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mzl.ucmlbqhf.175x175-75We often hear about technology’s double-edged sword: it’s intended to bring us closer together but more often than not, it distracts and disrupts us from making real human connections. As we continue the debate on technology’s role in facilitating honest and emotional communications, engineers, programmers, and designers are taking baby steps toward making technology feel more human.

Take for instance, the new free app from Rebtel: Re:Beat. This is the first app to take a function of the human body-the thud thud of a heartbeat-and turn it into a digital “love note.” The app works like this: the camera and flash function on a smartphone “senses” the beat of a person’s heart by measuring subtle changes in the color of their fingertip. Next, the rhythm is animated as an image of a beating heart. As a Valentine’s Day bonus, the app provides a couple of heart warming messages to send along with the personalized heartbeat.

Rebtel, one of the world’s largest mobile VoIP providers, designed the app as an homage to the everyday connections their services provide. According to the company “…sending your heartbeat to someone dear to you is a perfect way to express the depth of your love, especially if you’re not able to see them in person.”

Want to send a human connection in a digital package to your sweetie this Valentine’s Day? Here’s a link to the app. And from me to you, dear reader, Happy Valentine’s Day!


Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter feed has most likely experienced FOMO (an acronym meaning “Fear Of Missing Out”) at least once in their life. For most, it’s a weekly or even daily occurrence. I first learned about the condition during a brief autumn vacation to the mountains of North Carolina. While basking in the warm sun splashing down into our hotel’s pool area, I flipped through a copy of Glamour magazine for a little mindless entertainment. An article about women’s relationship with social media caught my eye. According to the article, the constant connection provided by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is hurting women’s self-esteem. Turns out when women see others, particularly their peers, posting (a) awesome pics of last weekend’s amazing bar crawl, (b) updates about their adventures in Mommyland, (c) a video of themselves wind-sailing of the coast of Fiji, or (d) anything better than what they are doing at present, they turn a critical lens on their own lives. Yes, our ability to tap into everything about everyone else’s lives has left us feeling highly dissatisfied and depressed with our own.

Since reading this article I’ve watched for signs of FOMO in action all around me. I quickly discovered that FOMO is everywhere and it’s not just impacting the ladies. At the MTV Music Awards the underlying theme seemed to be “NOW.” A live Twitter feed spit out real-time updates of red carpet appearances while fans were encourage to connect/comment on video generated from the awards show on Facebook and MySpace. Then all the social buzz was reported on by the MTV hosts. It was a hodgepodge of action, reporting the action on social media, and then reporting people’s comments on social media. The sponsor of the MTV awards was Pepsi featuring their “Live For Now” advertising slogan. Social media hashtags like #YOLO were bandied (“You Only Live Once”) about without abandon. The heartbeat of the MTV nation seemed to pulse “now, now, now” with each update on Twitter.

As a culture, we’re so obsessed with “now” that we’ve forgotten the beauty and simplicity of the mundane. Constant planning of and reporting our experiences to the world around us is making us want to say yes to it all and then fretting when we can’t. We’re wringing our hands, constantly checking our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds to see who is doing what, and attached to our smartphones so we don’t miss a thing. Brands and marketers have picked up on the potential power of encouraging consumers to do more by hitting that tender FOMO button. Recent marketing campaigns from AT&T and Smirnoff featured slogans like “Don’t Be Left Behind” and “Be There.”

This holiday season I encourage you to wake up and smell the FOMO in your life. Look at how much time you spend tracking your social media feeds and engaging in digital rudeness (checking social media and email while engaging in conversation or activities with others). Notice how pop stars, movie stars, advertisements, television shows, and major television networks are obsessed with the here and now. Then, take a deep breath and realize that what you’re doing this very moment is important too and forget the hype.

For more details on the FOMO phenomenon check out this in-depth analysis on the causes, effects, and implications of FOMO by the creative minds at JWT.

