Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Roadwarrior design classics

A little while back I wrote about my multi-adapter that some clients have coveted in the past. Another item in my laptop travelling kit is this natty retractable ethernet cable by Targus.

Wi-Fi despite what the techno-pundits would have you believe is rather unpredictable and reception areas can be like Swiss cheese. If I have the chance I prefer an ethernet socket to hook up my MacBook Pro.

Rather than having a coiled cable that ends up looking like a plate of spaghetti and damaged connectors I have a small plastic block about the size of a fat audio cassette. It makes it a lot easier to pack.

It recoils back into its plastic shell automatically like the power cord on my vacuum cleaner.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The red brand of China

Brandchannel have an interesting article about the challenges that Chinese brands face to make it successfully in the West. The article doesn't cover the recent BenQ Siemens disaster. More details here (PDF document Preview.app or Adobe Acrobat reader required).

Links for 2006-10-29 [My Web 2.0]

What Do Women Want? Just Ask - New York Times

Energy Fiend - Obsessed With Caffeine

Some inconvenient questions?

I went to see An Inconvenient Truth. This is a film made by Al Gore which intersperses his presentation which he routinely gives on climate change and the story of Gore's own journey to environmentalism. I had some observations which I have noted below in a number points in no particular order.

The Good
Gore has managed to make his lecture a worthwhile experience to watch, which is a rare achievement.

Where the lecture touches on the way humans continually fail to understand non-linear or dynamic systems really struck a chord with me.

It's the reason why Yahoo! Research and O'Reilly Media run the Research Buzz Index and why DARPA tried to introduce the market-based regime dead pool as a predictor of terrorist activity and intent.

The end of the speech highlighting why people shouldn't shrug global warming off as something they can't change I found particularly influential.

The Bad
The film missed an opportunity to discuss how long-term carbon emissions can be reduced through increased reliance on nuclear and alternative energies. There is also a compelling economic argument for reducing carbon emissions. By reducing resource consumption for fuel we are sparing these resources so that they can be used as chemical feedstock over time for medicines, plastics and other advanced materials that can improve our life, minimise our impact on the environment and still spur economic growth.

Gore points out how a sample was taken of academic papers and none of them disputed global climate change. However in doing so he did leave him open to criticism: peer review is notorious for enforcing orthodox thinking. By going against orthodox thinking scientists risk losing their funding and or tenure. In brutal terms, they risk losing the ability to provide for themselves and their families. I think that on balance Gore is right, but he left himself open.

The blog to support the film is a model example of how not to do a corporate blog. It is more like a bulletin board and has no personal feel. All the posts seem to be done anonymously. This was a bit surprising since in other ways the film seems to have been very savvy in its online presence to facilitate word-of-mouth marketing.

The Cynical
The film looks in part like a campaign video for some future Gore White House ticket, especially when the film reaches back to personal tragedy in Gore's life. Maybe its a cultural thing, me watching a film very much aimed at an American audience through my European cultural looking-glass.

Product placement: Gore is on the board of Apple Computer Inc. The company makes fantastic products, hell I use them, have done for the past nigh on two decades; but the first five minutes of the film had footage that was a product placement persons wet dream. Was this the catalyst for the current hate campaign against Apple by environmental ambulance-chasers Greenpeace?

I didn't see Gore once use a light transit system or any form of public transport (apart from taxis) in the film.

The Unfortunate
Ultimately the audience for this film will be self-selecting, it won't reach into the less progressive heartland of America that it needs to impact in order to facilitate change. How do you turn the media's answer to J Edgar Hoover: Rush Limbaugh green?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Pulp Fiction

My Dad used to read a lot of pulp fiction from Westerns by the likes Louis L'Amour to thrillers from Hammond Innes and Alistair MacLean and they were always kept around the house.

Periodically my Dad would trade some in and get newer ones from a second-hand book seller in Birkenhead market. As a kid they made an easy way to wile away a few hours on a wet Sunday afternoon.

I picked up a copy of Louis Louis L'Amour's Silver Canyon by chance.

It was easy to read and although the plot and characterisation did nothing for me, you could see from his writing how the discipline of cranking out book after book on a typewriter had given him a lean writing style similar to Hemmingway.

