Saturday, July 13, 2013

Girl Talk

Loved reading this article about how not to talk to little girls. Guilty as charged - I have gushed over  them and their cute clothes with parents looking on adoringly. There is a social expectation to tell girls they are pretty and well-mannered - failing to do so may be considered rude. For many of us there is also a double standard at play. We tell our own daughters that being smart is cool, we encourage them to develop their minds and not obsess over physical appearance and yet we that is the primary lens we use to view girls in general. 

Reading this also made me think about how we praise cuteness in very young girls but when that becomes the center of their identity in their teens and beyond, we view it as a problem. As the author points out, very early in the life of girls, we start to reward and recognize things that they should be least focused on. Her recommendation on how to talk to girls is one I will be sure to remember

Try this the next time you meet a little girl. She may be surprised and unsure at first, because few ask her about her mind, but be patient and stick with it. Ask her what she’s reading. What does she like and dislike, and why? There are no wrong answers. You’re just generating an intelligent conversation that respects her brain.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Over Trusting

Interesting story on a new kind of credit card that preys a little less on customer's than others. Eliminating late fees and penalty rate for late payments are more tweaks than a complete re-thinking of how credit card companies make money and what they are in business for. While the author suggests that the move is about building customer trust, I would tend to be skeptical about that. 

To me it seems to be more about differentiation. Rewards, miles and cash-back offers is what everybody else is competing on. It is harder to get noticed by doing more of the same - to entice a switch it would take a deal so spectacular that it is no longer a profitable business decision. The idea here to eliminate some pesky fees and usurious interest rates is a very smart one for sure. It gets the customer's attention and there is the first mover advantage. The marketing company behind it calls it for what is really is

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Email and Social Media

I have watched with a mix of fascination and exasperation as many of my clients have embraced social media  to ensure they were not "falling behind" even as their email and direct mail efforts suffered from an assortment of malaises. It is good to read that the demise of email has been somewhat exaggerated.

In 2013, no company can expect to be taken seriously if it’s not on Facebook or Twitter. An endless stream (no pun intended) of advice from marketing consultants warns businesses that they need to “get” social or risk becoming like companies a century ago that didn’t think they needed telephone

So like getting the telephone, these companies get social media and then begin to agonize over attribution. Did the person that liked them on Facebook or checked out a video end up converting into a paying customer? Did they influence their Facebook Friends to buy as well ? Sadly, those questions can generally not be answered with any degree of certainty and the analysts will monkey  with the data to tell whatever story management is in the mood for. I have watched amazing transformations in the nature of insights teased out from such data as organization structures changed. Going out to lunch with Data Wranglers is always a great learning opportunity.

In the middle of all this, email has become the not so glamorous also-ran. How much fun can it be to scrub an ungainly mailing list and keep it clean. Cleaning a pile of dirty dishes is a lot more exciting. In this average conversion rate study by industry the need for good email address data is not mentioned at all. In reality that is a big driver in the success of a campaign. Attribution as it turns out is not rocket science in the email channel - the focus can be entirely on achieving the highest conversion rate possible. In breaking down multi-channel attribution, Avinash Kaushik does a great job of explaining why it may be a stretch at best
 
You'll realize (even if you use the greatest customized model created by your most magnificent consultant at a equally magnificent cost to you) that success then will come not from that rough output, but rather from your ability to take that rough output, make changes, observe the impact (over weeks, or months if you are small sized), identify insights and be less wrong over time.  

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Using A Word

Reading this quote by Adrienne Rich made me think about what it means when this word can no longer used in a human relationship.

An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

She explains why this right is an important one

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.
It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.
It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us


So considered in inverse, ceasing to have the right or losing it along the way might imply growing self-delusion and isolation. In failing to do justice to our complexity, we might turn reductive in how we experience ourselves and understand our context (and purpose) relative to the world. Finally on being able to find only few people in our lives who give us the right to love, comes the idea of dilution of the word itself. Maybe when used without any specific implication and forethought the word does not set off this process that is "delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved" and in as such it fails to achieve some of what Rich describes as important.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Connecting With Youth

I have been waiting for J to be old enough to appreciate Thomas Hardy but the language has proved to be a huge barrier. As a compromise, we watched Far from the Madding Crowd together so she could get a sense of Bathsheba, a character that had made an impression on me when I read the book in my early teens. 

J got interested in her the way her heart (and mind) worked and the choices she made in love. The movie was not nearly as rich in texture as the book itself and I am still hoping she will take the time to read. How else will she find the words of wisdom such as these :

“Bathsheba loved Troy in the way that only self-reliant women love when they abandon their self-reliance. When a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength she is worse than a weak woman who has never any strength to throw away. One source of her inadequacy is the novelty of the occasion. She has never had practice in making the best of such a condition. Weakness is doubly weak by being new.” 

The expression of love that J will become familiar with in her youth in the society that she is growing up in, will have close to nothing in common with Hardy's Wessex. However, the way a self-reliant woman loves when she chooses to abandon her self-reliance is universal and timeless.