Monday, February 23, 2015

"Instafame:" Using It Effectively

Instafamous (noun): Someone who becomes famous by gaining thousands of Instagram followers for simply posting cool photos.

I love Instagram, and I think it is an awesome outlet to brand yourself, get your name out there and make connections. By staying current on Instagram and keeping up with the movers and shakers of relevant trends, you can really do a lot with your brand. I have worked to create my personal brand by posting photos that show who I am, the things I like and how I spend my time.

 I recently became inspired by the Instagram account: @helloamerica_. It is run by a couple, who is road tripping across the country to create a photo book of all of America's hidden gems. When looking at their website, I noticed they have a tab titled "press." It turns out that companies like Free PeoplePoler Stuff and Urban Outfitters have featured them on their website blogs and social media. These companies and other small apparel brands have also reached out to them to do photo shoots and post pictures of their products on IG. When these companies are featured on @helloamerica_, they tag the company, and people like me who follow the couple's story can then follow the brand. This helps the brand gain followers and positive media attention.

By exploring on Instagram, noticing who their audiences follow and staying in touch with their consumers, companies can capitalize on opportunities like this for positive PR. I see this done all the time, and it is amazing how many of the brands I follow come from accounts like @abikiniaday and @tifforelie. These accounts promote other brands almost every day, and the collaboration and success that comes from it is vital and easily measured.

People can become "Instafamous" for a variety of reasons. It is important to note the credibility of an account before reaching out to it for collaboration. This can be easily figured out based on their photos, the number of followers they have, and the amount of likes and comments they get on their pictures. It is pretty easy to figure out if the person legitimate if you do some research and take a good look at their account.

Taking advantage of Instagram can be very beneficial. It is difficult to start from scratch with an account, but working with "Instafamous," creative people can quickly improve your brand's credibilty

Celebrity Branding: Finding Yourself And Creating A Loyal Fan Base

This article about singer/songwriter, Josh Tillman, reminded me of the importance of transparency when creating a following.

Tillman took a while to figure out who he was. He struggled to discover what type of musician he wanted to be. He went from being a depressed songwriter in Seattle to a drummer in Fleet Foxes (link), to the self-proclaimed, "Father John Misty" today.

The article describes how he never really became famous when he didn't have a brand image. It is so true that artists need a brand image to really gain true fame. When I think of people who have really mastered this, the ones who first come to mind are Miley Cyrus, Beyonce and Lady Gaga.

I want to focus on Miley Cyrus because she gets so much criticism, but is actually so talented and has mastered the way to get a crowds attention. Part of her success comes from the fact that she is honest and transparent with her fans. Cyrus does not try to be something she is not. She successfully transformed from the immature Disney Star, Hannah Montana, to a sex icon and edgy trendsetter.

Cyrus does outrageous things that, at first, are criticized and hated by many, but later become a major statements in pop culture. For instance, her "Wrecking Ball" music video became an internet phenomenon, and even though people made fun of her for it, the video and song became extremely successful. Everyone on vine also loved it.

Stars like Miley Cyrus are in touch with their audience. They know who they want to come off as and who they want to be. Cyrus is always sure of what she wants and who she is. When watching interviews with her, it is clear how genuine and honest she is. So even though she does some pretty ridiculous things, she gains fans, fame and success because of her transparency. She is honest about her personal life, her social life and her professional life. Check out her interview on The Ellen Show where Miley opens up about her relationship and break-up with Liam Hemsworth.

As a consumer and avid trend follower, I notice the things I like about the celebrities I follow and admire. After reading the article about Josh Tillman, I hadn't realized how much of an affect transparency has. I think celebrities like Miley Cyrus and others have done a good job of being honest and loyal to create a fan base, while still having a private personal life and keeping things to herself.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Celebs representing your brand: good or bad?

Watch this video of Kanye West bashing Nike on stage at The House of Blues. Kanye's "Yeezus" sneakers are expected to be released later this month and it is causing some tension with his past collaboration with adidas' competitor, Nike.

The rise of hip-hop had a surprisingly large affect on the fashion industry. Since the 1980s, rappers and musicians have been chosen to represent brands in their songs and music videos. Whether the company hired them or not, rappers make shout-outs to labels in classics like RUN DMC's "My Adidas", and recent releases like Riff Raff's "Tip Toe Wing In My Jawwdinz". Both videos feature the label all throughout the song, and now, people will associate Riff Raff with Jordans.

