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tech in the spotlight

Space Inc.: The Great Beyond is Now Ripe for Brand Commercialization

Posted by Dale Buss on September 17, 2014 06:41 PM

What is it about space that entrepreneurs want to keep going up there—or at least starting companies that go up there? Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos is the latest king of business buildling who's now gotten a foothold in the great beyond, joining Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson and SpaceX's Elon Musk.

Bezos founded and funded a space startup called Blue Origin that had been a relatively low-profile venture until it turned up as a partner to Boeing for the "space taxi" program for NASA of which Boeing won the biggest share this week, while SpaceX also got a contract. Blue Origin had been focused on developing spacecraft with a vertical takeoff-vertical landing first stage, simlar to technology that SpaceX has been working on with its Grasshopper and Falcon 9 launchers.

Musk, also founder of Tesla, has been involved via SpaceX in a high-profile race with Branson's Virgin Galactic to be the first to take rank-and-file global citizens into space on their separate aircraft, a competition which is supposed to take civilians into space as early as next year.Continue reading...

by the numbers

Alibaba IP-OMG: Putting the Potentially Biggest IPO Ever in Global Perspective

Posted by Abe Sauer on September 17, 2014 05:53 PM

Most media coverage of the hotly anticipated Alibaba Group IPO (NYSE ticker: BABA) has focused on the company's eponymous story, riffing on how its stock valuation speaks to thievery and treasure. But the story of Ali Baba was, at its heart, one of double-crosses and massive bloodshed—after all, all 40 thieves are killed and Ali Baba's brother is quartered and stitched back together to cover up the ruse. Find meaning in that.

As a former longtime China expat, I know firsthand that Alibaba.com and Taobao (tmall.com) are both extremely useful. They are the perfect match, with the former helping funnel money to manufacturing workers nationwide and the latter helping them spend it. But a valuation of nearly $22 billion on its first day? What the heck does Alibaba do anyway? And more important, is it replaceable?Continue reading...

rebranding

Clear Channel Tunes Out Radio, Pumps Up the Volume With iHeartMedia Rebrand

Posted by Penelope Davis on September 17, 2014 05:04 PM

Of the many ways a brand can signal change, changing its name is one of the most significant—particularly for a company as large as Clear Channel Communications, which has just rebranded to iHeartMedia.

The move is intended to align with a sharper focus on digital channels and growth opportunities, and firmly position the San Antonio, Texas-based radio operator as a multiplatform, mass media company. The new name clearly borrows awareness from its six-year-old iHeartRadio brand, now associated with not only an app and digital offerings, but a high-profile annual music festival and awards show.

As its corporate rebranding press release points out, Clear Channel is not "just" an operator of 859 US radio stations, but an integrated and evolving ecosystem of media platforms, spanning broadcast radio, digital radio, mobile, social, TV, outdoor advertising and live events. So why leverage a sub-brand's equity to change the parent company's corporate identity?Continue reading...

mobile commerce

Mobile Payment Brands Go On Offensive in Fear of Apple Pay Domination

Posted by Sheila Shayon on September 17, 2014 04:12 PM

With the first reviews of Apple's new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus making their rounds, the discussions around what many have deemed the most lack-luster announcement—Apple Pay—are only getting louder.

While PayPal, Amazon and Google are all making hay of Apple's payment platform, other mobile wallet brands aren't sitting on their hands. Softcard, formerly known as Isis and backed by Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T in the US, just struck a major deal with Subway restaurants to launch NFC payments across the US. Consumers at any of Subway's 26,000 US locations can now tap their phone to pay for their order. 

That won't be the case for consumers using Apple Pay, though, as Apple is restricting its NFC-enabled chip to only be compatible with the iPhone 6 iterations and Apple Watch. The company has also closed off access to its NFC technology to app developers, unlike Samsung's range of NFC-enabled devices that can make use of several NFC apps. 

