Archive | May 2007

From NYC

We’ve finally settled into a place in NYC, a cool little place in the Upper West Side bordering on Harlem. The apartment search took us through one of NYC’s hippest, coolest, trendiest neighborhoods (Williamsburg) which really only is an excuse to charge $2000 for a meat locker with exposed cracked concrete floors and chipping lead paint coming off the exposed brick. However, these sorts of spaces are godsends to artists as we saw another place that was equally dilapidated for an equally ridiculous price.

This brought up an idea about gentrification that wasn’t immediately obvious to me before: artists play an important role in the revitalization of a community. And it’s not just any artists, I figure that they are predominately white, college educated artists.

It feels like a cycle. A nice neighborhood turns bad when poor people move into it. Poor neighborhood gets better when they evict all the poor people and let young professionals move in. The gap in the concept is how a poor neighborhood gets better and that’s where the artists come in.

Through the works, ideas and concepts they create, they are able to give the area culture, which is the type of social currency that draws capital to the area in the form of galleries, restaurants and bars. The reason why an artist from the displaced community couldn’t produce the same amount of social currency is the product of prejudices and discrimination in the form of what “art” is to the people who consume it.


While interviewing for internships a couple weeks ago, one question they always asked was some variation of “what brands do you admire?” I think I said Starbucks or something. But the reason why I don’t remember is that there aren’t any brands that I’m loyal to – strange for a person whose job is to create loyalty. However, just by chance I ran into an article about CLOT that I had seen about a year ago, and I think I can give a more honest answer to that question now.

From the founder’s (Edison Chen) own mouth, CLOT is:

CLOT is a lifestyle company that specializes in almost everything involved in youth culture. We do fashion, we do music, we do consulting, we do events. We design as well, by the way. CLOT means exactly whut it says. All these new ideas and trendsetters gather in one area and get clotted up, this so called area is named CLOT Inc. We gather the world’s talent from HF, to Stash, to Madsaki and we deliver them thru our platforms to bring our style and flavor to the world. Clot is China’s first ever dedicated STREET TEAM.

First of all, I think it’s cool that the company is centered around an idea, rather than a finished product. It gives them flexibility and allows them to make an argument for ownership over almost anything they want. Secondly, the company is very conscientious of the relationship between commerce, culture and creativity. They are using Chinese culture to inspire Chinese people. If you think about companies like Shanghai Tang, they use Chinese culture to inspire white people, they’re exploitive or selling out through the commercialization of the Chinese atheistic. What CLOT is doing is adding layers and contributing to the culture and taking part in how it is evolving.

In terms of products, they’ve created sneakers for Nike in conjunction with MC Yan:

and jeans for Levi’s:

And again, a message from the founder about the jeans:

The 501’s we did were ill because I did the whole project from top to bottom. I especially like the idea of the jeans we used for the UNION RAIL Chinese workers for the American Railroad. It was fun using a piece of my people’s history and putting it into awareness through a design.

Subliminal Advertising and Branded Utility

I found this video on Youtube a while ago and was reminded by Dalynn about it recently on her blog.

They don’t teach subliminal advertising at school. In fact, they don’t even mention it. But I’ve always thought that there has to be something behind all the academics callings us out for it. I’ve been wrapping my mind around the disconnect all of last week and this is what I’ve found:

We (ad people and consumers) unknowingly allow for subliminal advertising to happen.

In Douglas Rushkoff’s Persuaders, he talked about how the average consumer is becoming numb to marketing messages due to the incredible amount of clutter there is out there. The numbness consumers feel translates into them ignoring most of the message or evolving their mental filters to screen most of that crap out. And as practitioners, we’ve only become more aggressive with our tactics in reaching these consumers (think about multiple touchpoints, 360 messaging, etc.). However, the increased aggression doesn’t necessarily mean increased intelligence.

If you take a look at the video, I think it’s a good metaphor for how consumers process marketing messages and how it affects their decision making. The total immersion model surrounds the consumer with messages that become part of the landscape. The consumer, like the guys in the car, don’t even notice it, but subconsciously, it appears to have an effect but only if there is something to tie all those bits and pieces together. That effect, it seems like, needs to be triggered, which I would assume for the consumer would be at the decision making stage when all those bits and pieces get recalled and puzzled into a theme or a direction.

What this might mean is that almost everything we put out there could be considered subliminal advertising because of the way people interact with marketing messages as well as the media clusterfuck that we’ve created ourselves.

Why I say “almost” is that the new “thing” is to pull people to the message rather than pushing it on them. And one of the things that is driving the idea is branded utility. Jack Cheng has a great explanation of it here.

This is the money quote:

You can spend millions on a flashy ‘interactive’ campaign that people try to ignore or you can put that money towards building something that could actually improve their lives; something that they could use and interact with every single day; something that they’d actually seek out. At a time when people are constantly asking “what’s in it for me?” isn’t it blatantly obvious that the best way to engage someone is to be useful to them?

But at the same time, not even the smartest campaigns can save a bad product. Gareth Kay argues that sometimes we use branded utility as a means to sidestep the shortfalls of the product by creating another one. His argument, I think, leads us into a whole another territory regarding product development.