Design Trends 2012: More reprocessing of the past

This article in Vanity Fair describes a design rut that we seem to be in at the moment.

I’m not sure I would describe it as a rut, but I think there is a lot of reprocessing going on.

You may wonder why I care.

I don’t work in design but I do have this habit of moving around a lot, and buying/selling/decorating houses so I can move seems to be my unofficial job. I also have 47 blogs in my RSS reader under the home/interior/design category that I have been using as resources for about 4 years. I see a LOT of design in order to have an opinion on it.

Looking at all these blogs, I have wondered how the 18-25 crowd looks at a lot of the resale stuff, clothing and music from years past as new. (anthology, lonny, backgarage are examples) I attribute this to a specific age group because that seems to be my observation from the bloggers but it could be more widespread.

I do think as a rule the younger generations tend to drive style & design innovations and it then travels through age brackets like waves. By the time it reaches the eldest brackets the youngest don’t want it anymore.

eddie izzard coolness circleIts like Eddie Izzard once said, things work in a circle: cool hip & groovy is right next to looking like a dickhead, but you can’t back into it, there is only one way around.

Some of my thoughts about this younger generation’s design mash ups:

  • They take furniture that my grandparents donated to charity years ago and call it mid-century modern and cool. I sometimes call this style “granny chic”. I make fun of it, but I do have a 1965 stereo credenza in my living room now.
  • Sometimes the rooms look like a 19th-20th century explosion with no 2 pieces with any similarity whatsoever. I sometimes think of it as the garage sale look. (I also have a mixed era home.)
  • This new generation takes jeans and sneakers from the 80’s and call them cool one day and wear bell bottoms from the 70’s the next. (This I can’t do)
  • They have convinced me that yellow gold colored jewelry is ok again after loathing it for about 20 years post 80’s. (about 75% of what I wear is yellow gold now)
  • They like 80’s music, and not really the stuff I feel nostalgic about.
  • The people who haven’t lived through much of the 20th century seem to be driving the rebirth and reprocessing of all the styles from that time.
  • It is also important to note that the millennial generation has the highest unemployment of any age bracket due to the recession. It may not be a surprise that they would think so differently about design/life and choices based on what they can afford and have experienced.

The vanity fair article cites several reasons for this design rut. One being a cultural overload where people just can’t process any more new information because the internet/call phones was too much! This may be true for the Boomer age groups but not the Genx-Millennial. I think the millennial is actually driving the design changes and for completely different reasons.

Does this drastic innovation make me less interested in new stuff? New design? More nostalgic for the past? Not at all.

I feel lucky that all the drastic innovation and change that is listed in the article happen just after I graduated high school. (internet, computers, cell phones, social networks, search engines) None of the available professions at the time really appealed to me so it makes sense that I now work in a field (internet marketing) that didn’t exist in 1993. I look at these radical changes as “normal” and something I need to and like to learn about.

I think there are other elements to this design nostalgia epidemic and reprocessing phenomenon.

1. It is easier and cheaper to reprocess than invent. This relates to my previous post about ROI being the only metric in business these days.  Society has no time for developing cutting edge design. Good ideas come at the sacrifice of time and a lot of re-dos, and time is expensive just like materials. And what materials are available now that weren’t 10-20 years ago? No real innovation there either. Things just keep getting made from cheaper less durable materials. The only R&D going on is how to make things cheaper that look good but fall apart quickly so the customers come back again to buy more. Plus we don’t have enough trees for everyone in the world to own teak/oak/mahogany furniture.

2. We have had a more documented history in the last century than ever before both through museums, video/audio, photographs and the family history of people passing down their personal stories while living much longer. We look back at history and think, boy they had it right.  Nothing is as elegant as how they designed things back then. And they took pictures in B&W, what an elegant design choice! You get reprocessed things like the PT Cruiser/Plymouth Prowler/Chevy SSR, Oxford Heels, Swing Dancing, Sailor Pants, Pea Coats, Red Lipstick/Bottle Blondes, Bombshell hair, Mad Men, Starburst Clocks and just about any kind of hat.

