reinventing a brand

Unless you were (or like me, still are) a fan of new wave music, the name Mark Mothersbaugh may not be too familiar, but the frontman for the '80s cult band Devo just may know a thing or two about branding.

As detailed in the May issue of Wired, Mark has built quite a resume in the 15 years since Devo's last studio album was released, scoring nearly two dozen films, including Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and The Royal Tenenbaums. Advertising has also been good to Mark and the gang. The band's one chart-topper "Whip It" has been used in commercials for Gateway, Twix, Pringles, and most recently, Swiffer.

And now the band is poised for a comeback... well, sort of. The band has partnered with Disney to launch Devo 2.0, an ensemble of 10-to-13-year-old kids who perform nearly perfect renditions of Devo classics. The idea is to reinvent the band for a new generation, which sounds like a fairly novel strategy...

record labels

Saw this today on toothpaste for dinner and had a good laugh:


sunday scribblings

Found this site today (via Moleskinerie). It's managed by 2 writers - one in Portland and one in the UK. They provide a writing prompt every Friday, and you write a poem, essay, whatever you'd like by Sunday. The prompts so far have been: "What would you attempt if you knew you would not fail?", "Real life", "When we were wee...", and "Chocolate."

I'm in love with this for planner and personal reasons... 1. this a wonderful tool to get a glimpse into people's lives, as written responses to these broad-brush topics are so rich with life stories, and 2. what a great supplement to the APSW - helps us grow the writing skills. Happy scribbling.

branding colleges

Just came across this op-ed article on the trend of colleges starting to build themselves as a brand and think of their incoming students and prospects as customers.

It feels like this new generation of college customers is going to stir up the brands of universities enough so that traditions begin to splinter, and all that we're left with is a buffet of schools differentiating from the pack by offering a lower tuition or a higher ROI for their customer, i.e. higher-paying jobs after graduation.

Certain things schools are doing - updating old gyms or providing cafes for students - are great, but the line has to fall somewhere. Who can really say what he/she wants at 18? A check-plus/check-minus/etc. grading scale is what I would have wanted at that age, but that would not have worked out well in the long run...


happy birthday from hollywood

We got sidetracked in a meeting earlier today and I found out about this site: Hollywood Is Calling.

Pure genius.

the red pill

BusinessWeek's May 1 issue has an in-depth cover story on the growth of massively multi-player online games, which we wrote about a little over 2 months ago, based on this Wired article.

The BW article spends a lot of time talking about the avatar pictured to the left who is also mentioned in Wired, Anshe Chung, and how she has become the "Rockefeller of Second Life." Another success story of the virtual world is the computer programmer who created a puzzle-style game that caught on in Second Life, and now he has a deal in the works with a licensing company to bring his game to Nintendo and mobile phones.

Online BW has some great additions that didn't fit into the article. In this interview with the popular real estate queen, she's asked what makes her so successful in Second Life. Her answer shows her success is driven from her credibility and passion, but it also acts as a warning for any brands that may be thinking about entering these virtual worlds on a whim:

"One reason for my success here, I strongly believe, is that I am not only here for business. I am very deeply rooted in this world, like a real native person. Most people who just come here for money fail miserably. They are foreigners, act like foreigners, and lack deep understanding of this virtual country. Many of them are also lazybones who think you just need money to make more money. The truly successful people I know here all are deeply involved in life and society here too."

This interview with Edward Castranova, a telecommunications professor specializing in online gaming, offers more insight into the growth of games, and more warnings for over-commercialization:

"I'm also concerned that this commercial impulse could swallow up the separateness of these places. I would hate to see all that lost because of unregulated profit-seeking."

Down in the comments section there's a small discussion going, and one reader wrote in with this note regarding the merits of Second Life and other games:

"...I'll defend virtual life. I'm disabled, and unable to partake of many activities healthy people take for granted. Virtual life helps relieve the boredom, the frustration, of getting left behind. It's a way to stimulate my creativity, as well as to indulge myself in social interaction. Being a senior intensifies the experience, because in a society where older folk are cast off and trivialized after their health status fractures, this could become a valuable tool in restoring morale. I love my virtual life. Yes, I have a real life too, but have learned to balance with one foot in both dimensions."

As these games grow in popularity, we'll see some bumps along the way - what would the grey hairs on Capitol Hill would do if these games get hugely popular and the virtual stock exchange or currency systems stay unregulated yet successful for several years? What happens when the amount of real money changing hands rivals that of large corporations?

