Dynamic culture: Now, the Protests Are (Kind Of) Occupying Universities

The occupy movement has spread its decentralized yet potent wings, expanding onto college campuses. While I previously argued that this movement is not definitively generation based or rooted in collegiate protest  (a la the anti-war demonstrations of the 60’s), the movement’s spread to the University represents a significant chapter in Occupys turbulent young history. Said NPR’s Beenish Ahmed, “The movement and its encampments are proving to be a challenge for administrators at some schools.” While the movement has seen presence at some of the nation’s top schools such as UCLA, UC Berkley, and even Harvard, it still doesn’t appear as if Occupy is being truly embraced by students at our nation’s most academically inclined institutions. For example, Washington DC’s Georgetown University, often a behemoth in terms of political activity, has been criticized by other DC schools for their lack of involvement in the protests. At Berkley, the camp was recently raided and torn down by authorities.  Even Harvard, despite acknowledging Occupy’s presence, has added their own twinge of exclusivity to their encampment. Following protests in Harvard Yard last week, University officials closed off the yard’s gates so that only student’s with University ID’s were allowed to enter. One percent much? I mentioned last time that GenY is not a protest generation, and that Millennials generally appear to accept the roles of the institutions they associate themselves with. While Occupy’s shift to college campuses may represent a larger trend in the role of the University in relation to the current economic crisis (College tuition nowadays is really cheap. Right?!?!), it appears that those involved in the protests on many of our...

Two nations divided by consumer etiquette

Two nations divided by a common language. This well-worn phrase was repeatedly cited to me before we moved from the UK to New York and a lot after we landed. With this phrase ringing in my ears, friends at home would reassure me the shared language would make it easier for us to settle in the US. It seems Brits feel familiar with US culture thanks to the plethora of exported TV shows and movies that influence our small green island. However what’s depicted on the big or small screen or through the behavior of American celebrities does not quite capture the nuances that differentiate British and American consumers. Often, differences between the two countries are trivialized and boiled down to accent, the odd word or communication styles; compare the stereotypical deference of the Brits with the boldness of Americans. Until I moved here, I hadn’t fully appreciated just how different the two countries are when it comes to cultural context and related consumer behavior. Like many Brits I’d visited the States a few times before we decamped here, but getting a cultural impression whilst on a brief business trip or holiday is very different to living somewhere new that requires one to adapt in order to communicate more effectively and form enduring relationships As a naïve new American consumer there seemed three main hurdles to overcome. Firstly, I had to learn a new consumer vocabulary – I remember asking a bemused looking shop assistant in Target where the Wellie Boots were. She stared back at me blankly until I described them as plastic boots you wear in the...

Dynamic culture: #OWS, Occupy DC & Gen Y

Fast Company recently provided a solid breakdown of the demographics behind the Occupy Wall Street movement. Fast Company: OWS stats. Here’s some important things many people I’ve spoke with don’t seem to know: 26.7% of those participating are enrolled in school, and only 10% are full-time students. I was surprised by these numbers as they indicated OWS is not a student-led movement by any means, which provides a strong contrast to the anti-Vietnam protest of the late 60’s. Also it’s important to note, there doesn’t appear to be a strong university presence by any means, not only numbers wise but also location wise, as no protests are taking place at colleges or on university campuses. A third of protesters are over 35. While I couldn’t find a stat of how many are under 30, this was pretty striking to me, in the sense that this doesn’t appear to be an age specific movement. Therefore, despite what some of the articles I’ve read are saying, Generation Y is not driving the movement in any way whatsoever. At Onesixtyfourth, we’ve talked about GenY’s preponderance for conformity in the sense that we are not a riot-induced, crazily protesting generation. So to see if this held true I did some mother-in-law research about OWS and spoke to some friends to learn about their thoughts and involvement. There were essentially three types of responses: It’s stupid and it’s terrible and they should just go out and get jobs instead of complaining. (I should note that these comments are from Georgetown students and a lot of them are probably considered as coming from families in the...

