I have been writing a blog for Hourly Nerd, a website dedicated to independent marketing consulting. Check out my latest piece here.
My passion for marketing is contagious - I'm constantly talking about new ideas in the world of branding and marketing with my friends. At a dinner party on Friday night, I was dreaming up a strategy to expand a local established bar night to new markets. While buying glasses at Warby Parker, I was taking notes on how their customer service experience is amazing. While volunteering to interview a new Executive Director at my alumnae college, I brainstormed a list of questions with other alums and narrowed down which ones I would strategically ask. ...
The world is full of marketing and branding challenges, and I love applying these skills in the randomest of places. So when my friend posed a question this past weekend about her husband's work event, I jumped at the chance to brainstorm. His company is a mid-sized start-up, and each year they host a food competition where each team draws the name of a protein and a spice. The goal is to use the ingredients in an appetizer, entree, and dessert, and then compete against other teams on both food and theme. His co-workers take the competition very seriously.
What elements did his team pick out of a hat? "Red pepper" and "Fish." The team had already made a delicious three courses: red pepper soup, salmon with red sauce, and red velvet cupcakes. What was their theme? Red. "Lame theme," my friend and I both said.... they're never going to win.
My friend said: you can do better! What should their theme be? Any ideas? .....
I have the perfect theme, I thought, rising to the challenge. How about "Well Red"? It's a play on the words "red" and "read" -- and he can pick literature or even cookbooks that feature the appetizer, entree, and dessert that they made. For example, they can reference Paula Dean's cookbook or the "Red Velvet Cupcake Murder".... a pun will tie it all together. What would you have suggested? And doesn't this sound like the best work event ever? Yum!
As much as I am a full-fledged participant in the digital world, there are two remnants of the 20th century that I am holding fast to: writing appointments in a paper planner and taking out physical library books. I was excited to see that Christian Rudder's book "Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking)" came available at my local library. Rudder is one of the founders of the clever "free" online dating site OKCupid which has been at times controversial with their psychological experimentation on user behavior and also attractiveness ratings. That said, it was clear to me that by collecting user data since 2004, Rudder has a unique vantage point in the conversation on data, and luckily for us he shares some of his findings. Rudder's OKTrends blog is fascinating; it provides an inside snapshot on key elements of human dating behavior, which arguably (with all of the biases and insecurities out there) shows people at their honest-to-goodness worst.
A social scientist at heart, I would LOVE to get my hands on these datasets. Oh the charts I would pull. Thus, I recommend "Dataclysm" because it is data voyeurism at its best - Rudder includes raw charts on items controversial and imaginative from ageism in dating to what makes racial profiles unique. He uses multiple data sources not just from OKCupid. And he's extremely smart. He fully concedes that charting data is subjective and human; the choices we make in pulling data and explaining it fully influences the outcome. He presents and defends his choices (i.e which filters to use and why), but also makes his work salient to an intelligent audience without being burdensome.
I learned a lot from Rudder's analyses. For example, he shows that Twitter messages while brief are not reductive in the quality of discourse, a fact that I held in my gut as the service has proven quite valuable to me. He also remarks how fewer points of data are becoming highly predictive as our data sets grow; an important thing to note as a virulent few refuse to "share" information as privacy concerns are at an all-time high. In fact, they don't have to share much to be understood anyways. And he makes a good point that the exchange of personal information can be small versus the gain of free services such as LinkedIn that can improve our lives in positive ways. But this isn't an essay on internet privacy concerns.
What impressed me the most by "Dataclysm" is Rudder's facility with multiple data sources - that alone can be educational to those grappling with the new digital world. He is truly modern and engaged. Rudder reminds me that I can use Google Trends to track the rise of certain keywords and correlate searchable terms. While limited, there are free data sets out there for our review and analysis. Recognizing so is both inspirational and exciting. It is our world; let us dig deep.
As a woman in business who is concerned with closing the gender gap at the top and making an impact, I have researched a lot about this topic. Going to business school was a starkly different experience culturally than my time at a prestigious liberal arts all-women's college. Susan Colantuono's TED talk really struck a chord with me as it focused on the very reason that I attended business school: to develop new competencies in business, strategic, and financial acumen. As she puts it, "understanding where the organization is going, what strategy, financial targets, and your role in moving the organization forward."
Seems simple, but it is deceivingly so. Gender biases aside, Susan's advice to business leaders is to focus on how your employees emphasize a drive for results. All too often, executives do not realize that they have fallen trap to gender biases in mentoring. Women are often told to emphasize personal actions such as building their own personal brand or working with others instead of building the business. Both skills are important, but the former are to differentiate, and the latter are to advance.
As I seek to mentor others, I know that after listening to Susan's talk I am going to be much more aware of how to promote one's own abilities. In the right company where rising talent is recognized and celebrated, these skills are at the core of professional growth. What I appreciate about Susan is her ability to eschew conventional advice and bring these skills to the forefront as we examine our current mindsets and how they need to change in order to level the playing field.
As a child of the 80s, I grew up humming: "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony...I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company," so it's no surprise my favorite Superbowl ad in 2015 was the Coca-Cola #MakeItHappy commercial. In true Coca-Cola fashion, the ad had a catchy musical track and was focused on people spreading happiness. Coke's original slogan in 1886 was about their unique comfort: "Drink Coca-Cola and Enjoy It." (A complete list of slogans available here.)
But unlike its 1971 version, the 2015 Coca-Cola ad showed individuals feeling alone with technology in the modern age, a much talked about trend in popular media. Cyber bullying and internet trolling were at the forefront of the ad -- a vulnerable teenage boy reading a hate text on his smartphone; a man watching an argument on the web; a woman at a bus stop tearing up after reading something hurtful on her device. Coca-Cola is spilled figuratively through the network fibers, and as it imaginatively reaches these individuals, so does comfort and joy. The woman on the bus bench laughs at an internet meme that suddenly appears - of a baby saying 'we got this' - and I can relate. I smile. She smiles.
"Show me love" sings the lyrics --- with the words "The world is what we make it" -- a positive reminder that we can empower each other with kindness -- a message that Coca-Cola has been sending for over a century. (Ironic what they're finding sugar does to our bodies, but that's another subject.) Coke's message and challenge links us emotionally to their brand - in our conscious and sub-conscious minds we think of sharing joy and happiness when we think of sharing Coca-Cola with others or with ourselves.
Nationwide insurance takes a different, more risky, tactic in their second Superbowl ad: they too focus on a delicate situation - the early death of a child by a preventable accident. But instead of spending time on fixing the situation and spinning it to the positive like Coke has done (which provides some comfort and relief on the behalf of the viewer), Nationwide instills a sense of fear and danger and then leaves it there. The viewer is left in the cold and is encouraged to visit www.makesafehappen.com as the next action to find a solution and continue the dialogue.
It is difficult to control negativity in advertising; it's often recommended to stay positive in brand messaging, i.e. to write "lightly sweetened" instead of "not sugary." I believe that this is why commentators across the internet have called the Nationwide ad "morbid" and a "debbie downer"; a bit PSA. Without showing the warm embrace of a parent protecting their kids or a child smiling with relief, Nationwide seems to lecture us about consequences. Too hard hitting? What did you think?