3. Law of diminishing returns: It is also more difficult to keep finding something “new” in design when we have to design so much more stuff. It is common for Americans to replace their entire closet of clothes every 3 years and retail stores have to replace everything on the sales floor every 6 weeks to seem “new” again. We kind of don’t respect good design, or any design. As a culture we want to throw it out as soon as we see it in too many places and be more unique again. Shows like Project Runway also show how anyone can be a designer with training and everyone gets more educated about what the demands of great design should be. This makes the general public much harder to impress.

4. At the same time a certain part of the population is sick of all the new-new-new and the churn that happens. We want useful, dependable, reliable and timelessly elegant.  We don’t have time to go shopping for things every 6 weeks in order to find those elusive great items at a great price before they’re sent off to the overstock stores. And of course when you do need something…you can’t find it anywhere because the supply chain in China didn’t anticipate that need 6-12 months ago, and it’s not “new”. I think some people literally choose to go retro because they see it as timeless. In many cases this is cheaper, more elegant and less work.

5. Globalization happened. We used to think it was quaint to go visit another country and come back with something to remember it by.  Now we see places all over the world in places other than World News Tonight or National Geographic. We see the world on Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Imagur, Stumble Upon and Google. What used to be new to us is not all in mash up mode. We take the best of every era as well as every culture in our past to create this new hodgepodge mix that represents who we are. And everyone is more global now than we were 20 years ago. I have had fascination with Asian prints and Indian jewelry as much as Scandinavian furniture. We have bought most of our cars from other countries for a while. It is just lagging that the rest of the items we buy are more globally influenced too. I sometimes click to buy things on Etsy or from a blog link to a store and don’t notice that the store isn’t even in the USA until I see the shipping cost. Sometimes I buy it anyway, it is a rare moment to be unique in my neighborhood.

Lastly, we’ve seen the future before.

We grew up hoping for flying cars and they never showed up.

Our future can be found in watching FUTURAMA. Or Wall-E and  Idiocracy.

We know where things are going, and it seems more about recycling and less about space ships so I’m going to hang out with the millennials and see what else they come up with.

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Top Gear Season 17

It is almost that time again. June 12 26th the 17th season of Top Gear UK starts. The marketing gurus at the BBC have finally decided to run the same season in the USA on BBC America as in the UK. Last season this meant a 2 week lag time, but considering the editing needed that was pretty good. Now I’m seeing daily posts on my Facebook feed reminding me that it is coming back with some big social media campaign and we’re only a week away.

I am somewhat jaded about this season though, because of a lot of controversy that has surrounded the show and the presenters in the off-season. I have also been watching this show for far longer than most people (since 2004) and think it has been some of the best TV ever created.  One thing should be clear about this list, I love Top Gear and have been telling everyone about it for the last seven years, so these issues may be different than the way you feel about the show not having a long history with it. Some of my concerns to think about before you set your DVR/TIVO to record the season and commit yourself to 10+ hours of TV:

1. Jeremy Clarkson is an arse. We all know this, and he amplifies the rudeness of his character for laughs most of the time even if it isn’t his real personality. There is also a charismatic charm there, but he seems a whole lot less charming lately. There have been reports about evidence linking him to dating a female crew member on the Top Gear MPH Tours (he is married). He even wrote about it in a printed piece in 2010 thinking nobody would get it.  Well this whole issue kinda spoils it for most women fans of Top Gear. Most women find a charming guy that is married kinda interesting but a charming cheat isn’t going to work out for anyone. The mystique is lost. This whole thing was clumsy and a mess for someone that has been grooming his career for decades. The only twist I can think of with this story is to possibly meet Chelsea Handler if he does decide to get a divorce. With his wife having been his long time manager, this whole issue has put Top Gear in a precarious position knowing they still have to work together.

2. Richard & James have had as many TV series going as Jeremy made in the last 25 years. Therefore, I think they’re stretched a bit thin. I also think they’re both losing the newness of the experience that create the genuine reactions on camera that really resonated with the audience. (if you’ve seen one Bugatti, you’ve seen them all) Jeremy entertains but the people relate to James and Richard. But with so many super cars of their own now, is this really exciting anymore? I kinds feel like they need some time off to get back to their roots of why they are not Tim Allen or Jay Leno and why that made them great presenters.

