Working in a creative environment can mean a lax dress code where anything goes. Shorts, flip flops, torn t-shirts and jeans dragging the floor are not uncommon. But just because creativity can sometimes be hidden behind cubicle walls, that doesn’t mean that your clothes can’t both express your creativity and give a professional appearance. Here are a few tips for those working in a creative industry but needing to present well:
Your appearance is your first impression, before you open your mouth or show you portfolio. Recognizing that simple fact is the first step. Make a list of adjectives and traits that you want people to assume that you have when they see you. For example: approachable, creative, professional, serious, fun, etc. Knowing how you want people to perceive you will help drive the clothing and accessory decisions that you make.
Consider your audience. If you are going to a conference of creative professionals, you attire will be different than if you are going to present to the marketing department of a major brand to sell your creative services. Dress to reflect the how the audience will be dressed, while still incorporating your personal style. For example, if you are going to business meeting, you might wear a pencil skirt and heels. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a grey skirt and black heels. Instead choose a colorful patterned pencil skirt and strappy wedges that might be more reflective of your personal style, but still fits in within the environment. If you are presenting at a conference of creative professionals, you will not want to wear a suit if everyone in the audience is in ripped jeans and Converse sneakers. Instead, you might wear dark denim and hip low-heeled booties that show you care about your appearance but fit in more with the audience.
Don’t be uncomfortable. Dressing for an audience doesn’t mean that you have to be stiff, uncomfortable and wear shoes that you can barely walk in. If you put it on and it doesn’t feel comfortable because it is not “you” or because it pinches, pulls or squeezes–even just a little bit–take it off immediately.
When in doubt, choose a monochromatic black outfit and accessorize to make your personal statement. Solid black with a bold necklace and a colorful handbag can make you look both creative and professional.
One of my favorite SXSW sessions today was “Brainstorming Technology First.” It was presented by an agency and they provided real examples with actionable steps for implementing a technology-first approach to brainstorming projects. R/GA created this process to counter the consistent problem they were encountering where an idea was generated then the question “is this possible” was asked to the technologist. Their desired outcome was to know that something was possible and that it was possible to do well as the idea was generated.
Tech First Brainstorming Framework
Still start with creative brief. But choose a technology that is relevant to the audience and hardcode it into the brief. It should be a technology that is specific to your audience. The more granular you can be, the better. For example, not “mobile apps,” but “Passbook for iOS.”
Time box brainstorm session at one hour. Get everyone on the team at the same time in the room. Present the brief. Then give them 5-8 people to silently write their own answers to the questions in the brief. It is really important to let them work silently first.
Spend next 45 minutes sharing their ideas and encourage creative riffing.
Then the senior leadership team should take the ideas and distill them and craft them into something presentable.
This is an efficient process because 90% of ideas that come out are feasible because we have embraced the constraints on the front end and we don’t have to ask if this is possible.
Examples of Approaches
Fill in the blanks: give people a grammar and a framework to tell stories.
Magnetic poetry: provide a list of descriptors and a list of technology, then mix and match to get creative.
Branded magnetic poetry: same as above, but brand specific.
Social media API roulette: pick two very specific API points from two different networks and ask what can be created by combining the two.
An example of the “magnetic poetry” approach to tech-first brainstorming sessions.
As technology is integrated more and more each day in our activities and communications, thinking about how an idea can be executed as part of the technology rather than being retrofitted into the technology is increasingly important. This approach to brainstorming can help agencies and brands make the transition in their thinking about technological communications.
Organizations today are thinking about how to take their business local, mobile and social in an effort to reach consumers where they are spending their time and money. Using opt-in tools like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Gowalla, businesses are attempting to gather followers with relevant messages in hopes of generating new business. These tools are fantastic for businesses with an existing dedicated fan-base that is interested in helping to spread the word. However, as technology continues to evolve, new tools are becoming available for businesses to reach out to new customers that may never have heard of the business. One such tool is Groupon.
As a consumer, I love Groupon: discounts for items I might buy anyway or otherwise wouldn’t buy due to high cost of entry and introduction to brands I’ve never encountered before. As a communications adviser, I can see the benefits of Groupon: introducing new users to instigate trial, driving traffic and encouraging frequency of existing users. However, I can also understand the hesitancy of business owners to engage with Groupon for fear of losing money and never seeing results.