This article clearly identifies the positive and negative outcomes of celebrity endorsement. It can be very beneficial to use a celebrity to help a company break into a certain industry. This is what adidas did with RUN DMC and what Nike did with Michael Jordan. Jordan basketball shoes have since come full circle to represent not only the basketball world but the hip-hop world as well. The companies wanted to expand their audiences, and did so in a productive way that is still effective today.

On the other hand, we have seen it work against them in situations such as Nike's with Kanye West. If relationships go south or celebrities represent the brand in a negative way, it can greatly affect sales. While Kanye West is not everyone's favorite Hollywood hothead, he is still constantly in the spotlight and is always wearing the latest trends (even though he may be a little over the top sometimes).

Nike has fallen victim to unlucky endorsements a few times, most importantly with Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. There really isn't a good way to tell if these relationships could go south. Both Woods and Armstrong seemed like smart candidates at the time that they picked up Nike, and they ended up being involved with two major scandals in the sports world.

The important takeaway is too choose a celebrity wisely when looking for endorsements. If those relationships take a turn for the worse, it is the PR team's job to fix that reputation and not lose too many customers. It is always possible to turn a negative into a positive with strategic planning.

How To Survive A Trade Show

Agenda Long Beach, 2014

Last July, I was fortunate enough to attend the Agenda Trade Show in Long Beach. I had never been to anything like it before, and it was the perfect opportunity to network and get my name out there. It inspired me even more to be a part of that world. There were all different kinds of people there, and everyone was dressed in the latest So Cal summer trends. I felt like the tiniest fish in the ocean surrounded by the most creative and artistic people in the fashion industry, but I had to act like it was just as important that I was there as it was for the creator of Volcom.

Agenda show is a traveling trade show for action sports, streetwear and lifestyle brands. Brands big and small are invited to attend in three different locations: Las Vegas, Long Beach and New York City. It is an opportunity for designers to show off their creativity to other professionals in the industry. It stood out to me as an insane PR and networking opportunity for all kinds of companies.

Creators attend to collaborate and show off, buyers come to see the latest trends, and up and coming businesses attempt to work their way into the industry and be seen by big name buyers and important labels. It is top ten on's list of best trade shows to attend in 2015.

This particular show had a strong emphasis on surf and beachwear. Each company had a booth, and they were arranged alphabetically by product. Bigger companies like Converse and Nike had entire walls and corners of the room, and you had to schedule a private appointment to see their products. 

It was so inspiring to see such an array of talent levels in the same room. Everyone was friendly and eager to learn about your story and what brought you there. Here are five tips for young people trying to break their way into the industry, and how they can make the most of a trade show such as Agenda:

1. It's all about who you know. Get on a list. Most trade shows are invite only, and they are pretty strict on letting people in. Contact anyone and everyone you know in the industry ahead of time to see if they can get you in as a member of their team. People will be more willing to help than you think.

2. Wear the right clothes. It's a compliment fair, and conversations are started left and right based on outfit decisions. You never know what kind of connection you can make by having someone come up to you and say, "Cute romper; who makes it?" They're all about the labels, so choose wisely and wear pieces that will make interesting conversation starters (i.e. wear a top that a local, startup boutique designed vs. one from Forever 21 or Urban Outfitters).

3. Bring business cards. Whether you are attending the show in search of a job or to promote a brand you currently work for, network with everyone that you come into contact with. Leave your card with anyone you have a strong conversation with.

4. Have your elevator pitch perfected and ready. People will ask you your story: what you are doing there, why you want to be there, what the most creative thing you've seen all day is. Be ready to impress people with your drive and knowledge of the industry. 

5. Be a sponge. Take it all in. Visit booths of brands you've never heard of and get to know as much about them as you can. Even if you can't make a connection with them, knowing their story and what they stand for can benefit you in the future as you make your way into the industry.

Take advantage of these opportunities. It is easier to get involved than you might think.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Media's Control Over Music: Shown Through Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"

Think about the song, "Hallelujah." Sing it to yourself, and think if you can remember the specific time or place you first heard the song.

After reading this article in Newsweek, I began thinking about the impact that a song can have on a generation, and how the way that a song is branded can help gain its popularity.

