Monday, September 30, 2013

Writer Reveals the Secret Life of Punctuation

The proposed new "irony mark"
September 24th each year marks National Punctuation Day (don't say that it slipped your mind and you haven't done any shopping for it).  This year's holiday wass really something to celebrate, as software-engineer-turned-writer Keith Houston released his  new book "Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks" that day.  The history of punctuation marks spans the ages, from the origins of the asterisk in ancient Greece to the modern resurrection of the "@" and "#" signs thanks to the internet and social media. 

And as language grows and evolves, so do the marks we use to write it. Modern hipsters are clamoring for a symbol denoting irony or sarcasm, and a Dutch design firm has obliged with the simple and attractive  "ironieteken" that looks like a zigzagged exclamation point. Let's hope that it meets a wider acceptance than the ill-fated interrobang (which combined an exclamation point and question mark into the unrecognizably muddled "‽").

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The Atlantic Wire

Link to article:
Celebrate National Punctuation Day with Thousands of Years of Punctuation History

Excerpt: "Titled Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks, the account is out today via W. W. Norton—just in time for National Punctuation Day. And like any great twenty-first century literary endeavor, it began with a blog, which shares a name with the book.

'I think it was 2009, [and] I was a software engineer,' Houston told The Atlantic Wire in an interview. 'As a software engineer, you deal every day with invented languages.' Plus, he'd developed a casual interest in typography while typesetting promotional materials for his band. So his friends recommended him a few books.

'One of them was called The Elements of Typographic Style—a play on Strunk and White. It really is amazing,' he gushed. The other was Eric Gill's An Essay on Typography, through which Houston became fascinated with the pilcrow ( ¶), an antiquated paragraph mark. Soon he began digging into the histories of the ampersand (&), the cruelly unnamed @ symbol, and the interrobang (‽), a little-used exclamation point/question mark hybrid.

'By I think the end of 2010, I'd written a few chapter-length drafts,' recalled Houston, as if nothing could possibly be easier. 'I wrote them with some vague idea that I'd do something with them.' Not knowing quite what else to do, he threw them on a blog, recruiting a friend for some editing assistance. 'Shortly after that, I got a couple of emails from agents who were like, "Would you be interested in turning this into a book?" '

He said yes—and so an anonymous engineer writing medical imaging software for Toshiba became a published expert on centuries-old items of punctuation.

Houston describes the result as 'a sort of popular history of writing,' which is about right. To tell the stories of punctuation, it turns out, is also to tell the stories of the myriad technological advances that have facilitated—and continue to facilitate—language in its written form.

The asterisk (*) and dagger (†), for instance, grew largely out of the symbols the grammarian Aristarchus of Samothrace placed in the margins of works of Homer to note lines of questionable origin; the em dash (—) nearly drifted into neglect when typewriter keys forced typists to turn to the double-hyphen (--) instead, but was subsequently validated by modern word-processors. And the Internet plays a tremendous role in the drama as well: the octothorpe (#), for example, fell into obscurity before Twitter resurrected it as the devilishly popular hashtag.

In other words, Houston's Shady Characters covers a tremendous amount of historical and topical ground—veering from ancient Greece to a 1960s Madison Avenue exec seeking to jumpstart a new punctuation mark, from the Protestant Reformation (Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses played a minor role in the development of the asterisk) to online communities, where numerous would-be pioneers have proposed an irony or sarcasm mark. (A huge success, obviously.) Naturally, the writer's research took him all over."

Friday, September 27, 2013

The New Yorker Undergoes a Rare Image Update

Some publications are constantly updating and improving, trying out new ideas and discarding the ones that don't quite work.  And then there is The New Yorker.  The venerable magazine of posh and literary Manhattan has not been slow to embrace change; it has been GLACIAL.  Granted, the drawings are attractive, clever and instantly recognizable, but did you know that New Yorker did not even use photography until 1992? 

Now the magazine has undergone a very slight updating, which for any other publication would be virtually unnoticeable.  But hey, it's The New Yorker, so prepare for the barrage of reader complaints about simplifying the "Goings On About Town" listings and the typography changes of redrawing the iconic "Irvin" typeface and adding "Neutraface" as a secondary element for headlines and page display.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The New York Times

Link to article:

Excerpt: "For decades, fans of The New Yorker have been drawn to its pages for its meticulous prose, its enterprising journalism and its predictable typeface and layout.

But starting on Monday, New Yorker fans are going to notice some small but subtle design changes across its pages, which were led by its creative director, Wyatt Mitchell. The magazine is updating its table of contents, contributors page, 'Goings On About Town,' Briefly Noted and Fiction sections. These changes include changing the number of columns, redrawing the Irvin typeface and introducing Neutraface as a secondary one.

Many of these changes are subtle enough that David Remnick, the magazine’s editor, said that if the magazine fell on the floor and were three feet away, it would still be identifiable to longtime readers. The changes include a cleaner presentation of the table of contents and contributor pages. The most notable change may be on the 'Goings On About Town' pages, which start with a more distinctive presentation of the section’s opening image and include less detail on museum and show listings. The revised pages also highlight the work of the magazine’s critics.

