Remakes, sequels and spin-offs… “old TV series” with a better promise?

Over the last year or so there have been many remakes, sequels and spin-offs of old TV series. We had The Knight Rider, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place and now in the beginning of November we will see V.

Old logo

I find it very interesting to follow feedback on these new versions of old series. It’s almost like the ultimate test to bring back a brand from the past. For those who know the brand it is about bringing back the good memories in modern context. For those who never experienced the brand in the past might have heard parents talking about it . Even though it’s not cool to like stuff your parents like(d) curiosity wins, you try and you are hooked. Mission accomplished: the brand has become relevant again.

I think that is happening with these series. It is a carefully crafted extension of the original brand promise, staying to the core of what made them cool in the first place but put in a modern context and adapting the stories to todays world.  So far it seems 90210 and Melrose Place are doing fine with exactly that. The Knight Rider failed miserably. You only need to watch 5 minutes of any episode on and you see why: it stayed too close to the original series. Back in the 80s a super car with talking robot (remember KITT?) was cool because it was hard to imagine it would ever exist, that excitement is lost when you put the story in the context of today. The Knight Rider core promise just became totally irrelevant.

V 2009 TV seriesWhat’s next: V!  I loved the series in the 80s! Then I saw it once in 2001 or so on TV and it was just… horrible. The characters and everything looked so fake… still the story should work still today, that is in a modern format with more professional effects. Cannot wait to see what ABC made of it: the visitors will arrive on November 3!

“Seeing the Future in 3-D Television”? TV makers: go horizontal

With a lot of interest I read the NY Times article “Seeing the Future in 3-D television” (link). It’s great to see TV makers trying to expand the possibilities to enjoy content. Of course the 50 USD a pop for the special 3D glasses and not to mention the additional production costs for studios to optimize their footage for 3D might just halt this innovation but in the end: if consumers want it, why not?

I think though that TV makers should rethink the “TV” brand drastically. In stead of improving the basic media consumption on the screen it would be better to expand the meaning of a TV. Think about it: 3D is just an additional option after black/white, color screens and HD screens. These technology changes have not changed the meaning of TV, TV makers brands and value at all.

In fact: since the arrival of cable boxes the basic user experience is not anymore with the TV brand but it is with your Time Warner provided cable box… When was the last time you touched your TVs remote control? Yes, the cable box made the TV maker brand almost irrelevant.

So, TV makers here is an idea: expand the meaning of the “TV” brand by going horizontal. Incorporate all the features of an Apple TV (with better storage, connection and video codecs), add internet connection, get partnerships with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu all to bypass cable providers. Make the TV the center piece. You can expand the meaning of TV and with that the meaning of your brand. And that can only be good: moving from a TV maker of “well designed TVs with a good screen” to a maker of “TVs with instant access to all entertainment regardless where it is” will have much more value in the long run.

Volkswagen USA: what is happening?

Since my visit to the New York auto show in April I have been wondering about the Volkswagen brand positioning here in the USA. In Europe Volkswagen is really positioned as the peoples car and as such their visual identity and communication reflects that.

Here in the USA it has been different and VW has been making some steps a long the way. Take a look at the examples below:

Playing tough...
Previous website: playing tough...
... friendly, the brand for everybody
Current website: perhaps too premium design? And... where are the People?
Very sophisticated at the New York auto show April 2009
Very sophisticated and premium at the New York auto show April 2009
Even though next to Audi, the VW stand really looked much more premium
The Audi stand next to VW looked really basic...

Yes, Volkswagen has made progress from the tough looking old website design to the more approachable current design but it still feels Volkswagen is a bit lost.

It is lost in its positioning against Audi, the other brand in the Volkswagen group.

In order to be the people car it should not out win Audi in webpage design. It should also not out win Audi either in big events like the New York Autoshow. It should never out win Audi.

What should Volkswagen do? It is of course up to the Volkswagen Group to figure out how to play with Audi, VW and Porsche in their brand portfolio but it is clear that there is some clear overlap at the moment. That is bad, as it will decrease distinctiveness of these wonderful brands against competition. My recommendation would be to bring much more focus on what made Volkswagen big: being the people car and Das Auto! There is a lot to play with when you think of a car for the people. That is, The Car for The People!

64 bit extravaganza or just a simple web operating system?

