Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Daily sex

Every so often, a research study comes along which actually contains good news--that something you like doing is actually good for you.

A new study by Dr. David Greening of Sydney IVF, an Australian center for infertility and in vitro fertilization, says that having sex every day improves the quality of men's sperm and is recommended for couples trying to conceive. Until this research, doctors have debated the merits of whether or not men should refrain from sex for a few days before attempting to conceive with their partner to improve the chance of pregnancy.

Methinks men around the world who are trying to become a father are smiling.

Monday, June 29, 2009

On this date in history

- Two years ago, the i-Phone was launched by Apple and AT&T. Millions of devices later, the phone is one of the more iconic consumer devices marketed over the past 20 years.

- Show of hands--who broke the four-minute mile barrier and when? For those non-track aficionados, the answer is England's Roger Bannister who accomplished the then amazing feat in 1954. Few, however, remember the two other track-and-field barriers which fell on this date two years after Bannister's achievement. Both events took place at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Los Angeles. First, Glenn Davis broke the 50-second mark in the 400-meter hurdles, clocking in at 49.5 seconds. Later that same day, Charles Dumas became the first man to high jump seven feet. Like the four-minute mile, both marks were considered major barriers for any athlete to overcome. Today, 47 seconds is the standard to beat in the 400-meter hurdles--only one man, Kevin Young, has done it with a 46.78 seconds in 1992. And, Javier Sotomayor took the high jump to a new level when he, in 1993, became the first guy to jump eight feet. Records are, indeed, made to be broken...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The week that was

Has there been a more tumultuous week in pop culture than the week of June 22?

- Michael Jackson, Farah Fawcett and Ed McMahon--all three pop culture figures of different times and impact--pass away.

- Jon and Kate--made into pop culture figures by the media--decide to separate, and their TV series gains record ratings as a result.

- Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James are united at the Cleveland Cavaliers given the Cavs' acquisition of Shaq from the Phoenix Suns.

- And, in the infedility arena, a South Carolina governor goes to Argentina before coming home to confess, a Nevada Senator confesses to an extra-marital affair and an Italian prime minister does not remember meeting a woman who claims to have been paid to spend the night with him.
Quite a week...

Will there ever be another Jackson or Fawcett?

David Segal, in today's New York Times, suggests that there may never be another pop icon like Michael Jackson or Farah Fawcett. And, the reason? The fractured state of media consumption around the world...

When Jackson rose to fame, he sold over 100 million copies of one album, "Thriller." Today, CD sales have plummeted as consumers have grown used to buying individual songs via i-Tunes, other paid services, or music pirating. The past success of MTV was linked with Jackson's rise to fame but that cable outlet no longer is known for playing videos--it's reliant upon original (reality) programming, and has suffered as a result. Even Fawcett's ubiquity in the 1970's (over 10 million copies of her poster were sold) is a past phenomenon given the number of websites and magazines where young (and old) men can find photos of women of choice.

The point is that the number of options available to consumers today--the web, YouTube, social networking sites, online music and the like--makes it unlikely that we'll ever see the rise of one personality who crosses over all of these outlets and grows to the level of stardom as that reached by Jackson, or even Fawcett.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The fallout continues from Jackson's death

A second autopsy is being requested by the family of Michael Jackson. Jackson's estate has all kinds of assets but also loads of debt. No one knows what he may have left--or not--for his children.

On top of all this drama is the story of how Jackson's death has impacted other companies and individuals with ties to the pop star. For example, one looming question is the plight of AEG Live, the concert promoter handling Jackson's planned London concerts. AEG invested $20 million to produce the concerts and has sold more than $80 million in tickets. Even though the concert promoter has insurance on the shows, no one knows what the basis of their claim might be.

Consider also the impact that Jackson's death will have on sales of his music. In a perverse way, his death will only spur interest in his music and videos, thus prompting revenue for those companies involved.

Strap in, readers, because this story will continue to play out in the press in the days and weeks to come.

Sprint and GSP win Gold Lion

Sprint and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners won the Gold Lion for Integrated Campaign at the Cannes Advertising Festival today. It is advertising's highest honor and rewards the agency's and client's effort on the Now Network campaign.


