I have seen rock and roll future … and it’s a full range of lifestyle products!


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.

The ethics of sponges

One of the inevitable side-effects of the apparent interest in eco-friendly products is the emergence of greener, or less harmful, or whatever, alternatives for even mundane items that you probably don’t think about too much. Or at least, I don’t remember ever thinking about sponges too much — let alonethinking about whether or not my sponge decisions were good or bad for the environment.

And yet, here (via Coudal) is Twist, which informs us:

Making a sponge is a very challenging process, and one that only a handful of producers undertake. … This process can lead to a lot of waste. Billions of sponges are produced every year. An industry that big has an impact on the world around it.

Thus Twist’s Naked Sponge #55 boasts “no dyes and 100% cellulose.” Its Euro Sponge #10 is “durable, biodegradable, and (dare we say it) stylish.”

Perhaps I’ll look into this more later, but in the short term, I will start feeling guilty about my reckless sponge consumption, right away.

The apparently-hot brand that was news to me

Before seeing this Business Week item, I had never heard of “TapouT, the apparel outfit that sets fashion rules for the up-and-coming sport of mixed martial arts (MMA).”

TapouT [is] an unlikely TV hit—the second season begins on cable’s Versus on July 30—but has helped catapult the company into an impressive lifestyle brand leveraging the red-hot interest in MMA.

My reaction to this was: What? Not only have not heard of the brand, or the show, I’ve never even heard of that cable network.

And interest in “mixed martial arts” is “red-hot”? Really?

Well, I guess so. The brand claims to have had sales of $25 million last year, and supposedly will approach $100 million this year. Here’s their online store. The general aesthetic is sort of like a wearable MySpace page.

So was I just totally out of it on this one? Did you already know? Are you a fan?

You bought it you break it: In action

The previously noted Fragile Salt And Pepper set demonstrated in this short video on Core77.

I do like the idea of breaking something. I mean of breaking something that’s supposed to be broken.

I could see this product being a smash. Ahahahahahahahahaha!

Fortnightly Weekend Thingdown: Yet another new Murketing feature

The Weekend Thingdown is pretty straightforward: It’s a list of interesting … things. I’m not suggestion you need to buy any of these things. They’re just things that caught my eye. The Thingdown is planned as an every-other-weekend feature. Here goes.


Space Invaders Cutting Board, via BoingBoing.

Read more

Nau? Later!

So.

Earlier I floated a post here about Nau, which was getting an amazing amount of “buzz,” from cool blogs, random people emailing me, and even the “mainstream” press (although less in category three than than in one and two).

I floated the post here because what I wasn’t getting direct evidence of was actual Nau consumers. I totally got the concept, as this article says: “the ultimate over-the-top, high-concept business. It makes striking, enviro-friendly clothing.”

Okay. But my job is to write about why people buy things, so I was trying to figure out: Who is buying this, and why?

On a recent visit to Portland, OR, I went to a Nau retail space, and it was basically me and the employees and the very aggressive marketing concept, and some stuff on clearance. So it was interesting to see, but I didn’t learn anything of use for what I write about. Meanwhile, my post did not get me any replies or comments from Nau fans.

Anyhoo, I bring all this up because it’s just been brought to my attention that Nau is ceasing operations.

Obviously, I’m glad I didn’t decide to write about the brand in Consumed. But that’s not why I bring this up. I bring it up because as far as I could tell, Nau got nonstop love from every “influential,” “tastemaker,” “thoughtleader,” blah blah blah blog you can name.

I thought that was the secret sauce? I thought if you win over the blognescnenti, then you flat-out win? Because the MSM is irrelevant? And stuff? So, what’s up? Could it possibly be that the whole bloggy-buzz thing is, oh, I don’t know … bullshit?

Just asking.

[Thanks Steve!]

One other thing: What’s the hidden connection between Buying In and Flip Video Camcorders?

I forgot to mention this just now, and maybe it’s better as a separate post anyway. I was looking at the Amazon page for Buying In, and noticed that in the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” lineup, aside from an assortment of books, there was the Flip Video Ultra Series Camcorder, 60-Minutes (Black).

Presumably this means that one person happened to double up on a book/camcorder order. But it’s still kind of interesting, because I’ve been hearing so much about these camcorders all of a sudden. Seems like everybody’s getting one.

Do you have one? I have a feeling at least one of you does — or has it coming in the mail soon.

What is it about these devices? Why are they taking off? Maybe the answers are obvious, but any good theories?

Chumbywatch: NYT to Chumby up!

The Times plans to distribute its multiple podcasts on the device (thus users can literally wake up to the papers’ reporters). In addition, chumby users will be able to download a Times widget that will instantly deliver breaking news photos to the device’s screen.

More here.

