Don’t Harsh My Thongs

19 07 2013

What’s with all the thong hate? No, not THOSE thongs. “Thongs” are what we used to call flip-flops down here when I was a kid.

Not our feet, not our beach. Image courtesy of KSL Broadcasting, Salt Lake City UT (

Not our feet, not our beach. Image courtesy of KSL Broadcasting, Salt Lake City UT (

Whatever you call them, I read six articles published in the last week referencing the horror of people wearing flip-flops (Slate,  Huffington Post, MSN, CBS, Fox, and Jezebel), and saw on my way out the door this morning that the Today Show  was, as usual, coming late to the party. At least Jezebel took the contrarian (shocking, I know) position that there is no shame in sporting ugly, exposed feet.

Apparently, feet need a good PR push. They’re variously described in these articles as “gross,” “disgusting,” “nasty,” “super gross,” “smelly,” “filthy,” “unsightly,” “skeevy,”  and “unappealing.”  Place them in a flip-flop, put them in an urban environment, and you get a violent reaction. Mix in podiatrists and lack of arch support, and you have shoe heresy.

After my initial knee-jerk reaction to people dissing my favorite form of footwear — after all, I live in South Florida and we have raised thong-wearing to an art form — I found I had to agree with at least SOME of the argument. Thongs + urban dirt = skanky feet. I lived in New York City for six years and never once even considered wearing flip-flops on the street. I wore Doc Martins, a form of urban combat wear for your feet. It was simply self-defense; I have this thing about people stepping on my naked toes. It hurts.

And let’s not forget the general filthiness of large collections of humans living in very close proximity to one another. Big city streets are big time nasty.

What’s actually interesting in all of this is not that there are something like 18,000 bacteria on your flip-flops (including Staphylococcus aureus, according to the 2009 study referenced in all of these articles). It’s that thing I referred to in the last post: the social media hive mind.

It used to be that print and broadcast tended to move in story cycles, so that if one pub covered a topic and the article/segment was interesting and well-received (or at least received a lot of attention), you could count on similar stories from the competition. Now that everyone’s wired (a gloriously inaccurate term), the cycle is practically instantaneous. And when enough news outlets (i.e. mainstream media), news purveyors (i.e. bloggers, gossip sites, opinion sites), and social consumers come together on a topic, it becomes a cultural phenomenon (albeit an often brief one). Because the timeframe is so compressed, and sharing anything even remotely interesting is basically built into whatever you’re reading/watching, we get topics that spread like viruses. Hence that “viral” thing.

What used to seem like these big cosmic coincidences now happen so frequently they’ve lost much of their luster — and therefore any truly lasting impact. In a moment too meta to contemplate here, an author whose book I recently edited told me I need to read Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious, and the next day Mr. Berger was on CBS talking about how stuff catches on — or doesn’t.

So, I wonder what the next Sharknado will be? Of course, if we knew that, we’d stop trying to do this marketing thing, become consultants, and wear our flip-flops on the beach in Bora Bora.


Late to the Sharknado…

12 07 2013

I had a whole bunch of ideas for a blog post – you have beardvertising to look forward to, people – but abandoned them after #sharknado took over Twitter and garnered the SyFy Channel’s latest cheesefest so much second-screen publicity that it was a featured story everywhere from the Today Show to Variety to the Wall Street Journal.

Too mature to know about the guilty pleasures of SyFy’s made-for-TV schlockfests? Sharknado, which premiered last night, stars D-list (and really, we’re being generous here) celebs Ian Zeiring (Beverly Hills 90210) and Tara Reid (American Pie). A hurricane off the coast of California sucks up man-eating sharks and transports them, via tornado, to Los Angeles. Said sharks proceed to fly out of funnel clouds and eat everyone.


The social media hive-mind created a TwitterStorm during the run, with such beauties as this:

Danny Zucker (@dannyzucker)
Can’t watch #Sharknado because I’m on the set of my new film Tsunamwolf.
(Writer/Exec Producer on ABC’s Modern Family)

Glenn Mazzara (@glennmazzara)
@Ebradley127: “@brayingdixon: “#SHARKNADO is coming! ” I can only hope the sequel is SQUIDQUAKE.
(Writer, Producer — The Shield, The Walking Dead, Life, Crash)

Horatio Sanz (@mrhoratiosanz)
I wish I could join in on the shenanigans, but I had a cousin that was killed by a #Sharknado back in ’93. #RamonRIP
(Former SNL cast member, actor, comedian)

Shawn Ryan
Commercials giving me a chance to reflect on secondary, even tertiary levels of #Sharknado.
(Writer – The Shield/The Unit/Terriers/The Chicago Code/Last Resort/Lie To Me/Angel/Nash Bridges)

The Dowager Countess (@ladygrantham)
America: The Empire gave you tea, civilisation and the English language – and you responded with .

