Category: General

Millie & Molly: My Son’s New Best Friends

My parents grew up in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, PA, during the 40s and 50s. While my mother was from a more traditionally sized family of three, my dad had 10 brothers and sisters. For his immigrant parents, this made life a lot of things: busy, tiring, loving, challenging and most of all, equal…let me explain.

Growing up poor, at least for my family, simply meant that there wasn’t time to hate or to consider one’s race or gender. The focus was on putting food on the table, making sure everyone was clean and well mannered and figuring out how to advance in life while following the golden rule. For my dad and his siblings, as they grew up and began having their own children, nothing changed.

In the tradition of my grandparents and my parents, this is how I’ve lived my life. However, having a lifetime of diversity amongst my family, friends, and co-workers has taught me that for many of my fellow global citizens, demographics matter deeply.

Over the past few years, as racial tensions in our country have grown and as more and more women rise in power in our world, I find myself not simply entering into rooms and taking a seat, but paying careful attention to the make-up of the room hoping to see fewer people that look like me.

These thoughts are even more prevalent given the two latest roles that I’ve assumed: start-up co-founder and father of a 15-month-old boy. The relevance of these new experiences is the lens they each bring along with them.

As a start-up co-founder, I will be in a position to influence the make-up of the team and culture. I will hire and I will fire, and while previously I would have only considered the experience of the candidate weighted against the role we were asking him or her to fill, I believe I’ll now need to consider demographics as well.

As a father, I now look at the world through the eyes of my son Grayson, wanting to make certain that whether he grows up in the suburban world I did or in the urban one he was born into, the view is the same: one of diversity and equality.

I find myself hoping that this is so due to two of his new friends, Millie & Molly. These women are the stars of GE’s latest television spots that support the company’s goals of having 20,000 women fill STEM roles by 2020. Mildred Dresselhaus was the first woman to win the National Medal of Science and Engineering while Molly is a fictional girl who invents brilliant engineering solutions to the problems around her.

I LOVE these commercials, and as it turns out so does my son. When they appear on TV (please, obsessed parents and those who are MDs, try to calm yourself at the thought of a 15m old watching TV), he is mesmerized. Just look at these photos:

Admittedly, on the Molly spot, he digs the jingle, but that doesn’t start until eight seconds in and there’s no (what he considers) dance music playing behind the Millie ad. We actually don’t yet allow my son to sit and watch TV, but it’s on in the background and there’s not one other piece of content that when it hits the screen, outside of a Steelers’ game, pulls his attention away from whatever he is doing.

Studies show that the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day and ones such as these are the ones I hope will permeate my son’s subconscious. Most importantly, my hope for my son and his generation is that companies like GE aren’t simply talking the talk, but are also walking the walk and that the enrichment, both personally and professionally, that comes from diversity will no longer be something that has to be measured to prove its efficacy.



I’m Your Huckberry

Like most people in the world who receive mail, I find myself inundated with catalogs that I have no recollection ever signing up for and more importantly that have nothing to do with anything I care about.

One day last week, as I was tossing the five I received into the recycling bin, one caught my eye. I’m not sure if it was the name, the logo, or maybe a combination of both, but something said to me, hmmm…this looks interesting.

It was from the guys at Huckberry, an independent online retailer, and magazine for adventurous guys, and after a flip through the story-telling pages of their magazine it turns out interesting was an understatement.

This particular issue, which they advise you enjoy under the influence, check, was telling me all about their 72ish hours in the San Juan Islands with a few of their compadres. With each turn of the page, I was transported a bit deeper into their journey feeling less and less like I was being sold to and more and more along for the ride.

As they state, their goal is to be equal parts store, magazine, and inspiration meaning that customers falling in love and finding value with the content and the company are just as important as the goods they are hawking! I found this to be the case.

The pieces that occupy each page are carefully curated, essentials for the Huckberry lifestyle, making it easier to conjure up why I would need the Bare Bones Forest Lantern, the Armogan Spirit of St. Louis Watch or everything on pages 40 & 41.

They don’t stop short at only caring about how I look. They also care about how I feel, ensuring I’ll be well nourished and well oiled, detailed by the Salt Baked Trout and Apple Maple Hot Toddy recipes.

The thing about this catalog, maybe the biggest difference,  was the sense of attainability, reminding me of an actual day in the life of my past versus a hopeful day in the life of my future. I know these guys; went to high school with these guys; drank beer and passed out on the porch and probably tripped over, or even onto, the fire with these guys. I didn’t have to stretch my imagination to connect to the brand as such is the case many of the others.

I look forward to the day they bring the 2D pages of their print and digital touch points to life with a physical experience; maybe in the shape of a pop-up shop on a houseboat or a stand on the side of the road to a picturesque Maine town.

Until then, I say well-done Huckberry!  I can’t wait to see where you take me next.


Synchronizing The Conversation

Picture it…Lake Como…mid-day on the patio at The Grand Tremezzo Hotel; jazz playing lightly overhead; your favorite afternoon drink in hand. Perfectly displayed in panoramic fashion, the most picturesque view your eyes have witnessed. In a place like this, customer experiences are happening at every moment, all around you.

Then, as if torn from a movie script, right in front of you, a husband sneaks away for a moment to surprise his wife with a gift. He returns, placing it on the table in front of her. She’s taken aback, opens it, utters it’s perfect and expresses her delight with affection. The last day of their vacation has been made!

While our husband may have used the Internet to research this gift, his mobile to price it, and an app to find an offer, the thought that was required to enable the moment was all his…humanity! No matter how quickly technology advances, the difference between an amazing experience and a memorable one is always the human element.

Of course, the problem in today’s world is that technology has taken over, causing customers’ expectations to rise like never before while forcing businesses to keep up by deploying any number of these ingredient technologies.

The challenge, that is presenting itself as the answer, is Omni-channel; this horribly overused word that was no doubt conjured up by business-person rather than a creative, just like phygital or SoLoMo! Omni-channel, that’s another $20 in the swear jar, is about fusing together the right set of technologies to enable a seamless view of inventory or the ability to pay across touchpoints, etc…

The larger question is, how do retailers enable a synchroznied customer experience, one that allows, encourages, customers to shop the brand, leveraging the technology that has become as connected to them as their fingers and toes, and do so whenever they want, wherever they want, however they want, while finding the very best value for it

Now, for those of us in [the customer experience field], we all know the obstacles and complexities that exist, and we’re all working endlessly to solve them, but the task has grown so monumental, not one company can solve it alone.

In an attempt to do my part, I’ll be sharing a series of articles on customer experience from all perspectives: retailers, partners, designers, technologists, agencies, consultants, and everybody in between, while penning other posts on insights from the world of retail, as living in NYC provides me with access to experiences that can’t be had anywhere else.

My goal, just like the solution, is to synchronize the conversation, to provoke relevance and meaning, and to most importantly, learn from everybody involved.

I look forward to hearing from you!