Mini me

Mini me

I’m not a car person.  Well at least I don’t like to think of myself as one.  And, until about two or so years ago when I admitted there’s a little bit of a car person in each of us, I never put that much of a priority on the car I drove. As a city-girl, I viewed a car as a way to leave town, not something that defined me or even identified who I was to others.  In point of fact, I proudly drove my used Toyota Corolla from B-school for five or more years after I graduated.  After paying for the Corolla many times over in NYC garage fees, my husband and I gave in to our SUV envy.  We toyed with the idea of a Cherokee, but everyone we knew had one and, well, the Range Rover felt just a bit too luxurious to us, especially in contrast to our beloved Corolla. In the end, we opted for a Pathfinder because it spoke to us. Pathfinders were a bit smaller and far less prevalent then and Nissan embodied the idea of life being a journey to enjoy.  Chiat Day understood we were in that phase of taking life too seriously and desired to hold on to some of the freedom work and family obligations were stealing from us. Eventually, we moved to London and although Chelsea tractors, as SUVs are labelled, were appearing, my husband adopted more of a European attitude and chose a Saab 9.5 estate wagon.  Not quite a Renault or Smart Car but moderately better than an SUV.  I liked the Saab...

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...
A dinner party, a focus group

A dinner party, a focus group

As far as I know, modern rules of etiquette still dictate that mobile phones, tablets, etc. should not be used at the dinner table. But more and more I’m finding that when the conversation becomes truly engaging, someone always reaches for an electronic device to look up the meaning of a word or history of something referenced or even find a YouTube video to illustrate a point. While Emily Post, Letitia Baldridge and my grandmother would likely be upset and I do believe it’s impolite to answer a call or text at the dinner table, I also now think that using an electronic device as a reference tool helps to keep conversation flowing and even makes it more fascinating. The other night was no exception to this. We were still in Marblehead and crew and friends had joined us for dinner. The party around the table ranged in age from 19 to 51. Well ranged is possibly the wrong word. It was more that we had two groups of dinner guests that hovered mostly around each of these end points. As is common after a day of racing, the conversation began with a debriefing of the events, who did what right and what wrong and the status of protests. With the wine flowing and the food flavourful and plentiful, the discussion somehow comfortably transitioned into social media and our varying attitudes toward it. I think one of the early twentysomethings created a segue when he mentioned he had tweeted about his boat’s performance and his “Captain,” a gentleman just teetering over 50, in turn made a follow up comment...
Witch name (or, leverage your brand’s heritage to increase financial value)

Witch name (or, leverage your brand’s heritage to increase financial value)

Today was overcast with a high probability of thunderstorms, so I decided to  take a break from our sailing holiday in Marblehead, MA, to visit the Witch Museum in Salem. The trip from Marblehead to Salem is a short one, only about 3 miles.  As I drove into town, I immediately noticed all the obligatory Witch  named businesses: Witches Brew Cafe, Witch Tees, Witch Way Gifts, etc.  More striking to me though were the businesses, including many unrelated to tourism, that used Witch City, a title I hadn’t heard before, as a  popular substitute for Salem: Witch City Taxi, Witch City Cycles, Witch City  Cleaning Co, Witch City Construction and Witch City Computers. I pulled into a parking space, got out of the car and immediately opened maps in my iPhone.  I must have looked directionally confused (which I often am) because a charming, elderly local woman about 5’ 3” tapped me on the  shoulder and asked me if I needed help.  Her name was Kathleen and when it comes to unexpectedly finding the perfect tour guide, I couldn’t have been luckier in meeting her.  She’s lived in Salem for more than 70 years and jokes  about the fact that she uses creamy white powder to hide the green complexion of her skin before she goes out in the daytime.  Kathleen quickly informed me that the term “Witch City” has been a nickname of sorts for Salem since  shortly after the 1692 trials.  And, that the name became popular some  time in the 70‘s when the town made a purposeful effort to embrace their  history, rather than run away...

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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