25 December, 2009

I Must Have Been Good This Year

Santa left some very nice presents under the Christmas tree!

Droid

Still figuring some of them out, but I am now blogging in front of the TV from my smart phone while my sister plays on dad's new PS3 :-)

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all!

30 November, 2009

Happy Cyber Monday!

Somehow this (talented comedienne) lady didn't entice me to wake up at 5 am, or even go to Target for either days of the two-day sale this weekend, but these ads caught my attention and I did get a few good laughs...

For anyone who didn't get out of bed on Black Friday (like the "sleeping beast" alter-ego sister below), Cyber Monday is where it's at.

I didn't set my alarm for 3 am, and I'm still getting good deals.

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday, ate lots of turkey, enjoyed the mild weather and maybe caught some football. I won't go into my disappointment over the results of the games this weekend but it was still fun to watch with my family, as was Disney's "UP" which blew me away (ha, ha) with the stunning 3D animation.

In other news, my dad celebrated a big birthday yesterday, I won't say which one, but I hope he is now enjoying his brand new Playstation 3 -- a gaming platform was the only thing missing in our home entertainment center, and I think this was the perfect gift for the occasion :-) Have fun, dad!

Oh, sis... awake in the daytime? The sleeping beast awakens, argargarg.

15 November, 2009

Blog-4-Cause eBook

blog4cause Want to help a great cause and get an inspiring eBook at the same time? As a blogger this creative fund-raising approach jumped out at me, and I thought I'd share.

By making a donation (of any amount) to the Susan G. Komen fund for breast cancer research through this page you will receive the Blog-4-Cause eBook created by over 150 participants, filled with favorite stories, inspirational moments, laughs, recipes, and physical and personal growth articles, in addition to a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Enjoy!

06 November, 2009

Being Lady GaGa: Success!

This post is at least a week late, but I just copied the pictures from my memory card. Lady GaGa fans and people who love dressing up for Halloween: read on. Also, check out the previous post about my costume for background.

October 24, 2009: fun on the subway to Caroline’s birthday / early Halloween party. The costume was a hit, the paparazzi took plenty of pictures, but I need a better head scarf. Attempts to remove my sunglasses were made the entire night, but I politely responded that it’s all part of the Poker Face. Below, I am holding a rolled up GaGa bill, à la the music video in which there is plenty of money to burn

GaGa in Philadelphia
gaga-moolah
My backup dancer Minh looked great with his matching yellow shoes. Watch the video, and you’ll get it.

Backup Dancer
GaGa and “Babe Lincoln” got along well.

GaGa with Babe Lincoln
October 30, 2009: party at our humble abode in Manayunk (basement and upstairs, could have fit 10x more people). Costume featured a better headscarf made from a $5 fabric scarf from Wal-Mart, lighter skin and darker lipstick.

October 31, 2009: with old friends in New Brunswick. Costume by this point lacking a belt (forgot it in Philadelphia) and proper pantyhose. Also could not find my digital camera after our party which I fortunately found tucked between my dresser and laundry bin in my room after the weekend. My friend from home Amanda was over, I have a small room, long story. The only pics I like from this night were snapped on someone’s cell phone, so I am not posting them. However, I did meet one GaGa who rivaled my own look. Meet, GUY GAGA!

Guy GaGa

28 September, 2009

Your TU Tuition: Paley's Media Center

This post is for Temple University students and people who like libraries.

Paley Library Media Center

This Tuesday, the main campus library at Temple University is holding a Media Center Open House. It will be held all day (9 am to 5 pm) on the ground floor, showcasing their VHS and DVD collection while providing tours, snacks and giveaways.

The library is one of the most important aspects of a University, and I'm glad to see any efforts to improve ours. It's always refreshing to check out their resources for leisure as well. Temple's libraries' holdings include 3 million volumes, 6 million photographs, more than 30,000 print and online subscriptions, 35,000 linear feet of manuscripts, and a rich collection of sound and video recordings.

That's a lot to discover, whether for class or personal use... wouldn't you rather catch up on Mad Men season 1 and 2 on DVD than research for that industry report, anyway?

Find out what the Media Center has to offer! Visit the Media Center this Tuesday September 29 and learn about one of Paley Library's newest, most exciting additions.

27 September, 2009

Being Lady GaGa

I finally decided on what to be for Halloween. Ok, the choice to be Lady GaGa was the easy part - the rising pop star of 2009 parades around in extravagant costumes on a regular basis. So the hard part was deciding which of her costumes to recreate. With about four costumes per music video, even more during live performances (recently, she changed looks four times at the MTV Video and Music Awards and twice on Saturday Night Live), and a host of unique "everyday" outfits, I finally decided to use the red outfit in her "Beautiful Dirty Rich" video.

Why? I love the song, which was released as a promotional single on September 16, 2008 but never got the radio play that Just Dance, Love Game, and Paparazzi have. The outfit won't be too labor-intensive. And I already have some banana-yellow-colored pumps.

I'm also hoping that my version of Lady GaGa won't be the most popular selection this year, so I can party with the other GaGas without feeling like a clone. If I had more time, I can think of some other great GaGa costumes for the occasion (perhaps her VMA performance of "Paparazzi" with blood dripping down her stomach, or her fantastical bubble costume that she wore during her Fame Ball tour).

At any rate, as a dedicated fan, I decided to outline below some of the basic steps you will need to recreate GaGa's signature style, whatever outfit you choose.

  • If you don't have platinum blonde hair with bangs already, you'll probably want to grab a straight blonde wig. The bob cuts I found in the store were a bit too short (Lady GaGa's new 'do is more shoulder-length) so I bought a long wig for $10 and I'm planning on trimming it myself. It's also going to need a good brushing. You could play around with replicating her curly styles as well, using a Marilyn Monroe wig. Just make sure to pair it with a ridiculous outfit so you don't get your pop icons confused. If you're really daring, you could also try her afro puff look like the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine.
  • Some stunna shades like the classics seen on the face of the lovely lady.
  • You'll also want some black eyeliner and mascara, fake eyelashes, dramatic eyeshadow, and shimmery face powder or a cream skin brightener for that pop star glow. You may also need some cream makeup to create a lightning bolt over one eye for certain looks, and rhinestones never hurt. Check out this cute YouTube tutorial by user MichellePhan for inspiration:
  • "we just like to party, like to p-p-party, yeah / bang, bang, we're beautiful and dirty rich"
    Opaque black pantyhose, or in my case, flesh-colored (it is October, after all, and Lady GaGa is infamous for her no-pants trademark).
  • Fortunately, Lady GaGa keeps her kicks simple. You probably already have a pair that will do. The black bootie style is very popular this season and seen in many of her videos. Anything lace-up, patent, or otherwise embellished will do.

Have fun!

24 September, 2009

My Second Birthday

This post is for anyone who likes blog birthdays and a fair amount of self-reflection.

I'm two years old today! That's kind of a big deal in the blog world. I must be doing something right if I still have readers and haven't run out of material yet.

My first post was this one on September 24, 2007.

Year one in review (personal judgment):
Favorite stories were the Exploding Banana on October 12, 2007 and Espresso Mess-o on March 23, 2008. Best introspective moment was Culture Shock on January 22, 2008. Most interesting photos were taken on Spring Break across Europe from February 22 - March 2, 2008.
Then I turned one year old and didn't celebrate.

Year two in review (again, personal judgment):
Most useful write-up was Word Reference on October 24, 2008. Most colorful post was Deƨigual at Macy's on March 6, 2009. Favorite sarcastic post was Dishwashing Etiquette on May 13, 2009. Best introspective moment was Finally Out of North Philly on June 14, 2009.

