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Marketing

Hero or Outlaw: How Archetypes Can Tell A Brand Story

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In 2001, The Hero and The Outlaw introduced the branding world to the use of archetypes. The book reminds us that humans relate to stories with strong characters, and that storytelling has an important place in marketing.

According to Carl Jung, mythic characters—or archetypes—are ingrained in our collective unconscious. We use them to understand the world. So if marketers align their brand with an archetype, and mirror that archetype’s role, they’ll build emotional connections with their customers. This sort of alignment elevates brands from fulfilling a need to being a beacon of values. It’s a brilliant purpose (and powerful burden) for any brand.

Nowadays, archetypes have a mainstream presence in brand strategy. But with the choice to rely on archetypes as a storytelling device, there are key considerations every marketer should be mindful of.

1. There should be careful consideration of authenticity and context in the casting of brand archetypes.

If a brand uses an archetype, it must do so with care. The human psyche has a surprisingly sensitive B.S. meter. So brands must discover the right archetype, as well as the right context for that archetype.

Most often, brands cast themselves as the central character in the story. But this isn’t always the right approach:

First, the central character usually relies on help from other characters. The moral of most stories is that you cannot accept only one way of being; we need different energies in balance to navigate the journey.
Second, not all archetypes are intended for a lead role. Different archetypes mirror different human values: order, freedom, ego, and social connection. Each of these has significant value to the moral but isn’t necessarily the center of attention.
The challenge many brands face when using archetypes is removing their ego from the equation. They must step back and decide who is at the center of their story—themselves or the customer—and align their archetype accordingly.

2. What role does your target customer play?

Here’s another point of discussion to consider and one that appears to be missing from the archetypes conversation: in brand storytelling, there needs to be careful consideration of the role of the core customer, and their persona, in the story.

Sometimes they’re not a character in the story at all; they’re just an engaged listener seeking an escape. Therefore, at the most basic level, you should consider how relatable your archetype might be to your intended audience, presuming they are mere consumers of (and not players in) the story.

Typically, however, if your customer is engaging with your brand, they are as much a part of your story as your brand is a part of their story or context. They are one of the characters being served by or interacting with your brand’s archetype. So, you might consider that your customers aren’t always in need of rescue – requiring a Magician or Hero. Sometimes they just want a companion, like a caregiver, lover, or “regular guy” to be with them on the journey – or even a scapegoat like a Jester or Outlaw to give them freedom to indulge.

And, yes, sometimes they aspire to be the Hero themselves. It’s all relative to the role that a brand might play in their lives.

3. Archetypes should guide brand behavior as well as communication.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if a brand is going to choose an archetype like a Magician or Hero, they need to really give something to the world besides just selling a product. A brand that takes on a Hero archetype, for example, has to tell a story that shows they are quite literally following a call to save the world. That’s probably not related to a specific product, but to the way they behave as a company. That’s why Hero brands like Nike nail it so well: they empower a higher order social ethos. They don’t just sell sneakers and t-shirts.

A Magician brand, on the other hand, likely provides an outcome that might seem impossible or magical. But the brand can deliver that unlikely outcome thanks to unique product intrinsic functions. Sure, there are emotional benefits there as well. But the end benefit is focused on helping someone get out of a jam.

It might seem, at the outset of a brand archetype journey, that once you have found your archetype, the communication strategies become clear. But the context in which your brand engages with the world is more complex and requires mindfulness. The human psyche runs deep, and archetypes are not just window dressing.

In conclusion, here are three related questions every brave brand should ask when aligning their brand with an archetype:

1. What are the functional and emotional benefits your products provide? Translate those benefits into the role the brand plays in the lives of consumers. Is it solving a major problem? Providing amusement? Dispensing wisdom?

2. What do you know about your customer’s overall lifestyle and values? What role do they want to play in the story? Are they aspiring heroes waiting for the kind of empowerment your brand offers?

3. What is your brand’s purpose? What good does your brand serve beyond your product’s intrinsic function? Will your choice of archetype determine how your brand behaves in the world beyond marketing communications?

Want to have a brave conversation about your brand and how archetypes can help tell your story? Give us a shout and let’s start creating the story together.

*This piece was originally written for the Scout Big Brave Idea’s Blog. Click here for more brave thinking from my fearless coworkers.

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Categories: Advertising, Branding, Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

What’s Fueling “The Bern?” The Secret Every Marketer Should Know

Yet another view into the world of a “professional” narcissistic anthropologist at work.  Posted this morning on the company site / linkedin.

On a side note, I was recently inspired by a new blog i found called The Anxious Anthropologist to start writing more of “the fun stuff”…so expect something new soon.

