Follow the Yellow Brick Road

For generations, parents have warned their children not to play with matches.

Now, 20-year-old YouTube rapper and social media mega “star” Jake Paul and his band of boys demonstrate life-threatening, dangerous pyrotechnic stunts daily to their 10.5 million followers.

“He’s establishing himself in the eyes of grown-up America as an embodiment of everything that is wonderful and horrible about Generation Z,” wrote the New York Times.

Photo Courtesy of the New York Times

Vlogger (video blogger) Jake Paul epitomizes his market of Gen Z-ers, those born in the Bush and Obama years. They are the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones. Many don’t remember a time before social media.

A high school dropout, Mr. Paul leveraged his millions of social media followers, along with a well-honed skills for rubber-faced comedy and ambulance-worthy stunts. “We were working with brands and advertisers. I was, like, 17 years old, making more money than my parents!”

STYLE

These tweens and teens of today are primed to become the dominant style influencers of tomorrow. Flush with billions in spending power, they promise untold riches to marketers who can find the master key to their psyche. Because, of course, they grew up shopping online.

“No wonder the race to define, and market to, this demographic juggernaut is on. They are the next big retail disrupter,” explained Women’s Wear Daily. And besides wealth, Generation Z also commands attention through its sheer size.

Young people today feel much more emboldened to express their own sense of style compared to previous generations. But there is also a robust global industry of youth-oriented apparel brands, along with fashion magazines and style blogs dedicated to influencing fashion. The time-honored premise that cooler-than-thou clothes and shoes are, as always, up there with food, water or oxygen as staples for many teenagers.

REACH

To reach Gen Z, it is recommended that you 1) Depict them as diverse (ethnically, sexually, fashionably) 2) Task in images: emojis, symbols, pictures and video 3) Communicate more frequently in shorter bursts of “snackable” content 4) Tap into their entrepreneurial spirit. 5) Collaborate with them … and help them collaborate with others.

“Generation Z tends to be the product of Generation X, a relatively small, jaded generation. They came of age in the post-Watergate, post-Vietnam funk of the 1970s, when horizons seemed limited. Those former latchkey kids, who grew up on Nirvana records and slasher movies, have tried to give their children the safe, secure childhood that they never had.

“You see the mommy blogs by Generation X-ers, and safety is a huge concern: the stainless-steel sippy cups that are BPA-free, the side-impact baby carriages, the home preparation of baby food,” continued Mr. Howe, who runs Saeculum Research, a Virginia-based social trends consultancy.

Part of that obsession with safety is likely due to the hard times that both Generation Z and their parents experienced growing up. Their parents may have been safety-firsts, but the Z generation is predisposed to making vlogs of themselves doing cartwheels over their cats and fire-swallowing.

BORN ENTREPRENEURS

The New York ad agency, Sparks & Honey observed also that “entrepreneurship is in the DNA of Generation Z.”

“Kids are witnessing start-up companies make it big instantly via social media,” said Andrew Schoonover, a 15-year-old in Olathe, Kansas. “We do not want to work at a local fast-food joint for a summer job. We want to make our own business because we see the lucky few who made it big.”

Which leads to a final point about this new generation’s similarities to the Silent or Greatest Generation (who also grew up with an economic catastrophe and foreign aggression on American soil) As Mr. Howe points out,” it was not just the most career-focused generation in history. It was also …  the richest.”

“My personal goal,” Jake Paul offers, “is to be a billionaire.”

The New York Times posed these questions about Jake Paul. Is he genius or a jerk? A punk or a prophet? In a media landscape where clicks are money, does it even matter?

 

Pomp and Circumstance

Trending now is Graduation Speech Bingo for about-to-be graduates to play during the long, hot hours sitting in commencement caps and gowns with giddy parents watching their every move. The game is to see how many trite phrases are used: find your passion, it starts with us, today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Here are some examples and exceptions:

 

Photo Courtesy of: Entrepreneur.com

Will Ferrell, University of Southern California  2017

Comedian Will Ferrell humorously recounted his early failures in a light-hearted commencement speech at University of Southern California. Providing graduates with a sense of comfort and reassurance, he ended with a butchered imitation of the late Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love you.”

 

Photo Courtesy of: AJC.com

Hillary Clinton, Wellesly College 2017

Former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton explained that life doesn’t always go according to plan, but that’s not a valid reason to give up on your dreams. Secretary Clinton was on the same stage 48 years earlier as a student speaker conveying the same message; to stand up and fight for what you believe.

 

Photo Courtesy of: CNBC.com

Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard University 2017

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder and Harvard University dropout, poked fun at himself with…“If I get through this speech, it’ll be the first time I actually finish something at Harvard.”