'We’ve kept the DNA and added some modern elements,' Mr. Remnick said."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Company Plans 3D printing to Build Lunar Structures

If the space program returns to the moon and needs permanent structures for living and working, the problem is how to transport the tons of building materials to carry out space construction. Now a UK and an American company have both come up with systems for building protective permanent weatherproof structures using 3D printing technology and mostly local materials.  The UK builders, working with architects Foster + Partners, have plans that use lunar soil as the basis, mixed with magnesium oxide and a liquid binding "ink".  Construction will achieve a speed of 3.5 meters of structure each hour to quickly construct sturdy buildings that can resist bombardment by micrometeoroids and space radiation.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Next Big Future

Link to article:
3D Printing of a Lunar Base Using Lunar Soil

Excerpt: "Setting up a lunar base could be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to build it from local materials. Industrial partners including renowned architects Foster + Partners have joined with ESA to test the feasibility of 3D printing using lunar soil.

This is a case where 3d printing would win out over regular manufacturing. Most of the material is lunar dirt but with added magnesium oxide and a binding ink. This greatly reduces the weight of the material to be brought to the moon. There has been previous work on using carbon nanotubes and epoxy to make lunar concrete.

Foster + Partners devised a weight-bearing 'catenary’ dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts.

A hollow closed-cell structure – reminiscent of bird bones – provides a good combination of strength and weight.

The base’s design was guided in turn by the properties of 3D-printed lunar soil, with a 1.5 tonne building block produced as a demonstration.

The UK’s Monolite supplied the D-Shape printer, with a mobile printing array of nozzles on a 6 meter frame to spray a binding solution onto a sand-like building material.

'First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into "paper" we can print with,' explained Monolite founder Enrico Dini.

'Then for our structural "ink" we apply a binding salt which converts material to a stone-like solid.

'Our current printer builds at a rate of around 2 meter per hour, while our next-generation design should attain 3.5 meter per hour, completing an entire building in a week.'

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

iOS6 is Dead! Long Live iOS7?

iOS7 and iOS6 side-by-side comparison
Wednesday September 18th Apple began allowing device updates to its entirely new operating system, iOS7.  More than any new capabilities on offer, what users will notice first about their updated devices is the completely different look.  Gone are the curved bevels, highlights and shadows of the app icons on the home screen, replaced by flat simplicity.  Is the change going to be welcomed or will it stir up some post-update buyers' remorse?

In the long run it doesn't matter, since the "flat" look, earlier seen on Windows 8 operating system, is the wave of the future, and Apple is not turning back now.  It will be interesting to watch the reaction of the volatile Apple user crowd, and listen to the comparative choruses of cheers and jeers.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:
As iOS 7 Is Released, Watch For The Five Stages Of Grief Over iOS 6

Excerpt: "Switching from iOS 6 to iOS 7 is a necessary step, but it’s going to be painful in the short term. For all the usefulness of iOS 7, many users are going to feel a sense of loss when they have to take iOS 6 away.
The problem with the update, like almost any update on a smartphone, is the one-way nature of the process. Once you are in the land of iOS 7, there’s no going back. And given the radical nature of iOS 7, there’s going to be a lot of users wondering what they’ve just done to their Apple device.
They’ll likely start with denial. They didn’t update to iOS 7, it’s just some new icons, this isn’t a radical change to Apple’s operating system that makes every option easier to find, quicker to access, and all with a consistent interface. What they’re seeing is just iOS 6 with a pretty skin. There’ll be a switch to flip it back, they can find their old phone in here somewhere.
That’s not going to happen, once you leave iOS 6, there’s no going back. and doubtless that will lead to anger. Why has this change been forced on me without enough information, why is it all so different? Not everyone reads the tech blogs in detail, being asked to update their handset might not mean anything to them. This is probably the part of the process where people will lash out on Twitter and Facebook about how horrible iOS 7 is. This moment will pass.
It can’t be hard to offer iOS 6 again, can it? The bargaining will start, with many people looking to jailbreak their handset and image files of the older operating system. Just a little bit longer with iOS 6 is all they ask. But Apple needs to transition everyone to iOS 7 as quickly as possible, developers will be looking at iOS 7 only apps in the near future, and there’s no room for bargaining to stay on iOS 6. It’s time to move, nothing stays the same."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Coca-Cola's Marketing Wisdom Through Internal "Content 2020" Videos

Coca-Cola has released the videos which lay out their branding, marketing, and growth strategy between now and the year 2020.  Starting with the premise of doubling the brand's sales by 2020, the two videos, which total about 18 minutes, present an entire college course worth of marketing and branding in a simple, comic-style animated form. Content Marketing Institute says that with this mission statement, Coca-Cola is "betting the farm on content marketing". 

The company admits that to meet their sales growth goals, Coke needs to move from a position of creative excellence to a leadership in content excellence.  And to meet that goal, they have to create the world's most compelling content, and quit relying on 30-second television spots as the central media for their brand.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Content Marketing Institute

Link to article:

Excerpt: "If you’ve ever seen the movie Jerry McGuire, you remember the blue mission statement. This is the moment in the movie when Jerry McGuire (played by Tom Cruise) wakes up in a cold sweat and writes, what he believes, to be the future direction for his sports agency.

Well, Coca-Cola’s marketing mission statement is Content 2020, a content marketing brainchild of Coca-Cola’s Jonathan Mildenhall, VP Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence, who recently stated that:  'All advertisers need a lot more content so that they can keep the engagement with consumers fresh and relevant, because of the 24/7 connectivity. If you’re going to be successful around the world, you have to have fat and fertile ideas at the core.'

I spent the better part of an hour reviewing the two videos below, and I encourage all marketing professionals (both client and agency side) to set aside 20 minutes to review these two short videos (video one is seven minutes, video two is 10 minutes). It’s that important. Why Is Content 2020 So Important?