The Groupon site has over 35 million registered users. (Source: Mashable) This is how small businesses can reach a large bank of consumers that might never have heard of them before. It can be a source for lead generation. However, “Groupon offers such a wide variety of products (spas, restaurants, and all sorts of weird local businesses)…This attracts a certain type of customer (people who want ‘deals’ and aren’t focused on business quality or returning) and encourages a certain type of behavior (namely low retention because of the deal volume).” (Source: Quora question/answer)
Determining the value of participating with Groupon takes a series of calculations and guesses, which this New York Times post sums up nicely. To start, consider that Groupon takes a percentage of every coupon sold. According to The New York Times, “The members who buy the coupon get 50 to 70 percent off on a product or service, and Groupon splits the proceeds with the retailer — usually leaving the retailer with about 20 to 25 cents on the dollar of retail value….Groupon is advertising….It costs money. Instead of writing a check for an ad, you are choosing to lose money on sales.”
There have been many documented complaints from businesses when it comes to their individual Groupon results: minimum purchases, single visits, poor tipping, etc. However, there have also been success stories: new customers, sales increases, etc. Groupon may be successful for some businesses and a risk to large to take for others. Regardless, it is a great opportunity to reach new users and it is the business owner’s responsibility to deliver service and product that encourages repeat visits. Businesses interested in using Groupon should prepare for impressing new customers and gaining their future loyalty.
While poor performance can’t be solely attributed to the Groupon model, there are ways that Groupon might improve the experience for business-owners (disclaimer: they may already offer these things, but I can’t find any information about it):
Hyper-local targeting, by zip code or neighborhood.
Provide opportunities for business to re-contact those that bought and/or redeemed the Groupons they offered.
Provide additional incentives or rewards for consumers sharing their purchases.
Connect with review sites like Yelp and encourage users to share their experiences using their purchased Groupon.
“Earlier this year, for the first time in American history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the nation’s jobs. The working class, which has long defined our notions of masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly absent from the home and women making all the decisions. Women dominate today’s colleges and professional schools—for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women.”
“Men dominate just two of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most over the next decade: janitor and computer engineer. Women have everything else—nursing, home health assistance, child care, food preparation.”
“But women are also starting to dominate middle management, and a surprising number of professional careers as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs—up from 26.1 percent in 1980. They make up 54 percent of all accountants and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. About a third of America’s physicians are now women, as are 45 percent of associates in law firms—and both those percentages are rising fast. A white-collar economy values raw intellectual horsepower, which men and women have in equal amounts. It also requires communication skills and social intelligence, areas in which women, according to many studies, have a slight edge. Perhaps most important—for better or worse—it increasingly requires formal education credentials, which women are more prone to acquire, particularly early in adulthood.”
“Only 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and the number has never risen much above that. But even the way this issue is now framed reveals that men’s hold on power in elite circles may be loosening. In business circles, the lack of women at the top is described as a “brain drain” and a crisis of “talent retention.” And while female CEOs may be rare in America’s largest companies, they are highly prized: last year, they outearned their male counterparts by 43 percent, on average, and received bigger raises.”
I have heard the argument made–as a rationale for highlighting men as future leaders of our state–that we have very few women in business in Arkansas. I can only shake my head at this obvious oversight and antiquated way of thinking. Even developing countries recognize the power of women:
“In 2006, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development devised the Gender, Institutions and Development Database, which measures the economic and political power of women in 162 countries. With few exceptions, the greater the power of women, the greater the country’s economic success. Aid agencies have started to recognize this relationship and have pushed to institute political quotas in about 100 countries, essentially forcing women into power in an effort to improve those countries’ fortunes….Postgenocide Rwanda elected to heal itself by becoming the first country with a majority of women in parliament.”
Let’s have more discussion about the power and leadership of women in Arkansas.
This infographic shared on Mashable a couple of days ago has me thinking about innovation in business today. It wasn’t just the device that drove the iPod into the only MP3 player of note, it was the iTunes store and the simplicity and functionality of the iTunes application for managing music. All so clean and bundled together. So smart. We know this, but it is good to remind ourselves of it every once in a while.
Thank you to Roby Brock of Talk Business for the invitation to talk about building trust in this information age on his program. Check out the Talk Business site and watch the interview here:
Here are my full thoughts on the topic:
In the online space, we can find almost everything about almost anyone or anything.We are truly living in an information age.We are sharing information about ourselves, we are seeking information about others and from others.Everyone is doing it: consumers, businesses, and organizations.And they are doing it using social tools that allow for instant updates, instant sharing and easy searching. With all this information available, how do consumers know whom to trust?Do they trust the consumer reviews, or the expert analysis? Do they trust their individual friends or large organizations for information?
Whom to trust, as it turns out, is a bit of a moving target.Every year, Edelman conducts a trust survey. In recent years, with the rise of social media and online reviewing systems, this trust survey has indicated that the public is more inclined to trust “people like me” over corporate entities.However, the economic recession has led consumers to become cynical (more so than they were already), leading to a swing in who and how they trust: (1) the public now wants to hear from credentialed experts and (2) corporate trust and transparency are now just as important as the quality of products and services from that company.Today’s consumers are more skeptical, savvy and sophisticated when it comes to online information.
