Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category

Service of Counting on a Brand: Bye-bye Microsoft E-Library

Monday, July 29th, 2019


How do you know you can trust a brand to keep its products in business and parts available for as long as you need them? The question doesn’t apply anymore just to major appliances, motor vehicles, furnaces, solar energy technologies and gadgets like VCRs, CDs and DVDs. The subscribers to Microsoft’s E-Library know what it’s like to be left in the lurch. I heard about their loss on NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro and Josh Axelrod reported “Starting in July, Microsoft will be closing its e-book library and erasing all content purchased through the Microsoft e-bookstore from devices. Consumers will receive a refund for every e-book bought.”


I read traditional books but some of my best friends rely on e-books. I’d be irritated if I’d paid for a book and was left hanging at a crucial juncture when Microsoft pulled the plug.

Garcia-Navarro interviewed Aaron Perzanowski, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, who pointed out that losing a book you’ve annotated and use in your job is more than exasperating. Think of lawyers, teachers or academic researchers who have spent time to study a book and write themselves virtual Post-It notes on manuscripts. The additional $25 refund doesn’t make this customer whole, said Perzanowski who also wrote the book “The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy.”

“In a University of Pennsylvania Law Review article, Perzanowski found that users are often misled when they click the ‘Buy Now’ button, thinking that they’ve gained permanent ownership of digital content.


“‘You can go out and buy a car and you think you own the car because it’s parked in your garage,’ Perzanowski says. ‘But in reality – how it functions, who can repair it, what replacement parts are compatible with it – all of that is controlled through software code. And, so I think that line between the physical and the digital is getting increasingly blurry.’”

The culprit is a tool called Digital Rights Management or DRM software. “Your car, your smart home appliances, your home security system – all of these systems have software that allows for this kind of control over how the devices are used, and I think we’re going to see these same sorts of situations crop up in the context of physical devices that are being used in people’s homes.”

Have you lost the use of something you owned because there are no parts available to repair it or did you learn that, like the e-books you bought, you really didn’t own it at all? Do you factor in shelf life when buying things for your office or home or are you resigned to short-lived pull-by dates on almost everything but processed honey with its forever lifespan?


Service of Name Changes, Deliberate & Not

Thursday, November 16th, 2017


A recent weekly conference call began with many admitting that they were often called by other names, Roberta for Ramona; Maxine for Francine and for me, a mispronunciation: Gee-Anne for gene. I’ve previously written that some call my husband Homer, Horace.

But some change their names on purpose–my aunt, for example. She had been known as Lili until she was in her 70s when out of the blue she insisted on Elisabeth, also a nice name, but hard for friends and family to get used to. I never learned why the change.


Maybe the itch has grown up as 70 seems to be the magic number. Coach, at 76, is Tapestry now. Execs at the company that began as a high end handbag manufacturer [vintage bag at right] said it wanted to change its corporate image to reflect the luxury brands it had acquired–Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade.

According to a Reuters feature I read in the New York Post, Coach chief exec Victor Luis responded to criticism of the change and choice of name on social media by saying: “At the end of the day some of the social media reaction is misplaced because people think we are changing the name of the Coach brand, which we are not doing. It’s really about creating a new corporate identity for Coach as a house of brands.”

The Reuters article continued: “Coach, however, lost some shine in recent years in part due to the financial recession and increased online shopping. The company is trying to regain its former glory by buying new brands, keeping a tight lid on discounting and pulling back from department stores.”

As for that tight lid on discounters, I just bought a classic pair of Coach-brand loafers at T.J. Maxx at a very comfortable price.

I kept thinking of the $millions spent over decades to make the Coach brand familiar and admired by many. It, Spade and Weitzman will still appear on shoes and fashion as Tapestry is the corporate umbrella. Wise minds in the C-suite had clearly lost faith in the power of the Coach name. Some reporters covering the Coach story reminded their audiences that Google’s new corporate name is Alphabet. Have you heard anyone call it that?

