Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How To Give Digital Music that Warm Vinyl Feel in the Age of The Internet

This is compulsive viewing.

If you're born after 1975 you can go back to somnambulence. Those born before may experience a strange yet familiar stirring from this mesmerizing video. It might be nostalgia, not for a sound quality that was generally far inferior to cd and mp3 era music, but for the ritual of sitting down, for that first listen, the disk spinning endlessly as we devoured the liner notes and artwork. People don't listen to music this way anymore.

Thanks to bridgebolt for making it possible, and bringing back a piece of the past which had been too easily forgotten.

A True Maverick in the Face of Pretenders

Mr Hirst is nothing if not contravertial. But he must be admired for the recent auction of his work, a gutsy move on several fronts:

* He was offering work for sale for the first time (unlike galleries which only sells work that had sold before) The lots falling under the hammer at the September 5th auction lacked a historically confirmed valuation, which could have put his reputation at risk, moreso because of the intense publicity surrounding the event.

* Unlike the safe harbor of a gallery, the price of work can't be controlled when sold at auction (a reserve notwithstanding); the market determines the price and this can be uncertain, particularly for works that have not sold before.

* Selling a moderate number of lots helps to keep the price higher as supply is restricted. Hirst bucked the wisdom by offering a vast number of lots at one time which risked depressing the price (though this did not happen)

* The biggest convention he overturned however is the idea that an original work is produced at the hand of the artist. He employs more than 180 people in operations that amount to factories, assembly line in style, which produce works that Mr. Hirst approves, sometime from no more than a photograph. The result is a prolific scale of art for sale that is unmatched by other artists but not by his ambition and ravenous appetite for success.

Daniel Hirst can certainly be seen as an agent provocateur today, not just through his art but by how he goes to market. Has he always been like this?

We suspect that his mum may have the answer. She can shed light on whether pushing boundaries and hot buttons simply because they are there is a relatively recent development or whether it had early stirrings from the time he was lad.

Should I stay or should I go?

It's fine for a 1980s era Clash song of the same name but not for a sign that's meant to help to navigate safe passage across the street.

The display somehow manages to overcome its binary wiring, showing two different commands simultaneously.

The result it confusion and hopefully immobility on the part of the casual observer, at least before resorting to the a prudent back-up of glancing both ways along the street.

We've commented on confusing signs recently. This fine example was encountered recently on the streets of lower Manhattan, NY.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Eccentricity Goes Mainstream

How times change.

It used to be that wearing anything that did not match - particularly something worn as part of a pair, such as shoes or socks - was considered at best odd and usually, far worse, as eccentric.

What used to be viewed with suspicion and lurked at the fringes of pop culture has now been brought into the mainstream.

Little Mismatched offers a line of, well, mismatched footwear and clothing and in doing so seeks to convert a behavior that had conferred the unwelcomed status of social pariah into a desirable one of confident self-expression. With appeals such as 'How mismatched are you?' the brand seeks to competitively incite the prospective buyer with a dare.

It's a great example of how mass marketers seek inspiration from the margins to mine new commercial opportunity.

An Accident Waiting to Happen

The headline in the ad plays to a persistent perception: insurance is a necessarily evil most people feel they'd rather live without. Promoting a claim to the contrary is going to do little on its own to improve that situation.

It seems harmless enough. An insurance company 'selling the category' without any evidence as to why the viewer should believe this advertiser"s claim over any other company.

But more damage will materialize over time. Why? The industry continues to raise expectations - with messages such as these - while failing to deliver on them.

If that sounds like a harsh assessment, one has to look no further than the average insurance policy against the background of chatter about insurance companies on many blogs and in chat rooms.

The reason why dissatisfaction and distrust are so pervasive in this category is because when it comes to claim time, most policyholders do not get what they feel they should be entitled to.

We at OFD think there are two contributory factors:

1) People don't really understand the full extent of the policy they have bought. Such policies are notoriously difficult to decipher (look no further than the length and language of your car insurance policy). The result is that many people only come to realize the nature of exclusions and deductibles once they are at claim time, when such discoveries are too late.

2) The pervasive imbalance of power between policyholders and insurance companies is magnified at claim time. Insurance companies hold all the cards: they make a determination which is imposed on the policyholder, who has no redress nor ability for arbitration. This fuels the perception of a lack of fairness and a feeling of inequity that's not hard to find on the internet, the legion of stories of people feeling literally cheated by the unequal relationship.

There are opportunities for the taking in this category. We're not suggesting that insurance companies open themselves up to arbitration necessarily (that would be a bold move indeed). But we do believe that the existence of such an unequal relationship - both in understanding of terms and in settlement mechanics - represents space for an enterprising brand to forge greater differentiation in this otherwise highly commoditized category.