Facing this modern consumer is daunting to businesses vying for the trust of their audiences:“Though it’s easier than ever to reach your customers, it’s less likely that they’ll listen. Today, the most valuable online currency isn’t the dollar, but trust itself.” (Trust Agents, 2009)So, how does a business work to build that trust and become a favored brand?Here are some starting steps for establishing trustworthiness:
Be transparent.The online world is defined by the availability of information.To make that information available is to be transparent.Consumers rile at even thought that information they seek is unavailable to them for any reason.And, if a company or organization isn’t providing the information about themselves, someone else (a less trustworthy source) will do it for them and may communicate inaccurate information.Put it all out there.
Be responsive.When consumers pose a question or express a concern, do not sit on the response in an effort at contemplation or corporate review “up-the-ladder.”Delayed responses only create more frustration among consumers and speculation as to the extent of a problem with the organization.Respond quickly, even if only to acknowledge receipt of the question or concern and promise a timely answer upon further research, if necessary.
Ask for feedback.And share that feedback.And share the organization’s responses to that feedback.This will give consumers the views of other consumers “like them” and further demonstrate the transparency and responsiveness of the organization.
Call on experts.Balance the information and perspectives provided directly from the organization and from consumer feedback with expert opinions and advice.These third-party insights will round out the perspectives consumers seek when information-gathering.
Executing all of these steps at once may not be feasible for a business just starting to engage with their online audience.It is okay to start out with one or two of these methods, then open up into full-on transparency as trust is established.As an example, one of our clients at Stone Ward recently decided to take the plunge into social media using a promotion as its diving board, but they weren’t quite ready for a full-time presence in the space.To introduce this new face to its audience, we created a microsite with a distinct URL separate from the home/traditional site.The idea was that this site would eventually become the community hub and live on past the promotion, but the promotion (sweepstakes) would help draw the initial audience to engage with the brand.Being new to the social media space, the client didn’t have the resources to manage a completely open site and respond as quickly or as completely as necessary to build trust.Given that issue, the site launched with a combination of pre-set content and consumer-contributed content, and allowed for question submissions to an expert.The pre-set content was a bank of “tips” that could be commented on by users, and encouraged user-submitted tips.New tips automatically generated a Twitter post and a Facebook post.The consumer-contributed content was a community forum where users could submit questions and get responses from other users.The “ask the expert” questions were posted with the expert responses for others to view.Additional engagement elements included a daily poll and music playlists that tied into the brand and promotion concept.Starting out with elements that didn’t require daily maintenance and monitoring allowed this brand to introduce themselves to the space, start building relationships and start establishing a basis for trust without risking alienation with an unavoidable misstep due to resource limitation.As a result, the site has lived on past the promotion end and the brand now has a manageable engagement tool that can be built upon when they are ready.
The bottom line: Provide honest and complete information to consumers and their trust will follow.Understand that making information available is necessary for social bonding and while it may feel like putting that information online makes an organization vulnerable to attack, there is a need to reveal that vulnerability to ultimately build trust and relationships.And, if you are not ready for the all the steps to building trust, start out small and build from there.
Entrepreneurs must be a little more creative if they want to start a new business in a tough economy. As a result, we see more businesses fill niche needs. Enter Rent the Runway, a “Netflix model for haute couture” according to the New York Times:
“The mail-order service, which finishes the testing phase on Monday, allows women to rent dresses from notable fashion designers like Diane Von Furstenberg, Hervé Léger and Proenza Schouler for roughly one-tenth of what they would cost to buy in a retail store.
“The rentals run $50 to $200 for a four-night loan and are shipped directly to the customer’s doorstep. After wearing the dress, she puts it into a prepaid envelope and drops it in the mail. Dry cleaning is included in the price, but damage insurance costs $5, and in the case of outright destruction of the dress, the renter is responsible for the full retail price.”
This is pretty exciting. Granted, rental of dresses has been available for sometime. But local rental selections aren’t always the best and there is that whole physical shopping thing to deal with (I am almost exclusively an online shopper). An online rental that allows for easy returns is definitely a turn on.
The ladies who started this business are smart: they are only allowing for limited “membership” at this point. When you make something exclusive, not only do even more people want to participate, but it also assures that you can walk into a party and know that not everyone there will have seen and shopped the same dresses you did. As the business starts to take off and membership grows, I would like to see an ability to “register” your dress for the event to which you are wearing it, effectively blocking anyone else from renting that same style for the same event. I also hope that they will incorporate customer reviews of the dresses to help those on the fence as to a particular style decide (I love this feature on Zappos.com).
I signed up to be put on the waiting list for membership at Rent the Runway. Sigh.
