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Who Wants to be a Superhero?

April 18, 2010
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New York City, home to quite possibly every sort of store you could ever imagine. And with this store, quite possibly the coolest store I have ever seen, 5th Ave in Brooklyn should be a preferred stop.

It’s great to know, that even after centuries of start-ups and companies coming into creation, that either one man or a group of people can come up with a great idea and get financing for such a breakout idea. The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company is located in Brooklyn on 5th Ave, and it will supply a budding superhero with everything he or she would need to kick some serious evil ass. Some of the product categories that you can purchase items from are: Capes, Secret Identities, Gear, Robots/Cybernetics/Mutations, Lairs, Outfitting, Manuals, Lab Supplies and Invisibles.

And while I don’t actually know what is contained in all of the jars and tins that are supposedly carrying muscle enhancement of speed of light serum, I feel like I would most definitely purchase one and have in on some sort of mantle or tabletop.

But what really struck me as extremely well done was the branding and corporate identity of the BSS. They are not just a pure play business, they are a click and mortar company. They have a very well designed website, as well as a physical store front that is a great translation of all of their other branded material.

And here is the website.

After stumbling upon this website from a cursory glance on Google Maps (which revolutionized apartment hunting), I have been nothing but excited to actually see this store in person. But being as I’m in Ithaca currently, my next thought was to put together a mock ad campaign for my portfolio for the company. Maybe a website, maybe some packaging, I feel like designing for this sort of company would be extremely quirky and fun.

And just in case anyone was wondering, if I could have any sort of superpower it would be shape shifting.


Tiger Damaged Beyond Repair?

February 20, 2010
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So we all know about the infidelity that Tiger Woods committed against his wife, Elin, carrying on affairs and sleeping with a plethora of women. Little has been heard from the disgraced golfer since he entered sex therapy back in November, only a few lines released via his personal website. But today, while on a break from rehab, held a press conference where he delivered a 10-minute speech about his infidelity and his progress thus far. Elin was not present.

But is the Tiger Woods brand damaged beyond repair? After having the number one athletic brand in the world for a number of years, any sort of infraction would deal a great blow. But this wasn’t a little infraction, this was over twenty women that Woods slept with while hiding the entire thing. Can the damage to his brand be fixed? Or was Accenture and the other brands that dropped him as brand sponsor doing the right thing?

That is a clip from the speech Woods gave the other day. A lot of people that I have talked to in the past day have said that they did not believe Wood’s speech to be forced and insincere. And this is funny, but take a look at what you get when you Google “insincere”.

I personally think the American public will be able to look past all of this whenever Wood’s gets back to playing golf. The American public has a very short attention span and if Woods returns as the worlds number one golfer then America will no longer care about all of this nonsense. He was the worlds strongest athletic brand before this happened, and while he may not ever return to that level, he will return to a high level of trust, and all of the brands that dumped him while this was going on will come crawling back.

Regardless of whether Woods took a hit, Accenture and the other brands should have shown a little more faith in his ability to come back from this.

Insight Into Finnish Country Branding Program

February 10, 2010

This is not an original article that I wrote, I read it on a nation branding blog that I read that, and they got it from the Finnish-Dutch Trade Guild website. But it is really interesting and a good analysis on why a government would chose to brand a nation.

“Some 80 guests and friends of Finland gathered on a sunny October 14th afternoon at Dutch Zoetermeer to hear a panel discussion about the theme “Finland Country Branding”. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness about the ongoing country branding project in Finland and create discussion around the theme among the Finnish-minded business people in The Netherlands.

After welcoming drinks, Mrs. Eija Ailasmaa, gave a short presentation. As she is also a member of the Finland Country Brand Committee, nominated in 2008, she was able to share the public the latest work of the committee.

Mrs. Ailasmaa started by stating that Finland is not known well enough and it deserves better. The country has good ingredients for a strong brand; advanced technology, environmentalism and unspoiled nature. However, it has rather uninteresting history and thin culture and the emotional image of Finland is not very strong. Thus, improvement of the image is needed.

