February 28, 2007 by Colin
With the closure of the Forth & Towne outlets, Gap Inc. continues to swing in the violent and fickle winds of fashion. The only house brand that seems able to hold its own is Banana Republic. Every other brand in the stable saw marginal increases as measured by in-store sales – but only because of aggressive marketing and discounts.
Just goes to show you: even when you’ve managed to make a connection with an entire generation of consumers, there is a recipe for ruining a good thing. It’s:
- commoditize your signature items: khakis and cotton shirts,
- create a downmarket brand that cannabilizes your core client base, and then
- drown your customers in brand advertising.
- Oh, and dry to grasp for the high ground by bringing in expensive celebrity spokesheads. Sarah Jessica Parker?
One of the commenters on StyleDash points out that Forth & Towne, a brand aimed at the (slightly) older demographic of female shopper, actually spells the acronym “F.A.T”. Hrrmmm.
[tags] gap, old navy, baby gap, forth & towne [/tags]
February 27, 2007 by Colin
Leading into an American election year, I’m just wondering if there are any plans afoot – now that CanWest has bought total control of longstanding progressive magazine The New Republic.
“… [CanWest executives] Foer and MacNeil cited an element of “passion” in [CanWest owner] Asper’s decision to purchase the magazine, though MacNeil said he also saw a business opportunity.
“We see it as something that is of great value short term and long term. The publication has a wonderful heritage and some very excellent young talent but it’s been operated more through passion than media discipline,” MacNeil said, adding that “this product doesn’t ever need to provide a 30 percent return on investment.”(Politico)
Is this what happens when the “Made in Canada” publishing subsidies are reduced? Canadian companies actually look outside the border?
This means the National Post and The New Republic are now under the same roof ….
February 27, 2007 by Colin
We all know Kazakhstan felt unjustly characterized by Sacha Baron Cohen’s blazingly popular and remarkably offensive Borat character. This week, the Kazakhstani Ambassador to the United States and Canada began a speaking tour of universities in the U.S. The first stop was Yale, where his sometimes leaden speech and light promotional video appear to have received a polite reception.
The targeting seems appropriate: it’s easy to book a room on campus and draw enough attendees from the essential target audiences:
- Central Asian student groups
- International Affairs students
- Activists for democracy and government transparency (good luck with that)
- Wrestling fans hoping to catch a glimpse of Islaim Bairamukov.
- University newspaper reporters
- Oil industry lobbyists
- Frat boys who saw Borat “but didn’t feel right about seeing Azamat naked”
University audiences would seem to be the most open to hearing the “other side of the story” – looking to the event for intellectual fodder, increased cred with their poli sci profs, and maybe knockin’ some Birkenstocks.
Asked about the impact of Borat’s over-the-top character on his country’s international image, the Kazakh press secretary noted that:
“The movie did heighten interest in Kazakhstan,” said Roman Y. Vassilenko, the ambassador’s press secretary. “We could have said, `That’s nice,’ but we didn’t leave it at that. We took the opportunity to tell our story.”
All in all, he said, “Borat” probably did more good than bad for Kazakhstan. “It was a blessing in disguise. A heavy disguise.” (Hartford Courant)
Ever the efficient press rep, Vassilenko translated for the Ambassador. During the post-speech Q&A session, they asked for questions, but “not related to Borat.” Of course, Vassilenko’s been fighting Borat’s assertions for a loooong time.
Kazinform, the government “information agency” has the text of Kanat B. Saudabayev’s speech. It’s an old school oligarch doozy.
As for results, the Ambassador’s appearance prompted heavy local coverage and some international mention.
- Kanat B. Saudabayev closes the room in New Haven.
- “I was surprised by … how economically developed the country is.”
- The embassy’s website is getting five times the hits as before.
- Kazinform is carrying the AP story.
[tags] Borat, Kazakhstan, public affairs, diplomacy, outreach [/tags]
February 27, 2007 by Colin
Here’s the top 19 signs your focus group is quickly collapsing into abject failure and will be completely unusable for consumer research, message testing, product verification or concept formulation:
- From an arriving participant: “Hey! I used to be a 1-900 operator for this place!”
- The clients hold up the session waiting for the muffin plate to arrive.
- The recruitment coordinator works from the bus depot.
- A fantasy sports fan hijacks every idea with a poorly thought-out sports analogy.
- I’m not saying it’s a bargain basement facility, but the viewing room has an electric blind that has to be fed quarters to stay up.
- Your moderator shows up, and he’s in a Leafs jersey.
