POSTS BY Diane Wang

Soiree!

By on July 20th, 2012

Have you had any cake yet?

Barrel lovingly celebrates each one of our birthdays with a broad range of cakes! We’ve had ice cream, carrot, and flourless chocolate so far. Yum. It’s always a great afternoon break when you have some cake.

Have a happy Friday everyone! Though gloomy, the rain is helping cool down this hot New York summer.

How Effective is Product Placement?

By on July 11th, 2012

So last week, Transformers 3 came on Netflix, and I thought to myself, how effective is movie/media product placement? I remember when I first watched the Michael Bay blockbuster in theaters, I laughed out loud when I saw the blatant placement in pristine glimpses of Macy’s, Citibank within the wreckage of Chicago. But the movie has many more products splattered throughout its two hours like Lenovo, Cisco, Mercedes, just to name a few. This is a little departure from the digital things we normally talk about here, but it was just something on my mind..

Normally, I wouldn’t have called any movie out for its products, since it’s only natural that some brands and some objects come up. The best writing is specific, as always, so when Ken Jeong’s character names Shu Hua milk, it makes the humor more apparent while giving some script time to the Chinese brand. But I’m not the only one to be entirely conscious of Michael Bay’s many corporate collaborations in this movie. The blatant presence of slow panning shots of brand logos on products such as Lenovo computers and also Cisco systems is overwhelming. In contrast, it’s easier to shake off knowing that the demon car is a Mercedes Benz, a sic one at that, because the fact that it’s a Mercedes is not thrown in your face strongly. According to Brand Channel, this movie wins the 2011 award for most searches of “product placement”, with almost 2 million searches in six months. It also managed to cram an amazing 78 brands onto the screen.

So just how effective is product placement? I suppose it depends on what goals you’re looking for. On one hand, by increasing your brand’s prominence in the media, you create larger awareness for it. According to Nielson ratings, there is quite a high recall for TV. You’re staking the claim that your brand is big enough that stories and movies circulate around it. Modern Family is now one of the most sought after product placement spots – the show is very selective and sparse in their placement.

But this could just as easily backlash with your audience being annoyed. Brand Channel quotes blog Slashfilm who critiques the Cisco placement in Transformers quite succinctly,

“…Cisco shows up at so many random points in this film — for video conferences that, in other films, would not be branded, and as a strangely prominent router in another situation — that it’s absurdly distracting. Assuming Cisco did sponsor this movie, what did they hope to gain? Is there a huge overlap between the target audience for this film and Cisco Telepresence? Are high-powered executives really watching this film and saying, “Hey, we should get that for our international offices!” Are military brass really watching this film and saying to themselves, “Glad we integrated that Cisco Telepresence!” What possible purpose could this sponsorship serve?”  Watch an excerpt of Cisco here.

Still, the sponsorship serves quite basic means: to ingrain the brand name in your mind. In that, Transformers succeeds! Hundreds of blogs are talking about the product, and despite the critique, the brand name is making its way through the masses. It’s a simple strategy. Customers are most likely to choose the brand that resonates with them, the one they remember.

The more interesting side of Transformers’ product placement is the rise of Chinese brands in the mix. Chinasmack notes Lenovo, TCL, Shuhua and Meters/bonwe (fashion), as just some of the big names appearing. The WPP press release for Lenovo by Ogilvy says that this collaboration with Transformers is part of a global branding strategy, aimed precisely at amplifying awareness internationally.

But let’s consider the future of product placement and ad-spots. Ad Age writes that commercials and content are becoming indistinguishable nowadays. Writer Brian Steinberg even goes as far as to blame consumers for product placement, by reminding us that advertisers now weave marketing into programs and movies because 30-second ad breaks in programming just aren’t cutting it anymore. We have remotes that fast-forward, change the channel, and with Netflix, non-commercial streaming as well. We can’t ignore that these corporate sponsors are also responsible for funding the programs we love so dearly such as American Idol and more. Product placement becomes somewhat of a necessary evil…

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What’s in a name? Or a logo?

By on June 29th, 2012

On our first day in, Peter gave me a book to read called Designing Brand Identity, by Alina Wheeler, and I found the section on brand history fascinating.

Brands are much more than just their logos and names, though nowadays we tend to conflate them in our minds. Logos, especially, are imbued with meanings way beyond their graphic symbolism.

Consider the Nike brand logo. From that one swoosh, we see the entire company.  Our minds immediately think ‘Nike’, recalling ‘Just Do It’, and imagining Michael Jordan taking flight on the basketball court. We perceive the swoosh as indelibly linked to sports, a can-do attitude, running shoes, energy, health, and more. But when it was created, the company wasn’t even called Nike. Nike was simply the name of a line of shoes they were creating.

Blue Ribbon Sports took the name Nike from the Greek goddess of victory. The fact that I never actively made this connection baffles me. Me, someone who studied Greek history and art, who knows for certain that the Nike of Samothrace, one of the iconic sculptures of Greek classical art, is from the 2nd century BCE. The thought must have been at least in the back of my mind. Like, duh. Nike, or victory, applies easily to sports games, competitions, and also the “Just do it” slogan (which didn’t appear until 1988 thanks to Dan Wieden of Wieden+Kennedy). This shows how much precedence the brand Nike has over the term ‘Nike’ in my brain. Isn’t it amazing that brands can operate on that level in your mind? ‘Google’ has entered our vernacular; we also ‘tweet’ and ‘facebook’. Wieden’s claim that brands are verbs has held true..

