May 17, 2008 by Colin
What if Carl Icahn turned his attention to the largest fast food chain in the world?
“… I am reminded of my long-standing hope that next on his list of takeover targets will be the McDonalds corporation. Because then, you see, every newspaper will do a headline saying “Icahn has cheezburger?“, and afterwards every newspaper will have to run yet another explanation of what a lolcat is (or by then was). And we can all laugh at them …” (Seamus McCauley)
May 17, 2008 by Colin
Wow. 129 comments on a 43 word throwaway comment about how Kevin Drum really dislikes loyalty cards. (Washington Monthly)
“… My supermarket started an affinity card program a few years ago and I had to go through months of saying “No, thank you” until they got the message. Then they cracked and started giving me the affinity discount without insisting on my carrying the card. Not sure why the management decided it was okay to treat a regular customer like a regular customer even if he wouldn’t agree to be tagged like a migrating elk …”
Here’s my grumpy moment for the day: I hate how Costco asks me, everytime, why I haven’t upgraded to the executive membership.
Want to know why? Because I’m irrational, okay? I recognize that there may be long term advantages in buying up to the more expensive membership – end of year rebates based on buying habits, for example.
I also recognize, however, that each Costco store has a daily quota to convert members to the executive membership.
And that quota is written on a whiteboard over the front end manager’s workstation, out on the store floor.
Where I can see it, every time I visit.
And there is nothing I dislike more than being targeted in an effort to meet a quota.
I have to admit, though, that I relish that moment where the Costco cashier (or manager) struggles to understand why I would turn down a discount.
Even as their behaviour reinforces my decision to battle their quota quarrel.
May 14, 2008 by Colin
Blah blah blah. Bad people. Mistaken people. Not trained well enough. Not experienced enough. EVIL people. Quarantined people. Ostracized people. Blah blah blah. Blame the database providers! Blah blah blah. People admiring their reflections in their exquisitely designed glass houses.
“… If you’ve got a blacklist, I wanna be on it ..”
A blacklist represents an over reaction to a particularly irritating problem. It is also an ill-considered tactic that only serves to demonstrate intolerance and, often, a rush to judgement.
What sort of effect can blacklists have upon the list maker? Ask yourself how much news coverage you have seen of the horrible devastation in Burma. Five days ago, the world (as represented by the media) was up in arms about the poor response to the devastating crisis in Burma. This despite a wide-ranging ban from the Burmese government on foreign media and aide workers.
Today, the media is full of destruction, hope and recovery from China. The Chinese government knew to open its doors to honest and factual reporting, and to greet international offers of assistance with less gnarled and anger-ridden arms.
It’s a horrible observation, but true.
As for blacklists, I agree with Susan.
[tags] blacklists, Burma, China, cyclone, earthquake [/tags]
May 14, 2008 by Colin
- Band Get Out Clause can’t afford to shoot their own music video, so they pose and perform in front of 80 closed circuit cameras operated by various authorities around Britain, then demand the footage under the Data Protection Act. Enjoy:
- The faux crowdsourcing of business school cases, in which Yale attempts to argue that analysis from world-reknowned academics and subject matter experts is over-rated, and that the kids of today need to be drowned in raw data:
“…No longer linear, but instead lateral, in their thought processes, they seem to think in hyperlinks, assembling information from multiple simultaneous inputs. In the 1990s, scholars and teachers interpreted this lateral mindset as a kind of intellectual laziness, but now, my colleagues and I are increasingly of the view that the students of today are actually quite focused and energetic.
They are willing to devote considerable effort to wade through vast amounts of material from disparate sources; they may even work harder than students of a few decades ago. They just don’t want to focus on any one piece of material (say a 50-page article or a 20-page case) for a considerable period of time…’ (Yale)
- Lists you didn’t ask for: statutory rock edition, in which the lads from PopDose have an extensive discussion of rock songs that dwell far too long on the personal appeal of teenagers. A very funny post, especially as you dig into the comments.
- THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO! from Britvic Drench. These guys are either marionette geniuses or stop action dance fiends. (work hard + be nice to people)
May 12, 2008 by Colin
When I was young, I maintained an ever fresh list of potential careers that impressed – at the time. There were some commonalities: use of large or unusual equipment; authority to halt games, traffic or adults at will; and no need to work as part of a team.
- Zamboni driver
- Italian or French traffic cop in a piazza
- Runway model handler/stager
- Fixed gear bike courier
- That guy with the fluorescent wands at the airport
- Tennis umpire (“quiet please!”)
- Large backhoe operator
- Mr. Hand, American History Teacher
- Streetlight repair truck operator
- The guy who indicates a successful conversion in Australian Rules Football
- Escalator repairman
I now realize there are similar jobs in the professional world. Jobs that are fulfilling and rewarding – and do not interest me in the least:
- Meeting facilitator
- Wedding Master of Ceremonies
- Working Group chair
- Head Volunteer at a Primary School field trip
- Front end reception at Cracker Barrel
[tags] career, teamwork, counselling [/tags]
May 8, 2008 by Colin
Persona. A persona is an artificial identity derived from demographic analysis, survey results, focus group findings, and secret shopper interviews. It’s a convenient shorthand in the toolbox carried by user experience specialists – people like product designers, process architects and interior designers.
A shorthand that allows them to pick and choose behaviours, attributes, prejudices and generational stereotypes to support their artistic work.
