MET madness: How one woman brought POP CULTURE to America’s most hallowed instution.

Anna Wintour.  Vogue editor and “one small woman” who packs a punch on world’s cultural landscape has done it again. Everyone who is anyone, shows up to this event (by invitation) and especially if you are a POP CULTURE couple your appearance at this event by invitation is well,  required.  The range of fashion and culture “fashion madness”  reigned on the carpet and here is just a few of the couples in their duds. The couple that walks the carpet together (most likely) stays together.

In VOGUE STYLE, we trust.  Amen.

BRAND IMPLOSION: United, Pepsi, Adidas

UnknownWhen our conversation briefly turns from a large man with very orange hair to what we call in the industry “Brand Implosion” things must be pretty bad in the world of corporate advertising.  You have already seen the videos or heard on the news or read the articles on PEPSI,  UNITED AIRLINES and ADIDAS.  What does it mean for the small business or indie marketer? Taking cues from the “big mothers” of American (and international) brands there is a singular thread they all have in common:  Tone Deafness. 

What is tone? What does it mean when your brand is simply not acknowledging the community, diversity or customers in the message? It’s as if the creative team were all communicating with little orange juice cans tied with string:trying their best with the tools they had to work with, but the lifeline to the culture was simply out of date. Internally these companies have lost sight of our culture. Surprisingly they also seem to  have no systems  to check or challenge the creative of their organization.  This leads to chaos, mixed messages and in the case of ADIDAS,  no one proofread the emails that went out after the Boston Marathon.  They used in the “call to action” line in the email campaign the word “survival” which recalled the horrific events of several years ago. The President of United Airlines took days to apologize to the public and to the barely mentioned the passenger who had been dragged down the aisle of the airplane.  The fact that this was a policy that had stood for years was shocking and was nothing short of entitlement by the airlines. They simply forgot whom they were serving: the customer. 

Pepsi tried to be relevant; they attempted to be “connected” to the world but also missed the tone, the meaning and the content of a real issue. They lost sight of the seriousness of the world around from inside the corporate bubble. Apparently, there is no diversity throughout the creative teams, nor in their awareness of the politics of culture in the world around them. All brands no matter how big, or small, must keep sight of what it is to be serving the public who help them continue to be in business.  The cultural “zeitgeist” is critical to a creative campaign that needs to have a sense of itself as both a business proposition and a cultural one.  Critical questions in testing these messages was not asked before the roll out.  Astonishing, when the resources are vast at these companies. I’ts no wonder that smaller shops, stripped down teams are winning the day with creative that works.

Onwards, and upwards, I hope, from here.

What is Truth: Your Brand Must Tell It.

Is your brand telling the truth? Are you pretending to be something you are not?  A mass market brand that wants to be a luxury brand; a designer brand that has no designer; a luxury travel website that is really a mid-level booking site? All of this is truth in advertising and at the heart of it is your brand story:  Telling the authentic truth about your brand is how you will serve your customers best and achieve the success you (and your brand) deserve.

Truth can come from many sides of your company: Is your message truthful? Is your manufacturing and sourcing truthful? Can you deliver on your promises? The dangers of being untruthful to your  customers and clients is real and in the era of social media there is no where to hide. Truth, in advertising always been both a legal and strategic matter.  Hiding the truth was easy when the employees had no access to the media; now a “tweet” can ‘sink a ship’ or change the price of a stock valuation.  Organizations that are “top down” are struggling with the new kind of employee and customer community who have more power than ever before.

 Is there an “alternate” truth about your manufacturing or your sourcing? A story about your company that is patently false will someday emerge and destroy your brand.  There are many lies told by brands to keep secrets from their customers.  With the very heart of truth and “alternate facts” in the news every day, brands have to be more careful then ever about how they are communicating to their customers, their employees and stockholders.

There is no such thing as an “alternate fact” despite what you may have heard. Your brand whether large or small must be truthful to its DNA to tell an authentic story.  The story starts from its creation or founder, manufacturer or materials, sales or marketing and fulfillment of all your promises.

Seems overwhelming?  Just start at the beginning.  If you are looking at your “personal brand” and want to improve it just be honest and authentic to yourself or make choices that express your reality, “your truth”.  That’s not false, at all.


Photo:  Authentic Hermes Bags “minis” one of the most sought after handmade brands in the world.

Video is the new Black: How video is changing the Branding World

As we continue exploring the idea that  “The Audience is Creator”  begun in our last chapter the medium is video whether it is created from the “top down”  by a brand or by the audience.

