You don’t need to be a market researcher to notice a shift in how products are marketed to women. While seeing less pink and weird blue fluids are well received in my book, I have noticed something about the way some of these ads are framed, particularly in think pieces from marketing and advertising newsletters that I wasn’t sure if I agreed with: hailing these advertisements as empowering to women. I fully support efforts that educate consumers and provide them with the necessary information to make best decisions for themselves. But I had to wonder what exactly does it mean for these advertisements to empower women and do they really hit the mark? Read More
I remember when virtual reality tried to go mainstream in the mid-80s, big, heavy headsets and poor computer graphics let you walk around a world that looked like a big pixel. It was interesting but even the teenage me was unimpressed. Jump forward to now and virtual reality has become cheap and nimble.
Enter Google Cardboard. For about $15 you can have a virtual reality headset sent to you. Slide your smartphone in, put your headphones on and you’re off.
Sure there are more expensive headsets from Samsung or Facebook, but why bother? The experience on Google Cardboard is excellent enough to make you lose your balance or walk into chairs.
The New York Times sent its subscribers a free headset a while back and has been putting excellent content on its VR app: NYT VR. For now it’s just a cool toy, but I can see how the marriage of cheap headsets, smartphones, and apps, will lead to new ways to communicate, learn, get the news, etc.
A city that grows from within reclaiming yet-to-be gentrified neighborhoods, promoting the arts, new food, and generally alternative ways of doing things is a distinct place, unlike many others. Such places and activities are often deemed “cool.” Coolness incubates, sometimes over a generation or two, with new ways of perceiving, making, and doing things. Eventually these elements collide, and a zeitgeist emerges.
Coolness offers people a chance to explore, to go beyond their prescribed boundaries and mix things up. Un-gentrified, or less polished cities, take on little risk in letting people do these things in their backyards, with little to lose. Creativity ensues, and coolness follows.
Cool cities take time to boil over and be noticed by those who are not in attendance. Arguably, a place isn’t cool until outsiders make note of it, thereby designating it so. Critical to being a cool city is that the people from within aren’t interested in defining themselves as such, since they’re too in-the-moment creating than caring about such a moniker; labeling oneself cool has always been the kiss of uncool.
Not nowadays though.
If Starbucks were a person, who would they be? Male or female? Young, old or somewhere in between? What kind of car would they drive? What about their MO?
You can tell a lot about people’s brand perceptions when you ask that they imagine them as a person. Brand personification exercises are great tools for illuminating who consumers feel a brand is for as well what kind of permission they give to shift, alter or expand that audience. It can speak to identification, aspiration and alienation, and is particularly helpful when contrasting brands within a competitive set. For example, would the Gap like the same bands as Old Navy?
Advertisers are no stranger to this technique too. A perfect example is Apple’s ‘I’m a Mac/I’m a PC’ campaign. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review looks at how brands capitalize on our propensity to anthropomorphize just about everything from pets to cars, and discusses how brands use gendered messaging to build equity and affinity.
I eagerly follow New York Fashion week every year, desperate to see what flashy new trends are emerging among my favorite designers. Although fashion week is long gone and we’re headed into summer, fashion week still sits top of mind for me. During the infamous week, the WSJ covered a story, Fashion Industry Meets Big Data, about fashion brands using big data subscriptions to predict and forecast trends. Before digging into the article, I was shocked! How dare these unique brands I have come to love use big data to fill the runway? But, as I read on I understood the business model and why one particular fashion data company has seen 40% growth over the last four years. It seems almost foolish for fashion companies not to use these kinds of services to make sure their styles are on track, their products will continue to move, and ultimately they will increase revenues.
However, I have some concerns about these data services predicting and forecasting what we will be wearing next season, especially if they are all predicting the same styles. For example, it’s no surprise that floral patterns have made a comeback. Every store I have been in the last few weeks has incorporated florals into their summer line. Floral pants, skirts, leggings, blouses and headbands. Of course I realize that trends like this catch on every season, leather in the fall, neon in the spring, but I have to wonder if the overload of florals had something to do with big data fashion companies. If 3,600 corporate subscribers use the same big data company… isn’t there a good chance their lines are going to have sweeping similarities? I continue to hope that this won’t be the case, that somewhere in all the data our favorite designers won’t lose creativity, uniqueness, originality, or expression. Anna Clarke, head of women’s wear for J Sainsbury’s Tu clothing range said, “We use [trend forecasters] to support, validate and give us confidence we’re on the same page.” I think it’s great that there are services that offer guidance to the competitive world of fashion and I wish these companies the best of luck. My hope is that so many of the companies arise and subscriptions are spread across enough vendors that we don’t have to worry about seeing an overkill of trends, a conformity among brands, or for a lack of better words, the same exact thing on every shelf.
A bit back I was made aware by the ever-curious Grant McCracken of his latest project on culture entitled “Culturematics.” Culturematics are “little machines for making culture.” And while not actually small industrial devices, culturematics are nevertheless “ingenuity engines.”
Grant had developed a blog for people to post their newly minted culturematics: quick, inexpensive prototypes of ideas that are likely to fail, but that just might take off and get picked up by people and become part of our cultural milieu. By sharing ideas, the jist is that these ideas will evolve quickly. Many ideas will not be picked up and die off. But a few are likely to be adopted, and transformed in the process through iterative innovation into something that has the possibility of making its mark, or better still, transforming society, i.e., an “app for creating the world anew.”