In 1972, BRS only payed about 30-some bucks for the iconic visual. The swoosh is an abstraction of the goddess’ wings, in essence, a visual derivation of Nike. But over the years, Nike has consolidated their branding to place this visual everywhere. You can’t help thinking about what Nike embodies when you see it. Its history of Greek classicism has become entirely unimportant; Nike refuses to rely on that connection to make their stamp on the world.

Similarly Apple lore tells us that one of the reasons why computers were named Macintosh, might have been for Jobs’ favorite apples: McIntosh, making it a completely random, un-related choice. Google may even have been the result of a fortunate type of the unit ‘googolplex’. But now these brands are household names with specific public perceptions. Google is a synonym for clean search and whimsy on the net. Apple is known for their sleek and well-designed products.

I don’t think these stories dispel myths and beliefs that a name is centrally important in developing a business. Although a clever brand name or a logo can help you, many of the things that make a brand lie outside of it, actually. Still, it could be the case that these examples: Nike, Apple and Google are the exceptions. But more often than not, I find that it is a funny, throwaway, not fully strategized name that becomes the household name. I heard Gilt Groupe founder, Alexandra Wilkis Wilkinson, speak once, and as it turns out, “Gilt Groupe” was also partial happy coincidence.

Some other sources: The Atlantic, Adweek, Stanford, Hubpages 1 and 2.

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Inspiration Perspiration

By on June 27th, 2012

Being creative can be hard work.

So what do you do when you feel like your ideas are drying up? At Barrel, we have a handy set of websites that we use to stay inspired and visually stimulated. We are always on the lookout for great websites and designs we can learn a thing or two from. Here are some of the sites we use:

dribbble.com

siteinspire.com

patterntap.com

mediaqueri.es

thebestdesigns.com

smashingmagazine.com

When your ideas run out, it’s good to take a break, refresh and then come back to your project with fresh eyes. We have ping pong and snacks for that! Everyone in the office is more than happy to take a quick look and offer feedback – new perspectives can lead to interesting and unique solutions. We are full advocates of collaboration, which is why we use sites like dropmark to gather inspiration and ideas. Personally, I love to carry a notebook in which I can use good ol’ fashioned pen and paper to jot things down. I find that having brainstorm or sketch sessions is also a great way to bounce and form new ideas.

Besides these tactics, we encourage everyone to read, read, and read. In-house books that are recommended include: Design is a Job, How to Write a Sentence, The Lean Startup, Getting Real,and more. You never know when you’ll get an epiphany.

But really, the best thing to do is stay positive. Being creative means being open. No idea is a bad idea – it’s all part of the process!

To finish, here’s a nice Vimeo video on 29 helpful, creative habits.

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Filling the Keg 0.27

By on June 7th, 2012

We just had our first progress check meeting re: the intern blog yesterday! Here’s the lowdown of what went on. You can also read our first post below, where we gave some brief introductions to ourselves and the beginnings of our internships at Barrel!

Keg v0.0 - Guys, let's not ever forget the WordPress 2011 theme that our blog started off with.

Topic 1: Our name.
We presented on our brainstorm for whimsical, humorous relations to Barrel, and how we ultimately decided upon Keg, singular and capitalized. Traditionally a keg was a wooden container, like a barrel, but now it is more popularly known as the metal contained used to transport and dispense beer. Doing some more research, I’ve discovered that a keg is actually known as a small barrel (according to Wikipedia). How apropos! Like Taylor says, we’ve done a better job of naming ourselves than we originally thought!

Topic 2: Our content.
We want to fully showcase our intern lives at Barrel, documenting our growth, what we’ve been learning, what we’re working on, as well as the fun we’re having, too! Here are some of the things we plan on talking about in our blog: Life at Barrel, Filling the Keg, Tips and Tools, as well as Keg Talks. This post falls within “Filling the Keg”, where we’re going to show you our process in making this blog, pretty much as it happens, live. When we start writing within the other sections, we’ll also introduce their functions more specifically.

Topic 3: Our design.
Our blog is currently operating in a WordPress 2011 layout, which is not particularly eye-catching. As interns at a digital agency that specializes in making websites and digital experiences, how can we possibly let this stand? We’ve already tossed many ideas around surrounding possible logos, typeface use, color scheme, and overall layout design. Here are a few snapshots of what we’ve been experimenting with (Thanks Katie!).

Keg v0.1 - Playing off the simplicity of Barrel's website. Note: we're using the same font for "Keg" as Barrel does for their logo.

Keg v0.2 - Here we added an illustration for dynamism and youth! in the header. The yellow color got some interesting feedback: we had originally planned for some liquid leakage out of the keg via a spigot. Then some of us thought it made the column look like a pint glass with foam and beer underneath, others thought the yellow reminded them of a different liquid...

Keg v0.25 - Keg is big and simple without "We are" in this header, making it easier to read. But the description underneath is still a tad small in size. We opted to stick with this narrow format to optimize reader viewing; we read better in columns!

This has just been a preliminary peek! There’s much more to come as Katie finishes and tweaks the final design. She’ll probably talk more about that. We have since departed from this large header format and are looking to focus on the content of our blog with its design. We’re also working out some technical kinks in our blog at the moment: enabling photo/media upload, creating archive functions within our design, and perhaps integrating social media. Stay tuned!

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