It makes you wonder how many books we have to suffer from Dan Brown before he gets to a similar standard, or how many blog posts I have crank out?

Links for 2006-10-28 [My Web 2.0]

Not As Random As It Looks? - Business Week on new stock scandal in the making

whitney music box var. 0 - chromatic - 48 tines

Snap Cam - 35mm Camera Model Kit - SUPERfantastico!

Nintendo: Playing a different game - Economist.com

Charles & Marie: The Quintessential Lifestyle Navigator

O'Kane Irish Foods

Forrester's Consumer Forum 2006 - attendees takes on the different presentations given by the likes of Charlene Li

RTE - Radio Gems

Irish business newseircom net

Television, drug of the nation

One nation under god has turned into
one nation under the influence of one drug

Television, the drug of the nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (Michael Franti, 1991)

Wallpaper for the the mind, an escape, an opiate of the people: television has been accused of many things.

I found that my life was richer and I read more when I didn't have a TV set.

However, I was surprised by this article in Slate TV Really Might Cause Autism: findings from a new Cornell study by Gregg Easterbrook that pulls together academic research which points out TV may be related to incidences of ADD and autism in young children.

The Dipstick

I am not a great kitchen and cooking person but this really appealed to me. The Teastick.

For years my parents and my Granny claimed that teabags contained the worst sweepings of the tea and insisted on drinking Barry's Tea in leaf form only.

You can only hold so many years making a quick mug of tea and drinking carefully to allow the leaves to settle at the bottom of the cup if the tea strainer had been mislaid. Which is where the Teastick is a stroke of well not exactly genius more like something that has been staring you in the face, its so obvious. But I guess that's where great product design comes in.

A curious mix of influser and teaspoon, the Teastick is old school tea for a post-modern time poor world. What's more paper-making manufacturing for the cases of tea bags consumes a huge amount of energy, pollutes a lot of water, so the Teastick should be appreciated by Guardian-reading types.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Chromatic progression

Whitney's harmonic

John Whitney was an
animator and composer who did a lot of work around music and mathematics. This work has been taken up by a Flash animator. The animations are the kind of simple yet entertaining simple pleasures that I would have appreciated as a child and have begun to appreciate again.

Theyt are strangely compelling, enjoy!

Links for 2006-10-27 [My Web 2.0]

Free Online Translator and dictionary - English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian) and Russian languages

Attack of the Sprouts

Top 100 Facts for Chuck Norris - 4Q.cc

Ferris Bueller's day is history for today's kids - USATODAY.com

EMI Music CEO says the CD is 'dead' - MarketWatch


Friday, October 27, 2006

Play corrupts and game play corrupts totally

Earlier this week, the legal actions of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) apparently forced Lik-Sang.com to shut down. There has been soul searching in some quarters about Sony's conduct, particularly with regards the number of senior executives how had bought grey-market devices for 'investigative purposes' allegedly.

Rather than have people rattling around online, I thought that I would suggest some practical ways to respond in a responsible manner and explain to SCEE that they didn't appreciate the company's conduct.

I started by revisting a post I had written over two years ago for the AlwaysOn Network following articles I had read about Wal-Mart. It has some good rules of engagement in italics:

- Stop bellyaching saying how terrible they are. If you have money you have a choice; use it. If you have a fair bit of money you also have a voice; use it.

- Don't be abusive to company staff. These are people who are trying to get by; the last thing they need is some stuck-up righteous person going off at them. Be polite and courteous at all times - even to senior management.

- Consumers - don't buy the company's products and services. If you don't buy, they will go away or change to behave in a 'more acceptable' manner. Its the laws of supply and demand, you cut off their supply of money, they'll be more ameniable to respond to your suggestions for improvement.

- Do talk to your friends and peers about the benefits of rival ways of shopping. For a listed retail company, there is nothing more terrifying than a decreasing amount of money going through the tills.

There is nothing more powerful according to some of the world's leading marketers like Richard Edelman than word-of-mouth marketing. That's the reason why even mobile phones have blogs nowadays.

If you have bought a Wii and or your XBox360 tell everyone how good it is. If you are in Currys or Comet and someone is looking at the PS3 or a PSP, tell them how rocking your Wii, DS or video iPod is. If a Wii or XBox360 demo kiosk has fallen over , get a member of staff to reset it. Mac users have been doing this for years, its known in the industry as evangelisation.