The Sharknado forecast

The Sharknado forecast

Other tweeted hashtags/suggested movie titles: Orcalanche, Hurricanine, Tarantulavalanche, Whalecano, Moosnami, Rabbitavalanche, Catsoon.

Actual SyFy Channel movie titles already produced and aired: Sharktopus, Piranhaconda, Dinocroc vs. Supergator, Megapython vs. Gateroid. I don’t make this stuff up. Really.

A confession: I watch these SyFy Channel cheese bombs. One of my favorites (and beloved by my then 9-year-old son) was Frankenfish. Another ultra-bad bonding moment for us was Anonymous Rex, a mash-up of Jurassic Park and every film noir trope EVER. It stars Sam Tramell, who now plays Sam Merlotte on True Blood, and that other Baldwin brother, Daniel. The premise? Dinosaurs faked their extinction and live among us disguised as humans. A velociraptor (Tramell) and a triceratops (Baldwin) are private investigators looking into a murder. Bonus: special appearances by Faye Dunaway (hysterical) and Isaac Hayes (smooooth).

Twitter is still blowing up about #sharknado, but now it’s the media discussions of last night’s frenzy. You just can’t pay – or plan – for publicity like this.

Word is that SyFy Channel intends to re-air Sharknado next Thursday at 7:00 PM EST. I know I’m setting the DVR. Twitter better look at the bandwidth/server situation, pronto.

Yeah, So I Heard Blogging is Really Effective When You Post Regularly…

16 08 2011


And from whose mouth dropped this pearly bit of wisdom? Mine own.

More than once, in fact —  in every meeting we’ve had recently with a new or potential client, since social media is a component of nearly every proposal we’ve written lately, and a part of every job we’ve landed unless it is 100% straight print.

Oh (I whine in a non-annoying way), I don’t have time to update our blog — I’m ghost-writing four other blogs every week, plus all the writing I have to do like website content, print ads, a ton of collateral, ghosting clients’ Facebook fan pages, Twitter feeds, e-newsletters, blah blah blah socialmediacakes.

But I THINK about our blog constantly. Given the choice, I’d be blogging every day because I have an opinion on everything. In theory, this blog is supposed to have some parameters that keep me within the rather elastic bounds of advertising, marketing, and media; selling stuff; how badly brands/people are selling stuff; how cleverly stuff is sold with out anyone realizing they were, in fact, sold something, or they don’t care because it was so well done; egregious marketing ploys; any time the Wall Street Journal writes about something that I find amusingly outside its purview; I think you get the picture. And did you notice I dropped the “royal we” at some point? Because this is my responsibility, like the creative direction and graphic design are Steve’s. The blog just really ties the room together, man.

So, my random attached-to-no-holiday resolution (although I could pin this onto Labor Day…) is to get back to blogging once a week for Alchemy. Because in addition to always having something to say about someone or something, we have a lot of new work and new clients to talk about, and they deserve the attention.

Mom Jeans and Pie

28 04 2011
Hot Mom Jeans -- not an oxymoron anymore.

Hot Mom Jeans -- not an oxymoron anymore.

Nothing mom-like about these, either...

Nothing mom-like about these, either...

They’ve done it again; The Wall Street Journal has written about something seemingly so far afield from the Bernanke press conference and stock prices that I am grinning wickedly. Of course, it actually does have a monetary and advertising/marketing tie-in — women over the age of 35 spend a LOT of money on clothes, and can better afford to spend $200+ on a pair of jeans. But this headline was just too non-WSJ for me to pass up: “A Makeover for ‘Mom Jeans.’

Then there’s the pie. According to via Supermarket News, the pie is beating the cream filling out of cupcakes, and is the next big food crush. So, this is my “mom and apple pie” blog post, albeit turned on its head a bit.

Yummy goodness...

Yummy goodness...

First, an admission — I’m a mom, I’m smack in the target age range for mom jeans, and I love cupcakes. But I’m as likely to buy mom jeans or stop eating cupcakes as I am to start driving a minivan, i.e. never gonna happen. Truly. Never.