 

catchingfirebernie

As Cultural Strategists, we invest our time and attention understanding the context that drives human behavior: the macroforces, societal trends and ultimately the resulting cultural values shifts that have a tremendous impact on how we exist in the world. This context influences the choices we make: from big life decisions and lifestyle preferences to our behavior in the marketplace.

The political marketplace has increasingly become a cultural focal point and provides a great example of how emerging cultural values have fueled momentum powering a different kind of politician and the movement his brand of politics is creating: Bernie Sanders.

Whatever the outcome of the election season, one objective fact can’t be denied: an unlikely candidate who, for all intents and purposes had been essentially written off by the mainstream political community, has been gaining more ground than anyone anticipated.

But what some might not consciously realize is that “The Bern” represents a critical mass of cultural values shifts that the team at Culture has spent their careers tracking. So, it’s safe to say we saw this coming. 😉

These values shifts result from the interplay of a number of big picture phenomena and trends, such as the rise of a global economy, increasing economic polarization, natural resource depletion, rampant technological and communication advancement, and the speed, efficiency and creativity with which humans have been able to connect, learn from and identify with one another.

Looking at developed world culture – with the U.S. as a prime example – we can highlight a few specific values shifts that underpin the principles and behaviors, which have created an ideal cultural climate for a candidate like Bernie Sanders to shine:

  • From an “us versus them” mentality rooted in “othering” to fostering a global culture and finding common ground as a human civilization
  • From a “humans first” mentality to acknowledgement of the commitment to a shared ecosystem
  • From the belief that power can only be held and change can only be made possible by institutions to the belief in the power and empowerment of individuals and society

 

The Bernie Sanders brand of democratic socialism, which focuses on human rights, climate change action and other socio-political issues, hits squarely on these values. The implications have been far reaching – including forcing the ‘competition’ to begin softening its message to get in line – because this is the direction of change as dictated by the values of our culture.

Even just looking at a few items, quoted from the list of Bernie’s key platform issues, you can see the connection:

  • Income and wealth inequality
  • It’s time to make college tuition free and debt free
  • Getting big money out of politics and restoring democracy
  • Creating decent paying jobs
  • A living wage
  • Combating climate change to save the planet
  • A fair and humane immigration policy
  • Racial justice
  • Fighting for women’s rights

 

But what are the implications for business and brands?

The fact is, values are beliefs that motivate behavior in life and in the marketplace. Values guide how humans react to change and how they will ultimately react to your brand in an increasingly cluttered and noisy landscape.

Which categories are most impacted by cultural values shifts like these? What does the landscape of trends related to those categories look like in relation to these values shifts? What other shifts are affecting your customers’ behavior and what should your brand / company do about them in order to succeed in the marketplace?

These are important questions to ask, and answering them effectively will require some deep exploration of your customers’ worlds.

At Culture, we are expert consultants who have spent our careers tracking global macroforces, trends, and values, working with leading global brands to direct strategy and keeping boots on the ground studying human cultural and behavioral context. Whether you are a client-side executive who needs a high-level but actionable overview of the implications for your business, or an agency looking to supercharge your planning or stand apart in your pitch with quick-turnaround insights that go far beyond trend reports and data-driven proof points, Culture can provide that strategic intelligence by connecting your business realities to the cultural context that is shaping our world.

Are you ready to uncover the “secret” motivations that will fuel your brand’s rise to the next level?

 Let us find the superpowers hidden in your customers’ and your brand’s values that will help it burn even brighter.

Categories: Marketing, Politics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

From Meme to Marketing: The Power of Viral Meaning-Creation

 

memes-what-you-think-it-memes-princess-bride

This morning whilst enjoying my leftover steak dinner turned steak omelet (waste not want not) I was also going through the Sunday paper coupons (as is a typical suburban Sunday morning activity – so I have observed).

Whilst perusing the pages of discounts for new, necessary hair care products and butter substitutes I came across this full page ad / coupon combo that made my consumer anthropologist nerve center tingle:

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This is just one of a long list of once random internet memes that have been adapted and adopted by brads for their marketing draw.  This is a practice aptly labeled “memejacking”.    It has been going on since internet memes started becoming “a thing”, as detailed in this 2012 article on the top 10 internet memes masquerading as marketing .  But what struck me was how this meme had moved from the “internets” to a Sunday paper coupon.  Proving memes are now no longer relegated to the hipster “inside joke” set but now have as much mass appeal as vanilla ice cream.  But don’t let the idea lead you to believe memes have lost their luster.   Quite the contrary.  Memes are all about transmission of meaning and the internet has become the ideal mode for spreading them.

This about.com article defining internet memes and explaining the origin of the term  does a great job of putting the evolution of internet memes in context. For example:

“The “meme” word was first introduced by evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, in 1976. “Meme” comes from the Greek word “mimema” (meaning “something imitated”, American Heritage Dictionary). Dawkins described memes as a being a form of cultural propagation, a way for people to transmit social memories and cultural ideas to each other. Not unlike the way that DNA and life will spread from location to location, a meme idea will also travel from mind to mind.”

