#Hootsuite is sweet. http://hootsuite.co

#Hootsuite is sweet. http://hootsuite.com

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BP – 48 days left…

I’m no Nostradamus, but it is a pretty logical assumption that there are some hard times ahead for BP.  By my estimation, 56 days into this ongoing oil spill, there has been 184,800,000 gallons of oil accidentally put in the ocean on BPs watch.  Obviously there are environmental and economic impacts for the communities and wild life of the area, but I am interested in understanding the impact of this event on the BP brand.

This is how BP compares to its competition:

It seems as though BP is the second largest in the oil and gas market based on revenue. From 2008 to 2009 BP’s total revenue has increased about 11 percent, although both earnings per share and revenue have decreased.  In review of BPs 2009 annual report, 20% of the shareholder equity comes from their goodwill and intangible assets. I relate brand value directly to the goodwill and intangible assets as prescribed in the BP annual report. Based on the events of the last 56 days, the brand has lost about 54 percent of its value – an estimated 10.9 billion dollars.  That is an empirical way of viewing the damage to the BP brand.

Another way of looking at this ongoing drama is to look at brand value as it dwindles by gallon of oil spilled out.  By my estimation, it looks like this:

  • BP 2009 estimated brand value (goodwill and intangible assets) = $20.12 billion
  • Number of gallons of oil spilled out over the last 56 days = 184,800,000
  • The estimated negative impact of each gallon of oil on brand value (in USD):  $58.66 in brand value lost for each gallon of oil spilled into the ocean.

What’s left in the tank:  9.28 billion dollars left in brand value.

So, if this spill lasts another 48 days at the current rate, BP will be out of brand value.

This may not be the best way to calculate this type of impact on a brand, but it does at least provide perspective. Aside from the economic and environmental damage being done, BP’s brand looks a lot like this:

Hopefully the duck will live.

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The Google – A brand embedded

I just learned that 10100 zeros is called a “googol” of zeros. An almost infinite number on the outer edges of finite. That’s where we get googolplex. Googol is a term coined in 1938 by the 9 year old nephew of  mathematician Edward Kasner.  Milton Sirotta, the 9 year old, could easily have been influenced by the children’s book, The Google Book, published in 1913. The character “Google” in this children’s book, was a monster. I am finding these things as I keep digging.

A word that I see as I search the internet for the genesis of the word “Google”, is “disambiguation”. Word-sense disambiguation (WSD) is an open problem of natural language processing, which makes up the process of identifying which sense of a word (i.e. meaning) is used in any given sentence.   From google-eyed to googleplex to Google, the meaning has shifted.

In the early 21st century, Google means only one thing to the public: search. From a nonsensical word from the beginning of the previous century, through the all but forgotten “Barney Google” era, the imagery surrounding this odd-sounding word has shifted dramatically. In 1923, if someone said “Google”, people would think of this:

Nowadays, Google looks more like this:

No matter what the situational embellishments portray, the word-sound “Google” is used billions of times each day. With each use, the Google brand is edified and personalized by those who transmit or receive this information. The sound of the brand is almost an onomatopoeia like bark, hiss or buzz. For the advanced animal conditioning of the human being, to bark out  “Google” is to comment on looking for something using the Internet.

Google brand impressions impact the masses and are so ubiquitous that we now “Google” directions, maps, recipes, news, definitions, car prices, and even potential mates. The word itself evolving into the “act of  searching for information using the Internet”, according to Merriam Webster dictionary. My thought is that the Google brand is so pervasive that it is starting to blend in to the surroundings. There is nothing invasive about the graphical treatment, and it’s rounded and pleasant visual and aural characters are almost soothing. Could it be that Google is reaching the same sort of status as air, water and earth? Google is all around us. These are things so often used and perfunctorily accessed that we don’t even think about what we’re doing as we “Google”.

