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Archive for October, 2009

Cloaks and Daggers

Cloaks and Daggers

Blackwater, the notorious private army, contracted by the Bush administration to protect “high value” military personnel, and accused of numerous crimes against Iraqi civilians, has recently undertaken an extensive brand repositioning.

The corporate name itself, Blackwater, had become a public relations liability, a toxic asset if you will. The company spent more than a year in an internal search to develop the new name, “Xe” (pronounced “Zee”). Following this arduous renaming and rebranding process, company spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell announced there was “no meaning at all in the new name.”

Perhaps Ms. Tyrrell is telling the truth, that no meaning whatsoever, is an appropriately pore-less exterior for a company doing secretive contract work around the world. Of course companies spend vast sums of time and energy building brands. We all know that these nuanced signifiers exude meaning to audiences around the world. I sincerely doubt that Xe is an exception. Since this is not a topic they wish to discuss, we are left to judge by what we see as formally trained designers, strategists, and observers of media.

At first glance, the word “Xe” seems vaguely technical. Perhaps it is a reference to the chemicalzorro-719584 xenon, or more specifically, the highly explosive xenon trioxide, XeO3. The gender neutral pronoun seems a stretch for this brand. But who knows? Maybe Xe is all about inclusiveness now. They won’t let us ask, and they won’t tell. Then there is the phonetic interpretation. The letter Z is the final letter in the English alphabet. Perhaps Xe is a metaphor for the last word? The last line of defense? Who you call as a last resort? The final option…? Or maybe Xe is a reference to another famed vigilante, Zorro, “the Gay Blade” who went slicing his “Z” tag about following a conquest. The new Xe logo does have an slicing motion embedded within it. Perhaps most appropriately, there is Bill Barker’s underground comic from the early 90s, Schwa, where distant alien overlords in concert with omnipresent corporations and religions organizations control all human activity. Xenon figures prominently and is used on items such as “Alien Invasion Survival Cards” so you can tell if you have been abducted.

Schwa_world_operations_manualThe old Blackwater mark was crass and ominous, with it’s sharp claws and encompassing bear-trap/target. It might have been seen as cartoonish, like a semi-pro football icon, had the news reports surrounding the company not been so gruesome. The new Xe brand mark suggests a professional level of discretion, subtlety, and cutting edge stealth. This is clearly a company growing in efficiency and evolving in sophistication. In an era of instant media attention, keeping a clean image is of the utmost importance.

Blackwater may now fade into the dark memory recesses of public

consciousness while the kinder, gentler vigilante group Xe can continue doing our goverment’s business. In this light, the rebranding of Blackwater can only be viewed as a success.

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Dow performance vs. news coverage

An interesting story this week covering the Pew Research Center’s analysis of media coverage during the Great Recession. The more we hear about the recession, the worse the market gets. The less we hear, the better it gets. Much of the data was sourced using MemeTracker, which builds maps of the daily news cycle by analyzing around 900,000 news stories and blog posts per day from 1 million online sources, ranging from mass media to personal blogs. The interactive graphs there are worth checking out.

MemeTracker

MemeTracker

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TCramer1

For those of you in Portland, one of our city’s most interesting mid-career artists, Tom Cramer, is speaking at the Laura Russo Gallery tomorrow at 11am. I’ll be there.

– Doug

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OK, for those photographers out there who didn’t believe me when I said creatives hated email blasts from Adbase and preferred a postcard with an image, here’s a recent post on the subject.

– Doug

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Requiem for Saturn

saturn_logo1

Farewell, brave effort. The last of Detroit’s idealism. A response to what people were asking for, both in a car that met their needs and in a car company that could restore American pride.

Different has a way of being whittled down to same.

I guess we’ll have to look to meet our needs, and our heroes, elsewhere.

– Doug

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