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As you may have read, Starbucks is testing out the idea of removing the Starbucks name from some of its locations, remodeling and renaming them, so that they look more like neighborhood coffee places. A Starbucks brand honcho says the idea is to give these locations “a community personality.”
Insofar as these coffee shops remain, in reality, disguised outposts of a ubiquitous multinational, this is obviously a completely synthetic version of “community personality.” It’s reminiscent of the big breweries putting out new brands that look like craft beers, or mass-market clothing brands tweaking product lines to get the “handmade” look, among other examples. In this case it seems that Starbucks sent out some of their experts on this matters to sit around actual local coffee shops to take notes and crib ideas. One Seattle coffee shop owner, such visitors returned many times over the period of a year, toting “obnoxious folders that said ‘Observation.'”
Presumably such detailed ethnographic study is necessary, for the chain’s new indie-simulacrum locations to be sufficiently, you know, authentic.
One other note from How Conference tweets that you didn’t have to be there to appreciate. Or maybe to loathe. This dispatch:
@danieleagee: Just heard someone ask someone else, “How do you consider yourself a creative without owning an iPhone?”
Maybe the overheard person was kidding.
(Related: Research suggesting mere exposure to Apple logos makes people more creative was discussed in this column.)
Hipster Runoff: “I recently saw an advertisement for some sort of taco/quesadilla made by Oscar Meyer that made me think it might be worth trying, even though it looks like it was assembled by a white mom from suburbia. The advertisement declared that it was blogworthy. I only enjoy blogworthy things.”
Regarding his new product, a fragrance called “I Am King” ($57), he tells WSJ:
“When you see Barack Obama, you see a strong, elegant black man and when people see my ad, it’s almost like that’s the trend.”
[Consumed on earlier Diddyscent is here. ]
The band Of Montreal recently published something that reads like a short manifesto, or possibly a parody of a manifesto, with the title, “We Will Only Propogate Exceptional Objects.” The first paragraph riffs on identity:
To project our self identity into the outer and, to amplify the howl of our self expression, we have many tools at our disposal; our art, our clothing and hair style, the way we talk…, and, for a lot of us, the objects that populate our living spaces. There are myriad vendors, attempting to contribute to our identity campaigns, creating rather dull and uninspiring products. Making the production of any new objects, at this point, almost seem criminal.
This sounds like a complaint about consumer culture. Or, again, a parody of a complaint about consumer culture. “The howl of our self expression”?
Anyway, whatever the intent, it goes in a direction that seems a little odd after having just asserted that “making the production” of new identity-stuff seems “almost criminal.” Because the real point of the piece is to announce that the band’s next record will not simply be a record. It will be a “collection.”
Skeletal Lamping Collection 08 includes T-shirts, tote bags, buttons, wall decals, posteres and even a paper lantern. The idea is that with most of these objects, if you buy the thing, you get a code for a digital download of, you know, the band’s next batch of music. If you’d like this entire lifestyle suite so that you can immerse yourself fully in the Of Montreal-ness of your “identity campaign,” that’ll be $90.
I guess this is a creative way of promoting a new release — making it more “relevant,” as they say.
It also seems like kind of a reversal of the longstanding trend of trying to make products “cool” by associating them with certain music, whether it’s the background at a hip retailer, or the soundtrack to a TV ad. Maybe at this point music seems incomplete without products — and it’s the music that now needs to be made “cool” by being associated with on-trend merch.
On what I think is a very related note: Carrie Brownstein writes about the death of the “rock star” idea here. More about that later, but a line from closing paragraph: “Maybe the death of the rock star is due to the fact that brands are the new gods and musicians merely the preachers.”
Via PSFK and Marginal Utility.
Subhead in the WSJ today about a Virgin Mobile promotion: “Strip-Video Requests To Help Teen Charities Ended After Complaints.”
It’s like this:
A few weeks ago, Virgin Mobile launched “Strip2Clothe,” inviting people to send videos of themselves undressing. For each video posted, it agreed to donate a new piece of clothing to nonprofit groups that help homeless youth.
