Black Friday, consumerism, social production & ethical consumption

Black Friday is fully under way.  And, in the run-up to it over the past two weeks it seemed that Black Friday had become a holiday in and of itself.  A follow on to Thanksgiving; a bit like Boxing Day is to Christmas in Britain.  Will Gray Thursday and Cyber Monday soon achieve the same noteworthy status? In a post-production, consumerism society our social stability depends on economic growth.  If we didn’t know that before, we’ve learned it since 2008.  Governments and the media continually emphasize that retail numbers are an indicator that we’re either still stuck in the recession or coming out of it.  So personal consumption - aka shopping - is a measure not only of economic stability but of active political participation.  In a consumerism world, purchasing is an act that benefits society as much as, if not more than, it does the individual.  And, as a brand and marketing professional I know consumption can be - and in point of fact is - a dynamic and engaging factor of social and cultural change.  It’s no wonder Black Friday has taken on the status of a Federal Holiday. Interestingly, Black Friday seems to reflect the same sentiment Franklin Roosevelt, the (liberal) Democrat we know best for the New Deal, had when he moved Thanksgiving from November 30th to November 23rd, in 1939.  And, this after he ignored the initial request from the Downtown Association of Los Angeles in 1933, when the Great Depression was at it’s worst point. In a letter to the President on October 2, 1933, the Association noted that according to the usual...

Dynamic Culture: Music And Generation Y – Our Long(ish), Strange, Trip

In 1998, I bought my first and last CD. I had received a gift card to Borders for my birthday, and, as an eight year old who thought he was too cool to read a book, I ventured into the store’s now defunct music section. I remember being oddly intimidated by the whole experience. The endless catalog of artists, the increasingly strange album covers, the people milling around with weird goatees, tattoos, earrings. The girl at the checkout counter, even now I could recall the pungent smell of cigarettes. I remember her scoffing at my choice, clearly at the age where she thought her music was better than my music. I was eight years old, but it was clear that her music was still much better than mine, and that everyone should know about it. “$10 for one song?” She didn’t actually say that. But if she did say that, she wouldn’t’ve been totally wrong. I had purchased Tubthumper by Chumbawamba, solely for what I had dubbed the “I get knocked down song.” The CD probably stayed in my walkman (remember those?) for over a year, and quite honestly, I could not tell you the name of any other title on that album. So if you really think about it, I had spent $10 on one song A year later, and I was faced with pretty much the same predicament. This time though, I didn’t but a CD at Borders. Instead, I listened to my one hit wonder of choice Blue, by Eiffel 65, on my computer. Via Napster. For free. I listened to many a song on Napster. And...

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...
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...
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