Brands without branding

There aren’t many great logos in my country. I’ve always wondered why. One of my theories is this: Having no branding is their branding.

I can imagine how readers might take this to be sarcastic, or at least very tongue-in-cheek. But I think it’s a valid theory, and here’s why.

The word “branding” has several definitions. In my theory, I was referring to these two definitions:

  1. Branding as a means to an end. For a typical company, this includes the company name, logo, colors, fonts, writing style, package designs, and website look and feel. This was what the first “branding” meant. For the rest of this entry, I’ll be referring to this definition as branding.
  2. Branding as the actual end. For a typical company, this includes the company’s personality, the impression it leaves on people, customer perception, what it’s known for, who the target audience is, and what differentiates it from the competition. This was what the second “branding” meant. For the rest of this entry, I’ll be referring to this definition as brand.

(Okay, I may have cheated by using a polysemous word with both meanings in the same sentence. But it made the statement sound witty, right?)

Essentially, a company does branding (designs logos, chooses colors, writes catchphrases, advertises) with the objective of building a brand (the impression they or their products or services leave).

This article points out the benefits of a strong brand:

A good brand achieves the following objectives:

  • Delivers the message clearly
  • Confirms your credibility
  • Connects your target prospects emotionally
  • Motivates the buyer
  • Concretes user loyalty

A strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day. It’s important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building your brand. After all, your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer. It’s a foundational piece in your marketing communication and one you do not want to be without.

So, what exactly did I mean when I said that having no branding is their branding?

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How to keep track of replies to your comments

When I first started participating in blog discussions, I wished there were a more efficient system. I wanted a tool to notify me whenever someone replied to a comment I wrote on any blog post. I tried two solutions that didn’t work:

  • Manual search on Google Reader. Whenever I wrote a comment to which I expected a response, I subscribed to the post’s comment feed on Google Reader. All comment feeds went into one folder. Every once in a while, I searched the folder for my name, and thus saw all the comments directed to me. Why it didn’t work: It was tedious to subscribe to post comment feeds and to do manual searches.
  • Subscribe to Comments. This is a popular WordPress plug-in that allows anyone to subscribe to comments on chosen posts. New comments were sent to my email as they arrived, and I read them when I had time. Why it didn’t work: I still received all the comments on each post—not just replies to my own. This was a big problem for the more popular blogs, and was a bigger waste of time than manual searching. Besides, not all blogs have this plug-in installed.

Then I read about Yahoo! Pipes, and I knew I had found my solution.

Keep track of comment replies with Yahoo! Pipes

Here’s how to be notified of direct replies to your comments using Yahoo! Pipes. All you need is a Yahoo! account and some spare time.

  1. Fetch your feeds. Fetch the comment feeds of all the blogs you comment on. It’s likely that you read and like posts from the same blogs. Take the feed of the entire blog, not individual posts, so you don’t have to keep adding new items all the time. (I really should have thought of this before; I could have used it with my Google Reader search solution!) Comment feeds can usually be found in this address format: http://blog.com/comments/feed.
  2. Filter your feeds. Permit only feed items that contain your name to come through. Comments that are addressed to you will have your name in the description. If you’d also like to keep track of comments you’ve written, permit items with your name in the title. Remember to include all the names that you comment with and/or that people might use to address you.
  3. Run the pipe. Once you run the pipe, Yahoo! Pipes can render the output as an RSS feed. Subscribe to this feed using your favorite feed reader.
Use Yahoo! Pipes to keep track of comment replies

Use Yahoo! Pipes to keep track of comment replies

There are limitations, of course. If you have a very common first name, you may receive comments that aren’t addressed to you. Also, for blogs with threaded comments enabled, people may not mention your name when replying to you.

But if you’re willing to navigate through the Pipes and are okay with having to add newly discovered blogs from time to time, it’s a great solution. You have one feed to subscribe to, and there are no searches required. Receiving comment replies is fast and easy.

Balance and productivity

When you ask people about productivity, they typically talk about tools: to-do lists, notepads, PDA’s. Although these are useful for enhancing productivity, they’re only secondary to a fundamental requirement: a balanced life built on a sturdy foundation.

According to The Productivity Handbook by Donald E. Wetmore, the foundation of our lives consists of seven areas: health, family, financial, intellectual, social, professional, and spiritual. I personally include another area, fun, which I think is very important.

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Book reviews

I’ve been working on a better personal documentation system, and this includes (among other things) notes on the books I’ve read and how I liked them. I’ve realized how useful notes can be when you’re trying to remember the title of that book you read about a ghost watching his old friends, or which of the stories from a certain collection are worth rereading. Since I mainly write them for myself, my book notes are usually full of assumptions and personal references that would not make them understandable to the public. For the following books, however, my notes were detailed enough so I could adapt them into short book reviews. Here are my thoughts on two novels, a short story collection, and a nonfiction book.

The Eye by Vladimir Nabokov

Summary: Smurov, a lovelorn and self-conscious Russian émigré living in prewar Berlin, commits suicide after being humiliated by a jealous husband—only to suffer even greater indignities in the afterlife as he searches for proof of his existence among fellow émigrés, who are too distracted to pay him any heed.

For I do not exist: there exist but the thousand mirrors that reflect me. With every acquaintance I make, the population of phantoms resembling me increases. Somewhere they live, somewhere they multiply. I alone do not exist.

The Eye was an elaborate joke which I caught on very early. I appreciated the prose style, the clarity of description, and the small details that made the story more real. However, I felt the sensation of just rolling along for the ride until the end, without any emotional or intellectual investment. The novel was not as dazzling as Nabokov’s other works, and it really should have been a short story. It did, nevertheless, inspire me to ask myself this question: Are we nothing more than what people perceive us to be?

(I think that we are, indeed, partially defined by how others perceive us—but in the end, how we see ourselves is ultimately truer and more real.)

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Getting things done with Lifehacker

One of the first blogs I ever subscribed to was Lifehacker. It’s an award-winning blog that features tips, shortcuts, and downloads for getting things done smarter and more efficiently. For those who don’t know, a hack is a clever new way to get something done. While the hacks on Lifehacker focus mostly on technology, they also extend to other aspects of life.

What’s it all about?

Different people find Lifehacker useful in different ways, but it’s the productivity angle I find most worthwhile. It’s all about organization, efficiency, and getting things done. A couple of months ago, they posted Top 10 Productivity Basics Explained. Although I feel that the post doesn’t aptly sum up their GTD philosophy, the following principles partially comprise some of the core habits and techniques they advocate on the blog:

  • Doable to-do lists—the simplest method for getting things done.
  • Remind your future self—planners and calendars are essential.
  • Ubiquitous capture—making sure that ideas and information you come across now will be available to you later on.
  • Working in dashes—seeing tasks as small challenges within a larger project.
  • Keyboard shortcuts—using the keyboard for more productivity.

In general, it’s best not to take all the posts too seriously. To get the most out of Lifehacker, I usually try out the tips that seem useful, ignore those that don’t apply to me, and keep the rest in mind for a later time. I find that trying out the tips that seem relevant often pays off, even though it does take some work. Installing new applications, fiddling with command lines and menus, and experimenting with new methods take time and effort at the outset, but they can enhance your workflow in the long run.

Continue reading “Getting things done with Lifehacker”

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Welcome

Hello! I’m Madeline Ong, a web designer, avid reader, and tech enthusiast. Magic Lantern is an online journal where I write about design, literature, technology, and other subjects of interest. Thank you for your visit. Please make yourself at home.

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