Dynamic culture: Gatsby Elites

All Millennials are not alike.  And, amongst us there exists a select group of individuals, from select geographic pockets (often suburbs of New York, Boston, Philadelphia DC, South Florida, Bay Area, Los Angeles) that I’d like to label as Gatsby Elites. It might not surprise you that many members of this group are privately educated for high school and go on to study something finance or economics related at highly prestigious, often private universities. Their families are generally upper-middle class or higher socioeconomically and as a group they tend to be racially homogenous (Caucasian). If at a Greek school, they often join the fraternities and sororities with the most influential reputations, which in reality is just a nicer way to acknowledge that socio-economic segregation is still alive and well. If attending school with a strong bar culture, they often have the most expensive fake IDs that enable them to get into “tougher” bars as underclassmen. Now, to really make it sound like I’m painting a stereotype that’s been depicted in many films and TV shows from Animal House to Cruel Intentions to Gossip Girl, they are attractive, both physically and in terms of social status The Social Network/Henley Sequence, and date and have sexual relationships mostly with those who are also labelled as physically attractive - arguably a defining element of social status in college. In many cases, the “betches betcheslovethis” in this group gravitate towards hanging out with athletes, particularly lacrosse players. Due to their perceived superiority, they have a strong sense of entitlement, which sometimes leads to a disregard for general rules as well as erratic and...

Dynamic culture: The rise of the #hashtag

The hashtag, which started out as a twitter-centric device to spur interactive conversation around a common theme or topic, has transcended its original purpose and arguably become incorporated into GenY’s vernacular as a communicative meme. Although the hashtag has no functional use on Facebook, it’s now a popular way to underscore topics, moods, and general sentiments, in other words, enhance the value of the phrase or expression that lies within the #hashtag. Some examples: I can’t wait to lead the team to another victory next week as captain. #wednesdayblues Well that sucked, but it’s over with! #LSAT My theories: -Since hashtags were originally used to rally around trending topics or events (i.e, #Cairo, #RIPMichaelJackson), the obscurity of certain hashtags juxtaposed with the functional purpose of them gives an illusion that something like #livetweetingpoliticaltheologyessay is an important, trending issue. They also add an element of humor and cultural relevancy that couldn’t be accomplished without the hashtag. -Because twitter is not as widely used as Facebook, tweeting can still indicate that someone is progressive and an early adopter. Using the hashtag, a special feature of twitter, implies that you know the medium well, which further implies some sort of above average social media prowess. Following, a person who incorporates hashtags into conversation is a progressive person. -They simply add color and personality to an otherwise boring sentence. A good example of this is the “oh, good thing i’m still on fall break! #questionable.” Intuitively, the hashtag simply makes the sentence come to life more. Interestingly, hashtags have caught the eye of Google+, which has incorporated them into their UI so that...

Intuition, confidence and self-reliance

I couldn’t help but nearly recite the definition for intuition. I was downtown having lunch with two of my former students (when living in London I had balanced consulting with teaching Intro to Marketing at NYU in London) and we had stumbled into a discussion that always animates me - using intuition versus analytics for decision making in business and in life in general. Intuition. It’s an intriguing concept. Relied on by some, shunned by others and misunderstood by many.  It was apparent that the word itself, more or less intuition’s non-linear nature, challenged the sense of security my former students got from checklists and the definitive problem solving processes and models they were taught in business school as much as it excited them.  Like a lot of managers and, yes, even marketers, my former students confused intuition with instinct and were very nervous about relying on something that involved trusting themselves over the numbers. And while I certainly believe our gut reaction can sometimes be right, I don’t believe that hunches necessarily outperform reason. Therein lies a fundamental misconception: intuition is not the opposite of rational thought nor does intuitive thinking give you permission to forgo analytics.  While instinct (Latin root instinctus meaning impulse) is rooted in a primal place and the subconscious mind (I like to think of it as a Darwinian attribute associated with survival), intuition (Latin root intueri meaning contemplate) is grounded in experience and knowingness.  In our superconscious mind.  Even though we can’t pinpoint its process, intuition is mindful of our intellect and thereby analytics.  After all, we can only reach the superconscious by...

Bin the catalogue. Disposable brands.

In my experience the gap between expectation and reality can cause disappointment. This was made clear to me after the birth of my first child. As proud new parents we excitedly commissioned a photographer to take pictures of us with our wee bundle of joy. In my mind’s eye I foresaw the photos turning out similar to an Estee Lauder advertisement - us all dewy skin, with golden locks, white teeth and misty smiles as we tossed our progeny playfully in the air while a golden Labrador puppy played around our picnic basket. When the eagerly anticipated photographs came back they looked somewhat different…Six months of sleep deprivation and no gym visits had clearly taken their toll; we looked pasty and bloated. My hair resembled a raccoon as I’d clearly overlooked the mandatory two monthly visits to the hairdressers in favor of a few too many muffins and whole milk lattes whilst breast-feeding in Starbucks.  My husband’s first reaction on seeing the photographs was that we’d looked like we’d eaten ourselves. Gwyneth Paltrow clearly need not feel threatened! Home shopping using catalogues and online photographs as stimuli reminds me of the salutary lesson learned from that photographic experience. Now as a parent of three young boys I have little choice but to shop from home as visits to the mall, Main Street or the city shops with three young kids in tow is beyond stressful and going alone is a rare treat squeezed between swimming lessons and soccer practice. Lately I’ve become too fixated on Pottery Barn. Online shopping with them would be a breeze if you’re an altogether more...

