Binder and Binder 2

Well, the marketing svengalis at Binder and Binder have proven my theory correct (see my previous entry here). One of them at least. Here’s the latest Binder commercial. Did they A) ditch the hat, B) ditch the guy and the hat or C) shoot a sequence with the same guy actually placing the hat on his head?

The In-flight Bazaar That Is SkyMall

Alright. So it’s finally come to this. I can’t keep it inside any longer.

The next time you fly, if those little screens don’t drop down and reruns of The Office don’t start rerunning, you might think you don’t have any in-flight entertainment. Think again. It’s right under your nose in the seatback in front of you. What is it? Why, it’s the silliest publication since the longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons was released… it’s the SkyMall catalog.

What other publication can offer such over-priced gems as follows? By the way, I’m still waiting on the smoke alarm with a snooze button.

The Inflatable Blue Triangle. Let’s kick it all off with an old classic. Like me, you may have seen this treasure for sale in SkyMall at least 1000 times, and each time I see it I think the same thing – who the hell would buy this thing? Evidently a lot, since this contraption still manages to acquire real estate in the catalog (and buyers’ laps) after all these years. The fun part is in trying to imagine this guy preparing to take a nap by inflating it like he’s blowing up a beach ball.

The “Are You Still Alive?” Pillow. As the name suggests, you might be inclined to do a pulse check if you come across this lady. The best part? The diagram in the lower left. Let’s see – lumbar, thoracic, spinal… well, I guess it’s all there. And the lines seem to indicate something scientific. You sold me.

The Pointless Purchase. I don’t know. Maybe this product fills a major consumer need that I’m unaware of. I had no clue that so many people we’re pining to wear something for the sole purchase of moisturizing specific areas of their body. Now lotion in tissues, I get. I’ll buy that. But this prize pick is about as dumb as a tank with a kickstand. $50 for temporarily moisturizing your hands and feet? What happens when you wash these? And lastly, have you considered just buying a bottle of your favorite lotion?

The “Swimming” Shoes. Product and branding conception (ahem) is as follows. Step 1: Secure financing to develop a state of the art, innovative and unique atheletic shoe. Step 2: Create said atheltic shoe. Step 3: Eliminate any possibility of consumers taking the brand seriously by choosing a swimming “tadpole” as your logo. WTF? Here’s the thing – most people take pride in what they wear. Shoes are no different. Especially shoes. Nike with the iconic swoosh, New Balance with the monolithic N, Adidas with the three stripes and now these pearls with what I personally consider to the be the most ridiculous choice for a logo ever. But hey, bad publicity is better than none. Right? Special thanks to Michael Harwood for the nickname title.

In closing, I do appreciate SkyMall. The publication seems to actually embrace what it is – that being a catalog that peddles stuff of the semi-useful and very unusual nature. More to come…

Outsourcing on the Inside

Thought this was an interesting story – parts of the US, namely Detroit in this article, are competing with offshore locales for labor and remain cost-effective.

http://www.positivedetroit.net/2011/01/cbs-gives-detroit-some-love.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+PositiveDetroit+(Positive+Detroit)&utm_content=Google+Reader

Good stuff.

Come On, Starbucks? Really?!

Same as last time. Not a lot of time to do a big write-up, but I noticed that Starbucks decided to do a logo makeover. Why? Who knows. I don’t even like Starbucks, heck, I don’t even like coffee in general. But this is a silly move.

http://money.cnn.com/2011/01/05/news/companies/starbucks_new_logo/

Unreal

Don’t have a lot of time to type much up here, but figured I would throw this out there for all 12 of you that check regularly.

A talented fellow by the name of Mike Ivall created a nice logo (left) and had it ripped off (right) by a guy working for Tag Sports Graphics. Wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the logo wasn’t then picked up by a professional minor league hockey team.

For what it’s worth, I like the one on the right a little more – but inverting direction and changing a few elements does not an original brand make.

I’m Still Here

But I’m not writing anything.

