I have a serious question - who out there still uses Myspace? In a way, I feel bad for this social network. Myspace practically pioneered the modern world of social networking, and just look at what it gets in return - aggressive competition. First, Mark Zuckerberg annihilated Myspace with the creation of Facebook, which converted so many Myspace users who were attracted to Facebook’s social hype and cleanliness while deterred from the monstrous “Myspace Stalkers”. I was one of these users who switched over to Facebook and deactivated my Myspace account back in the summer of 2006.
In response to Zuckerberg’s ever-growing social network, Myspace set itself apart by focusing on music - both fans and artists. The idea to set this niche was rather clever: although Facebook did create fan pages and music sharing capabilities, Zuckerberg couldn’t defeat Tom’s miniature competitive advantage in this niche market. In fact, I frequently found myself visiting Myspace to check out local bands. Of course, I didn’t reactivate my account, but I did contribute some page views.
For me, what really set Myspace’s death in motion was iTune’s Ping. Think about it: Apple took the only niche that Myspace had left - music social networking. Poor Myspace! From the moment that Steve Jobs announced this in his keynote address, I knew that Myspace was in trouble. Most companies would reserve some dignity and close up shop, but not good-old Myspace. What does genius Tom do instead? He establishes an even tighter niche. Call me crazy, but it’s as if Myspace is getting a bit desperate. I definitely agree that niche markets represent a terrific way to start a business (Facebook did this by first opening exclusively for Harvard students to establish demand), but they also - in this case at least - represent market divestiture.
Now, Myspace has established a niche market of 13- to 35-year-olds (aka Generation Y). In addition, Myspace now claims that its website will be “the leading entertainment destination that is socially powered by the passions of fans and curators.” Read between the lines - Myspace is running scared. I do give the website credit for putting up a hard fight, but realistically, how much longer can it really last? Its new positioning statement sounds a bit too specific for me. I wouldn’t exactly call the neighbors on my block a niche market, Tom.
In short, what’s up with Myspace? Let me know your opinions on this subject!
Have you ever smelled a burning body? Let me tell you first hand, it’s a smell you can never forget. I know that my blog entries are usually cheerful or enlightening, but in honor of those who perished on September 11, 2001, I wanted to share a personal story about witnessing the worst attack in American history from the suburbs of New York.
Now you might think that growing up in the suburbs of New York, nestled safely miles away, I’d feel safe from anything that went on in the city; however, this one day changed my perspective on that false security. September 11 was a day that I can never forget. Although my blood-related family was not affected by this tragedy, my other family, the city of New York, suffered greatly, and in that suffering overcame, as did I.
At the time, I was only 12 years old, but I’ll never forget the beautiful weather that morning - it was a typical early September day with warm temperatures, crystal blue skies, and a subtle hint of fall’s chill. School had just begun only a week earlier, and I was still getting acclimated to my 8th grade classes. To me, it was an ordinary day, as it was to every student and teacher hustling through the hallways to their first classes. Little did I know that at that very moment, hundreds of lives were being accelerated over the Hudson toward Ground Zero - we were 10 minutes away from one of the greatest tragedies of our lives.
At about 9:00 in the morning, a rumor started buzzing around the school that a plane had hit into one of the Twin Towers. Now, I had heard about planes hitting New York skyscrapers before. In fact, a small aircraft once flew into the Empire State Building in 1945. As a result, I thought nothing much of the event - I figured that this was probably just a small little Cessna that had lost control and hit into the building, maybe hurting a few people in the tower and killing the pilot. As such, I just continued on with my business, thinking about how awful it must have been for those few people to experience in the city. Still, this was New York - accidents happened every day.
As the day progressed, there grew a somber presence across the school that I could never describe and hope none of you ever experience. Although I didn’t know anything else about the events that had unfolded, I knew that something was terribly wrong - teachers were crying in the hallways, students were being called to meet with their guidance counselors, and the blue sky seemed to turn a hint of gray. Even on such a warm day, there was a certain grim chill that relentlessly whispered through the hallways and made its way into every classroom. The emotion was similar to feeling as if you were being followed through a dark alley on a foggy night. I still get chills up my spine and goosebumps across my arms just thinking about it.
