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    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    The Recycling Economy

    Businessweek has an interesting article about Sony's announcement to start a recycling program. What makes this an extraordinary program, was that it was started internally and mapped out a potential revenue generating pipeline from its own discarded wares. It seems these days a company's best ideas come from the outside. (yes i can speak to this being a consultant)

    The program's goal is to offset every new product in the US, lb for lb. Sony has partnered with Waste Management Inc, one of the largest refiners of used materials. The brand will ask people to donate goods at 75 centers in 18 states. The goal is to expand to 1000. The kicker is Sony products are free, and other brands are received for a fee.

    Really what caught my eye was the fact that an electronics brand was treating recycling as a business, not a facet of consumer behavior. Much of this has probably started because consumer awareness over waste, particularly e-junk has soared in the last few years. Thats not a bad thing, but as this has happened a new economy has been generated. Economies aren't just created through the sales of products, but their deaths as well.

    States used to pay for returning bottles, but now Minnesota charges for curbside pickup and California adds $6-10 fee on retailers for all new electronic/appliances. New York City, the anomaly as always, has homeless people that make a 'living' solely on recycling goods for money. Product cycles are changing as brands and corporations become more transparent. Your product is accountable from conception to development to usage to endgame.

    Think about the product-consumer relationship. Products sells, corporations receive sales, pay off debts and the rest is profit(assuming they have balanced the check book). In the digital age of transparency, now the entire product's lifecycle has to be considered. The rules have changed because companies are responsible for their products not only outside its intended use, but in greater scales such as locally, globally and future generations.

    Producers certainly don't make products like they used to, but they may not be necessary in the age of Moore's law. We replace phones every few years, tvs every half-decade or so, and so on. Its almost a rule of thumb that new hard drive would only last a few years. Purely speculation, but companies might be considering this more and more when they create things these days.

    Think about the existing product lifestage:
    -Manufacturing & sale

    Really brands only profit from the first, and less so from the second part of the cycle.

    Beta brands and better brands in general have multiple touch points for consumer relationships. Most often brands work so hard on the sell, sell, sell and less so once the product has been bought. Ok i have your money, now what? Beta brands tend to do a good job keeping in touch with consumers, by opening dialogues which in turn can open multiple revenue streams. Just look at all the social/networking thingies that have arisen to be the new Silicone Valley. But how often are brands able to capitalize when a consumer has thrown away a product and ended the direct relationship? At that point brand trumps product in a rare instance, but how can a brand have influence over a product relationship? Especially a defunct one?

    Integrating a relationship into the post-ownership of a product creates a brand that is not only more regal and above typical transparent branding efforts, but one that is truly rooted in the cause of the post-ownership relationship. In this case its recycling and do-good for the earth. I'm not sure why more brands haven't capitalized on this "do the right thing" mentality, other than profits often go out the window.

    Is the recycling economy one of the next big areas for innovation? Possibly. If more brands consider the lifecycle of their product, we just might have less waste and live in a better place. Additionally new economies can be created through the retrieval and re-usage of potentially valuable materials. Everyone would like to believe their product will last forever or is the last tv they ever buy, but brands must consider what happens to the product after consumption. Brand responsibility should be something that everyone preaches.


    Tuesday, September 25, 2007

    The War - A Ken Burns Flick

    Ken Burns is back with the story of World War II as told through 4 distinct American towns. Truly an extraordinary time in American history, one that propelled us to an isolationist country to one of the most powerful nations in the world. More than just a look at the second great war, Burns' current views are thinly veiled in this. This seven part series is airing on the wonderful, yet forgotten PBS. See why the 'greatest generation' earned its name, and an unbelievably raw look at the lives of Americans when we didn't censor caskets or what was really happening.

    Anyone familiar with Burns exquisitely thorough and storyteller style, can instantly pick up the roll of this new series. Preliminary figures for "The War" premier exceeded all but three of Burns' previous series: "The Civil War" (1990), "Lewis & Clark" (1997) and "Baseball" (1994), PBS said. Burns calls this his best work to date. A stunning look at Americana when war was seen through a different lens.


    Thursday, September 20, 2007

    Halo 3: First Impressions

    I have a friend with a relationship with the big M and was lucky enough to take a spin on an advance copy of Halo 3. A few quick and dirty thoughts.....

    Is utterly amazing I have to say…..Give you a little lowdown without giving anything away. Definitely found myself looking at all the little graphical enhancements. My friend asked if it was as pretty as Gears, and while I don’t know at first, the little details on everything from plants swaying to the rusty guardrails really popped. It could be better, because I haven’t played too many games in HD yet, but the graphics were well above the beta. I would put it up there with some of the best ever on xbox360. Oh and the explosions are incredible. They seem completely unscripted even though I know they cant be.

    Gameplay was very tight, similar to the beta, but they definitely tweaked it a bit. Will let you discover that for yourself. Level design (so far) is super sharp, definitely better than 2, reminiscent more so of the first one. A.I. is waaay better, all the way through the little guys(grunts), who are braver and more accurate. I have definitely had some tough moments, and i'm 5 chapters in…Some of the battles are on a grand scale, which was spectacular. I had moments where the adrenaline was really rushing, and i was totally immersed in the environment. And it’s tough, so I can see tons of replay value. Not to mention the new weapons and vehicles, mmm mmm you are in for a treat.

    The multi-player servers weren’t up yet, but I was definitely itching to get online. Guess we have to wait till the launch.

    All in all, no one should be disappointed. Its everything they promised and then some. And more.