Friday, June 26, 2009

King of Pop crashes internet

The biggest pop culture story of the past decade has crashed the internet. News of Michael Jackson's death caused several sites to crash yesterday including the social network of Twitter.


The story of Jackson's death, combined with the same-day passing of Farrah Fawcett, quickly became another social networking phenomenon. Not only did the news cause Twitter to crash, but Facebook posts were consumed with thoughts about Jackson and Fawcett.

All of this caused today's quote of the day by Twitter-user FoieGrasie, "The protesters in Iran using Twitter...are unable to get online because of all the posts of 'Michael Jackson RIP'."

The King of Pop's impact certainly did not die with him.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Goodbye Michael and Farrah

This isn't meant to be morbid but has there been a day in pop culture to rival today's dual deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson? Fawcett lost her long-time battle to cancer while Jackson passed away due to heart complications.

Fawcett was 62; Jackson was 50. Combined, they changed the way society considered beauty, sex, music, dance, the relationship between pop stars and the media, and our infatuation with the talented and the troubled.

Mid-week musings

- Have you noticed the overabundance of '60s-era language and visual imagery that's prevalent in major marketing campaigns this summer? Macy's is promoting a "Summer of Love" and ABC used that same theme for The Bachelorette, i.e., "this will be this bachelorette's 'summer of love.'" Note to everyone--the real "Summer of Love" occurred in 1967.

- Speaking of the '60s, Joe Cocker is performing at Ameristar Casino on Saturday. It's worth watching the newly released and remastered DVD of "Woodstock" to see Cocker's performance of "A Little Help from My Friends." You can see the inspiration there for John Belushi's dead-on portrayal of Cocker several years later on Saturday Night Live.

- Jon & Kate Sep-A-Rate. I'm just sayin', it could be an interesting new show.

- Carly Simon turns 64 today. Her classic "You're So Vain" topped the charts in 1972 and led to much speculation as to the subject of the song ("you're so vain/I bet you think this song is about you.") Most suspected that Warren Beatty or Mick Jagger--former Simon lovers--were the likely culprits but, to this day, Simon has never admitted about whom the song was written.

- Finally, let's give it up for the U.S. Mens Soccer Team. Down for the count last weekend in the Confederations Cup, the U.S. has rallied to stay in the tournament and yesterday beat Spain, the reigning European Champion, 2-0. It is the U.S.' first appearance in a FIFA soccer final since starting play in 1916. Amazing stuff...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thanks, Ed

Let's give a shout-out today to Ed McMahon. Ed died yesterday at the age of 86.

For years the sidekick of Johnny Carson on late-night television, McMahon defined the role which was later imitated by those who rode alongside Jay, Conan, Dave and others. McMahon's famous laugh and "hi-yo" were trademarks which became a part of popular culture, as did his introductory "Here's Johnny!"

It's a bit ironic that McMahon's death comes on the heels of the change in late-night programming and the Letterman/Palin controversy of recent weeks. McMahon and Carson starred in a time when late night really was about the conversations and less about the staged video bits. His death completes the passing of the torch from that generation to the current crop of late-night talk show hosts.

Personally, I miss the old late night...

Award-winning advertising

Jeff Goodby, co-founder of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, writes a provocative piece today in AdAge.com on the chasing of awards in the advertising business.


I found the question posed by one of the posters on Jeff's column very interesting and thought-provoking: "Is it even possible in 2009 for an ad to be famous the way ads were in 1979? The audience is gone: back then, more than 90% of viewers watched network TV in prime time. Today, it's less than 32%. We still watch TV, but we're also in a billion digital places at once..."

The question does beg the question, can there even be a "where's the beef" (Wendy's) equivalent ad campaign in the new century? Or, are media habits so fragmented that the well-known campaigns from prior decades are mere memories of what advertising used to be?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reflections after a weekend in Sonoma

- Sonoma is a terrific place to visit. I mean, the whole culture revolves around good food and good wine. What's not to like?

- Sonoma hosts a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Infineon Raceway--it's one of two road course events during the NASCAR season. That, combined with the setting, makes this a very non-NASCAR-like event.

- Favorite wineries visited: Del Dotto, Napa--what terrific Cabernets! And, Vine Cliff winery--not so much for the wine but for the spectacular lunch and view.

