What 'chu Talkin' Bout, Willis?

Times Change
There was a time when Sears, Roebuck and Co. was the world's largest retailer and the Sears Tower was the world's tallest building. That was then, this is now. Wal-Mart and Taipei 101 have changed things, big-time.

But just because the Sears Tower has lost its standing in the competitive club of tall buildings, is that any reason for it to lose its moniker, too?!

Is a Rose Still a Rose?
This year the venerable Sears Tower becomes ...the Wills Tower. Willis?! Are Chicagoans open to the idea of having the name of a once record-breaking signature landmark changed from Sears to Willis?

How well have things gone for the Marshall Field store on Chicago's State Street after it was renamed Macy's? Not so good. We Chicagoans are a very proud people. When we name something we like it to stay named.

On a side note...
Tall buildings do have a certain status. But take it from someone who used to work on the 61st floor of the then Sears-soon-to-be-Willis Tower. When the wind blows, the cradle does rock...

Lost in Translation: Engrish Strikes Again

"What we've got here is failure to communicate."
Cool Hand Luke, 1967

What if Abraham Lincoln, instead of saying ...

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Had said ...

The score of thing four which is the same where all people were drawn up and 7 years ago this continent, it is brought up with new nation, it is free and our fathers who are imagined, and are lifted up to proposition.

Loses some of the magic, doesn't it?

That's roughly what happens when the first sentence of the Gettysburg Address is translated into Japanese without respect for idiom and nuance.

For the last ten years, Engrish.com has collected some of the best examples of translations-gone-haywire.

Here in the US, we sometimes scratch our heads reading owner's manual instructions for imported products that were written in the country of origin.

Engrish.com explains that many of these Frankensteinian translations are done as design elements primarily in Asian countries to give products a certain cool factor.

Engrish: French Canadian Style
Our friends at Marketing Brillo were surprised when they found one of their recent blog entries had been picked up by a Quebec website. It had apparently been translated into French and the French was in turn translated back to English.

In the post, Marketing Brillo said...

Rule One: Avoid self-promotion. Anybody who blogs in order to blow their own horn will quickly turn off any audience. As an editor who sees a lot of press releases, I hate it when an organization describes itself as the leading this-or-that.

The translation said...

Rule One: Avoid self-promotion. As an compiler who sees a scads of cluster releases, I malice it when an classifying describes itself as the leading this-or-that. Anybody who blogs in categorization to big their own horn bequeath apace put together exhibit any audience.

Our personal favorite, however, was how this sentence...

People are most interested in other people, so if you're genuine -- if you let us know who you are -- yes, we really, truly want to hear what YOU have to say.

Became this sentence...

People are most interested in other people, so if you're frank - if you explode us be versed who you are -- yes, we in fact, surely indigence to condone what YOU father to bid.


Globalization is a tough nut to crack. So many countries, so little time. Communication is not just about translation, but nuanced meaning as well.

Apocalypzia suggests that if you're a blogger -- like who isn't? -- check to see if your posts are getting the French-Canadian treatment. There isn't much you can do about it, but at least you'll be aware.

And don't think that you can use Babel Fish to robo-translate some interesting news item you found in the Tibetan Daily Bugle for your blog post or you'll be guilty of spreading Engrish yourself. And, If we're not careful, we'll all end up like the Tower of Babel.

Is that what you want? Wouldn't you rather have a delightful day and a paralyzed mind?

Rebooting Star Trek

There's a right way and a wrong way to reboot a franchise.
Generating $200 million in the first 3 weeks of its release is a good sign that J.J. Abrams's Star Trek prequel is on the right track. It's already the biggest film of the 30-year old motion picture franchise.

And the movie is getting good marks for its direction, casting and eye-popping special effects. The Corvette scene is a stunner. But even with all this going for the new Star Trek, another important factor helps fuel its success.

The people who made the movie know who really owns the franchise.

Who owns it?
Not William Shatner who starred in the original television series. Not the estate of the late Gene Roddenberry, the man who created the concept. Not even Paramount who has the legal rights to the franchise.

Fans own the franchise.

Shareholders invest dollars into an enterprise (pun intended), but a TV show or movie audience invests something even more precious --time and energy eagerly spent connecting with a concept and its characters. When lightning strikes and a series like Star Trek succeeds, fans become the primary stakeholders.

Gene Roddenberry's canon guides this prequel:

Kirk outwits the computer in the Kobayashi Maru maneuver? Check.

Spock conflicted about being half Vulcan and half human? Check.

Sulu knows his way around a swordfight? Check.

Red shirt member of the beam-down party bites the dust? Check.

By showing fans proper respect, J.J. Abrams earned the right to put his own stamp on the film. And within the time-twisting element of the storyline, Leonard Nimoy, as Spock, gives the new crew the freedom to rewrite the history of the original television series as he passes the torch to the next next generation of Star Trek.

Buffy the Vampire Rebooter.

You already know that there's another TV reboot in the works that couldn't have gotten off to a rockier start.

Fran and Kaz Kuzui own the legal rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But, as every wildly loyal Buffy fan knows, Joss Whedon (who helmed the TV show and, as a relative unknown writer, penned the original movie), was the mastermind behind its success. And, for most viewers, Sarah Michelle Gellar is -- and always will be -- the definitive Buffy.