- Focus on one message, there seems to be a myriad of issues that people have with Wal-Mart, however like advertising if you repeat just one message enough times it is more likely to get through to the public psyche and the board of the company. When they have listened to that focus on the next one.

In this case, I'd recommend expressing displeasure at the company's 'regional apartheid' against European gamers. It's a phrase that is loaded with imagery and emotion and makes a great media soundbite.

- Think about your message, phrase it in terms of the benefit to the audience. For instance, a politician who voices an opposition to the company may benefit from more votes and individual campaign contributions. Basic Dale Carnegie stuff but very true.

- Hound special interest groups like 'Greenpeace' and 'Friends of the Earth' telling them to readjust their priorities, you'll need to be polite and very persistent because they usually have pretty thick skins since they give it out so much.

Greenpeace is very interested in electronic waste at the moment., here is a link to their report on Sony. I found it particularly interesting that I couldn't find any information from SCEE on their website about their environmental record or what they are doing to limit e-waste. Why not send an email to Greenpeace and ask them to take action?

- Learn from the way political campaigns have co-opted the web and get active using meet-up.com, web blogs etc

- Write, email, call the company's share register, their auditors, their PR agency and their bank of record. Be polite, courteous, persistent and humourous (if you can be) to deliver your message and do it often.
  • SCEE Email addresses are usually of the form: firstname_lastname@scee.net
  • There is a feedback page here.
  • The company press office email address
- Don't deviate from non-violent action. It's not cool and its not clever, it is counter-productive to your argument. Over here in the UK, the anti-vivisectionist movement have lost a lot of public goodwill by using violence and intimidation

- Vitriol is not clever, stick to the facts. To an outside audience your vitriol will lack credibility. That is why some of the empassioned anti-Bush protests have little effect (ya' feelin me Howard Dean?).

- Do not violate the company's intellectual property including trade marks. That funny piece of satire that you put up as a website, wont be seen by too many people because your web host provider or ISP will take it down if they get a letter from the company's lawyers.

There is nothing more frustrating to a company than not being able to do anything about its reputation, SCEE is especially vulnerable at the present time as it is in the midst of changing UK PR agencies. The company will struggle to respond to sustained criticism where it cannot bring legal pressure to bear.

- Suppliers - if the company knocks on your door wanting you to supply them. Send them on instead to the competitor you most want to see ran out of business.

- If you want to put your money where you're mouth is, make sure the company's stock isn't in your 401K

- Write to your mutual fund manager, write to your politicians

- Write to your local newspaper.

Post on the forums that you read, put a link to this posting for any people that are interested.

- Don't give up, its only by repetition and determination that campaigns suceed

Links for 2006-10-26 [My Web 2.0]

AMD, Intel are come-back kids with X86 vectorisation


Microsoft To Miss XBox 360 Sales Targets By As Much As 25% - SeekingAlpha

Lik-Sang.com Out of Business due to Multiple Sony Lawsuits

Size? - Buy rare & exclusive trainers, deadstock, buy UK-exclusive colour ways, adidas, Nike, Puma, New Balance

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thursday Miscellany

<span onclick=Timbuk2" height="325" width="500">

The folks at San Francisco bag maker
Timbuk2 have extended their custom build range with a market tote for all you yoga loving gym bunnies and a laptop messenger for all us wage slaves.

For what their worth (and Internet tracking is less advance than the industry would have you believe) netimperative have a chart of the world's 15 most trafficked web properties courtesy of comScore World Metrix.

PRMoves are having a networking event at Ping Pong, 48 Eastcastle Street, W1 on Tuesday 7th November. In their own words: It will be a chance to catch up with us plus indulge in free drinks and nibbles. Also we will be giving you the chance to grill Emma Smith, Assistant Editor of InGear/Sunday Times on the ‘mysteries of journalism’. Let us know if you can come!

I would have hoped that many of the PR people there would already have a good understanding of the mysteries of journalism - but hey ho the market must be tough so any kind of candidate will do ;-).