- The participants are handed Hello Kitty knockoff pens and notepads.
- There’s more than one socially conscious teacher at the table.
- The moderator starts off by saying “Most of you know the drill …”
- The viewing area for agency types is behind an old patio door. From a mobile home. With a “Texas Kixass” sticker on it.
- Five words: retiree with a hearing aid.
- The testing facility uses old pieces of drywall for whiteboards.
- At the end of the video clip you’re testing – at great expense – more than one participant refers to “the money shot.”
- Participants who answer in complete sentences are handed Wal-Mart gift cards.
- More than three instances of someone saying “I’ll tell you what I think …”
- Your moderator’s Steve McClaren (for the Brits among us).
- “I know this product! I think my stepmama’s suing ya’ll!”
- In the facility’s waiting room, you can make an extra ten bucks with only “a twist of the wrist.”
- One of the participants asks who will sign for her high school volunteer credit.
[tags] focus group, public opinion research, moderator, popular opinion [/tags]
February 26, 2007 by Colin
That’s the “talking science” badge from the Order of Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique. I also seem to qualify for the “dodger of monkey shit” badge (although not in the literal sense I am sure was intended – more of a metaphorical experience endured in the workplace) and the “experienced with electrical shock (Level III) badge.”
You see, as a young boy I once tried to wire a 4.5v DC portable AM radio to take current from a 220v AC plug. We were picking transistors out of the ceiling after that explosion, let me tell you!
The OSSERAAP is an idea of the Science Creative Quarterly out of UBC.
They’ve also taken a shot at gathering readers’ input to identify the Truth.
Pointer from SpurgeonBlog.
A special treat for you: Burton Gilliam, Lyle the cowboy from Blazing Saddles, advertises Ford Trucks (youTube).
[tags] science, stinkin badges, truth [/tags]
February 25, 2007 by Colin
Sorry folks, my hosting company went down for about 20 hours today. Everything should be fine now.
Not that you guys and gals on the feed even noticed.
February 25, 2007 by Colin
Jet Blue is trying its hardest to correct the damage done to its reputation. Let’s take a quick look at how TJ Maxx and its Canadian subsidiary, Winners, are pointing to information online after a stunning loss of customer data.
One text line. That’s it. Not even a starburst to attract the reader’s attention. The priority on the page continues to be corporate gabspeak aimed at a vaguely defined consumer audience, with details of growing customer security issues buried TWO links behind that one line headline.
- even more security breaches in 2005 and 2003; and
- if you made a return in 2003 and 2004, your driver’s licence may be compromised.
That’s right. If you actually found some of the products at Winners or TJ Maxx wanting, you may be at HIGHER risk of complete identity theft, rather than just losing money on your credit card.
Now, TJ Maxx has been extremely detailed and open about how they are reacting to the breach and have called in some powerful consultancies to drill down into how the company handles personal data. Still, their online presence doesn’t reflect a corporate spirit to make information about the breach front and centre.
EVEN BETTER: I’d like to link to the detailed news release, but the primary link is a JAVA link, which then leads to a pop-up, which has further JAVA links. The news release isn’t even available in the media/press pages on either the TJ Maxx or Winners sites. The only link is off the parent company’s site, which I’m sure most consumers don’t know about.
I thought the normal way to bury bad news was to make negative information only available from your online media room: it seems that TJ Maxx and Winners have found a way to make access even more difficult.
Last thing you want is someone linking to such bad news, after all. Especially news that compounds the impact of previous reporting.
[tags] TJ Maxx, credit card fraud, Winners, identity theft, bad customer service [/tags]
February 24, 2007 by Colin
The Chairman of the Hearts footie team in Edinburgh apparently has a habit of calling the local sports media “monkeys” – going as far have his PR staff give them bananas and nuts before a match last week. When the stadium sound system played The Monkees, the media in the press box heard a bit from the Hearts fans sitting near the box.
But the Chairman has to be admired for his allusions to Rudyard Kipling.
… Your leader Mowgli is not taking bananas any more, now he is taking money for lies and untruthful interpretation. However he is greedy and makes you collect rotten information from cesspits and poisons readers with it. This is unworthy even of a monkey. Today I will express my opinion in English about refereeing in order that your Mowgli will not make you tell lies.
It is not without your help that traitors were presented as heroes thus showing the road to children for betrayal. You will always call teachers silly because unlike you they lead children along the correct path.
Protecting your values in that way just spoils not only football, but also a Scotsman’s proud name.
I beg you Mowgli, take the monkeys back to the Safari Park!
