Friday, November 12, 2010

Ralph Lauren's amazing 4D augmented reality light show in New York and London

Ralph Lauren's flagship store in New York

This week Ralph Lauren boldly pushed the publicity and merchandising envelope with an extraordinary 4D light show, billed as “The Ultimate Collision Of Fashion, Art, & Technology,”  that superimposed lush cinematic effects on the company's storefronts in New York and London.

The roughly seven-minute light show celebrating Ralph Lauren's 10-year old online business was an eye-popping, multi-sensory happening powered by the latest in augmented reality and "architectural mapping." 
In one sequence the illusion of a grand staircase unfolding from inside the building's belly set the stage for 3D models who descended catwalk-style while towering chandeliers lowered from the night sky. Fade to black and seconds later a row of silk ties appeared, almost Dali-like, flapping gently in the virtual breeze. 

Next, a lizard skin belt stretched the building's width and cinched its glamorous waist. Again, momentary darkness until a giant crocodile handbag popped up and revolved 360-degrees. Fade once more and ... boom! Like a wild band of ghosts the brand’s signature polo players thundered across the store's facade, dashing in and out of sight.  
The big 4D moment arrived when four Big Pony fragrance bottles appeared and on cue one bottle spritzed the crowd below.

 RL's old-line image belies the fact that it is one of only a few luxury brands with a significant digital footprint. In addition to cross-channel advertising and an array of online catalogs, the company maintains a video-centric lifestyle website called RLTV, offers iPhone apps, and boasts more than one million friends on Facebook. Indeed, video of the 4D light show, now posted all over the social landscape, is neatly integrated across the Ralph Lauren's own digital network. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What brand storytellers can learn from John Barleycorn

In medieval Europe some ballads were composed, then cheaply printed and sold as broadsheets.  

This post is devoted to the artful use of words and verse to convey, powerful, imaginative, cohesive, and memorable narratives. Ballads, for example, a narrative form often set to music, trace back to medieval times when many were composed, then cheaply printed and sold across Europe as single sheet broadsheets.

The ballad has evolved over the years, though it remains characteristically narrative - a concise story using vivid imagery rather than description. The central theme is often anchored in repetition, sometimes in the fourth lines in succeeding stanzas. 

Today we talk about the value of word-of-mouth marketing and brand narratives. How might a great balladeer tell a brand story?

An especially old and wonderful ballad is the English folksong "John Barleycorn," in which the character of John Barleycorn personifies the cultivation of barley for making beverages like whisky and beer. The song is set at harvest time, and it chronicles John Barleycorn's demise during the process of reaping and malting. It's a grizzly story, true, but it is told provocatively and beautifully. 

It's hardly surprising that some versions of "John Barleycorn," date back 500 years; many of us may know it as the song John Barleycorn Must Die, recorded in 1970 by the English rock band Traffic. Theirs is a fantastic rendition, and it is best enjoyed by listening and reading (or singing) along.

- Ballad-Lyrics - 
There were three men came out of the west, their fortunes for to try
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn must die
They've plowed, they've sown, they've harrowed him in
Threw clods upon his head
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn was dead

They've let him lie for a very long time, 'til the rains from heaven did fall
And little Sir John sprung up his head and so amazed them all
They've let him stand 'til Midsummer's Day 'til he looked both pale and wan
And little Sir John's grown a long long beard and so become a man
They've hired men with their scythes so sharp to cut him off at the knee
They've rolled him and tied him by the way, serving him most barbarously
They've hired men with their sharp pitchforks who've pricked him to the heart
And the loader he has served him worse than that
For he's bound him to the cart

They've wheeled him around and around a field 'til they came onto a pond
And there they made a solemn oath on poor John Barleycorn
They've hired men with their crabtree sticks to cut him skin from bone
And the miller he has served him worse than that
For he's ground him between two stones

And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl and his brandy in the glass
And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl proved the strongest man at last
The huntsman he can't hunt the fox nor so loudly to blow his horn
And the tinker he can't mend kettle or pots without a little barleycorn

Monday, November 8, 2010

New "curatorial" tools help brand story creators harness authority content on social networks

The abundance of authoritative tweets, video, blog posts, white papers, graphics, etc., make it easy to source elements for a dynamic multimedia story.Then what? Assembling choice bits into a cohesive narrative takes time and some editorial skill.

Publishing platforms like Posterous and Tumblr make it fairly simple to plug social content into multimedia blogposts. Now, new “curatorial” tools such as Storify go a step further, enabling story creators to search the likes of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Photobucket, and then drag and drop selected content into a linear flow wrapped in their own commentary. 

Storify co-founder Burt Herman, a former reporter for the Associated Press, says his service enables working journalists to weave original sources from the social web into their news stories. For example, The Washington Post used Storify to aggregate tweets from candidates after last week’s midterm elections. Storify's simplicity makes it suitable for non-journalists, too, like educators, marketers and publicists. 

A number of curatorial tools are currently in alpha or beta testing, notably Curatedby and KeepstreamAnother platform called Qwiki is quite unique in the way it sources and assembles social content into amazing visual presentations. The company’s website has a slick demo portfolio featuring glossy, pithy profiles about Madrid, the Eiffel Tower, Vincent van Gogh, and more. 
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