Monday, March 31, 2008

Love and Marriage Among the RenGen

Bridal season is here. I pay attention because my work life sparkles with talented, marriageable young women. So I witness the frenzy--bridal magazines the size of phone books lay strewn about the ladies room at the office building. I overhear plans being hatched and scratched by the minute. I happen to like weddings, so I overlook the drama. But this year, it all got me will the RenGen love and marry?

In honor of bridal season, here is what love among the RenGen will look like, described in four stages of settling down:

The ambivalent dominatrix
Men and women are caught in a larger societal change. Despite significant financial powers and fewer gender barriers, otherwise empowered women are ambivalent about who should make the first sexual advance. And proposing marriage is still a guy’s job.

Trophy Husbands the Hot New Accessory
The “must-have” accessory for the 30-something RenGen women is a trophy husband. 21st century women will resemble Victorian men as they seek to find partners who can give them children and maintain a household supported by paid help, and its high-tech equivalent of smart gadgets. These men provide “paternal presence” rather than house-husbandry.

Women and men will drift into marriages that have the outside appearance of traditional love matches, but will function as collegial partnerships

Look for more extra-marital affairs and marriage counseling as women discover that owning a trophy husband is not a poodle in a purse.

Slow Weddings
The Slow Food movement has been around for three decades encouraging people to shun fast-food in favor of homemade, locally grown organics. Now witness the rise of Slow Nuptials where wedding will be week-long events that incorporate several rituals. The RenGen love ritual. They are, after all, building a new social order. That requires them to celebrate life’s milestones in ways that fuse the old with the new. Consider also that they are sensualists more that exhibitionists. So the experience of the event will trump expensive trappings of the day.

Watch as the DIY hand-crafted spirit infuses the wedding scene. Very labor intensive.

All this will require time, so weddings will take on a community nature as brides enroll their wedding parties, parents and friends in preparations that will begin months out to make the day special in handmade ways. Also watch for yet more service personnel to enter the scene to support time-starved brides deliver on the Slow Nuptial credo.

The RenGen will dissolve their marriages peaceably. Some will stay married, but live separately as they seek to leverage shared assets including health coverage, a most prized asset.

The Post-Nuptial Agreement will become popular as idealistic RenGen dissolve their collegial partnerships when the bonds are no longer meaningful, but the relationship no less friendly.

Barracuda divorce lawyers will be replaced with lawyers practicing a form of estate planning for RenGen dividing their assets more rationally.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Poloroid Still Groovy After All these Years

What is it about Poloroid cameras? I love them. I had one as a teenager. God knows where it went. I don't remember it jamming or breaking. I must have abandoned it. Foolish me. They don't make them anymore.

Today is the annual PHTHRD competition in NYC. Organized by LVHRD, the project invites three artists to tell a story using hundreds of Polaroid pictures to craft a mosaic narrative. This happens LIVE in Brooklyn, and people have bought tickets to watch and participate as subjects for the shots.

LVHRD has done a masterful job of aligning sponsors who enrich the environment. Although Dewar's has an intrusive presence that is just un-fun to watch. Still, I look forward to following who turns in what and which artist takes the prize.

Poloroid snapshot courtesy of Charlotte Miceli, Flickr.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Can the RenGen Save Web 2.0

I often imagine waking up in a world where the upheaval is behind us and the renaissance is in full bloom. In that daydream, people communicate with more kindness. And the Web is an encouraging and cooperative place where criticism is meated out fairly and without personal attack.

Then the fog lifts and I see the real Web where people embalm their enemies with toxic remarks. Vicious slurs are an accepted parlance in some chat rooms and on blogs. We have to face the fact that for all the community building and creativity born out of the Web, it has also fostered an acceptable level of contempt.

Possible excuses:
The Web's anonymity allows cowards to hide in the weeds and sling mud
It's a new medium with no serious editors or refs
If Karl Rove made us mean, Dick Cheney made us meaner
We hate our lives but can't admit it.

Simon Dumenco recently wrote about the crassness of Web 2.0 but cites a different culprit--capitalism. He concludes that...

"The gloves are off, and so are the freakin' rose-colored glasses, suckas! Let's stop kidding ourselves: The webby arms race isn't going to involve quasi-utopian technological advances so much as bare-knuckled brawls (mostly in courtrooms, although sometimes in digital back alleys), hostile takeovers and -- sorry, consumers -- increasingly brazen attacks on personal privacy in the name of "relevant" advertising delivery."

Dumenco may be on to something. For my part, I am sticking to my 2008 prediction: We are growing wary of the wild wild Web and want standards. This goes for content providers, advertisers and fellow users. As we awaken from illusion that the Web is a frolicking free-for-all, we'll yearn for all types of civil protections--privacy chief among them.