Let’s just begin at the beginning: If you are a brand and you do not have a video budget you are literally asleep at the wheel.  The idea of appointment TV is still with us but online video is truly 24 hours a day. The  U-Tube platform is driving most of this material  created by both independent creators and brands.The power of social media is a powerful driver for the video.   But social media platforms can play portions of your long form video and the art of making a short-version of your brand message has entered the annals of advertising history. The video today is part of an overall brand strategy that can be “delivered” to your target audiences and they take if from there.  Everyone loves to pass along funny cat videos, so if your product gets that much traction you are in the top 10 most shared videos on the web.  Advertisers dream of the numbers a good “Kitty Kat” video can generate.  Humans share things; its part of our DNA so while “top down” creators are dreaming of the perfect expression of their story, independent creators are hoping for extensive views and to build their audiences.

The best videos are those with a “beginning” a “middle” and an “END” to engage the audience. One of my favorite channels for artistic videos part of a luxury brand strategy is the NOWNESS platform ( If you are addicted to stylish luxury (and video) this is the place to see the latest in unique content that pioneers our understanding of story, form with a product or idea. NOWNESS created the mold that brand storytellers  engage in; they were the first to show a luxury product in a context that had no resemblance to anything commercial; it was pure art. Pure story and exposition of a sort that introduced a luxury product to a world of artistic expression.

They continue to promote the idea of video content as art, exploration, brand storytelling and more.  In their own words…

“A NOWNESS film is”…

“Something that can’t be seen anywhere else online.

“Made in a way we haven’t seen before.”

“A story that moves the audience”.

This is a good set of goals to aspire to when creating your brand video content along with your marketing strategy (and data) that tells you who you are reaching and the ideals, goals and aspirations of your brand.  Take a moment to go to NOWNESS and be inspired because in the world of luxury videos this platform is the originator of what we would consider the innovators in the field.

When you experience what NOWNESS has to offer your state of mind you can see what the medium has to offer; what you can do to expand on it; what audiences respond to; what a brand does to engage with it as a storytelling tool. There are going to be more and more ways to engage with a piece of video content in the future; the future is already here.

Welcome to the world of Collaboration: “audience as artist” in a world of AI entertainment

How our world will be taken over by the “Artificial Intelligence” technologies was presented at the AI showbiz event in Los Angeles.  An extensive group of technologists, futurists, engineers, programmers, artists, creators, moviemakers and content creators gathered together to share ideas and predict this unique future that in some ways is already here.

Ever wonder about the computer in the film “2001: A Space Odyssy ” named “Hal” who took control over the space station and the poor humans that were inhabiting it. This vision of the future ignites one of the most powerful “fears” we humans have about a giant computer or any other technology that tries to rule the world.  Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, the film is considered by many to be the ultimate movie about space ever made. George Lucas himself considers it to be a true masterpiece. So many engineers in the AI field are science fiction readers and aficionados; all freely admit they are hugely influenced by science fiction culture created by writers and movie visionaries.

“Artificial Intelligence” is a language of the future that is here today. We are all interacting with it in some form by our everyday use of digital devices.  AI used to be the world of a few lonely geniuses. Now it is a field of unique technical practitioners who are from a variety of areas including entertainment, engineering, programming, marketing, and enterprise platforms. If you are new to the idea of AI or the concept of this kind of future, be get ready to be fascinated. An essential component of the AI technology is that it learns from us humans as it progresses.  One example, that is currently in research phase is what I call the “special effects baby”  created from digital visual technology to resemble a “real” baby that was able to learn, respond and react to the human exchanges.  This is at the heart of AI: learning from human interactions,  AI creations are basically mirroring our own behaviors both good and bad. A number of technologists I spoke to quietly mentioned there are many who are on “watch” to make sure that the human elements and social engineering required will not “end badly” or in movie terms reveal an ugly plot twist.

AI is about data, and lots of it. What most of the AI experts are sharing is their desire to improve human interactions that are dull and repetitive for say, a retail or enterprise platform.  Basic tasks we do every day can be aided by an AI interface that makes our lives easier.  While still a work in progress, the technology has sped up to the point where companies are already inveseting in the R&D to anticipate this future. AI touches the field of social media, marketing and other audience or socially reactive platforms that gather data based on human reactions. In the end, its all about human interface that builds this learning curve into the technology; not the other way around.

What this also signals to the entertainment industry is that the audience (and society in general ) are going to be more participatory in this evolution.  In entertainment the participatory nature of multi-experiential stories will be something that brings the audience into the process of creation itself.  Multi-plot entertainment and crowd sourced experiences are going to become the norm as the audience becomes the “co-creator” with the originator of the platform. Entertainment in the future will be less about “top down” guesswork and more about big data. A  “solo”  human creator while not obsolete, must adapt to these new media platforms that will change they way they are delivering entertainment product. This area of AI and EMERSIVE environments will change the entire field of practitioners who are used to working in the analog world.   Special effects and “humanoid’ figures that are ‘real’ performers were are shown  in a video by electronic artist IAMEVE whose performances are entirely cyber though her voice and materials are created by her (

Welcome, to the brave new world of AI and Entertainment.