Category Archives: Perspectives

Sold by the box.

I honestly lost count. Fifteen? Maybe twenty. But cut me a break — I mean there was fit, color, style, function, price, and retailer. Let’s not even get into brand. Hunting a new pair of dress oxfords was hardly my idea of fun.

But one pair got me. Upon trial, they certainly seemed closer to right than any of the others. That helped. The thing is, it wasn’t the only reason I swiped my card.

At the bottom of the shoebox laid a manifesto. My feet were busy thinking, so I took a moment to read it.

In those few seconds, I forgot my feet, and I forgot shoes. My imagination flipped on, and my head went to another place, to another thought, to another feeling. No other pair had encouraged such departure. With each previous, my focus remained fastened to the shoe from lace-up to “no thanks”.

Without that little head-trip, would I have purchased on product alone? Maybe so. But the imaginative journey undoubtedly facilitated a simpler, quicker, and more confident decision to buy.

Is your marketing escorting imaginations or blocking them? Here’s what I know. The product I bought shared similar features to a lot of products I denied. Only the product I bought sparked a vision.

Branching Out

Facebook’s had one expensive 2014. This Tuesday, the social networking behemoth shelled out $2 billion to acquire Oculus VR, a virtual reality goggle maker whose wares have yet to be released to the public. Of course, $2 billion is a bargain when compared to the $19 billion that Facebook paid for WhatsApp last month. While Facebook’s purchase of Oculus has been likened to eBay buying Skype, the WhatsApp investment seems sensible, if not a bit pricey. But the buyout I’m most excited about?

Back in January, Facebook gobbled up link-sharing service Branch for an estimated $15 million. Chump change, when you think about it. If you’re unfamiliar with Branch, it’s a New York City-based company that “builds social products to empower conversation.” Most recently, the company launched Potluck, a nifty little app designed to distill and disseminate the news. It works like this: you see a title, you swipe through three bite-size slides on the subject, then, if you want to learn more, Potluck links you to a third-party who addresses the topic in detail. As its name would suggest, Potluck brings lots of easily digestible content to the table that you can in turn share with friends inside the app.

According to Branch founder Josh Miller, Facebook has asked him to “build Branch at Facebook scale.” What I think, or at least hope, this means is that my NewsFeed will be less cluttered with provocative headlines from the likes of Viral Nova and tickld.com memes in favor of quirky news articles and useful content from reputable news sources. And if I can share that content? Even better. In November, Miller put it this way: “Nobody wants to talk about news on Instagram. Nobody wants to learn about the government shutdown on Snapchat, because that’s where you’re trading selfies with your girlfriend or posting photos of the sunset.” If Miller and his team of link-sharing enthusiasts are successful, $15 million could be a very small price to pay to make Facebook the single best platform for people to talk about the news.

Meet the Interrobang

One of the greatest aspects of being a writer is the creative latitude you magically attain when you receive your writing license in the mail (<- see?). In all seriousness, what’s appealing about writing is the fluidity of the English language.

Each year more words are added to dictionaries and it’s often a big news occasion. So while some unfortunate words are emblazoned on the vernacular until eternity (I cannot bear to link to twerk), we get useful new ones like hackable, food coma and protoplanet.

Punctuation even gets a little jolt every now and again, too. Ever heard of an interrobang? You mean you haven’t?! An interrobang is just perfect for those applications that call for a question mark but also demand the emphasis of an exclamation point. Thus, interrobang.

In the olden days of typesetting, some type families contained a unique glyph: the two different marks superimposed upon each other. Today, we just type them out side by side and I kinda dig it in the proper application.

What do you mean there’s no bacon left?!

Why haven’t you sponsored our bowling team yet?!

When is use of the font Papyrus ever okay?!

One of the most enjoyable things about writing is the vastness of your available canvas. It’s an endlessness that permeates the profession from finished product to tools to medium.

Language is in a constant state of evolution. How cool is that?!

Simply Brilliant: theSkimm

With so much information flying around, it pays to communicate clearly and simply—whatever your forum. For my money, nobody does it better than theSkimm.

Founded by NBC staffers Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, theSkimm is a daily e-digest of the world’s most important news stories, offered in bite-size, easy-to-digest chunks. The subscription base is largely “busy women who want to keep up on current events and cocktail party conversation but who are short on time,” although I suspect a broad male readership exists.

Here is how theSkimm covered the situation in Ukraine today:

Sign up for theSkimm here. Or at a minimum, let theSkimm’s straightforward writing style inspire your next piece of communication.

Your customers will thank you.

Five Things We Learned While Watching the Oscars

On Sunday night, a few of us WECO folk (and 43 million other viewers) gathered around the television for the 86th Annual Academy Awards. In the midst of our appreciation of the cinematic arts, Jared Leto’s age-defying appearance (he’s 42, just by the way), and the frivolity of awards seasons, I’d like to think we learned a few things.

1. At the Oscars, there is such a thing as a free lunch. Or, at least, a free ad.  

Halfway through the rather lengthy ceremony, host Ellen Degeneres joked that attendees must be starving. She then brought out three pizzas from LA-based pizzeria Big Mama’s & Papa’s. While Brad Pitt passed out paper plates and stars rummaged through their pockets to rustle up tip money for the bewildered-looking delivery boy, Coke enjoyed a bit of free advertising. Although Pepsi replaced Coca-Cola as this year’s exclusive non-alcoholic beverage sponsor of the Oscars, all three pizza boxes prominently bore the Coca-Cola logo. Ad Age reports that PepsiCo has “brought the situation to ABC’s attention” and the network is “investigating the incident.” I’d like to think that, somewhere, there’s a caffeine-fueled Pepsi exec throwing a Wolf of Wall Street-sized temper tantrum.

2. When Ellen talks, people tweet.

Ellen DeGeneres broke Twitter. Well, not really. But, after she asked Oscars viewers to retweet a photo of her surrounded by a dozen Hollywood A-listers, over 3 million people did just that. The increased

photo-sharing traffic even caused a “brief service issue” for Twitter. In a later portion of the televised event, Ellen gleefully announced that the website had temporarily crashed because of her request. She then added, “We really just made history. We’re all winners tonight.” Even Twitter. According to Bloomberg News, the temporary disruption brought the microblogging site “tons of publicity.”

3. Straw Poll: Our entire office has a crush on Lupita Nyong’o. You should too.

Resplendent in a custom pale blue Prada gown, Lupita Nyong’o took the stage after winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in 12 Years a Slave. In an acceptance speech both humble and triumphant, Nyong’o captured our hearts and earned our respect as an actress and artist. Watch her speech here, then click over for The Atlantic’s assessment of her perfection.

4. John Travolta is bad at names. Just ask Idina Menzel.

After John Travolta butchered the pronunciation of singer Idina Menzel’s first and last name, he “created a new standard for superstardom: You’re no one until you’ve had your name mangled by a confused, squinting John Travolta.” So says Slate magazine, whose name garbling widget has gained major traction on Facebook and other social media outlets. Try it here.

5. And, in fifteen years, Jennifer Lawrence will be a dead ringer for Hillary Clinton. Biopic in the making: