Tag Archives: marketing

What is “Fast Fashion”, how it relates to big data, Facebook and us

Speed. Data. Lack of security. Encouraged anxiety. What makes a self-identity? And… fashion, clothing retailers and social media. n+1 has an interesting read in: The Accidental Bricoleurs:

…As the fast in fast fashion implies, the companies’ comparative advantage lies in speed, not brand recognition, garment durability, or reputable design. They have changed fashion from a garment making to an information business, optimizing their supply chains to implement design tweaks on the fly. Zara “can design, produce, and deliver a new garment and put it on display in its stores worldwide in a mere 15 days,”2 and this flow of information is by far the most significant thing the company produces, far more important than any piped pinafore, velveteen blazer or any of its other 40,000 yearly items. The company’s system of constant information monitoring allows it to quickly spot and sate trends and at the same time largely avoid overproduction boondoggles and the need for heavy discounting.

Unlike earlier generations of mass-market retailers, like the Gap’s family of brands (which includes, in ascending order of class cachet, Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic), companies like Zara and Forever 21 make no effort to stratify their offerings into class-signifying labels. They also don’t adopt branding strategies to affiliate with particular luxe or ironic lifestyles, à la Urban Outfitters or Abercrombie & Fitch. Instead they flatter consumers in a different way, immersing them in potential trends on a near weekly basis and trusting them to assemble styles in their own images. Clothes reach stores with practically unspoiled semiotic potential, and consumers are invited to be expressive rather than imitative with the goods, to participate more directly in fashion. We become the meaning makers, enchanting ordinary cardigans and anoraks with a symbolic significance that has only a tenuous relationship to the material item. We work in lieu of advertisers to reconfigure trends and remix signifiers, generating new and valuable meanings for goods. The more new clothes come in, the more creative we can be.

Fast-fashion retailers reap the fruits of that creativity by capturing our preferences in successive generations of products and nearly synchronizing to our whims. Thanks to the rich data we generate as we select, reject, and recombine the items fast fashion offers, the companies need not develop their own brands so much as seize upon customers’ ingenuity, distilling their choices into easily replicable trends and rushing the resulting products to market. If fashion functions like a language, then the fast-fashion firms are mainly interested controlling the underlying system and leave the meaning of the “words” to interchangeable designers and individual consumers. As long as customers are willing to speak fast fashion’s language, the companies aren’t particular about the specifics of the vocabulary. They are concerned only with the rate and volume of change.

…Like fast fashion, social media have brought with them a profusion of means and ways to reshape and display our identity. Constantly given new tools to share with, always prompted to say something new about ourselves (“What’s on your mind?” Facebook asks thoughtfully), we are pressured to continually devise ingenious solutions to our identity, which suddenly appears to be a particular kind of recurring problem: one that can be solved by replenishing social media’s various channels with fresh content. Just as fast fashion seeks to pressure shoppers with the urgency of now or never, social media hope to convince us that we always have something new and important to say—as long as we say it right away. And they are designed to make us feel anxious and left out if we don’t say it, as their interfaces favor the users who update frequently and tend to make less engaged users disappear. One can easily fall out of fashion with the algorithms Facebook uses to select which content users see out of the plethora of material friends in their network contribute.

…In social media, where everyone can employ design ideology, the persistent messages of advertising—that magical self-transformation through purchases is possible, that one’s inner truth can be expressed through the manipulation of well-worked surfaces—become practical rather than insulting. Not only do the methods and associative logic of advertising become more concretely useful, but its governing ideology no longer seems conformist but radically individualistic. Social media encourage us to appropriate whatever we want and claim it as our own without feeling derivative or slavishly imitative. On Facebook, if I link to, say, a YouTube video of Bob Dylan singing “I Threw It All Away” on the Johnny Cash Show in 1969, I am saying something particular about myself, not merely consuming the performance. I am declaring that video clip to be essentially equivalent to an update I may have written about a trip to Philadelphia or to pictures of me at a party that someone might have tagged. It is all bricolage for personal identity building.

It is a long, but thought provoking read. Go read it.

Related Metafilter thread: “The Total-Corporate State May Have Arrived”.

Princess Power

Debra Levin Gelman wrote a terrific post about the princess paradox on Wednesday that I’ve been meaning to comment on here. Toys, clothes, media, just about any kind of consumer good marketed for young girls uses ‘the Princess’ as a hook to get your child to ask you to buy it. Disney and others are using this powerful imagery to reach every younger children in pursuit of purchases and life-long relationships with their brands. Some, like Peggy Orenstein (Newsweek), think these things can actually harm children.

We are pretty much in the same boat as Debra and many other parents – it is almost impossible to avoid the onslaught – so we are forced to find ways to provide our daughter with imagery, stories, media, and other toys and material that can expand and widen her horizons. For us that means a house filled with story books, musical instruments, arts and crafts, Lego Duplo blocks and lots and lots of creative play. It’s fun and I think we’d be doing this whether we were reacting to gender-stereotyped consumerism or not. But I gotta admit – I get mad at times at the marketing of goods aimed at her whose goal seems to be to encourage her to be passive and wait for someone to save her (and yes, I realize there are exceptions).

Related links:

Boing Boing: Gender stereotypes woven into toy ads

The Achilles Effect: Word Cloud: How Toy Ad Vocabulary Reinforces Gender Stereotypes

Smithsonian Magazine: When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink (the Pink/Blue thing is *recent*).

