Zeus Jones believes brands are defined by what they do, not what they say. Modern brands are guided by purpose and built on experiences. We built a company to see just what would happen if an agency infused this model into everything from product development to design to strategy. We think our case studies speak for themselves.
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Welcome! Here you will find essays on technology, trends and our take on making things work. Beyond that, we post design examples we love, and other cool stuff we find.
As a part of my commitment to focusing on bigger ideas, I’ve been thinking a lot about the shift in business from transactions to relationships. Specifically about the fact that traditional marketing has been almost exclusively concerned with generating a transaction – the sale – whilst business is now almost exclusively built through developing and cultivating relationships which reduce acquisition and/or marketing expenses, create long-term value and help to lower operating costs by reducing the need for expensive R&D.
As I am a fan of models I’ve tried to capture all of this in one handy chart:
Sidenote: For the one or two people who still read this blog and have been paying attention – you will notice that this is almost identical to the chart I posted a few days ago to describe the ideal content model for a brand. Primarily this is because, as Christian pointed out recently, content strategy is really not a separate function from marketing strategy. In today’s world you can’t do one without considering the other and, IMHO, one of the reasons for the lackluster adoption of content strategy is that it creates artificial boundaries between different aspects of marketing that aren’t helpful.
The chart explained, moving from left to right:
Enabling customers to collaborate on product development delivers a number of benefits like improving your research effectiveness while lowering your research costs. It can also deliver much better insight into real demand, which should improve your forecast, and supply and distribution chains.
Customers who collaborate in developing products are almost certainly more likely and willing to advocate for those products either directly to their networks or indirectly through platforms you create which can capture and aggregate their recommendations and opinions.
With a little creativity, your platform can serve content which is both appealing and interesting to prospective customers and can engage and convert them into actual customers
As your platform grows it can then become quite compelling to a wide range of content creators who want to reach audiences similar to your customers and who will be willing to collaborate with you to develop even better content.
Additionally, a platform that reaches a good percentage of your best customers will probably be a much better channel for stimulating additional purchases than an advertising campaign and can probably be shown to be more effective.
Finally, if the content you create is good enough, media property owners may help you redistribute it at little or no costs because it also helps to serve the audiences that they attract.
While it may not be possible to reach a state of absolute perfection – where the ecosystem is able to feed itself without requiring lots of additional financial investment to keep it going – it is fairly clear that the primary “fuel” for this model is NOT paid media, it is creativity and collaboration. The ability for brands to succeed in this model depend upon their ability to create long term relationships not upon their ability to inspire transactions. Ultimately, I think this model creates far better alignment between marketing and business success today. What do you think?
We’ve been a big proponent of a lot of this stuff in the past, but more recently it’s starting to become clear that popular concepts like:
A push for small ideas
Lean or agile strategy or development
Cut and paste
…are simply processes and techniques which, lacking an idea or focus, tend to become meaningless. Worse, their prominence in our conversations, debates and presentations, shape the level at which we think. When we only talk about processes,we become process-oriented and when this takes place over a longer period of time, it can’t help but lower the overall quality of thinking and output within the industry.
We’ve been doing a lot of thinking around digital and social ecosystems lately, which led me to the connection between a company’s digital ecosystem and its business model – which is also an ecosystem of sorts (or at least it should be).
I won’t go into detail about my definition of an ecosystem as it’s been covered elsewhere but the basic idea is to:
Create a stable and self-sustaining relationship between all assets and parties where everyone benefits.
Ensure there is an elegance or natural beauty around the structure of one’s ecosystem so that energy is conserved (e.g. a minimum of additional effort or money is required to fuel it)
Ensure the energy expended creates something that other parties in the ecosystem will value and use.
For these reasons and many more, I’ve always considered okcupid to be the best example of perfection when it comes to their business model.
Users look for dates on their platform and data gleaned from usage is served up to help improve their performance
These data are aggregated and compiled into dating reports which are published on their blog and widely syndicated helping to grow usage
The platform (and data) are sold to advertisers which funds ongoing development (or did until match.com bought them)
The simplicity and elegance of okcupid’s model is made possible by their business and by the fact that they are digital. However, the same principles can be applied to physical product (and service) businesses as well.
In the case of a product business a number of additional steps need to be considered:
Users participate in a platform which inspires consumption or usage of the product while also generating content (Burberry’s Art Of The Trench is a good example)
The platform serves as a canvas for co-creators to collaborate with the brand and deliver richer content (Mountain Dew’s Deweezy project is an interesting example of this)
Content generated through collaboration and participation can be placed in advertising or even better, can be used to fuel content partnerships which cost nothing or even generate revenue for the brand (Redbull is the master of this).
