Everytime we get a quarter of the poop deck clean, some RSS feed comes along and makes a mess, leaving us to swab it again. Here are some technological arrrrrr-ticles that will soon walk the plank:
- Banner Ads. One of the few articles I remember from Communications of the ACM was an article that discussed how ATM networks work: they collect all the information, and then it is bounce, bounce, bounce till they get the answer and it bounces back to you. It turns out that banner ad networks are similar, bouncing back in microseconds to get bids on what ad to show you. Always need to learn what happens behind the scenes.
- Windows 10. Speaking of behind the scenes, did you know that if you have a non-Windows 10 machines (i.e., Win7 or Win8), Microsoft has been using your disk storage and bandwidth to download the Windows 10 image just in case you decide to load it. I’ve confirmed they’ve done it on my machine — and I haven’t even reserved a copy of Windows 10. It’s not even clear if they keep that image up to date. If you are tight on disk space (it takes multiple gigs), you should learn about it and how to remove it.
- iPod Classic Update. Just a few items related to the iPod Classic. First, here’s a review of 5 of the best iPod Alternatives, as well as a writeup of yet another alternative (Tidal) to hit the market. Then again, you could just upgrade your iPod: Tarkan has just launched iFlash-Dual — an adapter that allows you to replace your hard disk with 2 SD cards (yes, you can do 2 x 256G). Given that my response there has provided me a connection in West Covina that can do the upgrade, I might do this at the end of the year. Supposedly, if I do, the next limit I’ll hit is the 60,000 song limit — remember, I’m already over 36,000 songs. (more on this upgrade here)
Music: The Sammy Davis Jr. Show: “Sam’s Song” (Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin)
And the process of clearing the accumulated links continues…. this collection looks at logos: those graphical elements that represent a company. It looks at some recent changes, some successes, some failures, and some what-ifs:
- The Google Logo. We’re all familiar with the colorful Google logo. On 9/1, Google changed their logo: they went to a sans-serif typeface, came up with some “in process” dots, and a new single character logo. Still clearly Google, but different.
- The Verizon Logo. Google isn’t the only company updating their logo. Verizon just updated their logo. Personally, I think it is ugly, but I didn’t like their logo before. I still remember when they were Air Touch Wireless. Yes, we’ve been a customer that long.
- The Tokyo Olympics. On the other hand, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics just announced, and then ditched, their logo after charges of plagiarism arose. This is what is called “Doing an NBC”. Why? Those of us who are old enough will remember when NBC changed their logo from the peacock to a stylized “N”… only to find that the logo belonged to Nebraska Educational Television (whom they had to pay off). This allows me to finally connect an article that’s been sitting on the links list for a while, about how you can’t copyright facts, but you can copyright fake facts. Especially in the Internet era, it is easy to pass of the factual investigation of someone else as your own. But if there is an intentional error in those facts, that error can be proof of plagiarism (as map people know from fake map places).
- Logo What Ifs. Lastly, here’s an interesting experiment. Take two logos. Swap the colors. Assess the impact. This is a great way to see the value and importance of color in a logo. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
A late lunchtime quick news chum, all having to do with raising revenue:
- TV is Everywhere. If you haven’t heard by now, McDonalds is introducing an in-store TV channel. Not only will this permit the occasional ad for McDs, but it will also permit them to sell advertising to other companies. This is nothing new: United Oil gas stations out here in SoCal have had a United Oil TV station for a while now.
- Advertising in the Air. Continuing on their path of selling everything, RyanAir and Spirit Airlines are selling even more advertising space on airplane. You’re now seeing ads on airplane tray tables, overhead bins, flight attendant’s aprons, snack boxes, napkins, and even safety videos. You can’t seem to escape them. Why? An additional revenue streams to drive profits.
- The Chevy Experience. Chevrolet is trying a different tact to bring people into its showroom: Treating the customer well. Chevy is working with Disney to improve the customer experience, in order for people to have positive experiences when buying a car or getting a car serviced. So, do nice auto dealerships make you go back.
- And The Post Office. The post office, on the other hand, is raising revenue they only way they know how. Postage prices are going up on January 22, 2012. First class mail will now be 45c. Get your forever stamps now.
Today’s lunchtime news chum is all about… food and marketing.
- Marketing Food on TV. We’ve all see commercials for restaurants where the food looks so appealing… yet when you get to the restaurant, it is so… blah. There’s a reason. It turns out there is a whole special segment of the creative market devoted to making food look good. These folks are responsible for the flying food through sheets of sugar, water, or whatever; responsible for making junk food look like it is actually edible; responsible for making those water droplets move just so. A fascinating read.
- Marking Food on the Road. An interesting article from the LA Times on the profusion of farmer’s stands on Route 152, Pacheco Pass. In this economy, it is a way for farmers to make extra money… and of course, the foodies have gotten into it.