Content 2020 feels more like an internal video prepared especially for the Coca-Cola marketing team, laying out their strategic vision for the future. Overall, it’s the strategy that Coca-Cola’s marketing future rest on the ideals of content marketing."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pantone's Top Color for Spring 2014 is "Dazzling Blue"

The top color for the spring 2014 season, according to the color theory experts at Pantone, is something both bright and familiar.  "Dazzling Blue" is a bright, pure shade of cobalt, and should strike a chord of recognition in viewers.  It's both the signature shade of New York's new Citibikes program, and the logo of ubiquitous social media app Facebook.  The interesting balance in the palettes for spring, according to the colorists at Pantone, is between the soft neutrals on display and the bright pops of cobalt and intense pure yellow.

Hunter Communications Original News Source: 
Today Show

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Summer isn’t officially over but Pantone – the leading authority on the colors used in paint, fabrics and manufacturing – sprang forward Thursday to reveal its top 10 fashion hues for next spring.

Leading the charge is 'Dazzling Blue,' a shade of cobalt familiar since it’s the same color of both Facebook’s logo and Citibank’s wildly popular bike share program in New York City.

Each season, Pantone surveys designers from Fashion Week and beyond to collect feedback on the prominent colors and inspirations they plan to use in upcoming collections.

This year’s results revealed a range from the bold No. 1 color to more earthy neutrals and soft pastels.

'What you see is a real balance, or what we call equilibrium, between the light and the bright, and the bridge of the neutrals like "Sand" and "Paloma" in between,' Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, told Pantone revealed its spring palette at the start New York Fashion Week Spring 2014, which runs from Sept. 5-12.

Eiseman said to expect those colors to be featured prominently on the runways.

'Absolutely,' she said. 'We base this on what we gathered from designers, so it comes directly from them. It’s not guesswork on their part. They send us sketches and thoughts on why they chose what they chose.'
'Dazzling Blue', which made an early Fashion Week appearance Wednesday during the JSong collection, ranked first on Pantone's spring colors for women, with 17.05 percent of designers using the color. The pastel-toned 'Violet Tulip' came in second (16.47 percent), followed by the brighter 'Radiant Orchid' (15.88 percent)."

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chipotle Uses Brilliant Branding In Posting YouTube Video Against Factory Farming

Sometimes less really is more.  A YouTube clip this week features a scarecrow who worries about his role in promoting factory farming.  The animation quality is impeccable, and the soundtrack features a version of Willy Wonka's "Pure Imagination" theme as sung by Fiona Apple.  But what is missing till the clip's final moments is any indication of who is behind the video.  Finally a few seconds at the end reveal that Chipotle Mexican Grill is the company taking the stand against sweatshop farming and GMO ingredients.  By withholding their name and logo until the end, the restaurant chain allows the viewer to build sympathy with the theme and cause of the story, and then transfer those allegiances to Chipotle.

Hunter Communications Orginal News Source:

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Fast-food chain Chipotle has made a few missteps this year, from faking a Twitter hack in July , to facing criticism over reports that it might be changing its standards on the beef it uses.

But if its most recent marketing efforts are any indication, Chipotle is holding firm with its commitment to serving only responsibly raised food. The company released a short film this week featuring a Tim Burtonesque scarecrow who has a moral crisis about his part in factory farming. The video includes a cover of 'Pure Imagination' from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory sung by animal rights activist and musician Fiona Apple. The video promotes a mobile app game which rewards players with a free burrito.

This is not the first time Chipotle has produced this type of video. In 2011, the company released a stop-motion short film to promote organic and sustainable farming, featuring a Willie Nelson cover of Coldplay's 'The Scientist.'

The film was shown in movie theaters and the song was sold on iTunes, with 60 cents from every purchase benefiting the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, which funds initiatives that support sustainable agriculture and family farming."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Starbucks #PSL10 Has Coffee-drinkers Begging for a Vegan Version

When you become a vegan, one of the first things you notice is how many random foods and drinks are made with hidden dairy or egg ingredients.  Even something as simple as a slice of bread might be "enriched" with an egg wash or a bit of powdered milk.  So vegans have been dejected, but not surprised, to find that the hyped coffee of the fall season, Starbucks' 10th anniversary pumpkin spice latte (duly rewarded with its own Twitter hashtag #PSL10) is one of the coffee megachain's few beverages that can't be made vegan with the substitution of soy or almond milk.  

Enter the consumer petition and some hastily-offered workarounds...

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Los Angeles Times

Link to article:

Excerpt: "When the fallen leaves begin to crunch under your boots, you know fall is coming. For many, it's the best time of year. It means back to school, Halloween candy, cozy coats and the return of the coveted Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes. But not if you're a vegan.

Brent Caldwell, of Ferndale, Mich., has started a petition on He wants his Pumpkin Spice Latte, and he wants it to be vegan.

If there ever were an actual, bona fide first world food problem, this would be it.

In the petition, Caldwell asks Starbucks to please make a vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte. He explains that he and his girlfriend visit their local Starbucks up to four times a week and that many of the drinks can be made vegan, but not the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

The Starbucks website lists the latte ingredients as: 'Signature espresso blended with the unmistakable spices of fall -- cinnamon, nutmeg and clove -- smooth with steamed milk, topped with delectably sweetened whipped cream and pumpkin pie spices.'

'There is currently no vegan option for this drink mix, which is a total bummer,' wrote Caldwell in bold.

A Starbucks representative confirmed Thursday that if you look at a Pumpkin Spice sauce mix container at a Starbucks, or ask a barista, you'll find the mix contains condensed milk.