Defected Records have teamed up with Mark Finkelstein to resuscitate Strictly Rhythm records according to Earplug. Once one of the most cutting edge New York record labels Strictly disintegrated in creative bankruptcy around the time that Warner Music bought into the label. Where they had once broke artists like Josh Wink, George Morel and Masters at Work and Aly-Us; post Michael Moog - That Sound they ended up churning out bland me-to tracks.

Good luck to them, I met Strictly's famous A&R supremo Gladys Pizarro in a house party in Hampstead a number of years ago and she seemed suprisingly well-adjusted compared to the usual music industry casualties that I've met.

Its the new style

Yahoo! Bookmarks

I originally wanted to post this yesterday but Blogger was on the blink.

One of the key products I was involved in whilst at Yahoo! was the company's entrance into the social search space with a product called MyWeb. In the last year or so the company has updated the product to version 2.5, which is immensely usable and purchased del.icio.us.

MyWeb was useful as a 'memory' with its repository of saved web pages, however in versions one and two was a pig to set up. Many users didn't appreciate its utility because it was so hard to initially use.

Last night the company rolled out Yahoo! Bookmarks. Bookmarks is a mix of old and new. The brand name does what is says on the tin and takes the bookmarks function that was on the old My Yahoo! page since 1999 and brings it right up to date. It gets consumers over a major barrier about what the hell the product is.

The interface on the product is slicker than a silk codpiece, with proper drag and drop functionality like the Oddpost-powered Yahoo! Mail. The site thumbnails is one of those so simple its obvious ideas. Big props to Tom Chi - the developer who did much of the super-sharp work.

So that Bookmarks must live, MyWeb must die, there will be a migration path to either del.icio.us or Bookmarks. Migration will be easy because Bookmarks sits on the MyWeb platform and del.icio.us will move over (whilst still retaining a user experience that makes a Benedictine monks cell look decadent).

To be honest with you I want both, part of the value of MyWeb is the discovery of great links from other people who are known to you, AND the ability to take a copy of a page that you've seen.

The reason that I want to copy a page is that many links, particularly on dynamic content sites like newspapers die, having a cache of the page at the time I originally saw it is a really handy reference.

Anyway, give it a try here. A Yahoo! ID is required.

Links for 2006-10-25 [My Web 2.0]

Better Bookmarks, Better Toolbar - Yahoo! Search blog

The Black Hole of Los Alamos - a photoset on Flickr

68 LED torch - YesLed.com

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


There was once a director who was told that although he knew pretty much everything that you need to know about technology PR, he was not considered to be ready to run the London office of an up and coming US agency. He then went on to set up a successful London office for another US company.

Of course, this has nothing to do with Stephen Waddington's successful sale of Rainer PR to brand communications consultancy Loewy. I only hope being part of a larger firm doesn't ruin Wadd's irreverent sense of humour.

Nice one Wadds.

Links for 2006-10-23 [My Web 2.0]

Silicon Valley Moms Blog

Google Adjusts Hiring Process As Needs Grow - WSJ.com

Monday, October 23, 2006

Memories of Q

I was looking an advert (pictured) for the new Motorola Q smartphone whilst on the New York Times website. What struck me was not the original Speak n Spell-type buttons or the styling but the letter Q in the name. A red Q in fact and my immediate reaction was Compaq.

Motorola Q

For those of you too young to remember: Compaq was a company who reverse engineered the IBM PC and then build a luggable version called the Compaq Portable. The company did very well selling portable and desktop computers and even had a popular line in servers. At one time the Compaq supplied more computers than anyone else in the world.

The company acquired two other computing greats Tandem Computers famous for their fault-tolerant NonStop server line and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) the mini-computer pioneers.

Compaq 'merged' with HP in 2002 and the Compaq brand has been progressively been erased from the product lines.
Compaq's Q
The letter Q was a key part of the company's brand identity, indeed IT news website The Register used to call the company The Big Q (as opposed to Big Blue, IBM's nick name). In the space of four years Motorola and Verizon now feel sufficiently confident to use a Red Q without incurring an association with the Compaq brand.

Indeed this may been a deliberate move as the Motorola Q device may want tap into the karma of Compaq's original iPAQ Windows PDA device, which were all the rage with management consultants (many of whom were given them for free) some six years ago.

