Archive for Culture Briefings
March 14th, 2013 • Culture Briefings
One of those posts where words, fortunately, are not required to make a point. Just these videos. That said, this is a conversation that is bound to get bigger. I’ve been reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I’m aware of the criticism surrounding it but it’s not worth anyone’s time to sit and critique a book obviously written with good intentions in mind. I’ve decided to take what’s meaningful and relevant to me from the book and apply it or at least try to apply it in my life at work and at home. Parts that are not relevant, well, I’m not going to be bothered about them.
Another line of thinking that I’m exploring is John Gerzema’s The Athena Doctrine – How women (and the men who think like them) will rule the world. John is my dear friend’s mentor and from what I’ve heard and read of the book, an advocate of more women leaders. He conducted a several years long study across several countries to understand and decode how people perceive masculine and feminine traits. The results are not that surprising. Words like arrogant, aggressive, independent etc are considered masculine traits worldwide. Words like gentle, reasonable, free-spirited, collaborative, caring are considered to be feminine traits worldwide. His thesis posits that the world needs more feminine traits in top leadership positions and the book talks about how to develop those traits. I haven’t read the entire book yet but I think I like where it is headed already.
Plus read this: What’s so boy about a boy who wants to wear a dress
On to the videos now. Just watch them one after one.
Props to Hasbor for listening to the little girl’s petition. They are unveiling a blue and silver easy bake oven for boys.
February 20th, 2013 • Culture Briefings
I found inspiration in the unlikeliest of places and it reminded me that we are surrounded by beauty all around us. “Intimacy Under the Wires”, a project by New York based freelance travel photographer called Sivan Askayo depicts a series of homes with their laundry dripping dry on their windows or makeshift wires. Shot across Tel Aviv, Madrid, Barcelona, Florence, Venice – this mundane act of drying clothes took me back to my childhood. In my travels around the world, I’ve come to appreciate behaviors that are similar to those that I grew up with and on some level, I’m still astounded (and feel slightly not entirely at home here) that this practice doesn’t exist in USA. Probably the weather. And our access to technology. Anyways, Askayo’s series of photographs touched a chord. And taught me something about myself. That I’m drawn to observations and art that tells stories around everyday life.
Artist Brenden O’Connell’s Wal-mart series was another project that inspired me. I recently read a profile on him in the New Yorker. The interview traces his journey as the artist who came to find his muse in America’s consumerism. His most popular series of work shows people shopping at Wal-marts. Or rows upon rows of Cheetos or Utz or other Wonderbread in its colorful glory. In the article, he says, “Trying to find beauty in the least-likely environment is kind of a spiritual practice.” I loved this description because I share a kindred love and curiosity of the great supermarkets of our time. The supermarket, the least sexiest place in all of America, but probably the most visited. That speaks volumes to me.
Enjoy some snippets of his work below. Also pay homage to French author Michel De Certeau, whose book title I borrowed to title this post.
December 29th, 2012 • Culture Briefings
My current obsession has been centered around mythology and its contribution to everyday language and words. This delightful article from NYT on the origin of the phrase “the whole nine yards” caught my fancy. Here’s a fun excerpt from the article:
The recent discovery of several instances of “the whole six yards” in newspapers from the 1910s — four decades before the earliest known references to “the whole nine yards” — opens a new window onto “the most prominent etymological riddle of our time,” said Fred Shapiro, a librarian at Yale Law School who announced the findings in next month’s issue of The Yale Alumni Magazine…..Like the Holy Grail “the whole nine yards” has inspired both armchair mythologizing and years of hard and often fruitless searching through random books and miles of newspaper microfilm. Not that the expression is necessarily all that old. The first scholarly dating, in a 1986 supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, traced it to 1970. The Historical Dictionary of American Slang then pushed it back to 1967, with a citation from “The Doom Pussy,” Elaine Shepard’s novel about Air Force pilots in the Vietnam War.
June 11th, 2012 • Culture Briefings
As a Digital Strategist, I’ve been in plenty of brainstorms and meetings where we talk about how we can co-opt popular digital behaviors and mechanics (check-in, badges etc) introduced by start-ups and digital companies. The cross-pollination of ideas and best practices is exciting and I specifically want to share five things start-ups can teach brands, each other and learn from brands.
Positioning: Couch the offering in familiar frameworks
Building on behaviors: Users find it easier to glom on to existing behaviors (badges, points, etc). If you are building a new digital campaign or creating a new product, think about your audience’s existing behaviors and start from there instead of trying to introduce new habits, and concepts. Both start-ups and brands anchor their products in existing behaviors to help explain what they do.
- Kickstarter and donorschoose.org have made everyone an “investor”
- Weightwatchers turned the idea of losing weight into a game.
- Gilt took an offline sample sale and introduced the flash-sale concept
- Foursquare introduced the notion of checking-in.
- Learnvest has very cleverly used the gym-membership model to create a paid model for its offering
- American Express and Kate Spade are organizing their own flash sales.
The 10-word pitch
If you can’t describe the campaign or your product in ten words or less, go back to the drawing board. What’s your product/ app/ idea’s 5 word pitch? Examples:
- Kickstarter = “A new way to fund and follow creativity.”
- Skillshare = “Learn Anything. From Anyone. Anywhere.”
- Dailyworth = “A community of women who talk money”
- Tumblr = “Follow the world’s creators”
- Weduary = “Make your own beautiful and social wedding website”
Baked-In Marketing: Start-up’s almost always do not hire marketing folks. They let their product do the marketing.
Activating users to bring in new users: Most successful start-ups bake in audience acquisition levers into their product so that the product self-sustains itself and continues to bring in new customers on its own. How is your product bringing in new customers?
- Everlane has the BEST acquisition levers I’ve ever seen. Most sample sale sites (Gilt, Rue La La, Ideeli etc) started off by offering monetary incentives – $10 for each friend invited and purchased to lure users to bring in more users. Everlane one-ups the system by creating tiers. 5-invited friend gets the user a discount. 10 friends bring the user a free luxe t-shirt, 50 friends – free shipping for life. This is the only site I’ve ever really invited my friends to. What is your strategy to activating your users into inviting more users?
One-step sign-up processes – again, this is something I’m watching most start-up’s get right from the beginning. Check our Tumblr or even Skillshare for how easy to make sign-up. In fact, Skillshare lets you explore the site’s offering and only requires sign-up’s when you want to follow a class or sign up for a class. Is your marketing campaign simple to participate in?
High Value Content
Creating Engagement: What’s the best piece of content that you can create that will make people want to use and become a part of your product experience? Examples:
- Skillshare made this awesome “The Future is for the Curious video” that became the talk of the town. Even folks that didn’t know about the company before learned about it through this inspirational video.
- The Dollar Shave Club promo video is so clever (and funny) that they earned 20K+ fans in a matter of weeks! See it here: http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2012/03/06/dollar-shave-clubs-video-a-cut-above
Demo/ How to use the product videos/ guides: This simple piece of content is the most overlooked and under-estimated. Demo videos or straightforward and simple keys on how to use the product are crucial in establishing trust, forming habit and encouraging new audiences to give the new product/ site a spin.
- Weduary does a good job of laying out three-easy steps of using their product http://weduary.com/
- Tumblr has a super fun and intuitive guide on how to use Tumblr/ why Tumblr http://www.tumblr.com/why-tumblr
This one is a hard one to explain and show examples for. It is more of a process than a visible, tangible principle but I assure you, every successful start-up is successful because they have nailed this. This principle asks a start-up to consider, what is the single-most important feature without which this product will not be this product? And that’s feature becomes the immediate priority. Once this is nailed, the communications, messaging and branding for the product becomes simple and straightforward.
This is also the most important principle for a brand to understand. A digital campaign cannot and will not hit all your metrics. One campaign will not drive awareness, trial and then purchase. Those are all different mind-sets and it is unfair to expect one story, one mechanic to achieve all three. Bring in the MVP. In my strategy sessions, this is the one tool I keep bringing in again and again. What is the immediate challenge/ problem we want to solve? If so, these are the type of mechanics that will most likely work and hence, this is the type of digital campaign that should be considered.
(Start-ups apply the minimum-value-product filter which is a prioritization tool to help them triangulate what is the one thing that the product must do/ be)
For a lot of start-ups, the world needs to be impressed before the users/ customers are impressed. So the right type of press and “buzz” is essential. Trippy.com built an all-star advisory board (Randi Zuckerberg, Soraya Darabi etc) because these advisors are avid travelers. By getting them to use their site, they’ve tapped into their networks for free! (Plus made them feel important by giving them the epithet of advisers) Who are the influencers in the your sector and what is your plan for attracting them in a manner that makes sense to them and to your brand?
In hiring community managers, brands must put in the same level of rigor and monetary investment that they put for other jobs. A community manager is the most important hire a start-up will make. This person makes in-roads into the community, and their presence brings serendipitous opportunities to the brand.
- Ridejoy has the best community manager-hiring story. Qualities you look for in a community manager: http://blog.ridejoy.com/how-to-woo-a-startup-the-best-resume-ever/
I personally love it when start-ups share their impact/ results. Not quite applicable to every start-up or brand but I’m a huge fan of Fab, Kickstarter and CharityWater and how they share their learning’s and metrics publicly. I think it’s a brilliant way of creating and sustaining interest in the company. (Esp when they use beautiful info-graphics)
April 16th, 2012 • Culture Briefings
Keeping this brief because there is nothing I can say that you haven’t heard or read before.
As one of the six industry nominators for TED Ads Worth Spreading 2012 Initiative, I was honored to represent both my industry and JWT at TEDActive in Palm Springs this March. The kind folks at TED also made a dream come true for me by whisking me off to the main TED conference in Long Beach for a few days. Raghava and I started our first day by interviewing briefly for a short video about our experience as nominators for TED Ads Worth Spreading. The one thing I learned from this experience is that fantastic work transcends boundaries, categories and even context. Both Raghava and I are from different worlds and while we had our share of debate over which ads to nominate, we seemed to both unanimously agree when we found an incredible one. You can see the top ten ads that won here. (Congratulations to my fellow nominators and the winners – what an amazing experience to be a part of!)
About TED, there is not much else to say other than what you already know. I was lucky to have attended both TED and TEDActive. As with every conference, these attracted a bunch of people that were mostly only interested in selling themselves or something they made. And what a turn off that is! But for the most part, I met people that were interested in ideas and debate and had a genuine interest and desire to belong to the community. TEDActive, in particular, seemed to attract a beautiful like-minded community of thinkers, doers and game-changers.
Among the TED Talks, the ones that spoke most to be where Susan Cain’s “The power of Introverts,” Dr. Brown’s talk on “Vulnerability,” Chip Kidd’s talk on “Creating visual haiku’s for stories“, Sherry Turkle’s 18 mins on our culture of sharing and Billy Collin’s beautiful beautiful talk on poetry.
What was more important to me than listening to and absorbing all this knowledge was finding time to process and understand it. Think about what I was learning and how I could apply it. I tried to pay attention and be fully present at the conference so I wasn’t tweeting or blogging much. TED can be an inspiration overload and most of the attendees had figured out a schedule that worked for them. So between watching the talks and talking to each other to develop the ideas further, I’d say it was a week full of intense intellectual masturbation.
