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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Millennial Wedding Rituals: Nuptuals With A Social Media-Inspired Twist

I recently attending a wedding where my wife was performing a special selection of songs for the ceremony. It was a Cinderella-style event for one of her voice student’s sisters and her college sweetheart husband. Ole Miss, to be exact. The only reason I know is because at some point during toast there was a wedding party fraternity fight song.

In any case – I was happy to be there to observe the support the couple and observe the ritual. Everyone who reads this blog knows I love a good ritual. I suppose I would be a poor Anthropologist if I didn’t.

Wedding rituals are always fascinating. They differ based on the level of society (band, Tribe, Industrial, etc.) as well as the cultural context one comes from, but in the U.S. there are some fairly standard traditions: The religious ceremony presided over by an officiant that typically includes an exchange of vows, the inclusion of a bridal party as well as groomsmen (to support each member of the married couple in their preparations and to help them cope with the impending commitment – as well as being part of the ceremony to demonstrate this support), the tradition of wearing good luck charms (something old, new, borrowed, blue, etc.), the “giving away” of the bride by her father (waning patriarchy’s still like a good exchange of human property) and of course the big damn party to celebrate the happy new couple – because no matter who you are or where you live we love to share our happiness with others – and in this case do it until it hurts – financially speaking of course.

Another tradition that we see in western weddings as they have become more of a “production” is the program: setting the scene (and expectations of length) and giving recognition to all the members of the wedding party.

In the case of this particular wedding, I enjoyed the addition of a couple of very Millennial twists to the program, which I thought blog-worthy. In the spirit of making sure everyone got credit for being unique while still being part of the team (a very Gen Y trait – “we are all individuals but can’t be successful without the support of our peers” ) and in the social media tradition of making sure no moment went un-shared, the program included:
– hand-drawn custom avatars of the entire wedding party that included nuances down to the type of dress and which side they part their hair
– an embossed invitation to post pictures from the wedding reception to a twitter hashtag
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Naturally we have seen other Gen X and Millennial wedding traditions come to pass in recent years to coincide with our modern “way” – such as the new tradition of the wedding party “dancing” down the aisle or into the ceremony (for those with more conservative parents) which you have seen all over YouTube.

I wonder how wedding traditions will continue to evolve as generations become more tech savvy, geared toward personal recognition in an expanding global pool of social networks and inclined to take formalities less seriously as our conceptual economy encourages left-of-center thinking to inspire new ideas.

For now, however, I am pleased to see that “the kids these days” are still inclined to hold on to the traditions that remind us we are human while making a point to add new widgets of relevance.

Good luck to the happy couple. Regardless of the times, love is a tradition that always endures and hopefully the rituals don’t overshadow the sentiment.

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Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Culture, Ethnography, Generation Y, Millennials, Rituals, Trends, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Walk Through East Atlanta

My wife and I took an early evening stroll through an often-missed-by-tourists-and-transients part of Atlanta last night. We had both spent most of the week down with a lovely stomach flu and wanted to get out for a minute.

Typically, we would head to this part of town for evening’s hijynx: drinking and generally hunting down some trouble when we have a wild hair – as it is known as a great down-n-dirty party locale for locals because of its string of bars and nightlife that takes all kinds and all budgets.

However, spending some time in the daylight you can see a little bit more depth on your journey through the neighborhood. At dinner (the hipster taco place that serves things like grass fed brisket and organic margaritas) we were surrounded by Gen X parents – tables of couples in their late thirties and early forties with newborns and toddlers . We were reminded of the “alternative lifestyle” choices that reside here – the heterosexual artists who took their time settling down , and chose to live a little left of center before getting decent-enough paying jobs to buy / rent a home in a not-quite-yet gentrified part of town. These residents are mixed in with the less economically fortunate legacy residents of the Afrocan American Community as well as a collection of young artists who’s work can be seen on stickers and random acts of street art throughout the neighborhood.