Google started in 1998 with the $100,000 that Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, provided to Larry Page and Sergey Brin. As I recall, the first few years were awkward just getting used to saying “Google”. There was a definite lack of brand identity, and those who used their unique search protocols had a weak tie to the brand. Just like any new product that is trying to cross the chasm, effort was placed on defining and differentiating their brand against the others in the marketplace.

At a point somewhere around 2003, the Google brand launched into the stratosphere. People were relying on the Google search engine as the easiest way to get the most accurate information. At this point, it seems the use of Google for search became a habitual process for the masses.

Moving forward about 5 years, adoption of Google technologies by top media outlets further increased brand reach and frequency through global news and corporate usage. Many of the world’s top corporations use Google Maps, G Mail, or other Google products in their everyday operation. I am of the belief that in 2008 Google started to become invisible as a day-to-day functional product line. Granted, the brand itself kept growing with mention in the news and elsewhere. The individual users, those of us who need the brand and personalize its benefits, became less aware of their use of Google technologies.

In a case of grand branding irony, in the year 2008 the Google brand simultaneously became invisible AND the biggest brand on earth (Sweney, 2008). I am not sure that any intentional crypsis, mimicry or schooling tactics were employed to elicit this behavior. It just happened. And as Google braves constant assault by Microsoft, Apple and others, it seems that their brand has been absorbed by its users at an individual level.

Maybe as a result of some ongoing struggle that human beings have with the disambiguation of the word Google at a cellular level, this big brand passes by and through us as we go about our daily lives.

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Apples are not made out of Adobe – and they never will be!

What is wrong with this picture?

It’s the mud right? The cracks and crumbles that tell you that this is not a fertile ground for growth. In fact, if you were a pioneer pushing through the new world – looking for a better, more productive life – you would avoid this spot at all costs. There isn’t a rain cloud in history that would show future value in this plot of land.

I think that is what Steve Jobs sees in the Adobe brand: cracks, blemishes – issues. Both brands are huge players in the landscape of technology. In fact, you can argue that they are complimentary offerings: Apple, the Aston-Martin of computer hardware offerings; Adobe, the soft leather upholstery inside. Both have branded communities that harbor rabid enthusiasts, and are often paired together as must-see exhibits at computer conventions throughout the world. And for the most part, Adobe and Apple share demographics.

Over the last 10 years, Adobe has become an 800-pound gorilla in its own right. The industry standard Creative Suite products and Acrobat software have shaped the way we create and manage digital media. In fact, PDF workflow processes have reached into corporate worlds as a way to track and manage workflow efficiency and effectiveness. It seems as though Mac and Adobe should be perfectly compatible in their differences – synergies that, if brought together under one roof, would become a perfect storm of technology and creativity.

That is not the case. It may be seen that the power and creative direction of the Adobe brand poses some sort of threat to Apple and Steve Jobs.  Enter Adobe Flash – the ubiquitous media player that blankets the Internet. Apple does not – and will not – allow the use of Flash within their OS. This has caused the Apple faithful to complain about not being able to view Flash-centric media on their iPhones, iPods, iPads etc.

In late January of this year, Steve Jobs fired off an incendiary message in support of iPad’s exclusion of Flash functionality. Regarding Adobe:

“They are lazy, Jobs says. They have all this potential to do interesting things but they just refuse to do it. They don’t do anything with the approaches that Apple is taking, like Carbon. Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy, he says. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML5.”

That message triggered a maelstrom of conversation on how HTML5 will be the demise of Flash.  Adobe, a huge brand with passionate and faithful users that own the brand and evangelize its features, is now being threatened by its OWN faithful. These Adobe software faithful are even more faithful to their hardware compatriot – Apple. And, what Steve says goes – Apple fans are tenacious and hang on every word that comes out of Jobs’ gob.

