: act...now.

Which idea am I supposed to believe about the IBM brand? Is it the company we turn to for thought-provoking ideas or the company with the know-how to make innovation work?

The latter seems more in step with the times.

Time for the good stuff

I'm seeing more articles citing the increase in competitive advertising. The basic storyline goes something like this: the economy stinks, marketers need to be more effective, so they're dialing up more head-to-head competitive advertising.

One Interpublic executive was quoted in yesterday's WSJ saying, "Ads have to get competitive in bad times. It's a dog fight. It's about getting leaner and meaner."

Really? Was he knowingly serving up the ineffective stuff during the good times? I doubt it. When was the last time you heard a marketer or agency exec say, "Hey, let's hold that really effective idea until we need to sell something."

To be sure, competitive advertising has its role in the mix. It's a way to clearly convey a brand's advantages. It's particularly effective on-line and at point-of-sale. But if a brand adopts this as its sole message it runs the risk of becoming the grumpy McCain to the category leader's more inspiring Obama.