(let the flood of emails begin – the ones where I’m accused of understating the value and overstating the harm created by personas)
I found this gimmick popping up in a discussion of the design aesthetic (and financial assumptions) behind Aloft, a new chain of high concept, low service hotels.
“… “We believe in trip personas,” [VP of Aloft Brian] McGuinness says. “You go somewhere with a persona in mind.” Project architect Bakos talks about the personas he expects will be drawn to a place like Aloft. They’re on-the-road, business-oriented people. And they don’t need shoe shining, laundry service, or a great restaurant. What they need is a place where they can check in, access their e-mail, go to sleep, wake up to natural light, and be able to grab a quick banana on their way out, all in an atmosphere of aesthetic attention and awareness of design. What they don’t need is another Ramada, Quality Suites, or La Quinta….” (Metropolis)
Ahh. So Aloft is like Target. It’s essentially a discount chain, but charges a slight premium for the appearance of exclusivity and the inference of personal taste and influence.
As a concept, it may just work. If Starwood, the chain behind Aloft, can find a way to design and construct visually appealing overnight accommodations while keeping room rates low, it may be able to draw in high-falutin and snobby travelers who suddenly find their expense accounts trimmed.
Of course, you can always wake up to natural light by … camping. Better have a Perma-Prest suit, though.
May 8, 2008 by Colin
Now, I know that advertorial copy doesn’t exactly attract the “A team” of writers, designers and editors, but you would think that the New York Times would catch an error this egregious: using the same stock photo clip for a fake article on “nursing excellence” and an adjoining ad for Mount Sinai Hospital.
From last week’s New York Times magazine (May 4, 2008)
May 5, 2008 by Colin
You know, with all the focus on immediate prototyping and taking Alpha products to market, I think we forget the basic principles that underly most theories of public opinion research.
If you rely on user testing, your development process is only as strong as the variety and depth of demographics in your user pool.
Image courtesy vcwear.com
May 3, 2008 by Colin
- Is George Foreman a design genius? Otherwise, he’s just a thief. Remember the Meat Toaster! (Armagideon Time)
- Los Angeles is awash with illegal billboards – and not small ones. (LA Weekly)
- You know what would make a cool business card? Something that looked like the card from an old-school library card catalog.
- How “historical sociologists” work, by Charles Tilly via MR.
May 3, 2008 by Colin
The lilting harmonies. The aged war veterans, Salvation Army Band volunteers and balloon-wielding youngsters, meandering down the northern dell to the village centre. The overgelled hair.
Those are my memories of “Life in a Northern Town,” a wonderful song by Stephen “Tintin” Duffy and the Dream Academy, and a top ten hit in 1986. A real product of 1980s Britpop.
As an economic history nerd, I also saw the song as an homage to the personal experience of a region stereotyped by a several centuries of wrenching industrial development – textile workers, shipyard workers and miners.
Which is why I was confused to see this video on CMT today:
Thankfully, Sugarland, Big Town and Jake Owen don’t drift too far from the original … and didn’t make their version too “twangy.”
Still, Blake’s Jerusalem did not refer to the hills of West Virginia, and neither does Life in a Northern Town.
[tags] Dream Academy, Life in a Northern Town, Sugarland, country music [/tags]
May 1, 2008 by Colin
I’m mulling over an idea – a Conversation Audit – that would help companies evaluate whether they need a social media component to their regular marketing and public relations campaign.
The idea behind a Conversation Audit is to actually stop and take stock of the many ways you communicate with audiences, customers, consumers, stakeholders and regulators.
Only at that point will a company be truly equipped to judge whether a social media campaign is important to its needs.
[tags] conversation audit [/tags]
May 1, 2008 by Colin
Meet Hunter Somerville. While an intern at Ogilvy & Mather in Toronto last summer, he was asked to chip into a campaign by taking a shot at redesigning the back of the Shreddies box.
He now works there as a creative.
The key to winning a promotion in the advertising world?
Demonstrating a canny understanding of the product and its features. Groundbreaking insight into the market you are targeting. (And more than a dash of Machiavellian office intrigue, but let’s leave that to the senior creatives.)
Somerville’s fantastic insight? Tilt the square Shreddies by 45 degrees – thereby creating Diamond Shreddies!
“…”It came from an exercise of redesigning the back of the cereal box,” says chief creative officer Nancy Vonk. “We gave the task to a lowly summer intern Hunter Somerville. His joke idea–make the back look like the front of a new bogus product–was quickly seen as a bigger idea that could become a 360 campaign.” (Creativity-Online)
The idea was so simple, yet so fundamental, that it stopped me cold in my feet. Or cold on my sofa, waiting for American Idol to come back on.
Nothing had changed in the 67 year-old product. Nothing had to change on the production line. Yet the product was positioned as having fundamentally changed.
Even the focus groups were fooled. That’s right. As part of the marketing campaign, Ogilvy & Mather conducted focus groups to test the perceived difference between traditional “square” Shreddies and newfangled “diamond” shreddies. See for yourself. Focus group participants work themselves into identifying the improved qualities of the new product.
As the CMA blog wrote, “Poor consumer. They didn’t stand a chance.”
Even the food obsessives at the Kraft Canada forums are praising the campaign.
In perhaps the funniest twist of the re-branding, Vancouver lawyer George Gould put the “last square Shreddie” up for sale on ebay.
[tags] Shreddies, cereal, O&M [/tags]