Going into my third year, I'm going to keep this blog more down-to-earth than ever. I am developing a separate portfolio and considering starting a blog about tech-y and marketing-related subjects, or perhaps guest posting on other blogs devoted to these subjects so that this one can remain focused on My Life and the the people, places, and events that are important in it. That may mean fewer posts, but it will ensure that this space is maintained as a playground for my experiences in real life, and not just the virtual sphere.

I'd love to hear your thoughts below about what has made this blog special to you over the past two years, and what kept you reading. Were there any posts you particularly enjoyed that I didn't highlight above? As awlays, your comments and continued support are much appreciated.

05 September, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom!

This post is for my mother, and for my best friend Kaitlyn. And anyone else who likes e-cards, birthdays, or Flash design.

Birthday shoutout to my dear mother, without whom I would not exist. Love you, mom! Here is an original e-card I designed especially for you (you might recognize the cake):

Click here for e-card

Also, happy birthday to Kaitlyn, who shares this September 5 birthday, but a few years later... ;-)

21 August, 2009

Mad Men Yourself: Implications of the Swanky '60s Style Avatar Creation Site

This post is for anyone interested in Web 2.0 technology, trends in social media, graphic design, the TV series Mad Men, or marketing.

It appears I have a knack for finding new "[Insert Title Here] Yourself" services on the web. These Cartoon-Yourself, Yearbook-Yourself, Elf Yourself, and avatar generators let us show off our tweeting, friending, narcissistic selves as profile pictures without seeming the least bit vain (à la myspace). And darn they're fun to use.

The latest is AMC's "Mad Men Yourself," and this one has an interesting backstory.

In case you don't feel like reading my 20-page "Representing and Misrepresenting Yourself on Social Networks" report about online identity, a little background might help. Mad Men is a television series on AMC, now in its third season, which centers on the high-powered world of Madison Avenue advertising agencies in the 1960's. Think David Ogilvy.

The series quickly developed a following in both real and virtual settings, e.g. Twitter, because it appeals to agency/media/marketing people who also happen to be early adopters of Twitter and other social networks. A lot of these creative-types did some really neat things with the characters on the show, and AMC did some really stupid things and then took it back and a year later, wised up and created the following awesomeness, a perfect reflection of the "brand" that is Mad Men, and the "fans" such as Dyna Moe, who created the illustration for the site:

Skirt or Suit?

Congrats, AMC. You finally "got it," and your show is saved.

PS - Does the music remind anyone else of the old The Sims when you were in "buy" mode? Ahh elevator music. Never goes out of fashion.

PPS - Eight O'Clock Coffee gets a Brand + in my book for a perfect sponsorship deal:

Fueled by Eight O'Clock Coffee logo

27 July, 2009

Playing Nice in Web 2.0

Read this post if you like sharing and getting credit for it.

I just love Web 2.0 -- it means more free goodies for all. Creativity and inspiration become infectious, and I find myself downloading more megabytes of photos, vector images, Photoshop brushes, textures, and tools than I will ever have time to find a use for. Part of this culture was made possible by the nonprofit organization Creative Commons, which has been around since 2001 and helps artists/creators choose an appropriate copyright notice for their work.

Creative Commons

Web 2.0 sites like Flickr, however, allow everyone to share this work with the public.

As both a creator and a user of content created by others, I was very excited to find that two of my own images from Flickr had been re-purposed on the web. Check out how they were used!

An entry dated May 5, 2009 in SaunaScape features my "Weigh" image from last August.

A May 27, 2009 entry in Everybody’s Invited! features my "Fondue Fun" image from Laura's 19th birthday.

As a final note, I was able to discover these images because the authors of these blogs so kindly mentioned my Flickr user name, whoaitsaimz, under the photos. Which brings up an important point about the sharing culture: provide credit where credit is due. It makes the experience fun, fair, and everyone will be more likely to continue sharing in the future.

24 July, 2009

The Best Social Bookmarking Widget for Blogger

This post is for Blogger users who like custom templates and widgets.

Sometimes, it's hard to be a Blogger user, especially when you see cool features in Wordpress that you can't have, like "related posts" widgets and nifty social bookmarking icons that link up automatically to your post.

Recently, I found this code from cheth Studios, and I installed it to my very own blog.

Social Bookmark Icons

Instead of the "Add This" widget which I used to use (also recommended, easier to install and smaller but uses javascript instead), you can now see all the functioning social icons below each of my posts. So go ahead and e-mail, tweet, bookmark, and share to your heart's desire. It can't get any easier.

Thanks, Cheth!

21 July, 2009

Music Fans: You Need to Sit Back and Listen

This post is for everyone who listens to internet radio and likes free stuff.

Regardless of your music taste, and whether you've settled into your iTunes, your ForumW, your LimeWire, Pandora, or some other way of consuming music, you have to try out last.fm.

last.fm logo

According to their website, "last.fm is a music service that learns what you love" ... and I instantly loved it back. This kind of love doesn't take a lot of effort; it's service is based not only on what you tell it now, but on your past. Meaning that for people who have been listening to music for any more than 5 days out of their lives will appreciate the seamless transition to its online/offline user experience. Borderline creepy-stalker-lover, Last.fm seems to know you as soon as you press the little "import" button on its GUI, updating your profile information to reflect your listening history. It's a good thing real relationships don't have that kind of unforgiving insight.

They also offer personalized music recommendations, some free mp3 downloads, stations based on a specific artist, all kinds of web 2.0 widgets for your blog/website/network, and automatically corrected misspellings of artist and track names. A website that can correct you, the music guru, when you're wrong???! It's creepy but it works. The question is, do you really want a service that works that well... wuahaha...

19 July, 2009

The Veronicas' Last Stop, in Philly

This post is for Veronicas fans, people who appreciate live music, and those who get a kick out of half-naked band members' pranks... I've said too much.

My Friday night / belated birthday celebration was at the TLA (Theater of the Living Arts) on South Street in Philadelphia. Australian twin sisters Jess and Lisa Origliasso of rock/pop group The Veronicas put on a great show, the last of their Revenge Is Sweeter tour in the US.

The Veronicas: Hook Me Up (2007) Album Art

Carney & TheArt made a special appearance during 'Heavily Broken' - a quiet and beautiful song turned... well, just watch. I chose this version for the sound quality (you can hear the girls over the fans, unlike some of the other videos).

Enjoy the whole playlist here. Lyrics for 'Heavily Broken' below:

Everyday I sit here waiting
Everyday just seems so long
And now I've had enough of all the hating
Do we even care, it's so unfair
Any day it'll all be over
Everyday there's nothing new
And now I just try to find some hope
To try and hold onto
But it starts again
It'll never end

I'm heavily broken
And I don't know what to do
Can't you see that I'm choking
And I can't even move
When there's nothing left to say
What can you do
I'm heavily broken
And there's nothing I can do

Almost giving up on trying
Almost heading for a fall
And now my mind is screaming out
I've gotta keep on fighting
But then again
It doesn't end

I'm heavily broken
And I don't know what to do
Can't you see that I'm choking
And I can't even move
When there's nothing left to say
What can you do?
I'm heavily broken
And there's nothing I can do
And there's nothing I can do

Feels like I'm drowning
I'm screaming for air
(Screaming for air)
Louder I'm crying
And you don't even care

I'm heavily broken
And I don't know what to do
Can't you see that I'm choking
And I can't even move
(What can I do)
When there's nothing left to say
What can you do
I'm heavily broken

I'm heavily broken
And I don't know what to do
Can't you see that I'm choking
And I can't even move
When there's nothing left to say
What can you do
I'm heavily broken [x3]

14 June, 2009

Finally Out of North Philly - my angry post about getting robbed

For anyone who has ever experienced a loss, for those that know the neighborhoods of Philadelphia, for anyone who cares about my personal life.

