Brands as lifestyles

Troy Sutton, one of the guys who worked on sound on the Pixar interactive products, dropped by our office today to visit for a bit. He's a drummer into interactive media, and ss I hear it from other people pretty legendary in the SF band scene (at least those who've gone to clubs and performances with him talk about how the attitudes of the door watchers change when they learn someone is Troy affiliated).

So we got talking about MP3s, branding issues, what function record labels serve, how we choose entertainment from the available options, stuff like that, and he said something that codified a lot of things quite succinctly: In the future, brands will cross product boundaries and address lifestyles.

No longer will Calvin Klein be limited to fragrances and clothing. If you buy into the Calvin Klein brand you'll listen to bands via the Calvin Klein label, eat Calvin Klein food, and so forth.

As evidence he pointed to things like the "Eddie Bauer Christmas Song" collections and similar ways upscale retailers are branding more horizontally than their product line would suggest.

Web logs are an indication of this trend. When I suggested that I make a conscious effort to not duplicate links of other logs I got a couple of e-mails saying "No, we read Flutterby for your take." Even though they read the other sites, my reasons for finding a link interesting were part of what made it wortwhile or not.

A specific orchard is a very vertical brand. Washington Applestm or Florida Orange Juicetm is a slightly broader brand. Krafttm is a very broad brand.

Flutterby is a horizontal brand.

One day at work when we were talking about ubiquitous cameras, the privacy, safety, and other implications of cameras everywhere, and Tom Duff said that the job of the future will be editing all those cameras together.

The example he gave was Madison Square Garden. A couple of tens of thousands of cameras watching a sporting game. The important part of this wasn't the tens of thousands of camera angles to choose from, it's that there'd be feeds that amateur editors could choose from, and eventually we'd find an editor whose vision we liked and stick with it.

For instance, recently I've watched a little ice skating and gymnastics. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to be able to blow Dick Button into the afterlife so he'd just shut the heck up. And I'd love to be able to see gymnastics differently, to watch some gymnasts from the angles of the judges rather than 90 degrees to the action from them, so I could see a completely different set of mistakes and triumphs.

(Yes, I know that there are skills involved in camera work, but we'll handwave over that for the time being...)

The potential for great change here is that within the Amazon/Wal-Martization of the world, where everything is available cut-rate warehouse style, we'll still want brands. We'll still want people to give us a reduced selection that's more likely to fit our personalities and temperaments. This is the reason that independent bookstores still appeal to some of us in the day when we can order a wider selection for less and have it shipped directly to our front doors.

Amazon realizes this, which is why they've started the associate's program.

I don't know how this is going to work economically yet, but the pieces are coming together and it's going to be important to be on top of it.

Monday, May 17th, 1999