Of course this is incomplete as it does not consider the supply and distribution chain of the physical product itself, but it does establish a much more efficient and sustainable model for marketing and establishes the brand in the role of content platform rather than publisher. While some brands like Redbull may migrate towards a publishing model, I’d guess that’s not the smartest move for every brand and a model something along the lines of the one above would be much better suited.
I also think suppliers and distributors within the physical product chain could play a role within this content ecosystem but that’s another post. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
A friend recently suggested I write a ZJ blog post about how, in her words, “portfolio websites that talk about you in the third person are tacky now.” Meaning it’s becoming more tasteful to have your portfolio (and bio) say something like, “Hi. I’m Becky. I like writing stuff and watching TV” than having a grandiose paragraph, supposedly written by someone else who quite admires you, explaining your every accomplishment – “Becky is an award-winning copywriter who was recently knighted for her work.” (None of that is true, of course).
But now that we’re on the subject, there are a lot of other things that I’m analyzing when I look at people’s portfolios, things that aren’t about their work at all, but shed light on who they are as a person. In a sense, the work does not speak for itself in this industry. A lot of what people deem portfolio-worthy is collaborative, effected greatly by the client’s taste rather than the creative’s, and often put through loads of review, where it becomes something else entirely from what it started as. That’s why the portfolio, in how it’s styled and written, can provide some of those missing cues.
Here are a few of the things I look for:
1. What is your portfolio built on?
Is it your own coding that you did four years ago that doesn’t exactly work now? Is it a platform that was super stylish a couple years ago (Indexhibit) but is now getting replaced by slicker services like Squarespace? The way your portfolio is built shows how in-touch you are with trends and technology and how much effort you think you need to put into showcasing yourself. People who know what’s up tend to have portfolios that are just as amazing as their work.
2. Do you have a “schtick?”
A lot of people’s portfolios have some kind of theme or meta-story that creative people dream up as a way to seem … more creative than other creatives. Sometimes these are super cool, and other times they’re just inefficient, bizarre, roundabout ways to get across information. This leads to …
3. The way you talk about yourself
At ZJ, we’re big sticklers for humility. If your portfolio is full of promises like, “If you want great work, I’ll deliver it,” we worry that you’re a bit overconfident. Is your work “great?” That’s a big term. Maybe that’s a Minnesota thing. Also, if there’s no humanity or sense of who you are as a person – just a bit of jargon – I’m less than intrigued.
4. Any link to where your “real” work is
Whether you’re a writer or a designer, it’s good to see the work you just create for yourself. That’s a better way to understand your style and interests, in my opinion. Also, a lot of copywriters that go to portfolio school end up with a portfolio that hits hard on “funny.” How often am I supposed to write humorously for clients like Purina or Nordstrom? Pretty much never. It’s good to see if you can be serious, long-form, etc. rather than just making with one-liners.
5. How truthful you are
Little white lies abound in people’s applications and portfolios, and sometimes they’re more obvious than you think. For example, if you list a Tumblr blog that contains zero original content as your own business, that’s a big old stretch of the truth. Also, if you give yourself credit for something you only had a minor role in, that tends to become apparent once you actually get on the job and don’t have the skills people thought you did.
There’s a lot that might genuinely surprise you when it comes to what people are looking for in potential applications. For example, when I was younger, I assumed everyone had a certain level of cynicism toward their job, and that was just how people talked about work. But when I actually got into a hiring position at my old newspaper job, hearing applicants snarkily put down the the paper – assuming I would agree – automatically put them on my “no” list.
My advice is to be humble, be passionate about a potential job, and always assume you could be doing more to show how awesome you are. But – as kindergarten teachers say – “Show, don’t tell.”
I have two friends named Jay, and zero friends named Kay. Nonetheless, my iPhone insists on changing the name “Jay” to “Kay,” every single time I type it. Apple favoring names that were popular when my parents were kids contributes to my suspicion that they wish we all lived in a more “malt shop” era of the English language.
It’s not surprising that Apple, lauded and hated for its insistence on formality and control, would prefer that its users conform to proper, standardized English. The problem is, the nature of digital communication, along with blooming diversity in America, has spun many new threads of the English language. Dialects that were historically more oral than written are now solidified and broadcasted, and young people have already cemented ways to use English more efficiently in digital communications.
