Tuesday, February 27, 2007

it's ok to have a messy desk

"If an untidy desk signals a messy mind, then can we say that a clean desk signals an empty mind?".

I've always subscribed to the above theory but, unfortunately, without hard data, I've been on the losing end of this argument a couple of times.
Well somebody finally came to my rescue. Eric Abrahamson, a business academic, and David Freedman, a journalist, published a book, "A Perfect Mess", showing that to have "moderately" messy desks can lead to more efficient and more creative work. Compiling several cases throughout history to backup their case, they finally show that it's ok to have "moderately" messy desks (that's the caveat and I have yet to see if I qualify in that category) . The most interesting anecdote is the discovery of penicillin, an accident only possible because of the mold created in Sir Alec Fleming's messy desk. Genius!
Read the review in the "The Daily Yomiuri" here.

Monday, February 26, 2007

wii winning the video-game battle

It's still a little early to tell but Nintendo's Wii seems poised to win the battle of the video-game consoles. According to the Financial Times (reg. req.), it "has soared past Microsoft's Xbox 360 in sales and opened a huge lead over Sony's premium-priced rival, the Playstation 3".
Still according to the article, a Merryl Linch analyst predicts that, "by the year 2011, almost a third of the Japanese households, and almost 30 percent of all US households will own a Wii". That's huge! If we take into consideration only the households with children, that percentage would increase considerably.
Wii's success is a great example of non-linear thinking, of winning the battle by playing a whole different game.
On Wii's website, there's a very interesting interview series with the team that created and developed the console. Hosted by Nintendo's president, Mr. Satoru Iwata, it gives a glimpse on the approach the team chose for the project. See this statement from Mr. Takeda, who led the project:
"...if we had followed the existing Roadmaps we would have aimed to make it “faster and flashier.” In other words, we would have tried to improve the speed at which it displays stunning graphics. But we could not help but ask ourselves, “How big an impact would that direction really have on our customers?” During development, we came to realize the sheer inefficiency of this path when we compared the hardships and costs of development against any new experiences that might be had by our customers... After speaking with Nintendo's development partners, I became keenly aware of the fact that there is no end to the desire of those who just want more. Give them one, they ask for two. Give them two, and next time they will ask for five instead of three. Then they want ten, thirty, a hundred, their desire growing exponentially. Giving in to this will lead us nowhere in the end..."
As I said in the beginning, the battle is still in its early stage, so let's see how it develops, but according to Credit Suisse analyst Jay Defibaugh “there has always been a strong concern that the Wii was gimmicky...but each passing month assuages that.”

Reference:

Lewis, Leo (2007). Nintendo's Wii Outsells Rival Consoles. Financial Times. February 21, 2007.

Friday, February 23, 2007

ali rap on espn

Watched "Ali Rap" on ESPN, a documentary based on the George Lois' book I blogged about the other day. It's a fitting tribute to Ali's verbal punching power, featuring some of his classic moments, as well as some famous guests such as Sylvester Stallone, James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier, Ludacris, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Diane Sawyer, Angelo Dundee, and George Lois.
The documentary has been released on DVD as well, including the entire 1974 Ali vs. Foreman fight in Zaire.
You might be led to think I'm a big boxing fan, which I'm not. Actually I rarely watch boxing matches. Having said that, there are 4 fights that every sports fan should watch: the three Ali vs. Frazier clashes, and of course, Ali vs. Foreman, a master class on how strategy and finesse (if you could say so about a heavyweight boxer) can triumph over brute force.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

innocent breaks into uk's top 100 brands

A survey by Check Out magazine (reg. req.) in the UK, shows that while traditional brands such as Coca-Cola and Walkers still dominate the top of the grocery list, healthy brands are enjoying the strongest sales growth.
Remarkably, Innocent Drinks, the smoothie brand (love the 'strawberry & banana' one), is the fastest-growing UK brand, and for the first time breaks into the top 100, at No. 63, with sales of £96m.

