Not Brand Dilution – Brand Confusion

Posted by Robert Weitz on August 21, 2011 7:17 PM

I resisted the temptation to jump on this news story just because I did not want “The Situation” and crew anywhere near The Brand Wash. Unfortunately, 2 great blundering behemoths of macho brands have collided, leaving in place some interesting fragments of clarity and truth.

What happened? Certainly not dilution. The concept of dilution comes from trademark law. This is grabbed from Wikipedia and from my experience is a good general definition:

Trademark dilution is a trademark law concept giving the owner of a famous trademark standing to forbid others from using that mark in a way that would lessen its uniqueness. In most cases, trademark dilution involves an unauthorized use of another’s trademark on products that do not compete with, and have little connection with, those of the trademark owner. For example, a famous trademark used by one company to refer to hair care products might be diluted if another company began using a similar mark to refer to breakfast cereals or spark plugs.”

It is usually a conflict between 2 marks, and the confusion that might occur when 1 mark is in some way so close to another in look, feel or other attributes that the consumer is unsure as to whom they are dealing with.

The word from Abercrombie & Fitch is that, “We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image…We have also extended this offer to other members of the cast.”

Here’s my fly-on-the wall of the branding department conjecture: The problem is that Abercrombie & Fitch is, like the GAP and a number of other global brands, refocusing their brand message/image to speak to emerging global markets, as they should be. And “The Situation” does not represent Abercrombie & Fitch’s new brand image. So how do you stop them? You could engage in legal bullying, but these kids thrive on a good fight, have a substantial following and a lot of PR muscle. Or, you could get a bunch of good publicity for your shift in message and use the diss to bolster your brand. No more confusion and a lot of free press! Quite a play and well done.

Fahrenheit Studio Launches New Site

Posted by Robert Weitz on August 18, 2011 3:49 PM

In 1996, one year after Dylan Tran & I started Fahrenheit Studio, we designed our first website for Inscape for a game called Ravage. At the time, most websites had blue type, no pictures, and certainly no animation! Ravage, on the other hand, used 3D imagery, had some well-placed animation, and felt more like an environment than a spreadsheet.

Many, many websites and brands later, we are still leading the way with the 4th generation launch of our own website at

Each generation from 1996-2004 seemed to grow in format size, richness, animation, and sound. But this time, something has changed. It has neither gotten larger or smaller—it can now be any size you want it to be. Thanks to HTML5 and responsive design, it’s one site that adapts to any device. Got an iPhone, iPad, desktop, laptop, or large screen TV? It all fits.

Please check out the new website and let us know what you think.

Tagging – Two Cultures Scribble Their Hopes + Wishes

Posted by Robert Weitz on August 9, 2011 1:06 PM

I popped downtown to take one more look at MOCA’s “Art In The Streets” show before it closed. It seemed that every artist, tagger, curioista and his sister decided to catch a final last minute look at the exquisitely scrawled installations by the master taggers turned sophisticated artists of the early 80′s.

Scrawling on walls, hanging scribbles and banners in the landscape goes back to the beginning of recorded history. In fact, the first scribble marked the beginning of recorded history! We do it carefully, we do it wistfully, we do it in anger (“Eat the rich” and “Down with Gaddafi”), and we express our hopes and aspirations.

So, I was delighted to bump into another expression of our instinct to scribble—Tanabata, also known as the “star festival,” was being celebrated in Little Tokyo (LA), and I had to walk through the main plaza to get to MOCA.

Hanging on specific trees were notes expressing people’s wishes: Wishes for jobs, wishes for things, and wishes for health, love and happiness. Some were obviously written by children and they evoked the same impulse to scrawl and scribble that the ancient cave paintings and our lovely street art does!

Rudi Diesel’s Typhoon HD4 – Slow Mo Mojo

Posted by Robert Weitz on July 30, 2011 8:02 PM

Try an experiment: Pick a road that you drive down often and walk it… slowwwwwwly. I guarantee you will notice detail and nuance that had escaped you at higher speeds. I guess at this point, I should acknowledge that there are certainly sensations and phenomena that we experience at higher speeds that are equally amazing and beautiful.

Check out the video footage captured by Rudi Diesel’s custom high-speed camera, the Typhoon HD4. Like a great telescope or microscope, the Typhoon reveals a world that, while often right in front of our eyes, is unavailable to our unaided senses. A wave becomes a cathedral, a hummingbird’s motion is unbelievably intricate, and a splash in the pool erupts like a massive volcano.

This camera does a lot to reveal a very deep truth. Slow down a bit and you might notice that there is beauty all around you.

