Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What happened to Hannah Montana?? (Or, Another One Bites The Dust)

Miley Cyrus is 17 years old.

Seventeen, and already she's reached a level of stardom that many Hollywood hopefuls can only dream of. She debuted on the now-infamous TV series Hannah Montana, and slowly but surely propelled her way into the spotlight and the hearts of screamy young adolescent girls everywhere.

In her early years, there was no doubt that she was a 'good girl' - she had a close knit family, and strong values to match. But the first crack in her image appeared in 2008 when she did a completely nude photo shoot for Vanity Fair. And as it always does, this downward spiral picked up pace, culminating in this raunchy new video ('Can't Be Tamed')  that includes lingerie as apparel and a faux kiss with a fellow dancer.

She could've gone down the path of Taylor Swift, but it looks like she's going to choose Britney Spears instead.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Giving credit where credit is due

Old Spice's 2010 campaign 'Smell Like a Man, Man' has hands-down produced some of the most clever and hilarious work I've ever seen. Testament to this fact is the viral nature of the ads - it racked up more than 2 million views on YouTube, received close to 10,000 five-star ratings on that site, and has been featured on numerous blogs. And most recently, it received the Grand Prix for film at this year's Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival

'The Man Your Man Could Smell Like'

Listen to your audience, not your gut

A lot of people in the ad/marketing industry tend to labor under a logical fallacy: our consumers are just regular people. I am just a regular person. Therefore I am the same as the consumer.

We assume that the people we are talking to are exactly like us; that they have the same emotions, thoughts, beliefs and experiences as us and consequently, will react to advertising exactly like us. Now, a new study by Xyte Technologies, is proving that this little piece of wishful thinking is pretty far off base.

Xyte applied behavior-based segmentation modeling to marketing, using factors such as learning styles and reliance on thinking versus feeling to classify people into four broad buckets: Mind, Body, Hand, and Word.

Here's what they found: people in the marketing industry tend to fall into the “Word” category – people who prefer to work with words and have a longer-term focus – yet Word people make up just 18.5% of the population. That means that the ads marketers create that appeal to them may not work as well with the rest of the population.

The study drives home a critical point - we are not our consumers.

The implication here is that, as marketers, we have to be more responsible (and more diligent!) about finding out who our consumers really are as people, not just as users of our product. We have to meet them wherever they are, listen to everything they're saying, and use their insights to feed our strategies. It is only by doing so that we will be fulfilling our duty as advertisers, achieving campaigns that truly hit the mark and producing results for our clients.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is 'Happiness' a cop-out strategy?

Lately, I've noticed several advertising campaigns (for everything from cameras, to beverages, to cheese, to cars, to chewing gum) that appear to be built on a common strategic idea - 'using this product will make you happy.'

Now, I know that marketers are (or should be) constantly trying to tap into an actionable insights about their consumers - a deep, true and unique fact that will resonate with their consumer, and give them a solid reason to believe in the company, brand or product - so it's not really a surprise that happiness comes up over and over again. After all, it is common knowledge that all individuals are hugely motivated by the prospect of happiness, pleasure or personal well-being. (In fact, this 'pursuit of happiness' is deeply embedded in many cultures around the world, and in America, exists as one of the three 'unalienable rights' of man.)**

But with the ubiquity of this 'happiness' advertising, I've started to wonder whether marketers are digging deep enough or taking the easy way out - after all, it's pretty much common knowledge that all humans are motivated to be happy, or at the very least, to seek pleasure. And let's be honest, won't buying any new product give me at least a momentary spark of so-called 'happiness' - that's why they call it retail therapy. I gotta say, I'm not sold.

Some examples of 'happiness' advertising:

and here and here.

What next? Will my feminine hygiene products now make me happy too?

**This concept extends far beyond American shores, and exists is many forms and verbiages across the world. (See here for more details) Moreover, the 'happiness frenzy' is spreading like wildfire - in 2008 4,000 books were published on happiness, while a mere 50 books on the topic were released in 2000. The most popular class at Harvard University is about positive psychology, and at least 100 other universities offer similar courses. Happiness workshops for the post-collegiate set abound, and each day "life coaches" promising bliss to potential clients hang out their shingles.

Memories of South Africa

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Menu Transparency: Yay or Nay?

A little while ago, I was walking around Herald Square in New York City, when I felt the dreaded first signs of my blood sugar plummeting. First, I felt lightheaded and my heartrate started to pick up, then my palms and my forehead broke out in a light sweat, and finally my vision started to blur. I felt like I couldn't breathe. I headed in to the nearest grab-and-go place, trying to find something that would take the edge of quickly without ruining my healthy lifestyle.

Approximately 20 minutes later, I walked out emptyhanded, anxiety accompanying my already stressful symptoms, wondering HOW IN THE WORLD a turkey sandwich can have 890 calories?!? 490 in a muffin?? No way. That's not a light snack, that's enough calories for nearly two meals.

And now, Mintel reports that, under the new health care bill, restaurants across the U.S. will be adopting this same format, posting nutritional information on all menus.And astoundingly enough, this action is garnering widespread support amongst the public - more than 60% of restaurant-goers think restaurants should post nutritional information on menus!

Don't get me wrong, I fully understand the rationale behind this (menu transparency = healthier food decisions = less obesity/less heart disease/lower cholesterol, etc) and there was a time when I wholeheartedly supported the idea. But older, and a tiny bit wiser, I will admit that is idea is simplistic to the point of being naive. Knowing calorie counts does not a healthy eater make.