The last decade or so were the august years of the Digital web. A sort of industrial revolution that created entirely new types of economies, skill-sets, companies and most importantly behaviors. Led by programmers and tinkerers and computer scientists, this industrial age has been crucial in helping us write our generational history. One of the biggest outputs though of this age has been the birth of a culture were our need for visibility has overtaken our need for privacy. What this has done is created a digital world that is not designed for developing original thought.
There’s nothing wrong with that and ofcourse the onus does not lie on the web. But I believe that anything in excess hurts the society. And all this talk about connectivity has left a few other equally important values for humanity at bay. It’s time to address this excess.
The good news is that a new slew of characters have emerge to balance out the equation. I believe, we are on the fringes of entering a new wave. I’m calling it the age of enlightenment in our digital history. And this age is being lead by a new class of people. These are thinkers, artists and storytellers not programmers and geeks. These are people driven by a vision that’s a bit more individualistic, centers more around exploring the tapestry of human opinions and feelings instead of connecting the world into one large immutable being.
Sharing has become a thoughtless act: Sharing used to carry weight – it used to be hold more meaning. Now, it’s passive, robot-like. And does not persuade or evoke response. Yet brands and marketers continue to tout the one-to-many function that social networks (and the Internet) has enabled. The web systems we have designed unfortunately haven’t focused on curating for the self but for the echo chamber that each of us is a part of. Some may argue we have become mindless drones, quick to react and retweet, but not *think*
I refuse to buy that a meaningful conversation can happen on channels we currently use: Facebook and Twitter predominantly. Even sites such as Pinterest and Tumblr who I’m a huge fan of, often symbolize nothing more than “inspiration fetishism” (a word coined by Stefan Boublil) What this has resulted into is a culture of people that backslap each other, think like one another and as a result, even act like one another. (I cannot tell you how many times I have heard about checking-in and scoreboards in a boardroom for new products. Which brings me to my next point..)
Value exchange is quantified in terms of likes, friends and followers: Web has become too much of a game. With gamifying the web and making instant gratification an expectation, we are setting ourselves up for failure. I’ll give that the conversations around gaming are evolving and becoming more substantial but we have been trained to respond to flash sales, group buying and other forms of commercial game-induced behaviors. Gaming will have a larger role to play in the age of enlightenment, but perhaps not so overt. It’s job will and should become about elevating the meaning and importance associated with a like, number of friends and followers etc.
As our social quotient goes up, our intellectual quotient is coming down: The web is not going to disappear – if anything, it will continue to become more important in the next few years and become the entity that our kids will play with and even learn from. But if the growth of the web continues to perpetuate in such a manner – what kind of original thought will our kids will capable of producing?
The web, if designed and engineered differently, has incredible power to induce substance back into our lives. To teach us how to think and encourage behaviors that aren’t simply reactive or celebratory. Our natural instincts are to shut technology or cut ourselves from it for a few days, to take a sabbatical or a thinking break. But why does it have to be this way? Why aren’t we or why haven’t we discussed the possibility of desgining technology and the Internet to make us smarter? Why don’t we make systems that:
1. Are designed for constructive debate and dialogue by exposing us to different points of views
2. Are designed for quality – not quantity. Where there is less immediate gratification.
In our capacity as marketers and brand stewards, our work is also indirectly shaping the future of education, humanity and intellectual thought. What roles can we play to encourage the evolution of the Web in a direction that’s not stunting our growth, but making us smarter individuals everyday?
The good news is, that I’ve already been seeing whispers of a movement in this direction. As I mentioned earlier, artists and thinkers are the one’s the forefront of this movement right now. Raghava KK, my fellow TED nominator and artist, has recently announced the launch of Shaken Media Collective.
Shaken Media Collective is an initiative brought about by the talents of creative individuals dedicated to forging a new direction of storytelling that raises empathy in readers by shaking up perspectives, and bringing stories to life through a fusion of play, art and technology.
You can see a glimpse of what this means (and its current incarnation) by downloading Raghava’s perspective-shifting PopIT application for the iPad where one shake of the story reveals a completely new perspective.
Another such attempt to bring more substance to the web and to our behaviors on the web is Cowbird. I’ve been lucky enough to be one of the early storytellers on the site. Cowbird, like most of other Jonathan Harris projects furthers how technology can offer new ways of looking at the world, and telling stories. A tightly controlled and curated environment, Cowbird, is (in its own words)
trying to preserve and evolve the dying art of storytelling, using technology as friend instead of foe. We believe all people deserve equal access to the best storytelling tools, so the communication of ideas cannot be monopolized. We support the broad empowerment of individuals to voice their honest ideas about life, and we believe they deserve a clean, ad-free, uncluttered environment for sharing personal experience.By encouraging self-reflection and deeper connection, we hope to foster a feeling of empathy among people all over the world, so we can start to see our species — and indeed our planet — as a single living organism.
Regarding it’s whimsical name, it says, “Cowbird combines these two extremes to form a new kind of storytelling medium — mixing the slow, deeply rooted, contemplative idea of a cow with the fast, efficient, playful idea of a bird.”
I don’t know how successful these two initiatives will be, but we’ve entered the age of enlightenment and as the collective consciousness around this grows, more entrepreneurs, artists and thinkers will veer in this direction and build upon each other’s work to create a digital world that balanced. A world that can teach us to think as well as it as taught us to respond. Marketers as a rule respond to the current zeitgeist, and once we create a new habits and behaviors, marketers too, will play their part in accentuating and intensifying them.
This is my sincere hope for the coming year and I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this.
My mom left for India this Sunday after a two-month long visit. When I tell my American friends this, they give me a look of surprise. Followed by one of awe. And then I go on to explain how it works differently with Indians. And my family. I tell them that if I was still in India and unmarried, I’d be living with my parents. And that if I moved back and lived in the same city as my in-laws, we would live together. This concept is so foreign to most Americans. They only see the width and breadth of my studio and think how can three people live in this space. They think about my social calendar and work obligations and wonder how I would entertain my Mother for so long. I don’t blame them. It’s a cultural thing.
Seldom does advertising move me the way this ad has. In fact, by the time the ad was over, I was weeping. Remembering all the times I have stood at the airport saying bye or leaving. In fact, I don’t even consider this advertising. This project aligns well with Coca-Cola’s Happiness Project and its brand idea, but I think it is every single brand’s responsibility to empower people. To celebrate them and bring them joy.
Big, big brownie points to Coca-Cola and McCann Manilla for looking beneath the underbelly of a nation and bringing it to the forefront.
As I sit to write this post, I am reminded of all the things in-between that I have missed sharing and writing about. It’s out in the news that I’ve been (humbled, honored, excited, insert more adjectives here!) invited to be one of the twelve nominators for TED Ads Worth Spreading Initiative. The category I’ve been assigned is “Creative Wonder.” And who better to be partnered with than Raghava K.K, former TED Speaker and artist-extraordinaire!
Let me back up a bit though. This is a big deal for me. I also understand that things like this usually beget the question, how did this happen. I’ve been asked this numerous times. The answer is surprisingly short.
I attended WPP Stream in Athens, Greece earlier this September where I hosted a discussion on “The Future of Publishing”. Toward the end of this discussion, Ronda Carnegie of TED and I ended up having an incredibly thought provoking conversation about the role of curation and point-of-view. And this is where our collaboration really began. I will confess that until she mentioned it to me, I hadn’t known of or seen the TED Ads Worth Spreading initiative. So you can imagine how humbled (but excited) I was when she invited me to participate in this initiative.
The thing is, I don’t have a traditional advertising background. I’m still figuring out how I can be useful in an ad agency. I started my career as a journalist at InStyle magazine and found my way into marketing through trend-spotting work that I was doing for PSFK and a bunch of other sites. Point is, JWT is my first “proper” advertising job and I’m not yet jaded or bored with it. In fact, I’ve only just begun.
TED is a powerful platform. I’ve had several people tell me that they don’t understand this initiative from TED. Why ads, they ask me. The way I look at it, advertising is one of the most easily accessible (and mainstream) forms of creativity and art. You have to understand – I grew up in India and we have a rich tradition and a healthy appetite and love for advertising. (I’m known to joke even today that American advertising is boring and lacks imagination when compared to Indian advertising.) Dinner-time conversations with family and friends often involved remarking on the brilliance of a particular advertisement. Even as an expat in New York, my friends and I tend to spend hours youtubing old ads, fabricating our own nostalgia.
Subliminally and overtly, advertising has been my first introductions to story-telling, to creativity and to capitalism. And I believe there is enough room in the industry for someone such as TED to come in with its own point of view on advertising and shape the dialogue further.
For TED, our one true mandate is to discover ads worth spreading that fall under the “Creative Wonder” category – which means we are looking for global work that elevates the craft of creativity in advertising through ingenious use of technology, music, cinematic treatment or even information.
From the moment we were briefed, Raghava and I felt strongly that it was essential for us to open up our process and not remain limited to our own networks or point-of-views in discovering creative work that is meant to speak for and represent our category globally. We believe that creativity doesn’t happen behind closed doors or without collaboration. Even advertisements need an army to make them! Hence, we have decided to democratize our search.
http://www.tedawscreativewonder.com is our humble effort at ensuring that not only is the process of discovering these advertisements transparent and democratic but also a story onto itself.
We’ve invited a diverse group of artists, creative’s and thinkers to the project. Each of them brings a unique POV and their backgrounds, interests and experiences apply a different lens to this, which is crucial for this project. (We’ve already come across incredible ads that I wouldn’t have found on my own!) You can see our growing collection of nominations on our Pinterest board.
Our goal is to emerge not only with unique, global pieces of creative but also an amazing story of the works, how we found them and why we recommended them. Through the conversation and dialogue generated, we hope to elevate our and our community’s outlook on advertising and creativity.
I realize this was a rather long post – but would LOVE your insights and opinions. This is an experiment at crafting a point of view on creativity in advertising and the more people involved, the more enlightened our point of view will be. So drop me a note, yeah?
September 26th, 2011 • Culture Briefings
I’ve never participated in an Ignite talk before. So as a challenge to myself, I decided to participate in Ignite at Stream and spent the next few weeks agonizing over what I would talk about. Ignite is a very compelling (and a little intimidating) talk format. You are allowed 15 slides and 4 minutes. Your slide changes automatically every 15 seconds so it’s very important to time your talk.
Stream 2011 is WPP’s three-day un-conference that brings together brilliant minds in marketing and technology from all over the world to discuss new trends, behaviors and ideas. (Not that I consider myself anywhere close to the league of people that were present!)
The real challenge for me was to find something unique to talk about that the crowds would find interesting. As a storyteller, I’m mildly obsessed with metaphors and so I decided to package everything I knew about metaphors in 4 short minutes and present it. Enjoy!!
By 18th century is characterized and defined by clockwork metaphors and mechanistic philosophy. The figure of a clock is commonplace in the period – and the regularity with which it is used to metaphorize the mind. Descartes treatise on man compares our inner-workings (memories, passion and imagination) to that of a clock – mechanical and pre-ordained. Alexandar Pope pictured a clock-work soul in his Essay on man.
Over time though the thoughts and ideas evolved and now clock remains an expression of an authoritative mind. more closely associated with men. As keepers of time and order. A gentleman’s signature. Time-pieces that are passed down as legacy. That was an example of how an invention became a cultural metaphor.
For example, “Show someone the ropes’ is taken from the use of ropes to orient and adjust the sails. With flying colors comes from the time when a ship would surrender by lowering the colors (national flag) the term is now used to indicate a victory. But the word I was most taken aback by was, “taken aback!” It describes what happens when wind veers 180 degrees on square-rigged ships; and the ships are suddenly driven straight backwards.