3. They’ve possibly run out of new things to do. The show has even used some of my anonymously posted ideas (Bonneville salt flats)  Possibly because they thought of them too. But if I’m no pro are they scraping the bottom of the barrel? I do think they have created some of the best TV in history, but that is such a high mark to meet again and again. I foresee cross promotion coming with all Top Gear country teams (UK, USA, AUS, RUS, CH) pitted against each other in some kind of epic battle of automotive wonder, with subtitles of course.  I think they need to start looking further from car entertainment ideas and into other types of shows/experiences and bring the cars into them in order to keep the originality high.  The USA Show has a lot of possibility because it is new, and I am almost more excited about their prospects than the UK team right now.

4. There are BBC budget cuts. And it is hard to coordinate script writers, the best cameramen & editors on the planet and all the special effects and projects that go into the show on a smaller budget. Those sweeping helecopter shots aren’t cheap and all the automakers use them in their commercials now too. Heck Jeremy Clarkson may have to start doing his own driving. (check the windows when they show exterior shots of the car, grayed out, it’s not the rainy weather either).

5. And last but not least, They’ve run out of tricks. The comment from Ben Collins about wearing a curly wig to do Jeremy’s power slides hit me hard. I know Jeremy Clarkson is good at managing Top Gear because he has done many different shows on UK TV over the last 25 years. Heck, you’ve looked up the Motorworld show? Far less interesting, and in one he rides a motorcycle (very well btw) around the track at the F1 race in Monaco. Jeremy has had a lot of time to figure things out and evolve into what Top Gear has become. But I think the word is out about  how pre-planned and manipulated things are to get them on camera and ultimately what seems like reality but is not. I’m not sure people are going to be so fiercely loyal to a show that manipulates things so heavily and has abandoned the accidental funny that used to happen. Some people might call this jumping the shark.

The one thing that Top Gear UK has in its favor is that there is rarely if ever any good TV on in the summer in the USA. True, people are outside and not in their living rooms as much in the evenings while it is warm outside, but the DVR saves you while most shows are off season and you don’t have to compete for an audience.

So, will you still be watching? I want to but I’m a bit scared it won’t be like it used to be.

Is More Data Always Better?

google think magazine data overload obesity information ideas processing analysisThere has been a discovery in the online marketing and data/statistics world in the last few years. We have had more websites, products and tools created online than we can possibly keep track of. The terms to describe this deluge of activity we have been hearing the most are “data overload” and “information overload” from both companies and consumers. This Google Magazine uses the term Data Obesity to describe this phenomenon.

They ask the question, why is more data always better?

I think the idea of “more data us better” is common from people who lived before the Internet was prevalent. We had to work hard to find data. Researching something meant going to a library and looking in a card catalog (or maybe something called Gopher) and then finding your way around the Dewey decimal system to find that book. And then sometimes they didn’t even have the book because it was checked out or possibly it was just filed wrong because nobody understood the Dewey decimal system.

On a related note recently we got invited to my cousin’s wedding in Santa Fe New Mexico. My dad promptly went to the library and checked out 3 books on Santa Fe and New Mexico. I cringed. He asked how to find out the flights to book something without a travel agent. I realized I have been traveling since 2000 this way and he stopped traveling about that time so he never has. I introduced him to Travelocity, it was mind blowing and a bit of data overload compared with the OAG book he used to use in the 80’s.

The point here is that finding data was really difficult. People had control over its distribution because it was in print. When it became more freely accessible due to Google and other companies efforts we assumed this would be good, because people could remember where to find it and use it whenever we wanted. We never thought it would get this big so fast. Now travel sites are overwhelming, they have too many choices and there are too many of them trying to get you to opt into something you don’t want while being over charged for bringing a suitcase on a flight. This is just one example of how data has gone exponential so quickly.

Others of us have come to a data overload conclusion when they have 200 emails in several in-boxes, 1000+ rss reader posts from feeds waiting, several work projects, 500+ Facebook wall posts in their feed and hundreds of tweets that have gone un-read. This is among a climate where you have to follow-up with projects 5-10 times to get things done, post blogs/tweets/FB status updates daily to keep on people’s radar, empty the DVR so it doesn’t get overloaded and auto delete something you really wanted, listen to the radio on the way to work just in case something big happens and still find time to scoop the litter box before it gets full and the cats poop on the floor.