- They're everywhere--we spotted a "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" t-shirted kid in one of the restaurants we visited in Sonoma and chatted with him and his father. This California high-school junior has the University of Kansas as his favorite probable college.

- It was great to see The King, Richard Petty, back in the winner's circle after the Sonoma race. Richard Petty Motorsports fielded the winning team (Kasey Kahne) and had three entries in the top ten finishers.

- The U.S. Open was a disappointment due to the weather--Bethpage Black was not its usual unforgiving self due to the heavy rains.

- A belated Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

Race cars going clockwise

Did you know that yesterday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race is the only one on the circuit where the race cars move in a clockwise direction? The Sonoma race is one of only two road course races in NASCAR and the only race which is not counterclockwise.

There are various theories involved as to why but the most probable is that racetracks which were made to international standards have their races run clockwise, just like Formula One racing, the premier international racing series. This, of course, raises the question—why are NASCAR races counterclockwise? One much-written theory says that NASCAR goes counter because that’s how horse races were conducted…and many of the first auto races were held on horse tracks.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sign of the apocalypse

A woman in California filed a lawsuit because she thought the "Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries" cereal she purchased contained "crunchberries." You see, she thought "crunchberries" were real fruit. Much to her chagrin, she found that the "crunchberries" were actually brightly colored cereal balls.

Not surprisingly, the judge dismissed the lawsuit.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"People don't forget about this place. It becomes a part of their life forever."

Those words were written by Dr. Bob Frederick in a column posthumously published today in the Lawrence Journal-World. They were written by Frederick about the University of Kansas.


Frederick, of course, died this past week from injuries suffered in a bicycle accident in Lawrence. He was 69. The long-time Athletics Director and faculty member at KU leaves a legacy of caring, humility and genuineness which touched the lives of many.

He will be missed. And, his life is indeed a part of the University of Kansas forever.

Frederick's memorial service is today at the Lied Center in Lawrence.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Save Pontiac?

General Motors is planning to sell three of its brands and kill one--Pontiac. But, in a new survey from an online car community called CarGurus, the Pontiac brand was chosen as the one consumers would like GM to keep.

Nearly 1,700 respondents participated--44% of them named Pontiac while 27% said Hummer, 20% Saab and 9% picked Saturn.

Pontiac was credited with starting the "muscle car" craze with the 1964 GTO, so maybe that nostalgia is behind consumers' reactions. What's surprising to me is that so many selected Hummer, a gas-guzzling, poor driving machine. And, what happened to Saturn's former appeal as "a different kind of car company?"

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday morning quarterbacking

Yes, I know--it's now Monday afternoon, but there is still time left in the day for a bit of second-guessing and re-capping from the weekend.

- Let's hear it for the old dudes. Mark Martin, at 50 the oldest driver on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, won the 38th victory of his career at Michigan Speedway yesterday by outlasting Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle, both of whom ran out of fuel on the last lap. It was a fun ending.

- Eddie Murphy now appears to have two consecutive bombs on his hands. After "Meet Dave" disappointed last year, his new film, "Imagine That" opened this past weekend with a paltry $5.7 million in ticket sales.

- Say what you want about Phil Jackson, but the dude can coach. Yes, I know he had Jordan and Pippen and Shaq and Kobe on his championship teams. But, he also had guys like Bill Cartwright, Steve Kerr, and Luke Walton on his squads--not bad players but guys who Jackson coached to understand their role. His 10 championships is an NBA record--and winning 10 championships in anything is impressive.

- No, the term "Blue Monday" does not refer to the depression many feel when they have to go back to work. The term "Blue Monday" started because the first day of the work week used to be set aside for doing the laundry. Bluing was used to keep white clothes from becoming gray and dingy. From that product, the term "Blue Monday" emerged. See, you can learn interesting stuff from this space!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bob Frederick

As usual, Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski hits it out of the park. Posnanski's column today on the death of Bob Frederick is a touching tribute to a friend and colleague.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Analog to Digital switch

Here's proof that no matter how much press and advertising support is placed around a newsworthy item, there is still a substantial portion of the public who won't "get it."