And my favorite, “Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey” referred to a brass tray on which canon balls were stored. The jury is still out on this one and the internet keeps disagreeing – but sailors still use it so it goes.
Another metaphorical devices that we use when we argue comes from “war.” When we argue, we are often “attacking “ our opponents weaknesses to “win” an argument. In some cases, our arguments are “shot down” and we are “wiped out” by our opponent, especially if they are right “on target”. The concept, the activity and the language is structured as a war metaphor.
The biggest invention of our time that has transformed thoguhts and actions has been the internet. But its true impact and the metaphors it has birthed won’t be evident until generations after. I’ve already followed some of you here and by the time we are done, I will have friended some of you. Some of words have found new meaning in our everyday parlanceand made it to Webster. As close to an official seal of approval that we can get but it remains to be seen the kind of impact these inventions and actions will have on the next hundred generations.
As a little exercise, try to pay attention to the words you use in everyday language and business and see if you can decipher which ones are metaphors and where they come from.
June 30th, 2011 • Culture Briefings
Although I use consume none of their products, Coca-Cola is by far one of my favorite brands in the world. Even before it defined its strategy, story-telling has been at the core of their communication efforts and I feel like I’ve grown with its narrative. I recently came across this fantastic presentation by Wendy Clark, Head of Integrated Marketing at Coca-Cola that talks about their 2020 vision. I found myself nodding vigorously to every point she was making and it’s so simple and so good that I wanted to capture some of those points here.
- As a brand, we refuse the shiny object syndrome. We have too many successes and learnings internally to abandon before we go after a new idea.
- There are equal number of television sets as there are computers; and both are eclipsed by the number of mobile phones. In fact, the Economist wrote: A baby is born every 4 seconds; but 15 mobile phones are sold in those 4 seconds. Brands that don’t know how to tell stories on the phone will be left behind. (Another cool fact: Qatar has 212% mobile penetration)
- Strategy to achieving Coca-Cola’s 2020 vision (of doubling their business) is “Liquid and Linked.” Liquid because Coca-Cola’s communication must travel the furthest and “Linked” because it has to stay true to the brand strategy.
- Marketing model: Paid, Earned, Owned & Shared. Shared is a key piece of this model and how Coca-Cola is activating its consumer engagement.
- Paid as at the crux of what Coca-Cola does and it varies dramatically country to country. 80% of Coca-Cola’s target audience watches TV so ofcourse, their dollars are going to go there.
- With Shared, it is important that it is integrated. It is important to partner with the right kinds of distribution partners to ensure that the story does not fall apart.
- The mandate with owned is to activate it. Everything communicates: so as marketers it is important that we leverage everything from our cans and bottles to our equipment to our transportation. It is all hard working media for us. We constantly ask ourselves, how can we make these more interactive? And the power of design is critical when we think about owned media. Everything that is static now will become dynamic and contextually relevant. At any point in the continuum of connections, we will be able to share our story. Our global fleet is twice as large as that of Fedex and UPS combined. We are the fourth largest employee in the world. We need to ensure all these assets are working for us and we need to use them to drive our competitive advantage.
- Our approach with Earned is to Engage it. Our model for that is “Distributed Creativity.” Impressions will always be the backbone of how we measure it but they offer no level of engagement. So the way we are measuring impact is via Expressions – instead of impressions. Expressions is your engagement with my brand: like, share, comment, etc.. Consumers are driving the conversation by creating content. Share is more important to me, than like – That’s why we drive the expressions on our brand.
- What’s a fan worth? We’ve done our own research. Fans vs. non-fans – fans have two times the consumption frequency of a non-fan and have ten times the purchase intent of a non-fan. When we activated the fan page, we did a pre-and post against then. Even with our fans, our most loyal consumers – we drove a 7% increase in active consumption and 10% increase in purchase intent. (Marked differences in Columbia and Great Britian – but gives you an idea)
- Mandate on content for us is to tell powerful stories. We cannot afford to put out mediocre content. Stories ahve to be powerful, liquid and linked. We think about storytelling at Coca Cola from end to end. Simple text based programs for the global mobile audience.
- As marketers we have to meet our consumers at their truth and work them towards ours. You have to co-create, participate and honor the community. When we do, our community fans pay us back.
Summing it up, Liquid and Linked landscape means: innovate paid, activate owned, integrated shared and engage earned through storytelling content.
Yesterday, thanks to a dear friend, I had the privilege of witnessing a Crew Premiere for the multi-million dollar film, Rio. I watched the film mesmerized, completely drawn into the narrative. As a storyteller myself and someone that’s working on a middle-school fantasy fiction novel (is that a genre!?), I learned a lot from how Rio was made. Here are some of the elements or in an author’s word, “tensions” that made the story so gripping:
Brazil vs. Minnesota: Brazil, is without a doubt a character in the film. The juxtaposition of Brazil with Minnesota made it even more alluring and alive. The music, the colors, the accents, the favelas, the Carnival – one might say that the movie has taken every possible Rio sterotype and jammed it into the movie. But the exotic works.
Birds vs. Humans: I thought it was clever that the movie had two parallel story lines. Two sets of hero-heroines and villains. As Blu falls in love with Jewel, Linda falls for Tulio and the changes in all the characters are quite heart-warming.
Rare bird with a psychological disability: The plot itself created a lot of tension in the film: Blu is the last male blue mackaw of its kind. And he cannot fly. You know there’s going to be an interesting twist when you give the central character such strong strengths and weaknesses.
Coterie of colorful “bird” characters: One aspect the film lacked was a sidekick. I think the movie had a great cast of supporting characters but it would have been nice if they were consistent throughout to build a strong story arc. A lot of new characters were introduced and I kept wondering which one of them is important/ key. Turns out, all of them were and none of them were. If you know what I mean. (There’s Louis the dog, the woodpecker, the tweety-like bird, and the fat cockatoo – and then there’s the monkeys.)
All in all, I think I might have learned a lot more about how to craft a strong story from this movie than I have from traditional fiction writing books. As a marketer, perhaps I should also mention how clever the Rio + Angry Birds promotion is!
Recently, I’ve become more attuned to the finer uses of story-telling in a brand experience, namely, in the brand name. I’ve been thinking about how difficult it is for social enterprises and even non-profits to differentiate themselves and create a strong perception in the minds of their audiences. Social enterprises tend to have more inspirational names or even non-descript names that require some explanation. I understand the motivation behind it, but wonder if it’s in the best interest for the organization?
Is it more important for a social enterprise brand name to communicate its aspiration or its story?
I am not a naming expert and have never before named a brand, but personally I’ve been drawn to companies with names that encapsulate a story in itself. It lures me into discovering more about the enterprise, their background and eventually converting me into either a donor or at the very least a supporter and a very vocal proponent of the brand. Here is what I mean:
Falling Whistles: My first introduction to this charity was via a brief flip-book that told the story of four boy soldiers in Congo that were forced on the front-lines and were asked blow whistles to warn the rebel leaders of oncoming gunfire. The story is also told online using stunning imagery and eloquent text. Falling Whistles, an unseemly phrase, took on a different meaning in my mind and has stuck since. Not only does this brand make an excellent use of story-telling to explain the mission and campaign, but they’ve incorporate “story” throughout the brand experience: from the name of their campaign to the tools used to communicate their mission and the ask. I’m a fan.
Flying Kites: Similarly, this little NPF started by two twenty-somethings in USA, runs an orphanage in Kenya. At a recent StartingBloc event, I met a woman who has been volunteering at the organization for over a year and the passion in her voice and the stories she told was infectious. Flying Kites is a beautiful metaphor for how the organization see’s the future of the children whose lives they are trying to improve. Everytime I narrate this story, it’s not about a “friend that runs an orphanage in Kenya,” it’s about, “Flying Kites.” That’s powerful naming right there.
There’s also TOMS Shoes, Invisible Children, Pencils of Promise etc etc. Every organization is unique in its own right but
with so many diverse organizations focused on micro-causes and competing essentially for the same pool of money, it is SO important to establish brand recall. I think, a compelling story helps but an evocative name seals the deal.
Just my two cents.
Learning never stops and here are three reasons why not.
One of my favorite sites is Open Culture – a high quality cultural and educational blog for folks like us, where the learning does not stop at school or at the job. Run by Dan Colman, (Director and Associate Dean of Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program) Open Culture curates audio books, online courses, movies, language lessons, ebooks and much, much more. There is also an iPhone application.
SCHOOL OF LIFE
The School of Life is actually a very unique store/ shop in London that sells a highly curated batch of books. What’s interesting about this shop is that the books are not listed by category, but by problem and each problem has no more than six books as a potential solution. (How to enjoy your own company; etc) The School of Life also offers a bunch of other content in form of events and salons that are about “how to live wisely and well.” In their own words, ” We address such questions as why work is often unfulfilling, why relationships can be so challenging, why it’s ever harder to stay calm and what one could do to try to change the world for the better.”
The highlight of this institution is its Sunday Sermons program where they ask “maverick cultural figures to talk about what they see as the virtues to cling to and the vices to be wary of.” Sunday Sermons have covered various topics such as “Loving your neighbor; Punctuality; Wonder; Pessimism; Curiosity etc)
Part philosophical; part pedagogical – I’ve been a fan of these Sunday Sermon videos for a while and on my visit to London, this store/ shop/ cultural institution is on the top of my list of sites to visit!
Founded by HBS Graduate, Salman Khan, The Khan Academy is a NPF that uses video to empower everyone with a free, “world-class” education. The Khan Academy houses over 1600 videos made in digestible bites of 10-20 minutes each, covering everything from math to chemistry and physics to biology. Sal Khan maintains total autonomy over the content that is produced for the site. I’ve spent some time on the site and even re-learned some of the concepts I had a weak understanding of (Limits, anyone?!) What works for me is that although the teaching is virtual (chalkboard and a voice-over) it’s not clinical or prescriptive. It is not formulaic either and focuses on instilling a deep understanding of the subject matter at hand – no other agenda.
Check it out – it’s worth a lecture.
We just returned from a short trip to Ireland. It is heartfelt when I say that Ireland is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve visited and even one of the best vacations I’ve had. It’s a country with million shades of green, rainbows that appear and disappear with the chimerical weather, fluffy yellow sheep that cross the roads at their plea sure and a stunning landscape that forces you to stop and give Ireland the attention and awe it is due.
I could wax eloquently about the mountains and the people. (not the food!) But right now I want to share my brief sojourn to the coolest art exhibit I’ve been to. We spent a few hours in Dublin and couldn’t resist the “National Leprechaun Museum” signs in the city. We followed teh signs and paid the 14 Euros fee to the museum. Absolutely unsure of what to expect, we walked inside with a group of Italians, Norwegians and a woman from North Carolina.
Our introduction to the museum began with a brief history of the leprechaun and its place in Irish stories and fantasies. As we traced the origins of the little green men, we learned a lot about the Irish penchant for storytelling and weaving tales. We also learned how the Irish bought the leprechaun stories to America and were shocked a few decades later when America packaged and exported back the leprechauns to Ireland in form of Simpons (the Leprechaun episode) and drawings on boxes of cereal. Cultural trade!
