Thanks largely to the Sixties' LSD-fueled psychedelic craziness (and a hefty bit of nostalgia bias), drugs and counterculture have a broad association with creativity. I was excited when Colorado legalized marijuana because, I thought, "Now I finally have a reason to land somewhere between New York City and Los Angeles," and "Stoners are fixin' to make some kick ass ads for weed!" But alas, the first marijuana commercial (posted to YouTube in February) is hitting major networks and it's horrible... even if you watch it high.
One visit to marijuanadoctors.com reveals the company's utilitarian bent. The company calls themselves "the only service that connects patients with physicians for medical marijuana recommendations." You're not gonna find any "free love" and "peace on earth" messaging there; these guys mean business. It's a one stop shop to find out everything you may need to know about medical marijuana, your local caregivers and state-by-state legalization statuses. But does a company's focus on functionality mean they can't have a funny, creative commercial?
Not at all. If anything, the Marijuana Doctors tried a little too hard. I mean, I get the message: "drug dealers are bad, marijuana isn't." That's a compound message and not as simple to communicate as they apparently thought. In the commercial, they depict the dealer as a dangerous source compared to the security and quality assured by their services. Mission 1 accomplished: drug dealers are bad! You wouldn't buy sushi from that guy, so don't buy marijuana from him. But what about mission 2: marijuana isn't bad? What do sushi and marijuana have in common other than the fact that buying them from a questionable source can make you quite ill (a fact that applies to a number of commodities). Mission 2 FAIL!
The spot would have been much more effective if the dealer had actually been a marijuana dealer. Then our MDs could clearly make a 1 to 1 comparison and declare to their waiting audience, "Don't buy from this guy. Let us tell you where to get marijuana because we're better, we're safer, we're legal."
But that's on the serious side. If they really wanted to be funny, they should have just actually been funny. Picture this...
Everyone's been at a party trying to hunt down a dealer (don't pretend to be all holier-than-thou now). Two stoners are at a college party looking to get high. As the DJ blasts Ke$ha, our stoners spot an older dude in the corner wearing a lab coat, stethescope and head mirror. They walk over and, with familiarity, greet the man, "DUDE! You're the weed doctor! Glad you're here." Of course, the weed doctor dryly explains to them that in order to actually get medical marijuana it has to be prescribed and that he'd be happy to recommend a local physician who can evaluate whether or not medical marijuana is needed in their case. Confused, the stoners say "Dude, if you're not gonna get us high, why are you here?" They gesture toward the chaotic room of partiers. The weed doctor smiles and says, "Who me? Oh! I LOVE Ke$ha!" - Court Williams
Though people often use the terms interchangably, content marketing and content strategy are not the same thing. Like twins, they are manifestly related. But they are, indeed, separate things. We love to do things with a twist at Kess; so, we're going to use a shot of twin models Jörg and Jochen Peroutka to show how we see the difference between content marketing and content strategy.
Jörg is leaning forward, slightly more engaged. Jochen has his back.
The objective of content marketing, like any marketing, is to drive profitable customer engagement. Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as a way of "creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience." Jörg's stance (on the left) certainly looks like he might be coming to get you. Jochen (on the right), on the other hand is standing solidy behind his brother much in the way that content strategy is the backbone of all content marketing efforts a company may undertake.
Jochen's face is soft, reflective and a bit interrogative. Jörg is ready for action.
The goal of a comprehensive content strategy is to organize and analyze content assets across a whole organization and to determine where there may be gaps or inefficiencies that can be corrected. It ensures that systems are in place to support the content goals of an organization. In this shot, Jochen looks as though he could be contemplating the mechanics of the photographer's camera or the placement of the key light. His brother Jörg's face is focused on nailing his look, the only thing his audience (i.e. any person looking at the photograph) will see. This is content marketing's focus as well: to create the specific story that will be most successful in developing a positive customer relationship.
