Toblerone & Trademark Triangulation

The New York Times: “When the makers of the distinctive Swiss confection Toblerone reconfigured their triangular treat last year to slim down its hallmark summits and widen the valleys between them, a potential rival — Britain’s Poundland discount chain — saw a niche in the market … while the classic Toblerone bars had become lighter in weight in the reconfiguring — though their price remained the same — Poundland’s bar would be chunkier and cheaper, at one pound, or about $1.35, each.”

“Not, of course, that this was some crude copycat. If, as some contend, Toblerone was modeled on the soaring pyramid of a mountain — the Matterhorn on the Italian-Swiss border, which is about 14,690 feet high — Poundland’s bar was said to have been inspired by two less vertiginous hills in the English county of Shropshire near the border with Wales — the Ercall, at 460 feet, and the Wrekin, at 1,335 feet. Hence the shape of the Poundland bar, with a double set of summits between each valley. And hence its name: Twin Peaks, with what Poundland called ‘a distinctive British flavor compared to Toblerone’s Swiss chocolate nougat’.”

After some legal wrangling, Poundland “was permitted to begin selling in its nearly 900 stores the 500,000 bars already in production — provided it changed the background color of their wrappers from gold to blue. And the lettering was changed: to gold, from the original red. Once the initial 500,000 bars have been sold, Poundland said in a news release, it will ‘revise the shape’ so that the bar ‘better represents the outline of the Wrekin and Ercall hills’.”

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‘Unboxing’ is the Holiday’s Hottest ‘Toy’

The Wall Street Journal: “Taking a cue from the YouTube phenomenon known as unboxing—viral videos in which people theatrically unpack hot new products— companies are churning out tiny charms, stickers and golf-ball-size critters, all tucked away inside layers of plastic. The mystery objects have become one of the hottest categories of toys this season.”

“Unboxing videos, also big with technology and fashion reviewers, have become a key way children learn about new toys, and their popularity has grown exponentially in recent years. A recent search for “toy unboxing” on YouTube, a unit of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, brought up more than 12 million results.”

“Australia-based Moose Toys, maker of the popular Shopkins grocery-store figurines, launched its Pikmi Pops in September. The toy, a plastic lollipop-shaped container, hides ‘mystery items’ such as stickers, lanyards and charms … Each of Spin Master Corp.’s Hatchimals Surprise, released in October, holds plush twin critters in a single egg that cracks open after being cuddled.”

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Quotes of the Day: Earl Lucas

Earl Lucas, Chief Exterior Designer, Lincoln Motor Company: “I always knew I wanted to do something with design. I studied industrial design focusing on jewelry — rings, pendants and earrings — for two years at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit. The college also happened to have an outstanding automobile design curriculum. After taking one class in that program, I was hooked. It turns out the principles of designing a ring are the same as designing a car.”

“I try to reflect the personality of the brand. In the case of Lincoln, our cars embody effortless luxury. We think of our car as a friend. We convey that through form, shape, color and texture. The most influential design element may be the front grille. It has to stand out but be in proportion with everything else. The centerpiece is our logo — called the Lincoln Star — which was developed in the 1950s. I have managed to tweak it a little.”

“While there’s something to be said for autonomous cars, I believe people will still want to drive. They want to be in control. They want to enjoy just taking a drive without knowing where they are going and being able to decide en route. It comes down to a bigger question: Do humans want to be part of a collective or be an individual? It’s a matter of how much freedom we want.”

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Silly Question: Are Your Customers Good Artists?

The New York Times: “When 156 people were recently asked if they could draw some of the world’s most iconic brand logos from memory, some of their recreations were laughably off the mark … fewer than one-fifth of the participants could remember the correct positioning of the familiar blue-and-red rectangle of Domino’s, or the three black stripes of Adidas. Even Target — whose emblem involves a simple red bull’s-eye above the brand name — confused people: 41 percent forgot the number of circles.”

“A study conducted in 2014 by psychologists at the University of California, Los Angeles similarly asked 85 participants if they could draw the familiar Apple logo from memory. More than half the subjects even identified themselves as strictly Apple users. Yet only one could draw the icon perfectly, as scored by a 14-point rubric.”

“Perhaps the most surprising result of the study was the company that fared best: Ikea. The Swedish furniture maker with the distinctive blue-and-yellow logo plastered across its giant retail stores was redrawn near-perfectly by 30 percent of the participants … The hardest logo to draw was Starbucks, which was redesigned in 2011.”

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Retail Medicine: Is Aetna The Next Apple?

Axios: “Aetna’s Mark Bertolini has been talking with retail giants and the architect behind the Apple and Tesla retail stores about ways to make visiting the doctor more like going to the mall … Bertolini says health care should take a lot of cues from Apple, noting people are already willing to make appointments at the Genius Bar. Not only that, but they willingly pay money.” Bertolini comments: “They don’t sell anything at the Apple Store. People buy stuff at the Apple Store.”

He also says: “It has to be a place that’s not linoleum floors and formica counters. It needs to be a place where people want to go and it doesn’t need to be as expensive as the marble on the Apple floors and the glass staircase, but it can be a better experience.”

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The Huarache: When Weird is Beautiful

Quartz: “The Nike Huarache almost never existed. The shoe, made of a sock-like bootie encased in a supportive exoskeleton, was definitely unusual when Nike began showing around the prototypes in the early 1990s. Practically nobody placed orders, and Nike seemed to have little choice but to kill the idea. Lucky for Nike, one product manager didn’t listen … the Huarache has become Nike’s top-seller globally.”