We also learned why storytelling is at the core of Irish culture. With its tumultuous history, the Irish often have had nothing but stories and tales and conversations to carry forward and pass on to the next generations. The magic, wonder and imagination is the gift the pass on – and evident in Ireland’s rich literary legacy. (Ireland is the only country that has three n oble laureates)
Anyways, so this exhibit was the brainchild of a local Dublin architect, Tom O’Rahilly. From what I was told, Tom is obsessed with storytelling and wanted to create a fun, experiential way to experience Irish stories. And boy, did he!
The museum has twelve rooms that you are free to explore, take pictures and play around in. Each room offers a very interesting perspective of dimension, color, story and play. There’s the Giant’s Causeway, the Tunnel (an important symbol in fantasy storytelling!) Life-sized furniture, Rainbow colors, Story walls & so on. At the end of the museum is a place to chill, make drawings and read more about the rich Irish tradition of st ories, faeries and leprechauns.
Here are some photos from our visit to the museum. The museum is only six months old so still making into all teh Guidebooks. Serendipity at its best! And I’ll admit, I’m psyched to h ave had such a rich, fulfilling and wholesome experience in Dublin. Even though we only spent a few hours in the city, it was absolutely worth it.
Storytelling is my passion as well. I wis h I could do it as well as others but I try, in my little ways. Maybe that’s why this particular visit has so profoundly affected me. I can tell you one thing for sure, I’ll be courting Ireland and its stories for a long, long time to come.
It’s interesting how the damsel-in-distress and prince charming saves the day theme is the essence of most fairy-tales. What kind of conditioning do these tales provide little girls ?
There’s one set of stories: Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White that may condition girls to think of their partners as their ultimate saviors. And then there’s another set of stories: Beauty and the Beast, Princess and the Frog etc: that give the impression that love can and does change ugliness into beauty and beasts into princes.
Research has shown that girls that over-identify with fairy-tales are more likely to fall victim to abusive relationships because sub-consciously, they take on the role of the submissive, passive female role model, expecting love and patience to change their partners’ behavior. This quote in particular struck me, “Small children may interpret the story-book submissive roles as a template of how society expects them to develop.” That is disturbing.
When I see movies like “Shrek,” there’s hope that our perception of princesses is changing. “Shrek” to be will always be seminal work of art and cultural reform. It took everything we know and believe about fairytales and princesses and turned it on its head.
Yes, princesses can be fat and stinky. They can and do burp. They know karate and are capable of taking care of themselves. And they are extremely capable of falling in love with the ugly – of seeing beyond. So there’s hope. I know the kind of media I’ll be feeding my kids when they arrive.
Even the new version of “The Princess and the Frog” is quite encouraging. She’s no princess but an ordinary waitress who dreams of owning her own restaurant someday. She’s drive, ambitious and diligent. Then she kisses a frog out of desperation and becomes a frog herself. I love how new writers and thinkers are taking what we know about fairytales and princesses and flipping it around.
Yes, princesses have dreams. And they don’t all want to live in a castle. And they are good at other things besides looking pretty.
I want to see how technology and storytelling come together to create empowering learning experiences for little girls. I want little girls to dream about themselves, the possibilities, their own potential and all the various things they could enjoy about life. I want them to be surrounded by media and cultural artifacts that work as critical thinking tools that will allow girls to think for themselves.
Have you come across such digital tools? I wish I had more kids around me or was friends with more forward-thinking parents. I’d love to learn what’s on their mind and what kind of education they dream of giving their girls.
This is a rambling of ideas and thoughts that have been floating in my head for the last few days. This morning, I read a very interesting piece in the NYT about an experimental study in a second-grade classroom at a charter school in Massachusetts where undergraduate students from Mount Holyoke College teach these children philosophy. Not about philosophers but about the higher value, morals and questions with no right or wrong answers. The idea that Prof. Thomas E. Wartenberg purports is that philosophy is not an elitist discipline and that children have the capacity of abstract thinking and thus developing deep reasoning skills via participating in dialog of philosophical issues around stories and fables.
I find new ideas and new methods to improving education very compelling. Critics will argue for and against Prof. Wartenberg’s approach, but I think it’s important to consider how similar it is to what parents do with their children after reading a story book to them: they talk at their children about the morals associated in the story. If I collected a penny for every-time my cousin has compared her daughter’s actions to a fictional but highly respected character, I’d be richer. But I think doing it in a classroom and allowing the children to express their thoughts and feelings is different than a parent relating the moral of the story to them. Also, exposing them to each other’s thoughts and feelings probably makes the experience far richer for them.
I think the point here isn’t that Prof. Wartenberg chooses to take a philosophical approach to inculcate reasoning skills in second graders – the point is how he does it. Quite simple actually – they read a book together and then they talk about it.
By now they knew the drill: deciding whether or not they agreed with each question; thinking about why or why not; explaining why or why not; and respecting what their classmates said.
There was no real point to this blog post apart from expressing wonder at a professors attempt to inspire a tiny portion of how we educate our children and prepare them for the future.
So last night I had the opportunity to go to an exclusive (oh, I feel special!)screening of Banksy’s “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” So here’s the strange and in hindsight, a very Banksy-ish thing about the movie that he made – it’s not about him. Yep. And if you think that you might actually be disappointed that the movie isn’t about him, you are wrong. Because the character that the film is about is an extraordinary metaphor for what’s possible when you are…. sort of winging it.
Enter Thierry Guetta or (circa 2008) Mr. Brainwash. But let me rewind for a bit and, to the uninitiated, tell you why this movie is a big deal and why you should watch it.
You’ve probably heard of Banksy – if you haven’t heard of him, you certainly have at some point come across his work. When I think of how best to describe him, I can only say that he is a dichotomy, in that, he is one of the world’s most famous street-artists, but ironically he is also entirely anonymous. A total mystery. His true identity is shrouded in mystery and there are probably ten people in the world who know of it. I suppose his meticulously orchestrated anonymity has played a large part in creating his intriguing identity as a street-artist. His work is amazing and if you aren’t familiar, I highly recommend to get on top of your cultural education and learn about him.
For the last two years, I’ve been clued into street-art phenomena because of my boss, Marc Schiller. Marc, like Banksy, leads a dichotomous life. By day, he is a prolific strategic thinker and a marketer and outside work, he is a street-art connoisseur and the founder of Wooster Collective. It is inevitable that his passion for street-art rubs off on the team and at the very least, we’ve become more attuned to this esoteric world.
So that’s the spiel. Think of Banksy as the Brad Pitt or the Obama the street-art world. So when he makes a movie, it’s guaranteed to become an art piece as Marc says. So what’s the film about – and I quote Banksy, when I say, “The film is the story of what happens when this guy tried to make a documentary about me but he was a lot more interesting than I am, so the film is now kinda about him.”
That’s just it. And the guy in question is Thierry Guetta.
He is a character. Multi-dimensional, funny, slightly over-the-top and mostly unbelievable. The film traces Thierry’s story from an untalented video-film maker to an overnight commercial street-artist. (Yes, notice the irony?) It begins in France when Thierry stumbles upon his cousin (who eventually picks up the pseudonym Space Invader) creating Space Invader inspired art-pieces. Intrigued, he films his cousin placing the art strategically across various nooks and streets of Paris and thereby, igniting his own interest in street-art.
Thierry’s path leads him to Shepard Fairey and eventually to Banksy who inspires Theirry to find his own artistic calling. (Because film-making definitely wasn’t it!) Not one to let Banksy down, Theirry soon finds his distinctive style (Andy Warhol reborn) and goes on to become an art sensation literally overnight, selling over $1 million in art.
In my opinion, this paradoxical nature of Thierry’s rise to fame and success is really the essence of the film. What’s more important for an artist? Commercial success of respect of his peers? Because while Thierry rakes in millions, it’s not clear whether his peers (Shepard Fairey, Banksy) believe that Theirry earned the success.
Also, how does this lens change when the artist in question is a street-artist? The footage leading up to Guetta’s seminal and first show “Life is Beautiful,” tells a story of a man who in his naivete decides he has every right to be and deserves to be an artist as big and famous as Banksy. It makes the audience question the integrity of his intentions but also hopelessly making them fall in love with this outlandish, clown-like character. “But that’s how Banksy did it…” was his response when someone questioned him about the practical and logistical details of his art show. It at once, sounds so silly and yet, so endearing that the only appropriate response is to laugh and go along with Banksy and Guetta for the ride.
Personally, I walked away feeling a little bit foolish. In one particular scene, as a marketing and PR stunt Geutta promises exclusive limited edition one-of-a-kind prints of his work to the first 200 people that enter his show. To make each print unique, he lines them up in one long row and like a child playing with color, he sits in his wheelchair (with a broken foot) and as he rolls down the line, he spray-paints a red and yellow squiggles across all 200 prints, making each print a (moronically) unique representation of pure bullshit.
Oh and guess what? I’ve actually paid for similar “exclusive one-of-a-kind, limited edition” artist prints.
If anything, this movie will give you an entirely new perspective and appreciation for street-art. And you might just walk out a little bit smarter.
In full disclosure – My company is handling the marketing of this film. Only because Marc is one of the few people Banksy trusts.
Watch the short video clip here:
Umair Haque’s controversial post has caused quite a stir in the community. Bud Caddell’s response mirrors my thoughts and brilliantly articulates the flaws in Umair’s argument. I wanted to share a few thoughts of my own to add to this debate.
It’s largely home to weak, artificial connections, what I call thin relationships. Today social media is trading in low-quality conncetions – linkages that are unlikely to yield meaningful, lasting relationships.
Umair assets that thin connections offer no value and I have an issue with that. His statement assumes that people are not smart, in that they let crowd their lives (and social networks) with meaningless relationships that add no value to them. I look at it differently. For one, and this is mostly a nod to Bud’s point, social media isn’t meant to help you create new relationships – but to help strengthen existing ones. Frequent interactions whether they are by sharing information, inconsequential tweets or debates, help cement an existing relationship and give it a foundation.
Regarding thin relationships, Haque assumes that they don’t already exist in our “offline” lives. Neighbors, car-pool groups, the yoga group, parents of your kid’s friends – these are all thin relationships. And they do add value to your life – even if the only value they add is convenience. Social media has helped accelerate the quantity of thin relationships we can now create – AND it has created new kinds of value we can extract from these relationships.
I frankly also believe that as a culture we are past the point where an “online” relationship doesn’t constitute a “real” relationship. I look at an online friend, acquaintance or person as somebody I have simply not met in-person yet. Social media tools and technologies have afforded us the ability to get a proper picture of an “online” person’s personality, likes, dislikes and thought processes. We aren’t in the 1990’s where an “online” person was just a username in an IRC chatroom. As such, our definition of the word “relationship” has evolved. Perhaps it hasn’t been verbalized yet.
The “relationships” at the heart of the social bubble aren’t real because they’re not marked by mutual investment .
Social media is an investment that works for multiple relationships. The design of the technology allows your investment in it to affect and reach more than one person at any given time. That said, naturally, if you develop an affinity towards someone thinking, you are bound to communicate more often with them and as such “invest” more time into the relationship. What Haque misses here is that the relationships in social media begin by mutual interest and have the flexibility to grow together or apart into various branches.
In response to Haque’s point about social media’s inability to replace traditional gatekeepers – I think that Social media is not meant to replace or dis-intermediate any gatekeepers but complement their efforts.