I’ve (obviously) been thinking about the Chumby as a Consumed subject, but maybe this means I should stay away from it because it would look biased? I don’t know. But just for the record: You the Murketing reader know I’ve been on the Chumby trail for a while now.

Chumbywatch: Hacking it

I can’t explain my continued interest in the Chumby, beyond the fact that I like saying and even typing the name. But still, here’s the latest: A Wired writeup on Chumby-hacking. “More than 600 developers have built Flash widgets for the Chumby,” Wired says, “and around 200 have shared those widgets on the Chumby Network, according to Chumby Industries.

Moreover:

The Chumby is designed in a way such that its core electronics can be easily separated from its outer shell. This lets Chumby owners create that exact look they want. Some enterprising crafters have already stuffed the screen into teddy bears and footballs and even exquisitely designed wooden cases.

Earlier Murketing posts about the Chumby here and here.

A too-innovative toaster?

An April 2007 Consumed column used toasters as a case study in the question of innovation vs. novelty. Seth Godin offers an amusing smackdown of an unnamed toaster that apparently was a little too innovative for its own (or the buyer’s) good:

Here’s what I have to do to use it:
1. Choose the number of slices, and bagel or bread.
2. Remember whether it counts the slices from the left or the right (the left).
3. Insert the bread.
4. Push down the handle.
5. Choose toast or defrost.
6. Make sure the darkness level is right. (This doesn’t count, because it usually is).
7. Press on.
8. Wait till it beeps.
9. Lift the handle I pressed in #4.
10. Turn it off.

He’s not happy.

The future will be cute. And, uh, ad-supported.

I mentioned the Chumby the other day (here’s that post and some thoughtful comments from discerning readers). Forbes has a bit more detail on the “cute” device.

You can choose from more than 400 streaming widgets on the Chumby Web site. Keep track of your friends on MySpace and Facebook, see photos from Flickr, check in on your Ebay bids, read right-wing blogs or left-wing newspapers, watch sports videos or a videoclip of David Letterman’s Top Ten List, listen to podcasts or check out your daily horoscope. If your friend has a Chumby you can become online “chums” and send widgets to each other over the Chumby Network.

Okay.

But the surprising thing is that the $180 price tag on the gizmo is apparently not the core of the business model: “Chumby hopes to make money from ads injected into the stream.”

Hmm. Anyway, the article also names another of other “ambient internet device” enterprises. Here’s the piece.

Still keeping my eye on this one…

Chumby

UnBeige observed recently the launch of the Chumby.

The Chumby is a compact consumer Internet device that is about the size of a coffee cup. But unlike a coffee cup, it can be plugged into an electrical outlet; then it finds an available Wi-Fi connection and streams Internet channels from the free Chumby Network, which has already signed up content partners such as CBS, MTV Networks, and MySpace.

I wonder if there’s a market for this? What do you think? It costs about $180. Here are the photos that people have uploaded of their Chumbys so far.

The management team includes creative director Susan Kare, who has done a lot of interesting things. So, we’ll see.

Crazy fantasy or actual product … or both

Do you remember that ad for some insurance company that was sort of about The Future, and opened with shots of people running around on this big weird springy stilt-shoes? Well here it is.

And more to the point, those weird spring stilt-shoes, to my surprise, are not a goofball ad agency creation of the nutty world to come. They are, apparently, real. They’re called 7 Leagues Boots.
Who buys these?

Product of the day

A custom severed horse head plush™ that is actually quite comfortable to sleep on, albeit just a tad on the south side of morbid.” Insert your own “offer you can’t refuse” joke here. More. Via.

Movie prop, swag, product you can buy

I have not seen the movie Juno. Maybe you have? I gather there is a scene in which the title character speaks on a “hamburger phone.” A phone that looks like a hamburger. I also gather that some actual hamburger phones were manufactured as swag for “select critics.” In poking around I see that Film Junk predicted just days ago:

A quick search on E-bay turns up an endless supply of these cheap novelty items, but I can guarantee you we’ll start seeing the officially licensed version in stores soon enough (probably when the movie hits DVD).

Perhaps there is no need to wait. It looks as if a site called Sourcing Map is selling them right now.

I’m not sure I get what Sourcing Map is, since the site bills itself as “a new way of getting merchandise from factory floors to retailers’ doors quickly and inexpensively.” Does that mean you have to be a retailer to buy from them? Not that I want one of these phones, I’m just curious. Also I notice the burger phone page says: “This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 05 December, 2006.” That’s odd, but maybe it’s a mistake.

I wonder what the story is with these phones? Who designed them, and did they suspect all along it would have an afterlife as a real-world product? Was it designed for the film, or did it already exist? If it’s something that was in the script, and then executed as an actual prop and then a working item, does the script-writer get royalties for phone sales?