Nearly 700,000 people called a federal hotline this week, confused about the nationwide switch from analog to digital TV. The switch occurred yesterday.

According to the FCC, nearly 30 percent of the calls were about how to operate the digital coverter boxes needed to receive signals on older TVs.

It will be interesting to see if sales of televisions spiked this past week since now all hardware will be digital-ready.

Saturday morning coffee

- Quote of the day: Former President George H.W. Bush, the elder, who after sky-diving on his 85th birthday said, "Just because you're old doesn't mean you need to be sitting over in the corner drooling." Happy Birthday--and go get 'em, Mr. President!

- Quote of the day II: From former First Lady Barbara Bush who explained to a journalist that Bush's sky-dive took place over a Kennebunkport, ME church so that they wouldn't have far to go should the former President not survive the fall. (I'm pretty sure she was kidding...)

- Our condolences go out this morning to the family of Bob Frederick, former Athletics Director at the University of Kansas. Bob died from injuries sustained Thursday in a fall from his bicycle; he was 69. I had the good fortune of working with Bob earlier in my career. He was a kind, gentle, soft-spoken man who was smart, conscientious, a good father and a caring soul. We will miss him.

- Conan O'Brien did a spoof last night on the surprise visits that Bob Hope used to make to The Tonight Show when Johnny Carson was host. It made me realize again how much I miss Carson and the quality, and unpredictability, of that late-night programming.

- Kids, the new Palm Pre, exclusively from Sprint, is the real deal. Seriously, it's a terrific smartphone--go get one now.

- It's the Olsen twins birthday today. I just thought you'd be interested. OK...I'm sorry for bringing it up.

- Jamie Foxx announced that negotiations are underway for him to star as Mike Tyson in a possible Tyson biopic. And, in the biopic space, still no word on who will star as Frank Sinatra in a planned film on the singer's life.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Microsoft versus Google

Here is an interesting story on Microsoft Bing, the new "decision engine," versus tried-and-true Google and that brand's pervasive search offering.


T.G.I.F. musings

Last night's TV fare highlighted why the summer months are hit-and-miss in the programming department.

Perhaps the most entertaining content of the evening was over on Bravo. How many have watched The Fashion Show? Goodness, where do they find these people who are "contestants?" Merlin is a real-life incarnation of Chris Kattan's "Mango" character from SNL and Johnny R. is what John Belushi would have looked like had he done "Samurai Fashion Designer." As we've written before, this knock-off on Project Runway is not even in the same league as the Heidi Klum/Tim Gunn-hosted version on Lifetime.

Prior to The Fashion Show last night was a "reunion" show for Real Housewives of Orange County. It's the first time I've caught even a few minutes of the show--lots of big blond hair. And, the Mom whose solution to her daughter's desire to go into the military--"why don't we take a trip to Greece!?" Huh?

Cruising the channels, we had a special on fast food joints in the U.S. on one of the food networks. The first vignette focused on a doughnut shop in Portland, OR where marriage ceremonies are also performed. Interesting and entertaining. The next, though, was a segment on a Sonic in Tyler, TX. OK, so the carhops skate out to the cars. But, it's a Sonic! Not exactly unique.

My point--Mad Men, Runway and other quality summer programming can't come soon enough. The third installment of Mad Men begins in August as does Runway. I wish it was sooner...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Danica and NASCAR?

The rumors are growing that Danica Patrick will take her non-championship Indy Race League record and high-profile endorsement personality--and looks--to NASCAR next season. Patrick's contract with Andretti Green Racing ends at the conclusion of this season and she has done little to squelch speculation that she will make the move to America's premier race car series.


Ellerbe Becket versus Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry would probably claim the title of the most famous living U.S. architect. His buildings are known throughout the world and have become tourist attractions. These famous works include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; the Experience Music Project in Seattle; Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles; and the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis. And, his private residence in Santa Monica, CA is another of his more famous structures.

Yet, Gehry is on the outside looking in once again when it comes to sports architecture--and a Kansas City-based architectural firm.

You may recall that Gehry was involved in the initial discussions on the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO before the city ultimately chose a "dream team" of architects from local firms. (Kansas City is the acknowledged home of sports architecture given the headquarters status of Populous--formerly HOK Sport + Venue + Event--Ellerbe Becket and others.) It is now Ellerbe Becket who has wrestled business away from Gehry.