The audience learned that the country branding is very competitive arena. Some countries invest fortunes in polishing their country brand, and have brutally planned commercial strategies and long-term plans to support the country’s image. In Finland, this kind of country brand machinery has not existed. Even now the plan is to implement the strategy in a very “Finnish way”; the remedy comes from the natural assets that Finnish people already are known for: quick and decisive problem solving skills, reliability, collectiveness, and “saying less and doing more” (here is an article on how the Finnish character is influencing Finland’s nation branding project).

The Finnish branding committee wants to mobilise the whole country to work together. Many layers of population are and will be involved. Education, industries, companies and well known Finns will work together improving the product “Finland”. This approach got supported later by Mr. Korhonen, who commented that country branding cannot, and should not, be lead by government. The government takes the initiative, but in the end the public should be the carrying force of the branding work. The Dutch panellists commented that in The Netherlands this approach would not work: one cannot get the Dutch public mobilised for something like country branding.

Mrs. Boyen presented the audience the latest figures on how Finland ranks within the Country Brand Index. The news was good: Finland had improved its position from the 28th to the 16th position, being the only Scandinavian country in the top 20. The reason, according to Mrs. Boyen, is the current economic situation; during turbulent times “boring is now the new sexy”. The time for Finland, known from its trustworthiness, financial stability and credibility, is now at hand.

In comparison, Mr. Stockman, presented a glimpse of Netherlands country branding strategy. The Dutch brand is concentrating purely on the economical level. It stresses the efficiency of the Netherlands; a country that manages to be taken seriously economically despite its small size,  and because of the international air of the economy, the international operations,  global networks and the business partnership abilities. Netherlands markets itself as “pioneers in international business”.

A comparison between the countries lead to the discussion about country brand being something that needs to lie “close to the country’s DNA”, to be pure, honest and typical for the country. While planning the country branding strategy, careful consideration of the right target audience and following the prevailing cultural & economical trends is important. Additionally, a country needs to communicate something to differentiate, to distinguish itself from the others.

It was agreed that a “wow! –effect” can help with differentiation. Creating a symbol of its own like “Eiffel Tower”, “Little Mermaid statue” or “Big Ben”, might also help Finland. Besides a “wow! – effect”, a country needs to invest in continuous feeding of“brand material”. For example, social media (like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogging) can be an efficient and cost effective tool for spreading the country image in the modern world: a small effort can create a big effect.

The audience was encouraged to pose questions, and one of the topics that was taken up, was the role of country brand vs. a company brand. What are the differences in branding strategy formation, do companies profit from a strong country brand, and how nationalistic companies actually are in today’s international business? Mr. Van Kuppeveld commented that for example Nokia today is a multinational company more than a Finnish company. It has its origin and headquarters in Finland but operations are scattered around the globe. Still, it can profit from as well as support the brand of Finland. The same way any Swiss clockmaker or German car producer can profit from the reputation of strong country brand connected to strong company/industry brand. For Nokia, environmentalism (corporate social responsibility) and technological innovativeness prioritise high and thus the country and company can support each others brand image on these fields.

After Mr. Heijne had given his closing remarks and Mr. Korhonen finished the discussion by stating “this is important business – it needs to be done”, the guests and panellist gathered together with well-deserved cocktails to continue the discussion and networking. The discussion and work around the Finland nation branding project continues. We will hear more about Finland in the future!

Article by the Finnish-Dutch Trade Guild, first published here.”

Goodbye Mighty Ducks

February 9, 2010
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I’ve discussed this topic on my blog before, the fact that branding and re-branding efforts are not limited to consumer product brands. Countries can be branded, athletes can be branded, and what I’ll be discussing here is the ability to brand and re-brand sport teams. The main example I will be discussing is the original branding of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 1993, and then their re-branding after the 2005-06 season.

What you see on the right is the original logo for the team that was developed before their founding. What is extremely unique about the Mighty Ducks is that they were founded by the Walt Disney Corporation after the success of the Mighty Ducks franchise. They actually alluded to this in the third Mighty Ducks movie, D3, with a guest appearance by former Duck superstar Paul Kariya.