Photo: youtube

Reminds me of some of the bridges around NYC—I think “59th Street” and “Triborough” not “Koch” or “Kennedy.” I adapted well to the Met Life Building taking over for what once was the Pan Am building, no doubt because of the Met Life’s Snoopy dog connection. [That they deep sixed the spokesdog is another matter.] Met Life no longer owns the building but is a major tenant so its name remains.

What do you do when people call you by the wrong name? Do you know adults who have changed their names [and I don’t mean through marriage]. Do you think a venerable name in fashion should change its corporate name—does it show lack of faith in the brand—or that it doesn’t matter as the public’s memory is short? How long will it take for New Yorkers to remember the changed names of buildings and bridges?


Service of Unintended Consequences II

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Unintended consequences

Let’s Face it

Facebook sent printed invitations to media, delivered by messenger, for a product launch. Hmmmm. Is social media already passé?

Fertilize New York

CompostWe learn on “Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed expanding a successful pilot program recycling food scraps to more single-family homes, high rise buildings and schools. Within three years, the Bloomberg Administration says, the hope is that recycling food scraps will be mandatory and as much of a routine as recycling glass, metal and plastic.”

While I love the concept of a food scrap composting initiative, I think the Mayor needs to first address the way city food is sold and the space constraints of millions of residents. We buy much of our meat, fish, fruit and vegetables packaged on Styrofoam trays covered in plastic wrap so off the bat we need two kitchen trash receptacles.

New Yorkers’ microscopic kitchens—especially those in Manhattan–are the brunt of jokes and jibes. In mine there’s barely room for one tiny garbage can which works as we put out garbage daily in the morning and it’s picked up in front of the door. We keep empty bottles on a counter and put them out for pickup separately. A second can to capture just food scraps will be a challenge for space. Devoting more countertop to hold garbage is more than unsightly, it’s a health hazard and potential rodent attractant.

In giant apartment houses with hundreds of tenants, renters send garbage to the basement via a shoot. Color coded bags–blue for compost, white for paper, green for bottles, pink for plastic and yellow for other garbage–would solve the one-shoot-in-tall-buildings issue if tenants could be bothered to buy them, keep them straight and comply.

Only in New York

Bike sharingSome New Yorkers are using the bike sharing Citibikes for exercise in the fresh air. Seems they pedal in place without anyone having to slip in a credit card or join the rental system. That’s a New York kind of moxy that makes me smile.

What’s in a Name?

The “Borghese v Borghese: Battle for a Royal Name” story in The New York Times seemed different from the usual intellectual property fights. In her article Christine Haughney cited a law professor who mentioned examples that I thought only underscored the dissimilarity. One was Chick-fil-A, known for the slogan “Eat More Chicken,” that sued a folk artist who tried to trademark “Eat More Kale.” 

Princess Marcella Borghese. Photo: Wikipedia

Princess Marcella Borghese. Photo: Wikipedia

While I think that example is a stretch, an even bigger one is to ask a family to drop its name and heritage.

Revlon bought the Borghese cosmetics brand, according to Haughney, along with “the words and phrases BORGHESE, MARCELLA BORGHESE and PRINCESS MARCELLA BORGHESE” and subsequently sold the Borghese Company, now in private hands.

The first problem occurred as a result of a press release about one of Princess Marcella Borghese’s grandchildren. He was to appear in a TV program. His grandmother was mentioned as well as the fact that she “started the famed self-named cosmetics line, Borghese Inc.” The grandchild was warned against “causing any false impression in the marketplace that there is a connection or relationship between yourself and Borghese Inc. and our cosmetics products.” The next hiccup between the Princess’s descendants and the company came when the grandson applied for a trademark for pet shampoo and conditioner—La Dolce Vita by Prince Lorenzo Borghese–to be sold by PetSmart. The Company sued.

Am I reading too much into the symbolism of a social media giant choosing a traditional form of communication? Should tiny NYC kitchens and the way food is sold and tossed in giant apartment buildings stall a compost program? Do you know of other typical out-of-the-box takes on services like NYC bikers using parked vehicles for exercise? Should a family member be forbidden to sell his/her name and others prohibited to use that last name in business forever?