Finally, an announcement was made during 7th period that all 8th period teachers were to cancel their scheduled class lessons to speak with us. Walking into my Social Studies class, I was expecting the worst, and that’s exactly what I got. In a very calm voice, my teacher simply took a few minutes to explain to us what had happened and provided an open invitation for anyone who needed to see their guidance counselor to do so. Besides an occasional question from one of my peers, the rest of the period was spent in silence - students whispered to each other in the classroom, and I could see people walking through the hallway with tears streaming down their ashen faces. Although I knew that my family was safe, I was still struck with terror that I couldn’t even properly comprehend - my dad worked in midtown, and so many questions went unanswered. What exactly happened? Why did it happen? Who was hurt? Were my friends and their families safe? Would there be another attack? What did this all mean?
Six hours after the attack, I was finally home, and this was the first time I was going to see it all on television. Sure enough, when I turned on the news and saw the empty space where the towers once stood, my heart jumped to my throat. I had all of these memories of driving through the city and passing by the Twin Towers, staring straight up at their grandeur. In fact, I could even see the towers from a few high points in my neighborhood. Watching the towers erupt into flames and fall to the ground like two dominos was unfathomable; I honestly couldn’t believe what I was witnessing, and at 12 years old, I still didn’t get it. Rumors had swirled around about terrorism. What was terrorism? Why would somebody purposely kill themselves and send a plane into the World Trade Center… and the Pentagon… and a field in Pennsylvania? Were there going to be more attacks? Was I safe? Would I ever be safe?
September 11 was a day that will always be impossible to forget, and for several days after the attack, the eastward-bound wind carried the smell of smokey metal and burning flesh through my neighborhood, bringing with it the inescapable reality of those who had perished and the lives that were changed. I’ll never forget that smell; I’ll never forget that day.
Every year since, I’ve stared at the memorial lights outside my bedroom window at my parents’ house. To me, the lights serve as a reminder of what we take for granted in this world. Truthfully, we often lose consciousness of our own mortality and forget to take check of our lives. In reality, our lives are truly precious, and they can be taken away in a mere instant - whether through acts of natural disaster, sudden illness, or incredulous hatred. I hope I never take my life for granted, as I hope you never take your own.
In honor of those who perished, feel free to share your stories.
Whether you’re in business, politics, art, literature, film, religion, or even none of the above, this article is a definite “must read”. The world has transformed drastically in the last 5 years. Remember when we entered the Computer Age (or the Information Age)? That was only within the last decade or two, and yet we now stand at the brink of another revolution. What ever happened to ages taking centuries to revolutionize? I suppose the definition of an age has changed. Nevertheless, the world is moving at an accelerating rate, which means that we must remain steadfast in our efforts to keep up with these rapidly changing times.
Although people have hinted at it, society has not yet defined our newest revolution - the beginning of what I like to call “The Sharing Age”. Think about it - we share everything today. We tweet when we’re at the gym, we update our Facebook pages to inform friends about every aspect of our lives, and we even check in on Four Square when we go to a local Starbucks. Furthermore, we’re now sharing our music with complete strangers through Myspace and Ping. The government can track everything we do, our friends can learn about every aspect of our lives, and strangers now have easier and smarter methods of stalking and scamming us than ever before. What ever happened to privacy? Whatever happened, it’s about to get worse.
In the next 5 years, Mashable is predicting even more changes to the world, which will propel us further into the Sharing Age, and this extends beyond Social Media. With all of the new inventions out there (and with people more openly willing to share most aspects of their lives), marketing professionals are ecstatic. Now, not only do businesses have the ability to monitor your purchases, but they’re also able to make accurate predictions about your behavior. Talk about a psychological nightmare, and let’s not forget that this is all coming from a marketing professional.
Perhaps my favorite item on the horizon is Geo-fencing. Click on the link to read all about it. This type of marketing is instantaneous one-on-one marketing at its finest, combining the virtual world with the real one. Using your smartphone, a company will be able to track when you enter into a preassigned area around its stores. For example, if you’re a loyal Macy’s customer, you might get a text on your phone if you’re walking close to their signature Herald Square store. That text could include a “special” one-time-only coupon that could say something like “Come into Macy’s within the next 30 minutes and present this coupon for 10% off any pair of designer jeans.” That’s not the scary part - Macy’s will know, based upon your previous purchase behavior, that you love designer jeans. In other words, this coupon really is specific to you (and all other designer jeans fans). If you were more of a frequent shoe shopper, the coupon could have presented you with 10% off any pair of shoes. Scary? Convenient? I’ll leave that up to you.