 

Photo Courtesy of: GettyImages.com

President Donald Trump, Liberty University 2017

President Donald Trump lashed out at the media during the US Coast Guard Academy commencement with “no politician in history has been treated worse or more unfairly.” And again at Liberty Christian University, he reflected on his own persistence with “never ever give up”…without crediting Winston Churchill’s six words of success “never never never never give up.”

 

Photo Courtesy of: Notey.com

Dame Helen Mirren, Tulane University 2017

Dame Helen Mirren related to her college audience with “like a hangover, neither triumphs nor disasters last forever.”

 

 

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s often said that the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink. But until recently, the camera has always been in the hands of responsible and professional photographers, videographers and journalists. Not in the hands of passengers documenting airline brutality or murderers recording their own deeds as selfies.

cell phone picture

Photo courtesy of: Time.com

Now everyone with a cell phone, and that’s pretty much everyone, is a documentarian, taking cameras and matters into his or her own hands. And thanks to social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, et al, there is no shortage of airtime.

Traditional print media like the New York TIMES, which narrowcasts to only those who choose to pay for it, advertises its policy of “all the news that’s fit to print.” But these social media publishers have yet to restrict the freedom of their presses.

According to Wikipedia, Clint Eastwood’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was one of the greatest and most influential Westerns of all time. But today’s citizens offer cowboy justice at its best and worst because there are no filters on these cameras.

In our Los Angeles media training and social media training world, this is the phenomena of loose cannons. Executives  must be Ready for them. It cannot be the “shoot from the hip” approach taken by United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz recently. There must be a sensible crisis plan, designed, prepared and practiced in advance.

Crisis training would have explored whether it is the best policy to boot paying customers to make way for employees.  Then, not defend employees’ actions in the face of excessive force without being aware of the details: a passenger being beaten seriously enough to cause a concussion, two broken teeth and a broken nose.

Then, after a deluge of negative traditional and social media not abjectly apologize saying Dr. David Dao “did nothing wrong.” A more appropriate response would have been, Dr. Dao was badly mistreated. But for the safety of all the passengers on my airline, everyone needs to follow the orders given by my people, even if you think those orders are stupid or unfair. And for that, I will not defend his actions either.

The cost to United Airlines in dollars and reputation is impossible to estimate. Each passenger on that flight is now being reimbursed for the price of his or her ticket, which may set a precedent that other companies will be forced to follow every time someone pictures and posts a misdeed. Finally, the passenger who was documented being dragged bloodied and broken down the aisle by countless cell phones is very likely to sue and is from Asia, an important market for the company.

The lesson, of course, is to get in front of a crisis, but to do it correctly. As the victimized doctor’s code would suggest, “First, do no harm.” And not respond impulsively without planning or design.

The world wide web offers the broadest of broadcasting possibilities to everyone who holds a cell phone. And that’s pretty much everyone.

 

Are You Ready For Your Close Up?

The score is tied 72 to 72 with 38.8 seconds left in the game. The Rhode Island Rams’ defense is giving it their all to stop Tyler Dorsey of the Oregon Ducks from scoring again and taking the lead.

Tyler Dorsey comes up inches behind the three-point line and SWOOSH! He drains it for 3, putting the Ducks in the lead in the final few seconds!

 

The star of the game, Tyler Dorsey, is being pulled every which way with congratulatory words and questions from the media.  So, what’s a student athlete to do when a journalist wants an interview? Emotions are high, excitement is in the air, and everyone wants to hear from him. But is he Ready for his close up?

According to CBS Sports NCAA roster analysis, the average age for each team ranges from 19-23 with 20 being the most common. Like most student athletes, Tyler Dorsey has little experience with the media and how to give an interview.

Mr. Dorsey scored some READY FOR MEDIA points by shooting a few charismatic smiles during his March Madness TV interview. Being conversational, i.e. looking at the journalist while answering her questions, could’ve helped Mr. Dorsey follow through and score some extra credibility for himself and the University of Oregon.

Tyler bounced back from his teammates water-dumping foul by hitting an “and-one” with his cool and collected attitude. BEEF- a mnemonic often used to teach proper shooting form- can be used when conducting an interview, too.

B- Balance (Position yourself strategically)

E- Eyes (Make eye contact with the journalist)

E- Elbow (Elbow the conversation in the direction you want it to go)

F- Follow Through (Stay on your interview agenda)

While these athletes are there to play,  they’re also creating a brand for themselves, impacting the university’s publicity, and representing the team as a whole. Are your athletes Ready for their close ups?

 

 

Mexican Standoff

Nordstrom and Ivanka Trump find themselves in a Mexican Standoff following Nordstrom’s decision to drop her fashion brand from their stores.

