Through the ears of an entrepreneur

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Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Somewhere over the rainbow

Skies are blue,

And the dreams that you dare to dream

Really do come true.”

We all have our very own dreamlands to enter, to conquer, and to cherish. Entrepreneurs are passionate adventurers who often lead their journeys with romantic naiveté, a few enthusiastic supporters, and an envisioned promised land in their hearts– just like Dorothy did.

#Bold Adventure, Daring Attempt

Dorothy’s adventure happened almost like an unforeseen accident: she woke up in a house carried by the tornado. Entrepreneurs, despite the time and money they invest in market positioning, customer targeting, and actual execution, often find themselves ‘somewhat unprepared’ in the swamp of market challenges and competitions. What both Dorothy and entrepreneurs have in common to encourage them to continue their exploration is indeed their own naiveté, which makes them firmly (sometimes, recklessly) believe that each step, whether it’s a failed or fortunate one, has its own reasonable value – a reason that gives them a lesson for now, and might have a meaning for later. Ironically, this almost child-like attitude matures them with greater perseverance to push forward in pursuit of their vision during the startup period. And when facing a crisis, having a sense of humor is essential for a successful leader. Dorothy was an ideal example who possesses this virtue. I mean really, who keeps their hair-braided and sings merrily in the time of disaster?

#The Crew

Dorothy was accompanied by the ‘crew’ on her adventure, which includes a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion.  Each respectively lacked a brain, a heart, and courage. Entrepreneurs also work in some sort of team most of the time. With diverse people whose strengths and weaknesses are different from one another, they create a harmonious dynamic and further, a community that has its own culture. Dorothy’s three companions, who have initially very low self-esteem overcome their flaws and discover their impactful assets to sustain and complete the journey together. Supporters, therefore, are key part for entrepreneurs to endure and grow in the market.

#Rainbow: Romantic Visionary

It’s about seeing the land behind and beyond. Entrepreneurs are the most romantic professionals, to say the least. They create a community, a dynamic, and a culture that can be shared with various consumers, whom they sometimes never meet personally. Their ultimate challenge is to constantly reinvent themselves to overcome the existing and tangible messages out there. Under the pressure and fear that they face as leaders and followers, entrepreneurs must seek to reach constant goals, ‘somewhere over the rainbow…’

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Get real. Follow your dream.

“The sad face of dreamers, waking to the life that passed them by. They follow forever the flame that holds their eyes.”

Keep up with the flame.

Make things happen.

In 2006, Chicago-based band Wax on Radio released Exposition – their only studio album to date. The continuous play of dynamic instrumentals, heartfelt echoing vocals, and mysteriously poetic verses resonated with fans – surely suggesting the success of later releases. In 2012, fans are still doubtfully waiting for more.

In 2007 the band was signed to a major label following the success of their debut album, but quickly became disenchanted with the terms of their contract – leading to their breakup until it expired. The label wanted them to change – to alter their creative path, but that’s not how they sought to make a name for themselves. It wasn’t their dream.

They remained unwilling to lessen the integrity of their music for commercial gain. Faced with an ultimatum, they accepted their plight: obscurity in an ever-evolving music industry. Would it be fair to say they were unsuccessful? Probably not.

And, even if you were to say so, it doesn’t matter.

Your reality is what you make of it. Not anyone else. You.

They followed a dream. They shared their art only as they wanted it to be shared. They played by their own rules.

Entrepreneurialism is, in its purist form, the product of dreams, aspirations, and drive. It’s all about motivation. Passion. Success is the subjectively defined, but universally desired, consequence. All entrepreneurs may not find financial success, fame, or security, but the chance to leave all regrets and ‘what if’s’ behind – by accepting the risks associated with following your dream – yields a valuable reward all its own.

Tales of corporate executives who forfeited their fortunes for modest livelihoods as innkeepers or farm-owners; hobbyists who turned their passions into multi-million dollar video game contracts; and other unlikely success stories are shared every day.

The world we live in today, the cars we drive, and the technology we hold in our hands, were all shaped by people who had dreamt to do something different. People may have told them at one time or another that it could never work, that it was impractical, or that the uncertainty was too great.

But, these are people who did what they did because they believed in themselves – whether they accepted risks, success, defeat, or all of those things.

