Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Heritage as a theme in fashion and brands

Given all the talk of the decline of America's preeminence as well as all the chaos and uncertainty in the world right now it should come as no surprise that people are looking back at earlier times in American life with nostalgia. A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal reported on the "American Heritage" trend in fashion. Varsity sweaters, newsboy caps, tweed, argyle sweater vests, checked shirts and shawl-collar cardigans are all on the comeback.

(WSJ:Designers Mine American Heritage for Rags and Riches)

This may be more accurately described ads the peaking of trends that have been in play for several years now. Things like argyle, have been around for several years now. Lacoste's comeback and Pan Am bags are old news. In New York City bars and restaurants the "hunting lodge" has been in full effect for many years.

Ralph Lauren has always been the master when it comes to capturing and romanticizing American Heritage.

I actually have a theory about the aesthetic narrative of Ralph Lauren for women.
There is a cliche moment in many films, a morning after moment between couples, the woman is dressed in the button up shirt the man had on the night before. There are many ways to read this: symbolic submission, a symbol of their coming together as one. She on some level has crossed over INTO his world

The aesthetic narrative behind Ralph Lauren is that moment on a larger cultural scale. Ralph Lauren leverages iconography and symbolic imagery more effectively than any other fashion brand. It is a storybook narrative of a classic, eastern-seaboard America. A folklore or industrious and wealthy men who's patriarchy is so powerful that even the women's clothes seem fashioned from "his" world from things pulled from "his" drawers.

That ain't no woman, it's a man, baby!
-Austin Powers
(From my essay: The Aesthetic Narrative of Ralph Lauren for Women)

A few years ago Canadian Club wiskey ran a heritage campaign that celebrated dad with the tagline "Damn right your dad drank it". It didn't do very well. I think they were on to something but missed the mark by centering the campaign on dad. Grandpa, more often than dad is the guy esteemed and revered as cool in a young mans eyes.

Related Previous Essays:

Life's Sweet Revenge. Part 1

Life's Sweet Revenge. Part 2: Decadence

Life's Sweet Revenge. Part 3: Pop Decadence, The Candy Macabre and Bourgeois Estate Sale

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Facebook and Twitter Stats

Both pieces below Via Hitwise Intelligence:

Facebook accounts for 1 in every 7 UK page views
Facebook accounted for 14.5% of all UK Internet page views during September 2009, equivalent to 1 in every 7. The social network is the second most visited website in the UK after Google UK, but because users view a much larger number of pages per visit, Facebook is the clear leader in terms of page views. As the table below illustrates, it currently receives more page views than Google UK, eBay UK and YouTube combined.

Twittered Out?
On the heels of yesterday's rumor that Twitter is close to securing an additional $100 million in financing, which would place the company's valuation in the $1 billion range, I decided to take a quick look at Twitter's market share of visits to see if the hype is matched by site traffic.

Another angle on measuring new user adoption is to track the volume of searches on "Twitter." As we can see in both visits and searches, Twitter appears to have hit a resistance point as of April 2009.

To explore the hypothesis that slowing and now decreasing market share of visits may be attributable to the drop in new users, we can turn to our Experian Hitwise Clickstream report that shows new versus returning users from the top Twitter traffic sources. Here's a table for those traffic sources in April 2009.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Talking the Talk (The language of your target audience)

Pepsi AMP's “Before You Score" iPhone app categorizes women into predictable, unimaginative stereotypes and gives guys pickup lines tailored to each "target". I'm really surprised by the apparent controversy and backlash (Via Mashable: Pepsi and AMP: We Apologize If Our App Was In Bad Taste). It's not shocking. In fact, it's very lame. The stereotypes themselves are cliche and pedestrian: Aspiring Actress, Artist, Bookworm, Goth, Nerd, etc. The girls in the cruddy illustrations — this may be the most revolting element — look like trannys. The copywriting is utterly stupid (the first pickup line for the "princess" type is "I'm so rich my driver has a driver". This is controversial? I wouldn't be surprised if the controversy is manufactured PR.