Mexican Standoff Blog

Photo Courtesy of: bittersweetaspects.wordpress.com

A spokeswoman for Nordstrom insisted that the company made the decision based on plummeting sales and not as a political statement following Nordstrom’s company wide pro-immigration email. “For us, the two were not connected.”

As expected, President Trump gunned-down Nordstrom in a defensive tweet. “My daughter, Ivanka, has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person – always pushing me to do the right thing.” Terrible,” he whined.

Despite Nordstrom’s explanation that this was a logical business decision, both sides remain at a stand still. Neither Ivanka Trump, the brand; nor Nordstrom, the retailer dare to make the next move and must wait until it’s made for them by their customers. Those responsible for sales!

Unfortunately, large and small companies alike, are facing boycotts and backlash from Trump supporters and non-supporters.  Some boycotted Nordstrom for selling Ivanka Trump, some for not selling Ivanka Trump.

But as the owner of one e-commerce site wrote, “for every customer I’ve lost, I’ve gained one.”

 

It’s a Dog’s Life

“When I die, I want to come back as your dog,” is a compliment often paid to dog owners who spoil their dogs with a lavish lifestyle that is anything but a dog’s life. And we humans tend to have more than one dog in our lifetimes. Both reincarnation and the role that dogs play in our lives are the subjects of a recent movie, A Dog’s Purpose that has been met with surprising controversy.

Its a Dog's Life image

Photo Courtesy of: BrilliantDogTraining.com

The movie that intended to display the unique love we share with our dogs was targeted in an excerpt of a German Shepherd appearing to be forced into rushing water despite the dog’s reticence. Members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) the largest animal rights organization in the world and animal lovers alike reacted by dragging A Dog’s Purpose under rushing waters of criticism leaving the filmmakers in a fight to stay afloat. The conveniently-timed video release forced the studio to cancel the press junket and premiere prior to releasing A Dog’s Purpose in more than 3,000 locations following PETA’s urging of a boycott on social media.

In an attempt to regain the trust of the public, Dennis Quaid, the star of the film, expressed on NBC’s “Today” Show that the video was manipulated and spliced to look as if the dog was being abused. The presence of the American Humane Association during the filming of this scene was offered as defense that the dog could not have been abused. The AHA responded by saying that the video was “misleading and edited.”

Both parties, the filmmakers and protesters alike, used the media to advantage in a battle attempting to defend or destroy the film and their points of view.

Despite the activists’ attempts to drown the film and perhaps, unintended publicity,  A Dog’s Purpose was able to tread water and broke the 18.4 million dollar mark as the #2 movie in its debut weekend. Decide for yourself!

Do Your Homework!

Oscar Wilde, Will Rogers and Mark Twain all quipped, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”

President-elect Trump’s candidate for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, failed to make the grade and tested the patience of yesterday’s Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.

Photo Courtesy of: Blog.Ted.com

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) a longtime proponent of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) confessed to MSNBC that she was very concerned that Ms. DeVos seemed confused or unfamiliar with the fact that the IDEA is a federal law that the Secretary of Education would be charged with enforcing! It is a law that hits close to home for many, including Senator Hassan.

The prospective Secretary of Education continued to display her lack of Readyness when she repeatedly asked Senator Al Franken (D – Minnesota) for clarification on a policy of measuring proficiency vs. growth that he deemed, “a subject that has been debated in the education community for years,” then proceeded to say, “it surprises me that you don’t know this issue.”

Not only was Ms. DeVos vague on her answers, she failed until the very end to bridge to points she should have come to make : her qualifications, her passion for “children and education with 30-years as a voice for parent, uh students, and to empower parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, primarily low-income children.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D – Conn) who’s been very vocal on gun control since the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary, asked, “Do you think guns have any place in or around schools? You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?”

“Well,” Ms. DeVos responded, “I will refer back to uh, Senator Enzi” (R – Wyoming)  “I would imagine there are guns in the schools there to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Clearly, this applicant failed to educate herself on the questioners, learn the questions that would be dearest to them and give honest, informed answers. Why didn’t she research the subject? Why didn’t she hire a “tutor” to practice mock interviews with video feedback and constructive critique? Why didn’t she do her homework?

The most telling question of all came from recent Presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders (D – Vermont) who challenged her as the teacher’s pet: “If you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions to the Republican Party, would you be sitting here today?

Ms. DeVos’ admitted, “Senator, as a matter of fact, I do think that there would be that possibility.”

If the Shoe fits …

A number of media faux pas (literally false steps) were made recently at the Footwear News Achievement Awards in New York City.

puma

Photo Courtesy of: HIGHSNOBIETY

Winning the Retailer of the Year award, Ronnie Fieg, a New York footwear and clothing designer had “no comment” when asked about his collaboration with New Balance, the brand that “put its foot in it” in November. Their spokesperson seemed to endorse President-elect Donald J. Trump and the comment prompted shoe burning and trashing by its young customers. The moral, know your audience.