Turns out, some people complained! Can you believe it?
Dedicated Murketing readers may recall my exasperation at Habitat for Humanity last year, when I wondered if all the money I donated to this organization was simply funneled directly into schemes and gimmicks related to asking me for money.
Well, on somewhat-related note, the L.A. Times looked into fundraising practices of nonprofits that hire for-profit telemarketing firms and the like and found:
hundreds of examples of charities that pocketed just a sliver of what commercial fundraisers collected in their names. Some didn’t get a dime or even lost money.
This by way of Dynamist, which points to a particularly embarrassing example not highlighted by LAT: “‘consumer advocates’ at Public Citizen … actually lost 6 percent on their telemarketing.”
Who would do this? Do you understand what a tattoo is?
Anyway: A particularly sad image from a Radar Online photo gallery called “Bad Tattoos,” which is very funny, and connected to a book called No Regrets. Via BB.
NYT recounts problems with an attempt to promote 2D barcode marketing concept to college students. Best is this:
Then there was the presentation by the chief executive of Mobile Discovery, David H. Miller, whose slide show in Professor Wnek’s class devolved into sexist banter after he showed an image of a topless woman, back to the camera, who had a bar code on the back of her blue jeans.
The photo evoked a few titters, but then a student bantered with Mr. Miller about the technology’s use in meeting girls.
“So I take a picture of a broad, you know, a good-looking girl, and her name and phone number are loaded in my phone — I’d pay five bucks a month for that,” a male student commented, according to the university’s recording of the class in February.
Mr. Miller replied that it might work as a marketing technique to post a woman’s picture with a bar code underneath that said, “sign up to a service to get more girls like that.”
Turns out not everybody was so into this exchange. One student later wrote an article for the campus paper comparing it to “slapping bar codes on women as if they were six-packs of Budweiser from the local grocery store.”
Pantone says the “color of the year” for 2008 is “blue iris.” The decree explains:
Combining the stable and calming aspects of blue with the mystical and spiritual qualities of purple, Blue Iris satisfies the need for reassurance in a complex world, while adding a hint of mystery and excitement.
Let me just underscore: It “satisfies the need for reassurance in a complex world.”
Not to get all personal, but I give money to various charities, and one is Habitat for Humanity. Sometimes, though, I wonder if all my donations really do is fund additional fund-raising efforts. Consider the item at right. It’s a Christmas-tree ornament. According to the solicitation for funds that came with, it should “receive an honored place in [my] home.”
Not because it’s an exclusive, limited edition ornament that isn’t available in any stores.
But rather because of what it says about you.
Namely that it says I gave Habitat for Humanity some money.
I find this really annoying. What do I need this thing for? What did it cost to have it made, and couldn’t that money have been spent in some other, more productive manner? The solicitation goes on to tell the story of a desparate family that needs a new home; they are crammed into a converted former restaurant that has a sagging floor, and holes in the walls that bats fly in and out of. It sounds bad. Why isn’t Habitat for Humanity using my money to help them, instead of manufacturing junk ornaments?
Suppose I don’t happen to feel like putting this item in a place of honor in my home. What do I do with it? How many of these end up in landfill? (As a bonus, the ornament was packed in a sort of rubbery styrofoam sleeve.) A day or two after this arrived, incidentally, I got more mail from Habitat — this time with five “holiday” cards that I guess I’m supposed to proudly send to my friends (maybe bragging about my exclusive ornament).
If I do give in to the solicitation and up my donation, what will they send me next year? A big plastic Habitat for Humanity snowman — limited edition, natch — to put in the yard?
E pointed out to me this magazine ad. This project seems to come from Arrow, the apparel brand, and involves “saving” Ellis Island. Here’s the related Web site.
I don’t know what the threats are to Ellis Island, but saving it sounds like a good idea. What’s a little surprising about this ad is that line at the top of it: “Where the world came together and American style began.”