That same article points to some other great examples of internet memes from our recent history, like the classic “rickrolling” phenomenon that began in 2007, featured in this UK news story from “around then”

And who among us with their short-term memory still intact can forget

i-can-has-cheezburger

which rapidly evolved to own its own funny-animal-pictures-with-anthropomorphic-phrasing focused media property, icanhascheezburger.com . I daresay our dearly beloved Grumpy Cat should be grateful to his trailblazing predecessors in ridiculousness.

So, why are these internet memes a marketer’s dream? Obvious to most who are internet savvy or not living under a rock with no electricity, but laid out nicely in a a recent article on memejacking: why it works so well and how to do it :

They’re already established. Based on the previously mentioned definition, memes are not memes unless they’re already a popular, spreading theme throughout society. By using something that’s already popular and attaching a branded message, you’re leveraging the success of something that’s already gone viral without starting from the beginning. It’s easy street at its best.
They draw traffic. One of the most frustrating aspects of any marketing campaign is trying to drive traffic to a specific website. Memes do it for you. Regardless of their form, when they’re attached to a link, visitors are likely to check out the message behind the meme. They also attract likes and followers, increasing social network presences across the board.
We live in a culture that likes to share. Social media users of today are accustomed to going online and sharing the information they find. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or another network, each one is designed to help users engage one another through sharing. If you’re meme attracts attention, it’s likely to be shared unlike any other marketing form.
They’re practically designed for social media. Along with being easy to share, social media networks tend to prioritize images and videos. Users want to see information that’s easy to process and sends a message without a lot of thought. This is a basic tenant of memes.
They couldn’t be easier to create. For any marketer, content creation is a regular activity that requires intense effort and thought. There’s no way around it: marketing campaigns are driven by targeted content. Because memes are simple to create and easy to share, they could become a staple of any successful marketing initiative.

An anthropological colleague of mine, Grant McCracken also wrote a more intensive “field guide” for marketers to help them understand how to leverage memes.  He did a couple of years ago it in the form of  a book entitled Culturematic , which I found to be a fun dive into the topic of the memetic experiment.  Indeed that very book inspired this very blog as it’s own experiment.  My goal was to write a blog a day for a year and see what comes of it.  Suffice to say, I am glad i did it and that this Narcissistic Anthropologist now has a successful outlet for her sociocultural musings.

Whatever your POV on internet memes or marketing, you must acknowledge one thing – that internet memes are a powerful example of the power of human creativity and the immeasurable value that our digital connection to one another can have to communicate new ideas on a global scale.  It also proves the value of humor in mobilizing the masses.    I don’t know that i have an appropriately anthropological answer for what that means for the future of marketing-kind or mankind, for that matter. But I do believe that we have an opportunity to think about how memes can help us shift our frame and change our game.   This phenomenon tells me that getting people’s attention isn’t so complicated and doesn’t need to be [fraught with fear or anger to call people to action.

A point to ponder as you continue about your day, and seek to find meaning in the messages that will cross your path.

For the marketers out there, I encourage you to seek meaning in the meme.  There is undoubtedly something appropriate for your brand out there – and it likely comes from the heart and mind of one of your most coveted influencers.  It goes to show that sometimes you don’t need to dig too deep into the magic of marketing science to find gold.  Sometimes the most innovative communication is right on your computer screen during a Facebook break.

meme-marketers

Categories: Advertising, Anthropology, Art and culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Culturematic, Marketing, pop culture, Technology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

More! A Nostalgic Snapshot of 80’s Consumer Culture

As I was sifting through the magazine rack at my local thrift store – searching for “stimulus” for an innovation ideation (say THAT ten times fast) session – I came across the type of rare gem that made my narcissistic anthropologist day. It was this issue of Soap Opera Digest from July of 1984.

20140303-192651.jpg

I was 7 years old that summer. I remember my child and tween days well. Lots of neon “fashions”, hair crimping, after school specials like the one featuring A “roid rage”-afflicted young Ben Afflec or PCP-crazed Helen Hunt and the mall – for both conspicuous-consumption-oriented shopping at stores like The Limited and touring pop stars like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson.

Madonna may have been the up-and-coming “Material Girl”, but my Mother was THE ultimate perpetuator of the 80’s consumer lifestyle and the ideal marketing target.

Mom, I know you are going to read this. Please know that my objective (and potentially mildly offensive)
analysis also comes with “with love”.

Caveats aside, I came to this conclusion when I flipped to the back page and saw the following ad for More Red 100’s – my Mom’s brand of cigarettes (which she was loyal to until she quit smoking in the early 2000’s) – which explained EVERYTHING!