Tiny nyc kitchen

Service of Packaging III

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011


I’ve always used Tide laundry detergent and my mother did also. That is until recently. A large bottle of the stuff just doesn’t seem worth $26 to me especially when I can get something else the same size that cleans our clothes and smells just fine for $7 or $9.

It doesn’t matter how you dress up the bottle. Sarah Nassauer wrote in The Wall Street Journal about how marketers of products from Doritos to Downy–and Tide–are trying to pry open wallets by harking back to the 1970s for packaging design precisely because the brands are feeling competition from the less expensive private label offerings. I think that nostalgia and product loyalty go only so far when stringent budgets are concerned.

cupcakes1In New! Improved! (and Very Old) Nassauer wrote: “As a direct appeal to get moms to buy more Hostess snacks for their kids, the company earlier this year brought back some logos and animated characters from the ’70s and ’80s, such as Twinkie the Kid and King Ding Dong for a limited time. ‘Today’s moms are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and ’70s packaging is what they remember,’ says Amy Clark, director of snack marketing for Hostess. Hostess hoped parents would ‘want to pass it down, share it with their own kids,’ she says.” [While nobody asked me, I say teach the children to make cupcakes.]

19thcenturypatternI adore vintage patterns from textiles designed in the 19th century such as those by William Morris. I wonder if designs over 50 years old translate to food and cleaning products when price is concerned. According to Nassauer, “The emotional play for shoppers doesn’t always work. Kraft Foods Inc. produced a retro look for the 2009 redesign of its Miracle Whip brand, incorporating elements of the brand’s original label from 1933. At the time, with a recession in full swing, there was a longing to ‘celebrate the past and push toward our future,’ says Carol-Jacqueline Nardi, director of design and innovations for Kraft.” I wonder if Kraft marketers were thinking clearly. While 85 year olds may have warm and fuzzy memories of a 78 year old package design, how many of them will eat a ton of Miracle Whip?

I fell for a $1 tin of Nivea cream [I didn’t need] at the checkout counter of my favorite discount cosmetics store. But what closed the sale: The price or the cute mini blue and white tin with the familiar Nivea name?

Packaging is an art. But I wonder about its impact on consumer choice as disposable income is increasingly diverted to cover necessities and as more and more money is owed to Messers C. [as in Con] Edison, C. [as in Central] Hudson [Gas and Electric], Mobile-Exxon and others? Do sufficient numbers of wallets have enough flexibility to fall for the charming, familiar or stunning package?


Service of Long Lasting Brands

Monday, April 11th, 2011


There are branding specialists galore who help people create and maintain brands, their own, a product’s, a company or corporation’s. Yes, people are considered brands today to be packaged like a good or decorative element.

I’m forever fascinated by the longevity of so many who made a mark that continues to achieve buzz and attention even though the venerated person is either no longer in the public eye and most frequently is long dead or out of the public eye well before the word brand was in fashion.

brigettebardotThe April 7 issue of FurnitureSeen that appeared in my emailbox last week featured a Hepburn Modular Sofa which, the copy noted, could have been inspired by either Katherine or Audrey–and Bardot, a “curvaceous seating collection” for which the Spanish designer Jamie Hayon had the French 1950s/1960s movie siren Brigitte Bardot in mind.

Estée Lauder died in April 2004 and yet she still makes headlines for her namesake company that now sells 28 brands. In The New York Times article, “What Would Estée Do?” Natasha Singer quotes longtime employee and global brand president Jane Hertsmark Hudis: “I think a lot of us ask ourselves, ‘What would Leonard do? I also ask myself: ‘What would Estée Lauder do? Am I upholding her values and her vision?'” Leonard A. Lauder is chairman emeritus and Estée’s oldest son.