I recently relocated from Temple University area to Manayunk, Philadelphia. There were a few reasons for this move, none of them being "North Philly sucks" or anything of that nature. I actually enjoyed my time at Temple, and while I have a year left before graduation, I never thought I was unhappy living in a nice apartment off Broad Street. We had plenty of space, I had two great roommates, and the walk to campus was convenient and nice. I did have some qualms with parking, not wanting to go out after dark (ha), and occasionally worrying about safety issues... but I was always reassured by the vicinity of our Temple police and the neighborhood watch guy, Tom. We had a drunk driver plough into our street once, but nothing really bad ever happened on our block. So when people would call it the "ghetto" and be hesitant to visit me, I would just shake my head and reply, "It's really not that bad."

HOWEVER, just a few weeks before I was set to leave the area for good, with mixed emotions of sadness and excitement, our apartment was robbed. My one roommate had moved out, the other at work, and I was in New Jersey for a graduation party. I'm just glad no one was there when they cut the screens on our windows, broke through the safety bars, and took any and all valuable electronic equipment from our home. Ashley and I lost three laptops, two mp3 players, a digital camera, a graphics tablet, and an internet router that evening. It's creepy to think that they may have been watching us.

Seriously? We are college students, so it's not like we have a lot to begin with, and these things that make up our lives were hard-earned and PERSONAL items. The value I assign to my own laptop far exceeded its $600 resale value, because of photos (thank goodness all my abroad photos are online already), music, programs, and personalization I had in place over the year I had owned it. My mp3 player was not only a music-playing device, but my inspiration to work out, with a fully-loaded exercise playlist. I had started on a workout binge as weather was getting nicer, and ran the track two blocks from our apartment regularly before the break-in. For the two weeks after that I did not even want to be around North Philly. So I lost and mp3 player but also my MO to go out and get exercise. My digital camera was not only a few-hundred-dollar-picture-capturing device, but weeks worth of memories, including some great shots of my new boyfriend and I and a picture with a friend who had come up from Virginia for the Penn relays. Money just can't replace that kind of thing.

So as much as I enjoyed my few years in North Philly, it came to a sour end because of the ill-will of some little hoodlums who fit through a back kitchen window and never learned to respect other people's personal property. Cowards. You just counteract any good that people like Tom and Temple police and university professionals and MYSELF try to bring to this town. I won't be coming back any time soon, and I hope you make lots of money reselling my digital camera that I have the charger for, and the graphics tablet that you forgot the graphic pen for. Good luck in life suckers.

On a happy note, I started my internship full-time, and am now enjoying the scenery of a much friendlier Manayunk. I hope everyone is having a great summer, especially the FUNemployed. Take care!

13 May, 2009

Dishwashing Etiquette

Read if you've ever lived with one or more roommates and had a problem getting dishes done.

  1. Food should be scraped off dishes before washing; accidents (and forgetfulness) happen but clogged drains should be un-clogged promptly
  2. Do not leave dishes in sink unwashed for more than 5 days, or for longer than it takes for flies to collect
  3. Don't leave silverware at the bottom of the sink; just 'cause it's small doesn't mean it's not important
  4. If you use a large pan, colander, or salad-spinner, it's nice if you can clean that up before the next person goes to use the sink -- it's very hard to refill a Brita water container with large items like that in the way
  5. Just because the drying rack is full does not mean you are excused from dish duty
  6. Dry knives immediately so they do not get rusty
  7. If, while drying dishes by hand, your dish rag becomes saturated please throw it in the laundry so that a soppy wet rag is not placed on the counter for someone else to find
  8. Thank you in advance for not playing Jenga with the drying glassware
  9. Occasionally do some extra dishes even if they are not your own because at some point you probably forgot to do a cup or five before, too

Originally envisioned at the end of November 2007; revisited now.

11 May, 2009

Paint the Town Cherry Week

This post is for Temple students and alumni, or Philadelphia residents who want to know what's up with all the cherry in town.

To celebrate Temple's 125th anniversary, the university is undergoing a huge campaign to "Paint the Town Cherry" this week. By town they mean the entire city of Philadelphia!

Paint the Town Cherry banner

I'm doing my part by wearing red & white nail polish during finals. Hope it brings some good Karma my way ;-)

Also look for Temple's "Cherry & White" colors around Philly all week (May 11-17) surrounding the Commencement ceremony on May 14. See if you can spot the following landmarks and buildings with Temple's colors:

  • Ben Franklin Bridge
  • One Liberty Place
  • Two Liberty Place
  • Cira Centre (look for the Temple 'T')
  • Boathouse Row
  • Bell Atlantic Tower
  • City Hall and along Broad Street

Send your favorite cherry sightings to me or to  Temple's site and tweet them on Temple's new Twitter account if you're into that stuff.

The "I'm a Temple Owl" video contest finalists were announced today as well. Here is a stream of the finalists, the last one being the winner (Dan McKinney). My personal favorite is the third, but I'm biased being a part of the Fox School of Business myself!

Finally, for the alumni, it's Alumni Weekend at the end of the week, May 15-17. The scheduled events required registration, which closed last week so hopefully this isn't the first you're hearing about it...

10 May, 2009

Procrastination via Daft Punk

Did you ever really listen to these words? Did you ever apply them to midterms, exams, your career? Brilliant! Scary! You will be moved, and possibly motivated. Or exhausted.

Work it
Make it
Do it
Makes us

Harder
Better
Faster
Stronger

More than
Hour
Hour
Never

Ever
After
Work is
Over

Work it
Make it
Do it
Makes us

Harder
Better
Faster
Stronger

[Chorus:]
Work it harder
Make it better
Do it faster
Makes us stronger

More than ever
Hour after hour
Work is never over

[Chorus x6]

Work it harder make it
Do it faster makes us
More than ever hour
Our work is

Work it harder make it
Do it faster makes us
More than ever hour
Our work is never over

[Chorus x1]

Work it harder make it
Do it faster makes us
More than ever hour
Our work is

Work it harder make it
Do it faster makes us
More than ever hour
Our work is never over

[Chorus x1]

Work it harder
Do it faster
More than ever
Our work is never over

[Chorus x1]

Watch the original "Harder Better Faster Stronger" clip from the Interstella animated musical film for some context
Watch the "Daft Hands" interpretation or the "Daft Bodies" for some laughs

06 May, 2009

Turning Man's Trash into My Treasure

Found this little gem on the side of the curb by the AEPi House on North Broad Street. They just renovated their mini-mansion so I assume this is an artifact from that process. But it was just too charming for me to pass up.

I was walking back from class with a friend who happened to be on crutches, so I carried it halfway home and then solicited a neighbor's help the rest of the way.

Rescued Cabinet from the Garbage Collectors

My plans for this treasure go a little something like this:

  1. Rescue abandoned side cabinet from the garbage collectors.
  2. Clean and sandpaper the whole thing. Elbow grease!
  3. Purchase the perfect shade of cranberry paint, and clear a space on backyard patio where it's okay to make a mess.
  4. On a sunny afternoon, do a few coats of this lovely cranberry color.
  5. Purchase knobs for the front. I'm thinking either "Celebration" in antique brass or "Native Romance Nonva" in patine.
  6. Do some calligraphy on the sides i.e. Chinese or Japanese characters.
  7. Fill with bottles, books, or some other useful items.
  8. Love.

05 May, 2009

Some Humorous, Some Serious Unemployment Posts

04 May, 2009

Last Day of Class and No, I'm Not Graduating

So this is freedom for my classmates. The ones graduating on time.

There certainly are a number of us who are taking an extra summer, an extra semester, and even a few - myself included - who are taking an extra year. After transferring universities, disciplines, and majors a few times, the extension and additional student debt was inevitable. I just wish I could celebrate along with all the "last-day-of-class-forever" Facebook status messages and Tweets today.