64 bit vs simple web o.s.As many other Apple Mac users I updated to the latest operating system: Snow Leopard. It went really smooth and 40 minutes later I had a 64 bit operating system running on my iMac: hurrayyy!!! Soon after that I started to wonder: now what? Yes 64 bit is cool and yes applications will run probably even faster than ever before and yes future video editing apps will be even more fun than everything available today but… how much is too much for average users in terms of what they really use? Are we witnessing the Super Audio-CD effect of optimizing to the wrong direction?

Think about: how much time do you work with a computer using applications that really need a ton of processing power and / or 64bit? How many applications simply use the web or how much do you actually just use the web browser? I bet there are many less “stand alone” applications in use than a couple of years ago!

Take a look at Jolicloud, an OS for netbooks. It is super lightweight and free operating system fully using the Cloud. Yes, you will need to feel comfortable moving your photos to Flickr and edit your photos using Photoshop web, performing word processing tasks with ZoHo writer but the main point is that for everything “basic” you can just simply use a web browser…no need for a 64 bit operating system…

Who of you have made the switch already and is planning to do so in the near future?

The Whole Foods lesson: CEOs = their brands and should energize their customers

John Mackey CEO of Whole Foods writing for The Wall Street Journal:

While we clearly need health care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and moves us much closer to a complete governmental takeover of our health care system.


As CEO you just simply need to know your brand, your customers and in fact live the essence of your brand and it’s positioning.

The result of this mistake is costly. People are now rallying against Whole Foods, trying to boycott stores and hence impacting revenue. This is however the not so costly side of this mistake… the much more damaging side of this story is that for Whole Foods consumers who are aware of Mr Mackey’s opinion on Healtcare the perception of Whole Foods as a brand has changed for ever. It will never be that authentic brand it was. Changing THAT perception will take time and much more money than any boycott will do. Especially in a time of Facebook, Twitter etc in which it is really difficult to “silence the crowd”.

So, CEOs please stay true to your brands and their unique positions!

Old ‘home’ computer games: gimme one box that plays them all… :-)

MSXFollowing from my desire for retro stuff in the previous post I thought to share a long wish I have… with the hope that somebody picks it up!

What I am after is a hardware emulator that would allow to play those fantastic computer games from the 80’s on the TV. Remember the days of MSX and Commodore? I am imagining something the size of a phone, with connectors for two proper joysticks (not those horrible Playstation/Xbox controllers!), SD card reader and a connector for a keyboard.  That’s all:-)

Nokia N95 with MSX emulator (image by AllAboutSymbian)
Nokia N95 with MSX emulator (image by AllAboutSymbian)

I have tried using a phone (Nokia N95 with TV out) in a similar setup as the image here on the left. It works, it’s cool but… I miss that lovely lovely joystick!

So… for all of you reading and thinking “what’s the fuzz?” The fuzz is all about authentic gaming and a dose of really good memories! Again I am sure that there are plenty of 30 something folks out there that would love to play these fantastic games from our youth. A retro gaming evening anyone?

For those who never used these home computers:  Metal Gear was born on a MSX computer in 1987 and who would not want to play that original version!

Adidas: please bring back the real originals

AdidasRecently I bought a pair of Adidas Samba 80 shoes in the New York Adidas super store. It was a bit of a search to find the Adidas Originals in this massive store. I expected them to be in the shoe department but finally found a small collection on the second floor women’s department (picture). Unfortunately only a few of the cool shoes from the eighties present.

After my purchase I learned that there was actually a special Adidas Originals store in SoHo. Super excited to see a whole bunch of retro shoes I quickly went over. Unfortunately the goodies in the store are not that retro at all. It is merely a well designed space and is very inviting. And yes, for those of you have been at the Adidas Super Store in New York their Originals store does not have a black interior: thumbs up Adidas!!! (picture).

Once in the store I went quickly to the shoe area. Unfortunately the Adidas Originals brand mark equals nothing more than products that are inspired by the original designs. They are not the originals which is really to bad.

Gimme THAT shoe!
Gimme THAT shoe!

I am sure that I am not the only 30 something person who for a substantial feel good and remembering the old times factor is interested in the real stuff.