The End Note of Culture & Leisure Magazine‘s issue No. 44 features a smiling Coco Chanel and a quote, “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” The issue of this smart, fashionable, visionary publication was devoted to southern debutantes and editor/founder Natalie Rushing chooses to remember Chanel.

doris-dayDoes anyone think often of Doris Day these days? Will Friedwald interviewd the top grossing actress of all time recently for The Wall Street Journal‘s Leisure & Arts section in “Sunny Day Keeps on Shining.” Friedwald spoke with Doris on the phone-she doesn’t like being called Ms. Day-who said that when she moved to Carmel, California 30 years ago “I put all my records and everything away. I didn’t think anybody cared if they heard me or not.” And yet she continues to get fan letters and is perplexed that “after so many years out of the spotlight, her recordings and films continue to be cherished by generation after generation.” Friedwald adds that Sony Music will release a retrospective box set later in the year.

What do you think makes a brand long lasting? Does it help if the inspiration is dipped in the rosy glow of selective memory and is no longer in the harsh eye of public scrutiny that seems to enjoy watching people fall? Did these stars of business, fashion and film represent a kind of quality we miss or try to achieve today? Do you consider yourself a brand?


Service of Paper

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

The feel and fragrance of good paper–stationery, magazine or in a book–is exquisite and serves to give subtle messages about the person who selects it.

Manuel Saez promotes his award-winning design and product development company, ManuelSaez ltd, with a magnificent presentation book, its beautiful graphics printed on the finest paper stock. What a smart investment: Even if a company doesn’t hire him right away, recipients won’t forget him nor will they toss his marketing materials in a file or wastebasket. It’s a keeper, something to admire and enjoy.

Stationery chosen to thank or condole can send messages beyond words. An image on a card might be handsome but if it’s on flimsy paper, it loses something. Turn the pages of a magazine or catalog printed on great paper and you’ll notice the difference from the thin stuff that easily rips.

Same with a book, which is why I hesitate to buy a Kindle or other wireless reading gadget: I’ll miss the feel of the pages. When personal computers were new, before the prevalence of the Internet, they were often marketed as a great device for the kitchen to help home chefs organize recipes.

I love my cookbooks, stains and all, and find them very handy to drag around to the counter or by the stove where I need to read them. They bring back memories that I don’t think a wireless square will. Plus, splashed egg white or olive oil wouldn’t do the portable reading device much good.

 Do you feel as strongly about paper as I do?

Service Of A CEO’s Support: Keeping Up To Date

Friday, June 19th, 2009

There’s nothing like a boss’s support and attendance. It impacts any effort because it means the world to the staff and underscores the importance of an initiative. It also uplifts everyone involved.

Yesterday the Associated Press produced “AP Interactive Summit [expanding horizons]” at their New York headquarters. Tom Curley, AP CEO, was not only there the entire four hours; he welcomed his advertising and branding executive guests and then further participated by interviewing some of his top editors and answering questions from the floor, from innocuous to challenging, without a blink.

Tom Curley, AP CEO

Tom Curley, AP CEO

Transparency clearly begins at the top. Curley is comfortable with his staff and they trust him. The editors shared some snags as well as some successes. [More about interviews later.] And rather than tell the audience what the AP would do for them–the sales folks suggested possibilities–they frequently asked for ideas and suggestions. It was refreshing and interactive.

 The AP has recognized the shift in its client base on several fronts. Speaking directly to these clients was a first for them and a bellwether of the direction all companies must take. And the AP Mobile program–available through–now provides news directly to mobile phone owners. Previously, the AP’s clients were news organizations exclusively-we read, heard and saw their stories worldwide in newspapers, on radio and TV as well as on the Internet.

The drivers of these shifts? Technology and social networking. It’s clear: A business that ignores the ramifications of social networking won’t be around long. Founded in 1846, the AP plans to survive.

It’s not abandoning its bread and butter business subscribers, nor were we told to do the same. Last week I heard the same advice from Matt Batt of Pipeline Media Relations  as I heard yesterday from a panelist, John Montgomery, COO of GroupM Interaction [a WPP Company]: If you do nothing else with social media, use it to understand what customers are saying about you.

