Big ‘G’ Archive: Brand Past as Prologue

The New York Times: “By 1980, General Mills had accumulated so much brand memorabilia that the company established an archive … The archive, which is closed to the public, houses thousands of artifacts in about 3,000 square feet of temperature- and humidity-controlled space.”

“Among the photos, packaging and promotional items are an early rendering of the character Betty Crocker, who was created in 1921 to answer consumers’ baking questions… some of the first clay animation models of Poppin’ Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy; and a box of Cheerioats, the original name of Cheerios … Many artifacts illustrate how marketing and advertising have evolved. Wheaties made its debut as Washburn’s Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes in 1922, only to be renamed two years later in a companywide contest.”

“Through its sponsorship of radio programs like the ‘Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air’ … General Mills introduced its products from coast to coast … General Mills later sponsored cartoons, notably ‘Rocky and His Friends’ and ‘The Bullwinkle Show’ from 1959 to 1964.” Mary Zalla of Landor comments: “You and I watch TV, and every 15 minutes we’re assaulted with commercials … Do you ever associate those brands with the show you’re watching? You don’t … Before, those brands were so closely tied with the TV shows and the talent surrounding them that it gave those brands an incredible start.”

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De-Branding: A Shift From Products to Places

Fast Company: “It’s misleading to use a totally different set of qualities—good stories—to sell a product that has intrinsically nothing to do with these qualities. Hiring a top filmmaker won’t improve the quality of your energy drink … You could even say that the better the stories, the more dishonest the companies are being.”

“Here’s where debranding comes into play … the focus will shift … from branded products to branded places: stores and their owners who select and sell the products they like … Back to the traditional shopkeeper responsible for measuring bulk food and acting as an advocate for his products. Back to the real Dr. Browns, Uncle Bens, and Aunt Jemimas. Instead of brands, real people and real tones of voice will become the interface between consumers and products again.”

“And it is totally in line with today’s networked society … increasingly in the Internet age, consumers are comfortable with the idea that everything is interconnected. So what distinguishes brands is less important than what brings things and people together—whether your iPhone can talk to your Prius, for instance, or whether you can read articles from disparate sources in one place, like on Facebook. The brand that screams the loudest no longer commands the most attention; the one that offers something genuinely useful does.”

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The Netflix ‘Binge Scale’: Savor or Devour?

The Guardian: “Netflix said customers who chose to watch an entire TV season finished it on average in just one week, watching a little over two hours a day. It said viewers typically binged on thrillers such as Breaking Bad and The Killing, but were more likely to take their time over the more political narratives of House of Cards or Homeland.”

“According to something Netflix calls the ‘binge scale,’ ranging from ‘savor’ at one end to ‘devour’ at the other, its original drama Narcos, about the rise to power of Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, was the platform’s slowest-burning hit in the UK, with viewers ‘savoring’ it over six days.”

“Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the company would use the findings to make ‘subtle improvements in helping people choose what kind of programmes they want to watch, depending on what mood they’re in’.”

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Minor-League Question: Rumble Ponies or Stud Muffins?

“There is higher-quality baseball elsewhere, so the minor-league experience is just as much about the silly antics … as it is about the game,” reports The Wall Street Journal. So it was all in good fun when the new owners of the Binghamton Mets, the Mets’ upstate Double-A affiliate, announced earlier this year that they would be rebranding the team, complete with a new name. They even gave local fans in this small city about 150 miles northwest of Manhattan some potential names to vote on.”

“What could possibly go wrong? … When it’s all said and done, Binghamton will be home to either the Bullheads, the Gobblers, the Rocking Horses, the Rumble Ponies, the Stud Muffins or the Timber Jockeys … The B-Mets hired a brand marketing firm, Brandiose, to help with the renaming project … They said the name options were culled from more than 1,500 fan suggestions that referred to something unique about the city. A Bullhead, for example, is a local catfish, while Gobblers “honors the outdoorsman lifestyle and turkeys who call Binghamton home.”

Owner John Hughes says: “The rebrand will have short-term repercussions, but what we’re looking for is establishing a long-term connection with fans … For the first time in a long time, Binghamton baseball is relevant.” Mets star David Wright says “if he were in Double-A he might have been happy about any name change simply because it would mean getting new uniforms to replace the old, ratty ones often found in the minors.”

Mets left-fielder Michael Conforto, who played for the B-Mets last season comments: “Maybe now I think it’s funny because I’m not there.”

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How Categories Affect Our Perceptions

The New York Times: “What we think we’re looking at can alter what we actually see. More broadly, when we put things into a category, research has found, they actually become more alike in our minds. ‘Similarity serves as a basis for the classification of objects,’ wrote the noted psychologist Amos Tversky, ‘but it is also influenced by the adopted classification.’ The flip side holds: Things we might have viewed as more similar become, when placed into two distinct categories, more different.”