In college, I studied how American English was changing thanks to the Internet, and my main consensus was that what people refer to as “corruption” or a degradation in standard English literacy is actually a natural change in our language that primarily a) makes it more efficient b) creates ways for written speech to compensate for lack of body language and voice tone cues c) solidifies minority and subculture languages.
These are generally good things, although to English teachers they appear to be a cacophony of slang, misspelling, emoticons and general laziness. (Really, you’d rather write “2″ than “to?”) But looking at it differently, isn’t it kind of incredible that young people 10 years ago were given phones with nothing but numbers and created their own linguistic hacks to be able to communicate with one another at lightning speed?
It’s Apple’s refusal to acknowledge the putty-like nature of language that makes their autocorrect so embarrassingly bad for a company that in other respects is known for being intuitive and human. While autocorrect makes it easier to type on a tiny touchscreen keyboard, it also appears to be fighting slang, profanity, “newfangled” words, newer proper nouns (it loves changing brand names), and many elements of non-standard English.
Compare this to something like Google Translate, which is the only translation engine I’ve ever used that doesn’t produce 90% gibberish. Because Google Translate is human and collaborative, real people who have visceral, “real time” understandings of their language can help hone the translations to sound like how people actually talk. Think what would happen if Apple’s language database and algorithms worked with this way. Instead of feeling like autocorrect has its ears plugged, couldn’t Apple find a way to listen to how people are really talking, not just on their own phones, but in culture, and get smarter? What if your phone already knew that you were trying to type a brand name? A swear word?
While Apple’s autocorrect has become a beloved and hated part of pop culture, I suspect it will get smarter over time. For a mobile platform to truly render personal computers obsolete, typing needs to become less of a pain in the ass, and no one has yet found the solution. When they do, it will be one that doesn’t demand standard English from its users, because dictionaries don’t control language, people do.
This morning, The Today Show featured a US citizenship ceremony, complete with oath-taking by our new fellow citizens and a performance of “God Bless the USA” by country artist Lee Greenwood.
As I watched, I was filled with the pride of patriotism, but also admiration for The Today Show’s producers. In my eyes, they had just executed an ingeniously creative response to the divisiveness our country has fallen victim to in the weeks and months leading up to and coming out of the election.
New Optimism Some of us at Zeus Jones have been talking lately about ‘new optimism,’ which is less about going through life like an overly cheery Ned Flanders than about uncovering creative possibilities using the resources readily available to us, and committing to following through to make things better.
From my perspective, The Today Show exhibited this sort of new optimism in response to the threat of political division to its strong viewership (The Today Show broadcasts from the liberal bastion of New York City, but relies on a shit-ton of eyeballs from across America for its ratings and the resulting advertising revenue).
Taking advantage of the high level of emotion surrounding the ‘direction America is headed,’ its producers shifted the conversation to something we all believe in; the opportunity our country offers is a beautiful thing, and more people should benefit from it.
The Today Show could’ve sensationalized the division, or retreated to the safe territory of crafts and celebrity gossip until it all blows over, but instead it took the matter in its own hands and did what it could to heal the wounds: put something sappy yet meaningful on the TV that helps us focus our hearts and minds on what we all agree makes this country great. It’s a small step, but every little bit helps.
The difference between new optimism and old is embodied in the Obama campaign’s shift from ‘Hope’ to ‘Forward.’ Let’s not just hope things get better, let’s roll up our sleeves and creatively tackle the big issues in order to improve our country for the long term.
Regardless of your political views, I hope you’ll be inspired by these words on new optimism from Barack Obama’s reelection victory speech in the wee hours of November 7th:
“I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight.
I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.”
The Internet is abuzz with sad Twinkie jokes today after it was announced that Hostess is declaring bankruptcy, and selling their most cherished assets (Wonderbread, Hostess Cupcakes, et. al.) to the highest bidder. At first glance, this seems totally strange and unnecessary. Hostess is an iconic company with products that have become important parts of culture. Many companies would kill for that kind of recognition and cachet. Couldn’t we all work together and save those cream-filled treats that so many of our dads pig out on?
But Hostess does have a weakness, one that many companies are suddenly running into – they’ve rested on their laurels for too long without realizing their customer base is getting older, maybe even dying off. What have they done to appeal to young people? Millennials are quite different beasts who demand exotic, “self-actualized” products coming from companies with integrity. Read this study for more background.
Here is a quick list of traits that define millennials:
-They like food to feel healthy or “wholesome.” That’s one reason why the top-growing food right now is yogurt.
