Friday, February 19, 2021

This Will Probably Become A Book and is not about Marketing, but might be ....

This. Has nothing, but also probably everything, to do with my career (because Our Mother thinks working is a curse. A personality fault. Proof of failure.) But I am writing it here to have a record and documentation. And because this is my blog and I feel that two blogs would be indulgent and Versailles-like. 


So, I called my Mother the other day, by way of check-in. 

Our little son has been calling her sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, during Covid. We have been worried Sick. Like, actual Wake-Up-In-The-Middle-Of-The-Night, Sick. About my Mother being in an ALF during the pandemic. (She has had BOTH shots as of this writing!!!). Did I mention she has unapollegetically smoked for 65 years?

But sometimes, I check-in. To be clear - she is not interested in moi whatsoever. But I feel like I should. So I do. I am the fourth sibling. And typically the first that can handle dealing with her. Our Mother. And also, she did a great job with the guilt.


So, I called Our Mother.

"Hi, Mom. How are you?"

"Oh, Ren! Just thinking about you!," she effusively states. 

I think, immediately, "This is odd. This is a trap. Oh, maybe she's being kind. How nice!"

Then.

"I got my check today. I need it cashed. Also, I'm out of cat food. And. Paper towels."

Yep.

Yep.

Yep.

Why on earth would I be surprised? Why on earth would I expect anything other than? Why on earth would I think this time she was actually, really, humanly - thinking about me?

But she was. Really. In the only way she can. And that has got to be okay .... Because if it's not? What am I supposed to do with that?





Friday, February 5, 2021

Home from "Working"

This is the most detailed and comprehensive article on the subject, from The New Yorker - the subject I've long wanted to tackle. And finally pushed me to put pixels to pretend paper.

By way of update, this just in on 2.10.21 from The Verge, "Salesforce will also give employees more freedom to choose what their daily schedules look like. The company joins other tech firms like Facebook and Microsoft that have announced permanent work-from-home policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic."

Working from Home. #WFH. Telecommuting. Working Remotely. 

These words have been a part of my vernacular for over 20 years. When my progressive Chicago company literally said to me - "Moving to Florida?, just fly up here every few weeks!". 

I was literally gobsmacked. This. Was the Holy Grail. 



So, 20 years later. This is not a new or mind-blowing concept. So, why did it take a literal pandemic to bring it into the "new norm" or new "abnorm" as some are wont to say? 

"Twenty-seven per cent of the American workforce will be remote in 2021, according to a recent survey by Upwork, a freelancing marketplace."

I will first state, raised by a dedicated and workaholic father and a mother who still believes working is a character defect (there's a novel/memoir in there, so more later), the whole lauded "Work/Life balance" thing was never part of the equation. Work is Life. Life is Work. 

But that's okay. Because to me, and half of my upbringing, it was just logic. Work is what you do, is what you love, is fulfilling, is joy. Since I was a teenager, my philosphy has been "Love what you do, do what you love." If you are going to spend your life doing something, anything, you should embrace it. It should be a natural extension of yourself. When I played? I pretended I was working at a Blue Chip company. My stuffed bunnies had almost unionized. 

May seem trite, but for me, at least, it's true. Life - as much as possible, should be joyful. If you have a passion or are really good at something and can find yourself a profession within that passion - embrace it. And that's still "work".

Well, that's easy when it's Advertising. What's not to love? 

So it never occurred to me, and still doesn't, that "working" 80 hour weeks in Denver and Chicago in the early oughts was actually, "work." And I was able to do that because at that time, I worked for  businesses that understood, if you are travelling 50% of the time, you have to be able to live, and the work is not only getting done, but to an exceptional level. So when companies embrace and help their employees thrive - Work Happens.

Hot Desking. Espresso bars. Real bars. Yoga Class. Purse Parties. Blues Brothers. Cubs Games. Stanley Cup. These are the Perks. 

Because, and again, this is just my personal experience and my opinion - there's no on/off switch or separation from any of my roles - Mother, Sister, Daughter, Wife, Employer/Employee, Tourist, American, Friend, Cook, Traveler, Photographer, Reader, Writer, Pretend Painter, etc. Those traits are there, always. So why would Worker be treated differently? 

Obviously, there is a time and place for each "role", but my experience is they don't vanish neatly when the sun rises or sets. Like a werewolf or vampire (and that would be so cool). So, I find it no surprise when I see - so very, very often these days - remarks like this ....

