The looks: Wikipedia has always looked the same. Check off “consistency” on the Good Branding Checklist. With its white background, minimal accessorizing and slightly dated blue links, it has conveniently aligned itself with the visual brand language of Google. Bonus points! Its logo is distinct and uses a literary serif reminiscent of McSweeney’s cult of words and style. All in all, Wikipedia could stand to have a visual touch-up, but it is reliable and creates the proper associations.
Development: With WikiBooks and a series of other tutorials you could spend hours reading, Wikipedia has expanded its assets while remaining true to its general mission statement.
Culture: What happens behind the curtain is fairly obscured with Wikipedia. They lose a few points there. Its owner, Jimmy Wales, earned a saintly glow after swearing to keep it a non-profit in 2002. (Don’t worry, he’s rich enough. He’s on the panel at Hunch.com and makes money with the ad-supported Wikia network, which plays on geekery and has a strange, strange portal about Pop Tarts.) In response to worries that Wikipedia’s English-language page had slowed significantly in growth, Wales and co. decided to expand Wikipedia’s growth in non-English nations instead of adding fireworks to the English site. Globally-conscious, ethical, practical – I could swoon.
Fun fact – the Wikipedia co-founders met in a chat room about objectivism. Now if that isn’t fodder for a Thomas Pynchon novel, I don’t know what is.
Aol, Yahoo! and MySpace to Start a Baby-Sitters Club
Aol’s parents just hooked Aol’s bedroom up with a flashy new phone, so Aol thinks it’s the perfect time to start a business. But not just any business – a baby-Sitters club! The first call Aol made was to Yahoo! and my___, who Aol knew surely had extra time on their hands. At first, Yahoo! and my___ weren’t convinced. A baby-Sitters club? But what about their studies? But after Aol pointed out that they’d earn extra cash to buy fun stuff like Keds sneakers and Swedish Fish, they finally agreed. No more begging mom and dad for money! What kind of adventures will the three fading web giants find when they put out their first Baby-Sitters Club business card?
One of the great tragedies of the Harry Potter series was when Hogwarts Inc. lost its long-time CEO. When Dumbledore got taken out, everyone was asking, where will the school of witchcraft and wizardry go from here? Will it change all its fonts to Helvetica? Will Polyjuice Potion classic be replaced with syrupy-sweet New Polyjuice Potion? Will the school song be covered by electronic indie pop group Chairlift?
It was a tale of a brand whose very identity was pinned to the person in charge, and the stakes of losing that figure could mean a complete takeover of evil. Pretty intense. Most brands and corporations don’t rely on central leadership to the extent that Hogwarts relied on Dumbledore, but this isn’t that far-fetched of a tale. Remember when Steve Jobs was sick and stocks threatened to plummet? (Note: Apple stock rates hit $300 today. Holy crap.)
So what happens when a company loses a CEO who was much more than just a figurehead? A mini-case study:
Here’s an excerpt from my latest post on the Zeus Jones blog.
A couple posts ago, I called my generation “Generation Why Bother?” I’ve also called them “The iGeneration,” “Generation [This Space for Sale]” and “Generation Personal Brand®.” While I think “iGeneration” is the term most likely to be worked into a Miley Cyrus Pepsi jingle, I think the idea of personal branding digs the deepest into our worldview.
Personal branding can be explained in terms of this paradigm shift:
Paradigm one: “It doesn’t matter if someone is wearing second-hand clothing. It’s what’s inside that counts.”
Paradigm two: “I can infer by his thrift-store wardrobe that he both hates Keith Urban and feels mild remorse after eating from McDonalds’ late night menu.”
This move from general and emotional to specific and distanced is a result of a highly branded culture. But how did we get this way? Branding is a two-way process. Brands can only do so much to communicate what they are and who they’re targeted for. But customers can become more and more adept at interpreting these symbols, making brand communication possible in complex new ways. My generation hit puberty right when Britney Spears was first showing her midriff, and this bubble gum pop culture led branding to a new peak of sophistication. For the first time, youth was literally plugged into an influx of mass marketing, allowing brand language to become as intimate to us as English.
