In the U.S., most sports teams and many consumer products adopt mascots to give their brand a friendly, animate identity, but as far as we are aware, only Japan has mascots to represent prefectures, towns and public offices. Called Yuru-chara, which translates as “loose character,” the mascots generate millions of dollars in merchandise sales (keychains, mugs, t-shirts and plates, etc.) and the costumed characters make special appearances at promotional events and festivals. Without exception, the yuru-chara are cute (a la Hello Kitty), unsophisticated in design, and exhibit childlike manners. Yuru-chara proliferate throughout Japan, so much so that some prefectural governments worry that the number of little towns that have come up with their own yuru-chara are diluting the impact of the big city mascots and cutting into merchandise sales.
The best-known mascot in Japan is Kumamon (seen here) introduced by Kumamoto Prefecture in 2010 to draw tourists to the region’s Kyushu Shinkasen train line. Kumamon instantly shot to fame, and won the 2011 Yuru-chara Grand Prix, drawing more than 280,000 votes in a nationwide survey and crushing other yuru-chara competitors. The next year Kumamon single-handedly earned the prefecture more than $120 million in product sales and was even featured in a popular video game. As with most other yuru-chara, Kumamon doesn’t speak,has only one facial expression, and is of unknown gender and species. It merely dances around and makes spectators happy. Read More »
Creative Bloq recently ran a wonderful piece on how designers wish they could really set their fees. (This method of calculating billing rates could easily apply to anyone in creative consulting services.) Creative Bloq claims the price calculation is based on a proportional sequence postulated by 13th century Italian mathematician Fibonacci, who took the idea from ancient Indian Sanskrit mathematics. Fibonacci’s Sequence became the basis for the Golden Ratio, a way of describing the ratio between two proportions. You don’t really need to know this; we digress in an attempt to appear more learned than we are and to extend the length of this introduction to make the design look more proportional (ratio of image to text). The Designer’s Golden Rule chart, shown above, proposes setting fees based on the ratio of actual creative work you are allowed to do versus the amount of unproductive client interference. This calculation can also be called the Nuisance Factor, the more meddlesome the client, the higher the fee. Note: We took this chart from Creative Bloq, but redid the graphics because we wanted to show a proportional value-add.
Zombis, made in Iceland by Kjöris, is a soft ice cream product sold in single-serving-size packets, but what makes Zombis extra special is the story built into the packaging. Designed by Reykjavik-based Brandenburg, the packaging for Zombis Freezer Pops features 24 zombi personalities, each with its own name and “death-ography.” Inside each zombi is a colorful, squishy “brain” that tastes exactly like strawberry, raspberry or pistachio-flavored ice cream. Buyers are instructed to snip off the top of the zombi’s head and suck out the brain. Eating ice cream has never been so ghoulish and fun. Read More »
Viewers hate YouTube preroll ads, those irksome commercials that run before you get to watch the real YouTube video you want to see. One survey revealed that 94 percent of viewers will hit the “Skip Ad” button as soon as it appears. But advertisers keep sticking their commercials up there, presumably in the belief that the few they don’t annoy will embrace their message fondly and run out to buy their product.
This brings us to the Geico preroll, created by The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia. In a YouTube ad campaign that can only be viewed as experimental, the car insurance giant crammed its ad message into the critical first five seconds, and then spent the next 60 seconds having the main actors freeze motionless, while absurd actions happened around them. The only mention of Geico was the brand name that stayed on the screen. I didn’t get it, but thought it was funny anyway. I watched it three times to see if I was missing a deeper message. The only thing that annoyed me was that a preroll ad for another product ran before I could watch the Geico ad. I hit “Skip Ad” on that one as soon as it let me. Read More »
Chances are if you are a graphic designer even your mother doesn’t know what you do, and certainly your grandma doesn’t have a clue. Graphic design is a profession that baffles even business executives who hire graphic designers. Some believe that if they can get their office manager to learn InDesign and Photoshop, they could dispense with the need to hire a graphic designer and do everything inhouse for a lot less money. The lack of respect that graphic designers command is wonderfully presented in this video assembled from TV and film clips by Ellen Mercer and Lucy Streule, two graphic design students at Central Saint Martins in London. If you feel unappreciated and misunderstood, take comfort; you’re not alone.
Fresh on the heels of last year’s titillating Kmart Joe Boxer pelvic jingle choir comes this holiday’s belly-beat encore. Avoiding some of the flack they took for featuring handsome young men who looked like they were hired from the Chippendale chorus line, this year ad agency FCB/Chicago chose a not-so-buff, beer-belly cast dressed in Joe Boxer pajama bottoms. Instead of naming the spot “Show Your Joe” like last year, the sequel is called “Jingo Bellies.” Either way, the commercials are funny, and a refreshing change from the usual cloyingly wholesome holiday ads showing loving couples in ski sweaters drinking hot chocolate by a roaring fireplace.
This hamster video actually started as a way for Los Angeles-based social media agency, Denizen, to promote its business of creating branded content for social media venues. They tried to convince their corporate clients to buy into some of their zanier concepts but found no takers. So, Denizen co-founders Joseph Matsushima and Joel Jensen decided to start their own YouTube channel to demonstrate the possibilities. The hamster idea seemed just goofy enough to succeed, but the making of the video was no picnic. Denizen had to bring in a hamster trainer, build a tiny table and chair set with a Thanksgiving decor, and get a food stylist to make miniature food. It took nearly a dozen people a month to plan, script and prep, and another 12 hours to shoot the hamster dinner. What started out as a new business recruitment tool became a YouTube blockbuster attracting millions of viewers. Denizen has made a series of hamster videos and even integrated a tiny hedgehog into the cast. For all creatures, large and small, happy Thanksgiving.