'We really welcome customer feedback like this,' said the rep, who offered a couple of vegan alternatives to the latte. 'We have our VIA Pumpkin Spice coffee that does not contain dairy. We also have our Pumpkin Spice Topping that you can finish the beverage with if a customer wanted to add that hint of fall.'

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

KCET Polls Readers to Choose "LA's Iconic Dish"

It was a noble battle, starting with sixteen of the food options that make you immediately think of eating in LA.  From Pink's chili-topped hot dogs, In-N-Out's cheeseburger, Pinkberry's frozen yogurt and Taco Zone's carnitas taco to Langer's pastrami #19, the street cart's bacon-wrapped late night hot dog and Korean bulgogi at Soot Bull Jeep, these were iconic dishes that define a city.  After weeks of bracketed shoot-outs in eight categories representing THE MEAT, THE DIP, EASTSIDE vs WESTSIDE, NEWBIES, THE DOGS, 80s RELICS, SANDWICHES, and TWISTS, the choice was narrowed to four, and now to the final two.

Four titans of LA gastronomy battled, including Philippe's French dip, Roscoe's chicken and waffles, CPK's bbq chicken pizza, and Donut Man's strawberry-topped donut.  Now the finals this week will decide between (drum roll, please).....

The French dip sandwich versus the strawberry-topped donut!  Congratulations to Hunter Communications client California Pizza Kitchen, whose 80's creation barbecue chicken pizza survived weeks of battles to reach the top four all-time Los Angeles foods.

This week you will be able to vote between the top two and choose the crowning achievement of LA's iconic dishes.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:
LA's Iconic Dish

Excerpt: "There are a huge number of people around the world who think Angelenos don't really eat. And only go to restaurants for the scene.

This is, of course, baffling to anyone who's lived in L.A. longer than two years or so.

Los Angeles is full of people who care passionately about food, and there are plenty of restaurants happy to serve us. We don't all agree on what constitutes "good," but we do know we like our burgers, our froyo, our Korean BBQ, our pizza. (That's right, our pizza. We like it.)

The thing is, we don't have one iconic dish. Nothing that we can point to and say, "this. This is Los Angeles on a plate."

But we should have that dish, and we're going to find out what it is. Come back here to KCET Food on Monday, and vote in our competition. It's a Sweet Sixteen of dishes that originated in L.A. and are still served at the very place they were created. (Which means California rolls are out, as is the Cobb salad.)"

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

As Santa Monica Prices Itself Out of Running, "Lower Westside" Blooms

New entertainment mall, the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center
The west side of LA has emerged as the tech and startup capital of Los Angeles, with Santa Monica as its real estate "ground zero". Dozens of new companies have started and blossomed in the cool coastal plain west of the traffic and pollution of downtown. But now that Santa Monica real estate prices have zoomed, these same tech companies and their employees are colonizing the areas just South, around Playa Vista, Playa del Rey and Westchester. Welcome to the new real estate frontiers of the "Lower Westside", where home developments and shopping centers focused on dining and entertainment lure a young generation of the educated and well-heeled.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Los Angeles Times

Link to article:

Excerpt: "In an area that Los Angeles real estate brokers have dubbed "the lower Westside," the rush is on to fill in the once-sparsely developed land north of LAX and southeast of Marina del Rey with new residences, retail outlets and creative businesses.

Big-name media and technology companies are accelerating their push in the Playa Vista neighborhood. And a large mall in nearby Westchester is converting to an all-entertainment format in hopes of appealing to the newcomers' youth and wealth.

The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center, a prominent mall next to the 405 Freeway, will replace stores with restaurants, arcades and other venues that favor recreation over commerce, its owners said. The mall already has a luxury theater complex.

The economic downturn took a toll on the center, however, forcing the closure of a Borders bookstore and Calendar Grill. Another major tenant, Nordstrom Rack, is moving to rival mall Westfield Culver City.

The departures 'gave us the opportunity to reposition the property,' said Howard Wong, director of leasing for owner Passco Cos. 'We want to take advantage of what's happening in the market.'

What's happening is an influx of young-skewing firms such as YouTube, Microsoft and Fox Sports Interactive Media to Playa Vista. Video game firms GameFly and Riot Games are in offices by the mall.

The lower Westside is attracting such tenants with cheaper, more abundant office space than can be found in trendy tech-centric Santa Monica, brokers say.

With shopping on the way out at the Promenade, Passco will bring in entertainment-oriented restaurants Dave & Buster's and Buffalo Wild Wings. Dave & Buster's locations typically offer billiards, shuffleboard and arcade games while Buffalo Wild Wings sells food in a sports bar setting. Both restaurants are slated to open late this year.

Passco may also bring in an upscale bowling alley operator and nighttime entertainment such as a comedy club or piano bar. Adding more entertainment could also increase the mall's appeal to out-of-town visitors, Wong said."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Canon Reveals New Video Sensor That Shoots in the Dark

Canon's full-frame CMOS sensor
Low-light sensitivity is one of those things that you look at and are impressed by when buying a camera or camcorder. Can you shoot a birthday surprise in the light of a cake full of birthday candles? It's not as if you get that many reasons to shoot in those lighting situations, but...

Canon has introduced a new video sensor that shoots detailed video in 0.01 lux, in other words total darkness. And after improving and tweaking the sensor, they have now released a video of Yaeyama-hime fireflies on the Japanese island of Ishigaki. The details are pretty amazing, and the closeups of the flashing of the fireflies attains an effect like that of a police car's flashing roof light.