There are many many factors that influence where and how people eat, and I don't believe that seeing these numbers will influence or rectify all of them. Here's a couple off the top of my head:
1) Obesity has shown to be linked to low income. This is because low income individuals don't have a lot of disposable income to buy food, and rely heavily on 'value' meals (lots of food for a little cash) from fast food places - the places that are inevitably serve high fat, high calorie, greasy, friend,artery clogging, unhealthy food. They simply don't have the money to trade up to places that offer healthier options.

2) Eating healthy is a matter of internal choice; if people aren't motivated to eat healthy, they aren't going to. It's as simple as that. When I was overweight and oblivious, I didn't think twice about eating two plates of pasta loaded with sauce, and then going back for pizza. And I doubt the numbers would have convinced me otherwise.

3) Which takes me to my third point - for calorie counts to be meaningful, a person has to know how many calories they should be eating. If I don't know that I should be eating 2200 calories a day to maintain my weight, I won't know the difference between eating a 400 calorie turkey sandwich for lunch or a 1000 calorie deep dish pizza. Without the context, the numbers become significantly less meaningful.

4) And finally, as a psychology major, and a recovering binge eater, I know that calorie counts can be stressful for people recovering from eating disordered behavior.Those numbers are triggers that can set off old bad habits and generally be detrimental to mental health. I'll admit, the prospect scares me.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Digital Content Done Right

I just finished reading Nimble, a Razorfish report that discusses how content needs to be modified when transferred from traditional to digital media. Essentially (as you might have already guessed), the report hammers home the point that in order to succeed, content needs to be free! Free, as in libre - it must have the freedom and liberty to go where and when people want it the most, to be mobile and social, and be able to adapt quickly to the new challenges and opportunities in today's media landscape.

Digital content has the ability to become truly nimble for one major reason: it is not confined by the same physical restrictions that are placed on traditional media. It does not have to be forcefit into a column space, or magazine page, or television time slot. Digital media's capacity to expand, grow, and be editable make it uniquely able to provide consumers with digital experiences that traditional media cannot carry.

For content to be free, it has to be flexible enough to function across all digital platforms without losing any aspect of the experience. The ability to reuse digital content increases its shelf life, and value to the brand. 

"Ironically, it's more structure that makes content nimble and sets it free."

Giving structure to digital content (through metadata) is what allows it to be broken down into its elements and recombined to reach across the web, create dynamic relationships, and exist smoothly across any number of devices, without losing it's ability to entertain, inform, or educate. However, digital content should not be structured according to how it will look on a newspaper page, but according to tags that express the meaning and function of each element in a content item.

The report highlights a fundamental errors that many publishers make with online content: they continue to treat it as if it is traditional published content. Very few editors are giving thought to how to structure content so that it is free to mix, mingle and connected throughout the web to create a rich, unique experience for the consumer. The report recommends that all publishers 'Become a content distributor' - developing content products for individual platforms and keeping the 'unique modes of interaction' and 'optimal types of experience' top of mind for each one. 

"In a highly connected world, content that's trapped in a silo is basically invisible. And invisible content might as well not exist."

Read the full report here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A font for a city.

Typography has been gaining popularity in the digital realm, with informational and visual websites such as Typographic and Typography Served springing up all over the web. Design firm Norwegian Ink has embarked on an absolutely fascinating, ambitious, project called CitID that invites artists and designers to submit a logo or typeface for “every city worldwide; big or small, rich or poor, famous or infamous, well-known or unheard-of.” So far, they've logged over one hundred cities, representing cities from all over the world.

I'm not artistic, but I am well traveled and it's interesting to to see how well my perception of these places matches up to the artists' representation.

New York:                                      


Kuala Lumpur:

Cape Town:






There's no doubt in my mind that the creators of these pieces are incredibly artistic and talented graphic designers. Curiously enough, none of these images gave me that feeling of 'he/she hit the nail on the head.' My experiences and memories of each of these cities does not marry up with the visual representations that I saw on the website. I'm going to continue to follow the project as it grows and see whether this continues to be the pattern.

Writing - and Thriving - on the Internet

No doubt, growing up in the technology age has had its advantages - I can coordinate leaving my home with the arrival of the next bus, weather alerts remind me to dress appropriately, location services tell me where my friends and family are, I can get in touch with anyone, at any anytime, through many modes and most importantly for a directionally challenged person like myself, I can GPS my way around town and never get lost.

But I'll be the first to admit that the internet has become a double-edged sword. It is overwhelming, exhausting, and frankly a little bit panic-inducing. It's virtually (heh, get it?) impossible to control this medium, and the words 'information overload' have taken on a whole new meaning. Today for example, it's only 2pm and already I've found approximately 17... yes, 17... things that I want to read or blog about, but that would mean not doing any of the work that I have on my plate right now, for the job that pays my salary.

How do you master it? I've tried a half dozen different ways to organize this, and no particular one seems to be working for me. I have several blogs, RSS readers and social networks floating around the interwebs that carry pieces of my findings in the digital world, but nothing that has stuck. Or, I haven't stuck with anything. But ever the optimist, and never the quitter, I've decided to condense everything down to this one blog - my writing, photography, finds, articles, opinions, thoughts, what have you.. it's all going to be here.

I'm giving writing - and thriving - on the internet, one last chance.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Music Finds!

Music has been handed down to me. Recommendations from friends, family, stores, Starbucks, Pandora, Grooveshark, Twitter and sometimes, just pure happenstance have led me to most the tunes on my playlist. And truth be told, once I find a few artists I like, I listen to them on repeat until my ears are on the verge of bleeding before I seek something new.

I discovered 'Stars' last year after downloading the entire Pitchfork soundtrack for the last couple of years and instantly fell in love. Fast forward nine months and much ear-bleedage, and I'm stoked to see that they're releasing a new album later this month. Here's a sneak peek at one of their new songs.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Eminem - Not Afraid

"Yeah, It's been a ride. I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one."