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Out of Scope Issue 38: No hard pants on a no bones day
This week’s nonrequired thinking on reputation, business, and culture
This week, we look at a prescient pug, rebrands on rebrands, the return of Harambe, and a rare Apple reversal.
💡ON OUR MINDS:
Is your company dealing with a bunch of crises? Has your brand image stopped working in your favor? No worries - simply rebrand!
Facebook is reportedly planning to rebrand under a new name that reflects the company’s various holdings and broader vision for the metaverse. With concerns over Facebook’s child safety policies and antitrust suits reaching a fever pitch, the timing of the rebrand is quite convenient.
Unfortunately for Mark Zuckerberg, it seems like it’s gonna take a lot more than a fun new name and brand colors to quell intense scrutiny around Facebook’s practices, as he’s been requested to testify before Congress once again.
Both of these rebrands seem like PR 101 tactics to change the narrative about what’s being said about them, despite their claims otherwise (“[The rebrand] is not to deflect at all,” said Jamie Moldafsky, Nielsen’s chief marketing and communications officer).
But the reality for both of these companies is that a rebrand can’t solve the root of their problems, which is that they are dealing with fundamentally languishing products, with Facebook and Instagram struggling to keep teenagers on its app and Nielsen fighting to keep its metrics relevant.
🏆BRAND WIN OF THE WEEK: Noodle, the great and powerful
The internet needed an oracle, and we got one. This week, it seems that almost everyone became aware of a geriatric pug and his vibe-setting “bones check” each morning. Noodle, aged 13, starts many of his days being lifted from his plush bed by his owner, Jonathan Graziano, with all the import of the annual Puxatawney Phil showing on Groundhog Day, captured for all on TikTok. If Noodle stands firm, it’s a “bones day.” If not, as Noodle gently plops back down into his bed, it is, of course, a “no bones day.”
Noodle was featured on podcasts, daytime TV shows, and news sites galore as the world took notice. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards took the opportunity of a “bones day” to remind constituents to get their vaccinations while the bones were in their favor.
Bark Box has also jumped on the trend, rebranding some of their products with Noodle’s name and featuring his photo alongside their toys and treats. (It helps that Graziano is a former Bark employee and adopted Noodle while working there.)
And of course, it’s not a viral moment without merch. Noodle-branded t-shirts, mugs, stationery, and more are now available for sale, and we’re betting there’s been some significant spending on the site in the few days since its launch.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
What’s the future of… space? Space tourism continues to be a trendy topic with a startup selling $125k tickets for a six-hour flight via balloons. Space Perspective brands itself as accessible space travel, but the ship doesn’t actually go into space itself (rather it will clear 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere). As companies continue to push the boundaries of space travel, will there be any future guidelines for space branding?
As Squid Game continues to dominate in the court of cultural relevance, brands are rushing to hop on the trend… though some are missing the point. Many found Hyundai’s reference especially tone-deaf, considering the series’ protagonist was traumatized by the violence he witnessed during a labor strike at his former place of employment: a car manufacturing plant. A reminder to all that sometimes it’s best to sit some social trends out.
Nine months after the GameStock’s frenzied stock movement, the SEC released a GameStop Report that examined the incident and attempted to address some of the FAQs following. Though the report was underwhelming for most, with complaints that the report aired on the safe side by keeping vague and avoiding the top question of whether there will be a pursuit of new rules or regulations.
For all the progress it’s made so far, sports media still has a problem with taking women seriously. The latest offense: International Federation of Sport Climbing featured a lingering close-up of 23-year-old Austrian climber Johanna Farber’s butt and issued its second apology of the year after a similar incident in June.
The fallout from Dave Chapelle’s The Closer continues at Netflix, where notable talent, including Angelica Ross and Jonathan Van Ness, are preparing a PSA in support of the “Stand up in Solidarity” organizers. While Ted Sarandos previously doubled down in his defense of the special, this week he offered a mea culpa in an interview with Variety, acknowledging he had “messed up” internal communications.