Just look. I will tell you what I see but would love to hear other interpretations and anecdotes from my generational-bubble brethren:

20140303-192156.jpg

Here is what I see: elegant brunette beauty (she’s serious about her career-driven affluence- she doesn’t just want to “have more fun”…she’s earning it), wearing all white (because she doesn’t get dirty when she’s working it and she vacations where it’s very warm and sunny- notice the tan complexion and pantyhose), waiting with two snifters of brandy (because it’s the classy way to get drunk) at an outdoor cafe table (because she’s been to Paris).

She is long and lean and lovely like her cigarette – which with it’s cigar-like appeal, along with the aforementioned brown liquor, also demonstrates a certain masculine “carnivore” vibe that was the instigator of the rampant capitalism that made the 80’s so much “more”.

It reminds me of making my mom vodka and tab (we learned young back then) while she lounged in the sun on a plastic lawn chair in the back yard, slathered in Johnson&Johnson baby oil.

I remember spending week-nights before going to sleep at the foot of my parent’s bed watching Dynasty and Dallas and Knott’s Landing.

I remember our suburban duplex McMansion neighborhood, our leased Cadillacs, knock-off Eames lounge chairs, shag carpeting, walls filled with Joan Miro prints from the “Art of the Month” club and Formica dining room table.

I remember my parents, who had both been born to working class recent immigrant Jewish families in the Bronx, jet-setting off to their lucrative wholesale garment rep jobs in the city every day. They often came home late at night in Stockton limo rentals after having entertained clients. They spent every penny they had on stuff and on house parties (as well as “partying”) and a live-in nanny/ maid to take care of their young children while they earned and enjoyed their newfound middle-class living.

Then the 80’s ended and excess gave way to recession. My parents started experiencing theirs a little prematurely but the rest of the nation was to catch up in a couple of decades.

Their consumer lifestyle was a tale from the movies filled with characters from American Hustle. It was a grand party and everyone wanted “more”.

I have been known to say that I might have rather been a “Huxtable” instead. But truth be told I am glad I had my parents. It enabled me to get grounded in my anthropological roots and develop a love/hate relationship for consumer culture that would be my passion and career for years to come…and counting.As I was sifting through the magazine rack at my local thrift store – searching for “stimulus” for an innovation ideation (say THAT ten times fast) session – I came across the type of rare gem that made my narcissistic anthropologist day. It was this issue of Soap Opera Digest from July of 1984.

20140303-192651.jpg

I was 7 years old that summer. I remember my child and tween days well. Lots of neon “fashions”, hair crimping, after school specials like the one featuring A “roid rage”-afflicted young Ben Afflec or PCP-crazed Helen Hunt and the mall – for both conspicuous-consumption-oriented shopping at stores like The Limited and touring pop stars like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson.

Madonna may have been the up-and-coming “Material Girl”, but my Mother was THE ultimate perpetuator of the 80’s consumer lifestyle and the ideal marketing target.

Mom, I know you are going to read this. Please know that my objective (and potentially mildly offensive)
analysis also comes with “with love”.

Caveats aside, I came to this conclusion when I flipped to the back page and saw the following ad for More Red 100’s – my Mom’s brand of cigarettes (which she was loyal to until she quit smoking in the early 2000’s) – which explained EVERYTHING!

Just look. I will tell you what I see but would love to hear other interpretations and anecdotes from my generational-bubble brethren:

20140303-192156.jpg

Here is what I see: elegant brunette beauty (she’s serious about her career-driven affluence- she doesn’t just want to “have more fun”…she’s earning it), wearing all white (because she doesn’t get dirty when she’s working it and she vacations where it’s very warm and sunny- notice the tan complexion and pantyhose), waiting with two snifters of brandy (because it’s the classy way to get drunk) at an outdoor cafe table (because she’s been to Paris).

She is long and lean and lovely like her cigarette – which with it’s cigar-like appeal, along with the aforementioned brown liquor, also demonstrates a certain masculine “carnivore” vibe that was the instigator of the rampant capitalism that made the 80’s so much “more”.

It reminds me of making my mom vodka and tab (we learned young back then) while she lounged in the sun on a plastic lawn chair in the back yard, slathered in Johnson&Johnson baby oil.

I remember spending week-nights before going to sleep at the foot of my parent’s bed watching Dynasty and Dallas and Knott’s Landing.

I remember our suburban duplex McMansion neighborhood, our leased Cadillacs, knock-off Eames lounge chairs, shag carpeting, walls filled with Joan Miro prints from the “Art of the Month” club and Formica dining room table.

I remember my parents, who had both been born to working class recent immigrant Jewish families in the Bronx, jet-setting off to their lucrative wholesale garment rep jobs in the city every day. They often came home late at night in limousines after having entertained clients. They spent every penny they had on stuff and on house parties (as well as “partying”) and a live-in nanny/ maid to take care of their young children while they earned and enjoyed their newfound middle-class living.