Links for 2006-10-22 [My Web 2.0]

Sunday, October 22, 2006


At the time of writing the Edelman Wal-Mart flog furore has about 1,125 blog posts according to Technorati and over 49 news stories on Google News. Enough has been said about the incident here and elsewhere, but I wanted to use it as an example to illustrate another point.

News flow on blogs is very different to news flow in the mainstream media (MSM). We had been used to the news agenda constantly churning over to meet the need for new content required for the following days newspaper or the next major news broadcast. Instead with blogs the news moves much more slowly, or more accurately reverberates around.

It reminds me of when I moved into PR and I first worked in a female-dominated environment. I got particularly frustrated by the way meetings were conducted where an idea was passed around the table, each person acknowledged the idea and wrapped their own spin and a bit of empathy around the idea parcel.

Since blogs cannot only break news like MSM, but also act as an echo chamber to make that news last longer for the audience, is giving bloggers special access or embargoed material worthwhile?

Would it not be better to keep some of the news back and feed it into the bloggers a bit later to give the story a different slant or more legs (rather like game developers have done with the media by providing cheats a while after a game has launched). Thoughts?

You don't know where you are, until you know where you're from. If you don't know where you are, how you do know where you gonna be?

Thanks to Iain Tait for this fantastic history of the 'Amen' break which is up there with Think by Lyn Collins and 'The Funky Drummer' as the foundation of modern electronic music beats at the close of the 20th century.

Links for 2006-10-21 [My Web 2.0]

A Closer Look at Ask's Smart Answers

Komikwerks - Lifelike

FT.com / World / US & Canada - Playboy and pastors enlisted for attack adverts

Eating habits

I have started to notice on my feed statistics a change in user behaviour segmented by reader. Feedburner users tend to be there every day, whereas MyYahoo! and Netvibes-sourced traffic drops off dramatically at weekends.

I suspect that the reasion for this is to do with the format that the data is presented in by these services and how directly this is related to user audiences.
Feedburner uses an Outlook or Mail.app-type layout which isn't pretty but does lend itself towards productivity.

If you have a whole pile of feeds to read, sense and you consume information the way builders consume the sports pages this approach makes the most sense.

If however your information consumption is lower, it makes sense that you would have a few feeds on a metaportal like netvibes and are likely to have other things to do on your weekend.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Oprah Time: No Country for Old Men

I picked up a copy of No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. The book is an old time western set against the backdrop of modern Texas, with drug running and paid killings that usually happen in the background brought to the fore.

The book is a well-written thriller with a lean prose that Hemmingway would have been proud of. Because of this it was very easy to read and very easy to pick back up and read some more. It is also more than a thriller, providing a view of modern society through the eyes of its protagonists.

The book also has a bleak morality more akin to Sergio Leon's spaghetti westerns were good doesn't always win out and the good have more than their own fair share of faults and demons.

If you need a book for an airport, pick this one up and run with it.

Links for 2006-10-20 [My Web 2.0]

No-style wars

Imagine if you are an up and coming rap artist who has crossed over to act in a film about an up and coming rap artist. What better way to promote your film and your 'mad' skills than to offer an open mike challenge to anybody in a club?

Not quite, especially if like wack emcee Asher D, your mike skills can't cash the cheques that your ego spent. A camera was there to see MC Stig level the diminutive actor.

This ain't 8 Mile, but it is a good salutary warning for any music PRs out there who have some urban talent on their books. Lord knows what would have happened to Asher D if he'd have gone up against Roxanne Shanté or Supernatural. Kudos to HolyMoly for this nine-minute video clip of pain.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Size 0 works for me

OK so the title was a poor play on the controversy over skinny models on the catwalks, but I wanted to share this product with you.

the Swiss-based maker of computer bits from mice to iPod accessories have purchased Slim Devices; makers of some really cool looking digital media centres called the Squeeze Box (which looks like a grown-up version of Sonos) and the Transporter (the network media player pictured) for some 20 million USD.

The guts of the box is based on open source software that enthusiast users have modified and enhanced. Kudos to VentureBeat.