“'We have seen productivity go through the roof,” ... So why did the staff require so much expensive office space? Did they need any at all?"

Well, of course. Maybe this is obvious to me, a working mother. But here's the thing - what did we think would happen to driven, dedicated people who love what they do when you take all of their stressors away? 

The most anxiety I've personally ever felt at work - again, not heart surgery, but advertising - is the anxiety of picking up my child from school on time or even worse, heading into the no-man's land of the dreaded afternoon doctor's appointment. Forget the appointment for me, personally. Because there were a few employers (not many, but a few), where it was best to just not go. At these workplaces, I couldn't stand the idea of "bosses" and competitive co-workers wondering where I was, why I wasn't at my desk or why I thought I was so "special". I know this is true, because whenever a fellow hapless employee would dare leave the office - or leave their desk for lunch - they would be at the mercy of the "there" employees. In some of these less progressive companies, this - not passion or skill or drive or curiosity - was the route to success. 

I just think "there" is a state of mind. 

As I write this - and I would say, "I'm working", it is 4:35am. I finally have time - time I want and need and love, to work a bit. It's quiet and the puppy stopped playing at 2:22am. But that's the thing, if you can work from home, or Prague, or Alaska or the Florida Keys or a hotel room in Times Square or Las Vegas, and you want to - you should. 

"Six months in, the final round of surveys showed that employees—driven by adrenaline and anxiety about underperforming, and because there wasn’t much else to do while sheltering in place—were working all the time."

"Working all the time." Yes. That's a danger. But, for some, it's natural and productive. There will be times in the lives of employees - and if an employer is lucky, they will have their loyal employees through many stages of their lives - when they work 80 hour weeks. There will be times when they have crises. I had a brilliant boss say one time, upon our blessed, yearly 2 weeks off (company closed!) at the Christmas and New Year holidays, "I don't want to understand the head of a company who doesn't want his team to be with their families during the holidays." THANK YOU!

I would implore all employers to please meet your employees where they are. If they just had a baby or a hurricane or a prognosis or a family/childcare issue - give them peace. Give them time. Give them a DAY. 

They will be more productive than ever because they want to be and because you let them. Loyalty and productivity are interrelated. When an employer is giving, understanding and appreciative - people will exceed their own expectations to actually "thank" that employer. They will THRIVE. 

But, then, this is actually why I started my own business. I knew I could do So. Very. Much. More.

When unfettered by the stressors and constraints of less progressive workplaces that demanded me there at 8am and kept me until long, long after 5pm. I had zero issues with working 12-15 hours a day - but during very specific times - with a family? Being the last mom at pickup for aftercare? I still get a pit in my stomach. When I was single, I regularly woke at 3:15am to workout and be on a plane by 6am and work until midnight. Or later.

One of the best times of my life was when I worked at a fabulous museum and because they have a fantastic all-day summer camp, my son and I commuted together every single day. It was the working mother nirvana. And, after camp, he was a great intern!

I recognize there are a zillion different philosphies about work. But, and I feel very fortunate to have worked for AMAZING companies and employers and CEOS, etc., I feel for me I can fairly say, this is the least stressed I have ever been. Is it because I am a working woman or a working mom? Would I have been less stressed if those things were not a factor? Well, if I were a boy I would've been named "Montague" apparently, so I'm not sure.

But what I will say is, I work when there is work. And when there's ideas that need work for the future. No email goes unread or unfiled. This is really true. Because literal OCD. No client question unanswered. No deliverable unmet. 

Thanks to technology, vacations are even better - usually five to ten quick emails and the rest of the day is bliss. And the ability to be proactive? Gosh. It's like Pandora's box! I do Zoom and Google Meet calls while cooking lunch for my son (also doing school virtually) and husband! My dog is in every meeting. I can be on more non-profit boards. I am always available or within minutes for my wonderful clients. I work when they work. And I work when I work. 

The stress is gone. I can take care of my family, be more productive and serve more clients - better than ever before. 

This is not "work", it's just my life, it's what I do. It's me. I'm working but I'm home. Where I've always been. 




Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Business of Advertising and the Matter of Metrics.

I'm not going to lie. The advertising business is actually all it is cracked up to be - exciting, glamorous and fun. The best thing in the world. There is honestly nothing I'd rather do as a career in life (except dolphin trainer). Truth. 