Either way, the world is being propelled into the Sharing Age, and you’re sharing your information with more than just your friends - you’re sharing with the government, companies, and perfect strangers. I’m not necessarily saying this is a good thing, and I’m not saying it’s a bad thing either, but what I am trying to say is that we are becoming more open to these new social trends, and that will only develop as we soar into the future. Compare 2005 to 2010 alone, or even 2000 (remember Y2K). What will 2015 look like?
Do you realize that you’re in a constant competition? Darwin calls this Survival of the Fittest - species that adapt to their environment, survive attacks from their predators, and succeed in attacks against their prey are the species that survive agains the odds. Despite Darwin’s theories, I’m speaking outside the realm of natural evolution; I’m talking about the competitions that you encounter every day. Like Tiger Woods on the green, Michael Jordan on the court, or Derek Jeter on the field, you come face-to-face with competition every single day. The only challenge is how you approach the game: are you the type of person who fights aggressively, plans strategically, or cowers on the sidelines?
Let’s make this conversation a little less cryptic. Every day, you’re fighting for something, usually against another person - you fight for the top grade in a class, a new job, a date, that promotion you’ve been waiting for, or even the winning lottery ticket. These battles extend into your career, your love life, your friendships, your wallets, and so many other deep aspects of your life. How can you win the face-off? That all depends on how you market yourself as a combatant, and more importantly, how you follow through with those decisions. Which type of combatant are you?
The first type of combatant is an aggressive warrior. You probably have some of these warriors in your life: they cheat on exams, lie during job interviews, rat on their coworkers, flirt with your crush behind your back, and actively fight for what they truly want. Acting on impulse, they’ll stop at nothing to win the game, despite how their actions might affect other people. For the most part, aggressive warriors are strong, egotistic, cunning, agile, and often cold. Still, most of them are too proud (or perhaps too cowardly) to acknowledge the lives that they destroy in their pursuit. Like a running-back, all they can see is the end zone, and all they want is a touchdown. Think about whether or not you fit into this category.
The second combatant is a strategic planner. These individuals use their strong intellect, patience, logical reasoning, and personal desires to attain their goals. They can best be associated with chess players and golfers. As such, they think before they act - they consider all possible alternatives and all potential obstacles before making their moves. Perhaps their greatest flaw is that they can often act slowly, taking too much time to think about a course of action, and therefore missing out on certain opportunities. Nevertheless, think twice before facing off against a strategic planner; they’re often sneaky and can sometimes act against your interests without your awareness. Are you a strategic planner?
The third combatant is a passive observer. You can think of these individuals as second-string players on the sidelines. Admirably, these combatants are often compassionate, thoughtful, altruistic, and sometimes nervous or cowardly; however, their meek qualities come at the expense of personal gain. Most passive observers watch their lives pass by before their eyes - they watch other people land the jobs they want, take the people they love, and earn the money they crave. While many of them might appear satisfied on the surface, most of them wish they were more like strategic planners or aggressive warriors. They strive on encouragement and wait for opportunities to fall into their laps, and when this happens, they feel as if their time waiting was well spent. Perhaps you fit into this category.
Despite these blunt personalities, most of us fall into a hybrid category. Depending on the situation, we choose to be an aggressive warrior, a strategic planner, or a passive observer, and most of us have had our fair share of all three. Generally, our decision is based upon the severity of the situation - if you’re interviewing for a job that you need but not necessarily one that you want, you might choose to passively fight for the position; if you’re fighting against another coworker for a promotion, you might strategically plan how to position yourself against your competitor so that you end up as the victor; and if you’re about to watch the love of your life slip away, you might choose to take the role of an aggressive warrior, fighting desperately for the person you love.
Regardless of which path you choose, inevitably, you fit into one of these categories, and like an athlete, you fight every day to win your respective games. Life as we know it is about competition. The only question is, as which type of competitor do you market yourself? Like Darwin says, life is “Survival of the Fittest”. How do you ensure that you are the fittest?
Have you ever thought of a pick-up line as a personal advertisement? I’m guessing probably not. And why even bother? How can something as instinctual as love even be compared to something as manufactured as marketing? Believe it or not, it has everything to do with it. Thinking of yourself as a brand, and therefore as someone who can create a personal advertisement, will actually lead you to a better dating life. Now before I indulge you in another wild and crazy theory, let me admit that I can afford no personal success in what I’m about to discuss. Perhaps I haven’t really tapped into the root of this method firmly enough, or maybe I’m just simply bad at dating, but I’m still hoping that some of you can give this a try and report back to me on your successes and failures. Let the wild and crazy theory commence.