Then the 80’s ended and excess gave way to recession. My parents started experiencing theirs a little prematurely but the rest of the nation was to catch up in a couple of decades.

Their consumer lifestyle was a tale from the movies filled with characters from American Hustle. It was a grand party and everyone wanted “more”.

I have been known to say that I might have rather been a “Huxtable” instead. But truth be told I am glad I had my parents. It enabled me to get grounded in my anthropological roots and develop a love/hate relationship for consumer culture that would be my passion and career for years to come…and counting.

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Ethnography, Marketing, middle class, pop culture, Suburban Living, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Why Coke’s “America The Beautiful” Superbowl Ad Brought Out America’s Ugly

coca-cola-super-bowl-commercial-america-the-beautiful-non-english-muslim-islam1

Let me start by saying that I may be a few day’s late to this party having been engaged in other life event activities over Superbowl Sunday and not having turned on a television until last night.  Why?

soundof music football

That being said, I am aware that I apparently missed a doozy of a backlash against one Superbowl ad in particular: Coke’s “America The Beautiful” spot:

And before I had even had a chance to view it (I will admit it was this morning), I had already consumed an onslaught of media about the outrage this “highly controversial” ad had sparked.  First, I read This article from rawstory.com  showcasing the trending Twitter dialogue of outrage featuring hashtags like #SpeakAmerican and #Boycott Coke – with sociopolitical commentary from both conservative “White America” and immigrants.  They talk about everything from accusations of Coke’s Amnesty and Gay agendas to the idea that any ad talking about America in any way ought to speak in English.

I found the aforementioned blog in a discussion started in the Multicultural Trends group on LinkedIn  by my friend Tom LaForge  ,who is Global Director of Human and Cultural Insights at Coca-Cola.   Even in this business-oriented context we are redirected to This blog making a case for the vitriolic reaction  in a pretty articulate and really enlightening manner.   Pointing to the idea of the founding fathers coming from England and, essentially, the American dream and our concept of America being firmly rooted in English.

What I see in the ad is Coca-Cola defining the America they believe in: the melting pot of multiculturalism and refuge that connects Americans based on this value of diversity, rather than the value of a common language, in the literal sense.  Essentially, I read it as the common “language” being about America representing freedom to pursue  your happiness – regardless of your native tongue.  I thought the response below from news anchor Brenda Wood illustrates this counterbalanced point of view well:

But the fact is, people don’t like to have their frames shifted – and are comfortable in the points of view that allow them to define an “us” versus “other”, and in this case the “us” being those seeking the American dream of accumulating wealth and power and the “them” being the immigrants, underprivileged and otherwise unworthy “huddled masses”.    This is classic Conflict Theory – a sociological macro theory about the nature of social order that basically says the only way societies stay intact is when you have oppressors and those being oppressed – with the wealthy and powerful being the oppressors.  It essentially states that this conflict and power struggle are what maintain social order – and that even attempts by those in power to create social change with charitable works is still in the best interest of the powerful.

What this means to me from an anthropological, cultural perspective is that many Americas who share values with “the powerful”, whether that be religious or economic, take the idea of the American brand / dream / ideal being about ultimate equality and sharing of multicultural values as an attack against the status quo and the deeply held values that drive their existence.  And this is as true for right-wing conservative operating from within the privilege of power to the newly arrived immigrant who strives to integrate into American society and follow a path for himself or his family to financial success and power.

“Wow”, you might say.  “That’s a lot of reading into a commercial for soda pop”.   But it’s not necessarily the anthropologists and sociologists inflating the conversation.  You can see it in the articles I have referenced in sentiments referring to the idea presented in this ad as “communists destroying our way of life” or promoting the destruction of the American family (there is a split second in the ad, if you watch very carefully, where you see a gay male couple roller skating).

I asked Tom Laforge (mentioned earlier – the Human and Cultural Insights guy from Coca-Cola) what he thought was happening and he had perspective that I think sums up the situation. He says, “concepts like America are continually evolving.  All culturally defined artifacts are. Errors: assuming the definition you like does not evolve or is shared”.   So I suppose the idea a company like Coca Cola could be powerful enough to change a definition as enormous as America hits a pretty deep cultural chord.

Even more to the point, Tom says, “change can be scary, especially to something that is part of your identity.  Change has always been scary”.

But perhaps if Coca-Cola believes it can “teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” and this is a core belief that does and continues to drive the message of their brand, that it is an appropriately bold step for them to take in sparking a passionate conversation about change in America.

