Not so Dumb Starbucks may be quite a smart performance

February 11, 2014
Dumb StarbucksA recently opened store  offers coffee under the name Dumb  Starbucks.  it has considerable visual similarities with the well-known coffee brand.  It may be a case of blatant passing off.  Or it may be a smartly judged piece of performance art 

From a distance, the store in Los Angeles  looks like a Starbucks coffee shop. Except the premises are labelled Dumb Starbucks.  Coffee in cardboard cups of  familiar-looking colours is offered.

The people behind it claim the product to be performance art.  The argument is grounded in the principle of fair comment in a parody performance.  The case is strengthened by cleverly built-in features.  The coffee is given away not sold.  Those responsible have a track record of TV comedy spoofs.  The Dumb Starbucks logo is consistent across the set including those coffee cups.

There is an interesting blurring of the line between art and reality, which is sometimes a deliberate effort on the part of the artist.  Even this blog post could be seen as either a comment on a possible legal issue or as a review of a piece of performance art…

To go more deeply 

Later it emerged that performance  comedian Nathan Fielder was behind the rather successful stunt

See the gastronomy site which alerted the world to the Los Angeles pop up store

The ‘store’ was quickly shut down after only an hour. The @DumbStarbucks twitter account appears to be inactive [6am GMT February 11th 2014]

 


Leadership Lessons from Lady Gaga

October 11, 2011

by Dr Dina Williams

Lady Gaga Poker Face

She causes controversy, her music is might not be your cup of tea but it is certain that you will be familiar with the girl from the Lower East Side of New York who in a few short years transformed herself from Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta into one of the world’s best-known musical performers

Who we are talking about? Lady Gaga, of course

She blasted to the stratosphere of music industry with her first album The Fame, the best-selling debut album of 2009. Her single, Poker Face, is the most downloaded tune in the history of U.K. digital music.

Music icon plus

She is not only a music icon but an iconic business model from which corporate leaders can learn a few lessons. According to a recent article in The Economist, Lady Gaga has what Anderson, Reckhenrich and Kupp call “leadership projection“. This is a concept in which communication, behaviour and aspiration are integrated to provide a leader with wide recognition across an industry or sphere of public life.

Leadership projection is very much about attracting followers. The authors believe that her ability to build emotional commitment in those she leads is a capacity of increasing value in today’s business world. Financial Times summarising the case study puts her business success down to knowing how to use social media:

“She is the first living person to achieve 10 million fans on Facebook, which has grown by a further 2 million in a fortnight; she has nearly 5 million followers on Twitter; she is the first currently producing music artist to reach one billion YouTube views…Currently ‘Lady Gaga’ is searched 151,000,000 times a month.”

She has an instinctive understanding of how to handle social media and digital platforms. Forbes states:

“She is directing every frame of her music and her life, imagining how clips will appear on YouTube and what people will tweet after she appears on the VMAs.”

She likes her fans and they like her back

An industry insider is quoted as saying: “Maybe Gaga points a way to the future – to make your fans your trusted friends. After all, who steals from friends?” She constantly engages with her fans creating a feeling of ‘friendship’ which is reinforced by pet-naming her fans Monsters thereby familiarising them and creating a definite loyalty to her brand.

In an interview with Stephen Fry she says:“Well actually, I sent them hot chocolate yesterday, and macaroons, and then today I had the press all day and I felt a bit bad because I wouldn’t have much of a chance to go down and say hello. But I did manage to go down and brought them some fresh cookies and flowers”. She even named her second album “Fame Monsters”

She builds on others’ fame

Lady Gaga does not do feuds, and happily shares her platform with potential “rivals”. She has teamed up with Madonna, Beyoncé, Elton John. According to Forbes she “leverages buzz” by sharing the limelight with other, mightier entertainment brands than her own. She admits the influence in her work of David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Michael Jackson, Prince and others.

She is the brand

Lady Gaga does not endorse brands. Instead she creates new products in companies that have asked her to come on board. The objects with which she is identified are bounded by her own values. The latest news is that she is now a creative director at Polaroid, introducing to the market a range of innovative products of Polaroid’s Grey Label line, their flagship range including sunglasses which take pictures and technology that allows you to print photos directly from your mobile.


Toyota Fights to Preserve its Global Brand

February 4, 2010

Toyota faces its biggest crisis over a serious weakening of its reputation for quality control. How might creative leadership preserve its global brand?

Toyota has been hailed as the company of the future. This site has made no secret of its admiration for the company’s success. But events are now suggesting that the company has a lot of work to do in preserving its global brand. A year ago we wrote [Jan 2009] that Toyota’s business model was on trial:

Toyota is hurting, and Company chief Katsuaki Watanabe recently announced a projection for a first annual trading loss in its seventy year history. But Toyota’s pain still seems likely to be more sustainable than that being suffered by its rivals, whose fate is one of the urgent problems facing incoming President Obama, and who are pressing (begging?) for state bale-outs. For Chrysler, and GM, job losses are inevitable, while even survival in their present state seems increasingly unlikely. Its reaction to over-supply is to announced a temporary suspension of production for 11 days [Feb-March 2009] in all its 12 Japanese production units.

Now, [Jan 2010] Toyota is experiencing one of those crises which can rock a company to its core. Shares plummeted, as the company prepared to recall eight million vehicles globally because of problems with accelerator pedals on seven models.

At a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, [Feb 3rd 2010] US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood alarmed both investors and consumers with the advice, which he later retracted, that owners of a recalled Toyota should “stop driving it”.

The carmaker said it was not aware of any accidents resulting from the issue and that only 26 incidents involving accelerator pedals had been reported in Europe. Last year, Toyota was forced to recall about 5 million cars worldwide over problems with floor mats trapping pedals. END
Toyota’s UK spokesman Scott Brownlee denied that the firm had delayed the accelerator pedal recall in the UK, stating it was a quality rather than a safety issue.

The Perrier Story

The developing story, although potentially far more significant has echoes of the Perrier case.

This relates to the crisis faced by the Perrier brand in the late 1980s. John Mowen & Michael Minor in their text book on Consumer Behaviour explain what happened

Perrier Group of America announced a highly embarrassing product recall [February 9, 1990]. The recall came in response to a report stating that Perrier’s high-priced bottled water was contaminated with benzene. Even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that the benzene levels did not pose “a significant short-term health risk,” Perrier’s management requested the removal of the brand from supermarkets and restaurants in the United States and Canada.

The incident turned into a public relations disaster, in large part because the company’s explanation for the recall kept changing. After traces of benzene were found in Perrier bottles in other parts of the world, company officials altered their original explanation. Benzene, they now said, is naturally present in carbon dioxide (the gas that makes Perrier bubbly) and is normally filtered out before the water is bottled. For unknown reasons workers had inexplicably failed to change the filters. Meanwhile, Perrier still insisted that its famous spring in Vergeze, France was unpolluted. By 1995, Perrier sales had fallen to one-half their 1989 peak. The company had to mount a comeback strategy. While attempting to regain share for the Perrier brand through new distribution channels, the company began to invest in other brands that did not have the Perrier name attached to them. The question remains, however, will the memory of the benzene incident forever tarnish Perrier brand name?

Lessons for Toyota

In times of corporate crisis, Denial is still a likely response. What might Toyota do to avoid the dangers of permanent damage to its future as a brand? Can lessons be learned from the fate of Perrier? What steps might a creative leadership take?

Acknowledgement

With grateful thanks to Susan Moger for her insightful comments on this story.