Wednesday, March 17, 2010
You see where this is going, right?
Today, in discussing a next wave scope of work, a client of ours laid out clear objectives of: getting people to return to our site multiple times and to increase the amount of time they spend on the site with each visit. There's certainly nothing remotely wrong with that goal on the surface. Who wouldn't want to strive for that? It's a cool, informative side married to a fun idea and campaign. But it wasn't designed with Preschool Considerations, if you know what I mean. Which is to say, it was conceived to entertain and inform not to change shape on a daily basis.
But the truth is, if the hope is to get users to come, stay, and return, we must concept the work with that teacher mentality - introducing new pieces, featuring engaging content, creating unexpected and exceptional experiences and tools, etc. I know this is old news in this here digital world, but I find myself fascinated by the overlap of how people create engaging content and contexts for a specific target simply by bringing the shiny stuff out of the closet with some consistency and frequency. It doesn't matter if your world is hi-tech or analog, if you want someone to come back and stay, you've got to give them something new.
Monday, March 15, 2010
But amazingly, I am more astonished by the aspect of this film that has nothing to do with computer animation or RenderMan technology. I think the true genius of this film (and, most of Pixar's offerings) comes through the storytelling.
"Up" is a clinic in taking a basic story idea and developing richness around it. The basic outline couldn't be simpler: From childhood, a man finds his perfect match. They love each other. They live a long, beautiful life together. But she dies before they can ever do the one big adventure they'd planned since they were children. In her absence, he feels the weight of her death at every moment. How does he move on?
Thursday, January 28, 2010
What I realized is this: if you're talking passionately about something you love, I don't care what the topic, I will listen to you go on and on for hours on end. I might not agree with your point of view. I might not share your passion for the subject matter. But it doesn't matter if it's the history of salt, or why legs bend, or how a kite works, or the creation of a neon sign above Broadway, I will sit and listen and you will amaze me.
Sadly, I think the converse is also true. Which is to say, if you're talking about something I am drawn to from the deepest, most authentic place in my soul, and you're simply mumbling your way through your thoughts, you will lose me in the first five minutes. And odds are if it's something I really care about, you'll not only lose me, you'll upset me.
The bottom line is this: the world needs passion. It needs people who get excited about soap suds, and numbers, and produce, and design. And those people's voices need to be encouraged and heard. Many of us are ready to listen.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Over a year ago, I made the very purposeful decision to take the twitter application off of my facebook profile (this was before "selective twitter" was up and running). I was noticing that there were things I wanted to say to my twitter followers that made sense to them and to that medium that the old friends, family, and grad school crowd wouldn't find relevant or even make sense. Though it felt odd at first, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to keep those worlds separate. That people who knew the way I was currently thinking (as a brand strategist and pseudo-cultural anthropologist) were all captured on one medium while those with whom I relate to in a different (though no less authentic way) I was connected to on another medium. Not exclusively, of course, but separate to some extent.
And for a while, this plan worked very well.
Recently, my brother started a twitter account. I was amazed, excited, and then alarmed. Last night, my wife and I talked about her entrance into the blogosphere as an aspiring novelist, and the various ways to get connected and to promote her books and build a community. And lo, the conversation included some overlap into the distinct worlds I had created for myself. Today, a friend from grad school started following my tweets. The fastest growing demographic segment on Facebook are women over 55. The norm is now that your parents are on the same platforms as you, sending you links, "liking" your status updates, commenting on your posts, and re-tweeting your insights and confessions.
We knew that this, like all trends, was inevitable. That was the whole idea behind it, right? The Influencers and their trickle-down technologies eventually must either move on to a different, less crowded space, or concede that those circles of distinction must at some point become crowded to the point where all personal networks are populated by the people from previously separated spheres of your life.
This convergence of the members of disparate real life and/or digital circles is known as Social Singularity.
The implications of this go hand-in-hand with the past decade's obsession with the notion of the "democratization of exclusivity" or "massclusivity". When we all have access, various things happen. Innovation and evolution become necessary as new platforms are born and grow. The heavily populated social spaces either lose their appeal, or evolve into hubs of active, though uncontrollable communications (see: YouTube & the gross increase of Twitter spam). And most importantly, in a very positive way, the newcomers to the digital social space make the space a more viable place to develop new means of contact and community, as there becomes less education and dispelling necessary when people jump in and experience things for themselves.
Monday, October 12, 2009
For those who don't know me, I have two kids: Sadie, 6, and Charlie, almost 3. We love reading. LOVE it. I will spare you the column-that-could-be about the very best in kid lit and instead give you my thoughts on the amazing rediscovery the world is having with the 1963 Maurice Sendak classic, Where the Wild Things Are.
First off, the film looks insanely delicious. God bless Spike Jonze and any other director who chooses costumes over CGI (also a column-that-could-be). But more importantly, the release of the film has given many of us dads a chance to dust off a copy of the book and share it with our kids with a bit more care - lingering over the illustrations, considering the simplicity of the words, and asking on each page, "what do you think Max is feeling here?"