Ladies, pretend for a moment that a guy walks up to you at a bar and says “baby, you’re so fine.” Immediately, you’re making hundreds of observations about the guy - his look, his swagger, the friends he’s with, and so much more. Bear with me while I describe this gentleman: he’s a short, timid computer nerd wearing a Hello Kitty t-shirt, and he’s at the bar with his mom. What would your reaction be? In most circumstances, although there are exceptions, I’d assume you’d walk away, roll your eyes, or just sort of glaze over him with a confused expression. I don’t blame you; this would almost be like finding a lavender-scented candle in an auto-body shop.
Now let’s look at it another way. Pretend that a masculine gangster from the heart of Detroit strolls over to you with a bold grin, pops his collar and assertively shouts, “baby, you’re so fine.” That’d be more like finding a greasy wrench in an auto-body shop. Makes more sense, right? I’m sure at this point you might be thinking “yes, but I’d never date this guy anyway, even though the words match the man.” This is another point I’ll bring up in a bit. And by the way, guys, not to leave us in the dark, this scenario can apply to us as well, just switched for your personal preference.
So what’s the point? Well, to put it bluntly, and to be a bit cheesy, the point is to be yourself. Now before you shudder and turn away, let me explain. In our first scenario, the message didn’t match the image; in the second case, it did. In marketing, companies must make a point of being honest with who they really are as a brand. Otherwise, people will read right through them. Imagine if you saw a BP commercial that said “We help to save the environment.” Even without the recent oil spill, you can still see my point that you probably wouldn’t believe them. This doesn’t mean you would immediately stop buying BP gas, but you would be a bit put off by the message, don’t you agree?
This brings me to my next point - not to pick on BP, but what if you hated the brand to begin with? What if you never even considered them when filling your gas tank but instead preferred a different brand of gas? Well this point brings me back to the dilemma posed before. If you weren’t turned on by masculine gangsters, then the pick-up line in scenario two wouldn’t work on you to begin with; you’d probably never even consider the guy at all, despite what he might say (although again this depends and could be argued in a whole different post). On-the-other-hand, if you were the type of woman who likes a nerdy, timid guy wearing a Hello Kitty t-shirt with his mom, you might be able to overlook the pick-up line. Still, you’d be a bit put off by the message, right?
Taking this whole rant and consolidating it into one core lesson, we learn that love is a lot like marketing. Let’s review why: first, when it comes to advertising yourself (whether through a pick-up line or any other method), your words and attitude must match your image - first impressions count. Marketers are good at attracting people through false messaging, and if that’s all you’re after in love, then you’re good to go; however, no marketer can fictitiously advertise forever without changing the brand image. Second, when you’re approached by someone, pay close attention to the whole package. Do the words match the image? If not, you might not have an honest person.
One more thing: please don’t assume that this is a rule of thumb. Although there are many great arguments made here, there are so many factors that can go into a message-brand mismatch: the person could be nervous, could just say what he or she wants you to hear, or could just be out of touch with himself or herself. Needless to say, if everyone were honest with themselves and each other, dating would probably be a whole lot easier, but probably a little less interesting.
People say that you’re most innocent at birth and that throughout the course of your existence - through the observation of others and of the world - your innocence becomes contaminated. Unfortunately, we cannot control this fate, but we can use it to our advantage if we learn to embrace it.
Think about the first thing you ever wanted to be as a kid. Raise your hand if you wanted to be a strategic analyst for a global brand (if your hand is raised, you’re either lying, forgetful, or pitiful). Of course not! You wanted to be a fireman, a nurse, a doctor, a pilot, a race-car driver, or maybe even a teacher. I’m sure you’re all very well aware of this, and you might even agree that something happened along the way - life. What I want to know is why? And how? How do we go from wanting to be a mechanic to working in a cubicle as an investment banker? Many people will argue that this happens through a tainted journey of learning the harsh realities of the world; of realizing that you want more money, more fame, more power; of losing your sense of morality and altruism. I say they’re wrong, but also not too far from the truth. Contradiction? No.
In all honesty, many people do fall into this trap - they make sacrifices to their brand. They turn down a job they love for a job that pays more. They quit a rewarding opportunity for a better title. They lose themselves under the stress of social pressure and the misinformed concept of what we can identify as a personal gain. They might even justify that it benefits their family or that it will lead to better opportunities for themselves in the future. And in the end, most of them - minus the few fortunate ones - are completely miserable. Are there any happy investment bankers and strategic analysts? Absolutely, but it’s because they didn’t sacrifice their personal brand: deep down, the happy ones actually want to be investment bankers and strategic analysts, regardless of the money or the prestige. Those are just the perks of their careers.