People invest in low-quality content. Farmville ain’t exactly Casablanca. Third, and most damaging, is the ongoing weakening of the Internet as a force for good. Not only is Farmville not Casablanca, it’s not Kiva either. One of the seminal examples of the promise of social media, Kiva allocates micro-credit more meaningfully. By contrast, Farmville is largely socially useless. It doesn’t make kids tangibly better off; it just makes advertisers better off.
Calling games like Farmville socially useless, is the biggest and most profound logically flaw in his argument. What differentiates useful from the useless? Because kiva.org is impacting change and Farmville is largely creating entertainment – is that the basis for dismissing the value games like farmville add to the social and cultural environments we thrive in?
If that’s the underlying principle for Haque’s argument, he is essentially implying that entertaining pursuits that don’t make us better off, are useless. And that’s bullshit. We are multi-dimensional people, with multi-dimensional skills, interests, hobbies and desires. If I can donate $50 to Kiva.org, I am also capable of engaging with farmville for two hours. And no other platform reflects this better than social media.
As a society needs a balance of do-gooders, entertainers, bankers, artists and critics to flourish and grow, the evolution of social media and social technologies will only happen with a balance of similar pursuits. For every kiva.org, we need a farmville. At the end of the day, it’s not just about how we are impacting change, but also about how are we constantly challenging the status-quo and enriching our critical thought processes, that creates value and elevates the society as a whole.
Social media, the buzz, the conversations are not in a bubble. They are happening all around us – in our physical world. They are shaping and re-shaping our offline cultures constantly and with that, it is constantly challenging how we look at the world. We are all re-evaluating our opinions and ideas with an acceleration that wasn’t really around before.
Social media is a bubble, because we call it so. We (digital strategists, social media “gurus,” adagency and creative types) live in our own bubble only listening to, responding to and exposing ourselves to each other’s thoughts and ideas. The minute you step out of it and surround yourself with a different set of people, a different set of voices – you’ll notice that social media is not really a bubble anymore.
Just my two cents. Would love to hear what you think.
February 22nd, 2010 • Culture Briefings
.. an idea just hit us out of nowhere, leaving really no other choice than to run after it. I was the proponent of “it’s not the idea, the execution that counts.” And it’s funny how easy it was to say that when I wasn’t the one with the idea. I suppose an idea is like a baby, anyone who has one alone can see the potential and the possibilities it beholds. After 24 hours of idea paralysis, I’m now pulling myself together to begin some actual legwork on the idea. Who knows where it will lead? But all I know right now, is that I’ve gotta go deep with it.
At work, we’ve been working on a fun project about work-life balance and managing productivity. It’s quite ironic to be overwhelmed with content and information about work-life balance and maintaining a zen state with the chaos in my mind and head. However, I did learn something interesting about achieving goals. Some people (read: my husband) is the kind who keeps his goals to himself. He is secretive to a point of being obsessive. And then there’s people like me: who talk to a few people so I can hold myself accountable for it. It’s like the time I wanted to go to Italy, I told as many people as possible. And then I worked my butt off to get into the program or else, I’d have lost my face infront of all these people!
We humans are such complex and weird creatures.
February 16th, 2010 • Culture Briefings
Note: Older article from contentdecoded.com reposted here.
A few weeks ago we applauded Burberry with its brilliant foray into social media and branded content with Art of the Trench. Today we chanced upon Gucci’s effort at being “social” and have to relate our extreme disappointment with the end result. Burberry did set the bar very high.
Gucci Eye Web is an ode to its line of sunglasses. (atleast we think it is) but it comes off as a poorly executed idea without any substance to it.
When you enter the site, it asks you to pick a city to explore the nightlife. Upon picking New York, you end up on a flash-heavy page with cliched music and a picture of rotating sunglasses at the center of the page. The sunglasses alternatively feature images of random people – I was hard pressed to understand how those people are connected to the Gucci brand. The site is also confusing: is it about nightlife ? Or about Gucci sunglasses? If it is indeed about Gucci Eyewear, why isn’t everyone in the “crowd-sourced” photographs wearing Gucci sunglasses?
Here are three reasons we think this Branded Content initiative by Gucci is epic fail.
- No solid positioning: There is no About page on the site or anything that gives the reader an idea of the purpose, mission or point of the site. Additionally, the directions are misleading. The three-stepped guide at the corner of the page tells the readers they can explore nightlife in particular city with no information about the city or nightlife! Was the idea to explore nightlife via the user-submitted photographs? But even then, how are zoomed in photographs of random people a way to explore nightlife? I can’t tell the difference between the photos from New York or Barcelona. They all look the same.
- No connectivity: The idea of “connect” on the Gucci EyeWeb is translated as share us with your friends. Gucci’s idea of experimenting with social media is cherry picking the themes they want to explore (let’s do crowdsourcing!) and then add social sharing buttons. This isn’t even Web 1.0.
- Exclusive does not mean brochures: The site offers users the ability to download exclusive content. Gucci’s version of exclusive content is a brochure with the product information about Gucci sunglasses and a link to the main site. A fashion blog offers more exclusive content than that. We are passionate about content and masking brochures and “saley” content as exclusive is not only in poor taste, but undermines the intelligence of the Gucci customer and brand enthusiast.
This criticism is grounded in the belief that while we commend brands for taking that proverbial step forward with social media, we hold them accountable for their sloppy execution. Had Gucci put a little more thought into this project, it would have been a different story altogether. For a luxury brand such as Gucci, allowing users to interpret the brand with their images is a commendable step towards embracing their fans and opening up the brand. And Gucci certainly gets points for that. But as a luxury brand, Gucci (and any other) is about exclusivity, integrity, heritage and class. While it may seem that most of social media themes (crowdsourcing, massclusivity, transparency, casual-ness etc.) are diametrically opposite of what luxury brands stand for, the real challenge for luxury brands is going to be to figure out how to interpret these social media themes in the context of their own brand.
The Art of Trench coat is a lesson in sartorial elegance and how it translates on the web. Visual poetry! In addition to accepting user photos (wearing the Burberry trench), Burberry has commissioned a handful of famous photogs including The Sartorialist, to add to this photo essay of sorts and celebrate the trench coat. This is one of the better branded content efforts I’ve seen in a long time. Hats off to Burberry.
Burberry’s Art of the Trench has it’s own flaws – for example, how does the site plan on ensuring repeat visits? But the reason Gucci and other luxury brands need to be a little careful with social media-branded content executions is that for every Gucci, there will be a Burberry. – a competing brand that will have executed an idea just a little better. And that has tremendous intangible benefits in social media.
There have been a few dismissals of the iPad. My Facebook feed was flooded for a few hours last night with friends calling the iPad an exaggerated version of the iPhone. While that judgement may not be far off the mark, I am personally quite excited for the iPad and the potential impact it can have on the content publishing worlds. So a few things off the top of my head:
New Markets – I think the main thing the iPad will do is unlock new markets and underserved audiences. I’m thinking my 50-yr old Mom or my 5 year old niece. The broad applicability and price points of this device will fill the niche for readers who want more than just books on their device and computer users who want a scaled down version of their PC. I’m curious to see how existing publishers will optimize for these markets and the platform.
Content: I’ve head some very smart people talk and discuss “the medium is not the message” argument. While I am not sure I even understand the more academic discourses on this topic, one thing is clear to me. The medium may not be the message, but the medium will certainly dictate and push for innovation in the deliverance and creation of the message. Much like what the iPhone did with the application community. I think it will be interesting to see as the iPad technology evolves, what kind of new markets and industries it decides to support. The strongest advantage the iPad has against the Kindle (sorry Nook – I’m not even sure, I should include you here in the competition!) is its iTunes network.
Over a pizza discussion with the team the other day, Justin bought up an interesting POV. He mentioned how the future should actually have been convergence of technologies into one device – but the iPad actually fragments this convergence. What are your thoughts about this?
Update: This news article re-affirms my initial thoughts about the iPad’s target audience: the middle-aged.
I know people come into our lives for a reason and then they leave. But sometimes, I just don’t want to meet people that are not going to be in my life permanently.
I’ve developed a new habit – and I promise, it’s a good one. When in college, I poo-poohed at the working professionals who wanted to devote more time to their hobbies but claimed to be so busy with work that they found no time for their hobbies. Now, five years into the work force myself – I was slowly inching towards becoming one of those. There never is enough time. It’s not that I have no time – at the end of the work-day there are still four solid hours, or five if I’m feeling frisky to accomplish something. But by the end of the workday, my brain feels like warm jelly. Opaque and unable to process anything that needs an IQ above 50. Also, I just really enjoy being at home with R and cooking together or watching a movie together. The problem was – I had to priortize what I absolutely not give up and what I could live without. Here’s where I netted out – I need 8 hours of sleep. and I want to spend time with my R. But I could give up staying up at night in favor or squeezing in a few extra hours in the morning. Especially on weekends and holidays.
And I have to say, that’s been working out quite well for me.
For example, this past Monday. What a stroke of luck. My company was probably the only one that decided to honor Columbus Day and give us the day off. I had pretty much signed off for any days off after the Labor Day weekend so this was a delighful surprise. I scheduled an early, early morning meeting uptown with my mentor. And then spent the rest of the morning, exploring a new neighbourhood in New York. I spent two leisurely hours at the Columbus Circle Borders hungrily devoring the newest Dairy of a Wimpy Kid. I nestled myself in the History section and chuckled rather loudly at the incredible wisecracks of Greg Heffley, the wimpy hero. I also finally read, ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and for a second wondered if the book was missing pages. I scratched my head thinking how Spike Jonze managed to make a movie out of this 3-paged book. Didn’t look like much of a story to me.
After my fantastic book-reading sojourn, I paid for :On Writing: by Steven King (at my writer friend’s recommendation) And while I may not be a fan of his writing, I admire his succcess. (And who doesn’t want success of THAT sort!) I ambled around aimlessly on Madison Avenue for a while wondering about the sudden influx of chimmey-smoking Europeans. And then I heard… Oy Mambo, Mambo Italiano… on a loudspeaker. Turns out, it was some sort of a Italians in America parade. What a pity – because there were barely any people on the streets watching the parade.
Anyways, before cabbing it to my eye-doc’s appointment – I stared for a bit at the carefully orchestrated art-like exhibit in the windows of a Judith Lieber showroom. The windows were outfitted with brightly colored lights and when they fell on a diamond-encrusted clutch, it reminded me of an ancient Studio 54 crystal ball photo I had once seen.
By the time I returned home, I felt so accomplished! I’d started my morning with a very inspiring conversation, read two books at Borders, window-shopped and explored a new neighborhood in New York AND got my new contact lenses.
These days, I can’t stay up beyond midnight and I’m so okay with that.
.. in my dreams, I see worlds created out of muted images and photographs that I must have seen or admired on the web.
But in my dreams, they look eerie. Like they’ve been brushed with thunder, a melting sun and sorrowful blues.
October 12th, 2009 • Culture Briefings
In a very Beatles mood these days. Last night, I had a wonderful call with a very good friend of mine. Infact, she was my first friend in New York and to this day, remains a strong inspiration for me. We started our careers together as interns for InStyle magazine. Our desks were next to each other. We bonded over being broke, sharing lunches and beauty products! My first summer in New York was beautiful because I had found a true friend in her.
She worked in the NY publishing industry for a bit – got published a few times in the New York Times but when the call came, she packed her bags and moved back to her suburban home town in middle America. Yes. After spending six years in New York, she had the balls to say yes to an idyllic (but make no mistakes – her little town has its own quirks and challenges!) life in Pennsylvania and devote herself to her one true love. Writing. Such an inspiration! She nudged me, as only a friend can, in the right track and here I am. Deviating, re-inventing myself again and perhaps, answering my call.