All this makes me think we're on the way to a virtual office society, where we just hang out at home in the pjs and log in to work via our avatars. The virtual/real world line will probably fall a little differently for every person, but we all will end up involved in a virtual life in some way or another. Hello, Web 3.0.



I had this article on Grups bookmarked for a couple of weeks and finally got around to reading it. You may have seen it already, but I think it's a great report on the budding cool-parent lifestyle.

If you don't have time to read the whole thing, this pretty much sums it up in a way that would have made Grant McCracken proud:

"Let’s start with a question. A few questions, actually: When did it become normal for your average 35-year-old New Yorker to (a) walk around with an iPod plugged into his ears at all times, listening to the latest from Bloc Party; (b) regularly buy his clothes at Urban Outfitters; (c) take her toddler to a Mommy’s Happy Hour at a Brooklyn bar; (d) stay out till 4 A.M. because he just can’t miss the latest New Pornographers show, because who knows when Neko Case will decide to stop touring with them, and everyone knows she’s the heart of the band; (e) spend $250 on a pair of jeans that are artfully shredded to look like they just fell through a wheat thresher and are designed, eventually, to artfully fall totally apart; (f) decide that Sufjan Stevens is the perfect music to play for her 2-year-old, because, let’s face it, 2-year-olds have lousy taste in music, and we will not listen to the Wiggles in this house; (g) wear sneakers as a fashion statement; (h) wear the same vintage New Balance sneakers that he wore on his first day of school in the seventh grade as a fashion statement; (i) wear said sneakers to the office; (j) quit the office job because—you know what?—screw the office and screw jockeying for that promotion to VP, because isn’t promotion just another word for “slavery”?; (k) and besides, now that she’s a freelancer, working on her own projects, on her own terms, it’s that much easier to kick off in the middle of the week for a quick snowboarding trip to Sugarbush, because she’s got to have some balance, right? And she can write it off, too, because who knows? She might bump into Spike Jonze on the slopes; (l) wear a Misfits T-shirt; (m) make his 2-year-old wear a Misfits T-shirt; (n) never shave; (o) take pride in never shaving; (p) take pride in never shaving while spending $200 on a bedhead haircut and $600 on a messenger bag, because, seriously, only his grandfather or some frat-boy Wall Street flunky still carries a briefcase; or (q) all of the above?"



On the radio this a.m. I heard an ad for 1-800-packrat, a moving and storage company. I was kind of intrigued by a company naming themselves with something that carries such a negative stigma to it. It reminds me of a name that laugh-track sitcom-type husbands and wives will pull out when fighting over who gets to keep what in the attic and what gets sold in the garage sale, etc.

I looked up the work on Urban Dictionary, and among the more not-safe-for-work definitions that came up was this one: "a person who stores anything they acquire and will discard none of it." Also found this Diary of a Packrat via google.

After just the brief amount of digging it doesn't look like packrat carries the same stigma that I thought it did - it's more of an identifier, almost a badge of honor. Kind of like people being self-proclaimed tech geeks or indie nerds... in the end, it's a great name for a moving/storage place.


the 'burgh

In Pittsburgh for groups and other research-y things. I'm dying to post some pics, but only have a little disposable 35mm camera - forgot the digital on this trip. Here are a few good ones of the city. Never been here until now, and it is gorgeous - big rivers, old yellow bridges with a ton of character, and beautiful gothic architecture downtown.

The most unanticipated thing I've seen is the amount of pride the citizens have for their city. And it's not about just the sports teams - even those that don't follow sports can't say enough good things about this place. It's been a fun few days so far.


junior planner wanted

This is the fastest way I know to get in touch with a bunch of you out there - my agency in Wash DC has a junior planner position open.

In the same vein as Fallon, I thought I'd see what the response was to this post. Get in touch w/ me and we'll talk.


patronizing the customer

I had an email waiting in my inbox today with "The $10,000 scholarship you didn't get. (But still could.)" as the subject line. This was from one of the reputable student loan companies out there. Not so bad, right?

I had to open the email just in case it was true, and the following language greeted me: "You might not be the fastest or the brightest but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a little help. It doesn’t matter whether you’re still in school or just living like you are. Enter now."

Ouch. There's no faster way to get me to unsubscribe. Am I taking this too seriously? Might just be the mood I'm in...