At its best, advertising is exactly what you think it should be - fabulous headlines, exclusive sponsorships, exciting photoshoots on location, awesome networking (especially when it wasn’t virtual!). 

So, maybe 5% of advertising is that. 

At its worst, and perhaps many of you have experienced this, it's expensive, confusing and imperfect. This is just really 5%, too.

So, up-for-grabs is the remaining 90%. The actual Business of Advertising. There is actually a reason for all of the precious puppies, hilarious headlines, uncanny taglines and canny calls-to-action. A measurable reason. 

As someone with the benefit of incredible timing and superlatively more incredible peers, who had the privilege (via my then-Associate Media Directorship at Leo Burnett/Starcom) of participating in the execution of the first interactive TV campaign (via Survivor and my favorite Chevy Avalanche) as well as the first mobile campaign and associated branding study - via AT&T, and so much more, I can say - Measurement is Everything.  

It's ROI. It's results. It’s the Matter of Metrics - engagement, clicks, lead generation, conversions and ultimately sales. It's the glorious Purchase Funnel we all know and love. And ultimately, it's loyalty and customers for life. 


In real terms - it's measurable metrics from marketers, social media teams and media partners (not vendors - strategic partners!). And if that's not what you are experiencing right now, it really should be. 

Up until the digital age, advertising measurement was not an "exact" science. "Impressions", for example, which translates into "the opportunity to see", weren't ever a truly concrete number. As late as 2015, did we exactly know the number of cars passing a billboard during a specified period of time or exactly how many households were tuning in to a given network and given show on a given night, or how many folks really saw the ad in Vogue? Well, we do now. Thank you GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.

Well about Vogue. Still no. But we know it's a bunch. And it sure is gorgeous!

For TV, the digital age has been nothing short of revolutionary. The onset of digital, on-demand and OTT television allows us to know not just households with the "opportunity to see", but actual households that viewed the commercial in real life - how many skipped, how long it was viewed and maybe, how many purchased a product directly from the ad.

Measurement and analytics are actually the very best and most rewarding part of advertising. Really. It makes up the other 90% that isn't "Where's the Beef?". I still don't know where it is, but I do know, "It's What's for Dinner".

The simple tools that allow you to see, understand and analyze impressions, reach, engagement, cost-per-click, time spent, time viewed, pages per session - and every other in-depth rabbit hole - and on and on and awesome, is the actual proof in the proverbial advertising pudding. 

That said, a large component of why working with small, local businesses is my passion and is so very purposeful and rewarding to me is because my clients and I are able to review actual, meaningful results. And then, I can present action items and strategies to drive their businesses forward in actionable, concrete ways. 

The long and the short of it is, if your agency, or nephew's brother's cousin's uncle who handles your social, digital or any other media, isn't providing exhaustive metrics, measurements and ever-increasing results and associated optimization strategies - it's important to ask for them. 

Regardless of your budget, actionable metrics for your local business are really the best part of your advertising investment. And that's what actually makes advertising so fun. 







Monday, May 4, 2020

"Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit." - Aristotle

And now this one has inevitably gone bad. Another in what is sure to be a cavalcade of lawsuits, ill-executed exit "strategies" and proverbial "uncle!" yelling ....

This week, this disappointing, but unsurprising, headline appeared on CNBC - JC Penney goes to court to try to stop Sephora from pulling out of the troubled chain’s stores and in JC Penney's home market, this story from The Dallas Morning News.

I have always been puzzled as to the relationship between #Sephora and #JCPenney. Puzzled because their brands, to me, are not synchronistic. Puzzled because I, personally, haven't ever been a JCP shopper - although I have appreciated the brand's good nature, messaging and accessibility, and also its history and generosity.

Puzzled because Sephora has become a go-to, a game-changer, an iconoclastic innovator who brought all beauty brands - big, small and store-branded - to the fore in the most fun, non-classicist, festive, demographic-defying format I had seen in a long time. If not ever.

I do appreciate, from a retail and branding standpoint, what both brands stood to gain from one another. Namely, a broader customer base. A giant demographic. But I also thought the couple was surprising. Was mis-matched. Not unlike #PrettyInPink, but I won't say who is who in this scenario.

All of us brand-watchers have noted the mis-matched brand partnerships that look like so much striving and not enough, "of course!". It's a tricky game. Aligning one brand with another to gain an audience that should have similar attributes or buying power. But those ill-fated ones really, really end up doing damage to both brands - which may or may not be forgiven. I mean, Coca-Cola® and movie theatres - a resounding YES! Disney Theme Parks and #Starbucks® - correct! #McDonalds and #Monopoly - I'll take #FreeMcDonaldsFrenchFries whenever I can get them!