Lately there has been a movement toward embracing quirky personalities and offbeat cultural trends. Do you have a beard and like to beat box Haikus? Or do you wear geek-chic glasses and say catch phrases like “wonka wonka”? Well then congratulations! You’re the new kind of “cool” weird. Society’s recent embrace of modes of style, behaviors, and human interactions that go against the status quo has become an all out pop culture obsession. In the past year, geeky cool has been celebrated in the media on screens both small (Fox’s “New Girl”) and large (the recent theatrical release ParaNorman). Now the trend has migrated to major label brands like Nike. To promote the new “weird is cool” attitude proffered by the ParaNorman film (a tale of a young boy who can see ghosts and is shunned by his friends and classmates), Nike has released a special edition of film-inspired Nike Air Foamposite One sneakers. Nike announced the new shoes via the following promotional ad:

The Foamposite One shoes, released in a small batch of 800, were up for grabs via a Twitter campaign challenging fans to tweet the @ParaNorman account with pictures of themselves being weird as a kid with the hashtag #weirdwins. Fans who tweeted the weirdest photos won a pair of the limited edition sneaks. The Nike ParaNorman campaign not only represents a great cross-brand promotional strategy (for the film, the shows, and their master companies) but also plays into a bigger cultural movement toward embracing oddities. It’s also important to note the irony of the campaign: a coveted symbol of hyped fashion trends (Nike shoes) are a reward for celebrating those very uncool, awkward, and socially embarrassing moments of childhood.

What do you think of Nike’s spin on weird as the new cool? Tell me in the comments.

It’s out there waiting for you whether you like it or not. Maybe you’ll be settling into a chair by the pool when your ears pick up its sequence of cascading disco strings. Or maybe you’ll be headed to that hip neighborhood restaurant when a car drives by blaring its hook. That’s right, no matter where you’re headed this summmer, Carly Rae Jepsen’s perfect pop ditty “Call Me Maybe” has probably made it there first. But what’s the story of Jepsen’s summer song success? How doesa pop song by a little known Canadian pop songstress elevate itself from a mere blip on the tween music map to a number one on Billboard?

The answer: Justin Bieber’s social media muscle. Jepsen’s song-an ode to an innocent exchange of digits and a whole heap of anticipation for a new romance-caught a slow burn when Bieber first praised the song via his Twitter: “Call me maybe by Carly Rae Jepson is possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard lol.” After that Bieber and other pop tarts (Selena Gomez, Ashley Tisdale) fanned the flames by releasing a YouTube tribute to the song (notably featuring plastic mustaches and some well-placed dance histrionics). That’s all it took for the song to take off in the social media sphere and become a full blown meme. A meme is popular and long lasting because of its adaptability. And Jepsen’s song takes the cake in adaptability. Bieber and crew’s initial lip-sync inspired over 20,000 different YouTube takes on the song featuring everyone from your local tween girls down the street to celebrity pop artists (Katy Perry), celebrity personalities (Jimmy Fallon and house band The Roots) and even the male models from Abercrombie & Fitch. So with a little help from her friends (well one very important fellow Canadian friend) and the power of Twitter/YouTube world wide domination is in Jepsen’s sites.

This leaves me with just one question:How can we apply the Bieber/Jepsen “meme” model to brands?

If you’ve ever designed a PowerPoint presentation or business development tools of any sort you have encountered image powerhouse, Getty Images. And if you are familiar with Getty Images’ Web site, you know there are AMPLE images from which to choose. So many, in fact, that a simple task of finding a man eating an apple can turn into an overwhelming quest for a man with just the right smile-not too flashy, not too teethy-poised to bite into a crisp apple with a pinkish reddish blush (yes, you can be THAT specific with Getty Images).

So hats off to AlmapBBDO, the Brazil-based leg of BBDO charged with illustrating the diversity of Getty’s digital photo archive. Project managers included copywriter Sophie Schoenburg and art director Marcus Kotlhar, who together devoted a total of six months to researching and handpicking images from the archive to illustrate the image bank’s visual narrative building capabilities. The result? A video montage that utilizes 873 still shots to illustrate the narrative arc of life itself including life, love, birth, death, and the hope of happiness. With a nuanced almost symphonic flow, I think AlmapBBDO successfully illustrates Getty’s power to form and feed narratives of all shapes, sizes, and subjects.

What do you think?