Thank you, A.
I am three full months early to make this proclamation but I am so ready for this year to be over. Personally, it was a very fulfilling year. Even professionally, my growth has been uncharted. But creatively, I’ve never felt this empty before.
Writing is a difficult passion to sustain. It’s like I’ve run out of stories. I can’t seem to think of interesting things to write about. I haven’t even been able to imagine anything interesting to write. My well is running dry. It’s like being a dancer and suddenly realizing that you are disenchanted with all the moves that there are. It’s like being an artist and struggling to find a scene you can paint because the ones you find, either lack luster or don’t hold your interest for long. Or a photographer, who can’t find a frame good enough to shoot. Does this feeling have a name?
Also on the web and on Facebook – I never quite know how much to share and how much to hide. Is it weird to talk about my wedding? Is it weird to always talk about professionally interesting topics? Exactly what facets of myself do I hide and reveal? Really. Life was simpler with the anonymous blogger accounts.
I’ve almost given up on amassing any creative wealth this year. Sometimes I revisit the dog-eared, yellowing pages of a haphazard but a free creative mind and I shock myself at the intensity and beauty of the prose that a ‘younger’ me had written in the past. And maybe in hindsight, an ‘older and wiser’ me will realize that the frustration, impatience and general lack of direction I’ve felt this year was perhaps, just a pause in time. A much needed pause to understand and then articulate this insanely beautiful year. Where is Sam when I need him ? That’s exactly what he’d have said. Or something better.
Ahh. Anyways, with any luck – my creative spirit will find me before the year ends.
September 4th, 2009 • Culture Briefings
I just finished reading this insightful interview with Amy Astley, editor in chief of Teen Vogue. When I transitioned away from the magazine world into the digital realm in 2006, editors were just beginning to think about expanding the print versions of the magazine to the web. In less than three years, the survivor-magazines have not only built a sound web presence and personality, but also given a new meaning to the magazine business.
I recently had coffee with the publisher of a top women’s magazine and a part of the conversation that stayed with me. She made a comment about how ‘publisher’ is an archaic title for the role that in all reality is that of a chief brand officer and their responsibility is to think of the magazine as a brand, and not just a content property.
I was reminded of this conversation while reading Astley’s interview. Her vision for Teen Vogue is so precise. And she’s right, there’s not other way to articulate it than say that it is a sensibility and she builds a team of people who ‘get’ that sensibility.
The Teen Vogue brand outputs: reality show, events, CFDA/scholarship and even the new handbook released by Teen Vogue strengthen and further the brand story. I suppose it’s not all that new considering magazines have always supported events and causes that align with their brands. Teen Vogue is bringing it closer to their readers though.
Just thought it was interesting enough to note.
1The Future of Journalism – This is such a loaded query. What indeed is the future of content ? More importantly, what is the future of content consumption? This particular RFS asks us to consider this question from a different perspective: how would this site make money. I don’t have the answer but there are several themes floating in my head that perhaps can make some sense when sewed together?
Setting expectations from the beginning: I’ve written in the past about social media expectations and how they are directly related to the future of any new business service in the social media space. (PS – Social media is not the same as social networking, although some rules still apply) In this post that I wrote a few months ago, I expounded on the premise that success often follows social networks or services that set the expectations from the very begining. Since the obvious goal here is to make money, the ideal content website would approach this by defining reader/user expectations before anything. I’d approach the build of such a site with a simple premise in mind: people will pay for content and service when they percieve value, so don’t focus on building a user-base first. Charge from the VERY begining. Case in point: Club Penguin, Moncole (web-only edition) etc.. Threadless, etc.
Multi-platform content? Content limited to browser? I think this is worth considering especially in light of new technologies. People are OK with paying the monthly subscription fee for blogs they can access for free otherwise on Kindle. Essentially, people are paying for mobility and for convenience. I think the future content site should be built with the idea of convenience and mobility at its core? It would be foolish to consider limiting a content site to just the browser. For those who still enjoy their ‘content’ in print, perhaps the idea here is to set up print-kiosks aroudn the world at airports and other major city-hubs that allow anyone to pick and choose articles they’d like to read on paper and simply hit the print button. Viola – the selected content is packaged into a magazine/newspaper, at a premium ofcourse. Literally turning the tables around. Case in point: magcloud, blurb, Mine magazine (not sure how successful the venture was, but definitely knocking on the future of content)
I also just read a very interesting article in this months’ Fast Company about multi-platform storytelling to be launched by Penguin and the creator of CSI. The idea here is to use books, video, games and several other platforms to tell a linear story. Perhaps the same model can be used for news/content?
Format: This area is so tricky. On one hand the success of sites liek Breakingnews and on the other there’s the chatter around the $100 billion hyper-local news industry that remains untapped. I am torn. I get my news from my “network” – whether that’s on Fbook or Twitter. I follow enough local friends to not feel out of loop and I follow enough strangers to know exactly whats up with the world. So I’m not so sure I’d want to pay for that. What I’d be willing to invest my time and money is long-form news and op-eds from incredibly smart people. Case in point: The Daily Beast and HuffingtonPost
I think that people like me generally approach content with this point of view: If it’s interesting, it will find me. So what would make someone like me ’seek’ out and ‘pay’ for content?
As someone who started her career as a journalist, the future of content is very close to my heart and I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and things you are seeing in the marketplace.
This is one of the most interesting things I’ve done in New York – last night I attended an Introduction to Perfumery class last night at Meet. Hosted by the beautiful and amazing Anne McClain, I walked out of the class with a completely new appreciation and understanding of fragrance.
Let me tell you a little about Anne McClain first. Anne is currently a student a school of perfumery in Grasse, France. In Sept 09, Anne will travel to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico and spend one week volunteering at the Casa de los Angeles, teaching art at a local day care center for children of single mothers. After this trip, Anne will return to Grasse to create the ‘Humanity’ scent, inspired from her experience in Mexico and the idea of compasion. In Spring 2010, this scent will be made available to the public by way of a fountain of perfumed water in Brooklyn, where Anne lives. It is an experiment, she says, in trying to bring a personal experience to a public space by means of fragrance.
Now if that is not inspiring, what is?!
I’ve always thought of perfumery to be an art that you get a more refined and sophisticated understanding of with more exposure and training….just like wine, cheese or cigars. In my own case I have graduated from wearing the more commercial, simpler fragrances to appreciating and wearing more complex scents or layering unusual combinations. Fragrance, also, as we all know has the power to evoke incredibly strong memories and transport you back to forgotten worlds. Last night was something like that.
What I love about Anne is her efforts and faith in making perfumery an accessible art. It is like painting or dancing, she says. You start with the basics and you can understand and learn enough to experiment on your own. I can tell you one thing: once you take this class with Anne, you will realize that all this while you had been staring at the world of perfumery from behind an opaque curtain. And now, it is transparent.
We started by sniffing Jasmine Grandiflorum, a type of Jasmine grown in India. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of jasmine because it reminds me of sticky, greasy hair oil that my mom would insist on rubbing on my scalp when I was a kid. I hated hair oil and this particular Jasmine variety smells just like it. But it was interesting to me to hear other’s experiences and memories associated with this Jasmin.
After Indol (a synthetic ingredient that smells like mothballs!), we sniffed yet another Jasmine Sambac. This one – was much lighter on the nose and reminded me of the scent of ‘gajras-’ little flower garlands that Indian women use as adornment for their hair. A few other raw ingredients we sniffed last night are Geranium, Citronella (a synthetic ingredient used in rose-based fragrances to give it more bullk) Patchouli (cool fact: patchouli oil is made of 144 chemicals and hence, near impossible to replicate) Sandalwood, Bacdanol (the synthetic equivalent of sandalwood) Adoxal (a synthetic ingredient that is used to create the marine smell. This ingredient had a very salty smell) Essential Rose Oil (It was disgusting! Which is so surprising considering most of my perfumes have rose top notes)
My favorite part was the later half of the ingredients – the warmer, woodsy ones used mostly in men’s fragrances. I enjoy mixing my feminine fragrances with just a dash of my fiance’s colognes. I feel like men’s fragrances add a litlte more substance and perhaps just a little bit of darkness and mystery that I enjoy. We started with sniffing Ambroxan, a synthetic equivalent of Amber. I had never questioned where Amber came from… for some reason assuming the scent came from a stone, but yesterday I was shocked and a little grossed out to learn that amber actually comes from whales. I will spare you exactly how it is produced – click on the link to learn that. Thankfully, most fragrances use the synthetic equivalent of amber. Whew.
Anyways, Ambroxan smelled heavenly…it smelled secure, sexy and like an aphrodisac. Another lovely ingredient we sniffed as Cashmeron. I think Anne described it beautifully when she said that Cashmeron smells of a handsome man walking in the woods, with a scarf around his neck. In my version of the scent, it is Hugh Jackman in his sexy greek god-like demeanor. Sigh. Just the thought.
I also learned that contrary to Sephora, coffee is not the best smell to sniff to clear your nose. Just fresh air. So if you are out perfume shopping, walk out of the store to clear your nose memory and walk back in a few minutes later. Another intereting fact – the best place to wear perfume is your hair! It stays the longest there and not on your pulse as you might beleive it.
So anyways – THANK YOU Anne. You have found a lifelong student in me! And if any of you are interested in hosting a perfume workshop for your girl-friends, get in touch with Anne!
I love this so much that I have to share it every possible way with everyone I know. This is a topic so dear to me, and so close to me that its amazing to see other talented people explore it – all across the world.
Dido asked film directors across the world to create video pieces/ short films on what their idea of what home means to them, using a song from her new album, ‘Safe Trip Home.’
The resulting montage of videos, emotions, moods and explorations of what home means to people of all ethnicities, cultures and beliefs – is nothing short of brilliant. Colorful, vibrant, poignant — I have felt twenty-five different emotions in the last 15 minutes alone as I waded through this pool of rich, feelings.
I love this – also because it is so close to my heartfelt project, ‘Dsplaced,‘ The collective storytelling experiment that I launched with my friend Mansi to do just that – explore people’s relationship with their cities, and the idea of what home and memories mean to people.
You have to take 10 minutes out of your day and spend it immersed in this site. If you have ever wondered about the significance of home, or displacement – you will lvoe the site. And of the hundreds of stories shared, I am sure you will find the one you most relate to.
Here’s one from Mumbai that I love – please enjoy it and pass the word around. And if you would like to share your story, do it here, dsplaced.com
This is a very simplistic argument, but hear me out.
When I moved into my new apartment, I subscribed to a bunch of Indian Television Channels via Direct TV. The channels I receive are MTV India, Star Plus, Star One, Star News, NDTV and some spiritual channel and a cricket channel. Needless to say, much of my free time this weekend was spent channel surfing. I am so used to the American TV shows and watching American Television that I watch these Indian channels with a renewed sense of purpose.
What strikes me most is the blatant sponsorship, advertising and marketing in every single game or reality. Here is just a sampling of the shows that not only have major product placement and sponsored sections during the duration of the show, but also carry a brand name in their titles.