But Kuzui and Kuzui have apparently frozen these two Buffydom icons out of the upcoming reboot. Also, the early word is that none of the supporting characters from the TV series will make it to the big screen. What? No Spike?!

Big mistake.

The next time you're making decisions about managing your own brand, whether it's a product, a service or your Facebook page, remember to save at least one dance for the ones that brung you.

Live long and prosper...

Our Man Blagojevich

You've Come a Long Way, Blago.
In 1999, during the Kosovo War, Rev. Jesse Jackson and a delegation that included then-US Congressman Rod Blagojevich negotiated the release of three American hostages with then-Serbian/Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Success in these high-stakes wartime negotiations thrust Blagojevich onto the world stage and was the bedrock of a promising future for the Illinois congressman.

Having married into a powerful political family also seemed to have put Blagojevich in Illinois' catbird seat. Even his JFK-esque hairdo suggested that this man was going somewhere.

In 2002, he was successful in his bid to become Governor of the Union's 5th largest state, at a time when a Governorship was the most reliable path to the White House.

From Hero to Zero.
We don't need to rehash the trouble that Blago has run into in the meantime. As we all now know, he could end up being the fourth Illinois Governor in the last 50 years to do hard-time and the second Illinois Governor in a row to go to the Big House.

But as we've all seen, over and over again, the story of how Blago found himself in trouble is far less bizarre than the story of what he's done to get out of it.

He has, by his own efforts, created his own reality show that has played out on Good Morning America, the Rachel Maddow Show, the Late Show with David Letterman and just about every other show on television.

Let's face it, Blago is bigger than Omarossa ever was.

Somewhat of a national hero ten years ago, Blago is now a national joke of his own design.

After being denied the opportunity to participate in NBC's summer-filler reality show , I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, (a show title that pretty much encapsulates his legal defense) his wife Patti -- former First Lady of the state and daughter of Chicago City Alderman Dick Mell -- filled in for him.

For the good people of Illinois, it's hard to tell which is worse: watching Patti speed-chewing tarantulas or the utter humiliation of seeing her, in the midst of the oddly-assorted cast of Z-list celebrities, trying to earn enough money to feed and clothe her children as legal fees drain the family bank account.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

What Lesson Do We Learn From This?
It's all too easy to pile on Blago and Patti, and we've all had a good time making them the punchline. But Apocalypzia asks the question, regardless of the merits of this investigation or the particular personalities involved, what is it that we can learn from all this?

How is it that we can so easily elect the undeserving and the unprincipled to high office?

And what makes us so eager to make media darlings of those among us who should receive the very least attention?

Your thoughts?

Speaking of the Apocalypse ...

Why Is This Man Smiling?

He's Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, and he's doing his level best to let anyone and everyone with a radio or a shortwave set know that check-out time for Planet Earth is May 21, 2011.

That's his predicted date for the Second Coming. Five months later, we're all scheduled to be cast, screaming and wailing, into the Lake of Fire.

As far as we can tell, he believes he's cracked some kind of divine Da Vinci Code to learn the exact dates of the Rapture and its aftermath.

In his book, We're Almost There, he explains how he arrived at his mathematical predictions of deadline dates with a twisted concoction of Christian scripture, numerology and sophistry that Rube Goldberg would be proud of.

And as if that wasn't enough, according to Mr. Camping, all churches have been ruled by Satan for the last 20 years and consequently will offer little salvation for those seeking, well ... salvation.

Yikes. That can't be good...

It's comforting to know that he's made similar predictions in the past that didn't pan out. On the other hand, he seems pretty sure he's got it right this time.

If he nails this prediction, will those poor souls left behind to applaud his brilliance? And if he's wrong -- Apocalypzia is betting he's wrong -- how much of a total fool will he and his many loyal followers look like?

Is he a true prophet or just another dangerous wacko shouting hellfire in a crowded theatre? You decide...

Enduring Brands: Tide Keeps Rolling

This is a picture taken some time in the mid 1950's of Miss Anna Hart, a brilliant and industrious woman from the south side of Chicago that we are more than proud to have been related to.

Actually, for the moment, we want to draw your attention to the box of detergent on the window sill on the far left side of the frame. Even though it's partially obstructed, you can clearly see the brand name.


Why is that important? Here's why...

The orange and yellow bulls-eye logo still graces this Procter & Gamble brand's line a half a century later.

How many products on the shelves today were even around 50 years ago? And of those, how many have held on to their marketplace logo for even half that long?

The enduring design, the handiwork of Donald Deskey, has had only minor modifications since introduced to the market in eye-popping day-glo colors in 1946.

Indications are that Tide, with +40% market share, continues to lead its rivals. Stealingshare.com attributes this advantage to the long-term emotional connection to the customer that Tide has worked hard to achieve.

There are Two Apocalypzian Marketing Lessons here:

1) If you find a good thing, stick with it
Many of us shop not so much for a particular brand name but familiar packaging that we've come to associate with that particular brand. If you're going to refresh the look of your brand, make sure the change is aligned with some major change in the offering. Otherwise, if it ain't broke...

2) Show a pending apocalypse respect but never overestimate it.
Tide logo has survived recessions, depressions, wars, international police actions, republicans, democrats and independents. No matter how dark the horizon looks, we'll get through it somehow.