Online shopping is not just my obsession, it’s my primary mode of shopping. In the spirit of true confession, I admit I’ve grown so accustomed to purchasing the majority of my housewares and clothes online that I can’t stomach confronting an overstuffed rack at Nordstrom’s. The thought of digging through piles of clothes to find my right size makes me queasy. And, oh the horror, not seeing the garment displayed on a model or as part of a styled outfit gives me the hives. I’m a visual person and I need to see the shape and movement of a garment on a real person. And that is just one of the reasons I can see marketing genius in Madewell’s new mobile marketing campaign.

If you are not familiar, Madewell is J.Crew’s sister company. Madewell embraces a hybrid urban, Americana, chic aesthetic; it’s all gauzy tops, textured patterns, and classic jeans. If I remember correctly, the company made a big splash on the retail scene about 3 years ago and has steadily accrued a crowd of dedicated fans ever since. But Madewell is setting its sights on something larger than urban buzz.

To promote their tailored jeans, Madewell is sending a Pop-Up store to untapped frontiers.To bring the jeans to the people, Madewell has outfitted a 1978 Airstream trailer with a denim bar, a braid bar, and dressing rooms. The trailer is currently on a tour of America, hitting some major cities but also stopping in little towns were no brick and mortar Madewell stores exist. Shoppers are encouraged to hop on board, slip into the perfect jeans and experience the expert quality and cut of Madewell denim.

But here’s the catch: you can’t buy that perfect pair on deck. So what can you do? You can take a picture of yourself in the jeans to post to Facebook, search the area surrounding the trailer for golden tickets, and get a free ‘do at the braid bar. You have to purchase the jeans online or in a store. What a brilliant way to engage consumers through multiple channels: online shoppers get a chance to really experience the jeans with no commitment to purchase; in-store shoppers get the full retail experience but are driven to the website for purchase; and those who have never experienced the Madewell brand are given a personal, customized introduction. Plus with the added social media and in-store incentives, Madewell is committing a grand feat of brand channel cross-pollination. For more information on the Airstream activites click here.

A new analysis of gender-specific social media chatter has revealed what occupies women and men’s daily thoughts. Can you guess? No, it’s not shopping and sex. But it is another guilty obsession of most Americans.You can scroll down to see the final results, but before doing so let me mention that the below infographic was created by social media monitoring company Netbase.

To get the data for the graphic, Netbase analyzed 27 billion online conversations taking place over the course of one year. After the conversations were observed and collected, Netbase used natural language processing to search for the phrase “I want X.” The data was then analyzed and compiled into a top ten list for each sex.

Think you know what women and men want most? Keep reading to find out.

John Carter landed in theaters this past weekend with a quiet thud. In reality, it should have landed to a symphony of gold coins falling from the pockets of Mickey Mouse’s red shorts to the floor. That’s right, Disney ate it big time on this cinematic flop, coming in second place at this weekend’s box office.
But how? It seemed all the pieces were in place for the film to be a smash hit. An esteemed director of other Pixar hits (Wall-E and Finding Nemo), Andrew Stanton, stood at Carter’s helm and the film boasted a plot that would resemble Indiana Jones on Mars-an almost surefire guarantee for box office gold. Yet when Carter hit American big screens it-as a New York Times article stated-was treated as a corpse.

But perhaps Carter’s box office death was not in vain. Disney has made it clear it will not point fingers and place blame but, rather, look at this as a hard-earned lesson. We can learn something here too. One of the key missteps that Disney and Stanton took was a lackluster marketing campaign that failed to consider its audience. Pixar creates quirky, fun-loving animations, not war-torn epics about outer space and the Civil War. Most of Pixar’s target audience doesn’t know of Edgar Rice Burroughs or the Barsoom novels. Nor is Pixar’s audience familiar with Taylor Kitsch (star of TV series Friday Night Lights). Marketing also did little to educate and attract this crowd. So when creating a new product (of the film kind or any other) be sure to consider your audience. Be sure to ask questions like: What has appealed to my audience in the past? Who are they familiar with? What’s the best way to educate them about a new product? How can I make them care about this product too?

If Disney had considered some of these questions during the (many) rounds of production for John Carter and subsequent phases of pre-release marketing, then the film may not have derailed and disappointed.