Godd Is In The Dettails – Kunming Retailer Trashes Apple Brand

Posted by Robert Weitz on July 21, 2011 10:33 PM

I could not resist the urge to discuss this story in BirdAbroad’s blog. BirdAbroad takes us to an “Apple Store” in Kunming, China, that is a fake!

Apple Store

The reason I could not resist is that comparing the real Apple brand to the fake Apple brand is a great way to demonstrate the importance of things like quality control, consistency, honesty and legitimacy in the making of a great world-renowned brand. The reason we brand merchandise and services is that we either want to clue people to the quality of our products or, in this case, deceive people about the quality and trustworthiness of fakes! Wanna buy a Rolex cheap? Or is this an authentic Gucci handbag replica?

The problem is that the real Apple, Rolex or Gucci makes a promise and keeps it, while the fake is a lie and cannot live up to the high standard of people who really care about their long-term relationship with customers. The real Apple store cares about quality control, consistency, integrity and honesty because they want to keep you involved with their brand for life, while the fake Apple store wants your money and is willing to fake an entire brand to get it. The reason this is such an interesting job of fakery is that it is like the joke: A con man goes into a store in a remote rural part of the U.S. and tries to pass some $18 bill. The clerk in the store agrees to break his $18 bill, asking him if he wants three $6 or two $9!

While there are so many blatant errors in the counterfeit Apple Store, the glaring examples underline many of the mistakes companies make in the design, execution and oversight of their brands:

  • A brand promise that is impossible to fulfill.
  • Inconsistent graphics, colors and material choices.
  • Poor execution: graphic no-nos abound to the designer. The public will just sense the place is a little crappier and less organized and beautiful.
  • Horrible quality control: Spelling (obviously not a dealbreaker in China), look and feel, peeling paint, wanky staircases are so not Apple!!!
  • Fraud and trademark infringement: While this is obvious, we have witnessed a devil-may-care attitude in marketing that results in brand confusion, search engine ambiguity and lawsuits.

The Apple, Rolex and Gucci brands are what they are because of a fanatical effort that goes into every aspect of their company and the way they present themselves. While Apple, Rolex and Gucci are the real thing, this fake Apple Store is a “paper tiger.” It has stripes and a tail, but you can stick your hand right through it.

Cultcha – Or How We Scrawl

Posted by Robert Weitz on July 20, 2011 3:36 PM

You don’t have to be an art critic to notice that the graphic styles featured in Art in the Streets at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary would probably not be appropriate for banking or air traffic control instructions. It’s an amazing backdrop for a party that featured multiple DJs, light shows, and some robotic dummy taggers to boot.

Art in the Streets

No matter what you think about post 1970’s street art, its cultural reach and—in the case of Banksy or Keith Haring—its artistic genius is indisputable. While constantly being weighed against more orthodox and established art, street art is often a huge influence on mainstream art, design, and fashion. So much so that it’s about to become passé or retro!

So don’t forget to wear your hoodie to the show. When you are cruising around, remember that our more stuffy museums are full of works by the Russian Constructivists, Toulouse-Lautrec, Utamaru, among many others that are extremely influenced by the art of the street. It’s in the passion and spontaneous expression of the street artists that we discover the seeds of things to come!

“Art in the Streets” at Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles, through August 8, 2011.

Carmageddon – Conjuring Hell Works

Posted by Robert Weitz on July 17, 2011 4:37 PM

On July 15, 2011, Los Angeles avoided a nightmare of urban congestion, scaring the hell out of the local residents by resurrecting a classic brand that, among other things, conjures an image of the city in a state of automotive hell. The Carmageddon brand seems to have originated with a video game.

Carmageddon is the first of a series of graphically violent vehicular combat video games produced by Stainless Games, published by Interplay and SCi. It was inspired by the 1975 cult classic movie Death Race 2000.” – Wikipedia

Of course, many of us have never heard of this gruesome, post-apocalyptic crash fantasia, but the name itself is ominous and spot on. Any one of us can easily imagine traffic meltdowns on a biblical scale given a minor cataclysm or stoppage anywhere along L.A.’s vast freeway system. Certainly I can imagine utter chaos if, in fact, there were no rules or regulations governing our roads and highways.

By conjuring up an image of absolute hell, the foreboding name Carmageddon may have been enough to inspire Los Angelenos to stay home, or if they couldn’t handle not driving, get out of town. The result was that Los Angeles was a heavenly place to be – light traffic, less noise, less pollution and the weather was so mellow that most of us forgot about hell or traffic and just chilled!

Re-branding, Re-naming, and Re-thinking the Whole Thing!