28 April, 2009

6 Ways to Spend "Free Time" this Summer, without Spending Much

Free time. A phrase that has always eluded me. Here are some things you could be doing this summer if you have more of it than me (not an extensive list, or a "this-is-how-to-get-a-job" list, either). These suggestions either cost very little or potentially earn a profit if played right...

  1. Teach yourself a new language, or sharpen your skills in one you've already started learning. I'd continue Italian or refresh my French. You could get used books or audio CDs cheap at a local bookstore, especially a University bookstore. Then load them into your iPod or stuff in your duffel bag for the beach. It will make you feel good AND help you when you're ready to re-enter the job market. Depending on your skill level, you could even market yourself as a tutor to local middle school and high school kids in your area. Sharpen your skills while bringing in the bucks - score!
  2. Travel abroad for cheap by couchsurfing, as my dear friend Maggie did recently. This is where you stay for free on a couch, floor, or random space in a local home. Blogger Nomadic Matt offers some helpful criteria on finding a worthy couchsurfing host and avoiding psycho-killer types. Or go through a program like "Por Vous Paris" which has a low fee and cheap rates to stay in an apartment with a French family. And while you're not taking up space in your parent's house, they could rent out your old space. Maybe host a foreign exchange student themselves, and then bail you out when you underestimated the exchange rate.
  3. Volunteer with a local non-profit or do a *gasp* unpaid internship. Ask if they'll offer a stipend for food and travel expenses in exchange for your time. There are a ton of interesting non-profits that would not only offer you practical work experience, but a sense of accomplishment and mentors to learn from (hate to say "networking opportunities" anymore). When doing a research report this semester on art galleries in Philadelphia, I learned that many opportunities are unpublished or not well publicized. If there's an organization you want to work for, get in touch with them directly and see what they're offering. Ditch the ol' Monster.com and see what's really hiding out there in the shadows.
  4. Babysitting never gets old. As an older babysitter, you can take care of older kids and do fun things with them like go to the amusement park, the local pool, or a fun museum. They will appreciate a day out of the house and you will have fun like a kid again. Also try dog-walking or some other small business that doesn't require a fancy résumé, just a little interpersonal communication skill.
  5. Create something. Make little tschotschkes and sell them on Etsy. Make canvas bags like my sister to sell to University students who can no longer afford Vera Bradley bags. Refinish an old side table that you found on the street corner to hold all the junk you're creating. Do something for the sake of manual labor.
  6. Sell something. Sell your old textbooks on eBay. Sell old clothing to the Buffalo Exchange, or the Salvation Army. Clean out your closets and that basement and garage, too. You never know what you might find. Have a yard sale. You'll be the most popular person on the block for a day and the worst that can happen is you get some fresh air and rub elbows with neighbors you never knew you had because you're all too busy social networking and Tweeting that you didn't know you lived next door to each other.

As a final note, I have also found that things come up in unexpected places and when you least expect it. So if you've sent out 50-100 resumes already, give it some time to brew. When the fall rolls around and hiring freezes are lifted (we hope) and after you've had an enjoyable, productive summer, you may just get a call from that dream job - or at least one offering a payroll. And by that point, you will have many more interesting things to talk about in your interview than just, "Well, I'm graduating, and I really need a job." Desperation is never attractive.

So what are your summer plans?

27 April, 2009

Unemployed? Quite frankly, I'm JEALOUS!

Because no one's going to blame you for being a "slacker" now.

So I know this may sound weird. I'm the all-around "career woman" with ambition and motivation and all that. I'm totally grateful that I have found myself in a financially secure (as secure as anyone can be, I suppose) position this year and for the upcoming summer, and I worked darned hard to get here. I know there are plenty of other people who have also been working hard all their lives and now find themselves in an unfortunate circumstance. Believe me - a lot of them are my friends, peers, family members, so I understand. I will help anyone to the extent that I am able in finding an internship (see previous post), offering tips for a phone interview, or suggesting follow-up tactics.

However, at this time in our nation you can get away with not having a job or, for that matter a career path. No one can blame you and there are so many interesting and off-beat opportunities bubbling up that I wonder whether I shouldn't be a bit jealous.

For example, the ability to travel cheaply makes month-long European adventures a plausible reality for my soon-to-be-post-grad peers. For some who are continuing school, a restaurant or sales job may be in the making. As much as I despised the restaurant industry while I was in it, few can argue that a summer gig which leaves plenty of room for days at the beach and nights at the bar leaves little to be desired. Finally, I am now thinking back to years ago when I was a summer camp counselor, and before that a summer camp kid. Entering the professional arena, I may never have another chance to roast marshmallows around a campfire while signing "Kumbaya" with guitar accompaniment, or listen to my kiddies sing an a capella rendition of "How Great Thou Art."

Crossroads Camp Counselors-In-Training, Summer 2003

Point being, if you're "jobless" and lacking in direction, you're not only not alone but you'd better realize your fortune. Since there are so many others in your situation right now, no one's going to blame you anymore for not having your career plans worked out 6 months before you graduate.

Stay tuned: if you need more ideas about productive uses of your newly-discovered free time, you'll enjoy my next post.

24 April, 2009

Conference Mailing Lists as a Job-searching Opportunity

Do you give your e-mail out at networking events and conferences?

In the fall semester, one of my marketing professors here at Temple paid out of pocket for a bunch of us American Marketing Association (AMA) students to go to a great conference in New York City. The conference was organized by the Advertising Women of New York (AWNY) and took place at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Chelsea (downtown Manhattan). Here we are at the conference:

AWNY Conference Photo

I got on AWNY's mailing list and last week received an e-mail about an internship opportunity for the summer 2009. Mind you, I haven't received one e-mail from them up until now, and I don't need an internship myself but I was excited to pass this along.

UPDATE: I was going to post the internship description here but Lynn Zalokar, AWNY's Membership Manager has asked me to take it down, since she has already received a number of resumes and only has one spot left.

Lesson learned: you never know when an opportunity may arise and you have to be quick to snatch it up. This can be really frustrating, especially when it seems like all the doors are slamming in your face. Stay positive and keep APPLYING YOURSELF through these tough times. I'm going to make my next entry more inspirational. In the meantime I'd like to know, what creative job-search strategies are you using?

09 April, 2009

Throwing an Awesome Bachelorette Party, among other things.

Just in case you were wondering, "What have you been up to lately?"

Note: If you need help planning YOUR bachelorette party in the tri-state area, please get in touch by e-mail!

Beauties at the table

Tiff's face is being consumed by my centerpiece, Erika is trying to peek at what she's writing, and Sharon cracks up in the middle of my original "Beauty Name Game" before the bachelorette outing in Philly.

I haven't posted in about two weeks which is a while considering my recent activities which are giving me lots of material to write about. Planning and implementing a girl's night out before Crystal's wedding, then of course Crystal's wedding, working tirelessly on an RSVP page for the IBA's annual dinner, and a reunion with one of my Theta sisters in Philly and a sweet new discovery of Sabrina's Cafe on Callowhill Street (I'm probably the last to know, cause this place was packed). Not to mention class and work work, and even a few creative pursuits around the house.

Oh, and the discovery that my life calling is definitely in the event planning industry.

So there's my 50-second update. More specific entries will follow at some point, but for now back to my current calling... bed!