Currently, the sensor seems to have some limitations that rule out its shooting in full normal light, so Canon sees it as a specialized product for applications like medical research and surveillance.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Back in March, Canon showed off an in-development video sensor that could capture the details of a scene in almost no light. The results were primitive, but impressive. A new video clip of fireflies in a dark forest shows the progresses Canon is making, and it's pretty amazing.

The new clip was shot with a prototype camera featuring the new full-frame CMOS sensor shooting in full HD at 30 fps. Clearly there's a lot of detail in the vegetation and glowing fireflies captured, despite the fact that the shot was taken after sunset with a light level of about .01 lux. That means that if you were standing in that forest you would hardly be able to see anything at all with the naked eye."

Friday, September 13, 2013

ICSC Says August Sales were Mixed, Zumiez Posts Big Gains

August apparel sales seemed to soften from July and taper downward as the month went on, leading on to steeper discounting in September for back-to-school merchandise. ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) reports that chains posted small gains, though some retailers did better.  Zumiez  had a great August with 14.3% increase in net sales. Limited Brands, owners of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, was another winner with 7% increase in net sales.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Apparel News

Link to article:
August Sales Mixed, Steeper Discounts on Horizon

Excerpt: "U.S. chain-store sales posted a 3.7 percent increase for August over the previous year, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.
'August sales were softer in the apparel segment compared to July but were steady elsewhere,' said Michael P. Niemira, vice president of research and chief economist for ICSC. 'The Back-to-School apparel demand was uneven and late, and, overall, August BTS spending was stronger in the earlier part of the month compared to the end. As a result, September is likely to see steeper "end-of-season" discounts for BTS apparel to clear the remaining inventory.'

Going forward, ICSC is forecasting a 4 percent increase in sales in September.

Several retailers reported similar results..

Among those exceeding the average was Limited Brands, which operates 2,629 specialty stores under the Victoria’s Secret, Pink, Bath & Body Works, La Senza and Henri Bendel nameplates. The Columbus, Ohio–based company reported a 7 percent increase in net sales to $704.7 million and a 2 percent increase in same-store sales in August.

Zumiez Inc. also had a stellar August. The Lynwood, Wash.–based company reported a 14.3 percent increase in net sales in August to $85.9 million and a 3 percent increase in comp-store sales."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Yahoo Introduces Winning Logo to a "Chorus of Boos"

Now it turns out that the "30 days of new logos" that Yahoo claimed to be trying out was pure publicity.  The winning logo was designed in-house and already approved this summer.  Slightly informal, yet trying to be more serious than the old logo, the font designed for the company is made up of arched lines and slightly curved ends, a sans-serif with a suggestion of ornamentation at the ends. The final exclamation point has been tilted from the upright by 9%, for "a bit of whimsy".  Yet for all the apparent design and careful study, the response has ranged from "Fugly" to "Meh!"

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:
Yahoo's New Logo Fails to Impress--But People Are Talking About It

Excerpt: "Yahoo Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Savitt told Advertising Age that the font was intended to be a little less casual, befitting the seriousness of the turnaround the company is attempting: 'You’ll notice a chisel to our logo that’s very architectural,' she said. 'What we’re saying is our logo is the foundation upon which our brand and products and user experience will continue to be built.'

So you can see that Yahoo spent a heck of a lot of time carefully crafting what is, after all, the icon for what is still one of the world’s best-known brands.

Unfortunately, most people who have seen it–and, it must be said, these folks are not corporate logo experts–don’t seem to like it. A sampling:

Venture capitalist Mike Arrington: 'I’m pretty sure that even 10 years from now I’ll still look at Yahoo’s new logo think 'That’s one godawful fugly logo right there.' It’s a serious case of 'A camel is a horse designed by committee.' It looks like a logo that somebody would have created with clipart fonts from those CDs back in the early nineties. It lacks any personality, it’s boring, it’s banal. It’s a great big bag of fail. It sucks, badly. I never thought a logo could be so singularly uninspiring.' (Tell us what you really think, Mike.)

Deep Focus ad agency CEO Ian Schafer: 'I believe the font is "Meh Condensed.” '

Entrepreneur Derek Powazek: 'No logo has ever solved a business problem, but especially not this one. '

Skift CEO Rafat Ali, with a little irony: 'I feel cheated and violated. Yahoo you made a mockery out of all of us.'

I could go on (and on), but you get the idea."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Is this comedy/music video the Gangnam Style of 2013?

We saw this posted on Scandipop, a blog promoting Scandinavian music, on Wednesday.  By Thursday LA djs were posting it on FACEBOOK and discussing whether it was too late to become the song of the summer.  Today everyone and their fathers (literally) are raving about Ylvis, a Norwegian comedy duo promoting a new season of their tv series, and their BONKERS music video, "The Fox".  In three days it has logged 3.5 million Youtube views (update: 14 days and 37 million!), and counting. The first 30 second you find yourself saying "This is just stupid!" then suddenly you are hooked.  We defy you to listen all the way through without being earwormed by the line "What the fox say?"

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
USA Today

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Move over, PSY. Your 15 minutes are done. The next viral music-video sensation looks like The Fox from Norwegian brother duo Ylvis.

The song's strange enough, with lyrics that scan like a discount publisher's children's book delivered with deadpan seriousness by Bard and Vegard Ylvisaker over a dance beat. Add a little cosplay action to the video, and you've got a piece of multi-sensory insanity that falls somewhere between the Flaming Lips and Crazy Frog.