Imagine that you have been invited to Piet Mondrian’s home for Thanksgiving dinner. He’s doing all the cooking and food styling. What would he serve? That’s the fanciful musing of San Francisco-based artist Hannah Rothstein, who created her own impressions of dinner by famous artists. Her interpretations are being offered as 16”x20” signed, limited edition prints. Only 25 copies were produced and the prints are available at $75 each, with 10% of the profits going to the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. Order here. Happy Thanksgiving. Read More »
Consumer focus groups have long been a mainstay of marketing research. It’s a great way to gather user perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitude about a product. Chicago ad agency O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul pulled together a panel of mostly four-legged consumers to roll out Big Lots’ line of pet supplies and toys. Two improvisational actors served as panel “facilitators,” conducting a tongue-in-cheek user opinion survey. The panel of dogs and cats weren’t exactly forthcoming in their preferences, but they did give the discount retailer an opportunity to show the vast and varied range of pet products it sells. Read More »
Apple’s fall rollout of new products isn’t welcome news for some of us still adjusting to the iPhone 5 and getting the feel of the iPad we got last Christmas. Many of us who grew up in the analog age view every electronic upgrade as stressful and disruptive. Innovation for innovation’s sake isn’t always welcome. Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should. Millennials, born thinking of their opposable thumbs as digital operating devices, don’t understand that “intuitive” is a relative and generational term. Which brings me to this classic comedy sketch created for Norwegian TV a few years back.
While thumbing through Austin Kleon’s book “Steal Like An Artist; 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” (Workman Publishing), we happened upon a graphic sketch that Kleon admits he “stole from his friend Maureen McHugh.” It spells out seven phases in the “life of a creative project” from an emotional perspective, not the usual process steps – e.g., concept development, research, storyboards, etc. It shows that for most of us in creative fields, projects proceed along two parallel tracks: one cerebral and dedicated to problem-solving, the other moody and erratic. Because we at @issue can’t leave well enough alone, we decided to steal McHugh’s — via Kleon’s – idea but let Kit Hinrichs embellish it with his own doodling drawings. Here it is.
This promo could just as easily have been made to promote printing papers, instead of IKEA’s 2015 home furnishings catalog. Created by BBH Asia Pacific, the IKEA marketing video channels the Apple brand persona in style and tone with its uncluttered, plain white background and its wide-eyed, uncynical spokesman explaining the amazing features of IKEA’s bookbook catalog – touch interface, eternal battery life, instant loading with zero lag, fully charged, no cables, expandable interface, preinstalled content, touch browsing, fast scrolling, easy bookmark and sharing capabilities, and voice activated password protection. The bookbook has everything you’ve ever desired in a modern information delivery system. So simple, so portable, so intuitive, it’s a wonder that Apple hadn’t thought of it before. But let’s give credit where it is truly due – to Gutenberg and medieval bookmakers. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the “wheel”; he invented an elegant means to adapt the desirable features of print to a digital platform. The attributes that consumers seek in an information delivery device have been around for at least 600 years, and tech giants have spent the last several decades trying to replicate the kind of ease-of-use offered by paper.
At first this commercial for Temptations Tumblers cat treats by adam@eveDDB/London seemed like a brazen effort to hook viewers in by combining two of the most popular subjects on YouTube — top athletes and adorable cats. The first half of the “Time to Play Ball” Temptations commercial did look like an ad for Nike or Adidas, with not a furry paw in sight. But then the shared attributes of jocks and cats came into focus. The athletes looked steely, determined, alert and focused. Even the hairs on their neck stood at attention. The cats, presented in elegant slow motion, exhibited the same kind of single-minded concentration. Nothing distracted them from the tiny Temptations Tumblers tossed their way. The comparison came together nicely and worked. (It didn’t hurt to be able to feature cute cats and buff jocks either.)
Editor’s excuse: Let me be frank; mistakes were made. In my defense I think that the misunderstanding proves my main point — i.e., this Pizza Hut ad campaign is very much aimed at consumers in Japan. However, according to my Japanese authority whose credentials are that she grew up in Tokyo and is Japanese, the concept is based on a well-known Japanese idiom, “I’m so busy there are not enough hours in a day. I’d even ask a cat to lend me a hand.” Neko no te mo karetai. Of course, cats are notorious for not doing your bidding. You know the American saying: “Dogs have owners; cats have staff.” Another translation error is that “Pizza Boss” Tencho was born on a riverbank, not under a bridge, and he wasn’t adopted by a poor loving family, but is now part of a poor but loving family. My authority also advised me that as a rule, advertising marketing messages in Japan are less direct than in the U.S., and the Pizza Cat-o commercials are very well conceived, very funny, and everyone in Japan gets it. Below is the post as I first wrote it:
“Aim global, market local” is probably this Japanese Pizza Hut campaign’s takeaway lesson to ad creatives everywhere. Those of us outside of Japan find that not only is the text in a foreign language, so is the humor. Cats dressed in Pizza Hut uniforms are cute, but the link to pizza is baffling. The cats in the commercials were not given people-like traits nor were their movements animated with motion graphics. They just did catlike things, and mostly seemed bored and oblivious to being in a pizza kitchen.
On Comedy Central’s Colbert Report last week, Stephen Colbert questioned the marketing strategy behind the new Vessyl Smart Cup produced by San Francisco-based startup Mark One. Designed by Yves Behar of fuseproject, the Vessyl is a digital cup with molecular analysis sensors that display the exact content and calorie count of the beverage within. In terms of attractive design and ingenious technology, the Vessyl is spot on. But to Colbert’s point: is there really a mass market need for it, especially at a cost of $199 per cup? Market research is a critical pillar of product development; without it, what you end up with is a geeky “parlor trick” that draws ooohs and aaahs, but few sales.