Crap. I just did.

Pocket Protectors and Star Trek

I’ve been channeling my inner-geek lately.

Stephen Hawking once suggested that the absence of tourists from the future constitutes an argument against the existence of time travel—a variant of the Fermi paradox. Of course this would not prove that time travel is physically impossible, since it might be that time travel is physically possible but that it is never in fact developed (or is cautiously never used); and even if it is developed, Hawking notes elsewhere that time travel might only be possible in a region of spacetime that is warped in the right way, and that if we cannot create such a region until the future, then time travelers would not be able to travel back before that date, so “This picture would explain why we haven’t been over run by tourists from the future.”[16] Carl Sagan also once suggested the possibility that time travelers could be here, but are disguising their existence or are not recognized as time travelers.

That’s some deep stuff right there. Feeling extra nerdy? Here you go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandfather_paradox.

Thou Christian Industry Shalt Not Steal?

A recent story that ran in USA Today by Jay Reeves with the Associated Press tackled a topic that I had long disregarded as a non-issue. What’s that you ask? Well, have you ever seen those Christian-themed products that parody trendy, secular ones? You know, “Got Jesus?” instead of “Got Milk?”. That type of stuff. I bet you have, and I’ve never really thought about it much myself (other than “wow that’s corny”), but here’s the thing – Products like these are walking a very, very thin line. A trademark infringement line to be precise. Imitations include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Abercrombie & Fitch > Abreadcrumb & Fish
  • iPod, iPhone, iTunes, iLife, iMac > iPray
  • Guitar Hero > God is my Hero

I’m certainly not going to list them all, there’s way too many to name. To help put things in perspective for you though, the Christian merchandising industry rakes in a whopping $4.6 billion per year. Of that, one-third is apparel. The very apparel that sports these ripoff branding jobs. There’s no telling how much of that one-third the spoofs and parodies actually make up though.

Trademark attorney Michael G. Atkins of Seattle claims that legal parodies of commercial trademarks are in fact protected under the First Amendment. Let’s drill down what he means by “parodies”, because such religious products generally don’t fall into that category. “You could take Microsoft and change their logo around to make fun of Microsoft, and that would be legal,” Atkins said. “But I can’t use the Microsoft logo to promote my Christian theme because there’s no real connection there. That’s illegal.”

The big issue, of course, is money. That’s what it all comes down to. What Atkins is saying in a nutshell, is that it’s perfectly fine to, say, poke fun at a company using their branding and designs, but it’s unfair to actually profit from it.

The companies that produce this stuff are forcing the originals they derived their products from to walk an equally thin line themselves. Atkins explains, “I think you have a real tension between the legal department and the PR department,” he said. “(Large companies) are very sensitive to looking like they are anti-Christian, so they are very restrained in going after the wrongdoers.”

It’s a very real dilemma. One that probably won’t go away any time soon. Companies producing Christian-themed novelties inspired by pop culture will continue to push the envelope, wait for the next big popular thing, and copy that. The companies who were copied from, of course, won’t do much because they don’t want the general public to judge them lest they be persecuted for wanting to protect their investments – intellectual or otherwise.

Having been raised in a church-going family from the cradle, I’ve seen stuff like this almost on a daily basis. What you should realize is I’m keeping this as unbiased as possible. I’m not taking a stab at any particular religion or denomination, or corporate America for that matter. Heck, I’m not even trying to play devil’s advocate (sorry, bad pun), I’m just exploring the issue. When you get down to the ol’ brass tacks though, this isn’t even so much about the Christian industry in particular swiping somebody elses property, as it is about it being possible to begin with. It’s about blatant trademark infringement taking place and having the issue swept under a rug for fear of negative public backlash.

In the meantime, the masterminds behind these spoofs are laughing all the way to the bank.

With that being said, any ideas what company we can gank from next? Looks like there’s some real money to be had here.