-They often prefer experiences to things.
-They like exotic, world-inspired flavors.
-They police brand reputations and inspire demand for eco-friendly, responsible operations.
Looking at that list, it’s clear that Hostess wasn’t paying attention to any of those things. Compare this to Campbell’s, who recently launched a whole line of soups aimed exclusively at millennials. Apparently in the process, they went so far as to have researchers “bar hop” with them to understand what it is that makes them tick. Overkill or no, when you look at millennials, different types of products become necessary.
So what could Hostess have done to remain relevant? A couple ideas:
1. The obvious – run their company with integrity
There used to be a time when you could treat workers like crap and customers might not even hear about it. The Internet put that time to rest. While Hostess’ mismanagement of money and poor treatment of workers definitely burned it into the ground, it also cemented the fact that the company would never be the least bit inspiring to Gen Y.
2. Taken a deep look at their nutrition
Apparently, young people are snacking more than ever, and their favorite type of snacks are “on-the-go” foods. This is perfect for Hostess! Except the top types of snacks are things like granola bars and, as mentioned above, yogurt. That’s because young people are viewing snacks as fuel for life, rather than just “therapy” or a reward for a good day. Could they have provided some healthier snacks that followed these trends?
3. Gotten less vanilla
Food trucks are a favorite with millennials, in part because of their ability to introduce them to other culture’s flavors and foods. Even chocolate companies are realizing that people want weirder flavors like wasabi, chile or bacon. Couldn’t Hostess have looked at this and stuffed those cakes with something other than white goo?
4. Created experiences, some how some way
To attain a Hostess product, you basically have to go to a gas station or a grocery store. How could Hostess have made their products available at places that millennials associate with fun? Concerts, art events, etc.? Could they have participated with chef or foodie culture to create “hostess remixes” or thrown events that challenge people to do something different (a la Redbull Crashed Ice)?
The downfall of Hostess seems unnecessary, but when you take a look at changing trends, it would have been inevitable sooner or later, if they didn’t start paying attention to culture. This just proves that it’s worth thinking ahead when it comes to catering to millennials. And that’s not so bad. What they want, basically, is something healthier and more interesting, made by a company that does right by their customers, their employees and the (gradually warming) world. RIP HoHos.
I was optimistic that Minnesota would turn down the marriage amendment on Tuesday. Not just because of the politics and the demographics and the numbers, but also because I know Minnesota. We’re not the most glamorous state in the country and we don’t always get everything right, but we’re a state that looks inwards. We care about how things affect our neighbors, and we take the extra time to think about it.
The truth is, limiting marriage to just straight people hurts a lot of our neighbors, our teachers, our co-workers, our friends, ourselves. It draws a line in the sand, saying that a whole group of already oppressed people don’t deserve equal rights. And deep down, it’s just mean.
Talking about gay rights can be difficult – that’s why we created rings that were symbolic of support, so that conversations could come up easier and more and more people could see that they weren’t alone in advocating gay marriage.
Together, with many like-minded organizations, Minnesotans brought the amendment down. We’re thankful to everyone that worked with us on this. It was a statewide effort to move forward and become a more tolerant community.
Now, let’s help make sure this never happens again. Civil rights should never be put to a vote. One purpose of having 3 branches of government, rather than just a popular vote, is to make sure that the rights of minorities never get trampled upon. Ideally, minority rights would be considered by legislature rather than left to the masses. In a popular vote, minorities are greatly outnumbered by people who don’t understand their plight or experiences. It’s just math.
Let’s raise awareness about just how un-American it is to let people vote on the rights of any kind of minority. If gay marriage becomes legal through a referendum, it will be because the cause of this group has received sympathy from the majority of the population, which is straight. But minorities shouldn’t have to plea their case to all of their non-minority friends every time they want the rights they deserve.
So states, quit putting gay rights up for the popular vote, and let our elected officials approach them with justice. Our voices have spoken as Minnesotans – we don’t want to limit marriage to straight couples. Now let’s make gay marriage legal.
I’ve been at Zeus Jones now for over 2 years, and every so often we’ll do a side project for the holidays or out of passion, like last year’s PROOF whisky tasting experience.
What I always find interesting about our side projects is that they force us to get out of the conceptual, creative zone and into some more basic elements of putting things together. While many of us spend our days writing or designing for products, we often don’t sit and package every single one with our hands. These projects find us in assembly lines, putting things together slowly, organizing heaps of materials and doing the legwork to get them where they need to go.