Sound like a pipe dream? Well, spring is all about redemption. Lots of things blossom. Let's see what unfolds in Web 2.0.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Columbus Indiana, The Little City That Could

I was in Columbus Indiana recently to brief civic and business leaders on the RenGen. I couldn't believe my eyes. A town of 39,000, Columbus prides itself on progressive city planning that aims to integrate art and design into everyday life. The town is located about an hour south of Indianapolis, but is a world away. It ranks #6 in the nation for architecture and design innovation, right behind cities such as New York, Chicago, Washington DC and San Francisco. Walk the streets and you'll encounter buildings by IM Pei and Eero Saarinen. Home of Cummins Engine, the town has a healthy employment rate and has made its parks and cultural scene a priority.

Warren Baumgart, head of the Arts Council in Columbus, looks forward to the next stage of growth as the city plans to build a new mixed-use community space. He and I attended the presentation by the architects and I was impressed by their approach. Note that their survey of the community revealed that the #1 priority among Columbus residents was culture and learning.

This winter, which was a relentless blurr of snow and ice here in the Midwest, Warren got inspired and hosted a competition for knitters. The winning designs were commissioned to knit "tree cozies" to line the main drag. Despite raised eyebrows among the more conservative members of the community, the project drew foot traffic and generated a lot of positive press. The concept is a
RenGen blend of DIY verve and eco/art fusion.

(photo courtesy of Columbus Arts Council)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Does Art Make Us Smarter?

A three-year study sponsored by the Dana Foundation reveals the connection between art and learning. The researchers found:

-Students who came to the study with more musical training tended to make faster gains in reading fluency than did students with no musical backgrounds;

-For stronger readers “white matter” pathways responsible for phonological awareness—the ability to pull apart and manipulate the sounds in speech—are more highly developed;

-There is a link between visual-arts lessons taken outside of school and children’s skill at math calculations, possibly because both activities involve recognizing patterns;

-Middle school and high school students who studied music intensively, typically because they were enrolled in special schools for the arts, were better than students with little or no musical training at tasks involving basic geometric skills.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How to Pitch Sponsors Via Email

Designing an effective sponsorship program is a consultative process. It demands face-to-face meetings. But circumstances can require you to connect virtually first. Lengthy copy may work in other formats, but with today's blip-speed attention spans, we have to spark people's interest with short, provocative messages to be noticed. That being said, there are still times when longer emails can outperform short ones, according to Email Insider, especially when you want people to understand something or you've already earned their permission to share more detail.

When to pitch electronically? Here are the guidelines to consider:

Making a complex or expensive sale.
When you are promoting a high-concept or very technical offering, Email Insider suggests a riveting headline or offer with a story that explains the offer's attributes and advantages. Draw the prospect in with problem-solving propositions. Present persuasive facts about your offering in sufficient detail to overcome objections. Be sure to keep your brand positioning in mind as you write.

Sample applications: unique VIP/hospitality events, expensive cultural tourism travel packages, high-end entertainment with sophisticated technology. Why? Long copy can help justify higher prices and convincingly point up superior differences in content, user experience or longevity.

Building relationships.
Be real. Email is a letter written from one human being to another. Keep this in mind when addressing fans and customers who have displayed an interest in your organization. Create a persona through your choice of words. Just as in any new relationship, you want them to like you and want to know your news.

Opt-Ins who have asked for more. Once they have opted in, these highly aligned consumers enjoy learning more from you and will become engaged with every communication you send. Think of it as the Lake Wobegon effect, where the news is not earth shattering, but the reader craves the context you provide because it's witty, chatty and personal.

Sample applications: membership communities, entertainment products, cause marketing.

Introducing new concepts.
Sometimes urgency has to take a back seat to education in email marketing. Bearing in mind that your target audience probably doesn't have time to read every email you send, it's a good practice to repeat your message and explain your benefits more than once. If you are introducing an offer whose full attributes won't be intuitively grasped by a casual reader, or would require an extraordinary commitment to buy in to, spend time telling them about it. It might require a series of emails to cover the subject adequately and create the conversion response you seek. Be sure prospects know where to find any information they might have missed along the line by providing hot links to your Web site in each email.

Sample applications: new or innovative offerings, or programs with a long term of use, such as capital projects.

Experiment. Everyone is still learning how to use the web to sell ideas and services. Be inventive, invite engagement, show you care about making life better with the work you do. Convey your enthusiasm for solving problems. These qualities are appreciated by every business person.
In all forms of marketing, you have to let your approach fit the offer and the audience, and it must always express your brand, change minds, and win hearts. Email pitches must be held to those high standards to give you any return.

