Archive for September, 2006

Segway

Wednesday, 20 September 2006; 13:20

It was to revolutionize personal travel and was launched with all the hype in the world. However, the Segway never quite made the segue from blueprint to mass adoption that was intended. Its cost has been cited as one factor. Another has been local transportation ordinances. Regardless, it never lived up to the hype.

That said, is the Segway still something you might want? The Distillery thinks so. Give it a little more time, hopefully some manufacturing economies of scale, and one day there may be one sitting in most garages. But until then, as is implicitly evidenced by the onsite video, the Segway is in dire need of buyers.

As for the Segway web site, it could use some consideration. The Distillery very much dislikes web sites that continually open new pages. The first three clicks at segway.com generated three open windows. (Do they think we use Segways to navigate web sites?) And, why is there a mini-site when there is only a single core product?

Then there are the helmets used by the site’s Segway demonstrators. The Segway was hyped (and is still) as being really cool, but those have to be some of the dorkiest helmets ever seen! Even the old Bell Biker from the 1970s looks better. It seems Segway does not comprehend that cool is only as cool as the dorkiest link. The only person wearing a helmet that equals the Segway’s cool-factor is the policeman.

The manufacturer might take a lesson learned some time ago by the bicycle industry. That is, consumers often see not just the product itself, but the whole package–even when the package exceeds the core product and is an additional expense. You will not see any bicycle manufacturers making the mistake of  combining their expensive wares with cheap-looking, inexpensive, and ugly helmets.

In fact, the Segway site clearly shows that both marketing and manufacturing are handled by the same parties. Why else would a beautiful 3-D tour of the product being entirely devoid of music or a voice-over? Silence seldom sells. It has an especially tough time selling a completely new product about which potential buyers want all the information they can get. There is also keeping the visitor as immersed in the product as desired and possible while at the web site. In summary, the Segway web site is a great piece of steak, but someone most certainly forgot that customers like hearing that steak sizzle on the grill.

Home page:  Segway

Segway logo graphicSegway photo graphic

FinalCall.com News (Minister Louis Farrakhan)

Tuesday, 19 September 2006; 14:12

I have never been entirely certain what to make of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. However, that is from a perspective of personal beliefs. What about from The Distillery’s perspective? There we find certainty.

FinalCall.com News and Minister Farrakhan clearly “get” the internet. The site is replete with multimedia content. Might this be a function of a superb orator understanding how to reach people? Quite possibly so. Of significant interest is finding Link TV, described as Television Without Borders and:

…an alternative to the narrow one-sided ‘Middle East’ reporting of CNN, FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR and others. Visit LinkTV for news from the Direct perspectives of Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Israel, etc.

The Distillery finds a virtual cornucopia of other rich media content. In fact, it finds an example of the very sort of rhetoric (September 11, 2001: Fact and fiction According to Loose Change Documentary) that gives pause to fully endorsing Minister Farrakhan, although he proclaims himself a scholar and vessel of truth. On the other hand, one finds a link to an unedited CBS 60 Minutes interview with Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Elsewhere throughout the site, numerous and diverse webcasts, interviews, and podcasts are found.

Whatever your ideological feelings about Minister Farrakhan and his mouthpiece, FinalCall.com News, you must agree both are instep with technology as a tool to reach (and preach to) the masses. Both make their messages more accessible than what we find from many Fortune 500 companies. Well done, Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.

Home page:  FinalCall.com News
Home page:  The Nation of Islam

H.M.L.Farrakhan meets Cuban leader, Fidel Castro

Eckerd Pharmacy

Tuesday, 19 September 2006; 11:45

Keeping a broken promise, The Distillery looks at Eckerd Pharmacy after reviewing Walgreens. However, there appears nothing whatsoever to compare. That is, not even one video still is to be found at Eckerd.com. Ergo, Walgreens wins by a knock-out. And, Eckerd enters the Hall of Shame.

The Distillery’s suggested Rx for Eckerd: Put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up.

Home page:  Eckerd Pharmacy

Eckerd sales newspaper insert graphic

Soapbox (MSN Video)

Tuesday, 19 September 2006; 10:59

A grown man dressed-up as a dancing mutant butterfly? That what we first see at Microsoft’s most recent “let’s play catch-up” attempt, Soapbox, and hoped-to-be slayer of the YouTube dragon. Maybe Microsoft should begin copying others’ advertising, too. Anything is better than a butterfly which cannot at all dance.

Now only in beta, you will need to add your name to the list of Soapbox wanna-be beta testers. Good luck–with it or any Microsoft beta-phase product. In case you’ve not noticed, Microsoft has once again eschewed long-established standards and has redefined “beta” to actually mean “alpha.” That takes all the fun out of beta testing, and much of the hard work involved with testing alpha releases outside of Redmond. Instead, Microsoft lets the guinea pigs–known as “customers” to firms that actually care about end users–suffer.

