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Archive for the ‘Observations and Inspirations’ Category

Opinions are like assholes.

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Eduardo Salles is a realist illustrator known for creating brutally honest, yet often funny and ironic, comics about modern life. His illustrations bring to light the harsh realities of our society – from brutal truths about social media to the reality of humanism and relationships today. In the illustration below, Salles perfectly summarizes five of today’s popular social media sites on signs with a single sentence. For example, the Twitter sign says, “We are offended by everything.” However, the last sign he includes is not about a social media site; it’s about the “real world”. This real world sign appropriately says, “Your opinion does not matter.”

Everyone with a social media account has a platform to share their opinions with the masses; it doesn’t matter whether those opinions are solicited and/or valuable. And while people have always been vociferous on social media, it seems the forceful sharing of opinions has only increased as a result of the 2016 presidential election. But how does that practice and attitude translate into our “real world” lives?

With people spending an increased amount of time on social media sites, the line between the “real world” and the social media world may be blurring. It seems as though many people have adopted the idea that they should get to express their opinion and have their personal needs met in both worlds. We’re especially seeing this more in the workforce. CEOs, HR executives and company leaders have expressed frustration with younger employees feeling entitled to sharing their opinions and having their demands met, despite their lack of experience and seniority. Companies are experiencing pressure to constantly work collaboratively, solicit employee input, and meet employee demands. While this can be a positive tactic in some cases that increases employee retention rates, there has to be a line drawn at some point. Employees need to understand that an office isn’t equivalent to a Twitter account. The harsh reality is, their opinions don’t always matter. Everyone cannot always have a ‘seat at the table’ and the opportunity to share an opinion – nothing would get accomplished. Everyone disagreeing and sharing opposing viewpoints on social media has certainly not been productive or positive, so why would anyone think it would work well in the real world?

American musician Allan Sherman said it best… “They sit there in committees day after day, And they each put in a color and it comes out gray. And we all have heard the saying, which is true as well as witty, That a camel is a horse that was designed by a committee.”

So while interacting in the world of social media… share away! But if we want to be productive in the real world it’s time to accept that “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one” and sometimes they just don’t matter.

 

Starbucks is discontinuing its best product – the original coffee shop experience.

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

There are a lot of places to grab a good, quick cup of coffee; and Starbucks is certainly one of them. However, Starbucks’ skyrocket to success wasn’t a result of its coffee. Since opening in 1971, Starbucks was inherently different from most coffee shops because it focused on creating a community experience and human connection. Howard Schultz’s (Starbucks chairman and long-time CEO) vision for Starbucks was a place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home. And the mission of Starbucks is ‘to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.’

For years, this idea of focusing on the customer experience and human connection was evident in Starbucks locations throughout the world. In 2008, Annamarie Ausnes, a regular Starbucks customer who suffered from polycystic kidney disease was in need of a kidney transplant. Her Starbucks barista, Sandie Andersen, noticed a change in Annamarie’s sunny disposition. Usually, Annamarie was friendly and upbeat; sharing stories of her grandchildren and even bringing Sandie vacation souvenirs. When Sandie asked what was wrong, Annamarie shared her story and need for a kidney. Sandie immediately got a blood test, and when she found out she was a match, told Annamarie that she wanted to donate her kidney. A few months later, the kidney transplant was a success!

But Starbucks has begun to lose sight of its fundamental roots that are responsible for its success – good coffee and a human connection. Today, the focus on relationships and customer experience is taking a back seat to convenience and speed. The main objective has become ‘how quickly can we get customers through the line’ with very little interaction between customer and barista. This has only been intensified by mobile ordering, which further moves the “experience” to focus on convenience. Now a customer doesn’t even have to talk to an actual person to get a coffee – how is that inline with the mission of inspiring and nurturing the human spirit?

Starbucks has not only lost sight of its focus on the experience, but also its commitment to its core products. Starbucks coffee is coveted because of its reputation for being a quality, high-end, valuable product. However, through its newest promotions, Starbucks has offered its prized coffee to customers for free with the purchase of non-fundamental menu items, such as sandwiches. What kind of message does it send to give away a prime product that was once viewed as valuable, all to promote an average breakfast sandwich? If the coffee is so invaluable that it can be given away for free, how can Starbucks continue to justify its higher industry prices?

If a consumer wants a breakfast sandwich and coffee fast, why wouldn’t they just go to McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts or any of the other countless fast food options focused on speed and convenience over quality and customer experience? Without the commitment to customers and human connections, Starbucks is no longer a treasured community experience – its just another humdrum fast food joint that will start to seem severely overpriced, without its unique vibe and prime product status.

Cut the small talk.

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Do these phrases sound familiar? …

“Good morning.”

“How are you?”

“Good, how are you?” 

“Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

“Can you believe all of this rain we’ve been having?”

“It looks like it’s going to snow.”

…It’s likely that you’ve already used some variation of these phrases 50+ times today – when you arrived at the office, when you bumped into someone at the water cooler or restroom, when you sent an email, when you left the office, when you ran into someone at the grocery store, and everywhere in between.