But, seriously, Dooney & Burke and #Disney. No thanks. #Target and #LillyPulitzer - great idea. Worst. Execution. Ever. I would put JCP and Sephora right up there.

To me, it's just because the brands never fit together. There was never going to be buy-in and trial on either side. The women I knew who shopped #Sephora at #JCPenney would literally run into the store entrance, only to shop within the makeup area, and then exit, stage left. This is much of what has happened with most suburban malls. In the past 20 years, I have only ever gone into 2 stores and 1 restaurant in our entire local mall. These days, proximity does not equal sales. People like who they like and it takes a lot to get folks to change their behavior, much less their passions.

That said, the fact that this relationship is now becoming forced upsets me even more for both sides.

It's not fair to the shoppers of either brand, but a forced union is not going to mean the brands are #MFEO (see: Sleepless in Seattle).

Well. It's really just another retail drama that will play out on the national stage. I had been so thrilled years ago when JCP finally changed the 1985-font of its logo. Sadly, the struggling brand promptly rescinded when there was customer backlash. I was thrilled when they got rid of coupons. It was inviting to potential new customers, much like their collab with #Mango. But traditional shoppers wouldn't have it.

I don't envy any brand trying to change its stripes.

How many have done it well? #TheSofterSideOfSears #CadillacCatera #McDonaldsSignatureCraftedRecipes ...?

This all comes the same day as #JCrew finally files for #bankruptcy, after being $1.6 billion in debt. Also, a result of trying to deviate from a tried, true and, dare I say, beloved, brand.

What will retail look like on the other side of this? What will we be buying in our #WorkingFromHome, #Athleisure, probably-not-consuming-luxury lives? It's up to us, I am sure. But which brands will be able to read our passions, our behaviors and our appetites and pivot to meet those demands?

I have a small prediction, but it's self-serving and hopeful and I wonder what's on everyone else's lists?











Thursday, April 30, 2020

This is where I leave J.Crew ....


UPDATE as of Monday, May 4, 2020 - Details of the bankruptcy filing from The New York Times .... 

The next - leopard print, kitten-heeled - shoe is dropping. J.Crew is prepping to file for bankruptcy. 

This is not new news. This is not a surprise. This is not unprecedented. This is still sad. Kind of. They got pompous, they got full of themselves, they thought they were influencers. Just because you raise the price does not mean people think you are worth it. This. Is. Hubris.

Even if you are not a J.Crew fan, one must acknowledge this is the end of an era, but it's their own fault.

It started with the #JCrewCollection and continued downhill through the slalom of every "capsule" collection and "exclusive". Is someone really going to procure a J.Crew necklace or sequined skirt upwards of $500? Another marker was the case of the #tippi and #tilli. Not enough orders of the one, and too many of the other. J.Crew ceased to read its very loyal, albeit aging, audience.

The quality markedly went down in the early aughts, when J.Crew was feeling its proverbial druthers and thought it should rightly charge $98 for a sweater worth about $29, on a cold, Lake Michigan day in January. And then its sales people got snooty. Snobby. Too big for their khakis. I have never been so shabbily treated as I have in a J. Crew store. And they don't even offer a Coca-Cola, much less a champagne (see Tory Burch and Tiffany).

And I do actually, occasionally, venture into Chanel. And Gucci. And Bergdorf. From time to time. So when I say I've never been so insulted, I really mean it. And I did make this known to the brand in the hopes it would, could, should - help.

I get it. I was flying high on my #GenX brands like #BananaRepublic and #Gap. Even in foreign countries I still do shop at #Benetton and #Swatch. I want. Just really want (need?). Legacy brands to survive.

But J.Crew won't. J. Crew can't. Because prep school dressing isn't a thing. Gosh, with Covid-19, is going to an actual class a thing?

Admittedly, the mortifying - yet satisfying - athleisure trend - has also disrupted. J.Crew is well-suited for this trend, but is charging way too much for the privilege of sleeping in. It also didn't do much to grow the brand, make it relevant to the crucial under-40s (with the exception of the $100 per outfit crewcuts brand). The other thing is, how much do we really need to spend on pants only worn at home?

