Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Burst of Bland

Have you heard the buzz about Walmart’s new logo?

Out with the mean old military-looking logotype.
In with a friendly, lower case, unhyphenated look – finishing with a flowery starburst! That should get people excited about shopping at Walmart again.

While I find the new look underwhelming, the best part of the story is the way it slipped out. The Memphis, Tennessee municipal planning department got a look at plans for a new Walmart and noticed the new design – and soon it was in the hands of the Wall Street Journal.

Redesigns such as this are usually handled intelligently. Press releases, press kits, and lots of flossy blather about how the new logo reflects the new spirit of the brand, etc. It’s supposed to be a managed launch.

Walmart rushed out a short, bland press release that was even more underwhelming than the logo itself. It noted that “for the past two years, a customer-focused transformation has been taking place in Walmart's U.S. business.”

The new logo reflects Walmart’s “renewed sense of purpose to help people save money so they can live better.”

Surely the world’s largest retailer could have had a more compelling explanation ready than that?
New management welcome.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Why so stupid?

‘The new Batman movie is out, and like the last one (Batman Returns), this is not a movie for the young kids who enjoy the animated Batman on TV. "The Dark Knight" is gloomy, violent and complex, and features an acclaimed performance by the late Heath Ledger as the vicious psychotic killer, The Joker.

Ledger’s Joker “is the sort of character that could give younger kids nightmares,” writes the Washington Post. “This is not a movie for teens younger than high-school age, let alone grade-schoolers.”

So kudos to Nestle and General Mills, for giving away free Joker toys in cereal boxes: General Mills (Lucky Charms, etc.) in the U.S., Nestle in Asia. Psychopathic murderers go so well with cereal and milk and little leprechauns.

Sure, Batman is a comic book character, and comics have always been associated with kids. But it’s been clear for two years that Ledger’s Joker was going to be edgy and frightening and adult. All you had to do was look at Ledger's makeup to realize this was not Jack Nicholson from the 1989 movie – and certainly not Cesar Romero’s fun-loving Joker from the old 1960s TV show.

Parents groups are already up in arms. Yet this debacle could have been avoided if anyone in a position of responsibility, at the companies or their ad agencies, had actually thought through what they were doing.

How could they miss this?

Unless General Mills intends to distribute action figures of Hannibal Lecter next?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Routing Rogers

It’s iPhone day in Canada. And what should have been a coup for Rogers has turned into a disorderly rout.

We don't want to focus too much on Rogers in this blog [(a) it’s such an easy target for customer-service complaints, and b) the other telecoms aren't much better]. But the cable/wireless giant, flying so high over its iPhone monopoly, fell to earth with a thud when the user base revolted against its high prices – and forced Rogers last week to change its tune.

Why didn't Rogers see this coming? The target market for the iPhone is affluent, sophisticated, always-on information junkies: if there’s one thing they know how to do, it’s communicate. More than 50,000 customers and prospects signed an online petition protesting the announced package prices. Perhaps Rogers' vast history of monopoly protection has blinded it to the fact that consumers have choices now.

As the PR experts at Toronto’s Veritas Communications put it this week, Rogers regained some credibility with its new (albeit time-limited) lower price package. But it was too late to undo all the damage already caused:

“Rogers failed to see the backlash coming despite the incredible amount of online chatter on blogs, social marketing sites, you name it – in other words, all over the geekosphere where the iPhone’s bulls-eye target market lives. Responding prior to launch is good, but not letting the wave of discontent get as huge as it did... would have been much, much better. Witness Thursday’s Globe & Mail, which ran a huge piece on the front of the ROB equating Rogers’ iPhone stumble to New Coke, Super-size McDonald’s meals and other legendary PR gaffes.”

Dare we hope Rogers management have learned from this debacle?