Do people who need people need Volvo?


Remaining fresh and relevant is a challenge that every marketer faces at some point during a brand’s life cycle. Companies and organizations re-brand for a host of strategic and not-so-strategic reasons. There can be new leadership (and therefore new priorities), new competition (e.g. Samsung takes on Apple), new consumer behaviors and new platforms on which to engage them (like mobile). Sometimes, it’s as simple as message fatigue. The marketing team and their agency are simply tired of the same old creative (even if it’s still effective) and decide it’s time to change up the look, feel and tone.

Perhaps that was the thinking behind Volvo’s makeover of their long-time safety campaign, which in its new incarnation takes pretentiousness to a whole new level. “We design around people,” claims the Swedish-inflected spokeswoman in charmingly idiosyncratic English. “To live life less complicated.” Okay, we get the form-function-ergonomics argument and the tight close ups of the technology are great, but then the spots devolve into the automotive-typical scenes of winding roads, babies and beautiful women gazing soulfully out the window.

When it comes to safety, Volvo has always had a clear competitive advantage. Rather than resorting to soft focus, however, the carmaker might have done better had it taken a page from the more impressive story Subaru tells in its excellent “They lived.” After all,  what’s more important? The technology that goes into a car or the “people” who come out alive?

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The re- re- re- re- invention of the Grand Old Party


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As the sainted Ronald Reagan might say, there they go again. The Republicans are reinventing themselves, slipping in and out of personas faster than a model changing clothes during Fashion Week. All in a vain attempt to put a pretty mask on a harsh, plutocratic and insurrectionist face.

Meet the new Republicans (spoiler alert: same as the old ones), who have launched a hip and happening new website to set forth their new (old) positions: lower taxes, smaller government, American exceptionalism and local values (states rights?). It features a cool-looking line drawing of an elephant that, when you glance at it quickly, appears to be moving backwards. Best of all, there’s a section called “critical thinking.” It’s just a collection of policy papers but you have to admit that “critical thinking” is a curious descriptor for a party that rejects evolution, climate change and healthcare reform.

Jindal and Jeb are lurking there too. After all, we wouldn’t want to take this re-invention thing too far.

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Homes, phones and logo design

New graphic identity proposed for IKEA

DIY design

Like the cherry blossoms, the housing market is emerging from its long winter of discontent and with it comes a crop of new creative selling  and selling around “the American dream.” Our listings this week:

Berkshire Hathaway is bullish on real estate. On homebuyers and sellers’ acumen, not so much. In this new commercial, an affluent family, surprisingly angsty first-time home sellers, is helped through this arduous ordeal thanks to their HomeServices broker’s gentle ministrations. The photography is house-porn beautiful but the overall vibe with the whispery tones and emo music is more Ingmar Bergman than the sunny seer of Omaha.

On the other hand, the realtors in ATT’s “Professional Women” close the deal on their business mobile share plan with a minimum of fuss or wasted emotion. While all the talent and styling are top-notch (those blazers! that hair! the crossed arms!), the lone guy on the team (Evan Arnold) brings down the house.

Where would homeowners be without IKEA, whose spectacularly named DIY home furnishings lend a playful spirit to any décor (at least until you try to figure out the instructions). UK student designer Joe Ling has proposed refreshing the brand’s identity with a stacked logo suggestive of the company’s iconic Allen wrench and the flat packaging for which the retailer is known. Engaging, clever and eye-catching, this new design is, as the HomeServices people might say, very “good to know.”

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