In today’s fast and furious world, culturematics give one the opportunity to either take the reins and lead the charge in the creation of their own culturematic or at least participate in the process and contribute to one’s development.
In the end, while you may not create the next Google or Starbucks, Grant allows us to participate in the mysterious process of innovation. If nothing else, it will stir one’s curiosity and allow you to dip into a creative pool of interesting people. Fun and relevant.
It’s almost official, summer arrives this week! I noticed last night the sky was still light at 9:15pm, the fire flies are out, bees are buzzing and I’m already well on my way to a summer tan. For me, I feel “reborn” every year at this time. There’s something about the onset of summer that’s stirs me unlike any other season, and that time is now. I’m getting itchy to leave the usual and do something “different.”
There are many summer festivals out there, but most of those either seem like going to the mall or just plain silly, and none of them really take me out of the day to day. Cochella is held in a beautiful environment, but it just feels like Brooklyn with lots of desert in place of asphalt; Bonnaroo has the vibe of one big farmers market, attended by everyone’s groovy uncle and everyone’s favorite eco-consumer brand available for purchase. And, do I really want to spend a few days with people who travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to attend events as mundane as a mosquito or cream cheese festival? No thanks.
Call me flighty, but I’m looking for something that will stir the soul and lift the mind, and also let loose a bit. I think I’m done with Burning Man. Done it enough, and now a chance to get tickets is so complicated that they’re scapled online for up to $1,000 each. If you haven’t been though, still a great escape from consumerism and yourself. Just be very ready for heat, sun, and incredible sandstorms, with no escape from the elements, whatsoever.
An alternative to Burning Man is Nowhere, held July 3-8 in the deserts of Spain. A lot smaller and ‘softer’ than its American counterpart, it’s a true summer getaway. Since its host country and the Continent in general are going to hell, it might be a good year to attend. Since I’m on the subject of Europe, a few people I know recently experienced the Pink Pop Festival in the Netherlands. It’s held every year somewhere between late May and mid-June. And while it’s too late to go this year, if massive live music extravaganzas with bands are your thing, this is the place to be. What’s different about Pink is the bands aren’t curtated through the lens of wonky U.S. or British hipster cognescenti, but rather by those with a Continental palate. This results is ten of thousands of people cheering wildy to bands whose names I have trouble pronouncing, never mind ever hearing from them before. A fresh perspective. Something new. A learning experience.
If you want a more dance-oriented festival there’s the Stop Making Sense Festival held August 2-6 in Croatia, right next to the warm waters of the Adriadic. Perhaps the best place in the world to dance. During your downtime you can take yoga classes or share a sailboat with others festival goers. Sounds too good to be true.
If you want something a bit more ‘cultured’ feel free to join me at the American Dance Festival (ADF) in Durham, NC held from June 14 through July 28. It’s the world’s leading venue for modern dance. Given that modern dance nowadays embodies not just dance, but also theater, performance art, multimedia, music and fashion, there’s a lot to the art. ADF also holds a six-week dance school during the festival, so enthusiastic young people abound in a small easy-going, but quickly emerging Southern city.
If studying urban environments in quiet contemplation is your thing, I recommend a week at Arcosanti. Since 1970, Arcosant is “an experimental desert town” under constant evolution in the Arizona desert led by Paolo Soleri. Each month they hold a one week seminar where you can be immersed in the history and nature of what the city calls “Arcology.” Or, you can just rent a room and roam around on your own. Nothing quite like the place.
While in Arizona you can take a road trip a bit east to New Mexico for the Santa Fe Opera Festival, held this year from June 29-August 25. While I’m no fan of the classical “fat lady in horns” opera (too much) I’m up for mingling with perhaps the most die-hard fan base out there. There’s no audience, including Euro football, that’s more rabid than an opera crowd. Besides, opera in a setting such as Santa Fe is a balanced affair, with its relaxed vibe. And the people you’ll meet out on the town will offer great lively discussion. Worth the adventure, I say.
Lots more too, but if you went to any two of the above I think you’ll have a summer you’ll never forget. So, even if it’s not this year, good planning for next year may make these events become a reality. Have fun!
When I moved to the great state of North Carolina, I learned an important lesson: Never talk about religion, politics, or college basketball in polite company. College hoops is taken seriously in these parts.
This is rivalry week in the Triangle, with Duke and UNC meet for the first of two (or three) times this season on Wednesday night. One the eve of what will certainly be an epic matchup, one of the nation’s leading political polling firms, Public Policy Polling, have released their annual UNC/Duke Poll.
Here are a few of the highlights:
- UNC is North Carolina’s most popular school, with 32% of respondents saying it’s their favorite college. Duke (19%) and NC State (18%) are in a tight battle for second place, with ECU claiming 8%, Wake Forest 6% and 17% saying “none of these” schools are their favorite.
- UNC also leads when voters are asked who they’ll be rooting for in Wednesday’s Duke-UNC men’s basketball matchup, 41-31.
- There’s a healthy amount of respect between the fanbases. 49% of UNC fans say they “respect” Duke while just 16% “hate Duke.” And 53% of Duke fans “respect” UNC with only 16% “hating” the Tar Heels.