“Categorization affects not just how we perceive things, but how we feel about them. When we like something, we seem to want to break it down into further categories, away from the so-called basic level. Birders do not just see ‘birds,’ gardeners do not just see ‘flowers’; they see specific variations. The more we like something, the more we like to categorize it.”

“When we struggle to categorize something, we like it less … Even if we seem to like easy categorization, we’re not rigid about the categories themselves. A few decades ago, for example, the idea of beer in America meant a pale-colored lager, strongly carbonated, low in alcohol and lacking flavor. Following the craft beer revolution, the very category of beer has expanded enormously, with any number of subcategories … Categories can help us enjoy things for what they are. When existing categories do not suffice, we simply invent new ones … The great peril of this reliance on categorizing is that we could miss something that lies outside our perception.”

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The ‘Perfect’ Ingredient Tells A Story

The Washington Post: “Artisanal beauty products are often built around at least one obscure ingredient, the procurement of which (it’s implied) is really difficult. There’s no distance these brands won’t travel, whether for a body scrub with ‘white sand particles from the shores of Bora Bora,’ or a ‘gel treatment serum’ made from ‘the stem cells of Australian kakadu plums.’ They might need to go back in time to craft skin products made with ‘donkey milk . . . known as a beauty elixir since the ancient ages.’ There’s an emphasis on the rare find from nature, almost but not quite lost to mankind … the fruit from a tree previously known only to peoples of the Amazon.”

“That rare ingredient must be gathered with care, ideally by local villagers, processed in a lab under the most stringent standards, and then placed into a product whose label declares its transparency of its process, its freedom from potentially dangerous chemicals, its fair trade and cruelty-free status, its philanthropic efforts, and the all-around goodness of its intentions.”

“The perfect ingredient doesn’t just moisturize or smell good or look pretty on a label; the perfect ingredient tells a story we all want to hear.”

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Study: LEGO ‘Guns’ For Greater Violence

Quartz: “The number of toy weapons such as miniature guns, knives, and harpoons featured in sets of tiny plastic LEGO building blocks has increased by 30% from 1978 to 2014, according to a study published last week in PLOS ONE by researchers at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury. The increase was primarily driven by higher numbers of weapons offered in film-themed packs, most recently in 2012 with Lord of the Rings LEGO sets.”

“The authors say this reflects a growing trend among children’s toymakers, and hypothesize that toy manufacturers add more depictions of violence to their products in order to stay relevant alongside increasingly violent movies and video games.”

“In an unrelated blog post, LEGO has argued that “conflict play” allows kids to use toys to creatively act out variations of their own disagreements, in a way that helps develop their own conflict-resolution skills.”

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Consignment Retail: What’s Old Is New Again

The New York Times: “Clothing resellers like Material Wrld, Crossroads and thredUP propose to make ‘refreshing’ your wardrobe more joyful, with their own trade-in kits and cash incentives to shop their wares to keep the cycle going. Ethical elimination is a theme (a corollary to ethical consumption). The manifesto of Crossroads, a favorite of college students who worry that their Urban Outfitter discards may end up in a landfill, is that ‘fashion shouldn’t come at a cost.’ Material Wrld aims to alleviate ‘fashion guilt’ with its own promise: ‘We’ll handle yesterday’s fashion so you can focus on tomorrow’.”

“Tradesy is like a dating site for your old clothes: You can post a photo, tell its story and the site will price your garment (a button invites online shoppers to ‘love’ your listings). Move Loot will do the same for your furniture; if a piece sells, the company will handle the exchange and arrange for pickup. So will Lofty, Chairish and Viyet, which sell high-end furniture, decorative items and artwork; curators from Lofty and Viyet will vet your items in your home. The luxury site the RealReal, a favorite of fashion-conscious New Yorkers, trades in artwork, designer clothing and jewelry.”

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Are You Smart Enough for Warby Parker?

The New York Times: “As an aesthetic, antifashion as fashion is annoying and alienating, as many people who are over 40, not particularly slender or less prestigiously schooled can attest when visiting a Warby Parker outlet. There is democracy in a relatively low price, but a sense of exclusion is woven into the gestalt.”

“Are you really smart enough to be shopping at Warby Parker? Have you read even a fraction of the books displayed? It’s dispiriting in a way to see old-fashioned chain stores feel as if they must contort themselves to stay vital in what is becoming an ever more polarized retail culture. A store like Cohen’s never makes you feel like a loser. Maybe it should post that outside of every branch, and declare a social victory.”

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