Brand Baby 4: Apple a day keeps mommy’s psychotherapist at bay

Deeply asleep.  My eyelids are pried open. Two huge blue eyes meet my hazy gaze. They belong to my cherubic two-year old son.  I glance at the clock, and groan - 4.50am. IPAD, IPAD he says persistently.  Until a few weeks ago he could barely say his brother’s names, yet the clarity of his articulation when it comes to brand names, and the range of names he knows would make a speech therapist stutter. Without flinching I drag the IPAD from its residence under the bed. He deftly strokes the screen, whispering in delight – IPAD.  He’s totally absorbed by its’ apps.  As a child it must feel good to be in control.  Especially as a two-year-old, when most of your day is determined by others. I stop intellectualising and enjoy the opportunity to eek out sleep. Later in the day, my six-year old returns home from school.  A blood-curdling yell reverberates around the house.  “That’s MY toy”.  “ It’s mine now or I’ll break it” replies his four-year-old brother.  I intervene - trying by-the-book parenting tactics; counting to three, time out, reminding them of their reward chart, and that screeching at one another isn’t exactly good social protocol.  Nothing works.  Now it’s getting bloody – they’re pulling at each other’s hair and punching - hard.  I take the desperate tactic that never fails to work - “Anyone like some time on the IPAD”?  Suddenly they are best of friends plotting a “strategy” for their shared game of Angry Birds. I’m relieved to make dinner without acting as a referee. On occasion, when the IPAD is being charged, the...

I’ve got… BMW envy

Last year we moved from the UK to the States. There’s not much I miss about England – certainly not the British weather, whining as a national sport or even the National Health Service.  Yet, one thing I miss more and more is our BMW.  We were proud owners of a silver 5 series touring.  It could comfortably accommodate our rabble of boys and its capacious trunk warmly coveted the significant amount of gear that comes with a family of five. However, being a BMW owner isn’t cheap, the purchase alone could pay three lots of annual school fees and the servicing bill used to bring on a migraine.  Little wonder one of the acronyms for the brand is Borrows My Wallet. So when we moved to New York we decided to plump for a more pragmatic version of premium.  We bought an Acura MDX (for those outside the Americas, an Acura is to Honda what Lexus is to Toyota).  So what was its main attraction?  It met our practical requirements as a family, it was cheaper than a BMW, and unlike some of the American luxury car brands, I didn’t feel like I was driving a bus or a tank.  People told me an Acura was an equivalent car to the likes of BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Volvo.  In my view BMW uniquely delivers an aligned brand experience that leaves its peers at the green light. The experience of being in our BMW was like taking a long deep, calming breath.  I often hypothesized if every person owned a BMW road rage would be a thing of the past...

Brand Baby 3: If only Target did day camp.

This summer marked our first foray into day camp.  Coming from the UK, where the concept of camp doesn’t widely exist, I initially felt guilty about filling up my kids’ summer holiday with more routine.  But, then I remembered last summer.  June 2010 and freshly off the plane, I knew no one and had the kids solo 24/7 for three months.  By Labor Day I was ready to outsource them to a chimney sweep or rug weaver.  So this year the idea of camp was much more appealing. We spent lots of time researching different camps.  Analysis over, we settled on a camp in Armonk, NY.  It promised to be action-packed with tennis, swimming, water slides – a kid’s fantasy, especially for those coming from the UK where any summer activity involves an interval of huddling miserably under an umbrella.  But, to my  disappointment my 6-year-old found camp to be overwhelmingly tiring and didn’t enjoy being with relative strangers.  Drying his tears each morning and wrestling with my conscience I wondered how great it would be if Target offered camp. For my boys, despite endless complaints about going to any other shop, a trip to Target is always met with an enthusiastic response.  They love Target! The red Bull’s-eye logo, (my two-year-old can spot it on the side of a truck at 90 mph on I-684) and the big  red balls outside the store which they energetically climb every time we go.  They love that Target is that rare place that sells so much stuff for a dollar.  However, the overriding reason they love Target?  Lots and lots and...

Brand Baby 2: Captain America runs on Dunkin’

The staff at the Mount Kisco branch of Dunkin’ Donuts could have done with a company sponsoring earplugs rather than promoting superhero donuts during a visit with my three boys. They couldn’t hide their ecstasy as they saw Captain America in Dunkin’s window. I’m not sure what was more exhilarating - the impression Captain America visits Dunkin’, he makes his own donuts or the anticipation of frosted sprinkles. To my embarrassment, full throttle, glass shattering screaming continued whilst in line – “Captain America, Captain America” - the shouting got shriller and shriller. It seems 2011 is the summer for superheroes as the Marvel series gains new cinematic life through the likes of Thor and Captain America. Today superheroes, like other brands, have evolved beyond being characters defined by generic category attributes of goodness over evil to carefully positioned portfolios with each character representing a distinct brand of superheroism. The Marvel Series trailer ably demonstrated how to advertise an endorsed brand strategy. Each superhero with its’ unique brand identity is tightly controlled and stretched across seemingly infinite product categories. Characters greet us in everything from tableware to shams, from candy to shoes, from dress up outfits, from masks to room accessories and personal care. Advances in cinematic technology have potential to bring to life product placements in new ways and facilitate further brand stretch opportunities. If the forthcoming aroma cinema was in time for Captain America one can imagine branded aftershave to appeal to those with greater purchasing power. Product placements in Captain America and Thor also point to these brands developing their reach as they seek partners who speak...
Brand Baby 1: Peace. I’m lovin it.

Brand Baby 1: Peace. I’m lovin it.

I’m not advocating McDonald’s serves particularly nutritious food. I’ve heard all the stories about the nugget meat being pre-washed in ammonia, scary levels of fructose corn syrup, red dye - the list goes on. A friend of mine tells her kids McDonald’s is a public toilet to turn them off. I live in Westchester, NY, where it’s perfectly possible a no carb diet is an entry requirement for country club membership and eating food fresh off the farm is as necessary as having a the latest 4WD, so the concept of eating a chicken McNugget here is stranger than a banker plowing his own snow. Yet there’s something so good about some of their products and then there’s the nostalgia that keeps the brand sweet for me – birthday parties as a kid and post cinema hang out as a teen. As a recently ex-patrioted Brit, I have a slightly different view of McDonald’s than most of my fellow Bedfordians. Post year 2000, McDonald’s actively courted the British middle-class. They remodelled restaurants to feel more like places you could linger in rather than race to get out fast, and put fresher food on the menu to put the emphasis on food fast rather than fast food. If my peer group in the UK are a measure I think they’ve been successful. It was perfectly acceptable to use McDonald’s as a post school pit stop and see other families from school with the same idea. After visiting various branches in NY State I am disappointed to see how grubby and out of date they feel, and even after other outlets...
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