Friday, November 30, 2012

Infographic - What Hipsters Should Read Next

The folks over at Goodreads are flexing their muscles in the digital culture. They are building a community of lit junkies. Count me in. Check out their "hipster lit flowchart". It’s a cheeky map of the next book that every hipster should read. We had fun today comparing notes. Any David Foster Wallace readers out there feeling their niche-rivulet is flowing straight into the mainstream?

As usual…I’m reading business books such as Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s The Impact Equation and Sarah Caldicott’s Midnight Lunch. And then there are research abstracts.

Not so fun as fiction. Not nearly so hip. But oh-so necessary.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fusing Art and Technology to See Combat Through a New Lens

Photo by Lincoln Schatz
Lincoln Schatz is more than an artist. He’s an emissary. His work is both a visual waltz and a dope slap for the real human condition. I’ve learned more drafting behind Lincoln’s cutting-edge work than reading research about the future of visual communication. Beyond being a visionary, he’s a creative technologist crafting a new art + tech genre.

See for yourself. As part of the Serving Abroad…Through Their Eyes photography project, Art in Embassies commissioned Lincoln Schatz to create a video montage of military life.

The images are from photographs of daily life taken by current and former military personnel working overseas. The final work will be installed in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul after it tours other national and international venues including The Pentagon, State Department and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in the fall of 2012.

Congratulations, Lincoln. Stay out there on the frontier, right where we need you.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful for My Education

Last weekend, I hopped aboard a special Amtrak train headed to East Lansing, Michigan for an alumni weekend at MSU. Joining me was Kathy Benn, my old college buddy (pictured above). As the train pulled away from Chicago, she and I swapped stories about what life had taught us. It was a warm autumn weekend. We made ourselves hoarse rooting for the Spartans. After the game, we strolled the campus, triggering a flood of fond memories. The visit, more than anything, made me profoundly grateful for my education.

I stubbornly cling to the idea that a quality education still matters in America—even though the American Dream is up for revision. And I’m especially optimistic that the reforms begun with STEM will have another four more years to manifest.

This fall, I was on a panel to discuss teacher recruitment strategies using social media. The event was hosted by 100kin10, an organization focused on recruiting teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The room was filled with educators eager to attract a new generation of math and science teachers. The nature of their questions clued me into the depth of their marketing challenge: brutal competition. People good at math and science are on every employer’s wish list. To win the war for talent, educational institutions will have to think more like marketers. Hopefully, that’ll make them better at expressing the value proposition of education in a digital age. 

Panelists from left to right: me; Dan Swartz from UpShot Media; Shannon Downey from Pivotal; Tim Knowles--moderato,  from the University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute.
Faith in institutions, including schools and universities, has eroded. But as I walked the MSU campus and peered down the hallway of my former dormitory, I remembered what it  was like to live there. Long nights writing papers on my Smith Corona typewriter—a gift from my parents. I learned to meet multiple deadlines and find the energy to drag myself to pre-dawn rowing practices.

It is said that we are shaped by what life demands of us. Getting a good education, if you’re serious about it, is a demanding business.

As Thanksgiving nears, I feel newly thankful for my schooling. No, it wasn’t an Ivy. It was a Big Ten school in my home state. Frankly, it’s what I could afford on my savings from summer jobs. College gave me important work habits. It forced me to marry creativity with rigor. And it taught me how to live happily among lots of different people. In short, it changed my life.

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Marketing to Millennials—Three Steps to Making the Lifestyle Connection

Marketers wanting to reach Millennials can learn a lot from Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s experiments.

For those unfamiliar, Steppenwolf Theatre Company was launched in a church basement in the 1970’s.  Early members include John Malkovich, Gary Sinise (a founding member), Laurie Metcalf and Joan Allen. The company has always been ambitious about attracting new audiences.

A while back, we worked with Steppenwolf on their Millennial Audiences project. Our job was to interview a range of Chief Marketing Officers from global brands such as Ford Fiesta, Red Bull and Google to discover best practices for converting Millennials. You can download the findings are in our free eBook: Tipping the Culture.

We learned some amazing secrets. Chief among them is the importance of making a lifestyle connection with GenY.

Let me explain.

Like most people, Millennials are busy. They aren’t sitting around wondering what’s missing from their entertainment mix and concluding, “Oh, yeah—I need more live theatre in my life.”

Classic institutions that are serious about attracting younger audiences must be willing to experiment with ways to mesh and morph their offerings. In this case, Steppenwolf aimed for a wrap-around lifestyle experience: dinner, theatre, socializing.

Check out an experiment Steppenwolf dubs The Scene. It’s marketed this way:
“A special opportunity for high school students to score an affordable ticket to a Steppenwolf production, meet Chicago's most celebrated artists and connect with other teens who are passionate about theater. Each ticket includes dinner and post-show discussion with the actors.”
Steppenwolf makes the lifestyle connection with Millennials in three ways:
1. Make it achievable—young people remain grossly under-employed, so the more value and price sensitivity the better. Note that dinner is included, and affordability is emphasized.
2. Meet a social need—hang out with friends, see and be seen, deepen a romantic connection (date).
3. Transfer meaning--Using rituals and key symbols of their brand message, The Scene brings new people into ritual spaces (theatre) where they can slowly attach their own meanings to those key symbols.
Want your brand to be center stage with Millennials? I advise you to take a cue from Steppenwolf when staging your brand experience.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How Twitter Helps Brands in Clever Ways

Tweet to get a discount.

Tweet to get a free sample.

Tweet to vote.

The use of Twitter is exploding to help push brands into the social sphere. This South African bottled tea does a clever job of integrating social with classic marketing tactics:

1. Tweet to get a sample
2. On-site vending
3. See how it works:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Communicating Uncertainty While Predicting Trends

Forecasting is getting trickier. Weather. Financial markets. Consumer trends. You name it. External forces seem to have more velocity. 

This week, my heart went out to my friends and colleagues living on the east coast. I came across this wonderful post about the uncertainty inherent in prediction. It ends with a Hippocratic Oath that made me wish there was such a thing for marketers.
~ I will remember that I didn't make the world, and it doesn't satisfy my equations.
~ Though I will use models boldly to estimate value, I will not be overly impressed by mathematics.
~ I will never sacrifice reality for elegance without explaining why I have done so.
~ Nor will I give the people who use my model false comfort about its accuracy. Instead, I will make explicit its assumptions and oversights.
~ I understand that my work may have enormous effects on society and the economy, many of them beyond my comprehension.