Then, there were tweaks to the distribution channels. J.Crew and Madewell, at Nordstrom. J.Crew on Amazon. To be a major brand, searching for a home - searching for relevancy - is like a death nell.

To the frequent shopper, this has all been too real, for too long.

The online "Chat" - tellingly helmed by everyone named "Ashley" in the free world - really! - has not been active for at least two years, near as I can tell. Every time I click to access it, they are "not available at this time." Mind you, "at this time" is 2pm on a Wednesday, 9am on a Monday or 11am on a Saturday.

I have tried. I have been in denial. I have gone through the stages of grief. Yesterday, when the temperature dropped below 60 degrees (in FL, in April!), I came across the first ever cotton sweater I bought from J.Crew. I bought this at NorthPark mall, in Dallas, circa 1992. As an SMU student, I considered this an "investment piece". It still holds up. Is still soft. Still holds its shape. Is probably the only J.Crew item in my wardrobe that completely still exemplifies the brand (still fits!).

I have been pulling for this brand. I have been loyal to it. Followed its triumphs - embraced its high-low chicness and cool-geek phases. J.Crew was the accepted bellwether of East Coast prep trends.

Capsule collections. Major cosmetics brands. French brands. Nike. Lacoste. "Exclusives." J.Crew on the upper East Side - Madison Ave. CEOs coming and going. Group management. Brand ambassadors, in and out.

This is what happens when you cannot take a step outside of your brand and see the bigger picture.

But who can? Can Gap? Can Neimans? Can JC Penney? Can Macys? Can Anthropology?

I ventured down the rabbit hole and clicked through one of the ubiquitous emails this past week - to see the New Arrivals. There were the "must have" looks. There were the "no-brainers". Alas, there were still the jewelry capsule collections, upward of hundreds of dollars - intermingled with latent items from a year ago that were now 50% off (the doppelgangers of which can be procured at Target).

I bought everything in my basket - white jeans, earrings and a signature striped top - for less than $75 (because, why would one pay more?). I bought these for old times' sake. For the nostalgia I feel for a brand that has been with me every step of the way. For a brand I really don't want to go away. But that is going to.

This is, sadly, where I leave J.Crew.











Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The End of Retail as we Know It. And I Feel Sad.

Not surprising to many, but shocking to some - on Monday it was announced that storied, sensational and super-luxe retail bastion, #NeimanMarcus, may file for bankruptcy this week. 

Since nothing is really all that outlandish in the age of #coronavirus, maybe that's not a big news story for most. But I would offer, that if one puts their retail hat (or boots) on, it is a lot. And it is indeed a pre-cursor (mid-cursor?) for things to come. For, as we prodigies of the digital age are all-too-familiar, this was bound to happen.

And even if it wasn't, it is actually, nostalgically, kind of sad.

As fate would have it, I happen to currently find myself in the middle of reading Minding the Store, by  Stanley Marcus.

I bought this book in its second printing, after Mr. Marcus had come to speak at my marketing class in the Cox School of Business, at Southern Methodist University. His family had been supporters of SMU since prior to its breaking ground. He regaled my class with the legendary customer service doctrine into which he was baptized by his father, Herbert Marcus. I was entranced and couldn't believe the great good fortune of being in the presence of such a retail legend and icon.

I had never shopped at Neiman Marcus until I moved to Dallas to attend SMU. As a rarefied SMU student, not on the BMW or prep school side of things, I kind of felt like I had no business shopping there. Nor did I find anything remotely accessible - at that time, they only took the Neiman Marcus Card. Which was a good thing - as I also had no business having a credit card.

There was something about the store that was significant to me from an historic standpoint. And, as someone obsessed by advertising and brands from a young age, while I couldn't count myself as a shopper of Neiman Marcus, I had an appreciation for the principles and the people on which the original business was built.

"This was another way of saying, 

'Let's practice the Golden Rule in all of our dealings'." 

- Stanley Marcus, Minding the Store


After graduation, when I migrated to Denver, as much as I loved every bit of that mountainy, outdoorsy, fleece-y place, every so often, I would wander through the Neiman Marcus store at Cherry Creek Shopping Center just to see the latest, the newest and the prettiest - and also, sadly the most expensive and unattainable (#NeedlessMarkup).

