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Preview: Brand and Culture

Brand and Culture

Observations in Everyday Branding. This blog chronicles observations by branding consultant, Jasmine Trabelsi. Readers are encouraged to add to the dialogue by posting comments and adding their own experiences.

Updated: 2010-04-21T15:13:21.652-04:00


Aeropuerto El Dorado, Bogotá, Colombia


An It girl or It-girl is a charming, sexy young woman who receives intense media coverage unrelated or disproportional to personal achievements. The reign of an "It girl" is usually temporary; some of the rising It girls will either become fully-fledged celebrities or their popularity will fade. [via wikipedia]

Even since Lost in Translation, it is common knowledge that celebrities promote lesser brands outside the US to bring in some extra income. Thus allowing them to be a part of a brand campaign that they would never represent back home. This particular ad is ironic since It Girl Scarlett Johansson is displaying behavior of Bill Murray's aging icon character.

Proximity to Cool


All around us, we are paying for access to cool. That "cool" factor can be exclusivity, power or just an established brand. Concert tickets are priced higher as the seats get closer to the performer. So paying more for content that already has a track record is a well established business concept.

Melvin Simon's obituary in the NY Times talks about how the mega founder of Simon Property pioneered the landscape of modern malls. Postwar Americans with new cars in new suburbs were eager to drive somewhere to spend their money. He turned cornfields into strip malls and added movie theaters into shopping centers.

He also developed the modern mall operator's business model that attracts big anchor tenants like department stores by charging them less rent. Signing a prestigious anchor even before construction gave banks the confidence to finance much or all of the development. Then charge smaller adjacent stores proportionately more. And require stores to pay a premium over basic rent if their sales exceed a certain level.




With Labor Day signaling the end of summer, August is the last chance for a summer holiday before the fall closes in. Due to the economy, many folks can not afford to fly somewhere or hit the Hamptons this year. They are exploring their backyards for
hidden beaches.

Using a concept store on Broadway, the New Jersey Tourism Department decked out the space with sand sculptures, saltwater taffy and beach chairs. Jersey is hoping New Yorkers will come test the waters.

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"Can I get a towel with that?"


Among the economy woes, the pending increase in MTA fares and decrease in services is not top of mind for most New Yorkers. Keep New York Moving is a campaign to keep public transport a way of life that is safe, affordable and reliable. A subway ad equates an unlimited monthly MTA pass to the price of a luxury gym illustrating how the proposed cost is out of proportion. However strong the concept, the design fails to deliver an opportunity to grab most commuters' attention. Imagine a well groomed gym rat pumping iron and the copy running along the bottom.

Czech Dream


(image) My Netflix queue has been catching up with me this winter. Czech Dream is a 2004 documentary on two film students (Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda) scamming Prague into attending the opening of a hypermarket. Inspired by the research that 30% of Czech citizens shop in a hypermarket or big box like Costco and Target, the movie reveals the consumerism unfolding in the post-communist country as a form of freedom. Freedom to choose more than one brand, to have well stocked shelves, or to shop all day with the family.

The behind-the-scenes footage is most valuable when advertising agency (Mark/BBDO) details their process for creating a radio and print campaign with slogans "Don't come" and "Don't spend". A defining moment occurs when a creative meeting erupts due to the debate whether shoppers will return home empty-handed when they discover the façade.(image)

The Power of Design


There are times when the internet really allows a non-linear thinker to explore and find something of value. Today I found an older but still revelent article on CEOs using design to better their companies.

Decline of Green Spaces


I was shocked to read in the NY Times that the Nature Conservancy (whose mission is to preserve plants, animals, natural communities and to protect land and water) is logging on its newly purchased 161,000 acres of Adirondack wild lands. Touted as a modern deal, logging and selling parts of the land to the state and private developers are part of the $110 million plan. Executive Director Micheal T. Carr claims "there is enough room for everyone".

Have you noticed that the drive from any major city in America has become longer in the effort to find a pristine piece of nature to commune with? I was shocked to discover in my travels that the US is regarded for its wealth of natural beauty. An Australian was in love with the fall colors of New England and was sent on the special pilgrimage to feast in the beauty. Fun loving Germans were driving from San Francisco to Texas to hike the canyons of the southwest, deserts of the south and the Pacific beaches of the West. Will this remain true as land becomes more developed for business and housing purposes? Forests continue to be logged despite being owned by a nature conservancy? What will be the new brand for the US?

America: The Brand


I've had a couple of sleepless nights recently during my trip to the East Coast. At first, I thought it was the jetlag or the days getting shorter. Then I realized that I was discontent and utterly disappointed in the America I have inherited. Let me explain, my parents are hard working people. My father emigrated from France to New York at age 26 and my mom was the first homeowner in her family. They saw America as a place of oppportunity. Their lifetime included the rebellious sixties, liberating seventies, prosperous eighties. America was a superpower and as long as you were willing to work hard you were given a chance to accomplish your dream no matter your status or class.

But America has changed. The dollar is in the dumpster, my friends are contractors not for the killer daily rate but because human labor is just another commodity. Now along with finding a good job, home, life partner and caring for family, we have navigating retirement, health care and whether the Earth is going to exist. We have the burden of figuring out what we being told is truthful or what we are being sold is sustainable. With an abadonment of ethics and loyalty, we can no longer count on old standbys to be there for us. An active, defensive partcipant is required to insure the "good" choices you are making are in fact "good".