Yeah? Is that what we’re supposed to think of when we think of why Ellis Island should be “saved”? Its role in the history of American style? What’s that even supposed to mean? And isn’t Ellis Island kind of where the world came together and was instructed to assimilate ASAP? Maybe that’s why everybody in the ad is sporting the same blandly WASP aesthetic. Anyway, the United States certainly benefited from the generations of immigrants it attracted, but I kind of think the contributions weren’t really so much about style.
Anya Hindmarch, designer of the cotton tote with the words “I am not a plastic bag” printed on it, which has inspired some consumers to stand in line and in a few cases knock each other down to acquire it, is sticking with her story that if the fabulous people in her customer base blare their eco-concern, the rest of us will fall in line. “There was a time when what was cool was drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes,” she tells Time Magazine. “Now it’s all healthy living, and I think fashion had a part in that–people seeing photos of models and celebrities–Gwyneth Paltrow walking around carrying yoga mats and bottled water.”
Bottled water? Wait a minute. I thought that the taste-maker set was against bottled water these days, having figured out that, among other things, discarded water bottles clog up landfills and take ages to degrade. (Just like plastic bags!) In San Francisco, ground zero of anti-plastic government efforts, the mayor has moved from banning plastic bags to barring the use of city funds to buy water in plastic bottles. And according to something I read, some restaurants there no longer sell bottled water, etc. Various articles in the press — such as this much-linked Fast Company piece — have railed against the foolishness of plastic water bottles. And so on.
Despite this, bottled water sales are robust, and now I know why. Because of Gwyneth Paltrow! Those of us down in here in, you know, the herd, we’re looking for signals from her, and last time we saw her she was loaded down with all those yoga mats and — I remember now — bottled water! She looked great, too. That’s when I gave up coffee and cigarettes and decided to get healthy. I bet you did, too.
Anyway, I guess the problem is that there’s nobody like Anya Hindmarch making really fashionable alternatives to bottled water. The Time piece mentions that Stella McCartney has a $495 cotton shopping bag on offer, and LV has one for a little over $1,700.
But who is making the high-end Nalgene alternative that celebrities can brandish? Apparently nobody.
One of these trend-leading designers needs to get it together and offer reusable water bottle that’s made of, say, platinum, and get it into some award-show goodie bags ASAP. To make sure the rest of us get the message, make sure it says, “I Am Not a Plastic Water Bottle,” on the side. Preferably in diamonds.
Related (and possibly useful, as opposed to a mere rant like the above) links:
1. Greener Penny overview of reusable plastic bottles.
2. Craftzine.com post on things to do with plastic bags.
[Time story via Agenda Inc.]
I haven’t seen ads for Miller’s new beer, which is called Chill, but I’m guessing by the variety of venues that the brewing giant’s distribution machine is placing it in that they’re giving it a big push. Curiosity led me to a brief Google search, which landed on the Wikipedia entry. That reads in part:
After blowing through sales and distribution targets in … test markets, Miller announced on April 17, 2007 that Miller Chill will be available nationally. As of July 2007 the product is in full national distribution.
I know that marketers write Wikipedia entries for their clients’ products, but seriously, could this be any more transparently phony? Oh it blew through sales and distribution targets, did it? And how do you know that, you super-impressed Wikipedia contributor, you? Interesting that you would state this with such certainty — and yet not reveal either what those targets were, or what the sales were. Interesting also that the only two cited sources for the entry are both something called Brewblog, “Miller Brewing Company’s official blog.”
Actually there’s a “marketing” section in the entry:
Miller Chill’s marketing taps into the consumer trend of “Latinization” in the United States – the mix of contemporary American and Mexican cultures. This mix of cultural influences is played up throughout the beer’s advertising, created by Young & Rubicam Chicago. This is especially apparent in the playful use of Spanglish in its advertising, which positions the brand as the perfect refreshment for “wherever and whenever things get hot.”
Yeah, great job Y&R! That ad strategy sounds fantastic! You should send your clients this evidence of the grass-roots appreciation for your work!
Update (7/18): The Miller Chill entry on Wikipedia has been edited since this post went up. Thinking ahead, I have screen shots of what it said before some of the quoted material above was toned down. The quotes here were accurate when this was first posted.