May 17, 2009


In an effort to keep my brand fresh and more legit I have relocated this blog to: Come visit yall.

May 13, 2009


The beer market is one place where marketing decisions really shine. There are just so many products at a similar price point. The intangibles make all the difference. And while variety may lack from product to product, from brand to brand variety is everything.

Everyone knows that Miller/Bud taste like shit. Yet they are the two leading US beer manufacturers. because of the care they put into their brand image. Quality of taste is not even part of the equation.

Classic branding:

There is an interesting flip side to Miller/Bud’s broad market dominance and that is PBR’s niche market dominance. 

Hipsters have blindly embraced PBR the same way mainstream America has blindly embraced Miller/Bud. Hipsters probably claim to have better taste, but PBR is actually WORSE than Miller/Bud (but not by much). But you’ll still find it flowing at house parties from Brooklyn all the way to San Fran.

It is interesting that PBR has attracted it’s audience with a unique marketing strategy: none at all. It’s just there, cheap and ironic, with a classic can. Hipsters will tell you they buy it because of it’s affordability, but then how do they justify their $________/month Williamsburg loft??

Are you more PBR or more Miller/Bud?

Is is cooler to buy foreign beer?

Which is more important to you (be honest): good taste or brand image?

Here in MPLS we have a personal fav:

May 8, 2009


Pepsi is attempting to balance their recent re-brand, which has been criticized by some as being overly simple and unnecessarily modern, with a throwback campaign.

The retro graphics are nice, but not quite original:

Of the two major soft drink companies, Pepsi has always been more modern stylistically. Their attempt to suddenly approach Coke’s “classic” brand-share shows slight brand dissonance, but its still a nice campaign for yet another temporary soda product.

But is it good enough to compete with Coke’s packaging update? These cans just scream “summer.”

Bonus: Pepsi logos through the years:

But really kids, soda is terrible for you. Don’t drink too much of the stuff.

May 6, 2009


To begin with, there is the bold logo, a crude etching of a skull, the default symbol of mortality. The skull-as-icon has become ubiquitous in pop culture where it usually loses all meaning, its morbid implications awash in cliche. Yet a well-done skull image can still make a striking impact. Damien Hirst knows this. So does Cheap Monday.

Cheap Monday is a rare company. It’s name represents the fact that, after blowing all your money over the weekend, you’re broke on Monday

The brand manages to reach a global audience while retaining a hip edge. Apparently they started out selling only used clothing in a small boutique, and now they manage over 1,000 stores worldwide (mostly in Europe). Sometimes described as “Swedish-grunge,” they have helped make Scandinavian youth culture a global hotspot. 

Do you guys like Cheap Monday, or are they too Euro-hipster?

Excluding H&M, does another label provide designer styles at affordable prices?

Can we overlook their uber-skinny jeans?

May 3, 2009


I can’t decide exactly how I feel about the Diesel brand. Anyone who’s ever tried on their denim can not deny the high quality and perfect fit. There are few companies that can compete on purely quality of jeans. And yet, there’s their brand image…

Diesel ads are aimed single-mindedly at the typical douchebag, a good looking and well off individual completely lacking in self-awareness. Trendy to the point of being annoying, Diesel ads flaunt sexuality without subtly or sophistication of other high end fashion labels. This could be blamed partially on Diesel’s obvious commitment to the youth market. But it will be interesting to see if Diesel is able to age gracefully with its audience and develop into something more than a college-centric douche outlet.

At what point should we allow a brand’s image to interfere with our feelings about the product itself?

I have mixed feeling about Diesel because I like a lot of their products but don’t want to associate myself with their intended brand image. Which is more important, a) the final product itself, the materials, design and quality, or b) the overall attitude of the company and the philosophy they represent in the overall marketplace?

May 1, 2009


Should we be cynical when we see brands base campaigns around messages of positivity and inspiration?

I would like to take messages like this at face value. I think overall its a good thing to walk around and see messages of hope and positivity. It reminds me of the cityscape in “They Live” in reverse.

Still, I can’t help but recognize the self-serving nature of inspirational ads. We as consumers see an inspiring Pepsi ad and therefore associate Pepsi with inspiration, enhancing our emotional connection with the brand.

Does corporate association taint an otherwise positive expression, or is encouragement toward happiness beneficial no matter the source?