But I appreciate designers and clothiers realizing that jeans for skinny little twenty-somethings are just one segment of the market. Levi’s is doing a great print campaign with its jeans, showing cuts for different body types — which include a curvy cut with a higher rise that would fall into the “mom jeans” category, even if they don’t market it as such.

“Women aged 35 to 54 bought $2.29 billion worth of jeans for the 12 months ending in January, up 1 percent from the year-ago period, according to NPD Group data,” the Wall Street Journal notes. “In comparison, women aged 18 to 34 bought $3.03 billion worth of jeans in the same period, down 1 percent from a year ago. The biggest growth in denim in the past year was in the 55 and older demographic, where women spent $1.24 billion, up 17 percent from the year-ago period.” (italics are mine)

And to top it off, many of these new jeans are about a quarter of the price I’ve been paying for my jeans. Huh.

Here’s my favorite quote from the article: “’Women want to continue to hold on to their youth,’ said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group. ‘Older women have invested in Botox and hair coloring. Key fashion items are also part of preserving a more youthful look. Jeans can literally help shape your body.'” Nice going, Marshal — now I know how to order my “feminine” priorities: Save up for Botox, start dying my gray hair, and find a pair of jeans that smoosh me into a shape pleasing to men.

And therefore, we now have Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, Little in the Middle, Kut From the Kloth, Democracy Declaration of Jean Dependence, and new cuts from denim mainstays Lucky Brand, J Crew, and Loft (Ann Taylor). So forget that hilarious/mocking Saturday Night Live commercial parody touting a new line of “Mom Jeans,” as tragically dowdy women romped in high-waisted denim monstrosities, and a voice-over invited: “This Mother’s Day, give her something that says, ‘I’m not a woman any more.…I’m a mom.’”

So, moms are going to be looking both cooler and hotter. As it should be.

Of course, if you’re as hot for cupcakes as I am, you’ll be quite interested in knowing about the “…trademarked ‘Lift Tuck’ technology that lifts and supports a woman’s bottom, while a crisscross panel in the front helps tuck and compress the stomach,” that characterizes Not Your Daughter’s Jeans. No matter what Supermarket News says, I will NOT be trading cupcakes for pie, even if it means I have to rely on Lift Tuck technology to look hot white I eat said cupcakes.

Bootsy Collins circa 1976

Bootsy Collins circa 1976

The stats in Supermarket News are heartening for the purveyors of desserts, but they also reveal another, unexplored angle: “In many supermarket bakery departments, desserts held steady during the recession, with new sizes and new takes on classics such as pies and brownies bolstering sales.” Also, that “70% of U.S. consumers eat dessert at least once a week, and that baked goods on limited services menus rose 20% from 2008 to 2010.” That adds up to a lot of empty calories, and tons of commercials airing for weight loss systems — could there be a causal relationship, perhaps? However, I am in no way judging. Cupcakes are like a little ray of frosted sparkling sunshine and should be enjoyed however you see fit. And pie’s no slouch in the happiness department.

Oh, and if you didn’t see today’s online Wall Street Journal, you missed a great article about bassist Bootsy Collins. Yes, that Bootsy Collins: Parliament, Funkadelic, P-Funk, George Clinton, James Brown. As in “Bootsy Collins Rules ‘The Funk Capital of the World.'” Go that in one.

Turns Out Marketing is Really the Pits…

31 03 2011
Actor Jessica Szohr, "Gossip Girl" and armpit model...

Actor Jessica Szohr, "Gossip Girl" and armpit model...

Here we go again — I caught a headline in the Wall Street Journal that practically gave me whiplash. If you read this blog with any regularity, you’ll know I LOVE to find articles in the WSJ that are waaaayyyy off-topic in relation to the reams of copy written about global stock markets and the paper’s conservative-leaning editorial.

The headline in question? I reproduce it here in the same point-size type as the online article…

Unilever Tackles the Ugly Underarm

Turns out that the market for antiperspirant and deodorant is, in essence, 100% saturated. Oh, these bon mots are just going to keep coming.

What’s a savvy marketer to do? Come up with a new reason for female consumers to switch brands: Re-mediating our unattractive underarms.

Now, lots of R&D, marketing brain power, and multiple focus groups no doubt went into the creation of this campaign to get women to drop their current underarm product and try, “Dove Ultimate Go Sleeveless, which hits U.S. stores this week, (which) claims its formula of specialized moisturizers will give women better-looking underarms in five days. It was inspired by Unilever PLC research that found 93% of women consider their armpits unattractive.”