And the real purpose in all those tweets/FB posts and feeds is that you business changes yearly and if you don’t know about the latest trend and some real insights about it before your boss asks about it, you won’t have a job for all that long. (in digital marketing)

Having data overload be a “good” problem to have from some people’s perspective (as in that it is growth oriented). The democratization of publishing combined with tracking methodology and databases have all contributed to this problem, giving everyone a voice, a potential following of readers, a data trail to analyze and method to say something important online 24/7/365.  And then we have an even bigger problem of processing what is being said, figuring out if it is important or not and sharing/processing/saving it in some way if it is. Acting on that data is way down the line and many of us don’t even get there.

And this isn’t even the big problem with data overload. Where will we store it all? Why do tweets disappear from search so quickly? Because there are millions of them and the failwhale is full. According to the ThinkQuarterly UK, there are 800 Exabytes of data/information created every two days. It took humans from the beginning of civilization until 2003 to create the first 800 Exabytes, and we’re on a roll now.

Where does all this seemingly random data go? How will we know what it says without having to go into a database table and read specific field information? Where are the software tools to manage all this and still give humans the ability to customize the out put in ways that match the behavior or business purposes that we really need? Does any of this stuff ever get deleted?

These are all huge questions we have to answer as more people publish, share, create, track and do business online. We also have to weigh the possibilities of sharing data openly and locking it behind walls as well as how will people comprehensively find what they need when they want to as well as gauge the validity/accuracy of the information presented?

I’m betting on paid services for personal and business data management/archiving & Analysis tools. We will pay for good analysis, good data access & processing and good reliability/backups when we feel the pain of missing good insight, losing good data and just too much happening. Both personally and professionally. But unless you know how to work with SAP, SPSS, SQL, Oracle or a bunch of other systems data management is largely out of your control at this point. They are the librarians of our digital data and they need to find a workable way to Dewey decimal system it back into order and allow us to use it as humans need to.

The Apple iPhone wasn’t a miracle just a repurposed design from arrogant salespeople

 

It really needs a glove with the case built in for the left hand.

It really needs a glove with the case built in for the left hand.

I just got an iPhone.

 Since all the hype has died down about these iPhones 2 years later, and people have accepted this device as the most amazing thing ever I thought I would post my reactions to this nice but not miraculous device.

The first thing that I realized when I got this iPhone was that its a video iPod. (of which I also own) It is a repurposed design of a former product. That isn’t revolutionary at all.

It’s like someone at Apple said, wow I like my iPod so much I’d like to make calls from it and ditch my phone. And they did it. All the technology was already developed for a former device. Some new things did have to be added and re-engineered. But there is so much re-purposed from 5-7 years ago, the development costs were probably not that high because they knew pretty close how to use the materials to do this from past experience.

Now I see this Apple tablet image in the news and think they are re-purposing it again on a larger scale. I get the if it’s not broke don’t fix it idea, but their marketing and PR hype is a bit off.

I think these functions work really well:

  • The touch screen is better than the old Palm Treo one and more intuitive. I am impressed at how they solved the QUERTY problem with a touch screen.
  • I think the apps are also very good and its nice that they share the love with the app companies that develop them. I don’t think $5 an app is a bad price for what they deliver and plus you should think before you download a ton of apps and a cost helps you do that. The alternative is that your HD gets full and crashes quickly.
  • It syncs with Yahoo email very well, which is what I use for one of my accounts. It turns out that email is very doable on a small screen.
  • I like the pull the corners effect to read web pages and increase the size of the fonts so you can click a link. This is very intuitive.
  • The GPS is pretty good. I watched my phone show a blip of my location on a map that was about 2 seconds behind where we really were as we drove home. That is pretty good bouncing off a sattelite that fast. I think the directions from where we are to an address will be very helpful in the future.
  • Doing the convergence thing and having the phone, music player, GPS, camera and email all together works great.