April 30, 2009


Blame the king.

At some point during the past couple years, commerical advertising has really embrassed the concept of absurdity. It seems like off the wall characters who generate a gutteral WTF?! have become the new standard brand spokesmen. I think the general tone of advertising has become so stale and monotone that nobody even notices commericlas any more. They have become so easy to ignore. Embracing absurdidty is a smart way to break through the clutter.

Typically, advertising is not in itself an innovative art form. Usually it relies on established notions of acceptability borrowed from music, art, and entertainment. You can be innovative within the advertising world, but you are most likely borrowing from other sources. Advertising at its best is only an early adopter. Absurdist ad campaigns like these are the “adult swim” sector of the ad world. Comedy shows that use this type of humor have been around for while and the ad world is just catching up.

Did Burger King set the foundation for this type of advertising?

Do you find awkward ads like these funny, or just confusing?

Has confusing actually become a selling technique?

Does anybody like/understand these?:

Or is this more accurate?:

April 26, 2009


It’s easy to sometimes forget the amount of marketing that goes into politics. Every single political decision requires a calculated strategy on how to best angle the story for the public. Policies must first be sold in order to succeed.

The “War on Terror” was a perfect example of calculated phrasing, and an insightful look inside the marketing strategies of the Bush administration. Bush officials tried to market the fights in Afghanistan and Iraq as epic struggles between good and evil. The shock value of this technique was effective for a while, its doomsday implications creating basically a viral buzz across a nation trying to make sense of terrorism.

But if viral buzz corresponded to long term marketing success, Tay Zonday would be a rich man. As it turns out, the “War on Terror” jargon was only buying into the enemies philosophical framework and in a way, validating their argument.

So in an effort to reshape the public perception on the war, the Obama administration decided to make a subtle yet crucial marketing adjustment. It changed its name. It’s not completely uncommon for a damaged company to change its name to alter the public perception. Even Kobe Bryant, facing ongoing public scrutiny, changed his jersey number to help erase a tiny bit of his past. The official new moniker of the war: Overseas Contingency Operation.

What does this name shift say about Obama’s approach to the war as opposed to Bush’s approach?

Are critics correct in suggesting that the name change goes a long way in hiding the terrifying reality of the war and terrorism in general?

Is the new administration trying to undermine the importance of the war? Or are they just trying to stop being so damn melodramatic?

April 22, 2009


When throwback sneakers first made their comeback they were different and unexpected. There was a lot of ‘so bad it’s good’ cache that naturally accompanies the the changing cycle of fashion. The hip hop scene was littered with style trying too hard to look tough and dangerous. Black hooded jackets, baggy jeans and clunky Timberland boots were the hip hop uniform at the turn of the century.

Finally the hip hop scene was ready to start having fun again and started to adapt more color and fresher style. The vintage sneaker was a perfect fit (along with the throwback jersey, which hasn’t quite had the sneaker’s staying power).

The old school concept caught on and is now reaching it’s natural conclusion. In urban areas the old school sneaker has become the most common sneaker type. They have made the full leap that Converse All Stars made, from merely functional athletic shoe to pure fashion statement / causal wear. But All Stars have been fully ingrained into American fashion as much as Wingtips or Oxfords. Whether Nike Dunks can reach a similar level of sustainability or if they are just the style of the day is impossible to say. They don’t appear to be loosing steam any time soon, but it seems like a lot of people have turned away from the bright flashy style and are going to back to a more subtle look. It could be the modesty of the recession or just a backslash from the electro Summer of 2007, when bright colors and zany fashion were all the rage.

It’s crazy to think of the impact shoes like this made when they first came out in the early 80’s. Air Jordan’s, Air Force One’s, Reebok pumps, etc. These shoes changed the trajectory of footwear forever.

Do you think Converse All Stars made a similar impact when they dropped in 1917?

How many other clothing trends have inspired such intense reactions?

At what age does wearing street gear stop being cool?

October 7, 2008

Those who can’t do, teach. While Seth Godin has not created a fortune 500 company or created award winning marketing strategies, he is a tenured professor of 21st century marketing. This speach from the 2003 TED Conference, despite the fast moving nature of the branding industry, is more true than ever.

