Rob Walker curates one of the best columns in journalism today. His weekly updates from the American consumer culture almost always leave me with a smile. It just so happens this week is on topic with a cultural trend I have been studying in contemporary American culture - a move away from the gentleman's organized sport arena and a move to the rugged and authentic world of ultimate - X games - kick ass realism.
Here is his Saturday NY Times Magazine article:
The activity often referred to as “ultimate fighting” — but known to fans by its proper designation, “mixed martial arts” — can be characterized in a number of ways: sport, entertainment, spectacle. John McCain once called it “human cockfighting” and the State of New York still calls it a crime. Whatever it is, mixed martial arts appears to be enjoying a fresh surge in popularity, as measured by the audiences for pay-per-view matches, cable reality shows and, perhaps the best gauge of a phenomenon’s penetration into mainstream American life, related brands.
Clothing brands associated with mixed martial arts (or M.M.A.) are “spawning a new category of lifestyle apparel,” the garment-trade publication DNR recently suggested. A standout example to date is Tapout, which makes T-shirts, shorts and other items invariably slathered with its heavy metal-ish logo. (“Tapping out” is a gesture of submission used by a fighter locked in a hold of excruciating pain.) The company claims 2007 revenue of around $22 million and distribution in 20,000 stores, including Champs and Dillard’s. And there are other brands: a three-day trade show this week in San Diego, called Virtue, will also include about 40 others vying for the attention of retail buyers. Virtue is a spinoff of ASR, a trade show focused on “action sports” like skateboarding and surfing. Andy Tompkins, the group-show director for ASR, says Virtue will feature “brands that speak to the M.M.A. lifestyle.”
The vague term “lifestyle” is particularly vexing in this context. Perhaps clothing lines associated with surfing or hip-hop or Ralph Lauren suggest such a thing. But what “lifestyle” might we associate with one person kicking another in the face? Of course, mixed-martial-arts enthusiasts would counter that this is an unfair question. The sport is not the free-for-all it was the mid-1990s, when politicians sought to bar it from television and many states banned matches altogether. At that time, the point of the Ultimate Fighting Championship was to pit experts in various disciplines (jiujitsu, karate, wrestling, boxing) against one another with as few rules as possible — and of course to make money off it. Today there are weight classes and rules that forbid things like stomping a fighter when he’s down or striking him in the groin. The fighters are referred to as athletes and are obviously in remarkable physical condition. Play-by-play announcers focus on skills and techniques. The sport’s critics have generally backed off, and its audience has rebounded. CBS has put mixed-martial-arts matches in prime time. Many expect that New York will allow M.M.A. matches again soon.
And Tomkins’s answer to the lifestyle question suggests, somewhat surprisingly, that the sport is all about . . . self-improvement. The fights can still be “pretty brutal,” he concedes. “What they’re going to have to do,” he continues, “is appeal to mainstream people”; kids who are inspired by the fights to sign on at mixed-martial-arts training centers might be one way to make the concept “more palatable” to families.
As it happens, the three head honchos of Tapout, while they’ve never been fighters, did in fact train in martial arts. And of course they are hardcore fans. They started peddling branded T-shirts nearly a decade ago, when mixed martial arts was at its most marginal, and supporting fighters when mainstream brands steered clear. In a Barnumesque bid to get attention at matches, they developed outrageous (and preposterous) personas, calling themselves Mask, Punkass and Skyscrape, wearing glam-rock/hoodlum costumes and behaving more like mascots than entrepreneurs. Today they’ve become stars themselves, hunting for new fighting talent on a reality show on the Versus cable network; it’s a rare five seconds that goes by without a Tapout logo in view.
Tapout has now been profiled everywhere from BusinessWeek to CNBC. But evidence of mainstreaming and talk of palatability aside, the illicit air that clings to mixed martial arts is almost certainly part of the attraction. The sport’s most demonized era happened to coincide with the cult popularity of the movie “Fight Club,” which posited underground fist-fighting as a kind of therapeutic tonic for the numbing effects of consumer culture. It reportedly inspired real-life fight clubs — a response that is, of course, not for everybody. But the general idea of living on the edge, of a no-holds-barred struggle with an unambiguous result, appeals to many, and is just the sort of thing a brand like Tapout can offer indirect access to: not the life, per se; just the style
Advertising has a bad rap.