With our most recent project “For All,” our staff and family members have spent hours packaging up kits of symbolic rings that show you believe marriage is for everyone, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples. All of this time spent putting kits together has also meant quiet time to sit and think about think about what it all means for Minnesota, and for the future direction of America.
I have seen a miraculous change in public sentiment in the past year, with more and more people coming out in support of gay marriage, including our president and companies like General Mills, who we work with every day. To me, this signifies that opposing gay marriage is becoming less of a political stance and more of a civil rights issue. This means that gay rights are not something to be quiet about anymore, to dance around out of fear and diplomacy, but to acknowledge and fight for.
When I was growing up, the kids around me would use “gay” as a slanderous term to intimidate and bully one another. I don’t know if this happens as much anymore, but I like to envision a future where children are actually horrified to learn that kids of the past were raised with such hateful views.
The pain, bullying and suicides that have resulted from the societal attitude that supports this constitutional amendment should no longer go ignored. It’s time to stop treating a whole population of our country like they are second-class citizens.
As Mike Schmidt, strategist at Zeus Jones put it, “This is our generation’s civil rights issue. I’d rather be on the side of progress than be on the side of hate, fear and discrimination.”
So join us in showing your support for gay marriage by wearing one of our For All rights, and using them as a chance to create more dialog around this issue.
You can pick up as many rings as you’d like this week at Zeus Jones. Just stop by our space on Lyndale Avenue and 27th in Uptown, and you’ll see a large For All sign. Help us spread the word and defeat hate.
I spent a lot of my youth and early 20′s doing these things:
1. Messing with Yahoo Sitemaker to try to put squares together in something resembling a website.
2. Doing the same thing with Adobe Dreamweaver.
3. Reskinning WordPress themes while desperately looking at tutorials about how to change PHP functionality.
4. Trying to hand-code simple sites by rewriting stolen CSS and HTML until it looks kinda like what I made on Photoshop.
As you can see, I am an untrained layman who likes to make websites. But even people who don’t want to make websites themselves still need to understand some HTML or at least particular CMS functionality in order to make their Tumblr, Blogger, Cargo site or whatever work the way they want it to. You have to redirect your DNS settings, learn what FTP means, sit and load one image at a time on a gallery, etc.
As much as I like that web design forces you to learn the deeper language behind websites, I’ve always thought it’s kind of like forcing everyone to cook from scratch, or to sew their own clothes. I envisioned a future where there would be a sublime shortcut that let people edit sites by just dialing in their preferences in a natural, simple WYSIWYG way.
At ZJ, we’ve been marveling over Squarespace’s home page for a couple months, using it as an example of how a clean, simple 1-pager can tell a full story about a product in short, elegant way. But this weekend I actually used Squarespace, and it was surreal. Here are just a couple reasons why:
1. You can tell every aspect of Squarespace is designed by designers
The Squarespace CMS is simple, sleek and beautiful. Typing in URLs in a box just kind of feels good because all the entry boxes are so well-designed. The millions of features you have to tinker with on a CMS like WordPress are gone, in place of just a couple modes you can be in, like Manage mode and Edit mode.
2. Editing the CSS of a Squarespace does not need to involve knowledge of CSS
To edit a look you go to the page you want to edit, select Edit mode and click on what you want to change. It lets you select from a color wheel or a long list of fonts. It even has all Google fonts preloaded so you’re not stuck with regular web fonts but you don’t have to use Typekit (unless you want a font more legit than a Google font, which the layman doesn’t, necessarily). You can dial up the size or shrink it, and see it all change right in front of you. Much better than tweaking one element you hunt down in the CSS and nervously refreshing to see whether or not it looks like crap.
3. ‘Blocks’ make it easy to build a long, beautiful, multi-function page
Blocks on Squarespace are kind of like macros or widgets on other templates, and they let you add text, a gallery, a video, a form, even a map to a page. You just drag the blocks around until you get a layout you like, and the padding between boxes is already set to be foolproof, so you won’t end up with squished layouts.
And that’s just what I learned from playing with it for one day. Sure certain elements of Squarespace are hidden and it’s hard to find the CSS and manually change it at times, but they’re promising a developer toolkit soon that will make all of that much more accessible for hardcore designers and developers.
For anyone making a website or portfolio right now, I would say look into Squarespace before making a Cargo or WordPress site. If Squarespace builds more social following functionality into their platform, it will definitely squash all its competition, and I could see them being smart enough to figure that out.
I love to paint forms that are seemingly spontaneous and protean, rich and luminous, freely floating and unfettered by gravity, all unified and rendered coherent through this powerful Life Rhythm.