Home page:  Soapbox

Soapbox Sillyfly

And once again, Microsoft, I have not forgotten that one of your sales reps cheated me ten years ago. She promised an Office suite in exchange for a formal and personal introduction when you finally figured out the web wasn’t going away. I provided the introduction she needed, but Microsoft never kept its part of the bargain. Again Microsoft, you have to wonder why you rank at the bottom of corporations trusted by consumers? How more clueless can you be than not to see broken promises greatly influence such perceptions? (No, I don’t hate Microsoft. I only hate being cheated.)

Walgreens Pharmacy and Health Corner TV

Monday, 11 September 2006; 16:09

This one was a real surprise. The Distillery never expected to find a such a phenomenal online presence by Walgreens. In fact, there is so much that today you will be pointed to only Health Corner TV, apparently a joint venture between Walgreens and Lifetime Television for Women, and Animated Features, “more than 100 entertaining and informative animated features on topics ranging from allergy, blood pressure, and cosmetic surgery to blinking, Alzheimer’s disease, and the effect of tobacco use on arteries.”

The Distillery admits to having a perception of Walgreens as an old and stogy drug store chain. However, that baseless assumption appears to be totally inaccurate. In fact, and to paraphrase the retort of a well-known physicist after reading someone’s out-in-left-field paper, The Distillery wasn’t even wrong! That is, all expectations were completely off the map. Instead, Walgreens is found to be among the leaders as today’s marketing environment experiences a drastic overhaul. Tomorrow, let’s see how a competitor, Eckerd Pharmacy, stacks up.

Home page:  Walgreens
Home page:  Walgreens Health Corner TV
Home page:  Walgreens Animation Player
Home page:  Lifetime Television for Women
Walgreens weekly advertising insert graphic

Weichai Power Co., Ltd. (China)

Monday, 11 September 2006; 15:16

Were The Distillery xenophobic, China would be scaring the dickens out of it right now. There is no doubt that China is becoming a dominant player in the world’s markets–military, space exploration, political, economic, and otherwise. That assessment seems very evident when looking at Weichai Power, a manufacturer of diesel engines in China’s Shandong province. One finds an interesting mix of both Oriental and Occidental at its web site.

Although the voice-over is in Chinese, the firm uses images of famous Western scientists–Archimedes, Newton, and Einstein–in an online video promotion. The Distillery finds that interesting considering all of the inventions by the Chinese themselves. (To name only a few–the abacus, paper, Indian ink, gunpowder, and the compass.) Clearly, Weichai Power is looking beyond China’s national borders and out to the larger world market for buyers of its diesel engines. And quite frankly, given labor costs in China, Weichai Power’s engines may well be excellent engines at prices western firms will have difficulty matching.

Even more, it appears the Chinese government is using the firm and their close relationship to tout China’s every-increasing modernization. For example, have a look at this television ad which highlights China’s beautiful new passenger train (powered by Weichai diesel engines), wind farms, construction projects, and modern cities. And quite frankly, that is a bit scary. Is China not doing the same as Japan by closely partnering private enterprise with government? Will that provide China essentially the same advantages enjoyed by Japanese firms with their close government and national banking ties? The likely answer is yes.

Caterpillar, meet Weichai, your newest nemesis–or partner, if you’re smart.

Home page:  Weichai Power Co., Ltd.

Weichai Power logo graphic

Weichai executives diesel graphic

Second Chance Armor

Friday, 8 September 2006; 13:19

As a rule, I don’t think people brag about saving others’ lives. However, there are legitimate exceptions. Second Chance Armor, a manufacturer of bullet-proof vests and law enforcement equipment, is most definitely allowed an exception with Sgt. Ed Hinchey describing his ordeal and showing us the very bullet-proof vest that saved his life.

Home page:  Second Chance Armor

Second Chance Armor counter graphic

Second Chance Armor external assault shell graphic

Steve Irwin (1962-2006) & Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom

Monday, 4 September 2006; 12:15

Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Do not trouble it, don’t harass them, don’t deprive them of their happiness, don’t work against God’s intent.  ~Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

This posting is not about Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. The untimely death of Steve IrwinThe Crocodile Hunter, reminded me of his television predecessor, Marlin Perkins and his television program, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. No greater homage can be paid the The Crocodile Hunter than by including him in what must surely be the most exclusive of all Explorers’ Clubs. There can be little doubt that both Marlin Perkins and Jacques Yves Cousteau are waiting to greet Mr. Irwin at the club’s entrance and extend to him all rights and privileges thereof.  

Thank you for teaching us, Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter. Every living animal on this earth sheds tears for you this day, especially your beloved crocodiles. May your wife and children find a measure of peace in this time of great sorrow and loss.  

Home page:  Australia Zoo – Home of The Crocodile Hunter
Home page:  Cousteau Society
Home page:  Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom

steve_irwin_with_croc.jpg