The little book of culturally insensitive brands

I remember reading lots of articles and anecdotes about companies making mistakes in launching, marketing and naming products or services and was reminded of a little book we had going around in JWT ages ago on getting Chinese translations right. It had this bit of wisdom in it:

One day I’d like to do something like the little book of culturally insensitive brands. I’ve been collecting lots of stories from across the ages and it still shocks me how in this day and age people with a narrow lens on the world allow these mistakes to happen.

Maybe one day.

Instant ethnography, just press button

Russell made a really good point in his Campaign column a couple of weeks ago. Just posting it here so that more people see it and it doesn’t get lost:

Planners and researchers, always looking for new insights into the same old markets, seized on ethnography as a tool a few years ago and delivered quite a few useful and revelatory insights. Quickly, though, it became clear that actual ethnography was slow and expensive. Not a problem for us, of course – we just invented a whole new version of ethnography unencumbered by conventional protocols or rigour.

So now there are two schools of ethnography – one means spending a long time getting to understand a particular community in depth, the other involves visiting someone in Reading and photographing their fridge.

We’ve turned ethnography from a social science to a commercial tool. That’s not valueless, not at all, but it short-changes practitioners of both schools to pretend they’re the same thing.

Taking a shortcut is no way of getting ahead in the advertising business

You don’t get a Nobel prize for doing what you’re told

Wired: Please tell me you have an answer.
Joi Ito: There are nine or so principles to work in a world like this:


  1. Resilience instead of strength, which means you want to yield and allow failure and you bounce back instead of trying to resist failure.
  2. You pull instead of push. That means you pull the resources from the network as you need them, as opposed to centrally stocking them and controlling them.
  3. You want to take risk instead of focusing on safety.
  4. You want to focus on the system instead of objects.
  5. You want to have good compasses not maps.
  6. You want to work on practice instead of theory. Because sometimes you don’t why it works, but what is important is that it is working, not that you have some theory around it.
  7. It[’s] disobedience instead of compliance. You don’t get a Nobel Prize for doing what you are told. Too much of school is about obedience, we should really be celebrating disobedience.
  8. It’s the crowd instead of experts.
  9. It’s a focus on learning instead of education.
  10. We’re still working on it, but that is where our thinking is headed.

Resiliency, Risk, and a Good Compass: Tools for the Coming Chaos | Wired Business |