Voilà! One picture worth a thousand marketing words. – Court Williams
The big two publishing companies, Marvel and DC, have announced more female-led books than we’ve seen in the past. Following the overwhelming success of The Avengers movie, Marvel will launch a new Black Widow comic book this January. And over at DC, Wonder Woman’s monthly book is pretty much the best thing they’re producing. They’ve made some drastic changes to her history, but she’s still portrayed as a strong warrior, competent and independent. X-Men, from Marvel, showcases some of the most interesting and powerful female superheroes in the industry. Phoenix, Polaris, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Dazzler, Psylocke, Rachel Grey, Jubilee, and Emma Frost have all played a huge role in storylines. Recently, Marvel even began publishing an X-Men book with an all female cast. And it has been very well received due to Brian Wood’s expert character development and Olivier Coipel’s art moreso than low-cut bustiers.
On the film side of things, though neither is up for a solo film, both Wonder Woman and Black Widow are apparently must-haves for franchised sequels. Black Widow is going to appear in Captain America: Winter Soldier and Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. And Wonder Woman will be featured in the Man of Steel sequel (the official title has not yet been released) coming out in 2015. *An aside: I have my doubts about Gal Gadot’s ability to play Diana Prince and about the direction Zack Snyder might take the whole thing. But, if Zack can avoid making Diana just a love interest for Superman, and can convincingly put her in direct competition with an adversary in the movie, it might be okay.
Zack, please read up on the Bechdel Test! I swear it will help.
So what's the catch? Where's the controversy in this wave of goodwill and empowerment? Enter, DC Comic’s Batwoman. Despite her derivative name, she is in fact a well-developed hero in her own right with a rather extensive history and background. She also happens to be…. a lesbian. Conservative readers obviously object, but there has been backlash on DC from the more liberal readers as well because they’ve decided not to allow Batwoman to get married. This decision disrupted an ongoing story that writer and artist team J.H. Williams III and W. Hayden Blackman, had developed for the book. So, the team eventually - and very publically - quit the series. DC replaced the duo with a new writer, Marc Andreyko, and artist, Jeremy Haun, who will hopefully continue to establish Batwoman as an integral part of the DC Universe.
It’s undeniable that female comic book characters are all sexy, but the contemporary portrayal of these women does not push sex appeal as the primary focus or sole selling point. The writers, artists, editors, et al. are dedicated to establishing these heroes as characters first and foremost. I was raised by a strong minded and outgoing feminist who's outlook on some of the costumes, poses and generally sexist approach to female superheroes hugely influenced my view of the storylines and characters I follow today. And with the number of young ladies entering the graphic novel community, more and more of the audience will be just as critical. I’ll be keeping my eye on the development of female heroes as it continues, and I can’t wait to see the establishment buck the preconceived notion that female superheroes only sell because sex sells. – James Emmett
As tech companies go, Apple is already sexy as hell, touting a design-focused ethos and high-quality materials (and the prices that go along with them). Fashion already LOVES the brand; try finding a design studio or editorial office without a mac. But, recently evidence has mounted that they have something up their high-end sleeves. They have built the equivalent of an in-house "glam squad" with recent hires culled from fashion's leaders. Pay attention kids, fashion and tech are about to get it on hot and heavy.
Companies on both sides have tried to arrange the awkward marriage of fashion and tech. "Change" and "newness" are the driving force behind both industries, but unfortunately the combo rarely pans out. Remember HP and Vivienne Tam's butterfly mini-laptops... pardon me, digital clutches? Yeah, that happened. And now there are the early starters in wearable tech who aren't fairing too well either. Samsung's Galaxy Gear smart watch is struggling to define itself as "stylish" and Google Glass wearers - before the product has even officially launched - already have a pejorative nickname: glassholes. Apple, on the other hand, has what it takes to pull off holy matrimony rather than the corporate equivalent of a shotgun wedding and I think they're just about ready to send out save-the-dates.