September 30, 2008


Is it cool to hate branding? Is advertising really detrimental to society? Can marketing be pure and enlightening or should we just give up and start neo-grunge anti-capitalistic rock bands?


Kids in the early 90’s really had it out for advertising. Was that just a backlash against the capitalism-as-religion Regan era while kids in the 00’s think it’s ok to brand because Bill Clinton was a cooler representative of the free marketplace? It does seem that branding has become a more accepted part of the counter culture. Have brands just done a better job of “cool hunting” and are therefore better equipped to attract the youth market? Or have some brands become legitimately cool to the point where they are creating culture instead of just capitalizing off it?

Where do you think culture comes from? Who’s ideas are those that matter? Are art and culture only important if they are not funded by a wealthy CEO? Does the word “corporate” immediately negate imagination? Is the mixture of commerce / art the ultimate American expression?


Comedian Bill Hicks (a representative of 90’s alternative cool) hated advertising:

Has branding changed since the 90’s or has our perception of branding changed? Is this change good / bad? Seth Godin believes in the positive power of marketing. His books discuss how the white lie of advertising is in the public’s best interest.

Where did the idea that branding is uncool / evil come from? Is it true?

Is branding an important art form of the 21st Century?

Are certain brands inherently cool / what makes them cool?

Can branding be punk rock?

September 22, 2008


Microsoft has joined the ad wars. Mac has finally gained enough popularity that Microsoft has come out of commercial obscurity to fight back. This is the first post-Seinfeld Microsoft ad that debuted during Sunday football. I’m not sure exactly why these people are PC’s but its good to see Microsoft poke fun at the overplayed Mac commercials.

I think this is great branding for Microsoft. First, it responds directly to Mac’s attack ads and offers an alternative and inclusive vision of the company. And secondly, the sentiment is true. Let’s not forget, PC’s are still the standard and are the computer of choice for a numerous and diverse group of people.

Is it possible that the Microsoft / Apple branding signifies something greater than just superior hard/software? Are Mac users (as Mac commericals suggest) pretentious assholes who look down on the PC user because s/he doesn’t have the right hoodie? Are PC users (like Mac commercials suggest) out of touch and boring, or is that just the stereotype Mac users denote to everyone who doesn’t fit in with the cool kids? Maybe what we’re arguing is whether the concept of “cool” has any real merit, or is it a meaningless badge of honor for those who favor exclusiveness to inclusiveness?

Are you a Mac or PC / why? I’m sure you have technical reasons to back up your choice of machine, but how much of your computer alliance is based on brand image? Are you cool / are computers cool? Is being cool important / does it ever dictate your consumer decisions?

September 20, 2008



I’m beginning to think Steve Jobs has more to do with American Apparel’s success and “cool factor” than Dov Charney. After all, who was it who introduced stylistic minimalism and bare utility to both America’s mainstream / alternative communities? Who was it who told us that less choices meant more freedom and intuitive simplicity begets clarity and efficiency? Apple and AA share the same ideals. Sometimes, Jobs insisted, one powerful button (hoodie) is worth more than an entire remote control (wardrobe). The kids are starting to agree.


Jobs’s wardrobe itself could be considered an early adoption of AA style. Jobs stripped down to his late period / classic look in 1999, losing the buttons and ties to commit to (like his products) one simple idea : black turtleneck, blue jeans, New Balance sneakers. This transformation took place in an era of ugly excess. The late 90’s were not a period of clarity in American pop culture. Spiky hair, baggy jeans, and rap-metal where sadly all too in. The culture and style were scattered and messy. Steve Jobs showed us the light.  Post-iPod, everybody wanted to look like this, simple, sleek, minimal yet bold:


If our style could be reduced to one or two colors and we vaguely resembled a silhouette, we were doing alright. American Apparel hand delivered this style to hip locations around the world at the precise time we were ready to buy into it.

Does AA = the iPod commercial look?

Will the acceptance of minimalism fade once Jobs is no longer able to carry the torch?

Are we living in the glory days of tech / fashion simplicity, or is this just the beginning of the sleek future people have always predicted?

Are we already sick of naked functionality / is the movement losing its impact?

I’m starting to think that Steve Jobs represents aesthetic innovation more than technological innovation. Will Steve Jobs go down as the greatest artist of the era? Why or why not?

September 18, 2008


People worship MJ / Nike for a reason.