Posted by Robert Weitz on July 12, 2011 4:05 PM

Let’s begin with the image of a barefoot cobbler. Our last re-brand/re-think/refresh was over 7 years ago! In cyber years, 7 years equals: 2 years of heroism, publication and intense traffic, 2 years of “wow nice site!” and 3 years of excuses!


Well, after a couple years of overdrive where we put all of our extra energy trying to help our clients deal with the realities of the financial downturn, we have finally turned our attention to our own needs. We designed a new website (to be launched soon) that looks great on any device or browser, and we have to the joy of everyone around FS, renamed and refocused our blog!

Our old name PROUN 21, while exciting to me, is hard to pronounce, spell, and when we explain what it means, people remain even more perplexed, lost and uninterested.

Here is a perfect case of a name chosen by a company head (me), that is close to his (my) heart, but says nothing to my readers!!! PROUN 21 is what I call a brand pooper, or a brand choice that was a total failure from the get-go.

So all the why the self-flagellation?

I am a brand-maker. I see companies do this all the time, and it is my job to explain that when it comes to names, logos or language of any kind, the most important thing is that it’s easy to remember and it’s meaningful to your specific audience or market—not what is meaningful to the CEO.

That doesn’t mean that the two don’t align, and in fact, some CEOs are so enlightened and in tune with their customers that they know exactly what they want and how they want it. (See Apple, Google, Amazon and Zappos)

But visionary leaders of the world be warned: There are a handful of companies that have leaders that truly understand their customers. The rest of us had better listen when our fellow workers, partners, and friends can’t pronounce or figure out the name we chose for our pet projects! I, for one, have seen the error of my ways and am ready to accept humble pie and rename this blog to The Brand Wash!!!

Is it easy to remember? Yes. Meaningful? Absolutely!

Defining or discussing brand is like discussing the idea of family. There is an idea of something we call family, but that concept is something that is very different, depending on many factors.

The Brand Wash will be a place where we point out, discuss or chortle about things that relate to brands and branding with some art, architecture, and design ideas randomly thrown in to the mix as we notice them and find them interesting or provocative.

iPhone Finger Painting Makes The New Yorker Cover

Posted by Dylan Tran on June 10, 2009 10:27 AM

A couple of weeks ago, The New Yorker debuted its first iPhone cover – a digital finger painting done on Brushes app by Jorge Colombo, an artist whose drawings have been featured in the magazine since 1994. It was a breakthrough of sorts because never before had a virtual artwork done on such a small mobile device hit the cover of a major publication, one that’s renowed for their creative illustrations. It was truly inspiring.

Watch this video on the making of The New Yorker cover:

Columbo just got his iPhone a few months ago, and like me, immediately obsessed and marveled about all the wonderful things the little device could do. As an artist, he found that it opened up new possibilities. Using Brushes, a cool iPhone application that allows one to draw and paint on the fly, he was able to express himself anywhere and without being noticed. Brushes Viewer records the step-by-step process, and as you can see from the above video, Columbo relied on the Undo feature to get the look just right.

Imagine creating your own masterpiece while waiting for the bus, or your next appointment, or even while walking down the street. I hope this technology motivates more people to get creative and free their artistic inhibitions. As for Columbo, he’s so inspired that he’s now posting a new finger painting every week on The New Yorker blog. No word yet on when his first iPhone gallery exhibition will be, but you can see what others have come up with on Flickr here.

Modifying Mecca – An Elegant Plan Revealed

Posted by Robert Weitz on June 8, 2009 11:40 AM

One of the five sacred duties (Five Pillars) for an “able-bodied” Muslim who can afford the trip is to perform the ritual pilgrimage known as the Hajj at least once in a lifetime.

Combine the fact that there are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide and the availability of relatively inexpensive easy transportation and you have a big 21st century problem – about 1.7 million pilgrims converge on Mecca every year.

Sadly, the infrastructure has been overburdened for many years and has resulted in deaths due to trampling and overcrowding. Fast Company magazine recently featured a short article revealing the existence of a YouTube video that is a fly-through of the master plan to modify Mecca. It caught our eye because it is an amazing scheme, a melding of ancient and contemporary ideas along with a state of the art digital presentation.

The video clearly demonstrates an elegant employment of the radial “parti” and a 21st century feel, echoing the shapes of Utzon’s Sidney Opera House, Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall and the structural rationalism of Nervi and Calatrava, while acting like an ancient amphitheater affording pilgrims view and access to the sacred Kaaba, which is the focal center of the plan.

In keeping with the Islamic love of mathematics, as reflected in the magnificent pattern language of Islamic architecture, this redo promises to be one of world’s wonders. We will keep you posted as we learn more.