Archive for March 2009

AIG SunAmerica – The brand identity tells the story

Posted by Robert Weitz on March 12, 2009 1:28 PM

I have learned all of my best lessons on the meaning and importance of “brand” from my clients. One of our earliest clients, Mike Katz, CEO of ICE Inc., and I were cruising around the Santa Monica Promenade one day looking for something “unusual” to snack on.

The two of us have spent hundreds of hours cruising around looking for snacks since the time we met traveling in Europe. Mike is particularly great at this pursuit since his early career included having opened, managed and cooked in some of San Francisco’s finest restaurants.

Snacking with Mike usually starts with the hunt and rarely ends in disappointment. The reason is that, between the two of us, we have a great sense of what is good, and how that manifests itself in the look and feel, the smell and the general vibe of the restaurant.

As we started winding down a few of the hidden little side streets that flow into the more touristy Promenade, we noticed an Egyptian restaurant. Our immediate reaction was “Wow, Egyptian food!” Within seconds, however, Mike was shaking his head. “Look at the sign,” he said sadly, “it’s crooked and dirty… I can only imagine how filthy the kitchen is if that’s how they keep their sign.”

AIG SunAmerica

When SunAmerica merged with AIG in 1998, somebody scabbed a lightbox-style sign (think laundry, fast food and used cars) onto the SunAmerica building in Century City, which is visible from my studio. The original SunAmerica logo and sign is well-crafted and suited to the modern tower they are bolted to. I always thought that the AIG part was a temporary fix, since the sign is dull, oftentimes looks dirty, is in a different style, and not even attached on the same plane.

Without any due diligence or knowing anything about the company, I could tell you that something was not right. Here is a sign that tops off a tower that can be seen for miles around, and it screams impermanence, shoddy branding and lack of interest in public perception.

The sign speaks eons about a corporate culture more interested in opulent internal incentive programs, exotic investments and executive payouts than a long-term relationship with their customers and shareholders. Why spend a couple of thousand dollars on a sign that tells everyone that our company plans to be around for a while and is proud to be an established business with long-term objectives?

If the brand is a herald that represents the attitude and standing of a company, AIG SunAmerica’s tacky, ill-conceived sign teaches us a lot about their attitude, culture and how much they care about what the public thinks.

The Large Hadron Collider is…beautiful!

Posted by Robert Weitz on March 3, 2009 10:08 AM

One of our favorite blogs, Boing Boing, has been following the amazing work of photographer Peter McCready. McCready’s QTVR panoramas of the biggest, most intricate machines known to man are simply put—overwhelming. Both the expression, via simple but very high-res single node VR, and the objects McCready photographs evoke the kind of heart-thumping that occurs when one first sees St. Peter’s or the Grand Canyon.

Large Hadron Collider

McCready simulates immersion using very detailed QTVR photography, accompanied by the sounds of the actual environment. The environments he is documenting like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), Compact Muon Spectrometer, and A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE) are all machines that are designed and created to challenge and explore the outer most sanctums of our understanding of the universe. While not designed with beauty in mind, they are nevertheless sublimely beautiful.

Spend some time clicking through McCready’s site and remember to use the best audio and visual set up you have. I’ll be discussing this more in a future post.

This is the QTVR of the LHC.