This is what I love. In a 10 sentence book, Sendak nails childhood. I mean, NAILS it. Who hasn't felt angry and wild and filled with feelings that are too big for our bodies? And yes, yes of course "let[ting] the wild rumpus start." If for nothing else than for the magic of those three words. But clearly for reminding us of what it means to feel alone and isolated and wronged and the need to rebel.
But these days I find myself intrigued by the feelings of loneliness Max experiences when the rumpus is over and he wants to be "where someone loves him best of all." The part of the book most of us don't remember or consider. The time-to-go-home part. The part that completes Max's journey. The part that brings remorse and need and closure to the experience of being a kid.
This book is a study in truth expressed creatively. Find the truth of a human experience, (and not the kind of truth we Brand Strategists like to throw on a creative brief really quickly - you know, the daypart/website pattern/general-generational characteristics, but a real essential understanding of what it's like to be human - kids have big, wild feelings and need to get them out and then need to know that they can have those feelings and still be loved best of all) and then tell that story in a surprising, tender, delightful, and daringly original way.
It's what any creative endeavor should strive for, be it a book, song, painting, classroom lesson, brainstorming session, and, yes, advertising & marketing too.
So, thanks, Maurice Sendak. From my kids to my colleagues, thanks.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
It is never a good sign when a blog entry begins with a disclaimer. And yet, I offer up the following: I am not a technologist, but I love technology. My wife and I still use our VCR (sometimes). My iPhone was a birthday present, but I almost cried when I dropped it within the first week of having it. I do not have HDTV. Clearly not an expert, I am, I’d say, an observer. A lite-social-networking, twittering, blogging, account planner. I like the conversation. I am fascinated more by the social implications of technology than by the wizardry of the mechanism. I offer this up as a canvas, a backdrop for the conversation I’m keen on having.
In the unlikely event you’ve been living on a planet other than ours for the past couple weeks, you will have undoubtedly been witness to the launch of the iPhone3Gs (the greatest, fastest, most powerful of the 3G's, now with cut and paste!). The frenzy this launch stirred amuses and confuses me. People were once again lined up, huffy and aggressive outside of Apple and AT&T stores for hours. I mean, like 12 hours or more. And others have been expressing for months their plans to get the new device right away. Give their first gen iPhone to the missus, to a kid, to eBay. It didn’t really matter, so long as there was a place for it to go to justify the new purchase.
But as I sat there, with my own suddenly ancient piece of handheld networking iCapability, I wondered, what if the folks at Apple just closed their doors? What if Steve Jobs pulled a Wonka, and just…no more. Aside from the obvious economic ramifications (unemployment, the cost of switching various hardwares) and the disappointment of MacJunkies like myself who will miss out on new designs, and the feeling of “us” that comes with aligning yourself with this anti-PC community. Also, let’s limit this to personal technologies so that the discussion doesn’t meander into the need for medical advancements or better aviation. If we’re just talking about our everyday, humdrum hardware needs and usage, I wonder what we’d be missing. Aren’t our computers fast enough? Can’t we find what we hope to find? Don’t we have enough access? Enough games? Couldn’t we conceivably have full, prosperous, connected lives if personal technologies did not advance beyond this point?
I know Ray Kurzweil's answer. Help me out here, followers of Singularity. What would the argument be? That it is inevitable that technology must continue, must advance because the merging of humanity and machinery will bring about our best-self evolution. But I’m posing what if we put on the brakes at this point? What if we stop now?
What if we thought more about Sherry Turkle’s approach? What if we question what the relationships people are developing with technology? Turkle argues that:
Our new intimacies with our machines create a world where it makes sense to speak of a new state of the self. When someone says, 'I'm on my cell,' 'online,' 'on instant messaging,' or 'on the web,' these phrases suggest a new placement of the subject, a subject wired into social existence through technology, a tethered self. I think of tethering as the way we connect to always-on communication devices and to the people and things we reach through them.
Wow. Look at the big brain on Brett! (aside: I am fully prepared to be schooled on both Kurzweil and Turkle. I don’t mean in any way to dumb down or reduce their thinking. Both are worth studying and understanding in any way possible.) The truth is I wonder if we need new technologies to continue driving us toward a new kind of connection. Some would argue that the new connectivity exchanges human contact for honest conversation. That although we don’t see one another, we feel more free to express our truest thoughts, to let our id run free, to say what’s really on our minds because it’s not really us, it’s our online selves. The converse to that is that people need to learn to interact eye to eye. That our humanness is critical to our survival as a species. What I’m asking is shouldn’t we work on learning to make direct, personal, actual human connections, decisions, negotiations before lining up to get the next gadget that will do it all for us? It’s like Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm says in Jurassic Park: “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.”
Now the twist. Although it seems I’m arguing against the development of more technology, I am more trying to start a dialogue. Keep in mind, I love my laptop, my iPhone, the ability to text. To tweet. To post to tumblr. To videochat my wife and two kids from the road. To cleverly update my status on facebook. And so on. So, talk to me. Tell me. Instruct me. I could use it. I’m earnestly inquiring as to what we’d be missing if we could pause personal technology development at this point in time and make due with where we’ve arrived.