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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 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.

posted by Marcus Williamson Apr 15,2015 @ 01:08PM

Raising the Bar

raise_the_bar

Columbia is changing and only for the better.

New buildings are going up at a seemingly rapid pace while old ones that have sat vacant for decades are being repurposed for new and exciting things. Notable examples include the former Bull Street Asylum, the Adluh Flour building, and the Palmetto Compress building.

But what of the creative scene? Well that's booming as well. With Indie Grits, ConvergeSE, and POSSCON (The Palmetto Open Source Software Conference) all happening in the same week, Columbia's future certainly looks bright. These three events, along with many others not mentioned here, are uniquely tied to our city and represent a new community of creatives willing to raise the bar for a better Columbia. If this trend continues to grow, we could be looking at the new SXSW within several years.

We look forward to seeing what new creative possibilities arise in our city as it continues to grow taller and wider every day.

What other exciting things are happening around Columbia that we missed?

-Marcus

posted by Cathy Monetti Apr 02,2015 @ 04:12AM

Five Lessons of Great Leaders

I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about leadership. It's not something that's on my mind, typically; there's entirely too much work to be done to sit around dissecting and diagramming such a thing. But when I was invited to speak to a group of government leaders about how to be an inspired leader in difficult times--I knew I had some soul searching to do.

What on earth do I have to say on this topic? It was a valid question. Not so long ago (ha) I was a young entrepreneur doing the best I could to balance the demands of a growing business with the responsibilities of being a single mother. As a result little Eliza spent many weekends and holidays with me at the office. (It did not bring her joy.) Early one Saturday I parked her at the receptionist's desk where she prayed the phone would ring and she would get to answer it: "C.C.Rigg’s! This is Eliza! How may I help you?"

It never happened. So on this day I loaded her up with paper and pencils and colored markers and tape and gave her all sorts of instructions about things she might do. Then I went to my office and commenced to cleaning out files.

Sensing her dissatisfaction, I picked up the phone, buzzed the reception desk, and in my most professional voice said into the intercom, "Eliza, this is Miss Cathy. Would you please go to the refrigerator and get a Diet Coke, put it in a koozie and bring it to me?" Diet Coke delivered, my tiny receptionist returned to her desk and within 15 seconds my telephone intercom buzzed.

"Cathy," said this little five-year-old voice. "Would you please go to the refrigerator and get a Sprite, put it in a koozie and bring it to me?"

"Honey," I said, now in my Mom voice. "I'm the boss and you're the worker. That means you do things for me."

"Humph," she said, hanging up the receiver.

When the day was done we drove straight to her favorite restaurant where we parked catacorner in the Sonic drive-in and she made the big move to sit in the front seat, with me. "Let's play TEENAGERS!" she said. And so I turned to her and asked in my best teenager voice, "So Eliza, what have you been up to?"

"I've just been working at the hospital," she said.

"The hospital!" I said, surprised. "When did you start working at the hospital? The last time we talked you were working at an advertising agency!"

"I was," she said. "But there was this lady there, and all she did was boss me around, so I quit."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thankfully, I spent the next 25 years in the company of some pretty remarkable leaders, many of whom were my clients. I do my best to pay attention, to go beneath the surface of things, and so as I thought through it, I realized they all have some things in common. Following is a greatly abbreviated overview.

believe

GREAT LEADERS KNOW THE "WHY" OF THEIR ORGANIZATION. THEY ALSO KNOW THEIR PERSONAL "WHY."

Have you seen Simon Sinek’s TED talk HOW GREAT LEADERS INSPIRE ACTION? “People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it,” he says of great brands and companies. I believe Sinek is onto something important and revolutionary. I know it’s true in marketing and branding. But I believe it’s also true when it comes to us as individuals, as human beings, as leaders.

Do you know your WHY? Do you know what drives you? Do you know what you value? Do you know what you believe?

GREAT LEADERS LEAD FROM THE SPACE OF THEIR CONVICTIONS.

They inspire rather than command—they tell us what they believe, not what should be done.

GREAT LEADERS CONNECT HUMAN TO HUMAN.

Soul to soul. Heart to heart. THE REAL ME SEES THE REAL YOU. This matters because as human beings, what we want most is to be seen, heard and validated.

GREAT LEADERS PAY ATTENTION TO INTENTION.

They identify the right problems. Then they get to the why.

GREAT LEADERS BUILD TRUST ALL AROUND.

They create and foster an environment in which people feel safe—not only with regard to "management," but also co-workers. They do this by knowing their convictions (see #1 and #2 above) and standing for them, on behalf of the people they lead.

_____________

There is much more to say about each, including wonderful examples from people I greatly respect. I think I'll spend some time in this space doing just that. But for now, I'd love to hear your perspective. Comment or send an email to cathy@riggspartners.com. I'd love to hear from you.

 

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