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posted by Michael Powelson Jun 17,2015 @ 02:27PM

More Things That Happen Less

American Pharoah vs. The United States of On Demand

Pharoah

 Victor Espinoza said he knew coming out of the first turn.

 Knew that the hiccup at the gate wouldn’t matter. That the previous 37 years didn’t either. And that American Pharoah would dictate the terms of the next mile-and-a-quarter, fending off all comers with strides that seemed to stretch the lengths of Cadillacs.

 It would take a bit longer for the rest of us to know. But soon we too understood just how transcendent two-and-a-half minutes of flapping silk can be.  Still, as the afterglow smoldered into something more contemplative, many of us came to a different conclusion. Consciously or not, we began to register that the previous 37 years did matter, and that they mattered a great deal.

 On the Monday following the first triple crown since 1978, sports writers and cultural columnists noted just how rare it was to see a unanimous, uncomplicated joy spread from the grandstand, over the airwaves, and into the digital zeitgeist. Blogs dissected the event. Newsfeeds echoed the homestretch replay. And friends-of-friends who wouldn’t know groom from gelding high-fived in the comments sections. A collective fascination had taken hold. One that certainly had something to do with a remarkable animal accomplishing one of the most difficult feats in sports. But one that had everything to do with the 37 years since it happened last.

 In his reliably brilliant way, Charles Pierce used a Grantland column to point out that it wasn’t as much the collection, but the content of those years that struck us so.

 This was something that hadn’t happened since before the Internet, before the Macintosh and the iPod, before companies merged and banks swelled, and before instant communications and the marketing thereof. The thrill was vestigial, at least by the standards of our age of perpetual motion. That’s what kept it pure. That was what kept it free. It was people and it was a horse, both genuine creatures from different parts of creation, beyond naming rights and copyrights, an easier place before brands.

“…an easier place before brands.” As a creative director, I’ll be chewing on that one for a while. Maybe because it’s hard to swallow. But maybe because I like the way it tastes.

 Like everything along the continuum of arts and sciences, I believe marketing can illuminate the human condition. Unlike those other disciplines, however, it has a pitiful track record of doing so. Far too often we are bludgeoned with advertising that stokes our lesser impulses of greed, insecurity, and intellectual laziness. Far too seldom are we enlightened by messages that invoke the better angels — charm, vulnerability, empathy, wit.

 This is why I‘m still savoring the marrow in the bone Pierce picked. We could be doing so much better in this industry. A lighter touch. A kinder eye. A broader focus on what makes us human instead of only what makes us act. The gap between what branding is and what branding could be is immense. Which makes the challenge of narrowing it irresistible.

 And it’s certainly not just branding. It’s technology and culture and the unprecedented acceleration of their love affair. Since 1978, we’ve learned to engineer gratification in ways no one who watched Affirmed win the last triple crown could have imagined. We are now the United States of On Demand.

 Money ball. Free two-day shipping. The complete new season of your favorite show in a single evening.

 These are hardly signs of the apocalypse. And anyone who pretends to not live in an age of unparalleled potential is kidding themselves. But it’s equally delusional to deny that the more you engineer gratification, the less gratifying it becomes.

 I suspect that this is what you really heard when Pharoah rounded the final turn, and the grandstand erupted, and 22 million of the rest of us hollered at our screens like lunatics sprung fresh from the booby hatch. This is what echoed on the blogs and in the replays:  A collective exultation for something that couldn’t be dictated.  Something that wasn’t engineered or even earned, but simply, and most importantly, waited for.

 In a world where I’ve become conditioned to binge watch and put all my chips on the black of big data, I’m increasingly grateful for those truly special, rarest of happenings. The ones that none of us, nor all of us, could ever will into being.

 So along with all the consumer-empowering innovations sure to keep coming down the pike, I’m now hoping for more things that happen less.

 I'm not quite sure what that hope means for brands and the media they use to communicate. But I promise to keep chewing on it.

posted by Julie Turner Jun 10,2015 @ 11:56AM

The Language of Emoji

Image by Ji Lee/NY TimesOne of the greatest things about Riggs Partners’ Account Manager Courtney Melendez is not her ability to save every dog on the planet (although she is trying). It’s not her role in the #porchpants revolution or her dashing husband, Mario.

Courtney speaks emoji. I mean complex thoughts and sentences that are entirely understandable and often quite funny. She is one of many people who have embraced the smiley world of emoji with two fist bumps and a raise the roof.

A Short History

Emoji — the 800+ array of emotive keyboard characters that pepper Facebook, texts, Instagram comments — are officially everywhere. Even in our closets.

While emoji have been doing their thing since the late 90s, they began to steamroll Paleozoic words and emoticons when they were introduced on iOS in 2011 and Android in 2013. The brainchild of Shigetaka Kurita, emoji began their crawl from the interwebs shortly following the After Dark Toaster Screensaver Era and enjoyed widespread use in Japanese mobile and texting before showing up in fonts such as Wingdings. Emoji became part of Unicode Standard in 2010 and, since then, have wormed their way into almost half of comments and captions on Instagram alone.