“I’m not going to speak on that,” I don’t get political,” Mr. Fieg said. Media coaching would have helped him be more positive about his sponsor.

Cuba Gooding Jr., the actor, was more prepared for the media, putting brands in a positive light. Given that the Shoe of the Year was a sneaker, he was asked whether he was a sneaker man.

“No, but I used to be,” he said. “I used to be a breakdancer back in the ’80s, and you weren’t worth your weight unless you wore Converse high-tops.” Now, however, he’s all about the work boot. “I live in my Blundstones,” he said. “I have eight pairs. They’re all black.”

And the whole point of having a celebrity spokesperson is, well, that she is a spokesperson. Rihanna, who received the Shoe of the Year award for her collaborative project with Puma, the Creeper (above) refused interviews. That put the shoe on the other foot for Puma’s Director of Brand and Marketing who offered glowing reviews of the singer-cum-designer, noting that the partnership had cast the brand in a new light.

But one attendee, the Icon Award winner, Iris Apfel, 95 (interior and fashion designer and business woman) left a footprint of levity on the evening’s festivities.

Stepping up to the stage with the help of Michael Atmore, the editorial director of Footwear News, and another younger man, she noted: “It’s nice to be old and have two pieces of beefcake escort you … whomever they voted for.”

In My Own Words

It’s said that justice is blind. But justices can be blindsided, too.

Courtesy of: Sebastian Kim, for Time Magazine

Courtesy of: Sebastian Kim, for Time Magazine

Recently, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg promoted her new book, My Own Words in an interview with Katie Couric. Seeming not to have availed herself of media training before her book tour, Justice Ginsburg found herself giving an opinion on a topic with which she was unfamiliar. Famous for her outspokenness on the Court, the justice was asked to comment on several athletes’ refusal to stand for the national anthem at the beginning of their games. She acknowledged their right to protest, but added that they would only exercise that freedom “if they want to be stupid.”

An opinion heard round the world, more for its source than for its sentiment. Justice Ginsburg was one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People of 2015,’

Ms. Couric did exactly what an investigative journalist is meant to do: elicit answers to provocative questions. Being Ready for an interview means preparing answers ahead of time (Why I wrote My Own Words) (Some of my more controversial decisions have been …) (How the world and the court have changed since I went on the bench in 23 years ago in 1993) to smoothly address to questions.

After learning more about the athletes’ reasoning and intentions from a different bench, Justice Ginsburg swiftly apologized for her “harsh” comments. Because, even a Supreme Court Justice can sound unjust in the court of public opinion.

Publicity Pitfalls

In today’s media climate, celebrity endorsements can be a slippery slope. Sloppy social media posts are one thing, but how do brands react when the public figures they sponsor receive bad publicity? Olympic Gold Medalist Ryan Lochte made international waves surrounding the scandal of the 2016 Rio Olympics, in which he accused Brazilian police of robbing him and two fellow swimmers at gunpoint. The allegations proved false, leaving Mr. Lochte in hot water with his sponsors!

Photo Courtesy www.eurweb.com

Photo Courtesy www.eurweb.com

But the choice to abandon an athlete is not as simple as it sounds. Internet analysis conducted by marketing technology company Amobee showed that social commentary on the incident was generally neutral and sometimes positive.

Depending on the misdemeanor, it can actually benefit a brand to maintain their sponsorship and support. Earlier this year, tennis player Maria Sharapova received a two-year suspension after failing a drug test, but major sponsors Nike, Head and Evian applauded her as a “role model and woman of integrity” after her public apology–and social media largely agreed.

Gold medal companies Speedo and Ralph Lauren quickly dropped their sponsorships of Mr. Lochte amounting to $1 million. Speedo made the statement: “We cannot condone behaviour that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for.” But such brands must be careful, too, when making statements about actions “counter to the values” for which they stand. Speedo was also accused of “technological doping” with their performance-enhancing LZR Racer suits, banned from the Olympics in 2010.

Renowned swimming teammate Michael Phelps has shown support for Mr. Lochte, long after he was dropped from sponsorships himself amidst public scrutiny–most notably in 2009 from Kellogg’s for a controversial photo in which he was shown smoking marijuana. Mr. Phelps has since recovered his image and made his scandal a thing of the past.

Whether it benefitted Speedo and Ralph Lauren to leave Mr. Lochte or not, he seems to be moving forward as other brands are diving in. Most recently, he has teamed up with Robocopp, a company that produces personal alarms, and this is a commercial you’ll have to see to believe:

Video Courtesy News Views 88,70,423

Even Mr. Lochte must recognize how unbelievable the irony is.