- Marketing Food.. to a specific gender. Dr. Pepper has introduced a new product… which it is marketed to men only. Specifically, Dr. Pepper Ten, with 10 calories, is marketed as the drink for men who want to watch calories but wouldn’t touch something labelled diet. They are pulling out all the sexist stereotypes: Instead of the dainty tan bubbles on the can, Ten will be wrapped in gunmetal grey packaging with silver bullets. There’s a Dr Pepper Ten Facebook page for men only. TV commercials are heavy on the machismo, including one spot that shows muscular men in the jungle battling snakes and bad guys and appear to shoot lasers at each other, which states: “Hey ladies. Enjoying the film? Of course not. Because this is our movie and this is our soda. You can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks. We’re good.” Sigh. As a man, I actually find this offensive.
…and a bonus. As we’re talking about women and stereotypes: Here’s an interesting article about a Sikh custom called kesh, hair. Evidently, it is a Sikh religious precept that the body is a gift to be honored by leaving it in its natural state. Maintaining kesh, or hair, is one of the five articles of faith. However, today’s society (translate: the view of some men (I hesitate to say “many”, atlhough that is likely the case)) does not seem to like women with hair on any place other than their heads… and even there, only on selected places. This creates a problem for Sikh women, and the article explores this tension, and how they deal with the struggle. This reminds me of Mayim Bialik’s struggle to find a modest Emmy dress to fit with her goal to maintain traditional Jewish standards for modesty. I truly admire anyone who says: “This is my religious conviction, and I’m going to do what I need to do to follow it”. (Note, however, this this does not extend to the notion of “This is my religious conviction, and I’m going to force you to follow it.”)
It’s Friday… and not just any Friday (which is enough of a reason to celebrate)… it is the end of the Government Fiscal Year, and the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah (for those that observe two days). So, with a Happy FY11-12 to some, and a L’Shanah Tovah to others, let’s clear out those links. Note that I do plan a post on the excellent Erev Rosh Hashanah sermon given by Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik*, as soon as she puts it online.
- Gezundheit! The VC Star has an interesting article on ACHOO Syndrome, which causes people to sneeze when exposed to sunlight. It is a condition found in 10-35% of the population, and does have a genetic basis. It is also something that can be disruptive or dangerous. They don’t know why it happens.
- Gluten Free Everywhere! You may have noticed that gluten-free products are popping up everywhere these days (they used to be quite scarce). Reuters has an interesting article on the trend. According to the article, Euromonitor International forecasts 2011 gluten-free sales of $1.31 billion in the United States and $2.67 billion worldwide. Sales have more than doubled since 2005 and are expected to hit $1.68 billion in the United States and $3.38 billion globally in 2015. A number of examples are given. For example, in the donut chain “fonuts”, over half the sales are GF. General Mills Inc is a leader, having reformulated some Chex breakfast cereals, Betty Crocker cake and brownie mixes and Bisquick pancake mix to remove gluten. Anheuser Busch Inbev SA sells a gluten-free beer called Redbridge, which is sold in many mainstream supermarkets. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc for years has had a gluten-free menu and Subway, the popular sandwich chain, is testing gluten-free bread and brownies in Texas and Oregon. However, this could be a bubble. Trend chasers who have no medical reason to be on a gluten-free diet account for more than half of the daily consumption of gluten-free products, said Alessio Fasano, medical director at the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research.
- A Hallmark Moment. Hallmark has introduced unemployment condolence cards. The article doesn’t mention whether there’s a version provided where you can tuck in a check, which is what the unemployed person really needs.
- A Quiet Corner. Back in the early 1990s, I used to do a lot of travel to Washington DC… specifically to the McLean/Tysons Corners area. The Washington Post has an interesting article on the area, and its quest to become a real city. This includes moving beyond the business park, malls, and auto lots along Route 123 and Route 7 to a real walkable city core.
- Keep That Allen Wrench. You’ve probably thought that the most ubiquitious and annoying things on Earth were cockroaches and politicians. Ikea wants to add itself to that list: Ikea believes that as long as there’s human life on Earth, a strong Ikea has its worth. Planet Money summarizes a New Yorker article on the chain, noting the tricks of Ikea store design (such as ‘bulla bulla,’ in which a bunch of items are purposely jumbled in bins to create the impression of volume and, therefore, inexpensiveness), the problems at US plans, and the corporate song.
- College Planning. Lastly, something that makes me feel better for college app season. Seton Hall University is offering discounts for early applicants with strong academic credentials, giving them two-thirds off the regular sticker price for tuition, a discount of some $21,000. This is evidently part of a growing trend to go beyond need-based aid to where colleges give merit aid to get the students they really want. I hope this trend continues, for I know my daughter’s target colleges are going really want her!