The new Nets (NBA) arena in Brooklyn was designed by Gehry but Forest City Ratner, the developer, recently scuttled plans for the design and went with a new approach provided by Ellerbe Becket. That decision has not set well with some including Nicolai Ouroussoff, a writer for the New York Times, who blisters the developer on this change in direction.

Ouroussoff writes that the decision "...is not just a blow to the art of architecture. It is a shameful betrayal of the public trust, one that should enrage all those who care about this city."

To read more, here is the story:

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quick Hits

For the non-sports fan, the following may not have huge interest for you so you can turn away now and I won't be offended.

Catching up in the world of sports, and entertainment too:

- Kobe Bryant's ex-maid wants to spill the beans about Bryant and his wife, Vanessa. We're not sure what those beans are but chances are they would be extra-juicy, which is why Bryant is exercising the confidentiality agreement in place between the couple and the former maid, Maria Jiminez.

- John Daly tried to quality for the U.S. Open but failed. It was Big John's first appearance in the U.S. since the PGA Tour suspended Daly for six months. According to a recent story in Golf World, Daly has been playing on the European Tour. He also signed another endorsement deal, this with a maker of shall we say "loud" golf pants and attire. John has never shied away from making his torso a walking billboard, invoking the NASCAR style of sponsorship marketing and brand placement.

- Kansas football fans will be brunching at their tailgate parties this fall. The Jayhawk schedule already has two morning games on the home slate--Duke at 11:00 a.m. on September 19 and Southern Mississippi at 11:30 a.m. on September 26.

- The question in the NBA Playoffs is not whether or not the Lakers will win the championship but whether Orlando will win a game in the best-of-seven series.

- Happy 70th birthday to college basketball's biggest ambassador, Dick Vitale. While watching Vitale do a college game has almost become unbearable, his love for the sport and passion for the college game is undeniable.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Road trip

There's nothing like hitting the open road and seeing America, is there?

Uh, not so fast there, buster. Observations from a weekend road trip:
- Don't trust Mapquest. Repeat--don't trust Mapquest.
- "Drive friendly, the Texas way." Yeah, right...that 90-mile-an-hour on Highway 75, weaving in-and-out of traffic--very, very friendly.
- Did you know the parking meter was invented in Oklahoma? Yeah, I didn't either. But, it said it, right there on that sign on I-35. Must be so...
- Isn't a turnpike meant to be a highway where you pay money but can go fast and not stop frequently? That's not the experience on the George Bush Freeway in Dallas.
- I wish there was a Braum's close by...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Anniversary of Normandy invasion

Today is the 65th anniversary of the greatest invasion in military history--the day when Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Omaha, Juno and Sword at Normandy on the French coast, beginning the effort which would ultimately lead to the defeat of Germany in World War II.

Let's give thanks today to those U.S. "citizen soldiers"--those many men who left jobs, schools, wives, children and families to fight to save the world from tyranny. May their stories not be forgotten.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ron

Happy Birthday wishes to Ron Livingston, who turns 42 today. Livingston is the ex-Sprint pitchman who is best known for his role as Jack Berger in the Sex and the City television series. Berger, of course, is the guy who infamously broke up with Carrie Bradshaw via a sticky note. Not good form, Jack...

Livingston is currently in production on Salesmen, a 2010 movie which also stars Steve Buscemi, Martin Landau and Steve Zahn.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Quick Hits

- Manchester United, the New York Yankees of European football (or soccer), is changing the primary sponsor of its players’ jerseys. In European football, primary sponsors occupy the coveted spot on the front of player jerseys—a practice which has not yet caught on in the U.S., although the WNBA is considering it. AIG had been the previous sponsor on Man U’s unis but the spot, beginning next season, will be taken by Aon, a Chicago-based financial services company. AIG’s previous deal with Man U was for $93 million over four years.

- Sign of the apocalypse: The season opener of Jon & Kate Plus 8, on TLC, drew 9.8 million viewers on Monday night. That is up from the 4.6 million who viewed the previous episode.