Naturally, I am very eager to hear what the rest of the blogosphere thinks…

Categories: American Culture, american History, Anthropology, conflict theory, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Marketing, Politics, pop culture, Racism, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Breaking Breakfast News: Froot Loops Are All the Same Flavor

And here I sit, a dejected consumer anthropologist, believing I had mastered the system of flavor-by-color. For years I have coded my candy flavors by color: red, blue, orange- knowing full well that they didn’t deserve their “fruit flavor” designations but that the dyes and chemistry had earned them their own flavor category. Imagine my shock now that it has been revealed that one of my favorite candies – cereal (that’s a whole other blog) has been flavored with LIES!!!!!!

NewsFeed

We hate to be the ones to tell you this, but: you’ve been eating a bowl of lies for breakfast … and you probably liked it.

Turns out that the delicious, multicolored O’s that make up Froot Loops don’t actually represent different fruit flavors. Reddit’s Today I Learned series recently unearthed a 1999 article from the Straight Dope, which confirms that “according to Kellogg’s, all of those delectable loops are flavored the same.”

If you fainted into your cereal bowl after reading that, you’re not alone. We’ve all been misled by those tempting lime green, orange, purple, yellow and red loops into thinking they are lime, orange, grape, lemon and cherry and/or strawberry flavored, when, in fact, they all the same flavor. That flavor? “Froot,” which according to Wikipedia, stems from “a blend of fruit flavors.”

The good folks at Food Beast did some scientific blind testing and…

View original post 85 more words

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

From The Mouths of Millennials: Why They Are Awesome!

people-silhouettes

Since the day I walked into my first job as a consumer culture researcher and brand strategist,  the number one “target” for the roster of companies on my client list was Millennials.  Then:  tweens and teens ready to enter the working world and start driving cars –  but influencing the spending of their parents in a big way all around.   Now:  a final generation of teens all the way through a bustling populace of full-fledged adults, many already in their early to mid thirties.

This is a generation that has been pined over,  studied and marketed to for over a decade.  Brands have been coveting their share of wallet, and HR departments have been scrambling to figure out what to do with this workforce who by most counts is vastly different from their boomer predecessors.

On the flip side – Millennials are not immune to the scrutiny they have been receiving, growing up under a digital, big-data  microscope.  Many Millennials have taken on the task of examining themselves and relaying the blogosphere their impression of the world they have been raised up in and points of view on their place in it.

Some of my favorite Millennial-authored blogs include:

So Called Millennial , written by Rachel Gall, who is also the editor in chief of Life of a Mom-ennial  for Monogram Magazine .

James’ Room  and American Males  for a Millennial male perspective.

Entitled Millennial , a blog that started as a project geared at examining and redefining the term “entitlement” – one often used by boomers and older adults to describe what they see to be the main “fault” of this up and coming generation.

And yet another, which I am showcasing today:  Working Self – a blog by Millennials for Millennials dedicated to conversations about creating meaningful work.

In the article I have re-posted below, the conversation is an empowering Millennial perspective on whats shapes their attitudes toward life and work – an essential read for any employer seeking to lead with empathy in their attempt to grow a happy and productive Millennial workforce:

7 Habits of Awesome Millennials: A Guide to Understanding Gen Y

millennials

Today’s guest post in the Millennial Perspectives series comes to us from Debashish Das of Quit, Be Free. I had the good fortune of being placed in a triad with Debashish during Jenny Blake‘s Build Your Business course last May and we’ve been supporting each other ever since!

The world knows us as millennials, yet there’s no clear definition of who is or is not a part of Gen Y. Depending on who you ask, millennials are born somewhere between 1977 and 2003, but no one can agree where to end or begin.

In any case, millennials are a recent addition to the society, and everybody is trying to get their head around the puzzle that is Gen Y.

Why are they so unhappy? Why are they always glued to their phone? Why can’t they stick to one job? Why do they want to leave everything behind and travel the world? The truth is that we are different, as is our way of looking at the world.

Millennials are no longer the future, we are already here, now. And we cannot be ignored.

If you’d like to know what makes us the in-your-face, world-shaking, agents of chaos, read on.

1. Global Connectors

Anyone who is familiar with Gen Y knows we are addicted to social media. There’s a reason for that. We were right there when internet changed social interactions. While other people complained about the way the world was changing, we took to social media like fish to water, embracing a digital world that was free from the prejudices of society.

Without the barriers of language and culture, we shared our thoughts, ideas, and lives with people from across the globe. Millennials became the first true global citizens. Our food, hobbies, work, and lives are a colorful kaleidoscope of influences from around the world.

Millennials have truly shrunk the world. Social media is our connection to this new world.

2. Defiers of Status Quo

Never ones to take things at face value, millennials are accused of being rebels, a charge we readily confess to. If no one was out there doing things differently, sticking to the known ways, we would still be living in the dark ages. We push the boundaries to see what’s possible. We’re forces of social change.

Even though we are not the victims, we feel for humanity. We believe in a world without discrimination and accept all people as one. We defy status quo because we believe there is better future for all of us.

