branding

Wine Design

Wine snobs may want to skip this post.

For the rest of you, a question: Does packaging matter for the wines you buy? Is it all about the Parker score? A friend's recommendation? A sommelier's suggestion?

For most people, package design is important. It catches our attention, communicates positioning, attracts or repels us. I'm not telling you anything here. But somehow, the wine business has largely been immune to innovations in design. There are literally tens of thousands of French, Italian, and German bottles that look almost exactly alike. In the U.S., we have more than 5,000 domestic producers, most of whom choose — as if from a catalog — between classic, down-to-earth, or contemporary label looks.

Don't believe me? Perhaps you can think of your favorite wine that has an interesting label —the black-on-black one that just seems really cool. Take a stroll down the wine aisle in a grocery store. It's a sea of sameness that always leaves me wondering how they sell any wine at all.

Anyhow, the good people at thecoolist.com have managed to come up with a selection of really good, innovative wine packages. They don't all appeal to me — I don't see myself drinking wine out of an oil can anytime soon. But that's the point of good packaging, isn't it? Help people find you and decide whether or not to buy you.

What about you? What are your favorites on this list? Or do you have another great wine label to share? Let's see it.

Looks cool. Not sure about the portions.

Twitter How-To

As Mashable explains in "How Twitter's New Media Blog Aims To Teach By Example," Twitter is taking a pro-active role in teaching users how to make the most out of their service.

For all the folks out there — haters and otherwise — who continue to question the validity of Twitter as a communication medium, y'all need to pay attention.

media.twitter.com isn't just a blog. It's an important step forward in the evolution of technology-based communication.

MySpace started us off on the wrong foot by building a massive audience and not knowing quite what to do with it themselves. Let's assume they did their best to learn on the fly how to turn their website into a marketing platform, and as it goes with trial and error, success was very hit or miss (with lots of emphasis on "miss"). Most importantly, in typical old-media fashion, the assistance they provided was for serious advertisers only and it involved swarms of sales support teams and conference calls to help you figure out what to do to reach their crowd.

Then Facebook came along, with its brashness and anti-corporate attitude. Kind of like, "we don't care, you figure it out." It's taken years for them to come around, and even now most of their assistance is human-based. And it's mostly around advertising programs, rather than community building.

So now here's Twitter, putting it all out there on a blog for anyone to see. Their open style is the way of the future. They're giving us tips and case studies. It's almost like they want us to be successful using their service. What a crazy concept!

I'm not arrogant enough to predict where social media is heading, and I'm not here to say it's going to be all about Twitter. But I am certain that as things continue to get more complicated, the companies who take an active role in creating win-win relationships between marketers and their audiences will have a huge advantage.

We the People...

There's so much evidence that in this World 2.0, it's power to the people. It's not just agency websites telling us this. The mainstream news to major universities all say the same thing: WE are in charge. Hell, it's been almost four years since Time named us Person of the Year. But this is so hard for most people. It's the opposite of the paradigm we've all grown up with. So companies, by which I mean people who make things, keep doing what they know how to do: Make whatever they make and tell people about it.

My latest example: This week I've been reviewing online project management systems, all software as a service (SAAS). If that bit of technical jargon made your head hurt, don't fret. Let's just say I was looking at websites of people who wanted to sell me something.

I probably looked at 30 websites. Most offered lengthy, in-depth photo and video tutorials of their systems. One wanted me to watch a 7 minute movie right after watching a 3 minute movie. And there were another 5+ movies I could watch after that. How long did they expect me to spend on their site?

One had video of a guy writing on a whiteboard to explain the features. In real-time, you had to wait for him to put down in chicken-scratch what he had just told you. Are you kidding?

Most did good jobs telling me what they made and how they work, often in excruciating detail. Do I need a tutorial on how to customize the colors before I've even signed up? Do I?

Some offer free trials, which is table stakes in that game. But when time is as precious as money, the free trial really isn't free. Read my previous post on free trials.

And a few don't offer free trials. They make you fill out a form for a demo or more information. What?! Assuming I didn't already hate them, this instantly fixed that. If I like you, I want to do business with you NOW. Got my credit card in my hand, ready to pull the trigger. But not you, you're too good for money, you require me to fill out an application to pay you. Thanks.

Are you ready? Here's what you need to do: Stop telling us how your product works and listen to what We want from you. Learn about us, our needs and wants. Then make it easy for us to get those things from you. You'll get our money, I promise.

iPad: Maybe So, Maybe No

apple ipadIf you're like me, you're among the many who were disappointed with yesterday's reveal of the Apple iPad, and possibly even more disappointed by the name. But the public reaction is even more interesting than the product itself, and it speaks to the incredible power Apple has built in its brand.

I had two client meetings yesterday. The first one was right around 10am — the time of Steve Jobs' keynote — and was repeatedly interrupted by various people in the room reporting real-time announcements they got from their smartphones. Ironically, none of these people were using iPhones, and they described themselves as "non-Apple people." But they were glued to the news just like the rest of us, illustrating the extent to which Apple has ingrained itself into the fabric of American culture.

In the second meeting, the guy went on for about a minute listing all of the things wrong with the iPad: No camera, no Flash, no phone, etc. Then, almost on cue, he stops and says, "don't get me wrong, I'm buying one."

Me? I don't love it, but truth be told, I'll probably end up buying iPad 2, or should I say iPad Super.

Tell us what you think. Are you going to buy it? And what can we learn from Apple about branding?