- In case you missed it, Sasha Baron Cohen’s entrance, as Bruno, at the MTV Movie Awards. Cohen, err Bruno, in bare-bottomed pants dropped onto Eminem at the ceremony, causing the hip-hop celeb to storm out of the auditorium. Word out today is that the stunt was actually staged and not spontaneous.


- Dollar General’s 1st quarter earnings jumped to $291 million, up from $182.7 million a year ago. Profits for the discount retailer went from $5.9 million a year ago to $83 million for the quarter! As these results showcase, Dollar General is one of the few retailers benefitting from the economic downturn. Rivals Family Dollar Stores and Dollar Tree have also performed well.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Casey at the Bat

In honor of the anniversary of this well-known poem, and given it's baseball season, we say "Happy Birthday" to "Casey at the Bat." The poem, penned by Ernest Thayer, first appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on June 3, 1988. The poem was so well known, and loved, that a U.S. stamp featuring Casey was commissioned in 1996.

Here, on its anniversary, is "Casey at the Bat."

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day;
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that -
We'd put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile on Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And it's likely they'd a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shown;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two."

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville— mighty Casey has struck out

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mid-week musings

- What is it about working in an airport security job that is a license to be surly, slow and generally unlikeable? I know that's a sweeping generalization but, c'mon--how many nice airport security folks have you met?

- If anyone doubted the power of NFL programming, take notice that the Emmy Awards announced that they have moved their telecast up a week, to September 13, to avoid a direct conflict with an NFL double-header.

- Mad Men doesn't start Season Three until early August. Argh...

- Target announced a partnership with Daily Candy, the email newsletter and website which covers fashion and pop culture. The retailer has called this partnership Red Hot Shop, which will be a special section at target.com. The site will feature products from up-and-coming designers, articles and artwork--all from the editors of Daily Candy.

- Have you checked out Microsoft's new search engine, Bing? The venture is designed to cut into Google's wide lead in search but it's hard to imagine ever saying "I'll Bing it."

- Quote of the day: Jeff Zucker, president and chief executive of NBC Universal, in an interview with Wall Street Journal, "Apple is the only people in the world that get to set both the wholesale and the retail price." Zucker's quote had to do with Universal's pricing dispute with i-Tunes.

- What do Bono and the Palm Pre have in common? Bono is co-founder of Elevation Partners, a private equity firm that has a 25% stake in Palm. The financial support of Elevation Partners was used to help fund development of the Pre, the new smartphone, exclusively from Sprint, which will launch in the next few days.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Titanic's final death

The oldest known survivor of the Titanic died on Sunday. Millvina Dean, who was all of two months old when the ocean vessel hit an iceberg in waters off Newfoundland in 1912, passed away in a nursing home in London at age 97.

Dean was lowered into a lifeboat on that April night and survived along with her mother and two-year old brother. Her father was one of the more than 1,500 passengers and crew who perished in the disaster.

The fate of General Motors

It’s hard not to consider today’s news about the bankruptcy protection for General Motors without thinking back to the now infamous quote by Charles Wilson, president of this automobile conglomerate in the 1950’s. Wilson, at the time, said “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” This saying became synonymous with healthy big business benefiting the overall health—and wealth—of the United States. My, how times have changed…

So, even though it was uttered over 50 years ago, this week's quote of the week honors goes to Charles Wilson, former president of GM.

Changing brand identies

Have you noticed that some major brands are going through major brand identity changes? The New York Times published a summary of identity changes currently in the works in yesterday's edition, noting that the new logos are trending towards "warmer, fuzzier."


War-Mart is the most visible brand which is changing. The world's largest retailer is replacing its all-capitals logo with a lighter blue, upper/lower case naming and a "spark" (their word--not ours) visual identifier after the name.

Kraft Foods is also changing. They've gone to an all-lower case approach on the name and a whimsical "flavor burst" (again, not our words) at the end, along with the line "Make Today Delicious."

An interesting trend seems to be the nod towards green/the environment. Many brands who are undertaking change have incorporated the color green, or blue, along with a visual identifier (e.g., a leaf on grocer SuperFresh's logo) which indicates environmentally-friendly.

Typically, changing one's brand identity is meant to improve differentiation. By heading the same direction, many of these brands now risk looking the same.