When I asked him about it many years ago, he said he wanted to paint like a child, to create art that felt spontaneous, innocent and effortless. That’s why when my youngest daughter sent him some paintings she had done as a four year old…
Unnamed by Jade
He wrote to my mum:
Really when I look at them I ask myself what’s the point of my paintings.
I spoke to him about it afterwards and he said that he longed for the innocence and naivety that comes so naturally to Jade and other children. In his opinion, it’s the hardest thing to recapture as an adult. You can’t get there through skill and technique alone – you also have to have a free spirit.
I think this is something others have spoken about in art, but I have been struck by its applicability to culture – and in particular digital culture. I think the ideas, memes, executions, that many of us find the most appealing today are equally spontaneous and effortless. They convey a deep sophistication and multi-layered meaning but in form they are fresh, free and naive.
I think the same is true for deceptive content marketing tactics like obvious headline and keyword manipulation and optimization of headlines for the greatest traffic. Sooner or later, we will all realise that not everything “is dead,” regardless of what the Harvard Business Review says, and that there are often more or less than 21 interesting things, even though Buzzfeed can’t find them.
But I think we don’t simply learn to ignore tactics like this, we also form impressions about the people and companies who use these tactics. In an age where relationships are often based upon shared values and interactions with most companies take place online, the methods you use online make your values transparent.
A little over 10 years ago – a car, Time magazine called one of the 50 worst cars of all time launched: the 2002 BMW 7 series (E65). A few years later, I worked on the E65 facelift which helped to make the E65/66 the best selling 7 series of all time.
Even back in 2005, it was hard to imagine the impact Bangle and Flame Surfacing would have on the industry, but in 2012 Flame Surfacing has become the default design aesthetic for the entire automobile industry.
Both BMW and Chris Bangle were roundly critcised at the time they introduced Flame Surfacing and the hating hasn’t abated to this day. It’s hard to imagine that any other company could or would have weathered it without flinching but BMW - as a staunchly independent company – was able to take a long view and stick to what it believed.
Some of my friends and I were recently reminiscing about the door-to-door selling we had to do as kids. For me, it involved going up and down my street in 10 degree February weather with my dad, mostly getting rejected by neighbors who had already bought their Girl Scout cookies elsewhere. For one of my friends, it involved trying to sell candy bars and light bulbs to support his Catholic school, while receiving a lot of long lectures about from people who “already paid taxes for schools” who weren’t crazy about the idea of funding a “rich kid Catholic school.”
All of us had negative memories of these experiences, which were supposed to leave us with a work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit. No matter how fresh-faced you were selling door-to-door, the kids who sold the most were always the ones with highly-connected parents who sold them all at work. If anything, it taught us cynicism.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t better ways to get kids excited about business. As my friend pointed out, maybe that just didn’t work because door-to-door sales don’t exist anymore, for the most part. In a digitally-connected culture that has vastly changed since Death of a Salesman, why are we still just encouraging kids to start lemonade stands or hustle cookies and Christmas wreaths?
The one experience that might have actually been part of the reason I went into this industry was when I got to play The Stock Market game in elementary school. I picked all of my favorite brands at the time (McDonald’s and Coke) and faux-invested in them. Predictably, they did well. That experience of analyzing brands, looking at their relevance to culture and taking a stake in it was exciting – and it’s what I still enjoy as a creative at Zeus.
Aside from using new digital tools to make this a bit more exciting for modern kids, there are many more options for empowering their entrepreneurial instincts. What about starting an Etsy shop for a classroom and encouraging kids to sell their arts and crafts? What about encouraging kids to create a product and donate a portion of their sales to a charity of their choice, like the hugely successful Emi-Jay hair ties?
The Girl Scout brand is finally starting to expand its efforts to include retail shops and mobile apps that make it easier to order cookies digitally. Now that they’re beginning to leave the door-to-door model behind, they have to make sure they’re not leaving the kids behind as well. When I recently visited the Girl Scout shop at Mall of America, it was all manufactured merch, when I had been expecting something entirely different. Maybe more kid-made crafts, or a cookie shop that featured all kinds of crazy Girl Scout Cookie treats.
Children – and teenagers – are full of ideas. Why not give them more ways in? Creating and selling a product these days involves a lot more creative thinking, digital savvy and cultural understanding than it used to when the first Samoa was concocted. This means that the kids who aren’t great at in-person sales – or don’t have influential parents – can still play a large part in helping an idea become successful.