The Lord of Emoji Land

If you’re like me, you’ve never woken up in the middle of the night wondering why we have pizza and chicken leg emoji, but curiously lack a taco emoji. It’s because of the Unicode Consortium, a group that oversees how text is coded into computer-readable language.

In addition to announcing the 38 new emoji that’ll be coming in 2016, the UC recently overhauled the process of how new emoji are born. The new standards mean that Taco Bell’s marketing efforts may just land the planet the taco emoji we all deserve.

Poop or Chocolate Ice Cream?

Thanks to their visual nature, emoji can do what text cannot: show sentiment. Having a party? Perhaps the frosty beer mug or a hip swinging salsa dancer lady. Seeing too many snake photos on your Facebook timeline? Tap out a bug-eyed surprise face.

To find out what emoji use reveals, we can turn to the emerging science of emojiology. SwiftKey’s Emoji Report dug deep into their cloud vaults to analyze more than a billion emoji used by speakers of 16 languages around the world. Here are a few things they found:

  • The French use four times as many heart emoji than other languages, and it’s the only language for which a “smiley” is not #1
  • Americans lead for a random assortment of emoji and categories, including skulls, birthday cake, fire, tech, LGBT, meat and female-oriented emoji.
  • Around the world, traditional emoji faces are the most frequently used. Primary stalwarts happy faces and sad faces lead the pack but are closely followed by hearts, hand gesture and romantic emoji.

The Bottom Line

While all of this is as interesting and vital as, say, a VHS emoji, the report does reveal that emoji users in all languages tend to use more positive emoji (70%) than negative (15%).

How do I, who grew up without computers, cellphones and Internet, know that emoji have migrated from fad to a foundational means of communication? It’s not my friend Courtney, but my six- and ten-year-old sons.

Every now and again, these two people (who do not have smartphones or even phones for that matter) want to vicariously communicate via a mom-generated Facebook comment, text or Instagram. It’s not the words chosen or even the platform used that’s their greatest concern. It’s that mom gets the almighty emoji right.

Holy Home Alone cat emoji, Batman.

 

 

For more emoji fun, have a look-see at the Twitter emoji tracker. If you need to write a whitepaper, hotfoot it over to the emoji two-parter from Instagram, which is loaded with very smart actual information.

posted by Alexandra Frazier May 13,2015 @ 08:59AM

i carry your heart

"Keep going." A pause. "Keep going."

            My mother, sighing, "Surely this is enough?"

"Don't stop until I say so. Turn it white."

We may be standing in my mother's kitchen, but sauce is Bigi's domain. As he keenly watches over her shoulder, my mama shakes more garlic powder into a Dutch oven gurgling with tomatoes, onions and spice. Good sauce never truly simmers—it galurps and bursts and plops unevenly as sunglow-colored grease bubbles cluster along its edges—and today's pot is no different from the countless others two of my favorite people in the whole wide world have prepared together.

Bigi looks behind her, winks at me, and then nods his satisfaction when the garlic snowcaps are finally to his liking. He hip bumps her to the side of the gas range, gives the sauce a stir, then slurps the slender wooden spoon against his lips. His gnarled hands cupped under the bowl-back so as not to cause a spill, he holds what's left out to my mother. She swallows, smiles, and rolls her eyes.

"Bean, you want a taste?"

He wiggles an eyebrow at me, and I practically skip to the stove. He was right about the garlic powder—he always is.

This was my grandfather. Always right. Stubborn to a fault. Never a minute late. Fiercely independent. And yet, exacting as he may have been, ingredients were never measured nor recipes written down. Food was my grandfather's means of creative expression, and in his world, all spoons were communal. Dinners were leisurely. And love abundant.   

My stubborn, willful, utterly perfect grandfather passed away last year. After a week in the hospital—the result of a bad fall and broken pelvis—his kidneys failed and his too-big heart just plain broke. He died the morning of October 22nd, the day before Riggs Partners' CreateAthon XVII. It was to be my first CreateAthon, an event I'd been looking forward to ever since I joined the agency that January. But, after my world had been tipped on its axis, I wasn't sure I would have the mental capacity to string sentences together, never mind good sentences on behalf of The Arts Empowerment Project, a nonprofit that connects at-risk children with transformative, life-changing arts experiences. I briefly thought about not coming.

But my grandfather, the man who wouldn't miss Christmas with family come hell or double hip replacement, the WWII veteran whose photo must be printed alongside Webster's definition of pluck, would have pushed me forward. He had always taught me to honor my commitments, and he did so until the day he died. Tempted to stay home, I could still hear him:  Keep going. Don't stop until I say so.  

When I arrived to the WECO that cloudy October morning, a few people—those who knew—said kind things I didn't really hear. I stammered a thank you or two, and then I got to work. Selfishly, I craved the distraction of a challenge apart from that inconvenient thing called grieving. 