Recent Space-X on NPR highlights how little we read

A story is posted about a private company working to build the largest capacity lifter in service and what do a significant number of commentors fret about?

That the government is wasting its money on building it!

It is pretty clear that most of those who are commenting that way have not read (or worst – understood) the story, but the ‘private company’ part was highlighted in the summary.

Check it out – NPR.org (on Facebook): Plans For World’s Most Powerful Rocket Unveiled

Sad, huh?

But don’t you think there are multiple failures taking place exemplified here? And where do you feel they stem from?

Maureen Johnson – “I am not a brand.”

Maureen Johnson: “Manifesto”:

The internet is made of people. People matter. This includes you. Stop trying to sell everything about yourself to everyone. Don’t just hammer away and repeat and talk at people–talk TO people. It’s organic. Make stuff for the internet that matters to you, even if it seems stupid. Do it because it’s good and feels important. Put up more cat pictures. Make more songs. Show your doodles. Give things away and take things that are free. Look at what other people are doing, not to compete, imitate, or compare . . . but because you enjoy looking at the things other people make. Don’t shove yourself into that tiny, airless box called a brand–tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people.

Read the whole thing

There can never be enough journalists like Bill Moyers

Recently my friend and coworker Arpit Mathur passed along a critique of journalism’s sorry state using the leaked iPhone story as evidence.

Bill MoyersThe sad thing is that we might be amidst some kind of golden age for journalism and are largely unawares.

For evidence, visit sites and services like ProPublica, NPR.org, McClatchyDC, THe Center for Investigative Reporting, Global Voices, Mother Jones, Global Post.

Separate from these organizations are independents who are putting it on the line every day just for passion.

And then there are aggregators like Arts & Letters Daily to help navigate it all and organizations like Media Mobilizing to help empower acts of journalism to be created.

In Philadelphia some investors just made a large bet that Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, part of this city’s infrastructure of journalism has a promising future.

For impact consider what it took to write the “Tainted” Justice” series in the Daily News or “Justice Delayed, Dismissed, Denied” in the Inquirer.

Recently Clay Shirky spoke of the importance of organizations like the Inquirer and Daily News (The Boston Globe in this case) in reporting the Boston Catholic Church abuse scandal.

The news ecosystem is evolving and Philadelphia matters as a testbed for the rest of the nation.

For more examples of this consider the following list of Philadelphia independents, non-profits, for-profits, and organizations: NEPhilly.com, OurPhiladelphia, Philadelphia Neighborhoods, The Frankford Gazette, The Broad Street Review, WHYY, thenotebook, Phawker, Philebrity, Citypaper, Philadelphia Weekly, The Philadelphia New Media Hub, Technically Philly, and the yearly Bar Camp NewsInnovation Philadelphia. And then there is the ever growing quality list covering the arts, food, and sports, way too many too mention in this space.

J-Lab, The Institute for Interactive Journalism, recently published a report on Philadelphia’s news landscape and made some recommendations. Check it out.

Programmers and Journalists are realizing common motivations and many journalists have been thinking about computing in whole new ways that relate to their work.

There are threats. It is harder for acts of journalism we need to know, but are not aware of it, to reach us. The old economic models that have supported it have crumbled. Changes in technology and culture have brought upheaval and amidst that upheaval those with power will abuse that power when not watched. The constraints on our attention and business pressures on those to breach it are huge. It’s important to lay out these threats because they get to core issues having to do with the infrastructure required for acts of journalism to be produced and be effective.

But to re-emphasize my point – there are many organizations and individuals who are doing it today. In some cases have been doing it for years, that we need to somehow amplify among the din.

As a programmer, I recognize this has everything to do with information science, communications, marketing, and development. As a citizen I recognize it has everything to do with our communities, our neighborhoods, cities, our country and navigating the world at large and hopefully making it a better place. One story at a time.

Which makes this a sad moment to note – Bill Moyers has broadcast his last episode of “Bill Moyers Journal” and ended a run of one of the best sources of journalism on television. The Journal will be missed.

NPR.org: “After Four Decades In TV News, Bill Moyers Retires”

NYTimes: “A Breather for Moyers; Next Step Is Unclear”

Two from the Boston Globe on the Need for Better Filters

Boston Globe: Joe Keohane: Imaginary fiends: In 2009, crime went down. In fact it’s been going down for a decade. But more and more Americans believe it’s getting worse. Why do we refuse to believe the good news?

Boston Globe: Easy = True: How ‘cognitive fluency’ shapes what we believe, how we invest, and who will become a supermodel

Was the call to Conan’s defense against Leno a Gen-X and Gen-Y cry against Baby Boomer entrenchment?

When you get older, these kinds of reflections start to seem all the more uncomfortable don’t they? That makes them all the better to consider and think about.

reddit.com: “It just hit me: Leno vs. Conan perfectly embodies the struggle in America between the greedy, selfish Baby Boomers who refuse to go away, and its youth”

In the comments someone posted a monologue from Craig Ferguson that was worth a listen:

Well this explains why ‘Top 10′ stories are so popular

Spiegel: SPIEGEL Interview with Umberto Eco: ‘We Like Lists Because We Don’t Want to Die’:

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. We also have completely practical lists — the shopping list, the will, the menu — that are also cultural achievements in their own right.