The truth is that what you want to be when you’re a kid probably isn’t what you should be as an adult. Through the process of growing up, you learn more about yourself and about the world around you, and throughout all of those growing pains and personal experiences, you start to shape yourself into the person you want to become. This change is natural, necessary, and completely healthy, and it continues throughout your entire life.
Here’s the only catch - most people don’t change according to what they want; they change according to what they think they want. They think they want more money, so they become Wall Street stock brokers or real estate tycoons; or they think they want more power, so they become politicians or executives. They unfortunately believe that it will make them happy when it might not. Instead of listening to their hearts, they settle for the bottom line, sacrificing their personal brand for what we value as a society and for what is easy (this is not to say that passing the CPA exam is easy, but it’s certainly “easier” in the long run than restlessly living as a starving artist). How can you avoid this pitfall?
Don’t sacrifice your brand - change with it. Your personal tastes are going to change, so adapt with them. You might find that you don’t want to be a doctor because you can’t stand seeing people hurt. If it’s something you can overcome, keep on the same track, but if it’s something that’ll affect your everyday life, change with it. Turn inward and reanalyze what you love and who you want to be (this one is tricky if you’re not honest with yourself). Ask around for advice and try new things. In all honesty, here’s a good sign that you’re in the right career - you leave your job feeling personally rewarded (not monetarily or authoritatively), and you can’t wait to get to work in the morning. If both of these conditions are not met on a regular basis, you’re sacrificing your brand.
The Bottom Line: Don’t sacrifice your personal brand for what you think you want; adapt with it according to what you do want. In order to do this, you have to turn within. Remember, regardless of what you believe, the end of your life is a moment of personal judgment - will you look back on it with gratitude or regret?
Suggestions: Hopefully you realize that you’re on the right track, but if you’re suddenly stuck in a life crisis after reading this, you’ve been saved, not destroyed. Turn to the people you trust for advice. If you want a good book, I recommend Managing Brand You(Jerry Wilson) or What Color Is Your Parachute? (Richard Nelson Bolles).
Please share your thoughts and personal stories, and spread this knowledge to anyone who you think has fallen into this trap.
You heard it right - you’ve been branded. Now, before you go checking for any marks on your body and dialing 911, let me explain. Since the day you were born, you’ve been judged by everybody you’ve met - by your family, your friends, your spouse, your coworkers, even complete strangers with whom you might only have had a second of interaction. Even people who only pass you by are probably judging you.
Hopefully this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Most people are aware that they’ve been judged because they, in turn, judge everybody they meet every day, both consciously and subconsciously. In fact, you can consider every person to be his or her own brand, formed by billions of observations that are made and communicated daily. That’s right, I just compared you to a corporate brand - like Coca Cola, BMW, or even Dove. But really think about it - you are a brand - you have your own brand name, possibly a nickname, your own image (there are a million factors that go into this alone), your own personality, and even your own website (Facebook is just one big personal advertisement). The clothes you wear, the places where you live and work, the possessions you own, the foods you eat, the way you walk, the things you say, and all other conceivable factors contribute to your brand. Even if you choose to live in isolation without ever purchasing a single item, you’re still defining your own brand.
Let’s jump off the page even further. Did you know you have your own target market (those with whom you want to be associated) and your own customers (your friends, family, etc)? Like a company, you have a certain group of people who you want to reach and be associated with because they will help contribute to your brand. For example, if you want to be seen as moral, conservative and religious, you might try becoming friends with frequent Church-goers; if you want to be seen as rugged, fearless, and born to be wild, you might associate yourself with Hell’s Angels.
Similarly, you have your own customers. These are the people who “buy” into your brand by becoming your friends, associates, advocates or even enemies. Depending on how much they enjoy your brand, they might tell other people about you. They’ll tell stories about your life, spread rumors, and introduce you to other people who would also love to associate themselves with your brand.
Confused? Scared? Think I’m crazy? Either way, you’re branded. There’s so much that goes into your brand, and it’s being developed, edited, and transformed every second of every day. The most exciting part is that you can control your own brand. You have the power to market yourself as you see fit. All you have to do is commit yourself to that brand. In this blog, we’ll explore how the world is branded, how you can change your brand, and how you can learn the truth about other people in your life. Furthermore, you’ll have the chance to share your thoughts, dispute any comments, and learn how to brand yourself.