Archive for November, 2010

November 16, 2010

Ad-monishment

Still on the topic of cars. Aren’t my transitions smooth?

Here’s a new ad for the Toyota Highlander that really rubs me the wrong way for so many reasons.

Reason #1: I’m thinking of replacing my sedan with a wagon. This ad is wrong. Wagons are super cool. They allow you to haul things and transport your dogs without looking like you’re taking up so much space in the universe and using up obscene quantities of valuable resources. This ad doesn’t show that SUVs have poor driving dynamics and are significantly more dangerous to drive than lower vehicles.

Reason #2: That little blonde kid is anything but cool. I bet he gets called names and gets beat up at school because of his girlish hair. His mother is probably his only friend which is why he’s so happy to see her after school.

Reason #3: The kid hiding in the bushes is almost a teenager. Show me one teenager who wasn’t embarrassed by his parents at some point. There is no scientific evidence to prove he was embarrassed by the wagon instead of his dad. The blond kid is much younger, still at that cute innocent age where children think their parents are awesome.

Reason #4: Seriously? “Buy this car because your kid thinks it’s cool”? The ad says nothing about the specs and features of the vehicle. Just shows that it is big enough for the kid to throw his backpack on board  and sit smugly in his seat.

Reason #5: The kid thinks his mother loves him but she does not. There was no car seat in sight.

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November 15, 2010

The naming of things

I’m on a roll with this naming thing. An article in a French newspaper caught my attention the other day: it was about families suing an auto maker to protest against the name of a new car model. The latest addition to the Renault fleet produces very low emissions and is named “Zoe” (for ZerO Emission). This would be fine and dandy if Renault was not a common French last name (also spelled Renaud) and if Zoe wasn’t a fairly popular girl name. Parents are concerned their offspring (girls already called Zoe Renaud/lt) would be ridiculed by peers at school and later in life. Justice was rendered in favor of the automobile industry.

Before you laugh, this has already happened before and with the same brand. Back in the 1990s, Renault produced a model named “Megane” (the French equivalent of Megan). A bit later, a Renaud family wanted to name their daughter Mégane and was taken to court. Not by the car manufacturer but by the government out of concern for the girl’s mental well-being.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like this happen in the States. This is the country where landmarks like arenas get renamed after soft drink companies after all. You’d never see that in France. But I digress.

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November 2, 2010

What’s in a name?

I recently got into a tiff with someone over the name they chose for an organization I’m a part of. Oh, to Hell with discretion and trying to sound professional: I’m in a band and the band lead picked a name that I am not a fan of (at all).

The answer to my expressed displeasure was: “It’s just a name” and I was advised to just accept that I don’t like it and move on.

So why am I still feeling so worked up about it if “it’s just a name”?

In an effort to get real and contrast my opinions with that of the world, I conducted an informal mini focus group among my friends and acquaintances (including a musician). Here are some of the comments I received:

– That doesn’t sound right
– What does it mean?
– Bad 80s metal band?
– Kinda Stonehenge-ish
– That’s a Thursday at Headhunters name if I ever heard one.
– I’d rather be called the Penis Gourds.
– You should do what your people do best: organize a strike.

Now, mutiny à la French is definitely not an option, and neither is democracy as our band lead pointed out that one could never pick a name that’s universally liked (true, true).

But this is not about my ego. It is about my passion for branding and for team dynamics. Let’s address them separately.

From a branding standpoint, the band’s name says nothing about our music if someone doesn’t know us already. Not even a hint. As the unbiased observers commented above, you wouldn’t guess the band plays electric Zimbabwean music. If I saw the name in the paper, I’d think the band is comprised of druids.
To counter my point, one could say Butthole Surfers isn’t descriptive either… but it is. Stupid name for stupid music.

From a team dynamic standpoint, not involving peers in the naming of a group isn’t the best team-building activity there is. It’s not just a name. It’s an identity. If the team has no input in constructing the identity, the individual members will be nothing but chain workers with no sense of ownership of the product. That’s not a recipe for longevity and that’s a factor that leads to high turnover rates in organizations.

As far as I’m concerned, I will stop beating this like a dead horse, go back to my spot in the pecking order, and focus instead on enjoying the music we all play together.

Urban Dictionary has this definition of the word “band” that amused me: “the dysfunctional family that you choose.”

Time to put the fun in dysfunctional and remember it will always be a choice.