The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'branding'
10 pivotal moments in band/brand relationships, from the crude commercial tie-ups of the old days (the Beatles' disastrously naïve merchandise licensing deal and the Pepsi/Michael Jackson tie-up), through various milestones (Moby licensing every track on his album Play to advertisers, whilst saying no to firms he found ethically dubious, such as McDonalds; Of Montreal turning the sell-out into performance art by rerecording a song as an Outback Steakhouse jingle and pocketing lots of money for it (though, to be honest, they probably they probably stole the idea from New Order), and onto the current day, when traditional record labels are waning and savvy sponsors are acting more like the art patrons of the pre-capitalist era than the traditional merchandisers of yore, setting up free MP3 labels and free recording studios, letting bands do their own thing for a reflection of some of the cool; raising questions about the nature of authenticity and the idea of "selling out" (a concept by now as unfashionably anachronistic as boycotting Nike products). Is selling a song to an advertiser, and spending the money on projects one has creative control over, more damning than signing one's rights away in perpetuity to a major label owned by a hedge fund for a pittance? And if there's no such thing as purity, which ways of compromising are more acceptable?
Unfortunately chosen brand name of the moment: Russian gas company Gazprom has recently launched a joint venture with the Nigerian gas firm NNPC. Unfortunately, the name they chose for their joint venture is Nigaz. Word.
I wonder whether the problem was caused by some Russian executive being unaware of pejorative words in English, or whether the name was deliberately chosen so that they can have a totally wicked gangsta-rap company anthem.
British supermarket chain Sainsbury's has unilaterally renamed the fish known as pollack to "colin", in an attempt to rid it of connotations of poor quality and/or avoid potential offense to Britain's Polish community. In a further attempt to sell more of the fish, Sainsbury's hired the designer Wayne Hemingway (of fashion label Red Or Dead) to come up with Jackson Pollock-inspired packaging for the newly rebranded fish.
This is not the first time Britain's supermarkets have renamed products to avoid (actual or imagined) embarrassment; in 2001, Tesco considered renaming spotted dick to "spotted Richard".
Psychology experiments have shown that subliminal exposure to brands can prime people with the attributes those brands have cultivated. For example, when students were exposed to either an Apple or IBM logo and asked to list all the uses for a brick they could imagine, the Apple ("creativity, noncomformity") group came up with significantly more than the IBM ("tradition, responsibility") group. In a subsequent experiment, candidates primed with the Disney logo behaved more honestly than those primed with the logo of E! Channel (which, I believe, is a celebrity-gossip cable-TV channel in the US).
The practical consequences of this are interesting: if this is to be taken at face value then, by the sheer power of subliminal conditioning and marketing, brands do have magical properties, and branded products would perform better than physically identical unbranded ones. A brand logo is a macro, a tightly-encoded package of ideas, instantaneously decoded by appropriately conditioned consumers (and that means all of us; given the studies showing that young children learn to recognise brands before they learn to read), and priming has been shown to work. (In one experiment (previously mentioned here), students were asked to sort words, and then surreptitiously timed as they walked down the corridor on leaving. Those given words relating to old age—including, memorably, "Florida"—walked more slowly than those given youth-related words. Another experiment showed that exposure to alcohol-related words increased men's sex drive.)
Putting these facts together, it seems that using an Apple computer would make you more creative, even if you work in the same version of Microsoft Word you could as easily use on Windows, though so would having an Apple iPod, and Nike shoes could make you run faster than generic trainers of exactly the same composition, and so on. It's not necessarily even limited to brands, but could extend to any perceptible medium associated with qualities or values. It'd be interesting to see whether, for example, if one took two groups of students and, after surreptitiously exposing half of them to Belle & Sebastian and the other half to 50 Cent, asked them to play a game, whether members of one group would be more aggressive or competitive than the other.
Anyway, this finding could be seen as a justification for big brands' steep markups of otherwise average products: they're not exploiting a gullible public, they're selling the psychological magic of their brand. Though if you don't want to pay the markup, you could just as easily clip ads out of papers and tape them around your cubicle/kitchen/locker/wherever, which might get you a similar result, at the risk of making you look like a tragic. Just keep reminding yourself that you're not a gullible dupe or an unpaid human billboard, but a cunningly rebellious pirate, sticking it to The Man by stealing his magic without paying.
I wonder, though, whether candidates subliminally exposed to craptacular knockoffs of Apple products would experience a boost of creativity or a drop in IQ.
There are red faces at Woolworths in the UK, after someone decided that "Lolita" would be a good name for a childrens' bed range. Oops!
Charlie Brooker takes on another part of the blight affecting contemporary Britain: computer-generated shop signage, in particular singling out its crimes against typography and sensible use of colour:
[W]e live in a cluttered optical hell of carelessly stretched-and-squashed typefaces and colour schemes that clash so violently they give you vertigo. Stroll down the average high street and it is like being assailed by gaudy pop-ups on the internet. It makes your eyes want to spin inward and puke down their own sockets.
