Archive for ‘Branding’

February 4, 2011

Kenneth Cole Tweets

The end of the era I foretold a few posts ago isn’t here yet. And the past day has been a momentous one in Twitter affairs (Noam Chomsky won’t mind me borrowing his sentence).

It all started with the following remark tweeted by Kenneth Cole, the clothing retailer:

Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at

There was some uproar indeed but it came from the online community who was outraged by this callous tweet. Kenneth Cole was blamed for making light of a serious situation, exploiting current events and hijacking the #Cairo hash-tag, used to group Egypt-relevant tweets.

Kenneth Cole responded by deleting the tweet (bad move!) and publishing an apology on his Facebook page (smart move). I’m against deleting tweets because by the time one realizes they should be removed, they’ve already been re-tweeted by a bunch of people and, as such, will always remain on record anyway. This makes the deletion of tweets appear like an attempt to conceal things.

Lo and behold, a newcomer enters the Twitter scene less than an hour later. Behold KennethColePR – the impersonation account – and the following zingers:

Parents of Hiroshima — you’ll melt when you see our new kids collection! #KennethColeTweets

People of Australia: Water up to your ankles? We’ve got your Kenneth Cole capris right here! #KennethColeTweets

(there’s more where these came from.)

November 16, 2010


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.

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.

June 8, 2010

Nobody doesn’t like your product

I was waiting at a light on my way to work this morning and watched a big truck drive by. The slogan “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee” was all over it.

Two hours later, I’m still thinking about it. It’s not a bad phrase, but is it a good one?

Does the fact that nobody dislikes something make that thing good?

I can think of a bunch of things that I don’t necessarily hate but don’t like either. Zucchini, grocery shopping, vanilla ice cream, Dave Matthews…

I’d rather buy something because it is great and potentially the best, not because it’s not bad.

I’d rather hire someone because of the great recommendations I heard about that person, not because nobody had anything bad to say about them.

Catch my drift?

May 31, 2010

Highway musings

As we were driving home on I-35 this afternoon, I spotted a few gas stations/convenience stores along the way. One of them was called “Sac-N-Pac” and the other, a few miles further, was “Pac-N-Sac”. For some unknown reason, these names irritate THE HELL OUT OF ME.

What do they mean?
Do you buy stuff that the cashier packs in a sack for you?
Or do you bring your own recycled sack into the store so that the cashier can pack your stuff in it?
Do you Pac or do you Sac first?

There is no end to the questions.

Other moronic brand names, since we’re at it:

  • Saks (the high end version of the Sac-N-Pac)
  • Pocari Sweat (WTH Japan?)
  • Teenflo (menstrual relief? no. Canadian fashion)
  • The North Face (an open invitation for “The South Butt“)
  • Gerber (in French, “gerber” is slang for regurgitation)

Feel free to add to my list.

May 10, 2010

Kontain your excitement

Facebook not working for you? Find Twitter status updates limiting? Kontain was created to offer people a way to tell their story visually.

“Choose a photo or video from your PC or mobile device and quickly broadcast it to your friends and the world on a simple platform — it’s the new way for people to connect and share their life. (…) Kontain was founded on the belief in the power of visual updates. We love social media but we were frustrated by all the noise on existing networks, and wanted to watch instead of just read about all the things our friends and family were doing.”

Two things bother me here:

  1. People can already do all these things on Facebook – there’s hardly anything revolutionary about the Kontain concept. Even if the platform is better suited for sharing videos and photos, I doubt people will stop posting to Facebook where their networks are already established and where they can tag each other. I used to be a heavy Flickr user until I realized I could reach more people I cared about on Facebook.
  2. What’s with the name? “Kontain”? If the tool is social and all about sharing, why try to “contain” it?

I usually love signing up for any new communication tool I can find on the internet but I didn’t create a username for Kontain. I was just too put off by the constricting name. Communication is about outreach and expansion. Not about containment.

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May 5, 2010

Happy as a Bee

Is “Happy as a bee” even an expression? Not sure why it’s stuck in my head., an “online reputation” management platform, allows you to calculate your Google grade. Just tried it and scored B.

6 of the top 10 google results for your name are about you. Brand-Yourself can help you improve this score.

My dad scored an A+ and he doesn’t even know how to use a computer.

My husband scored an F. With a name like John Miller, what do you expect. I personally think he’s lucky; what’s better than potential employers finding 60% of good things about you on the interwebs? Finding nothing at all! Nothing to hold against you, nothing to investigate, just pure sexy mystery.