Jon Reed Goes Off On... August 2007
Tuesday, August, 28 2007
The Word From Alpine - Our Brand is More Important Than Your Music
We know that corporations are obsessed with branding. Whenever they can send someone in an empty suit with an oversized check to get in front of a camera and shake the hand of someone who has just done something that has nothing to do with corporate business, they will. We know that the networks are slicing up every possible buying opportunity within sporting events, thereby making the event itself a constant stream of name brands.
And of course corporations seize every opportunity to do this kind of branding, sponsoring “calls to the bullpen” anytime a pitcher coughs up some runs, “safe at home” any time a runner scores, and every possible sponsorable event within an event - and this despite the fact that large companies have nothing whatsoever to do with the skills required for feats of individual athletic accomplishment. But that’s another rant already written. We now take the association for granted, but that doesn't mean it's not absurd. Wouldn't it make nice sociology to force athletes to compete living solely on the products that sponsor them? It would be great fun to watch fat athletes who live on McDonalds, Snickers and Vitamin Water compete. Call it the Red Bull Olympics.
Raising objections to this type of branding is probably futile given how few people are bothered enough to vote with their wallets and eyeballs. But I recently saw this branding project taken to a whole new level by Alpine.
I decided to cash in my penny jars and finally replace my broken down car stereo with a new Alpine iPod deck. It was a pretty stupid purchase financially, but I just couldn’t resist the ridiculous fun of being able to scroll through my iPod and rock out to my playlists while driving.
The deck has lived up to every expectation. But there’s one “hello from your corporate friends” glitch. On the deck’s large face plate, Alpine has ample room to show the artist, song, and album title for the track that is playing. However, for just about every song/album/artist, even those with short names, the titles are cut off halfway through. Why is that? Because Alpine only used half the screen to show the titles. And why is that? Because Alpine decided to use the entire other half of the screen to show me the fucking Alpine logo!
In this history of corporate branding, this may be the first time I can recall a product actually sacrificing important functionality to blow their own redundant horn. Ummm, guys - I already bought your product. Do I really need to be constantly reminded about Alpine’s massive presence in my life? In fact, there is room on the top of the face plate to run an Alpine logo, and I would have had no objection. Being able to read the song titles would have put me in a fine, tolerable mood.
Maybe my car passenger would enjoy staring at the Alpine logo or would enjoy it subliminally, though the last passenger in my car had to ask me the name of the song that was playing because they aren’t used to reading half-finished song titles. To take an awesome feature - showing me song titles, artists, and albums, and render it almost useless for the sake of a corporate logo - that’s downright apocalyptic. Whichever marketing “suit” gleeked on an otherwise beautiful product should have to wear a tie every day with my picture on it.
Now, full disclosure: there may be a possible way to get rid of the logo. I haven’t found it, but it’s possible deep in the guts of the system I can change that part of the display, maybe with the help of that teenage hacker that busted his iPhone loose from AT & T. I doubt it, but if I can remove the logo, I will update this entry.
Alpine seems to think it solved this space problem through a scrolling function that sometimes shows you the full song title by scrolling back and forth at some random, whimsical interval. But while you’re driving, you’re generally more concerned with the cell phone chatting driver swerving in front of you than you are with waiting for a song title to decide to scroll by. Scrolling is a fancy feature that would be completely irrelevant if not for the technical gymnastics needed to display a logo half as large as the entire display.
The logical conclusions of this type of branding intrusion are a fun-filled mix of corporate noise and public safety hazards. How about a Toyota logo across the front windshield of a car? Or an informative “your Internet connection is brought to you by Verizon, your broadband and entertainment company” banner across the computer screen of an air traffic controller?
Right now, the only line in the sand seems to be about that far. But as long as safety is off the table, anything is brandable. Still, I look forward to playing my car stereo for you. Did I tell you it was made by Alpine?