Update: started a blog for event planning. Just playing around with a different personality online is fun, but I'm not doing anything serious for now. You can check it out at SheebaStar.wordpress.com, and maybe one day I'll post on there about how I got my new nickname ;-)

23 March, 2009

Normal Conversations Now that Twitter's in Our Lives

My roommate and I both got into Twitter. Neither of us really knew why we started (do any of us really?) but our mutual following and real-life conversations have kept us in the nest, so to speak. Here are some of our more interesting offline conversations that would have seemed really strange a few months ago:

  1. "CNN posted an article about Lance Armstrong today regarding a cycling incident. I checked his Twitter account to see if it was true, and he hadn't posted about it so I dismissed CNN's accusations until I saw his Tweet."
  2. "I had 99 followers, and I really wanted 100, so I made my boyfriend a Twitter account and followed myself. I don't think he knows yet."
  3. "Did you see my Tweet today?"
  4. "We're Tweeple now."

What offline conversations do you have now that you didn't before? Do you ask people to "follow" you in real life, as you once asked them to "friend" you? Would your daily conversations be acceptable or weird to a non-Tweeter? What else has changed about the offline world with these online social networks? Will we ever go back...?

20 March, 2009

Free RITAS

Rita's should start a new tradition and serve MARGAritas on the first day of spring this year. Wouldn't that make everyone really happy at work? Anyway, free water ice will do in a pinch. Stop by any Rita's location and get yours today!

Icee Spring

Happy Friday from yours truly, the queen of free things.

15 March, 2009

Personal Branding Infringement: How SEO Can Hurt

When I wrote this entry about my portfolio, I mentioned getting a domain name such as AmyInkOnline.com ... now as anyone in my family will tell you, I've been writing "Amy Ink" on the back of handmade greeting cards since I was a kid, as a play on the "Amy Incorporated" name. As a born entrepreneur, I liked the way this made me feel professional but creative at the same time. So imagine my surprise when I get a personal e-mail from another Amy shortly after that:

From: Amy Binder
http://amyink.com/

Hello Amy,

It’s amazing the things you can find on the Web. As it turns out, we’re both Amys. I went to Temple, and you’re there now. And we both are using the same name for our business: AMY INK.

I wish you all the best in your endeavors, and I wanted to let you know that I registered the name AMY INK with the Pennsylvania Department of State Corporation Bureau back in 2001. I also own the AmyInk domain name (.com; .biz; and .net versions), and have branded “Amy Ink” as my service mark. So…before you go too far with publicizing your business name, you may want to change it somewhat to find one that’s uniquely yours.

Best regards,
Amy

We bounced a few e-mails back and forth after that. Apparently my portfolio site had been indexed by Google, which is a good thing, but I'm just glad it didn't cause any legal trouble. I never really meant to go into business as Amy Ink, it was just a fun catchphrase, and I'll still write it on the back of handmade cards as a gimmick, but my new domain name is www.amypospiech.com -- can't get any more original than that!!!

12 March, 2009

Here Comes Trouble

Photo upload from Flickr: Here Comes Trouble

HCT Design Mode Description: Conceptualized, designed, printed, compiled, and burned the pieces for this audio gift set given by my mom to her childhood friend.

Uploaded a graphic design set I did for mom last year. Going through old computer files sure can be fun sometimes! This is a CD "identity" I came up with after she described her summers with best friend Lilly working at the Jersey shore in the 70's. I really had fun with this design, and I even enjoyed some stories regarding the musical selections which were burned onto these CDs, but most of all I'm glad it ended up in the hands of two women who I know appreciated it... and that's the most a designer can ever really hope for :-)

whoaitsaimz - View my 'herecomestrouble' photos on Flickriver

06 March, 2009

Deƨigual at Macy's - I'm Seeing Stars!

Deƨigual Logo"Afterwards we went into a shop called Deƨigual where a unique jacket had caught my eye. The jacket was really expensive but I ended up with a brightly-colored top and a new favorite store."
- Spring break last year in Barcelona

Deƨigual Jacket

Last weekend I went shopping for a business suit at the Center City Macy's in Philadelphia. Glanced over to the designer clothing department for a minute, spotted a unique-looking jacket and said to my friend, "That reminds me of a design I fell in love with in Spain last spring," looked at the label and sure enough, Deƨigual! So excited to see them making their American debut, unfortunately the price tag is about the same - around $450 for the jacket, which is similar to the €300 price tag I saw last year. What can I say, I have good taste.

Here's the Spring '09 promotional video on YouTube:

01 March, 2009

Estelle + Champagne + Crystal Light = STARLIGHT

I was sitting at home watching TV tonight (not a normal occurance) when I discovered another successful endorsement / partnership deal IMHO.

This one involves British pop singer Estelle and Kraft Foods' powedered drink product Crystal Light. Kraft is using Estelle's song, "Star" to promote their product in the TV commercial, and is offering a free download of the "Star" mp3 at uPumpItUp.com. I couldn't get this song-jingle out of my head, so if you're going to watch it with the volume on, don't say I didn't warn ya.

When you go to the website to download the mp3, you can also find other cool stuff, like this drink recipe:

Starlight

    Makes 12 Servings (1/2 cup each)
  • 1 single serve packet Crystal Light On The Go Immunity: Cherry Pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 bottle (750 mL) champagne, chilled
  1. Place drink mix and water in measuring cup; stir until dissolved
  2. Add 1/2 tsp mixture to each champagne glass; top with champagne
  3. Serve immediately

Representing and Misrepresenting Yourself on Social Networks

This is a paper I wrote for a technology in marketing class last semester. I uploaded it to a site called Scribd so you can view it online. Click here to view the full paper if you can't see it below.


