Beyond Experiential

Without question, a brand’s advertising and its visual identity are part of the brand promise and experience, or at least can be dressed up to appear so. However, it is critical to distinguish between brand experiences and the brand experience.

Brand experiences can be fun moments for the customer. This might be an event of some kind, often referred to as “experiential.” As brands move away from traditional advertising, they move toward “happenings,” increasingly involving social media. It’s a remarkable video or clever tweet that goes viral.

These types of transient experiences constitute much, if not most, of what drives marketing today. It is all very cool, and can make even the dullest brand seem hip, but it still comes down mostly on the side of making promises as opposed to keeping them. It’s the 21st century version of a 30-second television commercial. Don Draper is alive and well, and living on YouTube.

Here’s the thing: Of what value is a momentary, fun, marketing-infused experience, if the day-in, day-out experience with the product or service falls short? It’s limited, at best. At worst, it can be fatal, given that nothing exposes a bad experience faster than good advertising.

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Under Armour’s Healthbox

Wired: “Under Armour was founded on a simple idea: Make athletes better. To do that, it’s turning human performance into a big data problem. The company is betting on the notion that the right hardware, the biggest dataset, a lot of machine learning, and powerful motivational tools can make everyone better, faster, and stronger. It’s betting that technology doesn’t exist solely to make us lazy, to bring everything to our door with the push of a button.

The centerpiece of that bet is a $400 kit, announced today, called Healthbox, that provides a scale, an activity tracker wearable, and a chest strap for measuring heart rate. The company also is updating Record, its mobile app, making it a 24/7 real-time barometer of your fitness and health. These tools, combined with three apps Under Armour has purchased in recent years, provide the most comprehensive ecosystem of fitness products yet made.”

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What is Serendipity?

While serendipity often involves accidents, it is not accidental, or passive, writes Pagan Kennedy, author of Inventology, in The New York Times. The term itself was coined in 1754 by Horace Walpole, and was based on “a Persian fairy tale about three princes from the Isle of Serendip who possess superpowers of observation.”

In other words, “serendipity … is something people do … That’s why we need to develop a new, interdisciplinary field — call it serendipity studies — that can help us create a taxonomy of discoveries in the chemistry lab, the newsroom, the forest, the classroom, the particle accelerator and the hospital.”

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The Fairway Trajectory

“Fairway kept expanding—stores in more places around New York—and they aimed more at the median shopper,” reports Pacific Standard. “Gradually, the store lost its edge, its quirkiness. With great size comes great McDonaldization—predictability, calculability. “Like no other market,” says every Fairway sign and every Fairway plastic bag. But it became like lots of other markets, with ‘specials’ and coupons. Coupons! Fairway never had coupons. Or specials.”

“In the first months after the private equity firm took Fairway public in 2013, the stock price was as high as $26 a share. The other day, it closed at $1.04.”

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iTunes Conditions: The Novel

Slate: “With iTunes Terms and Conditions: The Graphic Novel, artist R. Sikoryak aims to achieve the impossible: to make us read a document that virtually all of us have willfully ignored. Sikoryak’s recently completed book, published serially on Tumblr, contains the entirety of Apple’s iTunes terms of service, spreading its 20,000-odd words out over 94 pages, each styled after the work of a different comics artist.”

“By breaking the dense legalistic language up and inserting it into classic comics pages, Sikoryak sought to appropriate the visual medium’s narrative drive, creating the implication of story where none exists.”

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Culture of Candor

The Wall Street Journal: Companies from advertising firm Deutsch Inc. to hedge fund Bridgewater Associates are pushing workers to drop the polite workplace veneer and speak frankly to each other no matter what. The practice is referred to at some companies as “radical candor,” a “mokita” or “front-stabbing.”

“You have to have a thick skin to work here,” says Val DiFebo, chief executive of Deutsch’s New York office. That could be an understatement: The company once distributed T-shirts showing a giant scar with stitches over the heart.

Recipients of the critiques are expected to defend themselves or make changes, Ms. DiFebo says. “I think it’s actually more big-hearted and caring to be confrontational in that way than going behind someone’s back,” she says.

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Baba Oh Really?

Baba Ramdev, an Indian yoga guru, plans to beat Unilever, Nestlé and Procter & Gamble with “soap that contains dung and urine from cows,” and “creams, cleansers and supplements infused with centuries-old Ayurvedic remedies,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Our products are taking Indians back to their roots,” Ramdev says. “Foreign companies are fooling Indians by selling products tainted with chemicals and artificial flavors.”

Launched in 2006 with an herbal toothpaste, Patanjali Ayurved Ltd. today offers some 700 products, including eyeliner, cornflakes and instant noodles,” generating some $300 million in revenues. Ramdev predicts his company will be India’s biggest consumer-products company within five years. He’s not stopping there: “We’ve extracted gold from cow urine,” he says. “It’s only a matter of time before we win the rest of the world with our ancient remedies.”

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The Future of the Future

“The timeline of innovation for the defining technology of our new age is barely a line at all,” writes David Weinberger in Slate. “The Internet happens, and all hell breaks loose. The future no longer works the way we thought it did. The spikes become not just continual but frequently simultaneous and radically unpredictable.”

“We are stepping into a future that is new not just in what it contains but in our picture of how it works. The future seems less like the product of a clockwork’s relentless ticking than the result of uncountable tiny pieces, each simultaneously affecting every other in ways that cannot be fully understood afterward, much less predicted beforehand. Plus, some of those small pieces are on the Internet actively inventing new futures together.”

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Shopper’s Dilemma

Quartz: Everlane, an online clothing company, is letting customers choose which of three prices they want to pay. In each case, the cheapest price covers just the cost of producing the item and shipping it, and doesn’t factor in any of the overhead costs of Everlane’s 70-person staff. The middle price covers all costs, including staff, meaning Everlane breaks even. And the highest price covers all costs while giving Everlane a profit, which the company says allows it “to invest in growth.” So here’s the moral dilemma: If Everlane has what you want, which price will you choose to pay?

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