The article analyzes Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", and ranks 60 versions of the song. My favorite version, by Imogen Heap, is not even on this list, while the other two I remember from childhood are numbers 1 and 2.

After listening to a few of the versions posted, I was quickly brought back to the times I remember hearing the song growing up. The first time was John Cale's version from a very sad scene in Shrek at age eight. Then, I heard Jeff Buckley's version at age 11 in the season 1 finale of my favorite soap opera, The O.C. Two years later, I heard it again on The O.C. in the season 3 finale when main character, Marissa Cooper, is killed in a car accident. It took me less than 30 seconds to remember these iconic moments, and each time I was brought right back to the moments when I first heard them; that's how powerful this song really is. Personally, I have four versions of the song in my iTunes library.

The O.C. poster hanging on my bedroom wall
It is important to note the media's role in the spread of this song. I heard it first in movies and TV, as did many others in my generation. The power of a song can be entirely controlled by the media. The Imogen Heap version of the song is probably my favorite because the teenage version of me bawled my eyes out on the couch, while watching my favorite TV character tragically die. Had I just heard the song on the radio, I may not have thought it was as beautiful.

Depending on what generation you ask, you will get drastically different answers. Although it was written and originally performed by Leonard Cohen, many others, notably Jeff Buckley, have made the song more famous than Cohen ever did. By putting the song in different forms of media, it is stretched across all audiences and age groups.

This has happened with a number of other songs too. To bring up Shrek again, Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi"was made famous again with a version by Counting Crows featured in the movie. If I ask my mom who sings the song, she will say Joni Mitchell, and if someone asked 10-year-old me, I would say Counting Crows. Similarly, the media made the song famous for different audiences (millennials), and affected our lives so that we only remember that more modern version.

While this has happened with many songs, "Hallelujah" seems to be the one with the most media coverage. It has been done in so many different ways and seems equally beautiful whether its setting mood for a tragic death or a cartoon about ogres. An entire novel was written about the song, and listeners have been trying to understand the meaning of the lyrics for over 30 years now. "Hallelujah" is a perfect example of the media's power over a song. Jeff Buckley is credited for making the song famous, and the original version criticized for being off-pitch. Dear radio stations, thank you for playing Buckley's cover and getting the proper tune into people's heads for years to come.

Music Festivals: The ultimate way for your brand to reach a wider audience

Sasquatch! main stage, 2014

In honor of the Sasquatch! lineup coming out last Tuesday, I thought it would be fitting to analyze the array of opportunities for brand promotion at events like this. Each time I attend a festival, I am amazed by the emphasis of brands and companies represented everywhere. Like most entertainment or sporting events, there are sponsors.  

When looking at the Sasquatch! 2015 website, the five major sponsors are clearly defined: Bud Light, WA Health Plan Finder, Skype, Red Bull Sound Select and Do206. These brands have used the festival as an opportunity to promote their company by specifically focusing on the lifestyles and interests of their target audience: millennials who love music. You do not have to be a sponsor, however, to get your logo seen at a festivals or similar events.

For those of you who don’t know, Sasquatch! is a 4-day music festival at the Gorge Amphitheater. The main stage overlooks the Columbia River in rural central Washington. Attendees travel from all over the country to spend a weekend camping with friends and seeing a variety in alternative, electronic and rock shows. Compare it to Coachella, except people come to Sasquatch! for the music, atmosphere and outdoor experience. There is no nonsense and hype.

This is much different than Coachella, which entails two weekends in Palm Desert, where most attendees care more about the overall lifestyle than the festival and music itself. All companies with any credibility are present at the festival, and many exclusive guests choose not to spend $500 on a ticket. Instead, they spend their time at pool parties and after parties with elite people from the fashion and action sports industries. Take a look at this list of some of the hottest parties from last year, hosted by companies like Harper’s Bizarre, H&M, Lacoste and Vestal.

Coachella sunset, 2012

Vestal Village, for example, is one of Coachella’s most well known “après fest” events. It is located at a private campground about five minutes from the Coachella entrances. It is very exclusive, but since it is located so close to the event, invites aren’t too hard to come by. Check out this video of a friend of mine taking a beating on the slip-n-slide at Vestal Village.

While brands use exclusive events like this to market new products and give out free products, the average festival attendee cannot escape the advertising and PR heaven either. Aside from sponsors, startup companies use festivals to get their brand out there and stand out.

