Monday, June 29, 2009

I don't usually whore myself out to promote products...but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.

You've probably seen these ads or heard them on the radio by now. Dos Equis' fictional spokesperson does indeed seem interesting and intriguing, almost like Sean Connery before he aged into his old and gross phase.

I may have mentioned it before, but the products that require the most advertisements and branding are those that need to differentiate itself from similar products. This is why there are a lot of ads for alcohol, clothing and perfume.

While the ads are quite neat, the branding and target demographic is quite clear with Dos Equis' ads. We can see that the most interesting person in the world is an elderly gentleman, a man of the world even. He is like George Clooney, a bachelor for life who never fails to be seen with a woman on his arm.

Indeed, one must be greyed a bit in order to accumulate the experiences that makes a person the most interesting in the world. This is what Dos Equis is aiming for: men who are perhaps past their prime, but want to believe that they are not out of the game and that their age is an advantage. Even the commercial's film quality reflect this targeting. You will note is a bit grainy and faded, like an old Bond film.

By branding itself has a sophisticated and classy drink, Dos Equis can justify a premium pricing and their customers can buy their way into an excellent first impression.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, here's a Heineken ad:

Nothing too bad at first glance, just people who really love their beer. However, this is starkly contrasted by some print ads and earlier branding attempts by Heineken. While the commercial is targeted at party lovers and frat boys, in the past Heineken has tried to appeal to a more upscale taste.

In fact, around Vancouver I have noticed a few "Carpe P.M." bus ads for Heineken. These ads obviously refers to Carpe Diem, which is latin for "seize the day" meaning the ad is telling you to "seize the afternoon". However, in order to get that, you would need a bit of an education and not just a squealie, excitable persona.

Mis-matching your branding is a bad idea, especially if your catchment is huge. If people are confused about your brand, you lose your entire target demographic since no one can decide if the beer is "them" or not. I'm not saying that all frat boys are uneducated, they are in post-secondary after all, but I am saying that some party goers are not cultured enough to get the bus ads. Which is a pity, because I really like them.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Brilliant Anti-War Ads

These ads are genius-calibre. I wonder if there is a standard size poles in the area or if they modify a bunch for special locales?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Soft Skills and Video Games

The video above demonstrates a hard skill that I possess. Now, I do not mean hard, as in difficult, ninja shirt fold is actually easy with some practice, I mean hard as in limited in use. Ninja shirt folding is a skill that can only be applied to folding shirts and maybe some other garments. While being able to fold shirts quickly would be handy for a, say, merchandise manager, it definitely would not be helpful at all for a plumber or project manager.

Soft skills are the opposite of hard skills. They are skills that are extremely useful no matter what job you are doing. In fact, another name for them is "transferable skills". These include: leadership skills, self-motivation, attention to detail, etc.

Surprisingly, I've found that video games are great for helping people develop many soft skills. Video games have already been shown to improve other skills, such as spatial visualization and navigation, so why not communication, foresight, and learning from mistakes?

Of course, you'll get things like short attention span, lack of focus and procrastination along with it, but if you are able to keep those things under check then you will come out ahead with a decent set of skills that you can back up with examples.

For instance, teamwork and team management is usually a biggie for manager positions. If you have ever been a raid in WOW or worked with other survivors in Left 4 Dead, then you have probably exercised those skills for countless hours.

If you took the time to think about the games you enjoy frequently, you will start to recognize all the little things that makes the difference between a good player and a poor one. And if you are able to nail down these skills with fancy business words, then you are certainly able to impress others, both in your application and one the job.

Now, I'm not saying put video games down in your resumes and cover letters. Make sure that the situation is appropriate and always back up your statements with "real" work experience anecdotes that can be confirmed by your references. At the same time, if the job is right or if an interview is going well and seems informal enough, you can use video games as an example to buff up your skills. Just make sure you take the time to explain it well and avoid leaving things to inference.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Modern Renaissance Man

We live in an interesting period of time where common sense is not that common, seemingly because of the existence of really stupid people, but also because common sense now encompasses a lot more than it ever has.

Most people around you know how to use a computer and access the internet. Those that really know how to work the search engine and information highway have access to a limitless source of knowledge that can enable them to do so much more than anyone has in the past.

As humankind's collective knowledge expands, it is natural to expect that people will specialize, afterall there is too much for a single person to know. Every community will be able to sustain itself, having different people specializing in various essential areas covering each other's backs.

However, somewhere along the way in our pursuit of knowledge, we went offtrack. Instead of specializing, we instead became jack-of-all-trades and began acquiring knowledge and experience in a multitude of areas. Think about people you know: most individuals today are proficient in several sports, at least one instrument and another language, have several hobbies, and are utter geeks about quite a few things.

In many ways we modern people are like the enlightened of the Renaissance. A true renaissance man was a philosopher, artist, scientist, inventor, poet, etc. Think of Leonardo da Vinci and the vast number of accomplishments and trials he attempted. Many motivated people, especially late adolescents and young adults, are motivated to take up personal side projects and the ilk.