    Wednesday, September 19, 2007

    Color Hunter

    Ever found yourself trying to match colors to a photo in photoshop?

    Color Hunter is a no frills program that creates color palettes from images on the web such as flickr. Looks like they did a nice one on our Sapporo Kicks we created for the 'Design the Night' campaign a few years back. Sorry the shoes aren't for sale. Apparently DJ AM owns them now.


    Sonic Bliss

    These days music can often feel like the "lost" media with so many innovations, new fangled communications, and brand discussions going on out there. I know my own habits have changed significantly over the last 6 years in terms of finding, listening and sharing music. These two artists though have really blown my mind as of late and i cant seem to get them off of repeat on the ipod.

    Kanye West - Graduation

    Matthew Dear - AsaBreed


    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    Darn Good Reads

    While i may have a few links of my buddies and fan-favorites below, often i lack the foresight to acknowledge the other excellent blogs which are truly inspirational to me. The best thing about blogging and the 'Net in general is its sharing ability. I wanted to share a few other blogs that really keep me going these days when i need that motivation and an intriguing read.

    Census Fact Finder



    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    The History of Vans

    Those cool cats over at sneakerfreaker have a super rad interview /visual histography with Steve Van Doren, the founder of Vans. A rare insight into the building of brand that has soaked culture with its designs and communications for the last 30 years. I think its been published before, but it always amazes me to read about the humble beginnings as a rubber company. Equally amazing was "since 1900 there had only been 3 companies that had manufactured vulcanized footwear in the US, Randy’s, Keds and Converse," when Van's was formed. Whats truly incredible is the amount of customization and consumer interaction the brand was based on, which only makes it the more radical for a 1960's shoe brand run out of a rubber factory. Several other firsts include customized skater pro models, innovating to develop high-tops to protect ankles from skate wipeouts, sport-sponsorship on a grassroots level, and even a user-generated (i hate that term) system to introduce new models. I'm a Swoosh guy, but really an excellent read which should educate many brands on how to remain culturally resonant for decades.



    Never Forget


    Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    Next Big Thing: Pleo

    Sony Aibo was truly a wonderful piece of technology. These robotic dogs could run around, fetch a ball, and interact with humans in a somewhat realistic way. But it blew everyone's mind in the late 90's when it arrived. For some odd reason, or what seems to typify Sony, they shut down the project and now Aibos cease to exist.

    Pleo is the next big thing in robotics. Pleo is a robotic dinosaur, made for all ages, designed to emulate the appearance and behavior of a week-old baby Camarasaurus. It was designed by Caleb Chung, the co-creator of the Furby. Before you say dear god help us, read about what exactly this thing can do, according to Amazon:

    "Moves organically, expresses emotion, autonomously explores and responds to the world around him. Each Pleo has a unique personality that develops based on Pleo’s life experiences with you. On owners can connect, find training tips and download new enhancements to Pleo. Pleo’s sophisticated sensory system has devices that enable him to see, to sense touch, and to detect objects: a color camera, sound sensors, 2 infrared sensors, 14 motors, over 100 gears, 8 touch sensors, and an orientation sensor." Sounds more like a B-52 than a toy.

    All of this for $350 a pop. Pricey no? Inside is "a sophisticated sensory system consists of nearly 40 devices that enable him to see, sense, touch and detect objects in order to move autonomously and explore his environment without requiring any remote control. This robotic dinosaur includes a color camera with a white-light sensor that allows him to detect bright light from dark, see colors, detect motion, track a moving object, and perceive objects in front of him. The Pleo Life Form also has over 100 custom-designed gears, and 14 motors for highly-articulated movement. Each motor has a force feedback sensor that makes them sensitive to forceful grabs at the dinosaur's legs, neck, tail and torso, causing him to shut down during trauma to avoid internal damage. Pleo will actually react to being hurt, perhaps exhibiting a limp, and can recover over time depending on the level of nurturing you exhibit."

    Seems like artificial intelligence is the next leap in not just robotics but children's toys. This will be a hit; you can pre-order yours for $350 today.



    Monday, September 03, 2007

    Rewards: US OPEN

    Citibank pretty much upped the game years ago with its reward lifestyle positioning. American Express has been one to quckly follow suit (despite it wanting to be an originator, you arent). They have created some authentic claims though evident in my visit to the US Open yesterday. Upon showing your card you (and your party) recieve a wireless radio to listen to the matches, which also turns into a normally functioning radio for sporting events after the match is said and done. Brilliant! You can also "borrow" a wireless lcd tv to watch every match while on the premises as well. AE has stepped up its marketing and communications over the years to position its simple credit card, as giving insider access to events and rewards. While everyone talks rewards, AE makes it come true in real life experiences. Enhancing events makes every brand-member worthy and part of a greater experience. The best part was not needing 10,000 points or the black diamond magenta card. This sorta brushes against the whole brand is a utility thing everyone seems to kick around gloriously. How does a brand's functions affect your head next to your actions. In my case, it created a richer and more meaningful experience. It gets me asking why arent more brands creating reward type relationships with consumers. How can they reward patronship beyond the core product? What makes AE so outstanding is not being linear with X being given for Y, such as points. Reward is by definition, something special or extra. If frequency or amount must be relied upon to create a relationship, consumers feel 'used' by the system. Giving back outside the core product or with typical "rewards naturally extends the brand and develops a stronger consumer relationship, setting the brand up for value outside of its core, creating a potentially longer lasting and more robust brand.




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