As a point of reference, I have watched both Apple and Adobe stock over the last 6 months, and this is what I’ve found:


  • Drop by $3.79/share, 10% decrease in market value


  • Increase of $51.14/share, 24% increase in market value

Since Steve Jobs’ comment about HTML5, Adobe’s brand has suffered while Apple’s brand has soared. The impact on stock price and brand value may not all be attributed to what Jobs said – the release of the iPad has had something to do with it. Looking at Adobe alone, it can be said that the Flash/HTML5 debate has had some impact, tangible or not, on Adobe’s downtrend.

Whether Jobs’ comments about Adobe’s “laziness” are founded or not, they have tarnished Adobe’s brand. Flash is a strong brand/product, and is pervasively used. Whether HTML5 will be the end of Flash remains to be seen.  Still, people are talking about it more and more and brand image is at stake. The provocative thought here for me is the brand claim that both Apple and Adobe have on the same target markets. It will be interesting to see how Adobe responds.

About Brokefilter

I am a passionate advocate for the rights of working musicians and evangelist for the New Music Business. I occupy my time as a tenured advertising and marketing professional, record label owner, international purveyor of punk rock/bluegrass music, songwriter, entrepreneur, producer, social media marketing mercenary, and most importantly – proud father and devoted husband. I am also pursing my MBA/Marketing at St. Edwards University in South Austin, Texas.

Here is a link to a free song download with pertinent topical content. I wrote it, you can have it. All you have to do is follow me on Twitter, and promise me you’ll come back…


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The intervention, Part 3: I need time out from your Brand..!

And by YOU I mean girls from 8 to 16. I am on record for wanting to take the Jonas Brothers off the grid completely.  My concern is for the integrity of the entire music industry, and the insidious nature of what goes into marketing a fabricated “musical” brand/product to impressionable youth.  And then there’s the logo:

It is an attempt to integrate the illustrative design from French coats-of-arms from the late 17th century into weak product with a shiny veneer.

Like the Jonas Brothers (JB) are royalty, or that they have any sort of authenticity – sheesh. But I cannot deny that the Hollywood marketing machine knows how to crank this stuff out to the youth market. The JB juggernaut, #60 in Forbes Celebrity 100 in 2009, grossed $41 million in 84 concerts last year, so we know that someone knows how to sell shallow, mediocre sonic product (refraining from considering this “music”).

With a show on the Disney Channel and movies to their credit, their media blitz focusing on the “Tween” market is hitting on all cylinders.  The JB brand is wholly about the three brothers, and imagery in the media focuses on them at every turn (thank God the logo is not so pervasive). The kids consuming the JB brand can relate to their wholesome image and “gee whiz” charm. Brand ownership is squarely within the youth market, primarily owned by the girls.   To be specific:

The brand surely resonates within this demographic, and with increased visibility through visits to the White House and recent performance at a show honoring Paul McCartney, even covering a Beatles song. Covering the Beatles is hallowed ground to a musician, and the “music integrity police” surely missed this assignment.  Tying the JB brand into the Beatles brand, wrong on so many levels, is a stroke of brilliance from a brand and marketing perspective. This now ties in the JB brand to boomers. Demographic studies show that the JB audience owning their brand lives in middle and upper income homes. Traffic metrics look like this:

So, deeper exposure to JB music by parents of Tweeners (Boomers), provides potentially more disposable income for the JB brand.

If brands start out as labels and end up as icons of meaning, the consumers then have a short time frame in which to enjoy the JB brand as is. The JB brand only has a few more years, I feel, as performers that can continue to attract their current audience. At a point the target market will shift, not unlike the Monkees did in the 1960s – showing up with decreasing frequency over the decades as older, wrinkled shadows of their former selves. Maybe there will be farewell tours, reality shows, scandals, marriages/divorces, subsequent acting stints – all will continue to shape the brand during the long tail of brand maturity.

That can’t happen soon enough for me.