AMP Energy Website

This does however give me the opportunity to discuss something I've been thinking about, the widening gap between the language of consumers and that of marketers.

Coded language has always served the purpose of creating a differentiating identity that bonds insiders of a group as well as a membrane that keeps outsiders shut out. In general, verbal expression in contemporary culture has become increasingly loaded with color, profanity, shock and appall.

The language of advertising, which always presents a kind of theatricized reality, is constrained not only by federal law but the desire on the part of marketers to say nothing that could possibly offend anyone. The result is an unwillingness or an inability on the part of marketers to speak to their audience the way that members of their audience speak to one another. This becomes painfully apparent when a product or brand aspires to be edgy or is targeted at youth or urban markets. One of the reasons the ironically-sexist advertising for Axe deodorant has been so successful is that it "talks the talk" of its target audience. It talks about what their young male audience talks about — girls — and it does so in a way that makes you feel as if you're listening in on the banter of these kinds of guys. Most advertising, including that bullshit for Pepsi's AMP, doesn't tread anywhere near the reality or voice of their audience. It doesn't even dare to be as provocative as an episode of Entourage, Weeds or even Sex in the City.

See also (previous posts):

Axe Deoderant

Ironic Sexism

Graphic Designer vs client

100 Greatest Hits of YouTube in 4 Minutes

The web-video version of a "clip show". Short form video content condensed and compiled.

Via How It Happened

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Technology: Foreseen/Unforeseen: (Mobile Phones & The Segway Scooter)

One of the most fascinating aspects of technology is it's unpredictability. We are about as good at predicting what will stick as we are knowing what will be a smash-hit pop song or movie. Even more confounding are surprising ways in which technology is ultimately adopted and used.

See my previous essay:
Technology and Culture: The foreseen and the unforeseen.

A piece in last month's Economist: Eureka moments: How a luxury item became a tool of global development, discussed the remarkable impact of the mobile phones on developing countries.
How did a device that just a few years ago was regarded as a yuppie plaything become, in the words of Jeffrey Sachs, a development guru at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, “the single most transformative tool for development”? A number of things came together to make mobile phones more accessible to poorer people and trigger the rapid growth of the past few years. The spread of mobile phones in the developed world, together with the emergence of two main technology standards, led to economies of scale in both network equipment and handsets. Lower prices brought mobile phones within reach of the wealthiest people in the developing world. That allowed the first mobile networks in developing countries to be set up, though prices were still high.

Compare the mobile phone initially "regarded as a yuppie plaything" and the Segway scooter. The Segway at the time of it's unveiling was declared a revolutionary invention that would transform the world (in particular developing nations) but has thus far turned out to be a rather silly plaything. In most of my sighting the scooter is being used for marketing promotions. Of course, it may be too early to tell what will become of the Segway. Afterall, if history teaches us anything, it's that nobody knows anything.

Image above from my post titled: Chariots of Hummus

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rory Sutherland: Life lessons from an ad man

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Participation = Destruction #5 (Ok, I've destroyed my television. Now what?)

2 interviews with authors related to my theme of Participation = Destruction.

KERA Think interview with Bob Garfield, author of "The Chaos Scenario, Amid the Ruins of Mass Media, The Choice for Business is Stark: Listen or Perish". I agree with Bob Garfield's somewhat bleak outlook. The disintermediation caused by technology will create more economic destruction and general chaos in the coming future. That said, his lament over the end of the ad supported content model makes me cringe a bit.

I've been thinking about the classic, harsh criticisms of traditional media. Books like Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander and Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.(Paperback). It will be interesting to view all of this again in 10 years. Was television evil? Was it great? Was it a great loss? As the techno-media landscape continues to go through this incredibly disruptive period of change the perspectives get more and more confusing. And interesting.

NPR's On the Media: Digital Delusion: an interview with Matthew Hindman the author of "The Myth of Digital Democracy".
"Conventional wisdom says that the Internet has democratized politics by giving a direct voice to citizens. And while the bar for publishing - via blogs, podcasts and YouTube videos - has never been lower, there’s a difference between speaking and being heard."

