Gen Y and mass brands: Made for each other?

I’m not a huge fan of generation-based generalization, or people who make a living from such generalizations, but I couldn’t help but be intrigued by an assertion by Neil “Millenials” Howe in a recent Q&A with Brandweek. Here’s the bit, with the key parts bolded:

I think that millennials are capable of regenerating the whole notion of the big brand. The idea of the big brand went into decline with the Gen Xers and certainly during the late boomer period. Gen X was a generation that didn’t even want to be thought of as a generation, and it had a lot of little niches. There was never a Top 40 group of songs everyone listened to, and the generation is spread out in terms of wealth. They were cynical toward anything that was big, and this gave rise to niche and viral marketing. The whole concept of the Long Tail is perfectly designed for Gen X.

With millennials you’re returning to the fatter portion of the bell curve. This is a generation that wants to feel that they do have a center of gravity. So you’ll see the emergence of huge brands with this generation. Look at [what happened with] Harry Potter. Think of the idea of the big brand as being a dimension of the return to community.

I’m not sure if I agree, but it’s refreshing to encounter an angle on the mass-vs.-niche discussion that isn’t just about technology. It’s undeniable that technology has fractioned the marketplace, and will presumably continue to do so – but culture is affected by other factors, too. Possibly this is one of them.

What do you think?

Shyness or marketing strategy?

Recently I did a Q&A with GoodReads, for its newsletter. I enjoyed this one because it included a few questions very different from those I’m usually asked. Like this:

Q: Despite having multiple websites and a weekly column all jam-packed with your writing and ideas, a publicity headshot is nowhere to be found. Your readers also have to dig pretty deep to find any kind of biographical information. You don’t include anything like the “I grew up here and had these formative experiences” bio that is so common on writer sites. Are you shy or is this all part of a larger scheme of marketing yourself as a writer?

Here’s the whole Q&A.

(** As mentioned earlier, I’ll be answering questions (or criticisms, or whatever) from anybody who joins this GoodReads discussion group and chimes in. That’s August 11-24, but you can join and post questions or make comments anytime.)

Noted: Kalin’s new Etsy role

Oh, and I meant to mention this earlier: Robert Kalin, who you may recall from the Handmade 2.0 article (and/or from Buying In), has moved from CEO to chairman and Chief Creative Officer at Etsy.

This comes around six months earlier than I  might have guessed, but I don’t think it’s a surprise — and I suspect it’s a good thing for all concerned. It’s certainly not unusual for a founder to conclude that s/he doesn’t really want to remain CEO as a startup grows. But very often coming to that realization takes too long — or, worse, never comes, and the person is forced out.

I don’t know anything about Maria Thomas, the new CEO. So with that significant caveat, I would guess this is a good thing for the company, and for Kalin as well. (I haven’t talked to him or anybody at Etsy about this. If I do and hear anything interesting, will pass it along.)

Here’s the NYT item about it, including Kalin’s nail-polish choice for making the announcement. Earlier Silicon Alley Insider item here. Etsy VC backer here; Kalin post here.

The apparently-hot brand that was news to me


Before seeing this Business Week item, I had never heard of “TapouT, the apparel outfit that sets fashion rules for the up-and-coming sport of mixed martial arts (MMA).”

TapouT [is] an unlikely TV hit—the second season begins on cable’s Versus on July 30—but has helped catapult the company into an impressive lifestyle brand leveraging the red-hot interest in MMA.

My reaction to this was: What? Not only have not heard of the brand, or the show, I’ve never even heard of that cable network.

And interest in “mixed martial arts” is “red-hot”? Really?

Well, I guess so. The brand claims to have had sales of $25 million last year, and supposedly will approach $100 million this year. Here’s their online store. The general aesthetic is sort of like a wearable MySpace page.

So was I just totally out of it on this one? Did you already know? Are you a fan?

Hyperquick update on those Nike ‘Hyperdunk’ ads

The ones mentioned here on AntiFriday, I mean. Apparently Nike announced on Friday it’s pulling the plug on that campaign. Mere hours after the Murketing post! Coincidence? Well, probably. Okay, okay: almost certainly. Anyway, via AdFreak.