I think these things need work:

  • The rss feeds don’t always work on the iPhone. Not that it doesn’t literally work, but these are items I’d like to read in more depth, and on a tiny screen its hard. Also all the links go out to the web and I am finding that I can’t get that data very easily in Chicago.
  • The web issue is still an issue with web enabled phones. I hated that things took so long to download on my old Treo 650 and 4.5 years later its still an issue with the iPhone. (heck its an issue on my computer sometimes with Google reader)
  • I think people who have iPhones use them on the go a lot and the backup for the wireless network are free wireless networks. Which means you’re in trouble if you want to download an rss feed in google reader online. (meaning the bandwidth exceeds the ATT mobile network and that is sometimes spotty with its coverage)
  •  The Metra commuter train and Chicago CTA don’t have free WiFi on their trains and busses and you can’t always find one when you are on the street either. (neither do our cars) So, there are a lot of times/places I look down at my phone and can’t connect to anything (phone or internet network). fail.
  • I feel like we’ve developed content and a device for reading things in real time that wants to be downloading info/updates 24/7/365 and the networks still look like swiss cheese or a spider web, with gaping holes in them. We need more ubiquitous universal access before these devices can really be life changing.
  • The touch screen is great but then switching to a physical button for on/off seems counter intuitive. Why not make all the functions be a part of the touch screen? I keep looking for an off button in the screen itself. 
  • The battery life is horrendus. If I read email and rss feeds on the train and bus between home and work I use 50% of my battery life. Holy Monkeys, this needs a better battery or a plug that pops out the side that you can stick in any outlet you find.
  • I also like that Steve Jobs has the kind of what I say goes power and involvement in the details to make his products good on many levels and keep the design level very high. It’s impressive he has been able to hang on to that power in a large company, it is rare to see and keeping one person in charge makes decision making faster, easier and true to the original purpose. Its how things get done if that person is well rounded in knowledge and willing to enforce what they preach.
  • There is also the annoying problem that on any field you need to enter text you can’t click to put the cursor anywhere on the field to start typing except the end. If you want to change one letter you have to backspace the entire field until its blank and start over. We need to have a click to cursor ability/function, do apples just not do that?
  • The me.com thing they sell as an add-on is cool but way way overpriced. I cited that 1 yr of Flickr unlimited access is $25 and 1 yr of full LiveJournal access is $25. Why is syncing my phone to the web $100 for the year? Assholes. I did get a small discount and got it for $65.
  • The Apple sales guy was over the top. I really hope I never have to go back to that Naperville Apple Store again. He was about 18 and very arrogant. He made me (age 34) feel stupid for not knowing everything about the iPhone or web phones and his Apple Brand Arrogance and demeaning tone was disgusting. Why ask us about our computers at home? Why rip on them in front of us? When you don’t even own one? Admit most people have windows machines and then say why you might consider the Apple, don’t just say everything else sucks. OMG, and don’t explain everything for 2 hours when I just want to buy the damn phone. Dragging things out forever and then asking 7 times if we want to buy the apple care program that I didn’t want. And when someone says they will look it up online and then decide later, don’t say look it up now on this Apple, that is a high pressure sales technique and if I didn’t need a phone that day I would have walked out of the store at that moment. Totally unethical and wrong to do to a customer while you are looking over their shoulder. So, at all costs avoid Apple sales assholes that admit they don’t even own any of the Apple products they sell.  Just buy stuff online if needed. 

The basic thing is that the phone was worth the $288 that I paid (for the 16 gig). I paid like $300 for the Treo 650 in 2005. I think if this works for a few years it will be ok, and worth the purchase. But it really doesn’t need the hype or the arrogance.

Jay Leno’s Prime Time Show Experiment Flops

I am glad I am not the only one thinking this, but yet my initial reaction was “why are they recreating his incarnation of the Tonight Show an hour earlier?”. Ugh. The same old slow humor? The jokes you really have to stretch, strain and reach for? More not really funny headlines? More lame monologue jokes? Ugh…Click-Off, delete from DVR.

mid century modern house overlook california jay leno show set

this would be a more appropriate set for a late night show from California

I’m not of the prime Jay Leno age audience (I’m 33) but I am pretty sure that the people who collectively voted Jay Leno into office on the Tonight show many years ago are 55+ now and not looking for change. That must be why this is the exact same show, with the same band, the same lame bits and a new set. And the Oprah bit was kind of lame and the CGI used for the TV in the picture looked really fake. And they need a fireplace or something behind the 2 chairs on the stage to make it more like a comfy living room conversation and less like some window to Hollywood lights on that ridiculous over the top backdrop. How about a view of the Ocean? The beautiful scenic cliffs overlooking the ocean in one of those all glass mid-century modern houses would be a cool look.