TECHNOLOGY IN MARKETING
Representing and Misrepresenting Yourself on Social Networks: A Cautionary Tale for Marketers
by Amy Pospiech 12/16/2008
This assignment is an individual research paper on the topic of social and ethical issues of technology. The issue is authenticity in social networks as it relates to public policy and marketing. Includes a summary of different perspectives or responses; conclusions and implications for marketers and public policy makers.
Social networks are now a big part of mainstream culture in America and throughout other parts of the world. Facebook, myspace, Flickr, blogs, YouTube, and all aspects of Web 2.0 are now literally used by everyone and their mothers (Elevenmoms 2008), in some cases even babies (Menscher 2008) and plants (Bray 2008) – sort of. Because of their ease of use and widespread adoption, many creative uses of the internet and Web 2.0 have developed, not only by tech-savvy individuals but by consumers, kids, artists, and marketers with a little time and energy. However, amidst all this content, it can be easy to get lost, confused, or frustrated. A user may begin to wonder, “How reliable or credible is the source of this information?” “Who is actually responsible for the creation of this content and what purpose does it serve?” “Is this content purely for entertainment or does the author have some hidden agenda?” Sometimes, a misleading video, article, website, or social networking profile may be seen as malicious, misguided, or worthless, and the author is either condemned or ignored. Other times, a creative case of misrepresentation may be praised and lauded throughout the community even after it has been “discovered.” It seems that the issue is one of authenticity. Especially now, with more marketers and businesspeople entering the Web 2.0 circle for professional rather than personal purposes, consumers are delighted to point out when someone has failed to adequately disclose their purpose. Even with proper disclosure, some users are upset by ideas like “Pay-per-Post” which damages the “integrity” of a blogger’s personal and respected opinion. For example, Chris Brogan’s “Sponsored Post-Kmart Holiday Shopping Dad Style” was enough to set the tweet-o-sphere (via Twitterers) and the blogosphere (via Bloggers) on fire, even though it clearly stated that it was a sponsored post in the title and first few lines of text, and it appeared on his Dad-O-Matic blog. Some responses were along the lines of, “My beef is that I would rather hear from a real shopper. Can’t Kmart find *someone* who’s shopped there for years who wants to tell you and me why they like Kmart?”(Fialkoff 2008) and “I think he caught flack due to the brand he chose to associate with.” (Singer 2008). So the issue here was not just whether the post was sponsored, but whether it was solicited or “real,” even though it was seemingly a favorable matchup for both parties. Chris Brogan is a well-respected social media maven. He is “a ten year veteran of using social media and technology to build digital relationships for businesses, organizations, and individuals. Chris speaks, blogs, writes articles, and makes media of all kinds at [chrisbrogan.com], a blog in the top 20 of the Advertising Age Power150, and in the top 100 on Technorati” (Brogan 2008). It made sense for Kmart to choose such a high-profile blogger to raise awareness for their brand. But the approach may have seemed too market-y, as Chris Brogan was only leveraging his status as “dad” for the brand which, perhaps, he had not capitalized on before this sponsorship. To avoid this problem, analyst Jeremiah Owyang states that when doing sponsored posts, “Bloggers will simply have to ensure that they are delivering trusted content to their audience (transparent), and it’s relevant to their current topics (authentic). If readers are going to a tech blog, and expecting tech content, they may be surprised if the content shifts to a different medium – like consumer goods… The good thing about the blogosphere is that it self corrects, the community members will let the blogger know what they do and don’t like – it happens every day” (2008). Certainly, this is a case where the blogosphere shows its self-correcting nature. In response to the negative feedback on Twitter and in the blogosphere, Chris wrote his own post, justifying his choice for doing the sponsored post. It included his relationship with the sponsoring company, Izea (formerly associated with the controversial Pay-per-Post), and his wanting to “experiment” with the paid post system. His response to the buzz about the “purity” of the blogging platform and the internet was, “My job isn’t to keep the Kumbaya chants going. It’s to equip businesses (and that’s on the blogger side *and* the big business side) with knowledge and actionable next steps” (Brogan 2008). This entry, entitled “Advertising and Trust,” received 222 comments of its own in just over three days, with the original paid post receiving over 400, as entries into Kmart’s holiday contest. So the post exposed two things: First, a sponsored post must be a perfect alignment between blogger and sponsor, or else it will come off as fake and potentially weaken the reputation of both parties involved. Second, even a misaligned sponsorship can generate some buzz about a brand or contest, and may generate some excitement from those that aren’t upset over the whole sponsorship idea, such as these bloggers: “Kmart was very smart at reaching out to Chris Brogan. Far away from scholastic definitions of marketing and social media, Chris Brogan has a heart. His followers know it. What is the value of that? I think you -and Kmart- will find out” (Hart 2008) and, “After all he is a blogger who works in the business and marketing field, giving useful advice for free and never too busy to reply to a serious email or tweet. He’s not some kind of anarchist grimly struggling against authority and many of the usual suspects in Chris Brogan’s blogosphere salivate over the chance to get paid to blog” (Cox 2008). So, while some people feel slighted by the idea of paid posts and endorsements, or even jealous that they’re not getting paid for their own opinions yet, others don’t mind them and see them as a normal part of business (“you’ve got to live”)or a positive aspect of the blogosphere when executed correctly. Owyang also mentions that “recent research shows that corporate blogs are not trusted, but we know that consumers trust their peers, so savvy brands will want to benefit from word of mouth” (Owyang 2008). Yet this case study shows that there is more to it than soliciting “peers” to advocate a brand, as these “peers” must not only spark a reader’s interest, but their trust. They must be seen as speaking from the heart, and advocating a brand because of its application to their particular area of expertise, adding value for the readers of the blog. Finally, a sponsorship must feel organic, not contrived. Another case where marketers have tried to use well-known figures to promote their brand, to a mild degree of success, is with AT&T’s new campaign, “Lost in America.” This campaign consists of a video series featuring two young starlets being taken on random adventures throughout the country. Unlike the Chris Brogan sponsorship, these characters were chosen based on their relevance to the target market of the company. According to girls’ bios on the site: Karen: Karen has a very healthy and normal obsession with social media, fruit and "The Wizard of Oz". She is heavily involved in online social communities like Facebook and Twitter and enjoys trying out new web technologies. She continues to shoot and edit short videos whenever inspiration strikes and regularly blogs on her site karenism.com about technology, film and food. iJustine: With a catalog of more than 300 videos and 3,000 photos published online, Ezarik "is the Internet". A connoisseur of all things Internet, a gadget girl and a comedienne; iJustine represents a new kind of media star. Interesting to note, iJustine was first made famous by her extremely lengthy iPhone bill, making her the perfect selection for AT&T’s campaign. There are currently 16 “episodes” posted at attlostinamerica.com; the first one is titled “Alaska Ep. 1 'The Drop-Off’” and described: “In the premiere episode of Lost In America, our participants Justine & Karen are dumped out of a van in different parts of Anchorage, Alaska.” Similar episodes follow, with the girls using only their AT&T phones to navigate their way around the country. While the sponsorship is clearly evident, the campaign received some heat from an AdAge reporter, “The series is heavy on AT&T, but light on storyline, unless you find it interesting that Justine could be booted out of the competition if she drops her phone a fifth time” (Learmonth). So, here is an example of a perfectly-matched partnership between two social media mavens and a tech company, but because it is so overtly promotional in nature and lacking real “content,” it has received little buzz and the viewer stats aren’t as impressive as, say, iJustine’s own YouTube channel. Moving from weak sponsorships and partnerships, there are some inspiring examples of unsolicited brand advocacy which have generated some attention in the Web 2.0 world. One to note is the Darth Vader character from Star Wars who tweets regularly. Clearly, it is not Darth Vader himself behind the mask. Or is it? He stays remarkably on-character and his tweets are entertaining enough, or strange enough, to command a large following. An example of a tweet which does not advocate a particular brand but jives with the current economy: “Tarkin says we have to make cut backs. Stupid union clone troopers make $70 an hour and naturally, there's like a million of them. 3:59 PM Dec 12” and one which apparently does advocate a brand: “Totally had Tarkin convinced they named Black Friday after me. He was waffling until I whipped out my Vader Master Card - http://bit.ly/UAeh 9:20 PM Nov 28.” The link takes the user to a Darth Vader Master Card promotion. (Note: Tarkin is another Star Wars character). While it doesn’t seem that Darth Vader receives any type of a compensation for his work, he has over 20,000 followers and could drive significant traffic to another site. The point is: here is someone who remains anonymous and takes on the persona of a famous character. His “followers” know it’s not really Darth Vader behind the tweets as much as they know it’s not really Santa who delivers presents on Christmas morning, but it’s the kind of thing people don’t mind seeing because it is entertaining and even a bit inspiring. And it doesn’t even matter who the guy or girl behind the tweets really is, or if they’re paid off or not. Of course, if some individual was contracted to make a Twitter account and try to generate “buzz,” the stream might not be as popular, seeming phony and scripted. Yet, if that individual were James Earl Jones, well then you might have a quality social media implementation. The point is not to try to “fool” users, but to use spoofs that are highly-entertaining or obvious. In previous years of Web 2.0, some marketers and public relations staff misused technology, such as forums and review sites to post positive feedback on their own products, generating bad PR and backlash from the community. This was a violation of user’s trust and pitted them against the evil “marketers” who violated their social spaces. In current years of Web 2.0, public relations staff has become overly protective of their brand and brand image, and now the marketers don’t trust the users, either. There is a concern over copyright infringement and of course, fear that someone else may destroy a brand’s image through parodies and spoofs via sites such as YouTube and blogging platforms. It comes as no surprise, then, that when unsponsored “Mad Men” characters from AMC’s fading TV series set in the 1960’s started signing up for online profiles and gaining a large following, the parent company AMC reacted. The “characters” Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Joan Holloway, and Pete Campbell were supposed employees of Sterling Cooper Advertising from 1962 and, consistent with the television drama, their Tumblr.com and later Twitter.com presence maintained their characters’ voices. They offered advice to other users and even a subtext to the television series. However, when AMC discovered what was happening, they took a fearful approach. Twitter was contacted and the offending accounts suspended. This attempt at controlling the “fan fiction” may have caused even more damage than good; the company’s negative response was the call to action for a website, WeAreSterlingCooper.com, with the manifesto, “Fan fiction. Brand hijacking. Copyright misuse. Sheer devotion. Call it what you will, but we call it the blurred line between content creators and content consumers, and it's not going away. We're your biggest fans, your die-hard proponents, and when your show gets cancelled we'll be among the first to pass around the petition. Talk to us. Befriend us. Engage us. But please, don't treat us like criminals” (Caddell 2008). Many blog articles and Twitter streams were created as a result of this. “As lawyers often do, their threats had created far more controversy and negative publicity than the fans could have possibly threatened” (2008). The website offers links to many of them, as well as a downloadable 11-page .pdf documenting the series of events, called “Becoming A Mad Man,” written by one of the Mad Men named Bud