Monday, May 31, 2010

Low tech, High impact.

I saw this poster for a missing row boat nailed to a public bulletin board in Annapolis, MD. The drawing and written note were such a charming contrast to the computer generated notices that it stopped me. I almost took it, but didn't want to affect the outcome for the person looking for his boat. Hope he found it.

Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Like it? Get Used to it!

I'm always fascinated by how others handle rebranding projects. It's been especially fun to watch how a mega company like Starbucks is launching the rebranding of "Seattle's Best Coffee" and the controversy the new logo has whipped up. 

A lot of feedback came from a Seattle Times poll which was at best, a superficial "do you like this" runoff. 73% of respondents clicked the "they should try again" button. The Times did a disservice by focusing solely on the logo. Starbucks launched a whole new identity for this brand, not just a logo. 

When you look at the logo out of context, it's easy to say "I don't like it" or "it's too cold." But then look at it on a cup. Imagine that cup in people's hands and it has "across the room" or "across the street" appeal. It becomes something very different. And then you can see how they thought this through.

If Starbucks wanted to differentiate the "Seattle's Best" brand from themselves, they did a good job. It's opposite of Starbucks green. It may not be warm and friendly, but that's not what you expect from the fast food drive through. It's clean and modern, and it's headed to a Burger King near you. That's part of Starbucks' plan for world dominance.

From AMC theaters to Burger King, Starbucks plans to roll out Seattle's Best in over 30,000 locations. Like it or not, it looks like we're about to see a whole lot more of the red cup.

Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Finally Get Twitter

I haven't written much about social media, but I've read a whole lot about it. Mostly on Twitter links to blogs where it seems like every person in the media profession is now a "social media expert." I've come to the conclusion that social media is really another name for what a lot of regular people are already doing organically, and what a lot of media professionals are trying to get control of. Just watch teenagers on their phones for ten minutes. 

The thing is, you can have some influence, but you can't control social media. It's people chattering, talking to friends over the fence, the phone, and at the water cooler. Only now they have the tools to talk to a whole lot more people. And a lot faster. Someone likes a restaurant (or not) and Tweets about it or posts a message on Facebook. The restaurant stands to reap more customers through this "word of mouth" or depending on the situation, lose them in one swipe. United Airlines can throw millions into PR and social media, but they can't control the one pissed off traveler, smart phone in hand, who's flight was cancelled, and is just looking for something to Tweet about. People have to tell the truth. If you're not authentic, you'll be exposed and gutted and grilled for dinner. That's social media at work. 

We're in the middle of a huge shift in the media world. We're watching a change in who controls the message. No one knows how it will all shake out, but it's fascinating to watch (and participate in). Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others might be here in five or ten years. Or maybe not. They might be replaced with the next thing. But social media is here to stay. Gossip and chatter is human nature. And the public will save us from the "experts."

Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.

Monday, May 10, 2010

An Analog World

Want to listen to some Jazz music? The invitation came from an elderly neighbor on a muggy Spring night a couple of years ago. He was in his very late 90s, and his wife had died a few months earlier. He was always kind of dapper, often wearing bow ties and resembling a smaller version of KFC's Colonel Sanders. For years, he walked the neighborhood, usually in the evenings with his wife, before her health deteriorated.

So I went down the street to his house to listen to his music. As I walked up his porch steps from the street, I could hear blaring from one of those furniture sized, 1960s vintage "hi-fi" stereos. It was too loud for him to hear my knocking so I walked in. He was playing big band music, oblivious to the fact that the player speed was set at 45 rpm for a 33 rpm record. There was a speedy quirkiness to the sound that can be described as both fun and creepy. I switched it to the correct speed as he came out into the living room from his kitchen, offering me Oreos from a package. It occurred to me that this had probably become his normal dinner fare since his wife passed. We listened to a few records, and he told me about what he did before he retired. He had worked as specialist in archival paper for the federal government. Which as someone with a deep background in print design, I found fascinating. When I got home I thought about how paper was going the way of vinyl records and becoming obsolete in the digital world. It seemed that way for most things you can hold in your hands. As the Summer wore on, when I did see him out walking--which was less often, he seemed to be increasingly confused about where he was. Late one night he walked into my kitchen through the side door thinking he was home. I escorted him to his house a few doors away.

He's gone now, but I thought about him this week while going through a trove of old LP records -- classics from the late 60s through the 70s. When I found them, I thought I'd rip them into my iTunes collection, maybe burn some to CDs, then get rid of the cumbersome collection of 12 inch albums. I got a USB turntable -- a device designed to digitize old records, so you can make CDs, put them on your iPod, ect. It came with software that magically removes the pops and cracks from the records. But, as I started to play and record the old Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Elton John and others, those imperfections became part of the sound that made them unique.

The real value in the old records isn't just in the music. It's in the anticipation of those first few seconds of scratchiness after you drop the needle onto the vinyl. And the pops and cracks that come at different times on every record. And the square foot of artwork that envelops each. The songs aren't just file names for code on a hard drive. They're physical impressions etched in vinyl. Digital media is great. It's crisp. It's precise. It's clean. You can play it, send it, share it and copy it. You can do anything you want with it. Except hold it in your hands.

Copyright 2010, Bremmer & Goris Communications, Inc.