Hero Honda Roadside Roadies, Pepsi Wassup: The voice of Youngistan, Miranda Kickass Mornings, Hero Hondo Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, LG Mobile Oye its Friday, Garnier Nach Baliye…. and that’s just a sampling. In dance-based reality shows, the contestants are filmed spouting out brand names and asking the audiences to vote for them. Bollywood celebrity endorsements are a new rev-generating industry for celebrities in itself. To a point, where a single celebrity represents 5 or more brands! Even bollywood movies – case in point, Chandani Chowk to China, was advertised in reality shows, with brands – and anywhere else possible.
The point I am trying to make is – Indian television and culture has accustomed Indian consumers to expect advertisements and blantant, in-your-face sponsorships.
Next point – Americans have a deeper sense of privacy and a concept of space. Indians are used to the concept of no space – jostling through crowds, shoving through vegetable markets and sharing the a small 2 bedroom house with 8 other people is commonplace for them.
And lastly, mobile is accessible. and cheap in India. This is one technology that has deeply peneterated the rural regions as well.
So you combine these three factors: 1) Indians are not mad at advertisters. They expect advertisements. 2) Indians, at large, do not place top priority on privacy or a sense of space. and lastly, 3) Mobile is cheap — and I have come to believe, that this is why mobile marketing and mobile campaigns are so successful in India and not so sucecssful in America.
I know – I told you it was a simplistic hypotheses, but it starts there. I’ll see what I can dig up to supprt and prove this hypotheses.
January 13th, 2009 • Culture Briefings
I read this article expounding on the generational bad luck that the graduates of 2009 face ahead. With the economy in shambles, the graduating class also unfortunately face the terror of entering the real world: without the certainty or stability of a full-time job. The article also quotes a research study that ’suggests that the negative impact on earnings of first entering the labor force amidst a recession lasts anywhere from ten years to forever. And that’s research based on relatively mild recessions.”
Applying Malcolm Gladwell’s Outlier rule to this graduating generation, does it mean that those born in 86-87 have less of a statistical chance of becoming successful or reaching their zenith ? (Definition of ’successful’ is relative)
December 16th, 2008 • Culture Briefings
My empty house and my almost-furnished home. I still baffle myself with my idea of home.
I watched a random video on youtube this evening where Rahul Bose (Actor extraordinaire) spoke about Bombay. And it resonates so deeply with me. I was nodding in agreement the whole time I was watching the video. There is no one Bombay. Like there is no one Philadelphia or New York. Each of us have our own dimensions of what makes a city, MY city. Suburban Bombayits that don’t travel to South Bombay, South Bombayites that don’t consider the burbs Bombay. Lower East Siders who don’t “do” mid-town and Upper East Siders who dont’ do the tunnel and the bridge. We each of our own city.
I’m leaving for Bombay tomorrow. I’m returning to MY idea of Bombay but am hoping I can re-define it and add yet another piece to it. Don’t be surprised if you find my blog more personal, effusive and emotional than ever before. I have a guard on most of the time – here too. I’m hoping, returning back home will dispel it for me.
There is something about digital narratives. I spend countless hours on facebook everyday and marvel at the dazzling digiscape of human emotions, dreams and aspirations that paints and re-paints itself in form of text, visuals and videos within the Facebook confines each day. If the emotions expressed on facebook were visualized, it would quite beautifully capture a facet of humanity. Also, projects like a A thousand journals, PostSecret and We Feel Fine have inspired me tremendously to imagine further and think about how to capture and create a mosaic of human emotions online. And so, what better emotion to explore than Dsplacement?
Dsplacement is a word I associate with people who out of choice or force keep their concept of home fluid. I have been in love with the idea of exploring our relationships with cities, countries and the very idea of home. Personally for me, all three have changed several times and I expect them to continue changing for the next several years. I feel like, all this dsplacement has defined my sense of self and my identity. But I am curious to know how, if at all, it has impacted other people. And so, dsplaced.com
It is in a way an experiment in storytelling. The brevity and the levity of messages on Twitter and stories in 6-words amaze me and I wanted to bring in a similar element to dsplaced.com. Because sometimes, less is more. Especially in this case.
So I teamed up with Mansi, a kindred soul like me, who I have never met in person yet and together, we launched Dsplaced. Thankfully for me, she shared the same frustrations and curiosities of being a digitally connected yet dsplaced.
I urge you to spread the word, to visit the site and submit your own story. I don’ t know how it will shape or how long it will stay alive on the web – but its almost meditative and healing to do this. To catalog these digital snippets of people’s minds that ultimately, in different words, tell teh same story.
Having moved here at age 18, I lacked the cultural literacy that my counterparts and colleagues already possess by the mere virtue of having grown up in USA. In most professions it may not make a difference, but in the media industry (marketing/ advertising/ journalism) it is crucial to understand and be informed about the psyche, the cultural imprint of the quintessential ‘American’ experience. Now that is the educated, intelligent reasoning I give myself for what I am about to reveal.
In reality though, it is for none of the reasons above that I do what I do. It is simply because I enjoy it – it is an indulgence and I fervently crave it: The young adult media.
I am obsessed with media/ entertainment. Period. But I am supremely obsessed with media and entertainment packaged specifically for the Young Adult market. I am 25 and I shamefully admit that I am obsessed with the 17-year old immortal Edward Cullen, the vampire protagonist of The Twilight Series. I read all the four books (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn) and the Midnight Sun excerpt made available on Stephanie Meyer’s website. The story is the obvious mix: love, danger, high school – how could the story not be successful? But there are two main reasons why I think this is a cult sensation.
Storytelling: The storytelling is potent: teetering on the edge of eternal love and danger, the book’s premise is riveting enough to keep the readers flipping page after page to move with the story. Harry Potter and LOTR created worlds outside of the normal human realm that made them universally appealing but the Twilight Series has created a parallel world that seems to exist within the confines of the normal human world as we know it. She has taken ordinary everyday people, placed them in the midst of life-threatening danger and made them blissfully unaware about it. Sheer brilliance. I have to concede that I don’t admire Meyers for her writing – she is masterful storyteller.
Edward Cullen: Edward Cullen’s character takes the prize. His rich history, (born in the 1900’s!) his supernatural powers,(mind-reading) his wisdom and chivalrous attitude, his cars,(Volvo, Ferrari, Ducati) his strength, his looks, his intelligence, his talents (piano) and his intense devotion to the love of his life (Bella Swan) – Edward Cullen is the fantastical fabrication of every young girl’s dream love. He epitomizes perfection – and impossiblity. Nothing wrong with him, except that he is a vampire which at that (teenage) age is interpreted more as fascination and intrigue than danger. Now you package that into four 500 page plus books and tell me why girls will not dream of him, crush over him or wish he were real!?
Teenage years are as it is difficult to live through- what with the complexity of relationships, self-awareness, sexual awakenings and first loves. And that young love at its most potent, primal and purest form is what Meyers has captured in this book. Latching on the fact that teenagers evaluate love interests differently than adults, it comes as no surprise that Meyer’s Bella falls for Edward.
Twlight Series is an impossible, drug-like state – hard to let go off and wake up from. The impending release of the movies will fuel this mania further, but slowly as I wake up from Meyer’s brilliant imagination, more of the world will succumb to it. No doubt, she is talked of in the same sentence as J.K Rowling.
September 8th, 2008 • Culture Briefings
…….then come to Interesting New York! I’m helping the cool folks at Open Intelligence Agency (David Nottoli) organize Interesting New York and we’ve got an amazing line-up of speakers who are talking about everything from fan fiction to New Orleans to ping-pong.
It is very un-conference like – the speakers are everyday people and each “talk” will be short, succinct and involve no marketing speak at all. What more could ya ask for ?
I’d love to have talked about something interesting – but what can I say -I am more interesting behind-the-scenes than infront of it! (right now atleast)
The tickets are super cheap: $35 only! So you should most certainly come. Buy yours here.
Well, one of its kind really.
A few months back, my paths crossed with All Day Buffet and I joined them in their efforts to make social innovation mainstream. You probably know of All Day Buffet from its ridiculously successful Cause for Drinks event. If you haven’t been to one yet – you should.
Mike, Jerri and I have been fervently at work in creating a one-of-a-kind conference on social innovation aptly titled “The Feast.” It is on October 16th at the Scandinavia House here in NYC. What is the point of another conference you may ask. And I agree. Like you, we are pretty much tired of the same kind of conferences, that bring together the same speakers and the attendees and do not achieve much.
That is precisely why The Feast is so different. Our speakers are evocative and have each harnessed the power of creativity to propel social change in their respective industries. Dr. Despommier of the Vertical Farming fame, Dale Jones of PlayPumps and Tom Szaky of TerraCycle are just a sampling of the great minds we have bought together for the day.
The conference is less about ideas and more about actions. In gathering the world’s leading creative mavericks, entrepreneurs, revolutionaries, radicals, and innovators together we intend to inspire action to change the world. Our hope is to leave you high on possibilities with a new menu of connections to get it all done.
I hope you will support our vision and buy a ticket or two and come to the conference. I promise you that it will be money and time well spent. And totally worth it.
Please email me/ leave a comment if you are a member of the press and want a press pass. I look forward to seeing you there.
I think my non-traditional career path is testimony to the increasing dissonance ambitious young self-starters like me have felt with the traditionally available career options. I do receive occasional emails from young graduates who are seeking career advice. Since I don’t have the bandwidth to share my learnings via email exchanges, this is a good home for it.
It is what I have learned from managing and pursuing my career. It may not apply to you or you may not agree with this, but I am not looking for approval or arguments. I wrote this down because I always wished someone had told me this. This is for those who remind me of me
1) Pay close attention to your industry and adapt to its changes.
For professionals in the industry of communications (creative or business side) it is most important to pay close attention to the quicksilver nature of our industry and be flexible enough to adapt and grow with it. In my case, when I entered the workforce, the magazine industry was struggling (still is) and the new media wave hadn’t hit the industry in full force just yet. I changed gears and it has served me well. I also realized that I didn’t need to work at a magazine to be able to write. And incidentally, after I quit the industry, I’ve published work in InStyle, Allure and Zink magazines. Besides, I satiate my ‘writing’ urges here on my blog.
2) Explore the dualities of your skill-set.
By this I mean – don’t allow yourself to be pegged into a singular role. I think most smart people have the inherent capacity and the appetite to understand and function well within both the creative and the business side of work. Personally, I didn’t want to be pegged down as a ‘creative type,’ but I didn’t want to be pegged down as a ‘finance/ business’ type either. The solution for me was to find roles that allowed me to balance and grow in both areas. The solution for you may be different – but I’d say if you are on the client side, explore the agency side at some point and vice-versa. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.
3) Jobs are not always for learning what to do.
Some jobs are fantastic case-studies for learning “what not to do” or “bad business practices.” And I’ve had my share of those kind of jobs. It is easy to think when you are stuck in a miserable job that you are not learning anything. But you will only understand the true extent of what the job has contributed to your professional growth, when you are at a distance from it and looking at it from a different lens. So do not fret if you are stuck in a job you don’t like and feel like it is a waste of your time and talent — trust me, if you are not learning about how to be better at what you do, you are most certainly learning, how to not get worse and what not to do. And those types of jobs and learnings, are equally important for your growth. The bottom-line is – you will still emerge a better thinker and will be able to effectively articulate and assert yourself.
4) You are in control of your career.