The internet helps in many ways, providing a compedium of knowledge that can support that of which we already know while filling in any gaps. The internet can turn us into make-shift doctors, plumbers, even (especially?) IT techies.

It is the blessing of the modern age that we have enough time to seek and gather so much knowledge and skill, in the past, aspiring renaissance men had to seek out patron to sponsor them. Beyond that, we have to thank the global village that is the internet. Its existence alleviates the need for most of us to specialize in anything as there is always someone covering some topic. There are, of course, still people who are hyper-specialized in certain topics, and we as a global community benefit from that.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Professional Writing

It's been pretty busy here on the home front. As you can see, my casual writing (aka the blog) is usually the first victim cast aside when crunch time settles in.

This weekend was my girlfriend's birthday and every day was spent with a different group of friends/family. It was tonnes of fun, but I had an Escapist article that was due on Monday. Luckily, I already had all my notes written out and organized, which was more than half the battle. I managed to squeak by this time. For the next article I'm writing for the big online magazine, which is due in two weeks, I'll be jumping on it early so that I don't have to worry anymore.

So that was my weekend. Last week was E3 and I was assigned to summarize the event. I didn't get sent over to it (maybe next year?) but there was still plenty to do. I had a queue of about 60 articles that I referenced for my own articles. The research for this alone took several hours and it was difficult to write and then edit down the word count to an acceptable level.

Freelancing is fun, I complain a lot but I love it more than anything. If possible, I would like to be able to just sit at home and write for various publications. Perhaps, if I could find time, I would finish my novel ideas and then become a professional writer for real. As it stands however, I'm wiped out after every deadline. I won't say outright that it is affecting my enthusiasm for video games and writing, but it is hard to do these things for personal enjoyment when you have a stack of related work that needs to be done.

I have my digital audio recorder and the personal blog file is flashing a 3, which means there are 3 blog ideas in there that I haven't written out yet. I met my deadline for Kidzworld pretty early this week so maybe I'll be able to tackle that and do some future posts. Early completion ftw!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

State of Misinterpretation

Contestant: I'll take "State of Misinterpretation" for 2000, Alex.

Trebek: Answer: You, the pimp, lost your only employee.

Snoop: What is "I'd a ho?"

Trebek: "I had a ho" or "Idaho." That is correct.

Monday, June 1, 2009

How Archie avoids anachronism

So, apparently Archie is going to marry Veronica this fall. The media buzz around this seemingly trivial piece of information is astounding, I take my hat off to the media relations people at Archie comics that made it all happen. The news spread quickly and deep, hitting the far reaches and recesses of everybody's information network.

Word of mouth and social networks, like facebook, helped get the word out, but we must remember that certain criteria needs to be satisfied before any of this can happen.

Firstly, the news must be relevant to people's general interest. Archie, being quite iconic in North American society (you can't buy groceries without seeing an Archie comic book), is immediately identifiable and relatable, meaning people can make conversation with their friends and associates with that as a topic. Obscure topics would need to find a strong and dedicated niche group to enjoy similar widespread growth.

The next requirement is simplicity. If you remember the kid's game of telephone, you'll know that complicated phrase and difficult to describe concepts often get muddled as it goes from person to person. The message being spread here is quite simple and, again, it is thanks to the media relations people who works with the media, aka people who condense and simplify all information for easy digest.

The remaining requisites have already been mentioned: concentration, frequency, and initial impact. The last thing is controversy. The fact that Archie picked Veronica instead of Betty, the fan favourite, is sure to stir some discussion, which is a designed move to keep Archie as a topic of discussion for as long as possible. It is also a good move to draw in readers. If people are satisfied with Archie's choice, they won't bother to read how it happens, they already know the ending, or at least as much of the ending as they care to know. However, since it is Veronica, some people may read the comic in hopes that things will turn out differently.

As quickly as the news spread, the interest in it, like most pop songs, died within a few days. While most people have a soft spot for Archie from their hayday, most agree that the comic is not for them now.

Most were willing to write off the entire escapade as a non-canon entry, one that will be written off by the writers themselves in one way or another (either a dream/fantasy sequence or some contrived plot device). Archie comics follows an old tradition where the characters remain the same age constantly.

While the Simpsons are able to hide this fact well by avoiding most pop references, Archies often try to reach out to the current generation with constant references to pop culture, especially to current pop stars and trends. There was a time when Betty listened to Bruce Sprucesteen and Jughead loved the Hula Hoop.

Each generation has their own picture of Archie and friends. This is contrasted to whatever image they portray currently in the comics and often it turns older readers away, much like older parents who try too hard to show their kids that they're still "cool" and "hip".

So, as much as Archie is trying to draw in people with this so-called new development, it is more likely than not that people will forget about the whole thing or become desensitized to it by September.