Brand Baby 6: Building blocks of the future

According to a recent article I read, boys are driven by accomplishment and reward. As a mother of three boys under 6, I regularly pay 25 cents to motivate them to accomplish any number of menial tasks: putting on shoes, tidying up, etc. Now that my eldest two boys have reached four and six this need for motivations and incentive is becoming increasingly evident. I believe their brand du jour, LEGO, is perfectly placed to deliver on this. LEGO stands for fun, imagination, creativity, and learning. Speaking as a parent of boys, it seems they consistently deliver on what kids enjoy. Their traditional product of bricks and blocks taps boys’ seemingly inherent and basic need to build, either solo or as a team. My boys take great pride in their constructions whether following by the box instructions or embarking on a free-style version. Partnering with the most in-vogue kids’ brands of today, LEGO knows how to continually connect with its consumers. The brand has steadily moved beyond building blocks to position itself as an experiential brand, the most obvious incarnation being their amusement parks. However their co-branding opportunities also point to this shift as my boys construct, animate and develop accompanying stories focused around their creations, seemingly absorbing the brand in every sense. More recently, LEGO have done it again with their interactive games. They’ve tapped precisely into what makes boys tick: achievement and reward. A coyote could walk into our family room, devour their Starbursts and my boys would be oblivious until they had mastered their obsession – Lego Star Wars. As they reach the next level they...
September 11th: reflecting on individual narratives

September 11th: reflecting on individual narratives

Over the past week, I’ve been listening to the personal stories of victims of the crash on the World Trade Center on the radio.  Although 9/11 nearly instantly became an event that connected New York with America and America with the rest of the world, albeit each briefly, local media coverage over the past few days reminded me that coming of age events, which characterize a generation, are actually personal moments that reverberate further. As expected, many of the stories I have heard have filled me with mournfulness and contemplation.  More importantly, though, the narratives have communicated a message of resilience, optimism and belief in the future.  Many children of those who were killed have been determined to right the injustice of 9/11 and fulfill their potential in varying ways.  Such qualities of passion, generosity and virtue mingled with rebellion are inherent in the American consciousness and uniquely characterize the American ideal of freedom. From nearly it’s inception, the US as a nation has felt a responsibility to play a role in human history.  Our founding fathers had a vision of offering people the possibility of equal self-esteem. Yet, over the past ten years, society and culture have become more contradictory and polarized rather than united.  As we grow more interconnected and codes of conduct are relinquished, we simultaneously seek to individuate, to leave our mark and stand out through the unique expression of our individual identities.  We join forces virtually to change things for the good of the community and the good of the world while at the same time our focus on developing self-esteem moves away from...

Britons, embrace your inner American!

We were back in England this August.  Although we were lucky enough to miss the carnage caused by the hurricane and earthquake we landed in the UK in the aftermath of the riots.  Everyone I spoke with there expressed a sense of disbelief and palpable anger at the wanton vandalism and destruction that had spread like wildfire across Britain’s streets. The politicians were playing the blame game.  The right wing were blaming the parents of the youths and their apparent inability to instil moral values in their children while those left of centre were blaming the credit crunch, the slow economy, poor jobs market and lack of prospects many of the young face.  Others were blaming social networking and the safety net provided by social security benefits which, in their view, induce a lack of personal responsibility. Whatever the spur, teens and early twenty-something’s face long term economic insecurity not experienced for decades.  Their frustration and anxiety is not unique it’s just manifested in different ways through every demographic segment.  Concerned pensioners see their capital challenged by rising inflation and low interest rates, pre-retirees watch helplessly as share prices seem to collapse more frequently than in living memory, and experienced, skilled workers face the constant fear of job loss.  Although these are worldwide issues I got the distinct impression Britain’s spirit is more badly broken than in other countries.  It’s suffering from a negativity that needs to be halted before it becomes endemic and repeatedly passed through generations. This lack of confidence was reflected across the media in the UK while we were there.  The business pages reported Dyson,...
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