Skip to main content

Brand and the markets tech can't touch

This is a rant about, well, about being a hick at heart. I grew up in the country (ish). My family still lives in small-town America; quiet streets, nothing taller than 4 stories, weird laws about alcohol. It's NASCAR country.

I say "NASCAR country" in a nice way as most people (read: anyone who lives on the West coast or on the Atlantic seaboard North of, say, Jersey) just don't get it. And, by get it, I mean of course that they a) haven't taken the time to think about it and b) mock it.

Take, for example (and the catalyst for this post) this continuously updated post on BoingBoing about NASCAR-branded [[insert product]]. They lead off with NASCAR-branded meats. Ok, even I thought it was a little weird, but I'll go with the whole "Grill during the race" thing. But, as the days roll on, the comments that are being tacked onto the post are along the lines of "look at what those silly hicks also buy! Isn't that cute!" You can almost taste the condescending attitude through your monitor (note, please don't lick your monitor).

But, as Darren Barefoot points out, fully 1/3 of North Americans doesn't use the Internet. Those people who are yucking it up over NASCAR branded items are also laughing themselves out of one of the fastest growing audiences in this hemisphere. Ignore for a moment the roots of NASCAR. The modern incarnation of NASCAR is a marketers wet-dream; a solid, rabid fan-base that chooses a heroic character (the driver/team) and buys a shit-ton of their merchandise. How many NASCAR-themed bumper stickers or hats have you seen this week? A dozen? Three dozen? More? You don't get that kind of brand loyalty and repeat business with computers.

The limit of technology branding (often) is who you can drag into your home/office/car to see what you bought. The Internet has obviously expanded that audience, but still misses the nearly 33% of the population not online. NASCAR gear goes everywhere. Hats, jackets, stickers, and shirts are all the traditional avenues that drive around town, go to dinner, show up on casual Friday. NASCAR has been able to extend their brand to places technology can never go. You will never see Apple-branded fruit (ironic as it would be). You will never see Yahoo! chainsaws. Technology branding is limited to what can be shown on television or to the technical elite, most of whom have decided about a product long before it ever officially gets marketed. What, you thought Engadget and Gizmodo and their ilk were enthusiast sites?

BoingBoing readers may think they're having a good laugh at us hick's expense, but they're missing the larger point. I may be taking it personally at a certain level, but I'm also able to step back and see the forest for the trees. NASCAR meat, which I'll grant leaves an odd first impression, isn't idiotic, it's brilliant. Missing the point on that is truly backwards thinking if I ever saw it. Yah here?

Sidenote: For humorous commentary to many BoingBoing related posts, see


Popular posts from this blog

Happy Retirement Pat Sweeny!

In a previous life, I was an active member of the West Michigan Shores Chapter of the STC. I met a lot of really cool people there and learned a lot about what it meant to be not just a technical writer, but more about how technical writers can break out of the mold and accomplish things.

One of the people who did that was Pat Sweeny. Pat is (or was, by this point) the President and owner of The Bishop Company, a contract do-it-all house; they document, streamline and illustrate your process, and they do it damn well. Pat was one of the first people in that chapter to "get it", which is to say, he and his company understand that technical writing isn't going to be a department for very much longer, it's going to be a business.

He had the foresight to actually make it a business, but he also had something else. Pat was forever trying to better those around him. He would come to meetings (which was a big step beyond most people) and teach you things. Or he would come to …

Google Inbox: A classic Google product

My work domain (an EDU) recently had Google Inbox enabled so I had a good chance to try it out. My personal email is relatively quiet and, I believe, doesn't provide a good Inbox experience. Work is more active and requires actual management, something I've tossed many a tool at over the years. As part of my work life, I supported the Google Apps for EDU installation here and took a pretty extensive presentation to campus about how to manage large amounts of email.

Inbox is a classic Google product: the distillation of a number of excellent ideas into a set of half-complete features built for a use case most people don't meet. We've seen this in the past in products like ChromeVox, Google's Chrome extension for accessibility. ChromeVox works great on ChromeOS devices, but completely ignores the point that most users of accessibility tech (AT) don't have or want ChromeOS devices and come to services with their AT in tow. ChromeVox also ignores decades of convent…


Evernote, for better or worse, is the best note-taking service for my needs. It works across all my devices/computers/modes. It's fairly easy to get stuff into it. Hell, they even have 2-Factor authentication. The Windows app is a little clunky and my girlfriend and I have never been able to get shared notes to work properly (conflicted note! three times in the same grocery trip!), but what service is perfect? At least they have nice socks.

Everything, in fact, is pretty good as long as you don't screw up. And screw up I did. I'm not very regular about making backups, but I do make them every month or so. Once you figure out how to create a backup, that is.

There's a helpful Export Note option (which turns into Export Notes when you select multiple notes HINT). The export process is essentially opening All Notes, selecting every note, and then choosing Export Notes. Or something like that; Evernote never tells you, you're left to figure it out on your own. The file…