It can be only a matter of time before The Fox spawns a legion of Ylvis impersonators."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gluten-Free Now On the Menu at Cheesecake Factory

"Gluten-free" is one of the buzz words in modern nutrition, and Cheesecake Factory is doing its part to join the craze.  (Although all its dishes are prepared in the same kitchens, so there is no way to ensure against cross-contamination for diners with Celiac disease or serious food allergies to gluten), for those who are cutting down or eliminating gluten for health reasons the restaurant has prepared a special spiral-bound menu of 80 items.

From salads and pastas to burgers on gluten-free buns and one single flavor of its famous cheesecake, diners can choose from a full range of dishes.  Even skinnylicious items are available in gluten-free versions. The vast majority of diners who now seek gluten-free options are not allergic, but merely seeking a healthier choice in their dining, and the offerings on the new menu should suit that option very well. The menu debuted August 6th at a few locations, and expanded to all restaurants in the chain over a five-week period.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
LA Weekly

Link to article:

Excerpt: "'It's one of the top requests from our guests and our managers and staff, to have a gluten-free menu and to make sure they're prepared to take care of the guests who are so loyal to us and eat in our restaurants,' Donald Moore, chief culinary officer of the Calabasas-based chain, told the Weekly by phone, adding that the choices are 'larger than some restaurants' entire menus ... we have a range of everything.'

Sampling the menu the other day, we noticed that instead of reinventing the wheel, the chain instead tweaked some of its most popular dishes. Burgers are served on gluten-free buns and gluten-free fusilli is used to made dishes like Evelyn's Favorite Pasta (with broccoli, oven-dried tomatoes, roasted eggplant, peppers, artichoke, Kalamata olives, garlic and pine nuts). Some of the SkinnyLicious selections also have been transformed.

Evidently, creating a gluten-free cheesecake is not that easy, because there's only one on the new menu -- the Godiva chocolate. But if you've got a sweet tooth, no worries: There's also a hot fudge sundae, as well as ice cream and fresh strawberries.

'We did a lot of research and a lot of study to make sure we could put a gluten-free menu together that was as special and delicious as our regular food, but also very, very safe for our guests. Yes, it's a definite challenge, but we wouldn't have done a gluten-free menu if we didn't believe we could execute it properly,' Moore said.

But the chain still wants diners to alert restaurant staff about any gluten or other dietary concerns and restrictions, so that the kitchen can take appropriate steps. The menu cautions: 'We prepared this menu for our guests with sensitivities to gluten. While we strive to provide accurate information, our menu items are freshly prepared in our kitchens, which are not gluten-free. Cross-contact with other food items that contain gluten is possible. This is especially true for fried items, which are cooked in shared fryer oil.' "

Monday, September 9, 2013

Yamaha Introduces New Line of Grand Pianos With "No Strings"

Yamaha is one of the premier manufacturers of top-end concert pianos, so when it introduces a new line that sounds fantastic, never needs tuning, and offers great options for practicing and listening via headphones, it may be pointing the way for the entire industry.  

For years, musical instrument manufacturers have offered digital pianos that sounded incomparably bad next to the real thing.  But the newest Yamahas look and feel like concert grands and uprights, and have a carefully-sampled sound taken from a $120,000 concert piano, perfectly tuned and authentic to the last overtone. The one advantage the new line doesn't yet have is a lower price, but as the economies of scale kick in over future generations, we should see prices drop.

Hunter Communications Original New Source:
New York Times

Link to article:

Excerpt: "A few years ago, Yamaha tried a crazy experiment. What if it produced a grand piano that was traditional in almost every respect — except that it replaced strings with sensors? What if the sound came from painstakingly recorded audio snippets, or samples, of each string from a $120,000 top-of-the-line grand piano, reproduced through a set of high-end speakers?

The result was the AvantGrand N3, a gorgeous baby grand hybrid piano that you can buy today for about $15,000. (Yamaha won’t reveal its pianos’ street prices, only ludicrously high suggested retail prices. The prices printed here come from Chicago’s Grand Piano Haus, but the three other dealers I called across the country were in the same ballpark.)

The feel of the N3’s wooden keys and hammers is identical to those on Yamaha’s real pianos; you even feel the keys subtly vibrate when you strike them hard, exactly as on a real piano. The samples and speakers are so good, most players would not even realize it’s not a real grand piano.

Then came the N2, a space-saving 'upright grand' version with the same features ($11,000). And the N1, a less expensive upright ($8,000).

All these pianos offer a few towering advantages over stringed pianos. First, they never need tuning. That’s a very big deal; real pianos have to be professionally tuned, string by string (there are about 230 of them on a grand piano), especially if they’re in rooms that aren’t humidity- and temperature-controlled. That’s pricey and time-consuming.

Second, you can turn the volume up or down, or listen through headphones. That makes hybrids sensational for apartments, dorm rooms or anywhere else that your practicing might disturb others. Turning the speakers down is also useful when you’re accompanying a singer or soloist whose volume is no match for your impassioned playing.

Finally, hybrid pianos are much smaller and lighter than real ones. The N3, for example, sounds like a nine-foot grand, but it’s only four feet long.

The only thing Yamaha never managed to do is fix the price. Real upright pianos usually cost $5,000 to $15,000; the world’s best selling piano, for example, is Yamaha’s U1 upright, which costs $7,500. And real grand pianos cost $10,000 to $50,000. So Yamaha’s hybrids may save space, weight and tuning, but they don’t save you much money.

That, no doubt, is why Yamaha has now introduced a fourth AvantGrand model, the NU1 upright hybrid — with a street price of about $4,500. Finally, there’s a hybrid that costs less than its analog counterpart.