That said, distractions are temporary by design, and they never completely divert our attention from the tasks we hope to escape. As the hours ticked past and night blanketed the WECO, the memories came unbidden:

My grandfather's slight form hunched over the stove as he taught me to whisk together polenta. The great delight with which he accepted my applesauce Bundt cakes, even when over or under baked. Quote, depending on circumstance, "I like a crispy outside," or "It will stay moist longer this way."
Books, newspapers, and large-print copies of Reader's Digest arranged in neat piles throughout my grandparent's house, all of which I was welcome to read whenever I visited.
His strong voice gliding over the crests and valleys of a hymn (for much of his life, he sang in both a barbershop quartet and the church choir), and a stronger shoulder to lean against when I inevitably got sleepy at midnight mass.
Countless car rides to ballet lessons across town, after which he'd help tame my unruly locks into a sleek bun, twisting and pinning according to my 7-year-old self's most authoritative instructions.

How lucky I was to have shared with him so many of my creative interests. How empty life would have been without hisguidance, encouragement, and example thesepast 23 years. And in that, a kernel of understanding.

Perhaps because my heart was bruised, my grandfather gone and my headspace in vulnerable territory, I finally grasped what the gift of arts exposure could do for a child achingly familiar with life's harsh realities. For a productive spell between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m., I too was just a little girl in need of the therapeutic power of words, art and writing to heal her broken places.

I had been told CreateAthon was an experience like no other. I was prepared for so many things—client tears, impossible deadlines, the sad truth that my hair would look like it had been combed with a porkchop—but I wasn't expecting the bear hug to the soul that came with working for a nonprofit whose very purpose helped put in perspective not what I had lost, but how much I had to be thankful for.

alexandraphoto
He was my granddaddy, but he was everyone's Bigi, and I'd like to think he watched over all of us intrepid creative spirits that night. As Riggs and co. begin to accept the next batch of CreateAthon applications, I can only hope he'll be there too, helping us push through the night with grace, grit, and a little extra determination.         
         
                                                                                                                                                                       In loving memory of Elio Joseph "Bigi" Bigiarelli                                                                       

Riggs Partners 2015 CreateAthon applications are now available. Apply here.

 

                                                                     

posted by Apprentices Apr 28,2015 @ 02:52PM

Mobilegeddon Is Here — But with Mobile Optimization, It's Not the End of the World

Mobilegeddon

Bruce isn't afraid.  And you don't have to be either.

Every time an algorithm change takes place, it certainly can feel like gearing up for battle. However, marketers: you can put your swords down if your website, landing pages and blog content are fully optimized for mobile.

On Tuesday, April 21, Google made an enormous change to the algorithm it uses to rank websites on smartphone devices. As digital marketers, we rely heavily on Google to send traffic to our client’s websites. When these changes take place, it’s our responsibility to educate ourselves and optimize accordingly.

What does this all mean? Mobile makes up about half of all Google searches, and the company recognizes three approaches to be mobile friendly: responsive design, dynamic serving, mobile website. Adjust your content accordingly, and you will be protected from the change.

To help you get started, Google has prepared this helpful list of common mobile mistakes to avoid.

In today’s digital age, we must stay current on industry trends, all the while staying true to our brand and doing what’s best for our clients. While Armageddon may signal the end of the world, “Mobilegeddon” isn’t entirely dark. These adjustments will be rolled out over the next few weeks, so there is plenty of time to increase the “mobile-friendliness” of your site and increase overall ranking. 

What's more, optimizing our websites to appeal to the many ways people consume information will lead to higher-quality content and increased conversions. With that in mind, we no longer view this particular change as the end of the world, but rather just the beginning of a new mobile era. Bring it on, Mobilegeddon!

 

Author: Courtney Fleming

posted by Kevin Smith Apr 22,2015 @ 10:39AM

Trying to Keep Up

Riggs_suitEarlier this month, Media Post published an interesting article about how as we age, the brain moves to the right. Specifically, the brain perceives reality in sensory images and like metaphors. I was excited to be informed that: “Stories generally do a better job of emotionally engaging Baby Boomer minds. In fact, Baby Boomers are more likely than younger consumers to ignore a message that simply describes a product with little or no affect.”

Shortly thereafter, I read in Marketing News: “Digital Disruption and the Death of Storytelling.” Douglas Rushkoff’s views are profound. He reminds us that digital devices leave us living in a reactionary mode, failing to plan for the future or live fully in the present. The multitude of communication channels has rendered even the most centered among us compulsive and compromised.

These two interesting and compelling viewpoints remind me of how confusing the deluge of information we receive can be. In this new age of information, we want absolutes, new rules and decrees we can employ.

It’s simply not that simple. The only thing we can truly be expert at is asking questions of our customers. The modern marketing tumult has made listening the most important art of all. Marketing has no templates because consumers are custom made. Informing an audience to make wise decisions requires an expert tailor with a penchant for hearing others’ truths.

 

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By the numbers

youtube is 2nd largest search engine