I don’t really attribute a lot of intelligence to the marketing teams at Disney post 2000, but before that they were brilliant at creating Disney fans for life. And when Disney created the Mighty Ducks franchise, I don’t quite know what they were creating. However, with people like me, Disney created not only fans of a franchise of movies and TV shows, but also hockey fans. And while all of my friends can tell you than I am not a big hockey fan, I have always rooted for the Mighty Ducks and even own a Kariya jersey. Whenever I tuned into a hockey team, which I can tell you is not often, I tuned in to Ducks games.

In 2005 the Disney Company sold the Mighty Ducks franchise to Henry and Susan Samueli for $75m, and subsequently alienated a group of fans that have been with the team since its inception in ’93. And while I’m not a part of any devoted fan group, I am definitely not someone to idly toss to the side.

The Original Jerseys for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks

The New Jerseys for the Anaheim Ducks

Not only did the new owners change the jerseys of the team, but the colors, the logo and the name were also changed. Typically such complete re-branding aren’t done unless a brand is in danger of going bankrupt, but the Mighty Ducks had almost won the Stanley Cup a few years before, loosing to the Devils in game 7 of the series.

With the new logo, the Ducks (Notice: they are no longer the ‘Mighty Ducks’) followed the path of more dangerous and aggressive looking logos. The purple and the the green were anything but aggressive looking. But damn if those changes didn’t alienate this hockey team from a franchise full of devout fans. Say goodbye to Charley Conway, Goldberg, Adam Banks and Coach Bombay. The Bash Brothers, the Junior Goodwill Games and Eden Hall hockey are no longer part of the same franchise as the Ducks.

Toyota’s Problems

February 8, 2010
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As some of you may know, I recently applied to the School of Visual Arts Masters in Branding. For the application, I was required to write a short essay where I chose a brand and discussed it on several levels including; relevance in the market, history and creative. Here is what I came up with.

“Toyota has always been known for their dependability and their clean reputation. More than likely if you see a car still on the road from the 80s or the early 90s, its a Toyota. Or if not, than thats the perception and that’s all that really matters. They are known to last 200k miles, and are also priced for the middle class driver. When students graduate from college, they look to get a vehicle that is dependable and that they can afford, and Toyota is typically at the front at that list. However, in 2009 and the start of 2010, Toyota has recalled over 4m vehicles for safety problems. Ranging from brake problems to sticking accelerators, Toyotas came off the streets faster then they went on to them in the past year. Because Toyotas were known for being the most dependable brand on the market, this recall has dramatically tarnished their brand equity.

The current Toyota logo was introduced in 1989 and went into wide release in 1990. Toyotas logo is the graphical representation of their company philosophy, with three ovals combining to form the Toyota “T” and the open space in the background representing the open possibilities for the future for the brand. They do a good job at expressing this through the rest of the outlets, with the future being a prominent motif in their marketing. Being a Japanese brand has also helped with this image, as the American brands are seen as old-fashioned. Everything about a brand contributes to its image, and that has worked out in Toyotas fashion.

Toyota has been at the forefront of the “Green” automotive revolution since it started. The Prius has been thee ‘it’ car not only for the green revolution, but also for any Hollywood celebrities who wants to be seen as environmentally conscience. The emergence of the Prius has allowed Toyota to manage the green movement to their own devices, pitching the Prius as the car that will save the environment. And while Toyota is not the only car to have a hybrid, the Prius is the standard and you can see this echoed in their commercial and their marketing material. However, even the Prius can not escape bad publicity when it hits. A solid number of Prius’s were recalled for problems and in the near future you are going to see the sales of the vehicle decline I believe.

The future of the Toyota brand is not going to redeem itself based solely on interviews or press releases. The company is going to need to analyze several things. Where do customers see the brand now? Where does the brand want to be thought of? How do they get from their current positioning to their desired one? Their current positioning is not one that is desired, it is one of damage control and crisis management. I believe that to get out of their current state they need to once again demonstrate to the public that they are the most dependable brand on the market. Put out marketing material on their stellar safety record, create commercials that deviate from their current campaign and that remind the public that Toyotas are the safest car on the road, and increase the incentives to the 25-34 year old demographic. Like I stated earlier, Toyota is the chosen car for the recently out of college and that is the one demographic that wont be affected by a recall or a little negative press. They will remember the Toyota that their family had for 17 years, the one their neighbor had for 15 years, or the one they drove cross country in after the graduated.