Links for 2006-10-18 [My Web 2.0]

Watch Out Startups, Ad Spending is Falling and So is Your Sky - Micro Persuasion

Yahoo profit falls 37%; sales rise 20% as expected - MarketWatch


Dan's Live Sets Blog

Amateur 'video bloggers' under threat from EU broadcast rules - The Net - Times Online

The American Look(1958) - short film of 1950s American design

EU to regulate video bloggers (?)

Building the New Field of Digital Learning - The MacArthur Foundation

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Meeja Moment

Just a brief post this evening as I am in the middle of working on a credentials document for a new business pitch.

Andy Kessler has some interesting posts going on at his blog about how the media industry as we know it is misaligned for taking advantage of the technological changes happening on the internet and its likely business impact. His installment 'Go Wide' is particularly good.

The horizontal model that Kessler hands out reminds me of the process by which movies and television programmes get made and financed with independent production houses bringing together the relevant elements as required.

Whether or not media companies can utilise expertise in re-engineering their business model is another matter. Kessler is also quick to point out that there will always be a market for well produced content.

I have also been reading about how the EU are looking to regulate video bloggers. Whilst I am used to a whole pile of scare stories about the EU regulation (most of which are urban myths) this could seriously queer the online media game. Its also the thin end of the wedge and shows the industry needs to think of an alternative before the government does. This could unravel the viral and social networking nature of many video properties and affect online marketing campaigns.

Talking of the thin end of the wedge, is the online market coming to the edge of singularity where all online advertising dollars need to be rendered to Google? Rising ad spend at Google, Yahoo!'s attempt to buy into an ad spot market through the purchase of a 20 per cent stake in Right Media. The company's decision to do a three billion dollar share buy back rather invest in new developments or start-ups indicate that the 3A supported bubble may be starting to deflate?

Links for 2006-10-17 [My Web 2.0]

Monday, October 16, 2006

Blogging, customer service and cool marketing campaign

OK, so everyone is talking (alright having a conversation with some naked guy) about the Edelman blog for a Wal-Mart sponsored puppet organisation.

Whilst I would like to be exploitative and steal some of their business, I feel for the people at Edelman. When you put yourself in a pioneer position, some of your mistakes can end up being very public.

Anyway some thoughts on it all:
  • There but for the grace of God go I: it was bound to happen sooner rather than later. Yes it was pretty dumb and demonstrated the kind of strategic thinking that PRs often get slated for. But I would put good money on it that a number of managers of other large PR agencies had a similar reaction to the post. I am sure that they would love to nail Edelman to the cross in an effort to shake some of their clients loose, but it could just as easily been another large agency instead
  • Crisis management 101: Where Edelman did go wrong was in not keeping the channel of communications as open as they could. Both Rubel and Richard Edelman kept their counsel until they had done an internal inquiry. Really they should have told the blogosphere what they were doing and then went ahead and did it. What is needed now is for the agency to demonstrate that they have learned from the mistake by telling the inside story rather than just committing to it never happening again
  • Sloooow response leads to message amplification: This story seemed to get legs really fast, yet Edelman seemed to take a long time getting a handle on it, allowing the story to gain momentum. Blogs are like an echo chamber, allowing themes to reverberate around -and-around, rather than quickly die like the news agenda for print or broadcast media
  • The only crime is getting caught: Many years ago for a brief time I used to stack clothes in a garment factory. I was very young and there was a van driver called Joey. Joey had been an unsuccessful villain who used to rob payroll deliveries and post offices in the 1970s and used to tell us about the old days. Usually the tale would end with him getting put away and would end with a few factors that had they gone the other way would have saved his bacon. If the client hadn't been Wal-Mart and the blog done a bit more subtly would they have got away with a good corporate reputation exercise? How many people have got away with the same trick before Edelman and Wal-Mart got caught?
  • Living in a glass house: What made the situation worse is the Wal-Mart puppet sponsored site Paid Critics which is a platform to attack paid critics of the retail behemoth
  • Chose your clients carefully: Wal-Mart is considered by its detractors to be exploitative, abusive and the best example of corporate evil in the western world today (though I am sure that environmentalists would argue that ExxonMobil could give Wal-Mart a good run for their money in the corporate evil sweepstake). To borrow from George Lucas: it's corporate body is viewed by critics like the Galactic Empire, and each store a corporate death star with Sam Walton as its Emperor Palpatine. There comes a time when a client is perceived to be so morally repugnant (like tobacco firms have become) that you have to draw the line and turn away their business. Wal-Mart is pushing that boundary. (Hell, I don't mind its scandalous record on the way it treats staff, its exportation of manufacturing jobs on a previously unheard of scale or its treatment of suppliers, but Wal-Mart is so wrong that it wants to hijack the smiley and own it for itself). Oi, Wal-Mart NO! You cannot hijack a cultural icon and get away with it. Bottom line: Edelman's campaign would not have drawn as much scrutiny or criticism but for the emotive association with Wal-Mart
If anybody wants to comment on the Edelman side of the story, or if you are a masochist defend Wal-Mart's smiley hijack, the blog comments section at the bottom of this post is there for you.