In today’s competitive global business landscape, all too often lofty goals and aspirations fall by the wayside for the better interest of financial gain, security, or any number of other reasons.

“As we fill our lives, we all realize – how we spend our days is what becomes our lives.”

When following your entrepreneurial dreams, the difference between practicality and recklessness is hope. It means believing in what you want, what you are capable of, and why you have a story worth telling.

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Live Life to the Fullest, for Tomorrow May Never Come

Here’s a great band and a great song. If you’re ever in the need of an uplifting song, well here you go; it gives me the chills every time I listen to it. It’s so down to earth and speaks a universal truth.

The message is simple and great because you only live once; so cherish every moment in your life and make the best out of it. We can’t let such a beautiful gift go to waste. So live life to the fullest for tomorrow may never come.

Everything you do is a life experience. The advertising industry is so competitive (especially if you’re going in the art/creative direction). Based on some of my conversations with professional creatives, “It’s a day’s pay for a day’s work”.

Despite coming up with genius ideas that are on strategy and achieve the client’s objectives, pursuing a career in the art/creative direction takes a confident person who is able to stand behind his/her work.

We all have different styles of work that flow through our creative thinking minds. Thus we all see things differently, so you don’t have to be afraid of expressing yourself and your feelings. If you don’t do it when you have the opportunity to, you may/will never get that chance again. It may be too late to make the best out of your work, just as you will never get a second chance to make the best of each day that passes.

As an intern at Small Army, every day has been a great experience for me to gain valuable skills and network with industry professionals from all walks of life. If you get your foot in the door of any ad agency (or job in any industry), make the best of every moment you have there. Network as much as possible; learn new things; tackle new tasks that you may have never done before; get out there and push yourself.

Everything you do is a life experience that can only take you further in life.

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Wingsplay: Invading or Invited?

Back in the Mad Men days, advertising mediums were pretty much limited to print, TV and radio, where consumers could keep it at arms length if they wished.

With the birth of Internet advertising some 15+ years ago, a whole new world of opportunity opened up. Digital marketing seemed to have limitless boundaries, where advertising was the most invasive it had ever been (aka pop-ups, banner ads, rich-media etc). But advertisers and marketers quickly realized that the real challenge was going to be capturing the attention of the ever-moving, ever-distracted web surfer. How could Internet advertising truly engage surfers?

Wingsplay, a startup that launched last month, has responded to this ongoing challenge by paying its users to share video ads on their social networks. This creates a great opportunity for marketers and advertisers to reach target audiences that may have been previously difficult to grab the attention of. With pop-ups and banners not always making a lasting impression, now socialmedialites can share advertisements that friends may actually want to watch. After all, you’re more likely to be interested in something if a friend likes it. As the founder of Wingsplay, Olivier Lasry says, “The best way for online advertisements to resonate with people is if a link has been recommended by a friend or social media connection.”

The idea of Wingsplay is to introduce ads through the customers first instead of mass media channels in hopes that real people will feel more connected to brands and thus start conversations about their advertisements.

The question then becomes, is this going to far? Are advertisers now taking over our personal social media sites? Or is this just a great opportunity for consumers to engage with the brands they love and share fun and interesting advertisements on their social media platforms? I’m going with the latter.

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When is it too much?

Everyone, and I mean everyone, is on social media today, including companies, celebrities and even our one and only, President Obama. As the benefits of persistent social media are obvious (readily available consumer feedback, illustrating brand personality and maintaining a presence in the market), when does the tweeting, posting and sharing become too much?

President Obama (and his staff) has definitely strategically used social media to its ultimate potential. According to the Atlantic Wire, Obama is the “third most popular person on Twitter”. The First Family has a Pinterest board. And earlier this year, Obama hosted a Google+ hangout. Obviously, our 44th president knows the appropriate social media etiquette in order to maintain his popularity.

Like any other high-profile person, Obama uses social media to show his supporters love. Congruently, Obama’s social media presence is well received and welcomed by savvy Internet users.  Until…a small hiccup in this campaign season: the Obama campaign started to send out one too many emails to ask for donations.

Recently, Jon Stewart took the liberty of saying what was on everyone’s lips, “Obama, you need to chill out.” Multiple emails sent periodically in a day? Asking for money does not require a sophisticated pallet, but it’s somewhat of a delicate art. Unfortunately, the Obama campaign overstepped the unspoken line of when ‘a polite request’ becomes ‘a nagging annoyance’.

The bottom line is: too much social media lovin’ makes people annoyed. No one likes a blabbermouth. Companies that tweet too much or are always ‘in your face’ all the time, the results will quickly backfire: consumers will turn on their selective listening to tune out the irritant.

Persistence is nothing to be embarrassed about, especially on social media. However, what is posted should weigh more than how many times something is posted. Interesting content is what keeps people coming back. Choose the best content that best sticks to your brand. When social media boils down to quality versus quantity, quality is always king.

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What the Lion King can teach you about damage control.

The Lion King is one of those childhood movies I recently watched again (in 3-D!) I watched baby Simba have all signs of life around Pride Rock bow down to him on Day 1 of his life. In addition to about 87 minutes of expected fun and chummy “Hakuna Matata” times, I realized how much darker the topics were in the movie’s storyline through the eyes of a non-six year old. (How did mini-me come out unscathed from scenes of deception, abandonment and death?)

And what about Scar? He’s a concoction of my greatest fears blended into lion form. Long movie short, Scar tries to kill his brother (Mufasa) and his brother’s son (Simba) to take over the kingdom. Quintessential to all Disney movies, Scar explains this to his subordinates via song.

Hyena insults aside, Scar pep talks his armies for upcoming plans regarding his kingdom of doom. He romps above all the hyenas and belts out in his mischievous voice how he is about to massacre all the good in Pride Rock and replace it with Scar time. He exposes his murderous plans and highly encourages his minions to “be prepared for the murkiest scam!”

Parallel to real life, businesses should definitely be prepared to tackle their own murkiest scam. Whether it’s an unexpected glitch in the system that causes harm to others, or the unjust behavior of their own employees, businesses should try their best to let never their competitors see them sweat.

In recent years, we’ve seen plenty of high-level company scandals come out of the woodwork. These unethical plots were obviously contrived for the personal gain of a small group and were in no way relevant to the best interest of the greater good or the company itself.

So, ethical education aside, think about how you would deal with a PR crisis due to the unethical behavior of even just a few of your own people. Even if these employees are reprimanded, terminated, or even charged in the court of law, the brand takes a hit. The situation will dictate your immediate actions, but think about how you would help your brand recover.

Of course, the situations are never as black and white as Scar’s character in the Lion King, but it’s always better to be prepared.

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Is JCPenney Chasing Waterfalls?

Listen, I’m not saying to stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to. I’m all about letting a new creative strategy take a brand to a whole new level. But is JCPenney chasing a waterfall with their new logo? This looks a whole lot like the Gap logo mishap back in October of 2010.

JCPenney, I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all, but I think you’re moving too fast.

Is it time for a JCPenney rebrand? Probably. But is this really the visual direction they want to take? Although the old logo is a bit safe, it has a timeless quality with a high level of brand recognition that many brands strive for. This new logo, however, not only throws in a new company color (since when does blue correspond with JCPenney?) but also incorporates so much negative space that it’s just plain confusing. Negative space is good, but in this case, it seems to be more like dead/bland space.

So what do you think? Do you think the Moms of America will respond to this bold change in a positive way, or has JCPenney pulled a “Gap” on all of us?

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How Pinteresting…

It’s a tough world out there; tough to get a job, tough to find a nice date (well, for me anyways…) and especially tough for marketers and advertisers to break through the thick clutter of the ad world and get consumers to notice their brands.

So how do you get noticed? How do you impress your consumer where every single word would come out insightful or brave or smooth or charming? (Am I on a Dashboard kick or what? I guess Chris Carrabba really mesmerized me at the Paradise Rock Club a few months back…)

Pinterest, the hot new social media network boasts an awesome opportunity for marketers to target consumers based on their interests and the things they post to their virtual cork boards like food, fashion, vacation spots, beauty, etc. When you get down to it, Pinterest is a marketers dream; it’s a consumer psychographic break down. Consumers can be visually mapped, based on what they pin, what they comment on, and what they like. Retailers such as Nordstrom have taken full advantage of this and use Pinterest to track trends and styles the community likes based on user engagement.

Pinterest doesn’t just act as a great tool for marketers to track consumer interests, but may also drive purchases. Online retailer Etsy pins looks from their website and embed direct links to products that users may like.