Until I saw a new denim bag by a #brightyoungthing named #KateSpade. I quickly fixated on this incredibly affordable bag. Finally, with the "disposable income" parts of my first, second and third paychecks as a young (read: poor) marketer, I bought my first Kate Spade bag. Made even more special because that label said "Kate Spade Dallas" - instead of the young designer's now famous "New York" insignia. This bag and I were meant to be. And because Neiman Marcus had the exclusive rights to Kate Spade's initial designs - by way of introducing her to the world - that was the only place I could get it.

With that first bag in front of Taos Pueblo.
The disappointing part is the woman behind the counter didn't feel the same verve about having this obviously not gilded, 25-year-old as her customer. If you've ever been on this side of a transaction, you know how it feels. Not unlike the famous scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, when Abe Froman (Sausage King of Chicago), Sloane and Cameron decide to dine at an exclusive restaurant and are greeted with nothing but disinterest, distain and snobbery - she treated me as small, unworthy and unwelcome.

Which was the exact opposite of the feeling Mr. Marcus had led me to believe I would feel in his store ....

So now I knew the modern day Neiman Marcus did not care if I was their customer. And that made me indignant. And also not a little bit confused, because I knew that Stanley Marcus DID want me to be his customer. And therein lies the beginning of a retail relationship fraught with cognitive dissonance.

It was like the folks that worked there had never read his book! This idea flabbergasted me - how could you work there and NOT read it!? It's like when we went to Cheers in Boston last summer and the young host admitted he had never seen an episode of Cheers.

They'd definitely lost a potential customer for life. But because I'd personally met Mr. Marcus, they'd also gained an observer from afar and a critic - an appreciator of the founding principles and a marketer and shopper who wished they would honor the Neiman Marcus legacy. Someone who knew that it was meant to represent the best of the best. But to find it, I would just head to Marshall Field's. Whose lovely salespeople were always happy to see me.

Still, I had never actually been to the original downtown Dallas store. Maybe this would be different. Several years after graduation, still living in Denver and with a feeling of nostalgia for the "Big D," I finally found myself in the second original headquarters for luxury (the first had burned down in 1913). I still have the classic YSL lipstick I bought that day (no, I do not still use it). It was neither a good nor bad experience. But it should have been exceptional.

Like I said, while I may have appreciated the store - I could not and still do not count myself as a loyal shopper there. I love the brands, I love the luxe and I love the idea - but I just don't have it within my logical and practical shopping psyche to be a regular.

All because it was very clear in 1990-something, they did not want my business, nor did they think I had the potential to bring them any in the future. So I shop at places that actually smile when they see me (see: Bergdorf Goodman - yes I know that BG and NM have been the same company since the 70s; and Bloomingdale's - and yes I know they are part of Federated). What's a girl to do?

As I paint this picture, I would be remiss not to mention several of the many milestones achieved by Neiman Marcus.

First specialty store in Texas (and in the south)
First store in Texas to advertise in fashion magazines - Vogue, Bazaar
Showed a profit in its first year of operation
First to welcome Dior to the United States
Realized record revenue and profits during the last year of the Depression

That last point is particularly noteworthy and timely.

Now, in April 2020, the definition of "luxury" shopping is that most non-essential shopping is truly, really, actually - a luxury.

If it's a non-essential good - clothes, makeup, giftware, home decor, etc., and regardless of whether it's from Target, Amazon, Walgreens or Sephora, I know people are thinking twice before they put it in their basket and have it packaged and delivered by those on the front lines of this pandemic.

Of course, the writing on the wall has been there since the dawn of the term "clicks and mortar" and many of us have seen the struggle meted out in real life. Indoor shopping malls, long before the pandemic reared its vile, indiscriminate head, were hanging by a nostalgic thread and taped together with "70% off" signs.

Target, Old Navy, H&M and Uniqlo have not only become the staples of the long-lasting "high/low" fashion trend, they've become the limit to which GenZ might be willing to invest in non-experiential "necessities."

Shopping was once an actual experience. Now, from our collective family rooms, it is all too easy to 1)pour wine 2)shop 3)purchase 4)repeat (current environment notwithstanding).

The retail picture, regardless of whether luxe brands like Neiman Marcus or mid-range, specialty retailers like the Gap or J.Crew survive, will look vastly different on Black Friday this year. And, I imagine, by another factor all together one year from today.

While I must stop short of saying I personally will feel the loss of today's Neiman Marcus, I do feel awful and terrible for its many employees, suppliers and everyone affected by something of such magnitude. Likewise for those of Gap, JC Penney, Sears, J. Crew .... 