I am looking forward to the next election and the smell of change in the air.

The eyes are upon us


Clear is a new service that allows you to bypass security lines in participating domestic airports because officials have already fingerprinted and cleared your identity. Aimed at frequent business flyers, I was stopped and interviewed by Fox 5 at SFO last week. My impression is that it's worth the $100 to bypass security but I do not trust that my DNA information is secure. Has anyone used it and would like to share their thoughts?

Superheroes in Union Square


Have you ever noticed while transferring from the L to the 4/5/6 train at Union Square that there is a video projector for advertising? Asics, the official sponsor of the New York marathon, buys most of the ad space in Union Square subway station during the month of October. This year they added a nice interactive element that allowed commuters to throw fireballs by detecting their motion. It certainity kept us busy for a few minutes but I am not sure how many pairs of Asics we are going to buy though.

The Gateway Drug


Is there a link between Reality TV and blogging? The "ME" generation raised on a diet of The Real World, Survivor, Trading Spaces, Apprentice and Project Runway has made the average person just as entertaining as the professional. By making "reality" the star, the drama of making it and the promise of learning something has cultivated a new audience. An accepted D.I.Y. culture that trumps the stale uniformed voice of authority. Would we feel so comfortable living our lives online (Facebook,MySpace,Flickr,Twitter) if it wasn't already normalized with reality shows?

Pretty in Pretty


Danielle forwarded this article about women-only cabs in Russia and the Middle East. Designated by their pink exteriors and female cab drivers, this micro trend is spreading to areas where women feel safer traveling together. Another positive side effect is that it has created opportunities for women to travel more freely and work a less traditional job.

You've come a long way, baby


TBWA Chiat Day | LA does amazing work and has been the mastermind behind most of the Apple campaigns (1984, Think different). So it surprised me when the iPod ads started to go downhill. The iconic black silhouettes against color backgrounds were perfect in 2001 and through the years it has morphed into something else. As details crept in to give texture and variety, it became a very un-Apple brand: this graffiti slinging, punk rock wannabe. For a client that is so proud of its advertising history, I know it can be challenge to keep a campaign fresh but this is going in the wrong direction.

As for the PC vs. MAC TV ads, they not only alienate the slightly-nerdy-but-still-cool-in-their-own-way-MAC fans but they are a simple positioning ad that is straightforward and linear.

What's in a name?


Ok, I admit. My publishing background makes me more analytic than the average reader. When strolling through the magazine racks, I noticed Everyday Food (a Martha Stewart publication) side-by-side to Everyday with Rachael Ray. In a crowded market, Hudson News probably does not realize they are competing titles since the names are so similar. I think someone needs a redesign or to pay a little extra to be placed separately on the stands.

C train


I love living in New York but I have to say could the subway notices be better designed. Maybe even make C train riders only transfer trains once not 4 times.

VW Rabbit is Back!


I am among one of the many fans of Crispin Porter + Bogusky but the VW rabbit campaign got stale as I traveled from city to city. Let's start with the New York. Public nusiances, turned city mascots, the rat and the pigeon are side by side with the Rabbit. In Boston, the lobster and clam welcomes Bostonians to Rabbit. I think this campaign could be more interactive. Having lived in both cities, I do not feel like the animal choices really correspond with positive relationships or a strong emotional connection.


H20 brand


How Magazine's article in this month's Business issue talks about the branding of water. There are loads of fun factoids including a useful explanation of water processes.

(Picture: NYC gallery Exit Art created a recent show "The Water Project" to allow artists to explore the effects of water. This artist painted the labels of bottled water.)

Asics as hip?


Asics is one of the many athletic brands cashing in on The New York City Marathon. Although it’s common to plaster a single subway station, visually the campaign is strong but the copy really drags it down. I can just hear the brief "make it urban". I think we have passed the grunge phase.


tokyo's calling


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Teasers ads and a Fall Look Book for Japanese retailer Uniqlo have begun to surface in Tribeca and SOHO. I love how they managed to use stats to make NYC seem cheap and roomy compare to Tokyo.

Carrie Mae Weems



Carrie Mae Weems: The Louisiana Project runs until October 9 at San Francisco's new The Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD). I've followed her work for years. This show takes the vernacular of shadows and uses its abstract form to hint at the slave experience that is a part of America's sordid heritage.

Billboard Neighbors



Living a bi-coastal existence has its advantages. A Brooklyn mural epitzomes the cheap plastic slipper/sandals that were so popular 2 seasons ago. In San Francisco, you can see a Play Station ad on Van Ness Avenue disguised as graffitti. Who ever designed this deserves a raise!


Ant Bully



Just a shout out to my friend Chris at Warner Brothers.


Janice Dickerson's Modeling Agency on Line 1



America's Top Model judge, Janice Dickerson, has a new spin-off show. I love how the red editor's remarks make fun of the models. It really gives you a sense how caddy the fashion world can be.

Moving in to the new office


The new Brand + Culture office is at 285 West Broadway in Tribeca.

Scent is a part of memory



Charlotta Westergren's installation "Aaus 1974" was at the Bellwether Gallery in Chelsea. Creating a journey through darkness where your other senses become heightened, she drops you off at a bright white room with the smell of her childhood: a small Scandinavian fishing village.