This social media outlet has not only broken through the clutter of other hopeful networks but also provides an avenue for marketers and advertisers to understand their consumers in a whole new, visual way. So don’t mope around hoping for consumers to want you, need you, and notice you; you may have been aided by the wonderful world of social media.

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Come On, Be Memorable

You’re in the car with a few buddies when it comes pulsing through the speakers.  You’ve heard it before, so you know how this works.  These high-pitched staccato notes will soon be joined by a deep, electronic sound and then the telltale clapping will be added to the beat.  You and your friends all shout simultaneously, “Sail!”  No, you’re not singing a song from the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack.  This music comes from AWOLNATION’s aptly-titled song, Sail.  It has the catchiness of a Britney Spears tune but the badassery of an alternative rock band’s hit single.

It is nearly impossible to listen to lead singer Aaron Bruno shout out “SAIL!” and not join him.  The infectious song is stuck on repeat in your head while you’re showering, on your way to work, and trying to sleep.  Usually, this is an annoying phenomenon that plagues even the best of us.  In this case, however, the song’s catchiness is not only accepted, but also welcomed.  What is it about Sail that makes it so pleasantly shout-able?  Could it be the not-so-sweet lyrics?  The perfectly raspy voice?  The electronic vibe of the beat?  I can’t put my finger on it, but one thing’s for sure when it comes to Sail’s catchiness: you want to have the same effect.

No one wants to be forgotten, but not enough people want to be remembered.  That in-between spot is where you put those memories that are just there, like the date of your sister’s birthday or the name of that guy two cubicles over.  You know, the one with really impressive facial hair.  Yah, that guy.  Anyways, you want to have ideas that stick with people just like AWOLNATION’s music does.

Your enthusiasm and the potential of your work should make people want to jump on board and metaphorically shout “Sail!” with you.  It should stick with people and stay in the forefront of their minds rather than stored in that area of memory where they keep the name of facial hair man (seriously, what is his name?  Jerry? James?).  How you make it happen is up to you, but do everything in your power to make yourself as memorable as any respectable AWOLNATION song.

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Always be my… Customer?

Let’s go back to 1996.  Clinton is reelected, Dolly the cloned sheep is born (created?), and I turn 7 in November.  In my opinion, however, one of the best things to come out of 1996 was Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby.”  Talk about an amazing pop song.  Mariah Carey, or just Mariah if you know her as well as I do (note: not at all), can hit a high note that could probably shatter glass and she knows how to use it for good, not evil.  She has sold more than 200 million albums, making her one of the best-selling artists in the world.  Always Be My Baby may not be her most successful single of all time, but it remains popular even today.  For proof, check out Tufts University Beelzebubs’ hilarious take on the classic.

 “You’ll always be a part of me

I’m part of you indefinitely

Boy don’t you know you can’t escape me

Ooh darling cause you’ll always be my baby

And we’ll linger on

Time can’t erase a feeling this strong

No way you’re never going to shake me

Ooh darling cause you’ll always be my baby

This should really be the theme song for The Walt Disney Company.  Just as Mariah’s relationship with her “baby” is everlasting, so is a consumer’s relationship with certain brands.  The Walt Disney Company does a phenomenal job at branding for life.  Hook your consumers while they’re young and adjust so that you can grow up with them.  Introduce them to Disney with cartoons like Dora the Explorer and attractions like Disney World in Orlando.  Remain a presence throughout their adolescence with more “hip” shows like Wizards of Waverly Place and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, in addition to one of the many Disney-created pop stars like the Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus.  The teenage years might be a little tricky, but…

I know that you’ll be back boy

When your days and your nights get a little bit colder

I know that, you’ll be right back, babe

Baby believe me it’s only a matter of time!

Whoa, it sounds a bit creepy in that context.  It doesn’t matter if they lose you during your goth/angsty/rebellious years, because you’re already hooked.  You’ve become a Disney fan for life and you’ll probably shop in their mall stores and eventually bring your kids to Disney World to repeat the cycle.  It sounds strangely manipulative to grab your future consumers while they’re still in diapers, but this is how Disney does its lifetime branding.  I don’t know about The Walt Disney Company, but Mariah Carey’s music has undoubtedly hooked me for life.

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