For the full story check out the BBC story .
Want to know how the next bubble will drive down valuation multiples and stock prices around the world? Turn to page 165 of John Gerzma's extraordinary new book THE BRAND BUBBLE, published in New York.
It's frightening, but as accurate as only an insider's insider can possibly be--down to the simple linear equations and their impact on the corporate machine and marketing infrastructure and brand sales of the world's most powerful brands.
By Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer:
If you are Miss Philippines and competing in an international beauty pageant against Miss India, then chances are, you will get really nervous.
This is because Indian women have become synonymous with beauty and brains, thus, might have a better chance of winning the pageant. India’s global manpower is just as highly regarded, and is ranked among the world’s top three.
India is also licking its poverty problem and the country is fast becoming one of the world’s super economies.
In the advertising and marketing sectors in Middle Eastern countries, two nationalities dominate—Filipinos and Indians.
The same holds true in Southeast Asia.
Fipinos and Indians enjoy some of the juiciest positions in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and even in Cambodia and Laos.
There is a lot of action in China and the Olympics are certainly heating things up in Beijing. But some advertising executives believe that the real marketing race should be won elsewhere in the region—in India.
Consulting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers says it expects India’s media and entertainment business to generate an annual spending growth of 19 percent compared to 15 percent for China.
This helps explain why many of the biggest western advertising agencies have made a home in India.
Led by WPP, they face new competition from smaller agencies, the latest of which are four so-called boutique firms with a sprinkling of offices worldwide.
They have recently opened or announced plans to operate in India.
These are Portland-based Wieden & Kennedy, which opened in New Delhi last year, Bartle Bogle and Hegarty, Naked Communications (both based in London) and StrawberryFrog, a hotshop based in New York that plans to open in Mumbai over the next few months.
According to reports, the agencies are “trying to keep up with big ad spenders, which are shifting more of their marketing budgets to India and other fastest-growing Asian markets and away from Western Europe and the United States, where economies are slowing.”
A country of enormous size, consumer population wise, India is but a natural magnet to marketers. No wonder then that there seems to be at least one media outfit expanding to the country every week, the latest of which is News Corporation, which announced plans to spend $100 million to start six new television channels in India.
With a more sophisticated consumer-oriented economy taking shape in India, the rush of small agency networks echoes deeper changes in the country. Where manufacturers and retailers before were primarily concerned with getting products into the shelves and big advertising agencies simply adapted international campaigns, the scene has vastly changed.
Now, as in more developed economies, dozens of products compete for attention. Marketers are fiercely fighting to connect with consumers on a long-term basis. Advertising agencies never had it so good, churning out campaigns that are making Indian advertising like a brand of sort.
On the global creative scene, Piyush Pandey and Prasoon Joshi are iconic fixtures in Cannes, D&AD, One Show, and revered in regional advertising competitions.
Padney, Ogilvy & Mather Mumbai executive chairman and national creative director who sits in the Ogilvy Worldwide board, is considered as India’s advertising guru and India’s most influential man in advertising. Joshi’s “shadow” campaign for Coke ignited India’s explosive show in Cannes a couple of years back and has continued to spearhead India’s presence in tough competitions around the world. Both have graced the Philippine Ad Congress as speakers and “Araw” Awards jury members in 2003 and 2005, respectively.
Are the Olympics graying? Past their prime? Fuddy duddy? Ask Gen Y, they don't seem to care much about these games. A rethink is in order to save the games from the same fate as Expo.
Back in 1967, Expo had it’s finest hour. Montreal hosted what many believed to be the finest Expo to date. The pavilions could be seen tens of miles away protruding out of Helen’s Island in the middle of the St. Lawrence. People clamored to the event from all over the planet. My father made his reputation developing marketing for Expo 1967, and was brought to Japan to help the Japanese plan Expo in Osaka in 1970. Like the Olympics in Beijing, architecture was one of the main attractions of Expo. The US Pavilion at Expo '67 was designed by Buckminster Fuller:
New York had two expos and you can still see the buildings left over from those events when landing in La Guadia.
