Friday, November 30, 2012

Social Networks: Killing Our Social Lives

It's time for students in my NYU writing class to take over Brandsinger and tell us what's really happening. Our first insights come from Amanda Brody who believes... well, listen up! 

Social Networks: Killing Our Social Lives 
By Amanda Brody

When social networking sites first began, we were all intrigued. You could have friends without actually seeing them - Genius!  And this fit nicely into our busy lifestyles.

Soon the people we saw became fewer and fewer, and some drifted away only to become  “facebook” friends. You know the kind - we “like” their statuses, comment on their photos, and gossip about them to our real friends.

The dilemma is that we’ve lost our grip on reality – we’ve all become a little more shy, a little more secluded, and a little more voyeuristic. We hide behind images and words, some of which are not our own, because our tongue does not do the speaking, but our tapping fingers do.

The convenience of social networking has made normal matters like dating and conversation seem daunting. For many of us, it has put limits on our social life. Does anyone go to high school reunions anymore? Aren’t they just webinars? It’s just a click away to find out who married whom, who’s got a great job and who’s a total screw-up.

Without picking up the phone or meeting for coffee, in ten seconds, I will know what you had for dinner last night. But will I really know you?  

Amanda Brody is a born and raised New Yorker who currently lives in Hoboken, NJ where she balances a full-time job and a masters program at NYU. In her spare time she attends dance classes and enjoys the adventures of a good book.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Republicans—Look to Lincoln

Back in November of 2008—after Republicans lost to Obama—I urged them to save their brand by looking to their founder, Abraham Lincoln. I wrote that Lincoln's values and policies are relevant today—and can be building blocks for a Republican revival.

That was 2008. Now Republicans have lost to Obama again and thrash around shrieking like a squirrel in the claws of a feral cat.

It is obnoxious for anyone—anyone!—to quote themselves admiringly. But I'm doing it. I know it's risky. As a boss of mine loved to warn, "Today's peacock is tomorrow's feather-duster."
But so be it. I'm strutting my wisdom. I revive my commentary following the Republicans' 2008 defeat and dare to say that it rings true today.

Below is my November 11, 2008 headline and opening. Read the full piece here and tell me if I should continue crying in the wilderness or go to Washington and whisper in Republican leader Boehner's ear. 

Yep. Deja vu all over again.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ouch! Parodists zing U.S. political talk

How do young critics view our recent multi-quadrillion-dollar presidential extravaganza?

Here is a cutting little parody sent to me by two NYU graduate students—Alan Chenxi Wang from China and Godslove Oghijesu Adagbonyin from Nigeria.
See what you think: Does this capture a certain truth about our political dialogue? My personal reaction to these words is: Ouch! 

Dear Prof Singer,
Please find attached my assignment for this week. 
After this assignment,  I've decided that from now on I'm going to answer every question like a presidential candidate. 

Question from Prof Singer: "What are you gonna do this weekend?"

Answer: "That's a great question—and an important one. And I WILL do something this weekend. But let me take a step back, and answer a broader question. What are we ALL doing this weekend? As a nation? As a world? This weekend, I will do something comprehensive and robust, yet fun. We all should."

Q: "But, what are you going to do?"

A: "What I'm going to do involves three things. First, it's going to be relaxing. Second, it's going to be enjoyable. Lastly, I'm going to make sure that it's cost-effective and I don't get into a deficit. Four weeks ago, I said I'd do something—and I did. This weekend will be no different!"

Have a good weekend. See you on Monday.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Connecticut—Still not revolutionary

What would you say if I asked you to name a town or state that is revolutionary. Would Iowa pop into your head? Would you say that Peoria or Tacoma is revolutionary? Not much chance.

“Revolutionary” might suggest Oakland. Or Soho. Or Venezuela. Or Libya.  

Would you say Connecticut is revolutionary? If I gave you 4,000 years, would you ever associate the state of Connecticut with the word “revolutionary”? I’m guessing not.   

That’s why I gnaw my lip every time I come across an advertisement in the campaign “Connecticut—Still revolutionary.” I cringe because of the vast gulf in my mind between the thrilling gongs of the word revolutionary and the dreary scenes of Life Anywhere portrayed in the ads.

In the ad campaign, the slogan “Still revolutionary” accompanies pictures of smiling, sportily dressed, youngish-looking-older models who are engaging in… well, nothing revolutionary or even as risky as eating pork rinds or going outside without a cable-knit sweater. They don't even knock over a glass—much less topple governments or flout social norms.

There MUST be a rationale for proclaiming that Connecticut is “still revolutionary” and showing videos of people walking in and out of old houses smiling at the sconces. How did this jumble of ill-fitting ideas come about?

The only explanation I came up with is that the state official whose job is to stimulate tourism hired three different ad agencies. One team came up with images of youngish, middle-aged Connecticut adults walking in and out of old white houses admiring the fixtures, another agency thought the word revolutionary had an exciting ring, and a third agency—perhaps a trio of retirees who once worked on Madison Avenue—came up with the word “still.”

All the tourism bureaucrat had to do was to mash it all together into a series of ads called “Connecticut, still revolutionary"—and that’s how it came about.

I happen to love Connecticut. Its soul lies deep in the red brick of its abandoned factories. Its heart has been promised to the sea—exemplified in a sprawling submarine base, the last remaining wooden whale ship, the white sails popping out across a glittering Long Island Sound. Connecticut's personality comes from its frosty mornings, the smell of wood-smoke at night, the smell of money wafting over Greenwich, the smell of exotic dishes being cooked in bitterly deprived urban neighborhoods.

Connecticut is Ivy League Yale. It is hard-scrabble Bridgeport. It is Victorian Hartford. It's about arms factories and prim elderly ladies—guns and doilies. The state struts its idealism—the legacy of fierce abolitionists and young men dying for Abe Lincoln's vision of America.

So there is a lot here to think about when building a brand... many bright threads for telling a rich story. Sad to say, however, in the field of destination branding, authenticity is rare, and facing the truth is still revolutionary.