If we were to add up all of the time spent verbally and electronically participating in meaningless small talk so far this year, how much time do you think has been wasted? Of course, it’s nice and enjoyable to communicate with the people around us, but why do we automatically default to futile chitchat? What if we all skipped the small talk dance and made an effort to connect with each other by sharing insightful, meaningful information? How much more could we accomplish? How would our relationships evolve and grow?

Picture this instead…

“Good morning, how are you?”  

“I’m actually really great, my daughter took her first steps last night!”

“Oh! You have a daughter? I have a one-year-old daughter too. We should do a play date sometime!”

…Much more engaging and fruitful than talking about the rain, don’t you think?

Or how about this water cooler conversation…

“How are you today?”

“I’m actually really struggling to pull those numbers together for the meeting.”

“Last month I had the same issue, but I figured out a workaround that saves a ton of time; want me to drop by your desk and show you?”

When we’re in the comfort of our own home with family and close friends, we rarely engage in small talk; likely because we’re already very comfortable with those people and we’re busy getting down to the business of running a household and maintaining those relationships. But what if we took that method of the communication out into the world? We would all likely form more meaningful relationships that matter.

A cautionary tale for brands selling social justice.

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

It’s a divisive time in America. There are many emotionally charged social and political issues that are constantly being discussed and debated. As demonstrated by Pepsi’s recent protest ad and almost every 2017 Super Bowl commercial, it can be tempting for brands to jump on the bandwagon and join the conversation and benefit with sales – but should they?

Using a social movement to sell potato chips or soda often is seen as an insincere move by marketers. It tends to trivialize issues that are highly meaningful to people. Saturday Night Live hilariously exemplifies and exaggerates this “absurdity of causes as commerce” in a Cheetos ad-pitch comedy sketch. The comedians or ‘Cheetos ad executives’ discuss potential advertising spots centered on current social issues like immigration and transgender issues. They also poke fun at how disconnected these executives are from the issues they’re discussing. When the executives are questioned about using transgender issues just to sell Cheetos one of them exclaims, “We care about that issue because there is a guy in our office whose son is transgendered!” Then she turns to her colleague and questions, “Or wait, is he trans or adopted?” to which the colleague replies, “Uh, he’s adopted.” She then says, “That’s right, because we don’t know anyone trans, and THAT is the problem.”

And that fake Cheetos executive is exactly right; a lack of understanding and connection to audiences is precisely the problem. Often these brands are not only using important social issues to sell products, but the higher-ups creating the ads are totally out of touch with the issues and target audience. This was clearly the case in the absurdly offensive Pepsi ad, where a can of soda delivered by model and reality TV star Kendall Jenner cheerfully ends a protest that’s reminiscent of recent Black Lives Matter protests. If only the marginalized people of America thought to bring a can of Pepsi to their protest; then all of their issues would be solved and the protest would have turned into a happy moment of unity and cheering – please

Social issues can represent an opportunity to really connect with a target audience if marketers are smart about how they do it… Clearly, Pepsi (and their ad agency) didn’t check in with anyone who was actually at any of those protests before airing the ad and it’s unlikely that there was a diverse team of any kind making these creative decisions. The lesson is simple and should be basic knowledge for any advertising, marketing or PR professional – know your audience.

Is looking for love now more rewarding than finding it ?

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

We all know that social media can be addicting. Most social media users love the little burst of excitement experienced when they receive notification alerts. Subconsciously, notifications serve as validation. No one likes sharing a funny video or cute photo on social media and receiving no feedback or interactions. Ford’s 2014 consumer survey reports that 62 percent of adults felt better about themselves after getting positive reactions to what they shared on social media.

But it’s more than a positive feeling. Science has actually proven that social media is addicting. When people receive notifications their brains release dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical responsible for reward and pleasure and also associated with addiction. And not only is social media itself potentially addictive, those who use it may also be at greater risk for impulse-control issues like substance abuse, according to The Huffington Post.

It’s hard to believe that all of this excitement, validation, and potential for addiction are brought about by simple Facebook notifications. Someone in the community is simply saying, “That video of your dog is funny,” or “I like your pretty picture of the beach!” Now just imagine how much more addicting and validating it must be when someone says, “I like YOU and find you attractive enough to go out on a date, or ‘hook up’ with you.”

The social media app Tinder is specifically designed to facilitate those types of interactions. People review photos along with a very small amount of information about a nearby person and then either ‘swipe right’ to say, “Let’s meet up, I’m romantically interested in you,” or ‘swipe left’ to say they’re not interested. If people experience an addictive dose of dopamine from a Facebook photo ‘like’ how addicting is the experience of someone looking at their photos and ‘swiping right’?

Could Tinder, or any dating apps like it, really foster or even allow for the development of an actual relationship? Let’s say someone ‘swipes right’ and meets their ‘soul mate’ or a highly compatible partner. Would they recognize it? Would they delete the app and pursue a health relationship, or would they be too addicted to the ‘high’ experienced when the next person ‘swipes right’ to meet them? Considering that 42 percent of Tinder users aren’t even single, it’s likely the latter. Sure there are always exceptions, but overall it seems that if someone is looking for love on apps like Tinder, they’re looking in all the wrong places.