I think we yearn for something fresh and new and look to see Jay do something unscripted for once. I actually kind of liked the way he was asking Kanye some tough interview questions like Diane Sawyer would do or Charles Gibson.  (although the one about Kanye’s mom was below the belt)  I also enjoyed the car wash sing and dance number for its impromptu serenading of an unsuspecting (or maybe not) girl at the car wash. (although the sex jokes in the song were a bit too much at that hour).

I think we want to see something outside the realm of a studio scripted variety show and more of an impromptu (reality based?) type of variety show. And let things happen as they may when set up for some kind of interaction on stage. Jay is actually funny on an improv basis when NBC lets him. I think we want to see more of Jay’s actual personality. We know little about him that is real and compelling because he has been behind all these writers for all these years. We’d like to get to know him better as a person and a presenter on this show, and it doesn’t have to be all comedy bits all the time. Think about what the variety/chat  show could be when you open up the boundaries.

I would like to see a little more Jonathan Ross and Jeremy Clarkson and that Parkinson guy style in the UK influence on this show, since it’s no longer late night. (with or without a 3 walled green room) Be silly, be open, interact with the audience, run around outside the studio, bring new people in as writers, with an improv background. And interact with people online about the show and take the online interaction into the show itself. Think more Ellen and less Oprah. Think more Jon Stewart and less Rod Stewart. More Letterman ok less Letterman… you get the picture…

And my biggest pet peeve: Where was the star in the reasonably priced car segment? With the tricked out battery-powered Ford Focus? I pretty much tuned in just for that because I am such a Top Gear UK  nut and they did not use that in the show at all. (when they did show it later in the season it sucked, because the track was too small, too slow and too dumb with obstacles)

I think they could bring back Jerry Seinfeld more often for reoccurring appearances if they would let them genuinely show off their friendship and allow them to do segments where they do stuff they genuinely enjoy together as friends. Why not do a road trip challenge ala Top Gear with Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and Tim Allen? Three baby boomer car guys with very different personalities. I think there was a bad Disney movie about that, but reality is far funnier and they would have to drive their own cars.

I think there are limitless possibilities to where Jay’s show could go, but recreating the same tired format and segments is so limiting and will lose steam fast. A lot of people were relieved when it ended, looking for Jay to do something more fresh, new, funny and clever.  Let him evolve this show and turn it into something new that people will be fascinated with again. Being risk averse is easy and challenging the safe route will push TV and the show further into new funny territory. At least go see the groundlings improv and see what kinds of ideas some new writing people would have for the show. You never know, you might like it.

(seeing how Jay Leno recycled jokes from his show as the host of the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 2010 I now believe that all his writers should be fired and he should stop doing comedy if he wants to phone it in. There are too many other funny people who should be there instead)

How GM should restructure for a Government Bailout and streamline Brands and Cars

How can GM save itself from Implosion? Which GM brands and cars should bekept and which should be cut?How many jobs can be saved in Detroit? Should GM, Ford and Chrysler be saved at all? Will the consumer demand for vehicles (cars) ever pick back up again? These are all good questions.

Everyone is all a buzz about the American Car companies and their pitch to the Government saying that “bankruptcy isn’t and option” so give us billions in free money that has no strings attached and we can spend on anything we want. Ouch! I think congress was right to send them packing the last time they showed up in private jets and asked for money, and we have learned that in the other bailouts, the banks aren’t spending their money on what it was “proposed” for so more oversight is needed for any government bailouts of companies.

Back to my thoughts on GM specifically, since I am not an expert on Ford or Chrysler.

GM has some opportunities to be successful in the future but much of that opportunity comes at the cost of getting rid of the past, completely and starting over from scratch.