Speaking of technology, Montgomery said something else. “Innovation is not a process or anything digital; it’s a culture or state of mind. If you use traditional media in traditional ways, you can still be innovative. Just because you’ve checked ‘digital’ on your list [of communications options], doesn’t mean you are innovative.”

You can read more about the advertising/branding ramifications of the AP Interactive Media Summit through venues such as Here, I wanted to dish and share just some highlights of what else I heard and saw:

***When Curley interviewed Ron Edmonds, senior White House photographer and Ron Fournier, Washington bureau chief, we learned that the Obama administration is far more controlling than any before. [Edmonds has been around through many administrations-he was new to the AP in 1981 when he snapped John Hinckley, Jr. shooting President Reagan outside the Washington Hilton.]  “They hand out sanitized shots they expect the media to use,” said Edmonds. This isn’t acceptable to the AP-they’re working on it, they said.

***Security obviously affects the news. Where the AP reporters and photographers sat two cars behind the President some 30 years ago, today they’re about 20 cars back, Edmonds told us.

***Fournier reminded us that in a Presidential election, the AP counts the votes/ announces the winner. Never was this responsibility more nerve-wracking than in the Bush/Gore 2000 election when he had both hands answering phones with key people urging him to call the Florida vote.

***At the depth of the depression, Curley told us, the AP added staff to the entertainment beat to cover huge numbers of quickie divorces and to satisfy the public’s interest in all things entertainment. It was a different kind of relief. They’re again putting their money in this track these days. After he interviewed Alicia Quarles, AP’s North American entertainment editor, she answered questions from the floor about the stars. She told us that Paul Newman was a doll as is George Clooney and she sympathizes with Lindsay Lohan. [We don’t bash brands here, so we won’t tell what she said about BW or BP.]

***Jim Litke, a sports columnist for 20 years, majored in English and specialized in Shakespeare and fell into sports when he pinch-hit for a sports reporter from his hard news beat. He told us that Tiger Woods is the most competitive, focused sports figure he has met, including talents such as Michael Jordan.

***On a tour of the newsroom-the size of two football fields–I was surprised by the many empty desks at around 5:30 p.m. We were told that reorganization happened after headquarters moved to this space: Regionalization moved the jobs around the world. Remaining are digital clocks that hang from the ceiling to identify news areas, with appropriate time zones, such as Hollywood and Bollywood for entertainment. Department editors have offices with doors to conduct private interviews and other sensitive business as well as desks outside, on porches, so they can be closer to their reporters.

What a stimulating day and inspiring boss. He’s a model of how to move forward, survive financial challenges and implement major shifts in the way his company conducts business so it survives long-term–a service to his employees and customers.  Have you run across such an unusual person?

Rare bird

Rare bird

Service of Safeguarding a Brand

Friday, June 5th, 2009

I was on a NYC bus years ago holding a sled gift wrapped in FAO Schwartz paper. A little girl stared at me for several stops. Finally she could no longer contain her curiosity and asked me what was in the box, noted how lucky the child receiving the gift was and volunteered how much she loved FAO Schwarz.

I don’t know if she was old enough to read, but like Tiffany’s blue box that you recognize from blocks away long before you can see a logo, children all over the city at that time recognized FAO Schwartz wrapping paper.

When FAO Schwartz failed the first time, it was partly because its marketers forgot how special it was and tried to compete with toy discounters. I read that mothers said they’d gladly pay the supplement for the play dough they bought there because it didn’t ruin furniture as less expensive versions did. To compete with discounters, FAO Schwartz dropped a lot of the pizzazz that attracted visitors from around the world.

Recently, I read that Toys R Us bought FAO Schwartz. I worry. I’ve been burned by once high-end brand toasters or coffee pots available at discount that break in a year. I admire brands that stick to their last.

Granted keeping up quality and price is a tough call in this economy. But if we represent or work for a brand, do we owe it–and the public–anything? Should we warn folks that we’re changing the formula?

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