As if thoughtless font abuse were not enough, some signs even incorporate scanned photographs; a garish snap of some glistening meat surrounded by a yellow Photoshop "haze" effect, hovering over an electric blue background, flanked by the words KEBAB DUNGEON in bright red, foot-high Comic Sans crushed to 75% of its usual width. Jesus. Why not just punch me in the face and have done with it?
Something has got to be done because it is only going to get worse. You know what will be coming next: animated shop signs with moving "wallpaper" backgrounds. Storefronts resembling god-awful homepages from 1998. Row upon row of them. Visual bedlam wherever you turn. Two months of that and our cities are going to be over-run with screaming maniac gangs; hitherto law-abiding citizens driven insane without knowing why, like the demented hordes from 28 Days Later.He's right, you know. On Britain's high streets, many of the shops which are neither corporate franchises (which is part of another curse, the "clone high street") nor premium boutique affairs tend to stick to the value-for-money school of image management. Why mess around hiring expensive designers, decorators and image professionals when it's so much cheaper to get a computer-printed PVC sign, with your shop's name in bright yellow Helvetica on bright red, stretched to fit the length of the sign (which is also backlit with neon tubes). With the advancement of computer technology, meaning that anyone can be a designer without knowing anything about the rules of design, you can even stick in a scanned photograph or some clip-art.
One frequent subcategory of offenders here are fast-food shops, a good proportion of which are fried chicken shops named after varying US states ("New Hampshire Fried Chicken", anyone?) or words associated with the idea of America, and more often than not feature anthropomorphised animal mascots, usually chickens in Wild West sheriffs' hats or some variant of the theme.
And then there is the "fish bar" phenomenon. Those two words feature in the name of every other fish-and-chips shop in Britain, though to the best of my knowledge, are never used as a common noun in regular conversation. Has anybody ever said, for example, "let's go to a fish bar"?
Germany's Goethe Institute is developing a campaign to rebrand Germany for the 21st century, getting rid of the old associations with either Nazis or beach-hogging tourists. The new brand will present Germany as hip, laid-back and sexy, playing up Germany's short working days, celebrities and events like the Love Parade, and is aimed at Britain and France. Though officials concede that Poland and eastern Europe may be tougher markets to win over.
What does an intelligence agency do to improve its public image? Germany's federal intelligence service, the BND, is opening a shop selling clothing and merchandise bearing its logo. As well as the usual T-shirts and calendars, the merchandise includes underwear bearing inscriptions such as Verschlusssache ("Classified") and Streng Geheim ("Top Secret"), as well as the agency's logo.
Meanwhile, in the land of commercial radio, the latest entry to the top-40 charts is a pop group named after a confectionery brand. The fictitious band named Starburst, whose actual performers' identities are concealed, was manufactured by a marketing firm commissioned by confectionery maker Mars. Their song, "Get Your Juices Going", whose lyrics are built around the flavours of Mars's Starburst sweets, was released by Zomba Records (who also released Britney Spears' branded hit "Taste The Victory", free with bottles of Pepsi not that long ago), and is on heavy rotation on "hip", "alternative" new commercial radio station Nova. Is it just a 4-minute ad jingle, or the future of branded pop culture? And what would Naomi Klein say?
(Also, haven't extended versions of ad jingles been released on records before? Was that "It's The Real Thing" Coca-Cola jingle that those DJs sampled recently released to the public; or the German commercial jazz on Popshopping? And I vaguely remember some commercial-techno Coca-Cola jingle being in the suburban Sanity singles racks in the mid-90s.)
Cool Britannia et al. In this postmodern age of designer style over generic substance, nation-states are learning from corporations and redefining themselves as brands:
The British management consultant Peter York has even argued that Nike's "swooshffitick logo means precisely what the crucifix meant to an earlier generation in ghettos -- it promises redemption, vindication and a way out."
In Belgium, for example, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has hired a team of image-makers to rebuild the country's reputation after years of scandals involving government corruption, child pornography, and dioxin-polluted chickens. In an attempt to clear the air, Belgium has decided to introduce a new logo and hip colors and will sport the cool Internet suffix ".be" as its international symbol. The overall aim of the campaign is to emulate Virgin, which, according to one Belgian advertising expert, "isn't big, but you see it everywhere you look."
(from the Council on Foreign Relations, who may or may not be a front for the Bavarian Illuminati and/or secretly controlling everything fnord from behind the scenes.)
Seen on Plastic: Are America's lunatic-fringe capital-N Nazi groups trying to make themselves more relevant by rebranding themselves as the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party, or is this a hoax of some sort?
Interesting overview of computer-related design/interface conference: (NYTimes, requires registration)
"Logos are going to be a huge part of the global visual language," Curtis said. "In the same way that rap and hip-hop artists are sampling pieces of music and giving them new meaning, who's to say that the Nike 'swoosh' won't one day represent a word? You already see it in broadcasting, where 'give me that MTV style' has just as much meaning as 'give me a Kleenex.'"
"As utopian as this sounds," Mazza said, "I do believe that we are working toward a collective-mind type of experience, whether we realize it or not. All this technology is about connecting machines. What about connecting each to other? Transpersonal experiences? Sounds cool."