I, of course, missed out on this poll, and at 93%, I don’t think I would have skewed the results in the opposite direction much, but WHAT THE *&#$?

Who are these women looking in the mirror thinking, “My armpits are SO ugly”? If this isn’t a perfect example of the beauty/skincare industry making a market out of thin air, I don’t know what is.  Because, really, I still have so much time left to devote to my pits after worrying about my crow’s feet, perioral wrinkles, laugh lines, frown lines, gray hair, frizzies, sun damage, rough elbows and knees, calluses, getting a close shave, the occasional pimple, staggeringly bad hair days, my neck looking older than my face, my hands looking older than my neck, and all the products I need apply to my body and face in the morning and before bed to defy gravity. And this is by no means a complete list.

Dove's "Pretty Pits" product will likely fly off the shelves...

Dove's "Pretty Pits" product will likely fly off the shelves...

What will I do should I actually start using this product and my armpits are suddenly “hot”? Go sleeveless, lean back in my chair a lot, and fold my hands behind my head so these gorgeous stretches of axillary skin can be admired?

The quotes in this story are just comedy gold, people. “We spoke with over 500 women, and almost every one of them thinks that their underarms are unattractive,” says Mike Dwyer, U.S. marketing director for Unilever’s deodorant business, including its Dove, Degree and Axe brands (oh, now here’s a topic for me to hop on a rant about — if you have a teenage boy, you’ve been smacked by Axe). One in three, meanwhile, said they feel more confident when their pits are in good condition, leading Mr. Dwyer to say, “How do we give them that confidence?”

Um, how about we don’t further erode women’s’ self-confidence by telling them they need to add armpit perfection to the list of stuff they have to do to be attractive to a potential mate specifically, and the rest of the judgmental world generally?

I will not go all TMI and tell you what I do and don’t do about my suddenly spotlighted armpits. Instead, we’ll move back into the realm of marketing and say whoever came up with this one is the proverbial goose who is laying golden advertising eggs. To whit..

“With nearly all American adults already using deodorant, driving additional sales gains requires giving shoppers new reasons to spend. ‘If we don’t continue to invent products that improve consumers’ lives, we’ll have trouble growing our business,’ says Kevin Hochman, a marketing director for Procter & Gamble Co.’s female beauty brands, including Secret deodorant.”

They’ve recruited  a celebrity willing to hawk this stuff; absolutely NO surprise with a  generation of celebs for whom truly nothing is embarrassing or private.  “A print ad for Dove’s new deodorant points out that ‘nearly 100% of women’ find their underarms unattractive. In one ad, Gossip Girl actress Jessica Szohr posed in a sleeveless shirt with one arm raised. ‘With Dove, Jessica’s ready to bare those beautiful underarms!’ the caption reads.”

I expect these new products from Dove and Secret to fly off the shelves, especially here in South Florida where our hideous underarms are on display 51 weeks a year (amortized to figure random “cold” days adding up to one week of sweater weather). I guess Steve and I need to brainstorm on the next area of the female body we can demonize and then develop a product to “fix” it.

Alchemy’s Sell Your Sole” cream aimed specifically at the awful wrinkles, scars, visible veins, and calluses that arise from walking on the planet for a few decades? Oh, they’ve already got a product for that. We’ll have to delve deeper — the nape of the neck doesn’t get much attention, does it?

Beautiful Backdrop for BDB Meeting

14 01 2011
Palm Beach International Equestrian Center

Palm Beach International Equestrian Center

We went to the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County‘s “Equestrian Luncheon” today, which took place overlooking the riders competing in the Winter Equestrian Festival.

Catered by The White Horse Tavern (a Wellington mainstay and provider of surprisingly good catered food) at the Wellington Club at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, we listened to Wellington Mayor Darrell Bowen, the ever-poised Kelly Smallridge (the BDB’s President and CEO), and keynote speakers Mark Bellissimo and Hunter Harrisson.

The speeches were excellent, and reminded me that just three years ago I stood with my (former) boss in a ring that appeared to be in ruins, walking up into a grandstand that was literally crumbling, and listening to Mr. Bellissimo’s plans for world-class surroundings for this world-class festival of equestrian sport. The gorgeous weather, the amazing feat of  progress by Wellington Equestrian Partners, and the excitement of sitting in a room with three glass sides surrounded by jumpers who gracefully arced through the air behind the podium was a welcome change from some of our meetings, which tend to take place in hotel conference centers. Steve and I were tempted to ditch work for the rest of the day and just walk out the glass doors to join the spectators. That doesn’t happen very often.

