Jonathan Salem Baskin

Bright Lights Project: History

Did you know that the nation's first income tax was signed into law by a Republican President in order to pay for a war (Lincoln did it in 1861)? How about the fact that the Bubonic Plague was the world's first "network virus" because it traveled vast distances aboard ships? Were you aware that the average American in the 1950s spent more time being socially engaged in community and religious institutions than we do involved with our various digital tools today?

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Assumption Marketing

Information is really a synonym for stuff, in that our preconceptions of what we expect to find and want to know dictate both our searching and interpretation. The world around is doesn't come prequalified with meaning; the things we find, now called data because of the digital clarity which which many of our searches are realized, require us to interpret them before they qualify as knowledge.

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Bright Lights Project: McDonald's

Talk about a brand that's got its business right. The stores are consistently clean and efficiently run. The products are good, well-priced, and comparable all over the word, as is the value proposition. It innovates successful new products, like McCafe coffee, but doesn't do much novel marketing or social media experimentation to promote them, or itself (unlike Burger King, for instance). It's most memorable advertising harkens back to the introduction of the Big Mac and Ronald McDonald's younger years.

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The Next Revolution?

Imagine if you could arm your browser with a filter that selectively kept marketing information away from you. Obliteratethe ads. Delete the search results. White-out the babble of angry or ersatz reviews.

What if faux ads and social campaigns destroyed real marketing, revealing the facts and falsehoods through spot-on and sometimes hilarious content that looked just like the real thing?

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Bright Lights Project: Coke

Coca-Cola North America has just appointed a new head of marketing, Alison Lewis, and she takes the helm at a time when the beverage business and the communication tools available to it are in somewhat integrated flux.

Beverage retailing has always been a distribution business that was supported by marketing. For all of the talk about preference and choice, putting products in purchase situations in which there were few to no other options was the way to make money.

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Bright Lights Project: NASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("NASA") was born in the late 1950s, nine months after the Soviet Union successfully launched the first Sputnik satellite into orbit. Its purpose was primarily one of national prestige and military necessity, and President Eisenhower formed it by pulling together a few government labs and engaging with the Nazi engineers we swiped from Germany after WWII. Project Mercury was inaugurated soon thereafter, which would result in putting Alan Shepard into orbit on Freedom 7 in 1961 because, well, that's what the Soviets were doing.

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Unequivocal Action

When accusations of illegal mobile phone hacking and arrests first came to the newspaper News of the World a few years ago, the paper responded in the typically guarded, less-said-the-better dance advised by most lawyers and crisis communications experts. For all the talk of bold answers and transparency, the resulting strategy out of brands getting challenged by challenging crises is to stretch out the pain as long as possible with the least amount of comment or operational effort...thereby betting on everyone losing interest, which is normally what happens.

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Bright Lights Project: MySpace

The facts speak for the themselves: Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought MySpace in 2005 for $580 million and is selling it this week to Specific Media for $35 million. It made its purchase price back perhaps a couple times over by crapping out the site with innumerable ads (remember, News Corp. was simply exploring new distribution channels and the ad model was the most obvious way to monetize the thing). But users abandoned MySpace in droves, from a peak of 90 million in 2006 to 18 million 4 years later. Today, the thing is all but dead.

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Ethical WOM?

"Ethics are the bedrock of WOMMA," starts the web page promoting the Word of Mouth Marketing Association's contest to choose the most ethical word-of-mouth, or "WOM" marketing campaigns. I can't help but think that this is like a seance industry recognizing fair treatment of ghosts and phantasms.

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Do Brands Disappear?

A company called 24/7 Wall St. has published a list of brands that it predicts will "disappear" in the near future: Sears, Sony Pictures, Nokia, and Saab are among the ten names that are doomed. It' not a bad list, but it could tell us a lot more about brands.

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