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Posts Tagged ‘Marketing and Advertising’

Yellow is the New Black!

Fresh Off The Boat [FOB] is the latest TV series attempt to diversify and reach out (i.e., market a specific product to a particular target audience) to a sliver of America’s racial/ethnic spectrum while still appealing to the dominant white base.  On one hand, a problem is that this show, like so many preceding it (e.g. Bonanza to Native Americans, and Sanford & Son to African Americans) remained successful because each resonated with  the apparent stereotypes it tried so hard to break down. On the other hand, these nuances limited each television series from advancing beyond beneficial boundaries of a true color-blind sitcom (cf. The Cosby Show).

Yet, while FOB is a necessary move toward cracking “the banana barrier,” this sitcom is a required first step in achieving Asian-American assimilation and acceptance.  Before reaching these final two resting points, a tenuous and shaky middle ground like FOB remains adequate for its intended purpose.

LINtellectual Property Rights

While Jeremy Lin continues to weave a fast break around the world and generally inspire anyone who champions an underdog (particularly arousing Asian-Americans, Asian nationals, Ivy-Leaguers, and those of Christian faith), the NBA sensation has recently attempted to register a trademark for one of his monikers, “Linsanity.”

A trademark is typically a distinctive symbol or, in this case, phrase used by a legal entity to identify and distinguish itself. As a prospective owner of “Linsanity”, Jeremy may initiate legal proceedings to prevent its unauthorized use. However, it appears two California individuals have already also paid the $1,625 filing fee to use this phrase on apparel: An importer/exporter who “wanted to be a part of the excitement;” and a former volunteer basketball coach of Lin (see www.linsanity.com) who is currently selling “LINsanity” t-shirts featuring number 17 in the Knicks’ blue and orange colors.

Per complicated federal trademark laws, the first person to use a given mark like “Linsanity” has exclusive common-law rights in a given state, while a registered trademark offers legal protection nationwide. When deciding on a trademark application, the Trademark Office considers who first used the mark, whether the mark is unique or merely descriptive, and whether the mark creates confusion. Those three factors don’t appear to favor the apparently opportunistic “fan” who was “very proud of Jeremy.” Lin’s ex-coach also could run into a problem with California’s “right to publicity” law which protects celebrities’ names from commercial use without their permission not to mention Madison Square Garden and New York’s basketball brand.

Don’t try to explain it, dissect it. We’re just in the middle of it and enjoy it. Especially if you are a Knick fan… It’s a great American story. A great American story.

– Spike Lee, when asked about Linsanity on MSNBC

Yes! I have a raging case of Linsanity. I have been declared legally Linsane. My symptoms.. linsomnia, restless linsyndrome and lintestinal blockage!

– Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report

Lin’s legal representative says that “We’re prepared to protect his intellectual property rights.” The U.S. Trademark and Patent Office reports it has not granted “Linsanity” to anyone yet pending a review of all who have applied. The application process starts with the examining attorney’s review and approval. The lawyer publishes the mark for 30 days and any parties who believe they may be harmed can file opposition. Gary Krugman, a partner at the Washington-based firm Sughrue Mion, said that he would tell Lin to file his own application and contest whichever of the others gets published, “I have a feeling both of these guys are small operators,” he said. “If Jeremy comes in with a big law firm they won’t be able to hang with him.”

While many people may look to capitalize financially on the phenomenon, there are additional legal, aesthetic and ethical implications in protecting Lin’s name. Copyright law looks disapprovingly on what amounts to identity theft. Surely, controlling the merchandise would reign in images fostering racial stereotypes and also restrict (cf. Linsanity Weed) Jeremy’s associations to products and services that he endorses.

Postscripts:

On Sunday, Lin led the Knicks to another improbable win over last year’s NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks (Vince “Vinsanity” Carter—who plays for the Mavericks—should check whether his own trademark rights have expired).

Speaking of common-law rights, the term “cognitive renaissance” shall be coined here in describing member(s) of marginalized groups establishing renewed concepts of self from unexpected sources (as opposed to reducing any tension arising from cognitive dissonance).

The ‘Customer’-Physician Relationship

Medicine is subtly shifting from an emphasis on what is ideally best for the patient to an environment where hospitals are marketed from survey results and physicians are instructed on how to encourage customers to check the ‘Excellent’ box when rating their care. The danger in primarily viewing a patient as a consumer is that well known adages like ‘the customer knows best’ can gravitate toward motivations based primarily on the profit motive rather than the apparent benefits of collaboration, patient voice, and better service.

