Timing is everything

Blogging from Squaw Valley Ski Resort, where we have been blessed with 48 hours of non-stop rain. The good news? Forecast teperature for each of the next three days is a winter wonderlandy 69 degrees.

Still, it could be worse. Bill O’Reilly could be getting laid this year – in Nevada anyway.

That visual should stop those sugar plums from dancing in your head.


If it was good enough for a rodent, it’s good enough for a marsupial.

Just in time for Christmas, which is actually summer in Australia, and explains a whole lot, comes news that kangaroo meat may henceforth be called “australus,” as in, “How do you want your australus? Rare, medium or well done?”

The folks behind this rebranding effort claim they want to encourage more people to eat kangaroo meat, but we think there is a more sinister motive — pest control.

To us here in the Northern Hemisphere, the kangaroo is a cute hopping animal, most notably epitomized by “Kanga” one of the stars of Winnie the Pooh’s universe. In Australia however, even though it is a national symbol, it is a pest. With nearly 50 million of them running around, there is a yearly culling to control the size of the kangaroo population. And what do they do with the culled roos you ask? They make pet food.
They also sell the meat as people food. But the only people who really like kangaroo meat are the Japanese and the Germans who turn it into sausage.

If this rebranding of a rapidly multiplying pest sounds familiar it is. Remember the coypu? A few years ago, Louisiana was swarming with these water rats who were eating everything in sight and causing untold amounts of damage. So the folks in Louisiana decided, it was either eat or be eaten. But who wants to eat water rat? So their solution was to rename the rat Nutria.

So you see, renaming kangaroo meat “australus” is really just pest control disguised as fine dining.

Landor terror alert

Your branding tax dollars at work, creating an empty vessel. From today’s Washington Post:

The Department of Homeland Security was only a month old, and already it had an image problem.

It was April 2003, and Susan Neely, a close aide to DHS Secretary Tom Ridge, decided the gargantuan new conglomeration of 22 federal agencies had to stand for something more than multicolored threat levels. It needed an identity — not the “flavor of the day in terms of brand chic,” as Neely put it, but something meant to last.

So she called in the branders.

Neely hired Landor Associates, the same company that invented the FedEx name and the BP sunflower, and together they began to rebrand a behemoth Landor described in a confidential briefing as a “disparate organization with a lack of focus.” They developed a new DHS typeface (Joanna, with modifications) and color scheme (cool gray, red and hints of “punched-up” blue). They debated new uniforms for its armies of agents and focus-group-tested a new seal designed to convey “strength” and “gravitas.” The department even got its own lapel pin, which was given to all 180,000 of its employees — with Ridge’s signature — to celebrate its “brand launch” that June.

“It’s got to have its own story,” Neely explained.

Nearly three years after it was created in the largest government reorganization since the Department of Defense, DHS does have a story, but so far it is one of haphazard design, bureaucratic warfare and unfulfilled promises. The department’s first significant test — its response to Hurricane Katrina in August — exposed a troubled organization where preparedness was more slogan than mission.

Happy Merry!

MTV + Igor = URGE

MTV has just announced the name of their new digital music service, named by Igor. From the press release:

MTV Networks, a division of Viacom Inc and Microsoft Corp. today announced they have collaborated on the design and development of MTV Networks’ new digital music service called URGE…

….URGE will offer rich entertainment programming and innovative tools designed to guide musical discovery and connect fans to the artists and music they love. Offering more than 2 million songs from the major labels and thousands of independents, URGE will encompass all musical genres, from alt-country to zydeco. In addition to a broad catalogue of music choices, URGE will deliver a deep well of exclusive MTV Networks programming and original, hand-crafted content…

…MTV Networks, a division of Viacom Inc., (NYSE: VIA – News and VIA.B – News) and Microsoft Corp. today announced they have collaborated on the design and development of MTV Networks’ new digital music service called URGE. Set to debut domestically in 2006, URGE will provide an immersive music experience…

…”As with everything we do at MTV Networks, every element of URGE is being developed with our audience in mind,” said Jason Hirschhorn, MTV Networks’ Chief Digital Officer. “Beyond providing a simple transactional service, URGE will provide a musical playground where fans can explore, customize, discover and download new music.”

…Upon its debut next year, URGE will be promoted through multiple venues, including the MTV, VH1 and CMT channels, which on average collectively reach more than 165 million viewers U.S., as well as through the respective brands’ Web sites and Urge.com. Additional details of the new service will be unveiled in January at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

You’ll be able to satisfy your URGE here.

More blogs about urge.

From London with love

Today’s Telegraph brings us a salient article on corporate naming by Brian Millar. Here’s a taste:

In the 1990s, the professionals moved in. The company-names-are-a-serious-business business was spearheaded by Landor Associates, a San Francisco-based design group that was so cool its headquarters were a ship. Landor brought “methodologies” with them. Rigorous, mysterious methodologies.

If you ever wondered where those bizarre unpronounceable company names come from, look to the Landor crew. Avolar, Midea, Avaya, Spherion, Onity, Lucent. And Lucent’s rival, Agilient. You know, like Lucent – but agile! Nice. Soon lots of big branding companies were picking up briefs and now our world is littered with Arrivas, Aptivas, Achievas and Avandas.

How did they persuade boards to part with vast sums of money for something that had always been free, and was better when it was? Here’s an answer from Interbrand’s website: “The chosen name, Xingux, is derived from a word with many positive connotations by using ’signo’ (sign) with the abstract device of starting and ending with a letter X. The visual identity communicates the dynamism of the group’s business.”

Browsing these explanations is like reading the minute scrawls of a lunatic obsessive recluse: “Qarana originated from an Indian language called Jain meaning ‘to cause’… Hospira… is an abstract of the words hospital, spirit and inspire and the Latin word spero meaning hope.”

So that’s the important Jain and ancient Roman markets sewn up then.

The rest of the article contains many more spot-on insights by Mr. Millar, as well as the usual well-worn “wisdom” of some idiot from Igor. Full article here.

Interestingly, Landor now claims to be looking to hire coherent people. At least one anyway. If you’d like to crawl inside for a look, now is your chance. From craigslist.