“The shoe dispensed with a number of conventional ideas in sneaker design. It had no heel counter—the firm backing of the shoe that wraps around your heel to support it—opting instead for the distinctive, harness-like strap, similar to a sandal. (A ‘huarache’ is a kind of Mexican sandal.) It also used neoprene, which had never before been done in a running shoe … when no one placed orders after seeing the prototypes, Nike decided not to make the shoe for release.”

Tinker Hatfield, who designed the shoe picks up on the rest of the story in his new book, called Sneakers: “But one of our product managers actually thought it was awesome, and without proper authorization, he signed an order to build five thousand pairs even though there were no orders. He stuck his neck way out there. He saw what I saw. And he took those five thousand pairs to the New York Marathon, not a place you typically went to sell shoes, and he sold them all in like three days at the exhibition hall right there near Times Square. Word got out. They went like hotcakes. In a month, we went from zero orders to orders for half a million pairs.”

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Burberry & The Death of Aesthetic Alchemy

The New York Times: “Christopher Bailey’s decision to step away from Burberry, a brand with which he was almost synonymous, underscores a new belief in the fashion world that it is no longer expected, or even desirable, for a designer to remain at a house for a long period of time. And it further redefines that role as less of an aesthetic alchemist and more of an employee with a transferable skill set.”

Luca Solca, an analyst, writes: “We believe this is a necessary move to make Burberry exciting again. Creative directors — like all artists (painters, composers, singers) — tend to produce variations on a theme. Most brands that have gone through a revival had to first find new creative resources.”

“Like Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, Mr. Bailey’s skill lay in taking the major ingredients of a heritage brand — in Burberry’s case, the checks, the trench coat and its roots in the British countryside — and continually moving them toward the abstract and into a cooler, more contemporary aesthetic. He was among the first designers to embrace the digital age.” However: “Aesthetic inspiration seemed to have been traded for strategic change: under Mr. Bailey, Burberry was among the first brands to merge multiple lines at different price points into a single offering, combine the men’s and women’s shows into one, and move to a see now-buy now system in which clothes became available as soon as they were shown.”

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Toyota Yui: Your Father the Car

The Wall Street Journal: “If you love your car, Toyota Motor Corp. thinks your car should love you back. That’s the reasoning behind the company’s artificial-intelligence project, dubbed Yui: an onboard virtual assistant that gauges your mood, indulges in personal chitchat and offers to drive if it senses you are sleepy or distracted. In one Toyota video, shown at the Tokyo Motor Show, a woman sits on a seaside cliff, talking about her father with her car. ‘He sounds like a great father,’ says Yui, in a baritone male voice. ‘You’re a bit like him,’ the woman says.”

“To be sure, rarely do futuristic vehicles at auto shows make it to the roads. But Toyota plans to start testing a car equipped with Yui on Japanese roads in 2020. In autonomous-driving mode, the seats recline and massage your back in a manner Toyota says will slow your breathing and calm you down … Toyota imagines Yui being treated like a friend or family member, with whom access to social-media accounts is shared.”

“It wants to monitor your social-media posts to know if you are obsessed with a particular band or sports team. It also wants to monitor the news, so it has potential context when you look happy or sad. Did your favorite team drop out of the playoffs? Did your favorite singer come out with a new song? … Not all car makers see people wanting a humanlike relationship with their cars … ‘I’d rather not have this, because I’m a private person,’ said Yasuko Takahashi, a 54-year-old office worker… ‘I’d rather have the cars talk to each other, instead of me,’ she said.”

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Gucci Cracks The Millennial Code

The Wall Street Journal: “Classic brands often blame millennials for sales downturns, but the younger generation is giving Gucci a sensational boost. This could assure the luxury goods maker years of growth, or leave it grumbling like everyone else about that fickle group … Gucci’s success comes from a new look under creative director Alessandro Michele … It draws eclectically on a wide range of colors, patterns and periods, often in the same garment. It could hardly be further removed from the classic, business-friendly vibe favored by previous top designer Frida Giannini.”

“Millennial luxury consumers value experimentation and self-expression more than their seniors … Mr. Michele seems to have hit on a brand identity that reflects this spirit. Gucci has done a good job getting the word out: The brand is very active on the digital media millennials grew up with. Last year Gucci moved to top place in research company L2’s Digital IQ index, replacing longtime leader Burberry.”

“Resonating with the consumers of the future is something many brands aspire to. There is just one snag: As big consumer groups have discovered, experimental consumers make more fickle consumers.”

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Balenciagas & The $700 Socks

Quartz: “Typically just a minimal, stretchy knit upper and a sole, sock sneakers originated with big athletic brands. But luxury labels have since eagerly taken up the thread, pushing the form to deliberately emphasize the resemblance to socks. In the normal course of fashion’s trend cycle, mass-market brands have begun copying them and producing their own versions too. They now exist in seemingly endless iterations across a variety of price points, and embody some of the big currents moving fashion today.”

“Right now the style is exemplified by Balenciaga’s Speed Trainers. The shoe is basically an elastic ankle sock, mounted to a sole. They cost $595 to $695, depending on the version, and are currently sold out in popular sizes on a number of sites … They’re popular enough that fast-fashion chain Zara has introduced a pair that looks unmistakably like Balenciaga’s, except they cost just $70.”

“Sock sneakers are basically yoga pants for your feet. Unlike the pieced-together panels of leather and other materials that form other styles of sneaker, they conform to your foot without confining it … Just as importantly, the look is just right for the present moment, when all things athletic continue to have a major influence on the look of clothing.”

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