Katie Couric’s memoir is raising eyebrows with unflattering revelations, causing many to wonder: how honest is too honest? While the question of how these revelations will impact her legacy remains, her commitment to telling the unflinching truth sure makes for a more interesting book than the typical self-aggrandizing memoir.
Washington State fired its head football coach for failing to comply with the state's vaccine mandate… which is either follow-through or a budget cut, considering he's the highest-paid state employee.
A bronze statue of Harambe, the Cleveland Zoo gorilla shot dead in 2016, was erected opposite of the Raging Bull to represent how Wall Street has “gone bananas.” We didn’t foresee Harambe becoming the new face of wealth inequality, but considering the ongoing memeification of social issues, maybe we should have.
In a clever PR move, the Vienna tourism board made an OnlyFans page to display their nude art. After their ads were censored on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, Vienna turned to the adult-only platform known for, well, nudes in protest.
The Chief Minister of Australia’s Northern Territory took to Twitter to respond to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, after Cruz personally found an issue with the vaccine mandate in Australia’s NT and tweeted about it. The Chief Minister used statistics and comparisons of Australia's COVID rates against Texas alone, proving all the more reason that vaccines are important for everyone to take.
Can a metaverse be built responsibly? Facebook is now hiring tens of thousands of workers to bring the metaverse to life in the EU, spending around $50 million dollars to do it “responsibly.” But...the platform doesn't exactly have a promising track record of introducing new social technology that is good for the people (see: nearly every news story in the past six to twelve months about Facebook). We’ll be keeping an eye on how Facebook communicates around this new offering.
Celebrities - they’re just like us! In politics, reputation is everything - and it looks like America is beginning to swing towards the carefully crafted personas of celebrities more and more. Stay tuned for more gubernatorial runs from the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Kanye West, and (maybe?) Tom Hanks or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
COVID-19 continues to rock the music industry as artists cancel shows over vaccination policies. Country star Travis Tritt won’t perform at venues with mask mandates or vaccination requirements. Country star Jason Isbell, on the other hand, requires his concert attendees to be vaccinated. This is another example of how the pandemic has opened up unexpected cultural fault lines, and another sign that live events are a long way from back to normal.
Apple’s latest announcement this week reversed course on a recent design decision, taking to heart that core users are the ones to listen to. While an HDMI port and SD card reader are common fare, Apple removed such “luxuries” in 2016 in an effort to streamline design. Unfortunately, the market (and the consumers that used their product most) had to invest in awkward “dongles” to make the most of their laptops. Despite betting (incorrectly) that USB-C was to be the new universal standard, Apple has now returned, proudly, to more conventional laptop ports.
Companies are stretching the truth when it comes to “profitability.” Allbirds has been claiming in interviews for years now that it has been in the green, though new documents filed as part of their push for an IPO reveal that this was nothing more than a fib told over and over again. This type of white lie isn’t uncommon in the startup space, however, something that Read Margins attributes to a teenager-like sense of infallibility combined with a lack of retribution from the public, stating that it’s “a powerful reminder of how the combination of endless risk appetite coupled with a complete lack of oversight means major influential companies can act like moody, rebellious teenagers.”
Give boredom a rebrand! This thought leadership piece from an engineer at Visier argues that, in the face of the Great Resignation, perhaps letting people get bored (and therefore giving their brains the space to be creative) can help burnout. Author Simon Sinek has a different take on the Great Resignation: People are realizing that a lot of corporate cultures are simply subpar — they don’t do a good job making employees feel included and valued.
Digital audio is here to stay as advertisers and content creators are no longer experimenting with the medium, but incorporating it within full strategies. eMarketer’s US Audio Advertising Forecast 2021 reports, among other trends, data, and strategies, that US advertisers will spend $5.59 billion on digital audio service ads in 2021, an increase of 16% from 2020.
In a recent employer return-to-office-mandate, G/O media employees didn’t show up for work after demanding an explanation for why the mandate was necessary. As Morning Brew’s Sidekick noted: “It turns out if you want employees to embrace new corporate policies, then you may want to make sure that the majority are in agreement first. ”
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print:
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