3. Serial Experimentalists

On the surface, our behavior might not make sense:  jumping jobs, buying gadgets every few months, or pursuing a new project every year. To the world, we might seem like overgrown five-year-olds. Underlying the behavior, however, is a belief in the power of growth. We do not live by the time-tested rules because we believe in living our dreams today.

We seek new things because new is the symbol of progress, an indicator of growth. And growth never comes from the known or the comfortable. It comes from exploration, making mistakes and learning from them. We are willing to fail to be able to learn something new.

We experiment to fulfill our desire for growth, because that is what makes us truly come alive.

4. Fearless Artists

Creativity is our middle name. With the power of the internet and the ready audience of a digital society, we do not hesitate to unleash our creative potential.

Sharing creative gifts with the world is no longer limited to a privileged few. Millennials know the value of their own creativity and are not ashamed to share it fearlessly with the world. Kickstarter funds books and products; Youtube sponsors individual video creators; smartphones and DSLRs make traditional photo studios defunct; not to mention the collapse of record labels and the publishing industry.

All proof of the fact that creativity is appreciated when it is authentic and original. We believe in the creativity that resides within each of us and are not afraid of showcasing our hidden talents. Being a millennial means not letting the world tell us that we are being stupid for wanting to be a writer, singer, or a painter. It means embracing our inner artist and creating our own unique art every day.

5. Real Life Explorers

World travelogues are blossoming all over the web. Some of the most jaw-dropping Youtube videos are captured by personal digicams. Blogs about breaking free from the routine of nine to five and traveling the world are gaining followers like crazy.

For millennials, the whole world truly is an oyster, and one that we seek to explore every inch of, whether by bungee jumping in Queensland, getting lost in the grand bazaar of Istanbul, learning to cook Thai cuisine in Bangkok, or riding a motorcycle on the world’s highest motorable road in Leh, India.

Our thirst for adventure is insatiable. We live for experiences. Especially the ones that take us outside our comfort zone. We do not plan for vacations after retirement. If we want it, we go and do it. It is one of the defining traits of a millennial.

To us, life is not about making bucket lists, it’s about going out there and living them.

6. Economic Revolutionaries

Venture-funded start-ups are old news. The new age of entrepreneurship is here, heralded by the small online businesses and bootstrappers, and millennials are leading from the front.

We want to be rich, and are not afraid to say so. Selling our soul in exchange for chump change is not our style. We want to do things we want, whenever we want, and provide for people we care about while not being slaves to a paycheck.

If we do the same thing that our parents did, and their parents did, how can we expect to live life differently from them? Big dreams require big money. And we want those disproportionate results.

To us, being rich means living life on our terms. Money is not a motivator, but nor do we call it the source of all evil. We seek to make money because it gives us the power to choose how we live. Living a millennial lifestyle is about living with passion, doing what we love, and making money along the way.

7. Freedom Fighters

Underlying all these traits and connecting all these habits is our deep-rooted desire for freedom.

Freedom has no common definition and is absolutely individualistic but it is what lies at the very core of being a millennial. We define our own freedom and take responsibility for it. It’s also the source of our greatest fears. Living a life defined by society, not being able to explore who we truly are, conforming to social rules, and becoming part of the system frighten us to the core. A millennial will fight till the dying breath to avoid anything that is a threat to freedom.

The simple truth is, if you seek freedom in life (whatever its meaning for you), you are a millennial at heart.

This is not a manifesto for why millennials should rule the world. Nor is it a plea for understanding our plight. This is a statement of facts and an effort to show what makes Gen Y tick.  We know we have faults, entitlement issues, and an attitude problem. But we’re also ready to change and adapt.

We’re willing to meet the world halfway. If only the world understood the language we’re speaking.

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Corporate Culture, Culture, Generation Y, Marketing, Millennials, pop culture, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Coming Together Over Free Coffee: A Starbucks Political Statement and Marketing Magic

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The U.S. political environment is pretty bound up these days with the debt ceiling crisis and government shutdowns, etc.  All the CNN and MSNBC addicts among my readers (I imagine quite a few) are likely well aware.  If you look to your Facebook and Twitter feeds you will likely see lots of griping and general dissatisfaction with the inability of our government to be able to work together as a team to solve our financial problems in an effective manner.

How do you get politicians to play nice?  If you watch political dramas on TV (aside from the aforementioned “non fiction” news channels)  like House Of Cards on Netflix or on MovieBox on mobile, then it might seem counter-intuitive and darn near impossible.  But Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz would like to think that we can all get along and encourage collaboration – ease the bind in our governments bowels by lubricating the works with a steaming hot cup of coffee!  In that spirit, there is lots of “free marketing buzz” around the  Starbucks free brewed coffee promotion  being activated this week at Starbuck’s nationwide.

