Archive for November, 2013

Modern Day Voice Mail

VoiceMail…is that we may as well not have voice mail. Many people don’t actually listen to messages anymore. Instead the Texting Machine alerts us that someone has called. Rather than take the time to listen to why, a choice is made to either ignore the call, call back, or more likely text back. Which we choose depends on who called in the first place, as well as what we may be doing in the moment.

Our phone and data carriers should be delighted to know that the gigantic serves they set up to hold all of that audio data can now begin to be repurposed for other things.

Is it more inconsiderate to not listen to a message someone left for you, or to have left such a message in the first place? Like most things cultural the answer is not fixed. The shift toward the latter being the faux pass is underway.

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Sacred

TurkeyFloatThis year many more stores are announcing plans to be open Thanksgiving Day. Where the day happens to fall on the calendar (Cyber Monday is actually December 1st this year) is a major reason for the shift — fewer shopping days between Turkey Day and Christmas Day. Plus there’s the generally sluggish economy, as well as the ever present need for more sales to cover increasing costs. And of course plain ole greed is a factor. Nearly everyone is starting their “Black Friday” sales sooner. Some even kicked off right after Halloween. All of this, of course, triggers a variety of emotional outbursts from certain community members and organizations.

Not to miss an opportunity some stores have even leveraged this into a self righteous marketing plan to collect the dollars of the offended by advertising that they will NOT be open on the celebrated day. If their calculated approach pays off (hint: it won’t) they can get the advantage of increased sales without suffering the operational (not to mention human) costs of having to be open.

Everyone sees the writing on the wall here. Within five years (feel free to pick your own timeframe) just as many stores and malls will be open on Thanksgiving as there are on Independence Day. Maybe more, as there is a lot more pressure to produce revenues this time of year.

And so something held as sacred by many falls by the wayside. We hold certain things that we’ve determined shouldn’t be tampered with as sacred, even when there may not be concrete religious connotations. They may be handed to us culturally or we may invent them ourselves. They represent boundaries we’ve chosen. We defend them against assault, and as such we make a choice to get offended and offer up righteous indignation when others don’t place the same level of importance on them that we do.

In reality it’s just another day. We invented it as a holiday during the Civil War. The untouchable nature of it is simply tradition, combined with a dollop of religious undertones. In fact, somewhat like Columbus Day there is a darker side to it. Increasingly large numbers of people feel it’s an insensitive representation of the celebration of the conquest and genocide of Native Americans by colonists.

Commerce has been eating away at it for decades now. For the past 10 to 20 years the media has covered more of the surrounding commercial aspects than the Thanks Day itself. It appears that’s where the story has been, and continues to be. Yet another example of something that slowly erodes until it finally reaches a tipping point where the changes become more noticeable and dramatic.

Many will be offended, and yet unwilling or unable to stop the plow of progress. Because in the end we know we just made it all up in the first place. And such is the nature of our boundaries, whether we see each one that way or not.

The Genuine Article

Which is the real one?

You can hire an advanced art student to make a good enough reproduction of a valuable work of art that most people wouldn’t be able to tell it from the original if it were not side-by-side.

Why then, would we not have such a work displayed in our homes? Is it because everyone would know its a fraud, and thus we somehow seem like a fraud by association? Perhaps. That is surely part of it.

Spot-Fake-Gucci-Bags1-279x117Consider the value of an imitation Gucci handbag. You can buy one on a busy corner in any big city around the world for a fraction of the cost of the real thing, and the good ones are almost indistinguishable to people not in the business.  People are much more prone to be carrying one of these fakes than displaying a fake work of art in their homes. Why? Mostly because the utility of the bag is the same either way. Also…the likelihood that it could be real is much, much higher. Women see them and assess the rest of the woman carrying one trying to decide if they think it’s real. Why do we even care?

forddb9Does the Ford driver think anyone believes he’s driving a DB9? Does he care? The utility of the car is not the same as the real thing in this case, but to many people it’s close enough in some ways that they are able to rationalize that it’s ‘just as good’ for a fraction of the price (though some surely have no idea the DB9 even exists). The handbag purchaser can make the same claim.

Why do we have to rationalize?  Because the real deal, the genuine article has an inherent value, and we know it. We know people care about that, and we know that when we buy into a fake it says something about us. About our ability to discern or about our character (trying to fool people). The genuine article has the added benefit of being honest, though possibly pretentious.

Marketers have long known and capitalized on the fact that they are able easily seduce us into believing that our identities are strongly associated with the products and services we buy. A person may not buy the expensive car because it’s actually too embarrassing to drive it in the day to day situations where he lives. If a marketer of the less expensive one can appeal to the sensibilities of that person a sale is made.