Destroy Christmas!

This morning on NPR: Ho Ho No: Retailers Open Christmas Season Early. Despite, and because of the weak economy and growing unemployment, Christmas is already hitting retail shelves.

This trend continues year after year getting ever more ridiculous. In 2006 I wrote:
...the 3rd week of July and they already had some Halloween candy and Autumn decorations out. The shelf-life window for holidays keeps getting opened wider and wider. Where does it end? Holidays overlapping one another? Maybe we'll start to see holiday mash-ups. Wearing costumes and going house to house to exchange gifts. With the divorce rate what it is and the remarrige configurations getting more and more complicated many people are already do a house-to-house visitation style on Christmas. We already have the evil stepmothers why not add costumes. (Holiday Mashups)

It's a greedy "kill the goose that lays the golden eggs strategy" that retailers are engaging in. There is only so far you can stretch symbols and traditions before they break. They either become meaningless and collapse or become shells of their former selves. Santa could come simply to stand for "sale". The ultimate potential outcome is the destruction of Christmas. Which I find a rather delightful thought to entertain.

Anyone care to entertain a guess in which year Christmas will slam up against the 4th of July?

Related: Revisionist Shermanism: How the Grinch (tried to) Save the World.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Civic Pride Product"

Last night at dinner someone described beer to me as a "civic pride product". By this he meant that people in different cities, parts of the country (and perhaps world) embrace, identify with, and defend this type of product as a part of their cultural identity. What else could be framed from this perspective? Newspapers? Baseball teams?

Un/Certainty: (Lack of) Ethics in Documentary Filmmaking.

NPR's On The Media Posdcast, True Enough: Ethics in Documentary Filmmaking. An interview with Patricia Aufderheide on her study of (and problems with) ethics and truthfulness in documentary films.

Some of the revelations:

"Winged Migration": The birds were not wild birds but raised for the intended purpose of filming them.

"March of the Penguins": Penguins are not monogamous and mate for life, as the film would lead us to believe. (They mate seasonally.)

In "Mighty Times" Supposedly historical footage was reenacted.

From a wildlife documentary shoot:
We tried to shoot a few, and missed both of them. Unbeknownst to me, the [animal wrangler] broke the next rabbit’s leg, so it couldn’t run. So we got one. On the next take, they then asked, “Should we break its leg again?” . . . the DP [director of photography] was sitting there, saying “No, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to do it,” but nodding his head yes. I made the decision, let them break it. I regret it. It eats me up every day. I can sort of rationalize this, that it might be killed by a natural predator. But for us to inflict pain to get a better shot was the wrong thing to do.

Un/Certainty: Apollo Moon Missions

It appears as if the veracity of the Apollo Moon Missions have been confirmed by Indian satellites. I kind of liked being uncertain about this, the debate over whether or not this actually took place was the most interesting part of it's history.

No Conspiracy in U.S. Moon Mission
Panaji: In a considerable downer for space conspiracy theorists, Chandrayaan-1's terrain-mapper camera has recorded images of the landing site of U.S. spaceship Apollo 15 and tracks of its lunar rovers that were used by astronauts to travel on moon's surface nearly four decades ago, a scientist said Wednesday.

Prakash Chauhan of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said the images captured by the hyper-spectral camera on board Chandrayaan-1 debunked conspiracy theories that have claimed that the Apollo 15, the fourth U.S. mission to land on the moon was a hoax.

"We managed to identify the landing site of the Apollo 15 shuttle on the basis of the disturbances on the moon's surface. Our images also show tracks left behind by the lunar rovers which were used by the astronauts to travel on the moon's surface," Chauhan, who is presently attached to the Space Applications Centre at Ahmedabad, said.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Where on Earth...

have I been?

I haven't posted much lately. I've been traveling a lot, working long hours. I have lots and lots of things to write about and will get to them soon. In the meantime, some shots from the glamor that is my life these days:

A 50 something year old businessman playing solitaire on the plane. For real?

A 50 something year old businesswoman eating a Fiber One yogurt type thing. In plain sight. For real?