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Branding the Chinese financial industry

October 26, 2002 at 2:04 pm in Branding

A brand new China: China’s financial industry has a new mantra these days as its markets open up to the world: branding. This, according to a story in China Daily, is an industry that used to be tightly regulated, based on networking, unwilling to compete, and was in a country with no awareness of advertising or brand building. Now all of that is changing very quickly, and competition is building:

“Brand reputation is a company’s largest single intangible asset,” said Tian Rencan, chief executive officer (CEO) of Fortis Investment Management Asia Ltd….

“Buying a fund is actually buying a brand,” said Xu Xiaosong, Southern Fund’s chief economist and deputy managing director.

We’ve lost track: is China still considered a communist country?

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Green machines: Toyota and Nissan coming clean

October 24, 2002 at 11:54 am in Branding, Technology

On the heels of last month’s announcement by Toyota and Nissan that the two silverbacks of the Japanese auto industry will, for the first time ever, team up to produce hybrid gas-electric automotive engines, comes today’s shocker by Toyota that it plans to have only hybrid engines in ALL of its cars by 2012.

This news, coupled with the Toyota-Nissan alliance, is sure to send shock waves through the U.S. auto industry. The Detroit automakers have been downplaying hybrid engines and focusing their R&D efforts on fuel cell technology, which may take longer than ten years to move into widespread availability.

On the fuel cell front, GM’s prototype car using fuel cells and electronic “drive-by-wire” technology, Hy-wire, could use a new name. After all, this is a major new technology that could completely revolutionize the automotive world and eventually lead to a serious reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; shouldn’t the name of this breakthrough driving experience capitalize on the emotional implications of such a revolution?

Also, it seems risky to couple the innovative propulsion system of the Hy-wire with a new driving mechanism that would effectively force all drivers to abandon everything they know about how to drive and instead learn to drive electronically, giving the X-Box Generation an unfair advantage out on the freeway. This could be a situation developing where, while GM is designing a great lunar rover to be piloted by astronauts and fighter pilots, Toyota and Nissan are covering the earth with hybrid vehicles that the rest of us can drive.

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Snark’s Autobiographical Confession

August 15, 2001 at 9:36 pm in Wordlab

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the PC

This is My Confession

Abandoned at birth, I was an illiterate orphan, a kindergarten dropout with boils all over my face. I often forgot to bathe. Burger King rejected me. I became depressed, began to lose precious self-esteem, and grew enormously fat. Nearing the end of my tether, I tried to join far-Right Christian cults, but they too would not have me.

Desperately in need of a bathroom one day, I inadvertently stumbled into the public library. Sure, I’d heard of libraries before – that’s where you got those funny bricks that come in all sizes and colors and open up in the middle.

On my way back out from the bathroom, I was inexplicably drawn to a glowing orb with buttons in front of it – a computer, I eventually learned. I began pressing buttons at random, and magical things appeared on screen. Since nobody hit me in the head and swore at me, I decided this must be a good thing, and I liked it. For the first time in twelve decades, I was learning something. Neurons that had sublet space in my brain to advertising agencies sobered-up and evicted their tenants. My mind was ramping up.

I learned, I thrived, I grew. I came back every day. I discovered the Internet, I discovered email, and I discovered chat groups, where I learned from others like me how to be polite, count out the proper amount of money when buying things in stores, and how to shave and shower. I learned what a President was, and I wrote letters to him. I lobbied Congress. I completed a Masters in Business Administration and a PhD in 9th Century English Literature through an accredited online university. I learned Latin and graduated top of my class.

Suddenly, I was everywhere, both in life and in the media. You couldn’t pick up a NY Post, Reader’s Digest or Le Monde without seeing my picture, or reading about what I’d done the night before with Elizabeth Hurley in Hungary, with Madonna in Mallorca, or with Billy Bob Thornton in Biloxi. I became very influential, and used my influence to change the world, one little bit at a time. Friends – and I now have many – urged me to run for office. However, I was beginning to get bored with my new celebrity, and desperately missed the many fond hours I had spent in front of the computer. So I abandoned my budding political career and instead became an Internet pioneer, right at the beginning of the most glorious economic boom in the history of the planet.

Again, I became fabulously famous, and everyone followed my every move. I was the ultimate high-tech guru. Confounding the pundits, I rejected offers to co-found the companies Amazon.com, eBay, Yahoo, and Google, opting instead to realize my life long dream of creating a new, better language for commerce and society. Yes friends, in 1998 I co-founded Wordlab with my partner quark, and the rest – as they will undoubtedly say someday – is history.