Melman, real name Bud Caddell . His account was not one of the 9 shut down by AMC because his presence was invented solely online and not in the series itself. Caddell acted as a facilitator in the post-suspension phase, gathering all the Twitter users and concerned members of the community together to create unity and determine their purpose. He writes: When I asked why each person had chosen to start twittering as a fictional character from a television show, the answers were varied but shared a consistent theme: love. Our strange new behaviors and identities were the result of an advanced relationship to the world of AMCʼs Mad Men. It was our appreciation of the subject matter, the writing, the acting, and the product as a whole that spurred our expression. We were contributing freely, and no conversation about compensation was had. We were operating under the typical fan community “gifteconomy.” But regardless of why we got started, we all saw this as an opportunity to prove a model, that fans and brands should work together and create together (and we all still hoped AMC would respond to us). We were all very much invested in the success of our characters as a new form of engagement and as a way to create more meaning and relevance with fans. So, with all of this Web 2.0 jumble of good-and-evil content, how do marketers ensure the consistency of their brand image and message, while promoting active user communities? It seems that the trick is a mixture of “listening in” along with “guerrilla” tactics that make use of current user communities. If consumers are creating positive fan fiction and it does not harm your own company’s reputation, message, etc., then let it live. Promote it. Encourage the authors. Feature them in a press release. Do an interview with them. Link to their sites / content. E-mail them. Friend them. Whatever the case, if they already love your brand enough to spend significant time developing content about it, it’s almost guaranteed that they’d appreciate the recognition. If the number of self-help blogs and articles written recently is any indication, and the number of replies many of them receive (Chris Brogan’s included), this is certainly the case. So a starving creative would most likely be thrilled by a contact from a real company that they have a pre-existing passion for. Marketers, pay attention! On the other hand, if negative content is created, a marketer should do more of the listening before reacting like AMC’s representatives. Figure out what’s wrong. Solicit opinions. Ask how the product / service can be improved. By asking to shut down a popular user profile or by threatening to remove objectionable content, a company representative will fuel the hatred that was brewing when the content was being created. Do not upset the influential users of the Web 2.0 world, as they will surely make it known to others and find a way around the obstacles being superficially created for them. They can always set up a copycat website, create a new profile, etc. This is the gift and the curse of the ever-changing, constantly updated, collaborative Web 2.0 revolution. In soliciting feedback rather than attempting to remove some misrepresented facts or opinions, a marketer / PR representative can act in a proactive, rather than a reactive or protectionist manner. This will cast the company or brand in a much better light. The author may even change their opinion, or reveal that they don’t even mind the brand all that much anyway, as was the famous case where Starbucks attempted to sue comic-book illustrator Kieron Dwyer for making a spoof of their logo. Dwyer’s green-and-white siren carries a cell phone and coffee cup, and is tagged with the text “consumer whore.” However, he didn’t really mind the brand all that much – just the waste that came to his neighborhood once Starbucks moved in. It was only after the lawsuit that he stopped drinking their frap’s every morning. He writes, “as much as I was mocking Starbucks and their rampant consumerism, there was also self-awareness and some irony to it because I was mocking myself and everybody else who was making their way like lemmings off a cliff to Starbuck’s every day” (Dwyer ). Sure, the logo was offensive, but a polite notice or initiation of a conversation with Dwyer would have sufficed to have its circulation halted. At that point, if Dwyer was unresponsive, a lawsuit may have been necessary, but not before. From a public relations perspective, the approach of Starbucks was uncalled for. After all, isn’t Web 2.0 all about engaging your customers with conversation? Armando Alves, author of the blog A Source of Inspiration, writes about the “brandjacking” phenomenon and how companies can prevent or control it. “Brand Hijacking happens when consumers appropriate the brand for themselves and add meaning to it… brands should act as facilitators, opening communication channels and providing tools and materials (if you’re really hip, wrap it around a Creative Commons license) to consumers” (2008). He highlights the Mad Men story described earlier and goes on to list some best practices for companies to prevent a user from completely abusing the system, including: 1. Register your brand/product name early. 2. Define procedures for brand hijacking as one of your social media best practices. A simple social media policy will do. 3. Get your voice. Is it a push model, or do you actually engage with the users? Delegated or internal? Formal or Informal? 4. Provide aggregation mechanisms. 5. Track your brand buzz. 6. Have a consistent alias/nickname in different services. These suggestions will help prevent such practices as cybersquatting, where a user registers a domain name similar to your own brand, with negative intentions – either for money or recognition. Even so, brandjacking may occur in obscure ways, so companies must always monitor social sites to discover relevant discussions and user profiles, whether intended for creative entertainment or not. One realistic example of brandjacking which occurred this summer was an “employee” of Exxon Mobil’s via a Twitter page. Janet’s completely unverified posts went along the lines of: "we are not an earth hating organization, and we’re working on hard to improve how we drill for oil, these are difficult times. we used revenues as reinvestment into R&D. In 2007 we invested $21bil in refining capacity to reduce the future cost of petroleum. Did You Know? ExxonMobil reduced its Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 5 million metric tons from 2006 to 2007! ExxonMobil’s primary concern is to safely provide reliable and affordable supplies of energy to people around the world" Within three days “Janet” was discovered to be a fake. Here is the response of Alan Jeffers, a real an Exxon employee: “There are only people that are authorized and not-authorized, even people with the best intentions, may not know what the appropriate position is or the facts, we think that there’s a problem, as we don’t want to be misleading people and there’s a lot of errors what the person is posting even if it was something that had the best of intentions could be misleading. It’s our perception that social networking is based on honesty, transparency and trust, it’s important that they become forthcoming about who they represent” (Owyang 2008). While this brandjacking only lasted for three days before it was discovered, if it had gone on for longer it could have caused some real damage to the company, since she had most of the Twitter community’s belief and support behind her. When she was discovered, she even refused to take down her account and give in, claiming she was in fact “an employee of ExxonMobil, who has decided to put forward her pride in her own company” (Diaz). But since verifiable Exxon executives denounced any relations to her, the feed has since been removed. This case highlights a slightly scarier view of social media: that users blindly trust certain content, such as this Twitter page, because it offers them opinions that they want to hear. Perhaps this “Janet” was just a means to reassure a failing economic landscape that someone is there to help, or perhaps “Janet” is a huge nutcase who actually just thinks of her lying self as an Exxon brand advocate. But comparing that to the Chris Brogan case and the other “brand advocacy” cases where sponsorship was involved, and the situation becomes even more interesting. A fully-disclosed sponsorship agreement from two credible sources received a lot of negative heat, even though both brands were well-liked and respected in general. An undisclosed, unverified brand advocate for a generally un-liked brand (i.e. Exxon Valdez) receives more “hmm, stinks for Exxon” reactions than “how dare she/they!” And if she were an actual employee, doesn’t that necessitate her payment for this undertaking? So it can’t be about the paid / unpaid thing. This whole “social media networking” seems to be a bit finicky. People weren’t sure whether the Mad Men were sanctioned by AMC, but they didn’t care as the accounts were not representative of real people, but characters playing a role in a fictional drama set in the 1960’s. They were entertaining. Darth Vader uses a similar setup where he plays a role, regardless of whether he’s backed by the Star Wars creators or not. Fellow Twitterers don’t expect him to be a real person and follow him simply for amusement. No one really criticized “Janet” for her blatant misrepresentations, but instead wishes that Exxon would get involved in conversations with consumers in the future. No one can even criticize iJustine partnering with AT&T, because she was essentially made famous with the iPhone, so her approach is totally on-brand and in character, albeit a bit tired and dull. But Chris Brogan, Pay-per-Post, used car salesmen, and salesmen in general appear “unauthentic,” receiving plenty of criticism and negative attitudes. Sure, they get some sales sometimes. Overall, the best idea for a marketer: don’t stick your brand where it doesn’t belong, and where it already exists, find the most enthusiastic supporters and listen before acting. Figure out what’s working. Find the right community, find people who already love your brand, and foster that community to promote the brand equity that is already growing there. Don’t get too “market-y” or “sell-y” with users, or it will deteriorate the authenticity of that blog, forum, partnership, brand, etc. That doesn’t mean every “fan fiction” or derivative work must be removed: on the contrary, if something is authentically enthusiastic, onbrand, or otherwise engaging in a positive way, it should be cultivated and nurtured like a little plant who tweets. Something as “false” as a talking plant can still be “authentic” if done correctly.
Works Cited
Alves, Armando. “Social Media and Brand Hijacking.” September 3, 2008. Accessed December 12, 2008. AT&T. “Lost in America.” Bray, Rebecca, Rob Faludi, Kate Hartman, and Kati London. “Botanicalls >> Kits.” Botanicalls.com. Accessed December 14, 2008. Brogan, Chris. “About.” chrisbrogan.com. Accessed December 12, 2008. Brogan, Chris. “Advertising and Trust.” chrisbrogan.com blog. December 13, 2008. Accessed December 16, 2008. Brogan, Chris. “Sponsored Post-Kmart Holiday Shopping Dad Style.” Dad-O-Matic blog. December 2, 2008. Accessed December 14, 2008. Cox, Darren Daz. “Should Chris Brogan get paid?” The Fine Art and Design blog of Darren Daz Cox. December 14, 2008. Diaz, Sam. “Internet brand-jacking: What can be learned from Exxon Mobil?” August 7, 2008. Accessed December 12, 2008. Dwyer, Kieron. “Kieron Dwyer.” Artist bio at stretcher.org. Accessed December 14, 2008. “Elevenmoms.” Walmart.com. Accessed December 16, 2008. Fialkoff, Josh. “Why Kmart is Wrong to use Chris Brogan.” Josh Fialkoff: Online Marketing, Wordpress & GTD blog. December 13th, 2008. Accessed December 16, 2008. Hart, Ana. “Why Kmart is Wrong to use Chris Brogan.” Comment on Josh Fialkoff: Online Marketing, Wordpress & GTD blog. December 13, 2008. Accessed December 16, 2008. Learmonth, Michael. “AT&T's iJustine Web Series Doesn't Exactly Go Viral.” AdAge. November 24, 2008. Accessed December 7, 2008. Menscher, Corey. “Kickbee.” December 13, 2008. Accessed December 15, 2008. and Messina, Chris. “Twitter hashtags for emergency coordination and disaster relief.” October 22, 2007. Accessed December 16, 2008. Owyang, Jeremiah. “Understanding Izea’s Sponsored Blogging Service.” Web Strategy by Jeremiah blog. December 14th, 2008. Accessed December 15, 2008. “How “Janet” Fooled the Twittersphere (and me) She’s the Voice of Exxon Mobil.” Web Strategy by Jeremiah blog. August 1, 2008. Accessed December 15, 2008. Singer, Adam. “Chris Brogan's Sponsored/Paid Blog Post for Kmart.” Comment on The New Advertising blog. December 14, 2008. Vader, Darth. Profile on Twitter. Works Referenced Anand, Geeta; Basu, Abhijit; Beckett, Paul; Sircar, Subhadip. “Dozens of People Killed in Mumbai Attacks.”November 27, 2008. Alexander, Bryan; Levine, Alan; “Web 2.0 Storytelling: Emerging of a New Genre.” Educause Review; Nov/Dec2008, Vol. 43 Issue 6, p40-56, 11p. EBSCOhost. C, Omar. “Map of Mumbai attacks.” November 26, 2008. Accessed December 15, 2008. “Cartoonist Kieron Dwyer Sued By Starbucks.” Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. New York, NY November 30, 2000. Godin, Seth. “How to tell a great story.” April 2006. Appendix A: Images 11 moms Walmart campaign Kieron Dwyer’s Starbucks spoof Darth Vader’s idea of a joke Mad Men Season 2 – likely to Tweet? “Brandjacked” Exxon Mobil