And I feel a loss for the great promise and principles on which each of these entities and the many legendary - uniquely American - retail stores were founded.

*An update on this as of 4.21.20 from the New York Times 







Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Home is Where the Heart is (and the Office)

I have had the extreme pleasure and been not just a little lucky to have found myself in a career where working from home is an option. Having started out in a traditional Denver ad Agency that was quick to step onto the interwebs superhighway, even with "dialing in remotely," life was becoming easier (we didn't even have email in college #GenX). 

Subsequently, it sure was easy to work from home until all hours. When I first moved back to Florida from the job I loved at Starcom/Leo Burnett in my sweet home Chicago, I telecommuted and flew out to bi-coastal clients and to the Windy City a few times a month. What an amazing, amazing gift to be able to continue to work for the company, clients and job I loved, while being in Florida with all of our family. 

Now, I have my own business and because I can work from anywhere and everywhere - I do. I still go to meetings every day, because we all know how important that is, (but maybe right now, it's a luxury) but I am working constantly - because I want to and I can. Again, this is all not without a little luck, too, in my chosen field. 

I do recognize this is not an option for the vital and dedicated employees in the service industry and it is my sincere hope that paid leave policies are put in place (and has been my hope way, way before this became our current reality - #PaidSickLeaveNow). 

All that said, as the nation is grappling with the unknown repercussions of what is now a pandemic, and legions of workers are being asked to work from home, this has the earmarks of a giant paradigm shift. At least, for my part, I hope it is. 

I have always felt - especially as a working mother, wife and volunteer board chair/member - the more flexibility an employee has in relation to work (an employee who never misses deadlines and is incredibly diligent) - the more productive they will be. The more loyal they will be. And the more they will achieve. When I work from home, I work intermittently around the clock, because I can and I love it. 

As an extreme Type A (with associated OCD), I was made to multi-task and stay on task. My upbringing was curated by a family in the "always on" newspaper industry - yes, before the internet. I don't feel relaxed or happy until all the emails are read and filed, all the work for the following two-days is done, and the speech for two-weeks from now is written. 

I recognize I am in the minority. 

It is HARD to work from home. Especially when there are little ones afoot. When there are parents who need transportation to and from doctor's appointments, when life is going on. Then there are dogs or cats on the keyboard who are occasionally falling into the pool during a conference call (yes, this has happened). 




So today, #AdWeek came out with the amazing A Guide on How to Make the Most of Working From Home During Coronavirus Outbreaks. This is an incredibly helpful and spot-on guide filled with tips and ideas to keep on task and on schedule and be as productive as possible. I will note however, that I do get laundry (and maybe a little shopping) done while at home, because in my field, taking a break for creative thinking and strategic planning is important - and something I can do in short blasts. And it is true - the best ideas do come to you in the shower. 

In addition, #Facebook came out with their own resource today under the auspices of - "businesses like yours may also be experiencing unexpected challenges, and we’re committed to providing as much support as possible." This is filled with ideas to stay in touch with customers and to keep up productivity - while helping customers navigate FAQs and any service issues. 

As I mentioned, I am hopeful we are on the precipice of a new mindset around working from home (#WFH) - where at least here in a smaller, less urban DMA, the option has been the exception rather than the rule. Where it has been stigmatized by previous generations as a vehicle for wayward employees to take advantage of the system. Where we are all Fred Flintstones sliding off the back of the brontosaurus as soon as the 5pm Pterodactyl sounds. 

via GIPHY

To me, this shift will mean 1) Happier, more loyal and productive employees who will go the extra 25 miles for their employer 2) Employees who need to go to the doctor, take care of children, drop them off or pick children up from school, can do so without the extra pit-of-the-stomach stress of having their boss run around and say, "why aren't they back at their desk yet?" 3) Employees with a cold can stay at home and be productive, while not spreading it to the rest of the office and decreasing overall productivity and the bottom line 4) Employees with ill children are not forced to take those children to school, to become even more sick (sicker?) or to spread it around the classroom or to the teacher 5) Parents don't have to pay an extra $100 in childcare for the unexpected teacher work day 6) We can get one step closer to that holy grail of the elusive and much mythicized work/life balance! (*knocks on wood).

The real work is what can get done when an employee's greatest stressors are removed and when they are allowed the gift of freedom to be productive, effective and efficient for an employer who trusts them and values them .... 

And also, maybe a bit more shopping, just to keep the economy going. Obviously. 





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