Likewise we feel our identities are tied to the other identities we associate with. We use products and services to feel a certain way about ourselves, and to communicate that to the world, but we also use people. Part of a person’s utility to us is simply in the way she makes us feel, a part of which is the value of the association in forming the perceptions of others looking in. There is always duality between the perceived benefits a person actually brings to us, plus the perceived nudging of the perceptions of others from the association itself.

We sense that there’s a certain amount of marketing or manipulation in the persona that gets put forth, and so, again, the person who comes across as being genuine shows up as being valuable. A known quantity. Trusted. Others may be able to make similar or even greater appearances, and we may be seduced by those, however the intrinsic value of the genuine article factors in.

We may get fooled and be able to fool others on occasion, but when the truth emerges genuine is validated.

It’s the Small Stuff

DetailsEyeMagnifyingGlassGoing head to head against the big guerrilla is a loosing battle. What they inherently tend not to do well, however, are the small things. The details, whether they be in the form of extra-special service or just in attending to items off the beaten path, are where the market spreads out. There is tons of opportunity here. It is often overlooked, or passed by because it is too difficult and the ROI is not as easy to quantify.

On the other hand, if you are the big guerrilla you can raise the barrier to entry by also taking care of all the little things. Make it easy for customers to find and buy the little things and they’ll have fewer reasons to look around. Take care of all the details and they’ll have no reason to.

Here are two good examples: Sweetwater Cable Finder & Sweetwater Case Finder.

Taking the difficult and making it easy will always have value. But don’t be naive enough to think it’s easy to do. One reason few do it is precisely because it’s extremely difficult.

Security in the Storm

Wasteland

What if when the storm passes there is nothing left?

It could happen. We can do it to ourselves. We can wreck things so bad that we’re ruined for good. Some measure of caution is sensible, but our tendency to find ways to create, exacerbate, or dwell on fears and difficulties is yet another kind of example of us hitting the pause button.

We wait. We hope. We imagine. We find some tranquility in our fantasies. Most of all we try to find comfort in putting off or avoiding the risk. The known, even if it’s pretty bad, may be better than the aftermath of change. What if we really screw it up? The terror that takes root in the unknown of what’s next paralyzes, so we feel secure in what we know, even if it’s a mess.

But then eventually change happens Anyway. It happens to us. It sneaks up and one day we turn around and see the aftermath. Maybe it’s not so bad. We could have made it worse had we done something. Then again…who knows…

Okay, but what if we really do blow it all up? If you remain then there is already more than nothing left. You have yourself. You’re capable of a lot. What you do is begin to rebuild. Start over. Only now you are wiser and your decisions will be better. Lush vegetation grows in the aftermath of a forrest fire.

I’m not suggesting recklessness, but being paralyzed can be just as harmful in the long run. The journey is often worth more than the destination.

What Life Really Is

Chemistry10prct

Electrical charges modify chemical compounds, which recombine to make electrical charges that then go on to modify chemical compounds, which…

It’s really all chemistry.

We insert all sorts of meaning into this. We weigh what brings it into existence in the first place. We consider and observe the forces may perturbate this system as it runs, and wonder where they might originate.

Once the top has been spun it can run a long time on its own so long as conditions allow it.

The Value of Images

Photography has evolved significantly in the last 20 years. When a young girls takes more pictures of her trip to the restroom than an astronaut did of a walk on the moon it begins to look like the value of images has been trivialized.

There are two basic purposes for photography that are somewhat opposite:

  1. Documenting — To conveniently document a moment in time and faithfully reproduce it later
  2. Art — To break away from the conventional view of reality by portraying the photographer’s view

#1 may eventually get pushed out of favor by something better, whether that’s more convenient or more true to reality, or simply more snazzy. Photography will likely always have a value in fulfilling #2.

Historically photos were mostly reserved for momentous occasions. We now have a generation of people where any desired moment can be captured. Our struggle has quickly turned to one of how to organize, maintain and archive these vast libraries we’ve created for ourselves. That’s an opportunity only just now beginning to be seized.

The value of images, in particular the metaphoric messages they convey, is as strong as ever. We need photos. It’s hard to imagine any impactful presentation without some compelling photos or graphic elements. A picture is worth a thousand words? We currently communicate more to each other through imagery than at any point in human history since the widespread use of writing. Dare I say it has become a part of being human in our culture.

And so those who have developed an ‘eye’ for it, or some technical proficiency, have a head start on one increasingly important element of communication and expression.

photography



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