Almost every GM car or truck sold in the last 10 years has been either: inferior in quality, reputation or design. They also tend to make cars for segments that people don’t need and then wonder why people won’t buy them even when pushed. (Hello: SUVs) I read yesterday that the 4 brands that GM intends to keep are Buick (yay!), Cadillac (ok), Chevy (a necessity) and GMC (WTF?). 

I think they should throw all the brands out and come out with 5 new ones with distinctive market segments and niche products. Here are the segments in automobiles that I think will be big in 10 years that GM or any car company needs to invest in, and cut everything else:

1. The new shiny reliable car below $8,999. Developing countries and low income people in developed nations will need this kind of transportation as the cost of transportation increases consistently. (think college kids and retail hourly wage workers) It isn’t sexy or cool or updated every year. It is a 5 year design of an extremely reliable and simple car and only available in 1 color and maybe with 2 seats. If people want variety they can customize on their own. These cars are cheap super basic transportation and low cost is what sells them and fuel efficiency is also important. They have to be more reliable than a used car or this won’t work. Think old VW Beetle, Geo Metro, India’s Tata, China’s Cherry Motors or simpler version of a Honda Civic/fit.

2. Super eco friendly green cars. This segment has a product range from cheap eco friendly basic cars to luxury eco friendly status comfort cars. Performance isn’t really a priority but style and design is. Comfort comes at a price but miles per gallon is always in the 50-75 mpg range for all vehicles. Leather heated seats is an option on the lux ones. Think Toyota Prius and GM Volt. A 5-door option is nice here too. Eco people are practical people. Plug in charging in your garage and solar panels in roof are also great pluses if the cost can still be comparable to a non-eco car. People need to have one of the eco cars start at $15,000.00. Then fancier ones can be higher priced. Pricing people out of the market is bad for business, you loose sales and customers to people who do have the affordable eco cars.

3. Business/Industrial/Delivery Trucks & Vans. No consumer needs a truck unless they live in the mountains of Colorado or live on a ranch, but telling people they needed huge over-sized utility vehicles for their family use has been a strategy used in the past 15 years to re-purpose existing designs to new markets. This era is over and the SUV needs to die except for people who have 5 kids. (relatively few) There is a continued opportunity to sell trucks to businesses that deliver, transport and create large products in the US but it is a far smaller division of the company and of sales. And living in the US and seeing firsthand how people use these vehicles for business should give GM an insight that the Japanese, Chinese and German car companies don’t have and lead to building and innovating better vehicles.

4. And most importantly: The everybody car. I think GM has no way of recapturing a significant part of the 4 door family sedan but there is an opportunity to innovate it. There have been a few cars that are appealing to everybody because they contain multiple category characteristics. (um, crossovers without the truck part plus luxury) The everybody car I am talking about is the 5 door hatchback sedan. Don’t think 1970’s! Think of the Prius and Saab 9-3 when it was a 5 door, think Subaru WRX. More needs to be done in developing practical sexy cars like this because they take over where SUVs left off. You can haul things in them and get good fuel economy at the same time. You can even structure them for performance and luxury and fuel economy at the same time. So, the 5-door sport/luxury/green/family sedan is the everybody car of the future. Will GM make it and market it properly? (it could be the volt if they lux it up a bit)

5. The Luxury Performance car. Lastly, GM needs a super-car or luxury flagship vehicle that basically walks on water and inspires a generation. (more than the Pontiac solstice) These cars aren’t always profitable themselves, but they make the other brands you own more profitable and can make your brand one that people believe in. How Toyota and Honda don’t have one I don’t know, but maybe that is why they do so much racing now?  The Corvette makes Chevy feel cool, the R8 made Audi sought after. Vipers dying off made Chrysler seem even less cool and less reliable. Plus so few people will be able to afford a luxury performance car in the future that this will need to be a niche business with limited production.

And for fun here is what I think of the brands GM currently has:

Keeping Buick: Buick makes an extremely reliable car (yes like Honda/Toyota reliable) so this is a good place to start and they get 25-30 MPG. What Buick needs is a few smaller car options and even better fuel economy without sacrificing the comfort, luxury and quality that people need and love. They do need a new logo though, that doesn’t look like the 3 old 80’s shields.