The concept:  today through Friday if you buy a cup of coffee for a friend or coworker you get one free.   The political message Starbucks is serving up:  let citizens lead by example by demonstrating a spirit of generosity, togetherness and collaboration.   Obviously more of a marketing ploy to tap in to the political sensibility of those first-worlders with enough taxable income to be concerned about the debt crisis (and spend several dollars a day on coffee) than an effective political activism tactic – but it leverages a warm fuzzy social fact that connects well with the brand – the idea of coffee as a social lubricant in America.

I applaud Starbucks for being so intuitive with their brand strategy in that regard.   Just like tea in Great Britain (and Asia for that matter), cigarettes in China (among only-child teens and twenty-somethings  who seek to make friends by sharing smokes) and other forms of social bonding over consumables – Coffee in the US represents the spirit of community.  It’s why Starbucks was able to so successfully launch a “third space” coffee house chain whereby people can find another place to be and hangout over hat’s not their office or a bar but still offers a stimulating incentive to get together.  The coffee house trend became popular during the Beat era in the US and saw a resurgence during the 90’s.   This was reflected in popular culture with TV shows like Friends  where the cast of New Yorker characters would regularly meet at the “Central Perk” coffee house to catch up and bond over life’s big and little situations.  🙂

It’s a far cry to think that congress can solve the world’s problems by integrating some slow-drinking caffeine and cozy couches into their collaboration process. Methinks a bottle of Jack Daniels would go a little further, but I digress.

In any case – this narcissistic anthropologist can appreciate some good strategy – albeit a bit transparent – when she sees it.  I raise my cup of Joe to the marketers who can find ways to make political statements while also making money.

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Branding, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Marketing, Politics, pop culture, Rituals, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Lesbiman: A New Masculine Ideal?

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In the last couple of years I have spent a good amount of time studying the context  of the American Male (often in comparison with other geographies / cultures).  The concept of masculinity as a part of how men make their consumer behavior choices is pretty interesting.  I have been affirmed in some areas and proven wrong in others.  It’s actually great fun to have hypotheses be disproved by ethnographic research.  🙂

In any case, American Culture has traditionally (at least since the invention of printing presses and propaganda and marketing) a fairly simian point of view on masculinity – which likely has a lot to do with the fact that we are, indeed, a country still stuck in a posturing mindset as we deal with our growing pains.

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But global communication has allowed a lot more dialogue into our everyday and has consequently impacted what I have seen as an evolution in the American masculine ideal.  To clarify: i don’t imply a speedy evolution, but a burgeoning one all the same.

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In some cases, however, this movement has it’s cultural backlashes – like the “retrosexual” ideal you see among those males embracing the more “man of mystery”  / “madmen chic” ideal of masculine mystique that dresses up his power in a three piece suit or even the “hipster” / “anti-emo” version of the urban cave-man.

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But today’s blog  was inspired by the latest Sociology of Style  piece on Manning Up: Our Bulging Crisis in Masculinity , which points out a number of pointed cultural tensions and art / studies / editorial content / marketing examples that addresses them.   At the end of this article, readers are asked to share their idea of masculinity, for which I left the below commentary, as it occurred to me that the men I see as most reminiscent of our cultural shift happen to be the type of men I “hang” with – the Lesbimen:

“I am probably a bit biased as a fellow sociologist and anthropologist, but for me, I see masculinity as a far more balanced ideal. And maybe it is just my idea. For example, I have found that the majority of my heterosexual male friends – at least the ones who are in my “inner circle” share a common set of characteristics: They are not overtly macho, but still maintain at least some interests that are considered traditionally “masculine, such as Football, Motorcycles, “gentlemen’s clubs”, etc. However, they also tend to be more emotive in general and free to talk about their feelings. They tend  to care more about their appearance and not just in the sense that they are attractive to women but that they are pleased with their own style and upkeep. They also don’t “freak out” but rather are flattered when gay men give them complements or proposition them – regardless of their general disinterest. They have a nurturing side and at least a minor tendency toward nesting and creating an aesthetic environment in their homes. And they are generally pretty intelligent and effective people who seek to improve themselves and are willing (for the most part) to be introspective and face their demons.

I think it comes down to them having the courage to allow a more spiritual and emotional perspective into their lives – to find a balance between the surface and the “deep” – which I think has been – throughout history – a socially recognized female trait. But this goes back to the idea of “Mother Earth” / Gaia.

In any case – I call these men ‘Lesbimen’ and they are my ideal of masculinity and they types of guys who become my chosen family.”

So I find myself wondering what others are seeing in their circles and if the Lesbiman ideal holds true?  Are you man enough to share your feelings on this matter?

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Gender, Heterosexuality, hipster culture, Marketing, pop culture, Uncategorized, urban culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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