Reference:
Smithers, Rebecca (2007). Organic Food Breaks Into Top 100 brands. The Guardian. February 21st, 2007. (here, free, but reg. req.)
Top 100 Grocery Brands Report (download it here, free but reg. req.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

monocle magazine

I got my hands on Monocle magazine's premiere issue. Magazines all over the world are dwindling, many are folding (George, Talk, The Face, to name a few), and most are getting slimmer, with fewer and fewer advertising pages. So it is laudable that somebody is willing to launch a new magazine given this scenario.
Monocle was launched positioning itself as a new type of business magazine. Well, it is definitely not a business magazine in the traditional sense. With sections categorized from A to E (Affairs, Business, Culture, Design, Edits), the magazine's premier edition brings an eclectic mix of topics, such as the emergence of Japan's navy (the cover story), an interview with Lego's CEO, the semiotics of Iran's president wardrobe, and a fashion editorial set in Okinawa.
The most interesting piece for me is an article about Miura Golf Clubs, the maker of Tiger Woods' clubs (Nike puts the logo on them, but they're actually made by Miura). Hint: following on centuries of samurai sword forging tradition they see themselves as forging specialists, not club makers, which gives an idea about the craftsmanship involved.
Some other features of the magazine:
- At 242 pages it is surprisingly big
- There's a "manga" supplement, complete with instructions on how to read it (from right to left, obviously)
- It clearly intends to be an international edition. With a head office in London, the magazine has bureaux in New York, Zurich and Tokyo.

shrewd marketing or spam?

The Chicago Cubs has agreed on a deal with sports apparel maker Under Armour to have ads placed on its legendary ivy-covered walls. The Cubs' Wrigley Park is one of the most traditional ballparks in what is arguably America's most traditional sport. Already some purists are protesting this move.
Reference:
Sullivan, Paul. Cubs Show Tradition The Door With Ad Deal. Chicago Tribune. February 14, 2007. (see here)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

zapcode in singapore

I got the heads up about this from ag407's Fernando Barros (thanks Fernando), who told me about shotcode, a technology that resembles a barcode. Unlike the traditional barcode however, this technology allows mobile phone users to access more detailed information about a product, for example. Basically the code contains a link to a website, which people can access only by taking a picture of it. The applications are endless. It can be used to provide more information about products, events, movies, etc.
Now Singapore's SPH, publisher of The Straits Times, has launched a similar product called ZapCode.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

where ideas come from

Who would've thought? YouTube creators were inspired by HOTorNOT.com. According to an article in Time magazine (Dec. 16, 2006, the "Person of the Year" issue), "Chad and Steve agree that Karim deserves credit for the early idea that became, in Steve's words, "the original goal that we were working toward in the very beginning": a video version of HOTorNOT.com."

about the future of gaming, computers

Some interesting bits on the blogsphere, dealing with trends in the computing and gaming industry. Somehow they're all interconnected, though I can't quite explain now.
- Steve Johnson muses about the Nintendo Wii (amazing how the Wii is bringing long lost consumers to the category)
- Momus writes about the age of the ubiquitous computing (and mentions the Tokyo Ubiquitous Network Project)
- Mark Cuban discusses the future of computing and gaming, and the implications for Microsoft, Apple, Google, Sony, etc.

Monday, February 12, 2007

ninja restaurants

Following up on my 'ninjas are cool' post, found out that there are ninja-themed restaurants in Tokyo and New York. The restaurants are designed like a ninja castle, complete with trap doors, hidden passages, shuriken-printed napkins, and of course, ninja-waiters. They even have a 'torture chamber'. When the cook or the waiter messes up with your order, the other ninja-waiters tie him up and give him a good beating, 'ninja style' (lucky him, in the old ninja days, a ninja who made a mistake was not supposed to come home alive!). Too funny!
Check out this video on YouTube.(via tokyomango, thanks Lisa)
PS: oh, and the food looks great too!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

ali rap

Read 'Ali Rap', a book edited and beautifully designed by George Lois, and published by Taschen and ESPN. Actually I flipped through it in less than one hour, so fascinating the book is. But more than just a book about Ali's famous wisecracks and rhymes, which are geniuses by themselves, the book takes the reader to a journey through America's recent history. And all that designed by George Lois. It doesn't get any better than this.
Some excerpts from the book:

"This is the legend of Muhammad Ali,
The greatest fighter that ever will be.
He talks a great deal and brags, indeed,
Of a powerful punch and blinding speed.
Ali's got a left, Ali's got a right,
If he hits you once, you're asleep for the night."

"I'm so fast that last night I turned the light switch off in my bedroom... and I was in bed before the room was dark."