So Adidas, here is an idea: why don’t you start a line extensions under your Adidas Originals sub brand that would solo focus on the real originals. Let’s say the ‘Adidas Originals vintage collection’. First shoes and shirts and maybe over time other apparel. You could even do a limited time only deal…

I could see something around “Bring back the good old times with the Adidas Original vintage collection”

Yes please! 🙂

Indexing what is happening now: Paul McCartney in NYC on Google and Twitter

There were rumors that Paul McCartney was playing in NYC… Well he actually did play in NYC and I was really curious where he played so I hit the search engines and realized that the essence of the Google and Twitter brands have taken shape.

By default I hit Google search only to find out that the first hits did not tell me where the gig took place. Sure, I could have looked a little further but it’s clear that mixing ‘what is happening now’ with traditional search indexes is not straightforward from a user experience perspective. So, I went over to Twitter and of course found out immediately where Paul McCartney was playing.

Google, first hits not relevant
Google: everything?
Relevant hits
Twitter: all about now

So, two brands and products with a different purpose: Twitter lives up to its promise “See what is happening, right now” and found a differentiating promise in the search engine space.

Google is the search engine for everything but “now”. Even when Google indexes everything real time it will need to do some serious user experience design to stay on top of being the search engine of everything: mixing the moment of now with the past and future in one elegant interface.

What is your bet: divergence or convergence in the search engine space?

Starbucks: you make me feel good!

Over the last months Starbucks has done a fantastic job in injecting their core brand promise to the public. Ranging from NY times full page advertisement to outdoor posters the message was the same:  it’s not just coffee… it’s Starbucks. All backed up with quality & fair trade messages. I really liked this campaign and it did give me the ‘feel good’ feeling when sipping some vanilla latte at the local Starbucks.

Starbucks outdoor advertisementI mean: who would not be happy to know that the coffee beans used in Starbucks coffee come from well selected farmers and contains 3% of the world’s best beans? That must mean there is a lot of crap coffee out there! Even though I am sure nobody ever really bothers about that when drinking coffee in a restaurant or even at home: ever seen a pack of coffee in the local super market that contained the worlds 1% best coffee beans?

So, why does it work here so well? My take on it is simple: quality and fair trade is a great differentiator in the ‘fast food / fast delivery’ segment Starbucks operates in … nobody else can claim it. The Starbucks message works very nicely against local deli’s/ supermarkets, Dunkin Donut, McDonalds etc.

I am a believer: in this segment there is only place to get a cup of coffee as good as Starbucks… it’s Starbucks!

New recipes that swear off artificial...
New recipes that swear off artificial...

Update july 12: this morning an other advertisement in the New York times. Enticing title “A cup of Starbucks coffee, a brand new blueberry muffin and all is right with the world”. How cool is that!? Especially when you read that the new recipes “swear off unappetizing artificial trans fats, artificial dyes and flavors, or high-fructose corn syrop”. Now that is even cooler! I feel now even better taking a high calorie muffin with my coffee:-) Point is of course: Starbucks is hitting home run with their brand promise and differentiating at the same time and is doing it in my opinion very well.

Great hardware, trimmed software: it will be fixed by the community no matter what!

Of course we all know about hacking / jail-braking the iPhone just so it would do what the hardware enables us to do. Best example of software restriction was the fact that one was not able to record video in the iPhone 2.0: why would Apple even think to restrict something like that? Of course iPhone apps were developed to enable video recording (that is, on hacked iPhones). Technology advanced consumers know what products are capable of doing and if the manufacturer is not going to fix it, then it will be fixed by somebody else. This striving for enabling what is seen as a limitation will bring a revolution to hardware and software houses building commodity products. It is a simple fact that large groups of people are inherently smarter than an elite few! If it can be enabled… it will!

Canon 5d mark II... now hacked!
Canon 5d mark II... now hacked!

Best latest example in this category is from a unsuspected corner: the Canon 5D Mark II dSLR camera with video capturing capabilities.

Apparently Canon did not enable or include all the video editing capabilities this great camera is capable doing. So, now there is an open platform called “Magic Lantern” just doing what Canon did not deliver in the current software release… making a great video camera out of the 5D mark II. Check out their to-do list. Is this worrying? Maybe it is if you are in the business of selling video cameras like Canon is but at the other hand this might be the best opportunity for Canon to get more high end cameras sold and with that… high end (expensive!) lenses and that must be good news for Canon!

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