J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler has been on Apple's board since 1999, so while his presence is nothing new, he is surely playing a role in helping the company navigate it's relationship with fashion. Heads first turned when Apple snagged Saint Laurent Paris CEO Paul Deneve back in July for "special projects." His history includes stints at luxury powerhouses like Courreges, Nina Ricci and Lanvin, but it wasn't time to jump to conclusions. He'd worked in sales and marketing at Apple Europe in the 90s and the company has a tradition of in-family promotion/hiring. It was this past October that things got really interesting. Apple snatched Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts. Under Ahrendts, Burberry rolled out several successful, innovative retail concepts (the most popular being the integration of e-commerce and digital entertainment into Burberry's Regent Street flagship). So, there is always the possibility that Tim Cook thinks the Genius Bar is passé and has brought on his new SVP of Retail to shake up the Apple shopping experience. But it's highly unlikely that a powerhouse like Ahrendts took a step down in title for any opportunity less than earth shattering. What could it be? A product (iGlasses or an iWatch)? An entire Apple fashion/tech label? Whatever it may be, the evidence is mounting that something stylish is about to come out of Cupertino. - Court Williams
"For one season, the brand 'Raf Simons' will not exist."
That's fashion designer Raf Simons' latest declaration. The designer is collaborating with artist Sterling Ruby on the upcoming men's collection showing on January 15 in Paris.
Though Simons is generally a purist (sometimes downright minimalist) in his designs and Ruby's work is undeniably messy, the word is that this collection is equal parts designer and artist. "There is not one shirt, one shoe, one sock that is not from our mutual thinking process," Simons has said about the collection.
It's no secret that Simons hugely admires Ruby. His debut couture collection for Dior was inspired by the artist as is the interior of the Raf Simons boutique in Tokyo. But, fashion is no different from any other industry when it comes to brands. Traditionally, your brand is sacrosanct (remember the buzz around Slimane's brand decisions at Dior Homme and most recenty at Saint Laurent Paris). So, there's more than a designer collaboration going on this time.
Simons is making a conscious decision to "unbrand," to allow an external aesthetic authority to make decisions inside his visual kingdom. The risk? That it's a complete flop and the label bleeds loyalists worse than when Ungaro experimented with La Lohan. The reward? The ever-elusive "freshness" that established names and brands are always striving for. Brands in every industry should take a careful look at how this plays out. Maybe everyone could do with a little "unbranding" every once in a while. - Court Williams
Earlier this month, the US Federal Reserve began circulating the latest $100 bill featuring all kinds of high tech security features. Ever since the 1996 redesign, it seems that you hear the same thing about every currency update: "It looks like Monopoly money." Well, as it turns out, even though the colors and bold graphic elements of our newest notes are meant to decorate decidedly 21st century technologies, they actually have a lot in common with the earliest bills our nation issued as far back as the Civil War.
Click the infographic above to see a quick history of the design of the American $100 bill.
infographic: Court Williams
Never let it be said that Rick Owens doesn't know how to put on a show. Today, his Spring 2014 runway presentation was one of the most um... "comprehensive" examples of social commentary to come out of fashion in a while. His angry, amateur models tackled issues like models' weight and body image, race and discrimination in the industry and notions of socioeonomic status all in a single presentation. Whoa, Rick! But was it effective? Will it actually make people think? Was it even intended to make people think? Or was it just another designer shock and awe moment?
Fashion shows are four-dimensional aesthetic expressions of brands' or designers' points of view. So, of course, creatives have 100% carte blanche to show pretty much whatever they'd like. But, my initial reaction to this show - to be completely honest - was "these people are ugly and those clothes don't fit." If the intent is to celebrate unconventional concepts of beauty or attractiveness, shouldn't the people be presented as attractive? Can a scowling face and animalistic aggression be attractive? Step is highly revered in black communities and in the south and I've seen many Deltas and AKAs step in my day. But, while step shows are definitely impressive, I don't think anyone I know would ever describe them as "attractive" or "flattering." As a matter of fact, letting loose and "getting ugly" is part of the art. So, what is challenging about a group of people society already writes off as "ugly" acting, well... "ugly?"