February 23, 2007 by Colin
- Where the hell are all the new political protest songs? So asks Duncan Campell at commentisfree. (Billy Bragg’s got one!)
- Brief profile of Laura Bush’s press secretary, Susan Dryden Whitson. Interesting fact about her life? She was American Idol winner Taylor Hick’s Grade 9 english teacher. (she’s had her rough patches – and I’m not counting the twin’s old partying habits)
- Jimmy Camp, Republican campaign activist, ne’er do well, punk rocker and accomplished singer/songwriter. Can you believe he opened for Willie Nelson, David Crosby and Huey Lewis & the News? Part I and Part II
- Confessions of an Ex-Pollster – the Op/Ed editor of the LA Times. A touch of self-immolation, but it balances out at the end. First lesson as a new pollster: “What I failed to grasp was that the primary purpose of our business was not to learn what voters think — but to determine how they could best be persuaded.”
February 22, 2007 by Colin
February 22, 2007 by Colin
Have you noticed that public relations and marketing specialists tend to let criticism run off their backs like water off a duck? One psychologist, Karl Weick, has an explanation:
“…Generalists, people with moderately strong attachments to many ideas, should be hard to interrupt, and once interrupted, should have weaker, shorter negative negative reactions since they have alternative paths to realize their plans. Specialists, people with stronger attachments to fewer ideas, should be easier to interrupt, and once interrupted, should have stronger,more sustained negative reactions because they have fewer alternative pathways to realize their plans. Generalists should be the upbeat, positive people in the profession while specialists should be their grouchy, negative counterparts.
Wow. That pretty much describes almost every interaction I’ve had with an engineer, economist or regulatory specialist. Haven’t you found it hard to prepare comms materials that are both understandable to the general public and acceptable to a technical specialist?
Quote singled out by Bob Sutton.
February 21, 2007 by Colin
Barack Obama’s current Senate press secretary is moving on to the Presidential campaign, and he emailed reporters about his replacement:
“Ben is a Virgo who enjoys talking on phone with reporters and leaking like a sieve.” (Politico)
As opposed to the normal approach taken by government officials in Washington, as cited in the “Scooter” Libby trial:
“…One of the signature moments in the case came this week, when veteran Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus was asked about the difficulty of getting top government officials to talk to him.
“Well, they’ll talk to me,” Pincus testified. “They just won’t give me information.” (LA Times)
Or maybe Robert Novak’s comments are revealing:
“… he had spent three fruitless years trying to land a single interview with former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage.
“He had not only declined,” Novak said, “but indicated it wasn’t because he was too busy. He just didn’t want to see me.”
February 21, 2007 by Colin
Well, doesn’t that just chap your [possibly inappropriate body part highlighted here]. I found an impossibly beat up and ancient version of an antique Victorian book of knowledge called “Enquire Within Upon Everything.” Great find. The sort of thing you can hide and use for obscure blog posts for months to come …. unless Project Gutenberg has already transcribed it and made it available. Damn.
In larger localities, where competition abounds, the small shopkeeper frequently outstrips his more powerful rival by one element of success, which may be added to any stock without cost, but cannot be withheld without loss. That element is civility. It has already been spoken of elsewhere, but must be enforced here, as aiding the little means of the small shopkeeper to a wonderful degree.
A kind and obliging manner carries with it an indescribable charm. It must not be a manner which indicates a mean, grovelling time-serving spirit, but a plain, open, and agreeable demeanour, which seems to desire to oblige for the pleasure of doing so, and not for the sake of squeezing an extra penny out of a customer’s pocket.”
[tags] customer service, personal touch, attention economy [/tags]
February 20, 2007 by Colin
This is what I look like, folks. Taken by Joe Thornley at the Third Monday event held last night.
[tags] Colin McKay, 40 lbs heavier than high school [/tags]
February 20, 2007 by Colin
Well, we all missed it – the Tintin exhibition at le Centre Pompidou. Even the online site is very sparse, but Dan Hill over at City of Sound has provided a precis and some high quality photos. To the left is a timeline showing which characters make an appearance in which book, presented chronologically.
In the comments, Martin Belam points to his previous discussion of the boats found in Tintin, and an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum. Martin rightly highlights the sometimes overstated political or cultural messages occasionally found in Herge’s work.
Even more information at the Tintinologist.
An index of the cars featured in Tintin is also available.
Insults uttered by Captain Haddock, but only found in the Turkish translation of the books. (In the name of typhoons, I am going nowhere with these mobile fire extinguishers!)
[tags] Tintin, french cartoons, Herge, design [/tags]