About Brokefilter

I am a passionate advocate for the rights of working musicians and evangelist for the New Music Business. I occupy my time as a tenured advertising and marketing professional, record label owner, international purveyor of punk rock/bluegrass music, songwriter, entrepreneur, producer, social media marketing mercenary, and most importantly – proud father and devoted husband. I am also pursing my MBA/Marketing at St. Edwards University in South Austin, Texas.

Here is a link to a free song download with pertinent topical content. I wrote it, you can have it. All you have to do is follow me on Twitter, and promise me you’ll come back.


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The intervention, Part 2: You need time out from your Brand.

What's in the Bottle?

Brokefilter - What's in the Bottle?

In Austin, Dell is everywhere.  There is even a discount electronics chain (called Discount Electronics) that is dedicated to moving used Dell product.  Michael Dell has foundations, funds fund raisers and is a major donor to the Jewish Community Center in Northwest Austin. Dell enjoys a substantial brand presence locally and in North and South America.  Recently, Dell has ventured into channel distribution models hoping to augment their potent web based sales portals.  It’s been a massive struggle for them. Their biggest competitor globally is Hewlett Packard (HP), and HP has been marketing in the channels for decades.

Dell’s ubiquitous presence here in the US is not shared globally. In fact, in Asia/Pacific Rim countries, ACER is a more prominent brand (BTW – I own an ACER and it spins like a top – love it).

I see so many Dell computers in Austin that I have to ask my fellow Austinites – Why do you continue to support Dell?  You need to disassociate yourself from the Dell brand and take a hard look at what you’re supporting.

I believe it boils down to pride and the support of local brands – nothing else.  It is not that the product is superior to anything else out there. If that were the case, Dell wouldn’t be treading water in supporting commoditization of the saturated computer hardware industry by not distinguishing the Dell product line from anything else. Their pricing strategy (cheap to mid-range) further supports this. They are not working to differentiate the Dell brand from anything else out there. They have struggled to keep up with HP and, in doing so, have decreased their global staff by 20% in 2008-2009.  Trying to stay competitive in a market at the crossroads, while trying hard to penetrate global retail channels. Also, big changes in senior leadership. They jettisoned Mark Jarvis (CMO) almost 2 years ago, opting for Erin Nelson – a senior marketing executive within Dell’s structure hailing from England.

Dell is pushing into other businesses, hoping to decrease the steep angle of their descent. Virtualization and SAAS (software as a service) are being flirted with, and I hear that they will be coming late to the party with a smart mobile device.  There seems to be so much trepidation in their market posturing that you can almost see the Dell blue becoming more and more pale. They have also made significant purchases in buying Perot Systems and Kace Networks in order to diversify their holdings. This signifies a substantial movement away from their core business – making and selling computers.

Dell sees that they cannot continue to prosper by focusing on making computers. With further commoditization of the computer hardware market and tectonic shifts in storage costs and availability, it can be said that computer boxes days may be numbered.

With all of these changes at Dell, you would think that they would want to make sure that they retain their user base – at least, try to keep them happy. That is not the case. Dell’s customer satisfaction numbers continue to plummet along side their market share.

My concern here is not for Dell as an organization, but for the central Texas community in hopes that the Dell brand doesn’t completely tank. Greater Austin has been pretty resistant to the national (and global) unemployment trends, but the continued shrinking of Dell’s brand equity should have people in central Texas nervous. Dell leadership is not making the right moves and their business continues to suffer.

Their plight isn’t new, and the writing on the wall can be seen from Shanghai. Maybe it is as blatant and prophetic as the tilt of the “E” in their logo. Looks like this:

Endless possibilities indeed.

About Brokefilter

I am a passionate advocate for the rights of working musicians and evangelist for the New Music Business. I occupy my time as a tenured advertising and marketing professional, record label owner, international purveyor of punk rock/bluegrass music, songwriter, entrepreneur, producer, social media marketing mercenary, and most importantly – proud father and devoted husband. I am also pursing my MBA/Marketing at St. Edwards University in South Austin, Texas.