On a return to a young, terminally ill cancer patient:
Ali: "I told you I was gonna whup George Foreman. Well, I'm back from Zaire and I did whup George Foreman, and now you're gonna whup cancer".
Boy: "No, Muhammad. I'm going to meet God. And I'm going to tell Him I know you."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

beijing olympics pictograms


In the official website you get to see the evolution of the design since the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

the oscars

Watched a couple of videos from Dreamgirls and they just blew me away. Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce Knowles singing, just watching the trailer gives me chills. Make yourself a favor, find your way to the clip below (in the movie's web site, in Media & Video/Clips) and watch Beyonce singing 'Listen'. A full video in YouTube.
About Jennifer Hudson, what a terrific story, 'only in America' kind. She's been compared to Aretha Franklin. Watch this interview with Today Show's Matt Lauer.'Half Nelson'. With a title like that I've got to watch it.
My sentimental favorite for Best Movie: 'Little Miss Sunshine'.
On an ad industry note, you've probably seen Wieden & Kennedy's Honda Civic 'Choir' commercial. According to W&K's blog, "Steve Sidwell, composer of the soundtrack and conductor of the choir in the ad, has been commissioned to compose and conduct a soundtrack for a choir to sing live at the Academy Awards emulating vintage motion picture feedback". Pretty cool.

marketing + technology

Couple of technology enhanced marketing moves in Japan:
The first is this interactive projection advertising technology by a company called Catchyoo (via CScout). I saw a similar technology being used at some museums in London but this is the first time that I've seen it being used in advertising. It can be projected on floors, on walls, on tables, etc. In many ways, it feels like a video game, and the Wii comes to mind. See video here.
The other example is this virtual make-up booth, a joint project developed by Mitsukoshi, Shiseido and Fujitsu.
I'm no make-up expert, but I guess most women will be pleased to be able to try as many variations as they like without going through the mess of having to apply the make-up, then having to wipe it off, then applying another option and so on. Eventually they'll still want to try out the real stuff, but at least they can make a previous selection.
The machine scans the woman's face and through an LCD screen, she can try as many variations as she wants to (by waving products with RFID tags on a tag reader). The screen shows how she'll look, and better yet, she'll be able to see the before/after effect.
The project runs through Feb. 12th at the Mitsukoshi store in Ginza (via Wired Blog).

Friday, February 02, 2007

design conscious singaporeans

There's an interesting ongoing campaign in Singapore called "10 Touchpoints. Better Living. Better Design", promoted by the Design Singapore Council, which urges Singaporeans to vote for the worst designed everyday items in the island. At the end of the campaign, the top-10 most voted items are going to be redesigned.
That's an interesting way to raise awareness about the importance of design in everyday life. We all have complaints about mundane things that we believe could be better designed and yet, most of the times, we don't bother to voice our opinions. Well, here's our chance. Nominations can be made until Feb. 14. Votes can be cast until Feb. 27.
So far, some of the most voted items are:
Ugly drains and canals, poorly designed bus handle, lack of an island-wide cycling lane (this one really deserves a vote), better "keep left" signs on the subway escalator (that's really interesting, this being a former British colony. In London you're supposed to stay on your right).
Visit the campaign's website and see more examples (and cast your vote).

Thursday, February 01, 2007

shrewd marketing or spam?

Couple of moves worth commenting:

- The Chicago White Sox home games are going to start at exactly 7:11pm. Not 7:10 nor 7:12. That's because the convenience store chain 7-eleven has agreed on a US$ 500,000 a year sponsorship through 2009. Viewers are now going to be asked to tune in at exactly 7-eleven, or rather at 7:11pm, by TV announcers. See the team's press release here.

- More recently and still in sports sponsorship, State Farm, an insurance company, closed a deal to put its logo on more than 40 college basketball courts across the US. Aside from the usual sideline boards, they'll now have their logo on the back of backboards, affixed to the support arm.
- Starbucks is being targeted by an online campaign that aims to have the coffee chain's Forbidden City store in Beijing closed. See the story in The Guardian, here (reg. required). Check out this flickr page as well for more pictures.

Reference:
Elliot, Stuart (2007). State Farm Is There, Right by the Backboard. The New York Times. January 31, 2007. (see here)
Watts, Jonathan (2007). Starbucks Faces Eviction From the Forbidden City. The Guardian. January 18, 2007.