But what binds all the residents of this part if Atlanta’s world together seems to be a taste for the ecclectic that makes a neighborhood a home.

Here are some photos from our early evening after- dinner walk as a preview. I recommend both Atlantans and outsiders head down I-20 East to have a look with open eyes sometime and enjoy the perspective.

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Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Art, Art and culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Ethnography, Participant Observation, sociology | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Embrace Your Pain

I really enjoyed this Millenial-perspective on embracing the power of personal growth. Yet another affirmation that this generation is going to do something good for themselves and the world…

Categories: American Culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Corporate Culture, Culture, Generation Y, Millennials, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brain Candy: An Exercise in Knowing Thy Context in The Check-Out Aisle

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Checking out at the Whole Foods on my way to a Father’s Day lunch I spied (and purchased) this parent-trap: Sharkies Kids Sports Chews.

As with most things in life, brand and product positioning (the mindspace a company would like their product to occupy in the mind of the consumer) is all about context. In this case, this item’s value is rooted entirely in its marketing.

Somehow, this product- which is at best a “fruit snack” / glorified candy: slightly better than Sour Patch Kids but slightly worse than Annie’s Gummy Bunnies on a nutritional scale) is not a sweet- but-minimally/harmful snack. Rather, it a functional-yet-fun nutrition supplement.

Let’s break it down a bit:

Ingredients: organic sugar, organic tapioca syrup, organic white grape juice concentrate, pectin, citric acid, ascribing acid, color. The important words here are “sugar” and “syrup”. You will find less euphemistic versions of all these ingredients (AKA high fructose corn syrup) in most fruit-snacks with potentially a few extra added dyes and preservatives.

Marketing messages: notice the list of badges on the package advertising all the “bad” things the product DOESN’T have: high fructose corn syrup, trans- fats, wheat, gluten and nuts. Aside from the corn syrup – there is nothing among the listed evils that you would find in ANY fruit snack or candy. These buzzwords are evoked to enable quick editing and validation in the “impulse aisle” so Mom or Dad can have an easy reason to say yes to their nagging toddler.

Then throw in the tagline: “Clean Fuel for Active Kids” and you’ve got an instant win for a parent who is inevitably stopping at the organic food store on their way to, from or the day before / after a soccer game, tee ball practice, gymnastics or junior hip-hop dance class.

Why is it “clean?” Flip it over and look at the ingredients list – only about 8. Fits the “not processed” bill for most over-achieving label-readers.

Finally, it’s not called a “snack” or a “gummy” anything – even though from consuming the entire bag I can tell you it has the same consistency as most gummy candy. It’s a “chew”. Other things that are called “chews” in Mom-and-Dad land are typically kid’s vitamins- gummy and chewy I consistency to trick kids into getting their essentials by making then think it’s candy.

So, at the end of the day, this sugar-rush-in-a-bag passes as chewy Gatorade instead of gummy bears because of clever marketing and because its organic.

Context is everything indeed. I simply recommend that every now and then we all remind ourselves to take the time to put the pieces together more objectively so our consumer choices are made in the right frame of reference and frame of mind. Otherwise we are destined to become slaves to our cultural context rather than being a part of its evolution.

Categories: Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Food, Health and Beauty, Marketing, Social food movements, Trends, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sociology of Style Shout-Out to The Class of 2013: The Changing Course of The American Dream

Today’s blog is the latest taken directly from Sociology Of Style

 

Bling My Dream:
The Changing Course of the American Dream

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The class of 2013 recently threw up their hats. Now, as they polish their resumes and transition into the workforce, some employers are less than enthusiastic about the current crop of recruits, characterizing them as entitled, overly confident multi-taskers with a poor work ethic. Ouch.

We love to lament the perpetual “decline of civilization.” Some blame media, while others blame materialism (not that the two are mutually exclusive). But does having “too much” make for a society of depraved citizens? Sure, we have “more” than our parents’ and grandparents’ generations — but so did they. That’s the American Dream, right?