Also, fashion is a language. If fabric and material are the words, fit and construction are the grammar. Owens is a master at draping and parades complex pieces (almost origami-esque at times) down his runway season after season. So why were so many of the looks today ill-fitting? If a designer uses "real women" (which I am only scarcely in support of to begin with) those women ideally should be treated with the same respect and attention to detail as a model. You'd hardly find in any other presentation a pair of shorts drawing up, pressed between touching thighs or straight zippers contorted by a tummy bulge beneath the material. Models are meant to be hangers, but many-a-dress has been altered backstage to prevent the unsightly bulges that pop up when a seem cuts into the waistline of a size 2 girl (Yes, ladies. Models have extra skin too). Why not this time? It seems these women were treated more like props for a spectacle than ambassadors for unconventional beauty.
But, Rick is brave and deserves credit for swimming up-stream. So far, the fashion crew seems to have enjoyed the show even though the clothes seem to be inspired by the wardrobe in Netflix's absolutely not "fashiony" Orange is the New Black. As the urban, hip-hop and black communities continue to make headway in the fashion industry, it's great to see everyone's take on them as creative inspiration. It's great to see it open for discussion. As Cosmo's new Fashion Market Director Shiona Turini put it, "[This is] representing a culture so often overlooked in this industry. This meant so much to me it's unreal." - Court Williams
Runway photos are courtesy of Style.com and photographer Marcus Tondo
"It represents the sky, the ocean and all the beautiful pools that are a way of life in L.A. and Southern California." That's Hermès USA CEO Robert Chavez's explanation for the brand's $12,900 blue leather basketball. The ball was designed in celebration of the return of the 12,000 square foot Hermès boutique in Beverly Hills (434 N. Rodeo Drive), reopening on Sept. 4.
It's not the first time a luxury label has gone way beyond the requisites of sportif. Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and, obviously, Hermès dabble in the space regularly. And if you think 13k is especially bonkers, don't even take a look at ALO Diamonds' million-dollar golf ball made of over 54.3 carats of girls' best friends and white gold.
I personally prefer my luxury to be a little more slick; more caviar, less nachos. If you must go sporty, why not lean toward Ambrosi Abrianna's crocodile and ostrich skin golf bag with 24-karat gold tees or one of Chanel's monochrome carbon fiber, polyurethane and fiber glass surfboards? Even the $8,500 baseball mit Hermès rolled out when it's Manhattan men's store opened in the Financial District was quite chic (note: it wasn't bright blue). But, giving credit where credit is due, I'd have to say Hermès' clusterfuck of kitsch, nouveau riche and Compton is distinctly Los Angeles... as intended. Nail. On. The. Head. - Court Williams
In a moment straight out of MTV's Ridiculousness, Nicole Easton made the decidedly stupid decision to try a leap from the roof of her new home into her backyard pool. She unfortunately landed on the concrete and crushed the bones in both of her feet. It was determined that she'd need to be in a wheelchair for 6 months to a year, pretty much halting her fun-with-roomies plans. Her mother's response? Crowdfunding.
That's right. Her mother posted the video on YouTube and made a GoFundMe page to raise $4,200 for Nicole.
I know what you're thinking. Yes, Kickstarter campaigns for the "Veronica Mars" movie and Zach Braff's "Garden State" sequel raised a few brows (mainly because they were spearheaded by people who aren't particularly light in the wallet), but they were both wildly popular, set online fundraising records and probably aren't a sign of humanity's moral demise. "Nicole's Recovery Fund" page on GoFundMe, started by her mother Carrie, is an entirely different story. Carrie hopes to raise money, not for medical expenses, but to pay her daughter's share of the rent in her new home so Nicole can continue to live with her buddies through her disability. She also hopes to raise enough money to pay for Nicole's food and toiletries.
Needless to say, the response from the GoFundMe community has been less than positive. Though Carrie has attempted to frame herself as a caring mother trying to help her daughter, most people see a person with no real point of reference to disability, sacrifice and suffering; and she's accused of being wildly insensitive and capitalizing on her daughter's immaturity. Several biting comments have been left on the GoFundMe page (most along the lines of "how dare you ask me for money for your stupid kid"). The video has since been removed and Carrie claims she's even been reported for fraud.
Please. Get well soon, Nicole. - Court Williams