Update: the discussion continues.

How's that for dinnertime discussion?

15 February, 2009

Where the (pardon my French) hell is Matt? Proper Sponsorship Gets You Going Places.

Photo upload from Flickr: Stride Gum Spearmint
Stride Gum Spearmint, originally uploaded by StrideGum.

This epitomizes the perfect working relationship between a company (Stride gum) and an individual who demonstrates qualities of their brand (Matt).

Matt posted a video a few years back (2005) doing a silly dance in exotic locations around the world. Being a travel-loving creative myself, I appreciated the concept and apparently a lot of other people did too. Here is the original video:

Because of his quasi-internet success, the Stride gum company (Cadbury Adams USA LLC) approached him in 2006 about taking a second trip and making a new video. Regarding the sponsorship, Matt has posted on his FAQ section. His response is honest, straightforward, and speaks volumes about the people at Cadbury Adams and how they went about this endeavor:

"Help?" I hear you got a sponsorship. What's that about?
The folks at Stride gum were nice enough to support me on my second trip.

Why haven't I heard of Stride before?
Because it's new.

What's so special about it?
The flavor lasts a really long time.

Come on. How long?
Ridiculously long.

Are they paying you to say this?
Nope. Honest.

Did they make you chew gum on your trip?
They didn't make me do much of anything. They are very good people.

Did they tell you where to go?
Nope. They said, and I'm quoting here:

"We like what you're doing. We want to help you. We don't want to mess with you."
These words charmed me, and they stayed true to them.

Did they edit the video for you?
Nope. I came home, put it together, sorted the music out, and slapped it up on the internet. That was pretty much it.
Like I said: good people.

Do you get lots of free gum?
I get lots of free gum.

How did you find them?
They found me.

How do I get sponsored to travel?
I really can't help you with that. Wouldn't have a clue. Sorry.

The results of this sponsorship? YouTube's ratings as of right now speak volumes:
Added: June 20, 2008
Views: 18,277,619
Ratings: 66,312 (five stars average)
Responses: 187 (these are videos posted by others after seeing this one)
Comments: 54,369
Favorited: 114,635 times
Honors: in 34 categories
See for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlfKdbWwruY&feature=channel

As for Stride, they have a devoted section on their website for his videos, and had their name on a few clips from Matt's second video, as well as numberous links from Matt's content back to them. I have no idea about the impact on their sales, but it certainly got their name out there, got people talking, and even inspired people all over the world. And what more could you hope for in a partnership? It beats brand-sabotaging, individual-sacrificing, corporate-feeling failures. No cheesy taglines from Stride as far as I can see. So props to Cadbury Adams, and to Matt. Way to make a brand really come alive - you both make a traveling marketer proud! :-)

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