No matter which city held an Expo, it was a world event. It was what everyone talked about. Still to this day, when I mention I was born in Montreal, I’m almost always asked if I have been to the old Expo site. Ten years later, few people could care much about where the world exposition was being held. By then, in the same city that held Expo 1967, the Olympics were being held.
Started back at the turn of the century, the Olympics brought the world together. The event never really eclipsed Expo. Berlin in 1936 and Rome came close. Munich was a disaster because of all the Israeli athletes killed by terrorists. But it wasn’t until the summer Olympics in Los Angles that the modern games broke through and connected with a world audience. And in the shadow of this, Expo kinda fell off to the historical wayside – primarily because Expo became less relevant to a new generation of people who cared less about the values of Expo.
As I watch the games in Beijing, I can’t help wondering if the same is happening to the Olympics. Sure Beijing, like Montreal and Paris, has it's remarkable architectural icon - the Bird's Nest. And, I know that baby boomers are flocking to watch the games – everyone I know who is older than 40 hasn’t slept all last week. Gen X is surely caught by the Olympic spirit. But Gen Y? Anyone under the age of 29 simply has nothing, except possibly beach volleyball, to capture their imagination. Shot put? Discus? High jump? Track and Field? Synchronized swimming? Horse Jumping? Not sure any of these events have much of a future of drawing a crowd. On their own they are of course fun to watch, but I think younger people want something very different.
Not the X games per se, but a rethink of the Olympic games is much needed.
When setting out to launch a new product, your marketing plan will be a pretty important tool. Here are some useful things to keep in mind.
A good starting point is of course writing your marketing plan and investment modeling. In addition, finding the right communications partner is a priority. How do you select the right partner. There is excepted wisdom that I do not entirely agree with, such as holding a pitch between agencies. Namely because the real life experience working with a partner is very different from a pitch environment which is made up and fake.
The only way you can truly feel out whether the partnership is right is by rolling up your sleeves and getting to work.
Chemistry, a mutual view of the marketing landscape, innovation, strategic and creative excellence on past cases all make up an excellent yardstick against which you can make a decision for a partner. You can meet 2-3 different groups, but then you should select one and brief them for an assignment. Then begin working together.
Better agencies are not suppliers, they are more akin to business consultants and, as such, partners for your business. I stress partnership because the better communications firms are focused more on ideas and solutions and less on the distribution of media. The large legacy agencies strengths continue to be moving and managing huge volume whereas the more innovative companies out there, are able to focus on innovation and maximizing a product launch in a fragmenting media world using the new technologies out there.
New Product Development (one step before you have a product) is also something the more innovative agencies are geared up to help companies with today very early on. Cultural Movement strategies, for example, work well through the process of NDP because the process centers on the zietgeist of culture not on the product in isolation of the culture at large.
The results can be pretty incredible. Case in point the music industry which faces severe challenges and yet unknowns are raking up millions and millions of fans and downloads on their Myspace pages.
Innovation is needed when launching a new product because that new product can accelerate into a phenomenon whereas in the past a lot of success was based on the people behind the product. No more, in today's market new products can spark a Cultural Movement and grow globally fast.
Once you have selected your partner, then it's time to brief them. Here are some questions you might consider asking yourself before giving your new partner your brief download:
What is the business objective ?
What is the target bullseye ?
What is the functional benefit of the product ?
What is the emotional benefit of rhe product ?
What is the product culture ?
What is your annual budget ?
What are the agency fees ? (not the same as the annual budget)
Then form a good partnership and get to work.
According to Just creative design:
It is always interesting to see what brings readers to a blog so I thought I might share with you guys what blog posts have brought the most visitors into Just Creative Design. Maybe you could employ the same strategies to get more readers to your blog? According to our stats from the past 7 months (see below) these are my top 10 most popular pages on JCD. 1. 92 More Awe Inspiring Creative Photographs 2. 56 Awe Inspiring Creative Photographs 3. 30 Fonts That ALL Designers Must Own 4. 99 Sites ALL Designers Must Know About 5. Home Page 6. Graphic Design Portfolio 7. Why logo design does not cost $5.00 8. The Best Graphic Design Articles from 37 Top Design Blogs as Chosen By The Authors Themselves 9. 15 Signs Your A Bad Graphic Designer 10. 192 Creative, Smart & Clever Advertisements