Friday, March 7, 2008

International Women's Day

Saturday, March 8 is International Women's Day. In honor of the day, I am posting this segment of a young Gloria Steinem being interviewed in her apartment. The reporter's questions are phrased in 1960's slang--hilarious! And Steinem is cool, baby, cool. (Sorry for the link instead of an embed, but blogger and YouTube wouldn't collaborate on this one.)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dishy Mix

Susan Bratton is a force of nature. She is a new-media maven and founder of Personal Life Media. This week, Susan had me on her talk show "Dishy Mix" to talk about my book. She interviews thought leaders in all walks of business. She is smart, driven, and a blast to work with. But what impressed me most is her approach; she is looking to bring web-based media into a new dimension. Rather than seeing how the web can replicate radio or television, Susan prowls for edgy content and new business approaches that spark ideas. Her approach to business content is fun-loving, never stuffy.
I often get asked about the traits I most admire in business people and my answer is always the same--I respect people who are generous to others. They tend to have large networks and sincere fans. Susan is such a person. Despite a hectic schedule, (she just returned from TED) she finds time to email people saying, "Hey, I just came across this person, or book or idea and I thought you'd want to look at it, it's good for your business." Susan Bratton is one to watch.

Brands Embrace Cause-marketing to Reach RenGen

Last week, I had a puzzling conversation with a guy from the tech sector. He was putting together a conference and wanted to know if I'd be interested in presenting. But first, he wanted to know more about the RenGen and what it means for technology marketers. At one point he jumped in with, "I think you are talking about cause-marketing and I can tell you, our audience isn't into that." I probed a little. "Just not what tech marketers are interested in."

This week, Unilever and P&G were featured in AdAge for their growing interest in a type of marketing that makes a difference.

I was heartened to read that young RenGen are a force for change in the marketing sector. RenGen values are driven more by altruism than capitalism. And because they believe small personal gestures can make a difference, they are pre-disposed toward cause-marketing campaigns. Unilever gets this. "We are seeing, particularly with the new generation of young business people and young marketers, that they are only attracted to companies that fit with their own value set," said Kevin Havelock, president of Unilever U.S. "And the value set of the new generation is one that says this company must take a positive and global view on the global environment. ... The ethical positions we take on brands like Dove, the positions we take on not using models of size zero across any of our brands, the positions we take in terms of adding back to communities ... these all underpin an attractive proposition for marketers."

Cause-marketing campaigns have "a big motivational impact," said P&G Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel. "It fires the agencies up, too.... It just feels like you're playing to a higher-order ideal."

So often in closed-door meetings, marketers brush off cause-marketing and strategic philanthropy as being, "too soft." Perhaps its because the paradigm shift is still too large for people to grasp. But a younger generation is massing around these social messages and the big dogs with the big budgets are hot on the trail.

What makes this momentous is that Unilever and P&G are often criticized for being laggards, too silo-ed to take risks. Well, the Dove campaign alone proved otherwise. The Evolution video (above) was created for a little more than $50,000 and generated over 350,000 downloads in less than 30 days. The positive press Unilever earned for the Dove campaign is worth millions. Best of all, the campaign has given the packaged goods giant a point of view that embraces the consumer with a higher level of humanism--less like targets and more like thinking, feeling human beings. That is how a compassion brand wins hearts and minds. Priceless!

This thought leadership from the traditional packaged goods giants raises the bar. As for the tech sector's marketers, it may take longer for them to adapt to the values of the RenGen. And there are fence sitters in other sectors, too.

I'm curious. If RenGen altruism in marketing delivers on so many levels, why do some marketers still consider it too "soft" to be taken seriously? Any theories out there?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Are You Ready for Your Catharsis?

Youch! Flame throwers have been busy burning down the house over at Drawing fire is Jeff Yang's article, Brand Aid, about the demise of America as a brand and the candidates themselves as personal brands.

Jeff phoned me last week to get a few quotes. (It was truly a memorable interview--his wife went into labor the day we were planning to talk, so we postponed and by the time we actually did speak, he was a proud papa of baby #2...and still met deadline!) Jeff has a playful intellect and he's comfortable swimming at the deep end of the pool. We speculated together about whether there'd be a national catharsis over the last eight years.

It seems there is plenty of pent up anxiety to fuel it--home foreclosures, no new jobs, staggering national debt, an expensive but win-less war, pick your crisis. But looking at the comments posted about his piece, it made me wonder...Today, we can complain online. Click through venting gives us nano-gratification. No more big, media-genic events like a march on Washington. Fine, I guess. Besides, mainstream media let go most of their most seasoned people last week--Chicago Tribune fired 2,500 and NY Times furloughed 100 reporters.

That aside, has the Internet given us a daily drip of a catharsis? Will we protest one blog tirade at a time in the hope that someone is listening?

photo courstesy of TWM at Flickr

PS Spring is nearly here. Fresh air, new life. I plan on doing a baby boomlet post for the many people in my life who have recently given birth. Anyone out there with a birth to report let me know. It's so uplifting!