Xtreme Branding: Kellogg’s Plan is Flaky
Patricia | Oct. 15, 2009

corn-flakesThe prize for a news story you’d swear was fake is a report that cereal maker Kellogg’s is testing a system to apply its logo to individual corn flakes in the United Kingdom. In announcing the program on its UK Twitter stream, the company said, “Now you’ll always be able to tell your Corn Flakes from corn fakes.”

Really?

Kellogg’s was evidently so concerned about store-brand cereal sales that it began developing laser technology to brand the flakes without altering the taste, and somehow, not break them into bits. It will then insert some percentage of branded flakes in with the plain ones so the British cereal eater will always know they are getting that special Kellogg’s goodness.

‘In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of own brands trying to capitalise on the popularity of Kellogg’s corn flakes,’ said Helen Lyons, lead food technologist at the company.

‘We want shoppers to be under absolutely no illusion that Kellogg’s does not make cereal for anyone else. We’re constantly looking at new ways to reaffirm this and giving our golden flakes of corn an official stamp of approval could be the answer.’

If it works well, the company plans to brand its other flake cererals, including Frosted Flakes and Special K. No word yet on when Rice Krispies will get the treatment.

Case Study: How Not to Handle Criticism
Patricia | Oct. 9, 2009

lauren-adAds are supposed to provide information to consumers that will sway them to buy products or services. Consider a recent Ralph Lauren ad a big FAIL in that department. The company’s reaction to criticism, however, did reveal something useful: they don’t get it.

It all started, according to a recent ABC story, when PhotoShop Disasters noted the obvious photo retouching that turned a human woman into a Barbie Doll by subtracting ribs and connective tissue via computer. Ralph Lauren threatened to sue, demanding the story and image be taken down, which the site’s ISP did.

By then, however, Boing Boing has already posted on the subject, and went PsD one better by not only criticizing the original ad, but Ralph Lauren’s reaction.

…instead of responding to their legal threat by suppressing our criticism of their marketing images, we’re gonna mock them.

…to Ralph Lauren, GreenbergTraurig, and PRL Holdings, Inc: sue and be damned. Copyright law doesn’t give you the right to threaten your critics for pointing out the problems with your offerings. You should know better. And every time you threaten to sue us over stuff like this, we will:

a) Reproduce the original criticism, making damned sure that all our readers get a good, long look at it, and;

b) Publish your spurious legal threat along with copious mockery, so that it becomes highly ranked in search engines where other people you threaten can find it and take heart; and

c) Offer nourishing soup and sandwiches to your models.

ABC printed Ralph Lauren’s acknowledgment that the ad is, well, terrible.

“For over 42 years we have built a brand based on quality and integrity. After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman’s body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately.”

But the company has yet to back off its threats to sue critics. This is not, as you might imagine, the way to handle mistakes in the era of Facebook and Twitter and so-called “consumer conversations.” Lawyering up because someone posted your graphic — not to steal it but to critique it — is so last-century. Then again, so is picturing lollypop-headed models, even when you have to make them up.

Maron on Facebook: “Please Validate Me”
Patricia | Sep. 30, 2009

marc-maronI’ve been listening to the free Marc Maron podcast since it started a few weeks ago. Maron, a former member of Air America’s “Morning Sedition” show, interviews other comedians and provides general commentary on subjects ranging, so far, from Whole Foods to Facebook. And his comments about Facebook have me thinking.

Even though I’ve been on Facebook for about a year (I think), and Twitter for a little less, I’ve been suspect of the imperatives to heed the supremacy of social networking. Is social networking the means or the goal? Maron, a self-described 12-Step program member, has an answer. (Warning: Maron’s podcast is adult-oriented.)

…now I’m beginning to become concerned with the addictive nature that I have with other things because the amount of time I spend on these things. I’m gonna cop to this. I don’t even know how many times I check to update my status update on Facebook. I don’t even know.

I’m ashamed of it. Because I’ll put something up on my status bar and I will sit there and I’ll wait for people to write in, and I’ll watch what they say. And it’s like a speedball. Like, “Oh that person likes me. Well that was a little negative. Maybe I should respond to that. Oh fuck that guy. I’m definitely gonna respond to THAT.” I mean this goes on all day long. Twitter? The same thing.

These are like – it comes out of this neediness to connect. It comes out of the neediness to avoid myself. It comes out of the neediness to reveal myself, and also just a need to be distracted and to feel the excitement of people responding to me…

Every status update on Facebook should just be, “Hey, would somebody please, uh, validate me please? Let me just update my status. I need validation. Hold on, let me update my status. Hey I’m here. Is anyone else out there? Hold on, I have to update my status. How great am I? Am I pretty good? Hold on, let me update my status. Look, this is something I thought of. Isn’t it wonderful? Hold on, I’m going to update my status. I’m a little sad. Could somebody throw me a line?”

It never ends. It’s a waste of time. But it’s what fuels this entire technological boom. I’m not sure this social networking means anything, other than people need to be validated, even if it’s ever so briefly.

With most Facebook updates alternating between a recitation of people’s to-do lists, reactions to celebrity deaths, inane quiz results, and advice about business (”Gain the market edge through social networking!”), I think Maron is right. As we pursue quantity, not quality, in our “friends” and “followers,” we either keep our updates to the mundane and meaningless, or make our not-really friends cringe at too much information. In the end, all anyone wants is to be told they’re doing O.K., they’re keeping up, they’re on the path to…whatever. And that’s all people wanted long before social networking came along.

Fall Fashions Make Me Consider Jumping from the Plane
Patricia | Sep. 11, 2009

100085530_316When I heard fashion and design are revisiting the ’80s this fall, I had mixed feelings. For one thing, who doesn’t look better with shoulder pads? On the other hand, there was some really stupid stuff back then. Surely, for example, we don’t need to revive Members-Only jackets or parachute pants.

And then I opened the new Chico’s catalog and saw these. Does it get any worse? I applaud moving on from the ’70s-era elephant-leg pants and going back to a narrower ankle — but no elastic, please. Also pictured in the catalog: leggings, python prints, and lace-front vests. I’ll try to move on (or back) with the times, but you’d think one season of paratrooper pants in a lifetime was more than enough.

This latest revival makes me worry a bit for creativity in general. Since the ’80s was the last time music did anything truly new until rap came along, I wonder if all we as a species are capable of anymore is derivation. When the most popular video game in 2009 lets you be a member of The Beatles, a band that broke up 40 years earlier, it says a lot about whether we’ve thrown in the towel on surpassing ourselves. I’m not saying that every generation doesn’t revisit prior ones, just that it seems like we’ve been stuck in all things Baby Boomer for longer than we should. As a member of the overlooked and possibly nonexistent “Generation Jones,” I am ready to move on. So what’s new?

Marketing, advertising, communications, dogs
Patricia | Sep. 1, 2009

“Content drives action.”
— David Meerman Scott, author, The New Rules of Marketing & PR (1961 – )

“When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take, choose the bolder.”
— Field Marshal William J. Slim, Governor-General of Australia (1891 – 1970)

“Happiness is dog-shaped, I say.”
— Chapman Pincher, writer (1914 – )