No sooner had I blogged about how customer experience was an intrinsic part of brand experience than my MacBook Pro got damaged. My home and contents insurance won't cover it and taking it in to get it serviced at Apple's retail locations means running the gauntlet of its online lottery for the genius bar.

I took my machine to Square Group instead where it will take two weeks for my computer to be looked at an at least another week for parts. The representatives at Square Group admitted that they were overrun in their service department, probably because so many Apple users have had to make the same trip from Apple Store Regent Street to their offices on New Oxford Street.

This service experience lacks quality and I don't mean that in a small way I mean that in a big way.

Apple often compares itself to BMW as a brand, yet BMW has a well defined very efficient customer service machine that is based on traditional values, attention to detail and an understanding of customer needs. Apple obviously doesn't have this heritage and understanding which is the reason why its service model lacks a soul. Slick retail design is merely emperor's new clothes for being a premium brand.

Finally on a more positive note, Absolut Vodka have an interesting marketing campaign called the 100 Absoluts. Participants passions are tapped, they are asked to contribute their opinions and images (user generated content) on the following items. It's a clever campaign that extends itself beyond online to PR and advertising. I only wish that I had thought of it!


UPDATE (October 22, 2006)

Edelman have outed two more fake blogs for Wal-Mart. Also Wal-Mart have retired the smiley from their campaigns, now I am hoping that they will park their ridculous claim jumping efforts on the smiley as well.

Links for 2006-10-15 [My Web 2.0]

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Links for 2006-10-14 [My Web 2.0]

Entertainment Reviews - FHM US

Kelvin Mackenizie interview

Off the deep end

I had to take my IWC watch back to get it fixed.

Cynics may say what's the point of having a decent watch when it'll break just like a bargain basement Casio? What you don't get with a Casio is close on a years worth of precision engineering in the watch.

The watch is also supported by a comprehensive service organisation. Rather than having to argue the toss with a couple of school leavers, I spoke with a professional who sorted out getting the watch fixed with no quibble.

It brought home to me how quality goes beyond the product itself to encompass the whole experience behind it. Its all the other touch points on the customer's mental score card the make up a brand experience.

It doesn't matter how good new brands get at making a product, putting that infrastructure in to support it is going to be the hard part. It is the structure that supports the dominance of LVMH and Richemont in luxury brands.

It also shows the serious investment and learning curve that new global brands like Samsung or LG and the young Turks biting at their heels like Bird International have yet to do, if they are to become more than just the vassals for more established western brands. Thoughts?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Links for 2006-10-13 [My Web 2.0]

Crystal Clarity

The first thing that you need to do when you get an iPod is get rid of the earphones. Now the latest iPod earphones sound pretty good, but they attract petty criminals like flies to one of them zapper lights.

The second reason for me is that I usually wear my iPod on the tube going about my business. I need headphones that can cope with the high ambient noise of the train and still give me a decent sound.

Decent active noise reduction pairs an ok set of headphones with an inconvenient electronics package, requiring an extra battery. My previous favourite earphone of choice Sony's MDR-EX71SLB worked by providing a variety of silicone gaskets to best match the fit of your ear canal. They provided a good quality sound.

I nipped in to HMV when my previous set fell to pieces and went to the counter to purchase a new set. Since the store wasn't that busy the shop assistant on duty recommended the Sennheiser CX300 instead.