Last year, for instance, a family friend of mine had began a business making high-end headpieces called Krown. I ordered one, and she sent me a free one as well to wear around and spread the word. Just as she expected, I got compliments and was sure to give Krown credit every time someone asked where I got it. 

Me, left, wearing Krown headband at Sasquatch! 2014.
I have also experienced the other end of it. One minute you’re giving someone a compliment, and the next minute you’re holding a business card and following a new company on Twitter and Instagram.

So festivals like Sasquatch and Coachella can be great opportunities for businesses as large and Red Bull and as small as Krown to gain new customers and reach a new audience. When branding your company, think big.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How Mainstream Is Too Mainstream?

I recently read an article on popular surfing blog, The Inertia, about legend, Miki Dori. One quote from this article really stuck out to me and inspired me to delve deeper into the topic. Author, Alexander Haro stated, “Since surfing laid its groundwork as the global phenomenon it is today, it has been thought of as a counter-culture activity. And while it seems that the professional surf industry is trying desperately to shed that image and rewrite how the masses view it, its history is unchangeable.”

Counter-culture is typically depicted in a negative way, and throughout the rest of the article, Haro praises the way surfing used to be: simple. It turns out Dori was a total punk. He had a rough life but always found an outlet through surfing. In honor of Miki Dori's life, the article is beautifully written and critiques the way surfing made its way into the mainstream.

So why is it that surfing became so mainstream? In the 50s and 60s, it was glamorized in the entertainment industry in films like Endless Summer and through music by bands like The Beach Boys. Through branding and entertainment, surfing made its way into popular culture, and it looks like it's only going further in that direction.

The consumer culture surrounding surfing absolutely contributed to its booming success in the past 30 or so years. Popular retail brands such as Billabong and Quiksilver came to be in the 60s and 70s in Australia, and then Hurley and Volcom a few years later in California. These companies grew rapidly, especially with the expansion of California-inspired retail stores like Pac Sun and Tilly’s. These stores brought surf style out of the beach cities and all over the world.

It is interesting to explore what made surfing so mainstream. Perhaps it was branding with the help of globalization and entertainment. Today, with the emphasis on social media, surfing can only be headed in a direction that will make it even more public and common.

Whether you see this as a positive or a negative for the industry, it is hard to ignore the major impact that these brands and companies have had on the sport and its surrounding lifestyle. It used to be easy to pinpoint a “surfer bum” such as Miki Dori, but with the style spreading all over the world, you could easily mistake a Minnesota boy for a “grom” (let’s not get started with the lingo). 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Chipotle: Unwrapped

Corporate social responsibility is something that I hadn’t really thought much about until an assignment that I had last week. We were asked to choose a company and design a basic CSR plan.

My group chose Chipotle. As a college student, I go to Chipotle all the time. It’s quick, cheap and delicious. I thought of choosing to do Chipotle before looking up its current CSR program. I was inspired by how important tin foil is to its branding image. The famous, simple, foil wrapped burrito is seen on most of Chipotle’s advertisements, coupons and merchandise.

It turns out that Chipotle does not recycle its tin foil. So we designed a plan that included foil only recycling bins in the restaurants. Long story short, it got me thinking about how much a CSR initiative can affect the way people look at a company.

Designing a CSR plan around a part of the brand that is very noticeable and visual can really help gain popularity around its plan. By making it something that is easily relatable, people will care more and it will help the company’s reputation. While the CSR plan is always helpful to society and the environment, part of its importance with relation to public relations is the image that it is going to give the company.

Promoting a CSR plan can be the most beneficial part. While it is great to profit from the cause, it is important for companies to take advantage of the good reputation that can be gained from positive corporate responsibility.

In this article, Forbes analyzes the companies with the best CSR reputations. The top four companies that were mentioned were Microsoft, Disney, Google and BMW. After reading about this, I realized that these companies are very vocal about the corporate social responsibility. Other companies aren’t very vocal, even if their CSR plans might be better than the companies mentioned in the article.

Chipotle prides itself on its current CSR plan which focuses on local, fresh ingredients and recycled materials in its paper burrito bowls and tops. I had never heard anything about this, and I would not have assumed it based on the reputation that Chipotle has. Perhaps if the company promoted its CSR in a better way, then it would have a better reputation. A little bragging could do a lot of companies a solid favor.