Duty calls entirely too often when you own your own business, and we needed to come back to the office and answer emails, get artwork to printers, and continue editing a website that’s launching next week (it’s going to be so major). But we wanted to acknowledge how impressive the setting, how energizing the speeches, and just how proud we are to be a business operating in Palm Beach County and members of a group dedicated to bringing companies and jobs to our area, and helping existing businesses expand and create more jobs.  That’s what it’s all about in this economy.

The ‘Wall Street Journal’ Tells Us What Next Year’s ‘HOT’ Color Will Be. Uh huh. I Said ‘The Wall Street Journal.’

14 12 2010
A Jonathan Adler Design in...Honeysuckle

A Jonathan Adler Design in...Honeysuckle

<sarcasm>That bastion of all things fashionable, The Wall Street Journal, </sarcasm> reports that 2011 has a hot color all its own: Pantone 18-2120 TCX, or in non-artist-speak, “honeysuckle.” Yep. The Wall Street Journal. Honeysuckle. News.

I so love it when I get the basis of a post from the iconic newspaper read by dudes in suits on the train, and published by Dow Jones & Co. Earlier this year, the venerable business godhead presented me with another great story: how hard it is for bands to come up with great names. My first thought is inevitably, “Do hardcore Journal readers just skip over stuff like this?”

Courtesy of Pantone

The original Pantone Matching System fan guide. As reflected in the colors on cover, the 60s were all about bright, bold psychedelia, Peter Max and the Beatles.

But, back to pink. Yes, because  Pantone 18-2120 TCX is pink. Hot-house flower pink. Mad Men pink. This passage reads as if penned for one of the glossy fashion tomes, not the paper where people check the Forex and read about grain futures: “A sherbety shade of pink, with a hint of red and orange zest, honeysuckle is seen by designers as a pick-me-up at a time when many people have had their fill of misfortune.”

Gosh, the layers in that one sentence. How poetic. How ironic. The paper that reports day in and day out on our financial markets and the crushing recession describes the color as having happy qualities that help when people are down. And this isn’t just a quick blurb — it runs 1,500 words.

What does it mean to us as designers, and you as consumers? Lotsa pink stuff, from food processors to throw pillows, from nail polish to chairs. “Some designers have chosen variants within the hot-pink family,” WSJ notes. “Crate & Barrel used both honeysuckle and a similar Pantone shade called “pink flambé” in everything from furniture to dishware. Nanette Lepore calls her orange-tinged version of the color “hot melon.” Ken Downing, fashion director for Neiman Marcus, referred to “orange coral” when he described his pick for the color of the spring 2011 season.”

Crate & Barrel's Pink Chair

Crate & Barrel's Pink Chair; is it Honeysuckle or Pink Flambe?

Also straight from the article: “It’s a very ‘Mad Men’ pink. It’s like the lipstick our mothers wore,’ says Tom Mirabile, head of global trends and design at Lifetime Brands Inc., the company behind Mikasa, Cuisinart and other houseware brands. “There’s a retro aspect to it that’s going to be very popular.”

“There’s an innate optimism to pink,” says Jonathan Adler, an interior and housewares designer who is using hot shades of pink widely in his 2011 collections. “As we speak, I’m wearing a hot pink shirt,” he says.

“The honeysuckle color evokes nostalgic feelings of summertime, says Leatrice Eiseman, a color psychologist who has been director of Pantone’s Color Institute for 25 years” — now THERE’S a job. “Strategically, colors of the year are supposed to help sell all manner of products and packages. ‘We also want [people] to stop and say, “Oh, neat color. Maybe I need to buy those plates,'” Ms. Eiseman says.

A Honeysuckle Dress from Cynthia Steffe

A Honeysuckle Dress from Cynthia Steffe

Here’s my hope for 2011: we can all go out and buy a bunch of cool pink stuff, cheer up, and watch the economy come back to life; we all have new clients who want to sell pink stuff; everyone’s happy, prosperous and unafraid to wear pink. I’ll take that pink Cynthia Steffe for starters. Oh, I mean that happy honeysuckle dress.

The more fascinating part of the article for us was the whole “color of the year” idea from Pantone, and the great background on how Pantone books developed, since we have four floating around here.

%d bloggers like this: