Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Can you create more happiness?

What is it about the song, “Happy”?  

Me, along with millions of my best friends around the world can’t get enough of it.  It may be the catchy hook, it could be all the opportunities to clap; but at the end of the 3 minutes and 53 seconds the truth is I’m just a whole helleva lot happier than I was before.  It’s a dose of musical medication for me and may even be the same for others who continue to share lyrics as hashtags on twitter, the video on youtube, and even create their own version of the video to the song.

But why do we need a does of happiness anyway? Is there something going on where we need a dose of happy?

You ‘betcha!*    

Simply put, it's life. There are psychologists who map out the path of happiness throughout our life cycle in the shape of a U.  The beginning starts higher around our late teens, then decreasing as we hit the lowest end of the curve around 40’s before it begins an upward trajectory again.  (It hasn’t been disproved yet, but when I think of whom 'gives' the most smiles on any given day, it seems to be true.) When you cross-reference this with the average of people in the United States at 39, you have a lot of people who may find it a little bit tougher to smile. 

Beyond personal happiness, there are governments exploring it's effect on productivity and wealth. Bhutan has led the way with their Gross National Happiness initiative, but the UN is measuring happiness and even California is looking to create a well-being indexThe topic and idea is going nowhere, when you look at the Google Trends, it's shown an upward trajectory since 2005, usually peaking for the year in December. (new year's resolutions anyone?)

While I’m sure this is riveting information you’ll talk about over happy hour tonight, you may wonder what does this have to do with culture, consumers and creativity? Pretty much everything. Mindset, motivation and beliefs drive so much of how brands connect with the people who love them.  

Is it a coincidence that of the top 10 most shared ads of 2013, eight of them share some sort of emotion associated with happiness? Most likely not. On any given day when consumers are shopping for your brand, they’re unconsciously thinking about the emotions associated with them.  For Fabulouso it is a smell that recalls sitting in the TV room laughing at Saturday morning cartoons while Mom is cleaning. For Dove it’s remembering how beautiful I already am before I even use their products. For Chipotle, it’s feeling good about what I’m putting into my body and eating humanely. Simply put, the brands that make me smile go into my cart.

And just in the rare case you haven’t heard the song or viewed the video. Here’s your dose of Happy for this Humpday. Make sure to clap your hands!

(*Disclaimer: I spent my early adult years in the great state of MN, but consider casserole and hot dish terminology as synonyms. Totally insider joke.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cats make the best brand barometers

I like to observe…no I love to observe. And one of the things that I’ve observed with a bit of wonder is the phenomenon of the Cat Craze.  I may have been uber late to the game, but I became more observant of this after the success of ‘Grumpy Cat’ memes in late 2012 and his 2013 SXSW Mashable House guest appearance.  At first glance it could be excused as a simple exercise in humor and snark. I mean who doesn’t like the opportunity to make fun of a grumpygus? But it went beyond ‘Grumpy Cat’.  It became an explosion of cats in all shape, colors and forms of emotional expression.  If you don’t be believe me, just see the jump in Google Trends from October 2012- May 2013. (and that’s just for angry cat and cat meme) 

But what if the craze was reminiscent of a bigger change, a change in attitudes, in perception? In 2010, The University of Texas at Austin conducted research on people who identified as a cat person, dog person, both or neither. People who identified as cat people were lower in extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness, but higher in neuroticism and openness. If I were to make a loose left field connection, what could this possibly mean on a broader scale?  It could mean an increase in introversive tendencies. It could be an increase in stubbornness and indifference.  It could also mean that high stress living is here to stay.  An upside would be openness…but that could even mean a reluctance to stay committed to any one thing.

Take a moment to let the possibilities sink in. 

Maybe not at any one time, but a few of these characteristics are the same challenges that brands are up against everyday.  Beyond breaking through competitive clutter, reaching consumers may get even more difficult as their expectations of engagement change.
Of course, there is a way around it….a red laser against the wall.

I kid! I kid! Of course not, but a similar device all the same, disruption and authenticity. 

I read an article yesterday morning from Fast Company that Airbnb utilized 60 people to distill their 2014 business goals down to one sheet of paper, but with this one sheet of paper they plan to disrupt the hospitality industry as a whole.  AND in a way that is true to their brand and the people who love them.   They mentioned a cleaning service, but I could see food, transportation, luxury, as well as entertainment extensions that would ring true for their brand as well.

In short…although they may not all be your target, imagine building your plans to shock and awe the grumpy cats.

Here’s a cute picture of Benedict Cumberbatch with a space kitty to put a smile on your face just in case you need a meow today.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

You're Mahvelous!!

One of the things that I’ve noticed is the increased amount of BuzzFeed quizzes on my Facebook feed, and apparently so did Fast Company. So as I take a moment to look through my friends list to see if I’m connected to Drake Baer, I will say that our takes on the situation are a little different.

He talks about the fact that the organization has improved their quiz interface and that could be a contributing factor that the social sharers can’t get enough of finding about what career they should have chosen or which state they should live in.

I think it could be part of our human psyche. In this moment and time of self as content creation, could there be a desire for safer social comparison?

Last year the University of Michigan unveiled their study that sounds like the infamous Louis C.K./Conan interview. Everything is amazing and no one is happy. Well, especially when they are comparing themselves to others.  (warning: great listening, but low quality)

 But what happens to the effect of social comparison when it’s hey…you and your wife are Angelina and Brad… me and my gal are Ellen and Portia!! It’s a lot safer comparing yourself when it’s against celebrities. It also could be the ability for us to benchmark what we think of ourselves. After completing “What Kind of Dog Are You?”, I raised an eyebrow because while I consider myself smart, yet only slightly ‘high-maintenance’.  (My kind was a miniature standard poodle.)  Yet, when I got Washington state as where I should live in and Marketing as what my college major should have been I breathed a sigh of relief.  Cool state and cool major.

Yes, I’ve been affirmed!

Right now all brands should be taking notes from BuzzFeed and helping their customer see more than brand benefits.  Make it a particular point to ask yourself, “In what way are we affirming how awesome our consumers are?”

Friday, February 21, 2014

Creationism vs. Evolution: The American Family

I realized that given my ‘motley crew’ of a family I may have some sensitivities surrounding this topic, but nonetheless I’m going to go there.

There has been a lot of applause and some negativity surrounding Gracie and her family featured in the Cheerios commercials from May. In case you haven’t seen it, it was a beautiful everyday moment of a family whose little munchkin wanted to protect her dad the only way she knew how. I can relate, as I don’t know how many ‘helpful’ things I did from my grandmother growing up as well... I wonder if anyone found all those cigarettes that may or may not have been buried under the dog house in the back yard?  Sorry, I digress...

Some media journalists took this spot as an opportunity to herald the ‘New American Family’. New?!?!!! I have images of a box with a family inside and a big red sticker on it, with NEW in all caps and gold ink.  This didn’t happen overnight folks, this is evolution. Darwin’s principle theory of natural selection is that there are biological and physical changes at the genes and DNA level that mutate to adapt to their new environment. I know that unless you’re an X-MEN fan that the word mutate may sound negative, but all it really means is an alteration occurs. In this case I think of it as a mental and emotional change at the brain and heart levels. (A welcomed change at that.)

An article last month from ABC shared that most people hold onto the idea of a nuclear family, but few actually come from one. There’s a lot to explore in the conversation of the ‘pictures’ we create in our mind based off past belief systems. Yet, what is cool is that largely as a society, we are evolving in our belief in what families can be for others, if even not for ourselves.  I don’t know if you’ve seen this Swiffer ad, but I seriously love everything going on in it.

As marketers are developing more bravado at showing different types of families, we should also begin exploring what other belief systems have evolved and how we can bring those discussions to forefront thru advertising.

And a child shall lead them (ISAIAH 11:6)

Thanks Gracie!

Friday, February 14, 2014

What do car manufacturers think of Americans?

In the digital world, this is considered ‘So twelve days ago’, but a new commercial surfaced in my world yesterday and basically bought about another WTF.

Why in the hell are most car manufacturers stuck in neutral?

While a lot of commotion surrounding the Super Bowl ad by Chrysler was whether Bob Dylan has completely sold out, there was a small vocal group who picked up on some of the general context of the ad.

‘In Merica…. we make cool, we build legacies, we’re original and we make cars.”

Then this week, Cadillac reveals a new ad that talks about hard work and creating your own luck, but only after a tirade of how cool America is and how other countries don’t get us.  The ad does distinguish that the stuff is a by-product of the hard work and not the motivation behind it, but it feels like more of an afterthought.

It’s not that I’m not proud to be an American at all. It’s that this  ‘we’re #1” stereotype is being used over and over again by car manufacturers and it seems like they think this is what their target audience is all about.

I had a few friends try to tell me that these cars are for ‘douchebags’, that’s why the commercials are like that.   Since I actually think the new electric Caddy is pretty sweet…I hope not...but I guess most douchebags don’t actually realize they are.  (Insert existential crises here)

Maybe it’s the brand of the car that’s driving the messaging, but one thing is definitely certain. These commercials aren’t being aware of the cultural context surrounding the message.  America has evolved. The people in it aren’t dreaming about the homogenous 2.3 kids, corner office, suburbs, and white picket fence anymore. It’s all over the place. I have friends who crave only to be full-time parents, I have friends that want to build their own businesses, write books, manipulate clay, and write music. I have friends who want to live in other countries, others to be more mindful in their everyday, and others to simply be.

In the end, it’s about the story and there’s more to tell out there.

So although I generalized in the beginning, I’ll end with a car commercial that got it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Creativity should be polyamorus

First a disclaimer: Don’t get detoured by the idea that some religious right may be behind this as the name made me a little hesitant. Bask in the coolness of creative polygamy. This is but another opportunity to be a voyeur of the tangling of technology, design, words, and an idea.

I saw this dose of cool graphics today and when I read it, I thought to myself how ‘effin’ cool is this? God is used as a noun, adjective, and adverb. At a higher level it shows some correlation to collective situations (i.e. God & coffee/ God & Miracles), but individually it shows how words have different uses and meanings to us.  Many, many years ago, I remember having a friend from Poland who told me they had a more difficult time learning English than Thai…of course in my then very ‘the US and North America are interchangeable’ brain, I thought how in the frig could that be true?!?!!  His response was, English words have so many meanings and don’t even bring slang into it.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dreaming with Butter

It’s funny how some days my news feeds resonate with my personal life, and this Tuesday there was a topic very close to home. It was an AdAge article on how butter is back and sales are on the rise. So after licking my chops at my imagined Homer Simpson air bubble of melted butter with roasted garlic topping a grass-fed steak; I realize that sociologically, we could be nearing a tipping point in consumerland. 
Not specifically about butter, but the trend of wanting the real thing and not some diluted version of it.  A number of brands in their hay day set their value proposition hat on the throne of ease and convenience, and of course times have changed. It’s not as unique a differentiator anymore and educated (even those under-educated) consumers aren’t willing to make concessions as they used to.  Anthony Bourdain commented on the hipster craze of making cheese, and although the cooler-than-thou attitude is laughable, the actions aren’t.  DIY continues to stretch across industries.
Besides food, another notable area where real is being manifested is the huge growth of urban cities over suburbs. Some economist think of this as a reactionary trend to the recession, but I the question how much the values of locality, sustainability and creativity play into this growth. 
Economists base their statements off history, but as marketers we should be envisioning the future with a wide peripheral scope of the present. So, the next time you’re cooking up a plan, make sure to ask yourself, “Did I put a pat of butter on that?”