1. We like metanarratives* that make modern times look exciting
A movie about Facebook! I want a movie about Pitchfork. I want a movie about NikeID. I want a movie about the Mountain Dewmocracy. I want a movie about the behind-the-scenes pressures of developing the iPad. I want a movie about McDonalds’ new line of smoothies. And I don’t want them to be documentaries starring a fat guy (or a guy slowly getting fatter) explaining how my habits are evil with a happy ending involving organic yogurt. I want drama. I want sexy antics and appletinis and I want Justin Timberlake and some girl who is probably the next Natalie Portman.
What I’m trying to say is, there is something goosebump-inducing about turning a giant, society-defining phenomenon into high-quality, sexy drama. It takes the times we are in and puts them in an explanatory box, it gives us a behind-the-scenes glance at something intimate to us in a narrative that we can understand. And it adds a sheen. It rubs some shine serum on that shit. “The Social Network” is groundbreaking, at least, in that it offers a metanarrative for our times.
*I MAY be using the term “metanarrative” wrong. To be honest, I really want to go make some caprese sandwiches and watch “Boardwalk Empire,” so I only gave the word a cursory glance on Wikipedia. It just seemed right. Please don’t get all cultural studies on my ass about this word choice.
2. The importance of “coolness”
There were many themes in this film (power leads to isolation, etc.), but the one that interested me the most was how elegantly this film explained the monetary value of coolness. Eduardo (the co-founder and initial financer of FB) continually wanted to monetize the site, and Zuckerberg would usually say things like, “Facebook is cool. Ads aren’t cool,” and, “Right now the Facebook is cool, and that coolness is priceless.” (Note that I said “like.” I wasn’t taking notes. My friends would have found this snobby.) I might even say that I learned the recipe for monetizing coolness from this film:
Create coolness. Let sit. Let grow. Put all your labor into cool thing. Make people want it. Make people need it. Then monetize it.
It’s a slow-cooker, coolness, but for every extra step you take in this recipe, the more billions of dollars your coolness will be worth. Then you can hang out with Justin Timberlake and blondes smoking bongs while you rake in the dough.
3. I enjoyed the relentlessly negative portrayal of those jock twins
That scene with the special lens that made everything look miniature, where they played that creepy song that is also in “Harry Potter” commercials, made the twins’ rowing contest look positively evil and positively ridiculous. That scene alone should win some award. And Armie Hammer (who was also Gabriel on “Gossip Girl”) was perfect as the jock you love to hate, x 2.
4. Actually, all the acting was pretty damn good
One issue: Why was Eduardo Saverin, who is Brazilian, played by Andrew Garfield? That kind of stuff bugs me, although Garfield was great in the role.
Some things about this film were fabricated. For example, Mark Zuckerberg has had the same girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, since college. The whole part about him pining after the girl he pissed off over a beer was made up to add to the story arc. To me, that seemed like a stupid trade off. In order to add that “power leads to isolation” theme, they fabricated a plotline, thereby downgrading the film’s credibility as a whole. Sure, adding sex, drama and huge parties makes the film better, but that is too large of a separation from truth, in my opinion.
O.K. I am out of reviewing time, but I thought “The Social Network” was a grade A film. I think we like it because it is a film about us, and because our parents might not “get it.” My parents don’t really want to see it because they don’t “get” Facebook. How naive, right?
Baz Luhrman, the Aussie director of Moulin Rouge! and Australia, stopped by the New York Music Theatre Festival this week and dropped hints about two of his upcoming projects. First up: a stage adaptation of his feature directorial debut, 1992′s Strictly Ballroom. He plans to do a creative workshop in Sydney, Australia, this December and predicts that the show will “absolutely” end up in New York City (though not in the next two years).