#likeagirl takes on redefining a huge cultural assumption

When I was growing up, doing something “like a girl” meant being substandard, clumsy, inadequate, or at a minimum being kinda dumb. The implied inverse, that doing something “like a boy” meant competent, strong, tough, or brave, was equally accepted.

The recent Always campaign to challenge what it means to do something “like a girl” is a beautiful articulation of this problematic phrase that we all know so well. People sometimes say to me “it is just an expression” or “it doesn’t really matter” when I challenge them about using these types of sayings.  If you think it doesn’t matter, check out the video, and really consider what you are saying when you use that type of language. Kind, generous, supportive, lovely people say these sorts of things all the time without thinking about what it really means, and changing that for girls everywhere is important in changing mindsets all over the world. It does matter.  Language matters, assumptions matter, and it is important for girls to hear that being “like a girl” is awesome – strong, independent, capable, and full of joy.  Check it out if you haven’t seen it:


Social Media goes to War

We’ve seen how social media has shaped the entertainment industry, political conversations, and the workplace. Now we are starting to see it shape the battlefield in places like Iraq, where militants are using it to mobilize and terrorize.  The New York Times recently published this article on the highly sophisticated ways in which Sunni militants are using Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms to communicate with each other and to send messages to outsiders.

In the past week they’ve hijacked hashtags related to the World Cup events to publicize their agendas, flooding popular hashes with violent images and text. This use of social media introduces a new and troubling dimension to what has been largely a social and entertainment driven phenomena.  Sites like Facebook can shut down individuals and groups on their site, but having the leverage and reach to take over a popular hashtag like #WorldCup for the purposes of war actions is something altogether different. As a hashtag, it is public domain and not ‘shutdown-able’ the way a Facebook page is – hashtags become ‘real’ as people use them, and die off as people move on.

When hashtags were first created in 2007, it was an organic phenomena on Twitter that took off with users as an easy way to categorize topics of interest. Hashtags are still just that – organic in nature and by design not easily managed. It remains to be seen how the Twitter-verse or any other byways in the social media landscape will handle this very real invasion into its space.  I think this represents a significant shift in how hashtags are understood and the ways in which they are used. Companies that are active in social will want to pay close attention to blowups on hashes they are driving and watch for militant activity as a new threat to the conversations they are trying to have in social spheres.

The risk of ‘catastrophic success’ in a hyper connected world

A Slate writer, Farhad Manjoo, recently created quite a challenge for a young American garment manufacturer, American Giant.  He wrote an article that waxed poetic about the quality and design of their product – so much so that the company was overwhelmed with orders. His readers flocked to the site and orders quickly spiked.  American Giant produces all of its apparel in the United States, creating a high quality, mid-range price line, and they are worth checking out, but expect to wait if you want a hoodie – current backorders are at least weeks if not longer. This is a case study on “catastrophic success” – where sudden demand outstrips supply so significantly it challenges the entire business model.

American’s in particular expect instant gratification – . We live in a world where a game in the app store can go from one of millions to The One overnight, and the biggest challenges to scale are servers and pipes. But the realities of manufacturing a real, tangible, physical object like a garment remain what they are – cotton must be processed, dyes must be applied and set, cloth created, pieces cut and sewn.  Reconciling production challenges with the reality of trends, spikes, and the speed with which things ‘go viral’ and then fade away is a challenge for any company looking to manage a pipeline.

Traditional business projections typically follow either a steady growth, a spike and level, or a cyclical chart. Sometimes they can plan for an anomaly – for example Roots, the Canadian manufacturer who designed clothing for the Olympics could get ahead of that spike because it was predictable. Viral hits are something new for manufacturers, especially those that don’t come from a planned campaign or something like a major sporting event. Companies want to balance investment in infrastructure with long range revenue projections, so building production capability to meet the possibility of a sudden viral hit is tough for a company that has long lead times for commodities like cotton.

American Giant seems to be taking it in stride, and according to Manjoo has restructured to address the sudden viral hit and a revised ongoing business plan. Check out this follow up article for insight regarding how it all played out. It is both a great success story and an interesting case study for any internet based manufacturing company that can’t move at the speed of the internet.

Intelligently Marketing Business Intelligence

It seems like everyone is talking about BI or Big Data these days. It is a topic that cycles under different monikers, but it always promises the nirvana of users being able to access and visualize data “free of IT constraints” (read…. you don’t have to submit a work request into a queue for a developer to create for you).

There are many companies out there working on it – and they are hitting YouTube to take their message to the people. But their videos are almost uniformly boring and unappealing visually. For companies promoting their ability to make data accessible and fun to play with, their product videos almost uniformly boring, using the same old buzzwords (drill down! powerful! dashboards! executive dashboards! key metrics! filters! woo-hoo!) and displaying pretty old-fashioned looking bar charts, spreadsheets, and maybe a few speedometers for ‘fancy’ stuff.

Here’s an example in the video below. Birst might be a great product – I have no idea. But I could replace their product name with just about anything and the talk track still works. Plus, it is delivered in the standard monotone perfection of a carefully crafted script being read with well honed and carefully rehearsed inflections. When are companies going to figure out that social media isn’t just cheap TV or radio – it is an opportunity to bring a product to life, to show real people doing real things, and to provide authenticity in the experience of watching a campaign. Even BI can be compelling, but it takes an intelligent marketing strategy to make it come to life.


The Innovation of Loneliness

Check out this great animation by Shimi Cohen about the influence digital social networks are having on how we connect, how we have conversations, and how we over-manage presence.  I thought it was a facinating point that “social” gives the opportunity to select, to craft, to manage how we sound, how we look, and what we say (of course, for many that is a learning process, but we are getting better and better at it in the digital-social world). Real life requires us to be vunerable to the silly moment, the stupid comment, and for those with whom we have a relationship to be forgiving and kind, right to our faces. Real relationships must endure hardship, they must have trust that miscommunication can be overcome, and that reality will not disintegrate the relationship.

Many thanks to my colleague Sean McKenna for bringing this to my attention!

Social Media from an adolecent point of view

This is my week for having colleagues provide great references!  Today Sarah Cowell shared the following article with me, it is a great perspective on social media by a technologist who has a 15 year old sister.  Check it out at Tenth Grade Technology Trends

At the same time, the Pew Institute recently released its latest data on teens and social media, with some interesting commentary on Twitter in particular. Here’s their report on teens and social media use.  See below for their Twitter chart.

teens and twitter