The philosopher Immanuel Kant reminds us to ask whether we are treating persons (customers) as a means to some end (profits) or as ends themselves (patients). When push comes to shove at medicine’s financial margins, decisions tend to lean toward monetary gain. Efficiency and profits are needed components of every venture (even Kant says not to use people as a means only but as a means as well as an end). Yet this move from taking care of patients to customers—while promoting friendlier hospital environments—may be damaging to the health care system in the long run.

The Hippocratic Oath has been condemned for promoting a ‘guild-like’ environment and its ancient author set aside in the hope of adopting the examples of other tightly managed industries (ironically, some business academics call for managers to take on the guild-like professionalism of the medical field). While some combination of treating patients as a means and as an end is probably acceptable, it seems that the customer/consumer metaphor is being adopted wholesale.

To Hippocrates, a physician’s first consideration was to use his/her art for the patient’s well-being—a re-emphasis that can benefit all stakeholders. Otherwise, this move to make the medical environment more patient-friendly has the potential to make it ultimately more vulnerable.

Written in conversation with Cory Wilson, M.D.

The Karate Brand trumps Kung Fu Reality

After seeing The Karate Kid (2010), a martial arts remake of the 1984 original, my daughter asked me why the movie wasn’t called the Kung Fu Kid. She was not alone in her query. The blockbuster is actually entitled The Kung Fu Kid in China, and known as Best Kid in South Korea and Japan.

A mini uproar from minority communities and film source devotees has emerged as allegations of cultural ignorance, potential racism, and deindividuation have resulted from the film keeping its original title. Critics cite this lack of distinction between accurate depictions of Japanese (Karate) and Chinese (Kung Fu) culture as a misrepresentation of truth and reality.

Producer Jerry Weintraub defends retaining the name (see 3:03 in his interview) as a brand issue. To Weintraub’s defense, a good explanation of how the protagonist (Smith) believes his Karate will help him defeat the Chinese bullies would represent a defensible starting point. However, the ‘film devotee rant’ and Weintraub interview explicitly and implicitly declare that movie studios inherently have a right to make money by whatever means necessary.

The marketing industry often walks a thin line between exaggeration and falsehood. Products and services are considered ‘must haves,’ and peripheral desires become necessities for human flourishing. Some defend advertising’s role in promoting economic growth and portray it as a cultural mirror of existing consumer values/visions of the good life. Others see the industry as representative of everything wrong with the free market. The critical question for the brand is when and where to draw the line between full disclosure and a desirable profit share, artistic license, and perpetuating a lingering stereotype.

Does Plato Wear Prada?

In The Devil Wears Prada (2006), a young woman who shuns the latest styles comes to New York and nonchalantly lands a job as an assistant to the ruthless Miranda Priestly, the city’s biggest fashion magazine editor.

People often retreat into an all-too-familiar glazed look when exposed to either the technical details of the garment industry or, in our case, the subtle distinctions of grand ethical theories.

Miranda rebuts this kind of thinking when she ‘dresses down’ Andrea for scoffing when one of the fashion designers holds up two nearly identical belts and asserts that they are so different:

I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet, and you select out . . . that lumpy blue sweater . . . But what you don’t know is that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean.  You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent who showed cerulean military jackets . . . and then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down to some tragic casual corner where you no doubt fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs, and it’s sort of comical how you think you made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when in fact you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of ‘stuff.’

Andrea makes the mistake of referring to Miranda’s serious work as “stuff.” The fashion industry sows, the academy deliberates, and the masses reap the long-term consequences. The results remain similar regardless of the industry, profession, or movement. Miranda’s rant illustrates the descent of modern cerulean and, to a larger extent, the implications of ideas that filter their way from the ivory tower down to the city streets.

Men, women, and their grand ideas renowned in their tight-knit circles: Aristotle’s observations on virtue, Thomas Hobbes’ egoism, David Hume’s influence on relativism, Immanuel Kant’s deontological imprint, John Stuart Mill’s utilitarianism, and Carol Gilligan’s recent reflections on care all shape modern ethical thought and moral decision making.

Our ethical beliefs may seem as if they are fished out of some moral clearance bin, but they actually represent timeless principles which have outlasted their respective historical principals.

It is a devilish, Platonic, Pradaic (sic) effect that ideas do matter and leave lasting consequences.