So you see, Mr./Ms. Anonymous, the computer is the most beautiful creature ever to share my bed – and I’ve had my pick of the litter, believe-you-me. I only hope it’s been as good to all of you as it has been to me. -Snark

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Wordlab’s Guide to Not Spending Your $600 Tax Refund

August 5, 2001 at 9:27 pm in Art

Snark’s tacky would-be entry to a cheezy USA Today contest

In the spirit of our duly (singly?) elected President, I decided to come up with a suggestion everyone could live with, even if nobody actually likes it. To advocate either saving, spending, or donating to a worthy cause this massive infusion of lucre would invariably tip the delicate political balance in favor of Left or Right, Up or Down, Tipper or Laura. So, call what follows the Stem Cell Solution of the Tax Rebate Dilemma.

You know that creative and distinctive style of decorative home stencil painting that is ever so popular all across the USA today? Well, get ready to dress up your own domicile with this fun and easy $600 home improvement technique that actually pays you back over time.

Money Laundering

First, take your official, void-after-one-year United States Treasury check (mine says “Austin, Texas” on it – is the Federal Government being downsized to Texas?) for $600 to your local bank and cash it in for 600 one-dollar bills. Be sure to ask the teller for “brand new, mint condition” bills. If the teller hems and haws, be firm – this is the kind of thing banks have in abundance, though the teller my have to exhale a deep sigh and go to the manager, the vault, or the basement to dig up the extra-crispy G.W.s (George Washingtons).

Eventually, the teller will return with six neat hundred-bill stacks, each secured by a little paper garter belt. Pull out one of the bills and offer to tip the teller for his/her trouble. The teller is obligated to decline such payola, so you won’t be out any money; should the teller accept, quickly pull the dollar back and alert the authorities. Feeling smug after helping to apprehend another felonious member of the banking cartel, gently stuff your bricks of cash into a manila envelope you brought along for this purpose and exit the bank.

Next Stop: Your Favorite Office Supply Conglomerate

At the friendly office mega-warehouse, purchase one restickable adhesive glue stick, which dispenses the same sort of glue that makes those ubiquitous square yellow memo papers (remaining brand-neutral to the bitter end, I am). This is an important distinction – do not get a permanent glue stick by accident, as it could end up being a six hundred dollar mistake. The glue stick should cost you around one dollar, so let’s pull two from one of our crispy stacks to cover overhead operating expenses. Head on home with your fresh glue stick and $598 in raw materials – it’s time to redecorate the home.

The Home Stretch

The average size of US currency is 2.652 inches high by 6.125 inches wide. 598 one-dollar bills placed end-to-end will be roughly 3,662.75 inches long, or 305.22916 linear feet. This is long enough to provide a beautiful decorative border to the walls of one large or two small rooms in your house. First, measure four (Modern style) to eight (Classical) inches down from your ceiling and draw a faint, level pencil line on all walls to be transformed. Next, apply a single bead from the removable glue stick along all four edges of your Tax Rebate bills, either the front, back or intermingled as you choose (I personally prefer the iconographic power of all those little George heads smirking at me while I eat dinner or watch Fear Factor, but this being America you get to decide for yourself). Gently affix the tacky currency to the wall, aligning the top of the bill to the pencil line you drew. Repeat the process until you have exhausted the remainder of your tax refund.

When you are finished, you will have created a stunning new look in your home for a cost of only two dollars. No, that’s not a typo – this is where the philosophical implications of removable adhesive get played out in the national bully pulpit of domestic interior decoration. Whenever a real need arises to spend a few dollars, whether for a worthy cause or frivolous entertainment or a cheap thrill, simply peel from your walls just what you need for the expense at hand and enjoy. The gaps in your decorative wall-band will continually remind you how spendy or tightfisted you are, while the remaining bills will provide a little ray of hope that, no matter how bleak your personal fortunes may get, you’ll still have a little green left up there on the wall to buy the latest Mariah Carey CD, pay for the clean-up of an oil-encrusted seagull, or settle that outstanding parking ticket.

[Editor's Note: After all that hard work, Snark - still operating in the third person - read the fine print of the usaweekend.com contest rules, only to discover to his dismay that the fine folks at USA Today are not looking for an essay, but rather just a single sentence. Feeding the above to his pet monitor lizard, Snark re-jiggered his synapses and came up with the following lame approximation of humor for his official contest entry]:

At the bank I will trade the check for 600 extra crispy new one-dollar bills and load them into my custom-built PEZ candy dispenser with the G.W. Bush head on top; whenever I want to spend a dollar on anything, I will tilt back the head and out will pop a fresh bill from the President’s mouth.