The question is, how much of the AvantGrand amazingness did Yamaha have to leave out to reach that price?"

Friday, September 6, 2013

Social Media Meme Points out Ridiculously Long CVS Receipts

The average retail receipt is six or eight inches long, with the store's location, date, itemized list of purchases, total, and maybe the odd return policy or link to a customer satisfaction survey.  But a recent viral display on social media has held up CVS pharmacies to ridicule, as the stores' receipts of six feet or longer are posted via mobile photo apps.  Twitter or Facebook pics of a CVS receipt held up and trailing to the ground are making the drugstore giant rethink its policy of loading every receipt with tons of targeted marketing and coupons.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The Boston Globe

Link to article:

Excerpt: "In one photo, a man holds up a CVS receipt so long it towers above his head. Another features a woman who jokingly uses the paper strip to keep track of her figure. She’s down to her target waistline: half a receipt.

The drug store chain’s remarkably long receipts — some, jammed with coupons, are said to reach 6 feet — have become a social media sensation, sparking more than 8,000 Twitter posts that range from gentle ribbings to scathing reproaches. They include photos that employ children, dogs, and even pianos as units of measurement of the scroll-like slips.

Some tweets call out the Woonsocket, R.I., company for wasting copious amounts of paper ('In the age of going paperless, [CVS] has gone clueless,' wrote @Bookwyrm76). Others try to one-up each other with Twitter’s version of a Comedy Central roast (“My CVS receipt just came out with the entire Torah printed on it,' read a tweet from @CompChristopher). There is even a Twitter parody account — @CVS_Receipt.

The Internet frenzy has not only caught the company’s attention, it has convinced CVS to reduce the length of receipts, which are often stretched by discount coupons and cash credits for customers with CVS ExtraCare reward cards.

CVS said last week that the typical length of its receipts will be chopped by 25 percent in coming weeks. Early next year, shoppers will be given the option of electronically sending all coupons and rewards directly to their cards.

'We actually saw what happened as more than a meme,' said Rob Price, the CVS chief marketing officer. 'Rather than treating it as an advertising problem or communications opportunity, we saw this as insight we needed to reflect on and act on.'

Price would not disclose the average length of a receipt. But he did concede they have grown longer over time as the CVS rewards program expanded.

Speaking like a well-trained marketing executive, Price said, 'Of course, our championship shoppers are going to get championship receipts.' "

Thursday, September 5, 2013

JLo is the Best Example of Celebrity Branding Today

FlyGirl. Selena lookalike. Jenny from the block. Romantic comedy star. Fragrance branding megastar. Latino cellular marketing mogul. Idol judge. Through all her reinventions and course corrections, Jennifer Lopez has steadily moved up the ladder, to the point that she stands alone on top of the field of celebrity branding. Her confidence and strong sense of self have guided her onward and upward to the pinnacle. Here, see the principles that JLo's path to superstar branding can teach to any company that is seeking to establish a strong, lasting brand identity.
Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article: 

Excerpt: "Celebrities are best-in-class examples of personal brand managers. They work tirelessly to manage their brands. Each time I work with a celebrity, his or her team of fashion stylists, make-up artists, personal trainers, dialect coaches, body movement and fragrance experts – yes, the list goes on – never fails to amaze me. So, who best to learn about personal branding from than superstar Jennifer Lopez: a modern-day showbiz phenomena – entertainer, singer, actress, model, philanthropist, entrepreneur and mother.

I had the pleasure of working with Jennifer and her brilliant manager Benny Medina to better understand her personal brand while positioning Viva Móvil, a recently announced and highly ambitious retail and online telecommunications partnership between Jennifer Lopez and Verizon. And while I’ve worked with many A-list celebrities over the years, I must admit that I have an added level of respect for Lola–not only for her work ethic and charming demeanor (yes, I said charming) but also for her sheer intelligence in strategically building and managing her brand. She’s everywhere– from cosmetics and automobiles, to catering and telecommunications. Over the past few years, JLo has grown into one of the most complex brands in the world.

Here are some key takeaways:

Remember your block
. Among the sea of blond-haired and blue-eyed leading ladies of Hollywood, Jenny from the Block has never forgotten her roots as a Puerto Rican Latina from The Bronx. In fact, she’s actively supported her community to further define her personal brand, and in doing so has broken down some notoriously strong stereotypical racial barriers in the entertainment industry. Fellow actress Jessica Alba has claimed the entertainer 'opened doors for ethnic girls like me,' while Latin pop singer DeLuna also acknowledged how JLo 'paved the way' for Latinas. Most recently, JLo has openly supported rising Latina teen artist Becky G. The key takeaway? Acting as a weaker version of someone great will rarely pave a path to a powerful personal brand, so be confident and embrace your DNA. Just as there is only one JLo, there should be only one you.

Never underestimate the power of a plunging neckline
. Who can forget the Versace dress with its risqué neckline that JLo wore to the 42nd Grammy Awards? The only thing more notable than that sexy chiffon number was the phenomenal worldwide media attention that it garnered, with over half a million images of Jennifer being downloaded within the first 24 hours of the event. It was a deliberate attempt by JLo to be daring and different, recasting herself as a sex symbol. And it worked.

A recent performance on 'Britain’s Got Talent' led to JLo receiving criticism from British viewers for wearing a racy black body suit thought too sexy for family viewing. JLo simply stood her ground, claiming that she loved her body and that her outfits were no sexier than her female pop counterparts.