*: For those who are curious: Rabbi Shawna’s sermon dealt with search engine results and how they are designed to give us what we want, and how that serves only to reinforce our beliefs, not challenge them. A really good subject, addressed well.
Today is Friday, and that must mean the lunch menu is news chum stew. Let’s see what tasty morsels are in today’s offering:
- The New York Times decides to incite an ages-old rivalry, making fun of the Los Angeles Times. Now, while I’ll admit it is a far cry from what it used to be under the Chandlers, it is still one of the best papers around (especially in its web form). So don’t go dissin’ my hometown paper, grey lady!
- The LA Times has a nice story on the question of what happened to Jackie’s pink hat after the assassination. The most interesting factoid for me is that her dress, still blood-stained, is in the national archives, but not releasable to the public until 2113. I find it hard to predict what our country will be like in 100 years.
- The NY Times has a nice piece on small bookstores, and how they are struggling to find their niche today. For browsing, there’s nothing I like better than a small or used bookstore. However, I still tend to turn for Amazon for many many things.
- The LA Times has a nice article on that food of the gods, French Toast, and all its variations.
- I’ve always been a fan of the NBC peacock, going back to my high-school days. So it is with some sadness that I note that the new NBCUniversal logo ditches the peacock, although evidently that’s only for internal corporate stuff. The peacock will be preserved for actual NBC stuff, just not for the parent corporate entity.
- Home Depot has a problem. They are perceived as man-oriented, so they are reaching out towards women. My suggestion. Instead of “The Best of Trading Spaces”, let’s bring back the show: figuring out how to decorate on a limited budget should have quite an appeal. However, keep it to the original basics: two rooms, two designers, $1000… and no Doug or Hildy!
- Can’t make it to the funeral. No problem. More and more they are being streamed online. There’s no better proof than the recent funeral of Debbie Friedman.
- Taco Bell has been in the news of late about their beef mixture, which they are attempting to turn into an advertising campaign. Lost in the news: what they had been promoting as “beef” or “meat” isn’t gluten-free (it contains oats, which is usually cross-contaminated unless carefully sourced). So, for those celiacs out there, you need to be more careful at Taco Bell.
Culled from recent news, here are some iconic deaths (well, most of them are):
- Mr. Goodwrench. Yup, GM is pulling the plug on the guy, giving him that ol’ pink slip. Seems that even a bailout couldn’t save his job. He’s on the unemployment line, being replaced with “Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac Certified Service”
- Sara Lee. At least on baked goods. Actually, the name isn’t dying, but the bakery operations of Sara Lee are being sold to Grupo Bimbo out of Mexico City. You might say the jobs are being outsourced to Mexico, only they aren’t. You can’t do that with bakeries. The jobs are staying local. This means that brands such as Rainbo, EarthGrains, IronKids will joins Bimbo’s other brands Orowheat, Entenmann’s, Boboli and Thomas’ English Muffins. Of course, for me, this just means more variety in the Bimbo Outlet just down the street from work.
- Mr. Peanut. OK, he’s not dead. He’s just getting a makeover. He’s gotten clothes (a gray wool, notch lapel three-button suit jacket accented with white piping, gray trousers, a white dress shirt with French cuffs and light green necktie, and a crisply folded triangle of white pocket square), as well as a voice (Robert Downey Jr.).
- Piggie Banks. In this case, it is the pig that is dead. Yup. One enterprising company is selling a piggie bank made from actual piglets. The pigs die of natural causes, are taxidermied, and then stuffed with a coin storage unit and a cork plug. Yours for only $4,000, with half of that due as a deposit.
I’m taking a quick late lunch break today, and I’d like to have a moment of silence for a brand that died yesterday: Pontiac.
Now, I never owned a Pontiac, but I do drive a Pontiac-clone: the Toyota Matrix. Or should I say the Pontiac Vibe was the clone, as Toyota designed the car. Therein lies the reason for the death of Pontiac: they went from a distinct brand with distinct vehicles with distinct characters to rebadging of other cars. But when Pontiac was unique, they made cars that were unparalleled. I remember their heyday in the 1970s, when they were known for their muscle cars.
In mourning this passing, I’d like to quickly muse on the life of brands. To me, at least, I love the notion of brands and advertising characters. I was pleased to see a recent Alka-Seltzer ad that brought Speedy Alka-Seltzer back to life. I still mourn the original NBC Peacock (who remembers the NBC “N”) and the NBC Chimes. I miss “Little Nipper” of RCA, and talk often about that little minx, Wendy. I guess this shows the power of advertising to turn these ideas into tangible things that we become attached to.
So, my LJ and FB friends, what are your favorite departed brands and advertising icons?