Traditionally, the American Dream included owning a home, going to college, giving your children more than you had (or general upward mobility). To some extent, that vision persists — only it’s starting to look and operate radically differently.

The very notion of “ownership” has been revamped into a growing preference for a shared economy, with consumers engaged in a culture of co-ownership with everything from cars and dogs to homes and handbags. The value of a 4-year university education is in question, as the higher education bubble seems destined to burst. And now, even virtual goods can build your Klout score. So how do we mark and recognize upward mobility in a college-optional world of shared consumer possessions? How is status established and rewarded if traditional indicators are subverted and reimagined? Does this mark the end of the American Dream as we knew it?

It’s not that the U.S. has become one big commune. Far from it. The recent reappearance of Gatsby is a tricked-out reminder of our continued fascination with opulence and class, and the blurrily bedazzled line between superficiality, greed, and success. We know that purchasing designer, luxury goods has been linked to insecurity, but that does not mean it isn’t also socially rewarded.

And that’s to say nothing of the irresistible beauty of abundance: “One of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s points is that beautiful things in abundance can produce a powerful aesthetic response, akin to the sublime.” Humans — and Americans in particular — gravitate toward abundance. It is both a survival mechanism and a socio-visual proclamation that “I have arrived.”

So while the class of 2013 may present a new set of challenges to future employers, they also embody a compelling twist on our traditional values. The American Dream is alive and well. Its current incarnation is a peculiar hybrid of narcissism and a flourishing collective consciousness.

For the rest of this article, including how to “reimagine and acquire your own version of the American Dream, click here to go to this article on Sociologyofstyle.com

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Corporate Culture, Culture, Generation Y, Millennials, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Schwinn Sting-Ray: A Quintessential Example of a Consumer Culture-Driven Product Innovation Success!

Schwinn krate ad 1968

This past week I was enjoying some downtime soaking in some “beach culture”.  Normally that would be code for “slacking off and working on my sunburn” (as I tend to turn to bacon rather than any variety of mocha).  However, per usual I was ever in observer-mode. And one of my favorite parts of beach-town culture is the active, outdoor lifestyle that typically includes non-automotive things on wheels like skateboards, roller blades and bicycles.  And the beach cruiser is an essential part of that.

Modes of transportation have been quick to become central parts of American culture and subcultures – brought in by consumerism and adapted into a lifestyle.  Especially where youth culture is concerned, automobiles have been a part of that since the 50’s – a symbol of freedom and mobility that emerged to also become a facilitator of personal expression.  From hot rods to mini-truck clubs to brands born of customization – like Scion in the early 2000s.

But the bicycle – there are subcultures centered around all kinds of bicycles – from  BMX dirt bike culture that came about in the 70s and 80s  to the hipster “fixie” of today and they even do skiing product reviews. But there is no such iconic bike brand as the Schwinn.

During my stay at the beach, the Wall Street Journal weekender arrived at my door and featured This article about the trend-setting Schwinn Sting-Ray – which is a direct product of Southern California youth culture.  In the article, you will read about how Schwinn execs spent time on the streets of SoCal, observing all the modifications that they were making to their bikes (in lieu of being able to afford a car) and the culture that surrounded bicycles as transportation.  From there, the iconic Sting-Ray was born – was an immediate success and continues to be an iconic part of So-Cal culture – including a subculture born of the trend in “ironic” modification to the Sting-Ray “Chopper”.

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It was an affirming read, as I am always talking to my clients and folks in the industry I work in about the importance of maintaining a dialogue with “consumers” as a part of a holistic consideration of the culture that drives consumer behavior.  It is only this way that we can truly identify unmet needs and trends that will be truly meaningful and lead to successful products and business practices.  And it’s good to be able to presume it’s not a “modern phenomenon”.

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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