When it comes to building a strong personal brand, understand how you’re currently perceived and how you’d like to be perceived. While verbal messages are important, visual cues in today’s Instagram era are arguably even more critical. (Any skeptics out there should recall a certain Britney car-exiting image here. It didn’t matter what our ex Princess of Pop said after that blooper, did it?) Also, check out your competition and do something different. If everyone’s wearing jeans and a tee, make your signature piece a bold jacket. And if everyone’s wearing black to a formal event, wear green. Dare to shock and inspire."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Is YouTube Testing a New Logo?

Even the name "YouTube" is a little old-fashioned, hearkening back to the days when televisions and computer screens were lit up with cathode ray tubes.  So the company logo, with its red, beveled, rounded off "tv-screen" motif, has been sitting on the border between "charmingly retro" and just "tired-out".  Now the vid-clip giant has, without fanfare, been sneaking in a flat, modern logo centered around a "play button" and slimmer, elegant type.  Is it a preview of things to come?

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The Verge

Link to article:
YouTube Teases New Logo on Facebook and Twitter

Excerpt: "YouTube has surreptitiously unveiled a striking new logo that does away with the plump, simplistic lettering that it's used for years now. In its place, the new logo features a two-tone red and white design that largely focuses on a flattened play icon, with thin lettering below it for the website's name. The logo first appeared in the redesign of YouTube's Android and iOS apps last week, and it's since shown up on its Facebook page and Twitter profile — though notably, not on YouTube's own website. We've reached out to confirm whether this is a true redesign in the works or just an alternate logo.

The logo for YouTube hasn't changed much over the years — it's long used a wordmark partially encapsulated in a big red bubble. The bubble has lost some of its gloss, but it's largely remained the same despite being fairly indistinct outside of its split-apart look. The apparent rebranding effort may allow YouTube to be associated solely with a big red-and-white play icon, which could be seen as a stronger way to represent itself than solely its name. The icon also falls more in line with design styles of late: aside from echoing the flattened looks present in iOS 7 and Windows Phone, it notably falls in line with other Google services' Android icons, particularly Chrome and Drive, both of which are simple and feature subtle shadowing, as YouTube's new logo does within its arrow.

Update: YouTube tells us that its current logo "is not going away," and that these changes are part of an increased use of the play button to represent itself. While it takes a different form, YouTube has actually been using something similar as its Chrome app icon for a while now."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Australian Artist Creates Font Out of Light From Moving Iphone

Marcus Byrne, an artist from Melbourne, Australia, started out experimenting with turning streaks of moving light into 3D objects that could be captured on camera and computer.  Then he got the idea to "air draw" the letters of the alphabet using the light from his Iphone, and capture the light streaks in 3.5 second intervals.  The result is an interesting brushstroke font the artist has made free for download at Dafont.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Designer Marcus Byrne of Melbourne, Australia created a 3D letter and font suite using the light from an iPhone.

Byrne created the Phone Streak font in darkness by painting characters in the air with the light from the iPhone. He photographed the light streaks in 3.5 second exposures with a Canon 5D camera. According to the artist’s page on Behance, the project started as an experiment on turning hand-waving gestures into a 3D object. Byrne decided to create a working font suite that he would give away for free."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Still One Day to Order Starbucks' Secret "PSL" Rerelease

Seasonal beverages are nothing new on the Starbucks menu, especially during the lucrative holiday season.  Gingerbread and Candy Cane flavors dance in our heads, along with the yearly holiday roasts to commemorate the season.  But nothing has quite tickled the palate of Starbucks drinkers the way the venerable Pumpkin Spice Latte has.

The flavor is so popular that many years Starbucks locations run out of the drink's flavored syrup and have to remove it from their menus prematurely, much to customer's consternation.  But now we have come to the secret preview weekend prior to the actual addition of Pumpkin Spice Latte to the menu boards, and IF you know the secret code to mention to your barista (ok, let's just get it out into the open-- it's "PSL10") you can drink this year's vintage NOW, before the September 3 official launch.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Wall Street Journal

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Ten years ago, when Starbucks’ espresso wizards were brewing up new seasonal drink ideas for fall, they came up with a list of 20 finalists and market tested them. The pumpkin concept was initially greeted with a “meh,” falling somewhere in the middle of the pack, outshined by stars such as chocolate caramel or cinnamon spice.

But Starbucks’ product developers saw potential.

“It wasn’t the natural winner, but there was something there,” said Peter Dukes, espresso brand manager for Starbucks, who was on the original team that developed the drink.

Now it is the coffee giant’s most popular seasonal drink and has developed a following similar to McDonalds’ McRib or other seasonal products with limited availability. The Journal last year documented fans’ devotion to the drink - and their disappointment when the stores run out of the pumpkin spice sauce:
 ”My world almost ended this morning when the local Starbucks told me they were out of Pumpkin Spice Latte,” tweeted Jason Sizemore, 38 years old, of Lexington, Ky.
Cynthia Smalls, a barista at a midtown Manhattan Starbucks, said steamed customers have grown emotional on days her location runs out of pumpkin sauce. “They go crazy. The day we first found out we had a shortage, forget it,” she said. Her own surprised reaction: “You guys do know it’s just a drink, right?” she said.
To get the taste right, Starbucks developers a decade ago decked out their R&D lab with a ton of Thanksgiving flair, even though it was only spring. There were sweaters, Thanksgiving decorations, and, of course, a bunch of pumpkin pies – made from a variety of family recipes, and some store-bought. They nibbled and taste-tested their way through the pies, swigging the pumpkin filling down with espresso. They even poured espresso directly onto the pie, Mr. Dukes said.