Q&A: Amy Jo


As I’ve mentioned before, the one indulgence I allowed myself in the promotion of Buying In was the decision to commission a few promotional posters. This was totally impractical, but for me it was a chance to work with some really great creators whose work I had silently admired from afar. One of those creators is Amy Jo, who I commissioned to make a poster for an event in Boston (see below). I was, obviously, thrilled with the results.

I have a bad memory for this sort of thing, so I don’t recall exactly where I first encountered her work. But what had struck me was her range as a designer, and of course how much I liked just looking at the images she came up with. Aside from posters for bands from the Black Keys to Joan Jett, she does pretty much any kind of design work you can think of. (Many of her screenprinted posters are for sale, as are some of her art prints, like the one above.) I also hoped I could get the Minneapolis-based Amy Jo to participate in Q&A here on (Earlier: Q&A with F2 Design, which did the other Buying In poster I’ve commissioned so far.)

Happily, she agreed. Below, she talks about the positive effects of, when to turn down work, her Etsy store(s), the upside of having health insurance and paid-vacation time, and where to find musical inspiration when all else fails. Here goes:

Q: I guess that I’m assuming that a majority of your business comes from making rock posters. Has the rise of and the onslaught of poster-makers of varying backgrounds promoting their work the net and so on been a problem, or has the Web been mostly a good thing?

A: That is exactly right on. The majority of what I do is rock posters, which draws in clients to inquire about other types of design work. More posters: festival posters, film posters, beer posters, and a book poster(!), just to name a few. I also design album/cd artwork, merchandise design, wedding invitations, wine labels, logos, business cards, etc. pretty much anything that needs to be designed, I can probably try do it. has been a huge boon to the recent rise of the poster. What’s great about gigposters is the core community… there are a ton of great (some even legendary) poster designers, a wealth of information, and great inspiration to draw from there. Some of my closest pals are people that I have met through, and I am lucky enough to get to travel around and enjoy their company at most of the Flatstock poster conventions. Read more

My mistakes

So far, I’m aware of two factual errors in Buying In.

1. On page 21, I say that Ed Templeton was born in 1973. In fact, he was born in 1972.

2. On page 211, I quote something written by “Peter Franchese.” In fact, his name is Peter Francese.

I guess it’s a cliché to say, “I regret the errors.” But I really, really do. My apologies to Mr. Templeton, and Mr. Francese.

I’ll be adding a link to this post (which I’ll update as needed) to the book’s page on this site, under the heading “Corrections.”

If you know of other factual errors such as these, please let me know.


Flickr Interlude

scared, originally uploaded by thisisp.

[Join and contribute to the Murketing Flickr group]

In The New York Times Magazine:

During an economic downturn, the coupon finds a new life online.

This week in Consumed: new life for the venerable coupon.

Coupon redemption has been falling steadily for more than a decade — until, it turns out, relatively recently. Of course, it’s the sluggish economy that’s inspiring this return to thriftiness — along with a newer digital iteration of coupon culture.

Read the column in the July 27, 2008 issue of The New York Times Magazine, or here.

Consumed archive is here, and FAQ is here. Consumed Facebook page is here.

Imaginary Brand News: Genco Pura

Here at Murketing HQ, we’re particularly fond of one of the newer offerings from Last Exit To Nowhere (a November 17, 2007, Consumed subject).

This time around the imaginary brand is Genco Pura, “the finest Sicilian olive oil.” As you may know, this is a business formed by Mr. Vito Corleone — although it turned out that he had an number of, you know, other interests.

There’s a “continental ladies fitted” version as well.

How can you refuse?


Two entries only.

Paint-Or-Die-But-Love-Me table (concept), via Core77.

“John Deere” rug, via bookofjoe.

