Sheldon Cooper and Brand Deflection

A couple of days ago we were having new carpet laid throughout the house, and at one point during the day I was walking out to my car for a coffee run when the head of the carpet crew looked up and asked me if I liked the TV show “The Big Bang Theory.

The question threw me for a second, not because I don’t like the show – I do. It’s a must watch for my family – but as to why he’d asked in the first place. I must have looked puzzled, because by way of explanation he pointed in my direction and said “Your shirt.”

At the office I may be all dressed up, but the days I’m working from home you are more likely to find me in jeans, sneakers and a superhero logo t-shirt. The thing is I don’t own any Big Bang Theory shirts. Not a single “Bazinga !” adorns my closet space.

I looked down and realized I was wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt. Just like this one.

sheldonshirtThe one that Sheldon Cooper often wears on The Big Bang Theory. – Mystery solved.

On my drive to grab my drink I started to think about what had just happened. In my Content Marketing role at Caterpillar a major consideration is how we build and develop messaging and content that supports the brand message and the brand story. Ideally every interaction with the brand (and that includes the logo – perhaps the most frequent brand encounter) should reinforce the brand’s promise.

Yet my carpet guy had seen the Green Lantern logo, a brand owned by DC Comics and by association, its parent company, Warner Bros., but associated it with a completely different property and message. In this case one owned by CBS.

The more I thought about DC Comics brand placement on The Big Bang Theory the more I realized that as much as it’s cool for me as a comics geek to play spot the reference, I’m not sure Warner Bros. is getting the business value it wants from that relationship.

comic_book_storeThe comic book store featured in the show seems to stock only DC Comics related titles and merchandise (Click on picture above to get a good look at the stock); but whenever comics, or comics characters are mentioned on the show in dialog it is usually a conversation about Marvel characters. Characters and brands owned by the directly competitive comics publisher, who are now owned by Disney.

In a recent episode the girls on the show ventured into the comic book store to see what it was that was so important to their boy-friends/husband; and then spent half the show discussing the physics of Thor’s hammer. Thor being yet another Marvel character.

So what are DC Comics and Warner Bros paying for with this brand and product placement? Is it brand awareness? To me it seems more like brand deflection.

How is your brand message being used and communicated. What channels are you using to spread your brand’s story.?

Is your value message getting through, or is it being deflected?




Technically incompetent or just bad design?

Last week I suddenly noticed that the Dell laptop I use for certain contracts was no longer picking up my home office wireless network. In fact it was telling me it was connected to an unrecognized public network without internet access. No matter what I tried I couldn’t get it to disconnect from that network and pick up the wireless.

On Tuesday afternoon I plugged the laptop directly into my ethernet cable and spent several hours disabling, and enabling network adapters, rebooting modems, and frantically googling various scenarios. Most of which told me the culprit was a well known Windows 7 bug related to a rogue ID file that showed up in the Windows Services menu. Except I couldn’t find that file anywhere on my machine. In the end I just reset everything and resigned myself to spending an afternoon on a help desk call.

But first I needed to be on-site at a client’s facility. Thinking the problem might be my home network, I took the laptop along hoping to connect to the client’s wireless – no such luck. I mentioned the problem to several people, and no one had any suggestions.

Then about 5 minutes before I decided to call the Help Desk someone who has the same model laptop asked me if the wireless switch was off.

What wireless switch?

Ah that one!!

A switch that in the five month’s I’ve had the laptop have never even noticed.

From a communications perspective a couple of things sprung to mind from this incident.

  • How about putting up a warning dialog on screen at boot up when this switch is switched to the off position (maybe with a location diagram) instead of leaving it to Windows to think it has connected to an untrusted network? Would have saved sveral hours of frustration. BTW when the switch is OFF it displays a red background – but let’s face it, who looks at the side of their laptop on a regular basis?
  • How about making switches a different color, better labeled and slightly more obvious? Most people reading this probably know I’m a big advocate of using symbols to communicate. But make them big enough and clear enough. For a guy of a certain age who wears bifocals, how am I suppose to know what that is?

Oh and who puts a switch that can disable a major feature in a position where it can slide on and off through the process of picking up the lap top and sliding it into a case? Not exactly a well thought out design there.