Keeping Cadillac: Caddy is all about Flagship dream cars and it may share a few parts with Buick so there are manufacturing cost efficiencies there.  Caddy needs to keep innovating on performance, style and (surprise) eco materials and fuel economy.

Keeping Chevrolet: Chevy has been the all American fleet of everything (soup-to-nuts) vehicles for a long time. Many of the other brands aren’t needed because Chevy offers most everything. They cover work trucks, family sedans, performance cars with the Vette and with the Volt an eco car of the future. They should make them less fugly though, because they aren’t selling against other lux GM brands anymore, they are selling against Toyota and Honda’s flagship cars. 

Keeping GMC: Wouldn’t it have better to just sell trucks under one brand as Chevrolet since we need so few trucks? I am at a loss on this one. GMC offers nothing new, interesting or innovative at all. (yuck)

Cutting Saturn: Apparently this is just Opel cars from Europe now.  The Saturn brand name needs to die since it means cheap, flimsy, crappy, cars that break down a lot and are ugly. Re-release Opels under the Opel name? How about Vauxhall in the US? We like them.

Cutting Pontiac: Well Pontiac has been loosing it’s battle to streamline its designs and be a sleeker performance division of GM because of it’s cheap finishes and lack of quality. Plus the dealers don’t really help here either when they don’t look like a performance dealership. I think the concept of performance only exists at the same time with luxury because who will pay all that money and not want to be comfortable in their car? And quality in finishes and reliability is ultra important. As Pontiac is now, it should be cut and their logo scrapped.

Cutting Hummer; Duh! Sell it to the Norwegians or Russians or UAE or something. Wherever it is cold and has mountains or endless oil. The military division of Hummer should be retained and put into Chevy for developing military/industrial products.

Cutting: SAAB Well we saw this coming. They made an over engineered car un-reliable so GM deserves this one. From personal experience I will never buy another Saab again because of the reliability problems and obviously no one else is either. This is typical GM strategy, cut quality, save money, increase profits in the short term, piss off customers, loose customers, wonder why they can’t win customers back after costing them 5K in repair bills. Basically if you screw someone over financially once, they never forget it. This should not have happened because Saab had a lot of potential, but it’s pretty impossible to fix now.

 

Campbells Soup in Smaller Cans With No Soup? Sucks

Ok, this marketing blog has turned into the marketing and product rant blog as I find more and more companies making boneheaded decisions about their marketing and products. This week’s winner is Campbell’s Soups. I bought a bunch of Campbell’s soup a few weeks ago because in Chicago winter starts in late October and ends in June. Canned condensed Campbell’s soup is an easy and not-going-to-kill-you type microwave dinner I keep around all winter in case of a lack of groceries. (or any brand for that matter)

This new batch of cans though is either smaller or they have decided to cram so many more noodles, vegetables and pasta into the can so that there is now no room at all for the actual soup. The vegetable soup I opened last week was solid when I opened it. It would not pour at all. I had to scoop it out in large chunks and even after I added the can of water the condensed soup solids inside the noodles would not dissolve. It was like water with floating soup chunks in it. Gross.

Today was worse, peas and ham soup was solid as a rock and the water did not blend well here either. All the solid peas sat at the bottom of a soup that used to be puree style. WTF? Is gas that expensive that you can’t include water or actual soup in your cans anymore? Is space that much of a premium? Did an MBA tell you this would work? I thought so. Assholes.

IT DOESN’T WORK!

This sucks, the soup comes out gross every time and I will have to switch brands again to get back to actual soup broth in a can. This just goes to show you can never trust an MBA to actually give you suggestions that will work. They always F up the product with lower quality everything and take away important features that the customer values in the name of saving a few pennies and paying their 150K per year salary.

I buy this kind of Campbell’s soup because it is easy to make and is edible right out of the can with minimal changes. Now I end up microwaving it until it is boiling and the soup solids still won’t dissolve. Well, I guess that is enough for this rant. Campbell’s has lost my money, we will see how long it takes them to figure it out before they loose a lot more people too. Hello Progresso.