This week, Twitter released a new feature that allows for the creation of “lists.” This makes perfect sense: with the rapid growth of Twitter, it is becoming harder to figure out which people to follow. The amount of data out there is getting overwhelming; according to a CNN article:
“Approximately 25 million Tweets are posted every day; more than 5 billion have been created since Twitter’s launch.
“Facebook users are even more prolific in aggregate: Forty-five million updates are posted there daily. In May, the last date for which we have data, YouTube announced that 20 hours of video is uploaded to its servers every minute. That’s more than three years of content being uploaded to YouTube daily.
“As the barriers to media production fall — cameras in virtually every cell phone, video cameras in iPods, text messaging as a publishing platform — this content tsunami is growing ever taller”
Lists allow for those you trust to create a filter of all this data, by category, for you.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I shun suits. Even on occasions that “require” suits, I find a way to wear something else, usually a dress. My preferred clothing, however, is jeans. I can wear them anywhere, anytime and feel more confident and comfortable in the situation than I ever will wearing a suit. The wearing of jeans by the account management (aka “client-facing) team has been a discussion at our office for several years. And I think we have finally agreed that we hire smart people and smart people will use their good judgment to determine how to dress for the situations in which they are put. And, when you know what you are talking about, what you say will be far more important than what you are wearing. So, nine times out of 10, you will see me in jeans around our office.
As it turns out, this is a national trend. So much so that the Wall Street Journal is even writing about it:
“Power jeans are increasingly common in high-ranking business and political circles. Indeed, jeans are now a legitimate part of the global power-dress lexicon, worn to influential confabs where the wearers want to signal they’re serious—but not fussy—and innovative.”
“Chosen well, jeans can suggest the wearer is confident and modern. Traditionally cut blue jeans carry a whiff of the laborer about them, so denim on a leader suggests a willingness to roll up the sleeves and dig in. There’s also something of the rebel in a pair of jeans. In the boardroom, that can read as creative.”
But there are still “rights” and “wrongs” to wearing jeans. Just any pair won’t do.
“Few items of clothing speak as loudly, to the positive or negative, as a pair of jeans. As with tuxedos and Hawaiian shirts, wear them right (on the latter, only to a luau if you’re a mainlander), or not at all.
“To wit, fit is as essential for jeans as for tailored slacks. Eric Jennings, Saks Fifth Avenue men’s fashion director, suggests that men keep their executive jeans ‘dark and straight.’ And never dress as if the jeans had been switched out from formal suit pants at the last minute: No fancy French-cuffed shirts with jeans, he advises.
“In fact, getting power jeans right involves lots of no’s. No distressed jeans at work. No metal studs. No acid washes. No lavish embroidery. No boot cut. No skinny. No pedal pushers, shorts or cutoffs. No baggy high-rise. No super-low-rise. No holes. And no fussy ironing.”
The theory behind the popular book Microtrends is being challenged. The book’s theory is that demographic segments as small as 1% of the population can “tip an election” or “spark a movement.” The problems, according to a Brandweek article, include:
The results are only as good as the data: many samples are not large or representative enough to accurately reflect the population, subjects self-report behavior and tend to lie (or to say it more kindly, report their aspirational behavior rather than actual behavior).
A psychographic splinter group that has one defining trait in common may have just that–one thing in common and nothing else.
Within each niche, each person has multiple selves. For example: “Let’s say the research identifies a segment of ‘Thrillseekers,’ and contrasts that against groups who prefer more safety. Who’s to say that the person who jumps out of a plane for kicks will exhibit this same commando attitude toward the prospect of risky sexual behavior?”
Marketers can become so obsessed with quirks and fads that they fail to consider their underlying drivers–which are often clues to broader cultural trends far more valuable to the marketer in the long run.
How are these problems overcome? Think of microtargeting as an “inaugural research step toward a broader targeting strategy–one still aimed, but not exclusionary.” Brands that have done a good job with this approach:
Vans–viewed as cool shoes for everybody that work especially well for skateboarders. Vans sold the skater “lifestyle.”
Apple–manages to be both inclusive and exclusive. In iPhone spots the viewer never sees a discernible age, race or gender. “Even the dancing silhouettes in ads for iPods instill a sense of relatability that fully rendered models arguably wouldn’t.”
Conclusion: make sure your brand is speaking to the relevant audience, but don’t ignore or exclude everyone else.
What should a company do when negative news is being reported about the company? “One school of thought is that maintaining or increasing advertising during such a time will drown out the bad news. The alternative–pulling advertising–seems pretty risky. Nevertheless, a new study that ran in December’s Journal of Advertising Research suggests that’s exactly what you should do while the bad news runs its course…It found that advertising has an amplifying effect: When the news is good, advertising helps. When it’s bad, advertising makes things worse.”