Toyota has been the most dependable car company on their American market for the entirety of my life, and while the company is fighting a 4m car recall and a massive amount of bad press, I know it is nothing that the brand itself can’t handle. Toyota, prior to this incident, was ranked the 19th healthiest brand in America according to Business Week. Bad press can only do so much when you have a brand that is managed well and kept as healthy as the Toyota brand has. When you think brand killers recently, Tiger Woods has to come to mind. Sex scandals are hard to get past. However, when you build the foundation of an extremely healthy brand, they can withstand a lot of scrutiny when it comes their way. Forbes Magazine just ranked Tiger Woods the top athletic brand in the country. With that single example, it is evident how important building and maintaing a strong brand is. If Tigers problems had happened to any other golfer, they would never golf in the professional arena again.”

It’s interesting, because about a week or so after I wrote this I saw :30 tv commercials announcing how Toyota was working as hard as possible to gain back the consumers trust. Disappointingly, I can’t find any copies of the message online. But I think Toyota is making a good first step in airing these messages.

What Do You Find Intelligent, Imaginative and Inspiring?

February 2, 2010
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As I am a second semester senior, I have job fever and have been looking to go into the advertising or brand design field. I just wrote a short 2,000 character essay for Interbrand on the topic “What do you find intelligent, imaginative and inspiring”. With my background of marketing for Broadway and theatre, here is what I wrote (artwork was added her for reference):

“One of the most talked about new shows to come to Broadway in the last decade was a musical called Avenue Q. This show centered around the lives of a group of crass puppets living in the Lower East Side of Manhattan who all had different points of view. When branding this show, the design team took the sensitive issues of the show and put them as the face of the branding campaign. Race, religion, politics and sex were the topics of the show and they also became the face of it.

Some people believe that theatre is only there as entertainment for the elite. But I know that theatre is there to create talk about issues that need to be in open discussion. What this show did with songs titles such as “Everyones a little bit racist”, “If you were gay” and “The internet is for porn” was bring them in the open.

One of the biggest events this show did was to stage a performance of a re-witten song during the ’04 election with puppets that looked like George Bush and John Kerry. They then performed a song that resembled an election debate. This not only increased the popularity of the show, but like this team was good at, they brought attention to an issue that needed it.

Everything this group did to promote not just the show, but all the sensitive issues that needed open discussion is nothing short of inspiring. To bring attention required the team to straddle the line between out there and offensive, and to do that takes a smart team with a finger on where your audiences mind is.”

I hope that Interbrand enjoys my answer, as they are a great company that I would love the opportunity to intern or work with. With a lot of the application prompted questions, you try to give them the answer you know they are looking for. But I truly believe that this branding was done so inspiringly that they will be able to see my love for the industry.

Why Brand A Nation?

January 30, 2010
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Landor Associates, one of the largest branding agencies in the world, does not just stick with consumer product companies  for their clients. Two specialty industries that Landor works with in a large capacity are governments and tourism boards. They have worked on the re-branding of countries, states and cities. Most recently, they worked on the branding for the Australian city of Melbourne.

There is a lot of debate on whether places can actually be branded, some scoff at the idea that counties and places should be treated the same way as a chocolate brand or athletic shoe company. But there are many people who believe that brands can be branded, although not the same way as consumer products. On the design side of branding

Simon Anholt is the world leading authority of place branding, and has put out the Nation Brand Index every year for the past decade or so. He has consulted on several countries rebranding projects and has taught master classes on place branding all around the world. Check out the case study that Landor put together for Melbourne.

Melbourne Case Study

You can see in the photo on the left how all of the different designs were considered depending on the tone they were trying to give the city. And that’s one of the big things about place branding v. consumer branding. You can’t force a place to The process of place branding is one that really interests me, having written my final paper on “Brand America” last year for one of my classes titled “International Marketing”.

With my interest in brand design, and especially place branding, I have applied for several companies for post-graduation that specialize in place branding.  Just the ability to create a brand for any place sort of amazes me. It’s different than consumer branding, its a physical place that people call home. And people have the opportunity to create designs that people will forever associate with that place. And that’s why place branding again is so unique, it really strikes close to a lot of people’s hearts.

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