Stan Fairbank

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Archive for the ‘Intellectual Property’ Category:

Name Game

Haven't had time to write lately as I've been doing contract work for various branding agencies. Very hard to find time for personal projects of any kind when doing agency work. If you've worked in branding or advertising then you know the dilemma – challenges to be met, no set hours, and every deadline is yesterday. Thrills, chills & spills.

One of the firms I've been working for specializes in naming, which was a first for me. I was just doing UI work there but the elite level of their processes was such that I learned a great deal about naming simply by hanging around. I've often helped my clients with simple branding ideas and even naming from time to time, but after a stint at this shop I wonder if I'll ever again have the balls to help a client come up with a name for their business.

A top agency's process for naming a company or product is exacting and requires supreme cool under the fire of deadline. You have to take a project through brainstorming, editing, copywriting, legal scrutiny, edits of the concepts that survive the eyes of your lawyers, and client presentations – all in a narrow timeframe. And after all of that, if you are skillful enough to have achieved harmony with the client, you hope to god that after the product launches that your research and calculations were right and that the public responds to the new (or rebranded) widget as positively as you hoped they would.

It was very impressive to see the efficiency with which the teams worked together to conjure up this marketing magic in an environment where marketing is scarcely ever discussed.

I'm still obsessed with the challenge of how to help smaller clients with this service. Agencies who service large corporations have no problem budgeting for the exhaustive legal and creative work required to develop identity and ensure that the client won't have to worry about possible suits from trademark infringement.

But small businesses need help too, now more than ever in the age where high search rankings can transform the fortunes of those who are strong in their vertical and know how to optimize for it. Almost every client I've ever had has experienced some kind of problem with naming their company, a spin-off line of products or a marque. Some have trouble even defending branded search terms. The huge challenge is how to help these people with integrity while working out a budget that won't blow them away.

Affordable legal seems to be the main hurdle. I'll be looking into fees in the near future to get an idea of how to present professional-grade service for those who need it. With a decent legal resource on one side and a logo freak on the other handing creative concepts I might be able to coordinate some good work for the smaller clients.

The Artist Formerly Known as Reasonable: Prince’s Internet Issues

The UK’s Daily Mirror ran an interview this week with pop icon Prince that’s being panned all over the place because of the many outrageous statements the pop icon made therein about selling music on the internet.

The juciest excerpts:

“The internet’s completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.”

“The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good.”

And so another popstar from the 80s refuses to come to grips with the cultural and financial realities of modern media. Or so he would have us believe.

The real reason for the granting of this exclusive interview seems to hinge on the promotion of an exclusive Prince CD release. Exclusive to? Buyers of the print editions of these same UK newspapers, of course. The CD is being bundled with the weekend edition for a consideration. I know, you’re shocked to find this out.

In the interview he also also railed about the evil of pop culture and said that we all need more god in our lives.

That kind of absurdist celebrity prattle gives me a laugh. I love the idea of a filthy rich popstar wagging his finger at me about the evil of modern sexuality and telling me I need more god in my life. Especially when the popstar in question made the lion’s share of his fortune by shrieking about kinky sex with women in tacky camisoles.

But I digress. What about the marketing wisdom of this move? The pros & cons:

Pro
Prince has enough money to live comfortably for a couple of dozen lifetimes. Nothing he does or says in the music world will degrade his quality of life at this point. So if, at the age of 52, he’s still in the music game has a hunger to win and little to lose, why not lob a Hail Mary pass in the air and see what happens? He’s been successful with bold moves before, bolstering flagging interest in his brand by pulling that ridiculous “my-name-is-now-a-symbol” stunt a couple of decades ago.

Prince minus controversy = no record label. Be outrageous; get your name on people’s tongues again and find new audiences as you enter your fifth decade as a performing artist.

This anti-tech pose could work well for Prince at a time where there is a growing feeling among many that we are all becoming somewhat overconnected. With much rethinking of what we may have lost through the convenience of online digital media, Prince may be working some kind of angle as an anti-tech folk hero, and he’s just enough of an old-timer to pull that off.

And it warms me to know that after Prince’s decade-long flirtation with the Jehovah’s Witnesses – a religious cult noteworthy for being the only collection of people in the world more humorless than Prince himself – he’s getting really serious about the boutique celebrity cult thing and becoming a Luddite.

Con
This is an era where millions of musicians around the globe are merely struggling to find an audience and hoping make a few bucks as a bonus. To a music fan, the idea of some popstar Citizen Kane snarling about the paltry size of his publishing and mechanicals royalty rates has to be a major turnoff. And a major challenge; I would bet that there are more than a few wise guys out there right now who are ripping the entire Prince discography into crappy 128k MP3s for upload to Pirate Bay on general principles.

And of course the most obvious flub: looking old and out of touch. It may please Prince’s formerly bad self to know that there are some things that haven’t changed about pop music, and one of them is that looking like an old cretin still hurts your ability to move units. Only now, this very successful icon is very much on the wrong side of that strategy.

But…
…in the short term, the interview/sweetheart deal promo has to be considered a winner. By virtue of a few inflammatory comments being broadcast over the net, he’s got ME and many others writing about him in our tech/media/marketing blogs. That should sell a lot of papers in the UK and get 20TEN into a lot of Amazon carts. So he’s already making inroads into new territory without licensing even one track in the iTunes store.

As a distribution strategy it’s dumb, but for brand awareness it’s great; the interview’s viral coverage is probably going to be a more successful online marketing concept than anything else he could have pulled off. That crazy purple fox has struck again.