To be honest I wasn't convinced, in the packaging they look like a Chinese rebadge job to capitalise on the Sennheiser name arranged by some know nothing marketing person, probably made by 13-year old kids serving as indentured labour in a sweatshop.

I still don't know how they are made, but they sound amazing, (I've used them with soul, jazz, funk and house music tracks) greatly reduce the high noise level of the tube and are a subtle and understated design.

The product design is pretty smart as well; they feature a j-cable: where one headphone lead is longer than the other so it can go around the back of your neck and keep everything in place whilst you take your headphones off. However with most headphones the cable slides easily over your collar and you lose your headphones on the floor, the Sennheisers have a slightly tacky cable cord to keep them in place.

In terms of their robustness compared to the Sony headphones, only time will tell, but if you want an ideal partner for your iPod get out and buy a set now.

Mastering your inner spiv

I had a brief discussion with one of my colleagues about JCPR, which was prompted by the agencies parting of the ways with client Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.

It was remarked that JCPR didn't have the kind of high profile that they'd had previously.

JCPR still do good work but are not as visible as Exposure, The Fish Can Sing or Slice to name but a few hot shops.

A top-flight consumer PR agency is no longer a PR agency, but an integrated marketing agency building campaigns with a mix of advertorials, marketing supplements, web sites, experiential marketing or stunts and supported by media relations.

This expertise will be concealed by a smoke-screen of terms like passion, belief, enthusiasm etc in their marketing literature. Good strategy and execution are required. Once these have been demonstrated for one or more trusting clients, it will give prospects the courage to think outside the box.

Most importantly, these shops have mastered the ability to keep a client supporting a good idea that falls out of the traditional media relations remit even when it becomes difficult and or expensive and prevents them from losing their bottle.

Like edgy PR programmes, social media campaigns need a similar kind of courageous clients and a willingness to keep their nerve whilst their colleagues are at their wits end lamenting not spending the money on a few extra Google ad-words.

There is a lot that a thrusting PR 2.0 consultant can learn from their consumer cousins.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Links for 2006-10-12 [My Web 2.0]

VC cliche: what goes around, comes around

More deal details from YouTube founders

Cool Marketing Campaign and the Palm News

I noticed a clever marketing campaign in this evenings thelondonpaper whilst on the train home. The print advertising campaign and marketing website features life coach Pete Cohen.

Many of the people who will move to a CapitalOne card will be in a bit of a bind and looking to consolidate debt at a lower interest rate. The marketing campaign tries to catch prospective consumers in more positive frame of mind by targeting those people who are looking to transform their lives. Its a smart move and helps to remove some of the parasitic nature that has tainted consumer perceptions of the CapitalOne brand.

The credit card industry has usually been based on blitzkrieg direct mail campaigns and cut-throat promotional rates that create customer churn.

Palm have belatedly entered the middle market with a cheaper smartphone. According to CoolHunting the phone corrects many of the deficiencies of the Treo 650. Engadget has a blow-by-blow account of the press conference and there was some interesting omissions:
  • No price announced for the device
  • No wi-fi
  • No Skype (but then carriers will block VoIP running over GPRS, EDGE or 3G so no point)
  • No news on Mac synchronisation

Some tie-ins with Yahoo! Music, Google and eBay, but no tie-in with Flickr or PhotoBucket so it probably features the usual Palm crapmera.

The lack of an aerial and curves improve the tactile nature of the phone, but the materials and finish still look cheap. Palm could take some lessons in product design from Nokia or Apple to get the look and feel of materials improved.

Its a step in the right direction, but there are better PalmOS devices out there. Details from Palm of the Treo 680 here, image courtesy of Palm.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Links for 2006-10-11 [My Web 2.0]

Sonar Kollected

I picked some great tracks on the Sonar Kollectiv's online shop:

Trickski - The Bat EP
ISoul8 - Give It Up
Markus Enochson - For You To See (get it for the Tiger Stripes dub)
Markus Enochson - Day And Night (w/ James Ingram)
Movementz - 29Calls (Birmingham in the house)

I had been buying a lot of old vinyl because I wasn't hearing a lot of stuff at my usual haunts that resonated with me, on a whim I checked out Sonar Kollectiv's online store and there was more excite within than a bag full of crack smoking pythons.