Binder and Binder

BinderBinder and Binder… “America’s most successful Social Security disability advocates.” That’s one of their mottos, and I can live with that one. The other? “We’ll deal with the government, you have enough to worry about.” Well, evidently Binder thinks that the typical American will worry more about the money they think they should get from Uncle Sam than why their pitchman is doing his best impersonation of J.R. Ewing.

Okay, fine. The guy is wearing a cowboy hat. So what? Well, here’s what’s wrong with Larry Hagman’s lid. I consider myself a somewhat savvy consumer. I take a while to make big decisions. You know, TVs, computers, cars, etc. I would classify going after the likes of the United States government larger than those – a monumental decision in and of itself. Now I’m not looking for help with Social Security or anything, but if I was, I lose all interest in Binder once I see that damn hat. Credibility is instantly shot. My thought process being that if this guy feels that he can, while sporting said hat, professionally represent his company to a national TV audience without getting laughed at then his judgement clearly stinks.

Or does it?

Is Binder simply playing the lets-get-them-talking-and-they’ll-come game? Probably. I’m writing about it aren’t I? And after all, it worked for screaming Billy Mays and his painted-on black beard. It worked for the Vince Offer (of Shamwow and SlapChop fame) minus the beard. The big difference is those guys were pushing food processors and garden tools. Binder is going to pick a fight with the US government on your behalf. Not exactly apples to apples. More like apples to moon rocks.

So let’s say these Binder folks get the general public talking – which they have. People talk, people research and people eventually buy or they don’t buy. That second step (the research part) is the one where Binder, Texas Ranger falls flat on its 10 gallon hat. Simply entering “Binder and Binder” in Google will populate a few interesting nuggets thanks to predictive searching. Try it out, you’ll see:

  • Binder and Binder scam
  • Binder and Binder reviews
  • Binder and Binder complaints
  • Binder and Binder cowboy hat

Less than ideal? I’d say so – either as a Binder employee or as a customer. Nevertheless, if Binder’s short-term strategy was/is to simply make a quick buck (ala infomercial style) then they did a good job. However if Binder was/is hoping to stick around a while and hope that consumers take them seriously, they’ve created quite the uphill battle for themselves.

All because of a rediculous hat. Yeehaw.

Figure/Ground Creations

Believe it or not this was the catalyst for the creation of this blog. So thank you Knight Transportation for being the inspiration, and incidentally, the only source of excitement commuting to and fro last week. Anyways, take a look at this gem of a branding job Knight has accomplished (sans “Knight Transportation”). I’ll be honest with you, the first time I saw the K logo (which is what I’m going to refer to it as), I wasn’t blown away. It’s pretty slick. A big, bold “K” with a knight’s helmet strategically positioned at the top.

It wasn’t until some time later that I felt like I had struck gold by noticing the horse’s head underneath it, seemingly camouflaged within itself. I wanted to tell the other stopped motorists around me that more than just a huge K and knight’s helmet existed here, but I refrained. This is the DC area after all, and well,  I just didn’t feel like getting the finger or shot that day. This is a prime example of figure/ground imagery. Very, very clever. Bravo Knight Transportation. Maybe your guys can get with Pepsi or the Instituto de Estudos Orientais (to your right) and figure something out. Sweet Moses that is one suggestive work of art if I’ve ever seen one.

I couldn’t help recalling, at this point, a similar awakening I had millions of years ago as a 15 year old in my bedroom. I’m talking about the first figure/ground illusions used for commercial consumption that really stuck with me. Behold the Hartford Whalers.

Hartford Whalers

Now this is a thing of beauty. The Hartford Whalers, an old WHL team turned NHL, moved to Carolina to become the Hurricanes and the logo was history. The team was called the Whalers, so the huge blue whale tail is (hopefully) fairly obvious upon first inspection. For me, the next painfully clear trait this logo had was the big green “W” underneath it. What I didn’t pick up on for years was that an inverted “H” separates said tail from the “W”. Now that my friends is brilliant. The word “clever” doesn’t do this creation any justice.