Saying something nice about Nike (part two)

Okay, so I promised to say something else nice about Nike — and not just about its marketing. Now that I’ve started today by actually picking on Nike (and its marketing) yet again, I’m going to end it by finally making good on that earlier promise. Actually what I have to say is about the Air Jordan 23, and I guess technically the Jordan brand is a joint venture of some kind between Nike and Michael Jordan. Close enough, yes?

A few years ago Nike did a project with a design firm in New York called Staple. (Jeff Ng, the owner, is a former Murketing Q&A subject, and a very smart guy.) The project was called Considered, and it was a special sub-brand of Nike shoes with certain criteria: recyclable materials, no chemical adheviseves, and so on. (See Staple’s post about this here, for more details about Considered.) Read more

AntiFriday: In Nike’s face; “Never Greens”; etc.

Time for another roundup of the week in backlashes, dissent, and critiques. Here goes.

1. An “in your face” print/outdoor campaign from Nike is accused of blatant homophobia by — and by many, many comments on the W+K site where the work is posted. Other comments, of course, defend the ads, but some of the images (above, for instance) seem pretty calculated to me. [Thx: discoczech.]

I’m also sort of curious if any of the slang-ologists among you have a reaction to the one below. I associate the phrase “Punks jump up” with the early 1990s Brand Nubian track “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down,” which has a great sound — but also, if I remember right, included an anti-gay epithet in the original lyrics that was later excised.

But then again I’m not exactly long on street cred, so maybe the phrase “punks jump up” has other associations and the fact that it makes me think of that song is coincidence. I actually find that particular juxtaposition of image and phrase generally confusing. Any thoughts?

2. BrandWeek on “the Never Greens“:

a small but persistent new consumer demographic — people who either don’t care or are not interested in America’s new passion for sustainable, green products.

It’s a demo that’s been overlooked by marketers as they rush to tout their carbon offsets, recycled content and eco-friendly manufacturing.

About 10% of the population are Never Greens, according to a survey by Mintel International in Chicago, a research firm.

The Never Greens don’t buy green products, don’t remember green advertising when they see it and are irritated by it even if they do, according to Mintel.

More AntiFriday after the jump. Read more

Magic, the brain, and commercial persuasion

Two items of note on the broad subject of commercial persuasion and consumer decision-making.

First, Marginal Utility points to this Scientific American article about “how making decisions tires your brain.” Essentially the piece cites a number of studies suggesting that “executive function,” a name for a part of the brain involved in decision-making, is sort of like a muscle that gets worn out when used too often, leading to bad decisions even in areas unrelated to whatever realm we wore it out in.

Wow, that was a bad sentence, let’s just try quoting a bit of the article:

University of Minnesota psychologist Kathleen Vohs and colleagues repeatedly demonstrate that the mere act of making a selection may deplete executive resources. For example, in one study the researchers found that participants who made more choices in a mall were less likely to persist and do well in solving simple algebra problems.

Etc. Meanwhile, Wired summarizes research that looked at magic tricks and apparently extracts lessons to “advance our understanding of the brain — and perhaps help inoculate us against advertising.” The underlying article/research is not online, so I can only quote from a bit of Wired’s summation; here’s one interesting bit:

Psychological misdirection. Just as the attention of our eyes can guide, so can the attention of our minds. A casual motion belies its importance to a trick. Heightened suspense muddles the audience’s focus on the mechanics of a routine. The mere mention of a false explanation precludes notice of the real one.

So… to be glib … if commercial persuaders are magicians, and we’re taking in their tricks with exhausted executive-function muscles … how likely is it we make the best decisions?

I’ll leave it to you to sort out what you make of that. Hopefully your brain is less tired than mine.


Not to make excuses, but one reason I’ve been so inconsistent with this site lately (apart from the aforementioned computer trouble) is that I’ve been asked to do a few Q&As related to the book. These take time, but it’s possible that if you like, you’ll find them interesting.

So here’s one I did for Brandweek (which recently ran an excerpt of the book), and here’s one for The Society for Word of Mouth. Interesting? You decide.

In the last bit of book-related news for the week (I swear), the NYT Book Review will finally weigh in this Sunday. You’re on the edge of your seat about that, am I right?