I don’t know if I can sum this up as lucidly as the others…. Maybe because I am still learning… Upon graduating from college, I had a very narrowly defined understanding of the types of jobs that exist. I struggled to find the perfect fit for me and I kept exploring until I found my niche. I fear that many young people, perhaps do not realize how wonderful this opportunity is. Do not let peer pressure and college dynamics let you believe that your career path is pre-defined. It is what you make of it. Take control of your career. Be ruthless in your pursuit and humble in your deliverance. I guarantee, you will weather any career-storm.
5) Don’t be afraid to email the CEO
I have no shame or fear in expressing my opinions, asking for a job or writing an email of appreciation to the CEO of any company. Sometimes it gets ignored, but three out of five times, it landed me a job. If you don’t think this way – I’m sorry but you might as well accept defeat and move out of the industry because I can promise you, that for every one person who is not thinking this way, there are 5 others who are, and they are the ones who will land your dream job. When you want a job – pull all stops to get it. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to win.
6) About burning bridges and such.
I steadfastly believe: to never burn a bridge. But some bridges are not worth managing. You will come across certain people who you are better off without in your life. I say that because I’ve been there twice and it has made me wonder and ask myself – What’s the one good reason why I would want to keep this bridge afloat?
I ask myself,
Would I ever work with this person again? No.
Would I ever hire or recommend this person? No.
Would I ever help this person? Probably not.
What if in the future, this person is asked to provide a testimonial to their experience with me? This was a tricky one. But I’ll take my chances and say, even then its not worth it.
And quite honestly, I’ve felt much better about myself since. If you are true to yourself, it is perfectly okay to allow a bridge or two to crumble and break down. Or in some cases, take an axe and break it yourself. You cannot always be political and diplomatic – in life nor in work.
EDIT: Dion Hughes left a very insightful comment below. That people change – and it is worthwhile to keep all your professional relationships, at the very least, open. I have to concede to this – it is good advice. I have been in the workforce only four years and I have much to learn. One of these things is: leaving room to allow people for a second chance.
7) On quitting..
I will pass on to you a gem of an advice my friend gave me, “Don’t accept a new job because you can’t wait to quit your old one – run to the new job because you can’t wait to begin that one.” Thats it.
EDIT – (Props to Manoj Damodaran) I should also add that think twice before quitting a job. Climbing the ladder by jumping titles – while great for your wallet, not so good for your professional growth. Regardless of your job title, to thrive in this industry (creative, communications, media) you’ve gotta pay the dues. Take the garbage out, do the shit-work, make photo-copies, feel your intellectual muscles degenerate and wonder why you went to school — think of it as the initiation process to grander things. I’ve had $6/hour internships at top magazines in NYC, written for free for numerous publications, worked for pittance to build my experiencefolder. Now I don’t. I will not work for free, consult for free or even write for free – unless it is for a cause or a company I truly believe in. But I think I’ve earned my right to be there. You will too – with persistence and perseverance.
However, the balance is important. Learning when to say no and learning when to ask for more money for your work is incredibly important. And that will come as you learn, grow and feel that you can offer much more. That moment will most likely come when you are done paying your dues.
Lastly, do not take yourself too seriously.
Have fun. It is more important to have lived then have survived. A job at the end of the day is a job. Be nice, help out when you can and do your fucking best. But for gods sake, have a life outside of work. Your life is what makes you interesting, not your job.
I hope this was of some use to you.
I will update this occasionally. If you have a learning you would like to share on this page, please leave a comment or email me and I’d be happy to include it here.
For a project at work, I’ve been thinking and re-thinking the notion of art, culture and commerce and what it means for corporations. I could swear I’ve fried my brain cells in thinking about this, but I may be finally getting somewhere… hear me out.
I was pretty ecstatic when I learned that Paris’s famous Colette is coming to New York. Alas, I was mis-informed. Colette is not coming to New York. Instead, Colette has partnered with GAP, ColettexGAP, to bring a selection of curated items to NYC. GAP is desperate for any ingredient brand to help pull itself out of the trenches, but Colette was coveted and special. Of all possible partnerships of creative brand ideas Colette could have executed in New York, a brand alignment with GAP is unimaginative and quite distasteful. And frankly, these sort of relationships and limited edition products/ pop-up stores concepts are now overused and rusty.
Colette, a purely commercial enterprise and the brain-child of Sarah Lerfel has exuded and has been perceived to be more of a cultural curator, a salon, a library of diversity and cultural relics, rather than a retail experience. Colette blurred the boundaries between commercial, artistic and cultural interests and although I have never been there in person, I couldn’t be more off the target when I say that Colette has successfully managed to give each of the three dimensions equal priority.
Anyways, it got me thinking about this whole merging art, culture and commerce, but I’ve come to realize that to succeed and have longevity now (by now I mean, in a world rocked by changing media and economic landscapes), an enterprise simply cannot afford to think of art and culture as disparate elements, as something you pick and choose in measures when the enterprise needs a boost or some fresh PR. I have come to believe that a cultural and artistic sensibility has to be in the DNA of a commercial entity. Just the way the commercial DNA was/is in-built in the works of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Takashi Murakami.
We have moved beyond philanthropic sponsorships of art and cultural events to a more inherent embrace of arts and culture. The one strongest benefit of this rocky economy and associated budget cuts organization-wise is that business managers are being forced to consider carefully how to make the most intelligent and creative use of their budgets, while still meeting the bottom line.
I might have been too quick in doling out my judgment for the GAP+Colette partnership without having experiencing it in person. To watch a brand I have no respect for (GAP), enter into a synergistic relationship with a brand I absolutely adore (Colette) bought out a visceral reaction. I may change my opinion if this experience transforms my opinion of GAP. Let us wait and watch.
Irrespective, maybe its time GAP began to rely on itself and stopped creating these short-term ingredient brand relationships to raise their bar.
Again, I apologize – my thoughts are pretty scattered. Its like my brain has been short-circuited! LOL. But I’d love to hear your thoughts, if any on this matter.
July 30th, 2008 • Culture Briefings
“We’re entering a new era of design where the brands and experiences we create are no longer closely held, highly controlled cathedrals – but rather bazaars of commerce and conversations.”
- Khoi Vinh, PRINT Magazine Interview
I watched Mammia Mia this weekend and my spirits were lifted and I just had a warm happy glow about me. I hadn’t seen the musical before but Meryl Streep is my favorite actress and I simply had to see the movie version. Every frame of the movie was filled with inspiration. The Grecian sun, the glittering blue waters, the fresh sun-kissed skins of the actors and the colors! oh the colors – of the fabrics, the clothes, of Donna’s villa… simply beautiful!
The guy playing the piano in this clip from the Dancing Queen is Benny Anderson, one of the original composers of ABBA.
I’m gushing, but I’m so inspired. Donna, Tanya and Rosie’s friendship reminded me of my best friends. Two things are clear from the movie 1) that I’d like to spend a few months in Greece and 2) I want the Josef Frank fabrics in my new apartment. At almost $250/ meter, they are soo out of my budget right now but definitely on the wish-list.
And I know what my gift number 3 should be for my “25 Gifts to Myself” promise
July 15th, 2008 • Culture Briefings
I’m hearting the THIS IS SAND art gallery – people have created such stunning pieces of art by simply interacting with their computers. Just point your cursor and let your imagination run amok. C’est beautiful!
July 13th, 2008 • Culture Briefings
Fashion designer Cynthia Rowley’s mother didn’t give Cynthia coloring books. Instead, she gave her plain white paper so she wouldn’t restrict her creativity by having her daughter color ” inside the lines.” I think if Rowley’s mother had Taro Gomi’s lovely coloring books, she would have been delighted by the creative spirits the books unleash. Check them out for yourself!
Last week, we took a field trip to watch Olafur Eliasson’s famed Waterfalls around New York City. We boarded the evening’s last Circleline tours and not only did we get a good look at the waterfalls, but also a colorless history lesson. We walked away not so impressed. The waterfalls, that cost the city around $15 million were limp and .. dull. It was difficult to grasp the artist’s vision. But we discussed the art installation at length after – maybe that was the goal in mind ?
It is projected that the city will generate $45 million in tourism. From what I experienced, I’m worried the city might not even break even!
It was a fun trip regardless – and it ended over some delicious fries and fritters at Nelson Blue – the New Zealand bar and grill on South Seaport. Here’s a fun video of our trip!
“We believe in Cultural Design.
That Design, approached holistically and thoughtfully has the potential to impact the greater good. The designer is the connective tissue between the humanities and sciences: the alchemists of the Future who will play a vital role in transforming our world.
This harkens back to the era as artist as inventor, philosopher, politicians, humanitarian, engineer and sociologist. We don’t believe that specialization’s are the key to the future, but rather the connections among them.”
- Design Studies Manifesto, Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design
June 23rd, 2008 • Culture Briefings
I FINALLY visited the Murakami Exhibit at the Brooklyn Musuem this weekend. My long-time readers will know about my obsession with Japan – and everything Japanese (except perhaps sushi – I’m not a big fan of sushi, probably because I don’t eat fish) But we digress!
The exibit was fascinating – and I think an incredible blend of culture, commerce and design. From his one-off pieces for Louis Vuitton to disturbingly funny sculptures a woman skipping rope of her breast milk an) Murakami’s work can best be described as contemporary interpretation of the current psyche with often a dark subtext.
MOCA’s youtube channel has uploaded a series of videos about the exhibit.
It was my first time to MOCA – but I was very impressed with the space. I also really enjoyed the mixed media installation of Inochi – a robot who begins to feel like a young boy. The commercials are hilarious! Watch them yourself.
Imagine my delight when I saw Tim Walker’s 3 Limited Edition prints are for sale at the Design Musuem UK! It was really hard for me to not go beserk and buy all three, instead I picked this one.
This photo-essay with Lilly Allen was shot in India. I remember because I have still saved that September 2006 issue of Vogue magazine where this photograph appeared. For a while, this picture – torn from my Vogue, graced my walls until my friends convinced me that I was too old to have ripped-off photos from magazines on my walls.
There are a few other photos from that photo essay that left a lasting impression on my mind.
But I’m just giddy that my print will arrive soon. Yay!
(PS – The print wasn’t expensive, infact, it’s a really good deal at about $25. But the shipping from UK added another $20. argh)
Of late, I’ve been enamored with the concept of storytelling…..What follows is just a stream of consciouness that might not make much sense!
As a writer and a wordsmith …. I think words speak most powerfully to me. I think the best in words and I relay the best in words. Today I was surfing the net and remembered to check out my friend’s online magazine SMITH mag (which I check periodically) SMITH mag has taken the idea of 6-word memoirs to an entirely new level that is so heart-breaking and powerful to me.
See these 6-word stories yourself… made me think that a great story that can be told in 60,000 words can be told as effectively in 6. This is one of the most powerful new mediums I’ve encountered…. (ofcourse there is twittories – stories in 140 words…etc) But how awesome is this?
June 2nd, 2008 • Culture Briefings
I watched ‘Sex and the City’ last night with my close friends. The movie was bitter-sweet with a tight story-line and killer one-liners. But what took the toast was the experience of watching the movie… The audience, mostly women but a large number of men – oohing and aahing at the beginning, groaning at the bitter parts and clapping enthusiastically towards the very end.. was simply amazing to witness and be a part of. SATC is part of a New York women’s collective memory – every girl imagines her and her friends having the kind of friendships portrayed in the sitcom with ofcourse, NYC as the backdrop. I highly recommend watching the movie, if not in New York with NY women, then most certainly with your closest friends : )