But while Apple Pay may be a bit restrictive, the upcoming platform is making competitors nervous about a potential Apple domination of the mobile wallet space.Continue reading...

in the spotlight

+Pool Makes a Splash with Branding-First Concept

Posted by Katie Conneally on September 17, 2014 02:59 PM

It seems like everyday there’s a new tech startup in the news, a new cool project to back on Kickstarter or a new worthy cause to donate to. But with this abundance of new ideas, it’s easy for the average consumer, investor or donor to become overwhelmed. To combat this new idea fatigue, some startups and projects are getting smart about branding their ideas to stand out—sometimes even before they have a physical product or prototype to tout.

+Pool, a concept for a swimming pool that floats in New York’s East River, is an example of how early branding can play a role in future success. From its debut on Kickstarter in 2011, the +Pool idea ("the world's first water-filtering, floating pool") quickly gained traction and supporting, raising $41,000 to explore filtration materials. Another Kickstarter campaign in 2013 netted over $250,000 to build a test pool to bring the concept, called Float Lab, to life.Continue reading...

retail watch

Macy's Dials Up Omnichannel Strategy Ahead of Holiday Shopping Blitz

Posted by Sheila Shayon on September 17, 2014 01:29 PM

Macy’s is making a bigger investment in omnichannel retail technology ahead of the major holiday shopping season by creating a more personalized and interactive shopping experience for consumers in-store, online and on mobile devices. 

A pioneer in the implementation of RFID technology, Macy's will be rolling out shopBeacons to all of its locations across the US and will be expanding its partnership with Shopkick to drive consumer engagement in-store. 

“Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s remain committed to operating at the forefront of innovation, as well as fostering a locally relevant shopping experience in every store,” said Terry J. Lundgren, Chairman and CEO of Macy's, in a press release. “We are a multi-faceted retailer with stores, technology, Internet capability and mobile access that come together for our customers. They are at the center of all our decisions, and our ongoing research and development will continue to help us understand how to personally engage with them.”Continue reading...

brands under fire

Nestle Scorched for Tapping California Water, but It Won't Be the Last Brand

Posted by Dale Buss on September 17, 2014 11:47 AM

Nestle Waters is involved in one of the first major brand disputes relating to the devastating drought in California. But it's likely not to be the last tangle over how brands and products use water in the parched Golden State as California increasingly goes drip-dry and state residents have been urged to cut their water usage by 20 percent.

In the case of Nestle's bottled-water brand, a conservation group is petitioning to stop Nestle from tapping its site in Cabazon, which bottles water from a nearby spring in Millard Canyon under the Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water brand. The League of Conservation Voters wants Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke to stop "taking water from the state, bottling it, exporting it out of the state and profiting." Another group, Global Call for Climate Action, has criticized Nestle Water because its plant sits on a Native American reservation where it's immune from state regulation.

To this, Nestle Waters has replied basically: We're one of the most responsible industrial users of water in the state. Go pick on other businesses, ranging from soft-drink plants to agricultural growers, that are much more intensive users. Nestle Waters previously came under fire in Canada for its water collection practices. Continue reading...

brand news

Brand News: General Mills, Subway, Clear Channel and more

Posted by Dale Buss on September 17, 2014 09:35 AM

TOP STORIES

General Mills sees profits drop 25 percent on decline in US sales.

Subway deploys mobile payments to all 26,000 US locations in partnership with Softcard, the mobile wallet formerly known as Isis.

Sony warns of $2 billion loss and trims mobile unit.

NFL lobbied to meet with women's activists as sponsors face protests and weigh pulling out, and the Minnesota Vikings switch course and bar Adrian Peterson. (Update: Nike has dropped its sponsorship of Peterson.)

Scotland's looming independence vote prompts Richard Branson and other business leaders to make contingency plans. 

MORE BRAND NEWS

Absolut licenses Andy Warhol images for holiday campaign.

Adobe helps bring 3D-printed shoe to life.

Airbus sells some defense businesses.

Allstate hosts college-football Twitter challenge.

ALS Association tries to avoid pitfalls after monetary success of Ice Bucket Challenge.Continue reading...

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