Here is a link to a free song download with pertinent topical content. I wrote it, you can have it. All you have to do is follow me on Twitter, and promise me you’ll come back.


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The intervention, Part 1: I need a time out from my Brand

Brokefilter - compelling content

Brokefilter - what's in the bottle?

It’s OK, I have been involved in interventions before.  I had an uncle who was a habitual hoarder of nails and building supplies – not anymore. And I have successfully ”persuaded” a friend’s mother to cease early morning can and bottle recycling runs. I believe that, as this is my first blog entry ever, I needed to provide you a bit of back story into my experience and it’s pertinence to my topic of choice (today):  Our codependent relationship with our favorite brands. And, with reverence to transparency and openness, I will open up first and break the ice.

I will start with my addiction to Emergen-C. Specifically, the Super Orange flavored “Fizzy Drink Mix”.

Don't snort it

Super Orange Emergen C

There are other products in the market that I have tried such as FRS and Zipfizz, but I have always come back to Emergen-C. I believe the most powerful influencer for me regarding use of this product is the pervasive and dedicated fan base within the advertising field, where I have spent much of my last 20 years of employment.  Advertising, for the most part, is a thankless endeavor that typically has a person working 60 + hours a week in a high-pressure environment. The fast pace and long hours can take a toll on a person’s health, and the early morning coffee-infused crawl through the agency usually has a small handful of Emergen-C addicts panhandling for a packet or two. Whether by email, IM or invasive face-to-face begging, “Hey brother, can you spare a packet?” can be heard as commonly as early Spring morning bird call.

I am pretty sure that I have known a few people that live exclusively off of the vitamin rich convenience that Emergen-C provides (possibly coupled with a grotesque amount of coffee). Usually younger than 30 and thin as a rail, these people are so devoted to their brand that different flavor-based camps often develop heated rivalries. As if suckling from the teat of the glamorous advertising agency lifestyle wasn’t enough to sate them, I have seen encounters verging on violence break out during heated discourse between rival camps while espousing the virtues of their chosen, crack-like flavors. With a passion akin to the green M&M/David Lee Roth mystique, crazed-looking 20-somethings with dubious hygiene clutching Styrofoam cups of Orange Emergen-C stagger through agency hallways like 6th Street drunks. And this is not just Austin, Texas – NYC, LA and San Francisco all have fervent disciples of Fizz and will go to the mat for their respective flavor.  My affliction is more closeted. I will nonchalantly agree to accept a packet if offered, but will only go out Jonesing if I am completely depleted of energy, and coffee is not doing the trick.

I only chose Super Orange flavor, nothing else.

As I listen to “Cold Turkey”, John Lennon’s lyrics provide an eerily accurate account of my cravings:

“My body is aching, Goose-pimple bone, can’t see no body, leave me alone”

I try to envision a life without the iron grip of my Fizzy affliction, and it exhausts me just thinking about it. A well-used crutch it is. But, taking the time to inventory the costs and benefits of Emergen-C dependency has showed me that

  1. I am too busy to eat properly
  2. I am, unfortunately, influenced by others and am “on the bandwagon”
  3. It could be WAAAAY worse

And, I know that I am not alone. There are many with this bound, codependent relationship with Emergen-C. It is a sacred bond, not unlike a cult. Maybe it is enabling to be part of this community, maybe it is a healthy addiction that I don’t need to dissect. The Emergen-C brand stands for a healthy, convenient, easy-to-use alternative to eating right. Part of the attraction is the unobtrusive nature of Emergen-C’s starburst logo. It is a subtle affirmation of power, health and vitality – all in an 8.6 gram package!

But for 1,667% of the daily requirement of Vitamin C – it may be worth staying connected to.

Emergen-C (Super Orange Crew, 3rd Coast – Shout Out!):  I like it.

Here is a link to a free song download with pertinent topical content. I wrote it, you can have it. Promise me you’ll come back…



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