Brand Consultant & Coach, Published Business Writer, Brand Author & Speaker, Harpist, Composer, Mom & Wife, Spiritual Student, Educator ... and that's just on Monday. A blog about brand leadership, innovation and anything else I want to write about.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Top 5 Reasons for Tween Brand Power

It's 2007 and Hannah Montana is the latest craze for tween girls and parents are ponying up several hundred - and in some cases thousands - of dollars to see the live concert version of Disney's mega TV hit.

Tweens (in yesteryear referred to as "kids") are a highly coveted segment of society spanning in age roughly 8 to 12 years old. Over the last decade plus, companies and their marketers across the globe have discovered the increased buying power of this segment, which in 2006 has been estimated at $170 billion worldwide according to Euromonitor.

Aside from the eye-popping dollar figures associated with tweens, what are the top 5 reasons that makes these mini-spenders so powerful in capitalist societies?

1. Their pampering parents and other family members.

At virtually no other time in history have parents and grandparents spent as much on their children for products and services that go beyond basic needs. This translates to designer-inspired room decor, cell phones, specialty dolls, elaborate video game systems...and concert tickets for Disney rock stars.

2. They have their own money.
In case it wasn't clear from the figure above, they have money to spend directly and indirectly - money that comes from mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, etc. as allowances, birthdays, chores. Or they simply ask one of the above family figures to buy for them.

3. Their spending is purely discretionary.
Tweens are in the remarkable position at their stage of life that, aside from saving, they have nothing else to spend their money on but cool stuff that they like. Tweens have no worries about mortgages, aging parents, credit card bills, first cars, or even dates or proms to pay for.

4. They're brand loyal.
Tweens know what brands look, sound and feel like and recognize brands through traditional and Internet/mobile media and marketing. Unlike price sensitive, brand fickle adults, tweens know what they want and will buy it again, and again, and again.

5. They are brand evangelists.

No one articulates the glories and disgraces of a brand quite like a passionate 9-year old. They'll not only sell all the adults they know (perhaps to sell-in Christmas and birthday wish lists all-the-more effectively) they tell all their friends, too, and can talk about it as the fodder for social bonding. "You like Harry Potter and Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, too? Hey, we have something to talk about..."

Tweens - those funny little beings who secretly wish they were already a teen - you have to love them. And it's obvious marketers around the world do.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Tides of Being Self-Employed

You know it's been a long time since I've worked for myself - now officially over 10 years. I'm 36 years old, but keep in mind I've been working ever since I lied about my age to work for a local radio station at the age of 14. Do the's been more than awhile!

There are so many perks to being self-employed. Many years ago when I was employed in Manhattan, I remember as I was walking to the subway, looking up to see a man sitting high above showcased by his expansive apartment window, casually thumbing through a New York Times with a cup of coffee steaming at his side. The time was 10:30am, and I thought to myself in that instant, "Wow, that's freedom and luxury rolled into one." To dictate time on my own terms - I want that.

Not too many months later, I couldn't take the frenetic New York pace anymore and chose to go back to my beloved San Francisco - without a job, a prospect or even an idea of what I was going to do. I take that back, I had one - something about creating furniture to sell, which of course, I knew nothing about.

A decade later, I can honestly say I've enjoyed the highs and survived the lows of having a paycheck completely in my own hands. As a mother, I have the extraordinary gift of dictating my own time to spend with my kids, which is truly priceless - especially considering my own family history.

And then there are times I really wonder - is it worth all the craziness of cash flow fluctuations, people who don't call you back, taxes, and the constant hunt for income?

This summer has been even more brutally hot in the desert than normal and along with it has been an unusual stream of people who have dropped off the face of the earth on the communication side. Call it Mercury retrograde - or whatever - but my list of people who owe money, owe me a phone call or email or owe me a "Yes, thank you we'd like to engage your services" or "No, thank you we're not able to at this time" is quite a long one.

Everyone's busy in life and business, and it's certainly not a conincidence that both busy and business are essentially the same words. But you know, I'm at the point where the "I'm too busy" excuse is a real cop out. What happen to common decency and respect for others and their time?

Ironically (I say as a Westerner) the people I seem to experience the most respectful communication with are the ones from what we perceive as smaller or "developing countries." "Please," "thank you's" and "wonderful I greatly appreciate that" go along way in an email with someone you may or may not know personally and can bring light into a crazed, busy-filled day. Being addressed as "Ms. Alycia" even brings a giggle and a smile to my day.

So what do you think? Is the life of self employment worth it? What's brought a smile or a huge frown to your face lately?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Very Politically Incorrect Statements

It's post Labor Day, and I'm back from the desert. You may say to yourself, "but Alycia, you already live in a desert!" No, I live in the land of strip malls and pavement built upon desert. The real desert is becoming a rarer and rarer commodity these days - not that anyone in urban planning or the state's land trusts really seem to mind.

The truth of it is, I hate the desert. Yes, I was born and raised here. Yes, I spent significant time away in San Francisco, New York and Munich. But I still am not fond of dirt, heat and a bunch of cacti. So why do I willingly putting myself out there in these elements for multiple days on end? For the privilege of connecting with this planet, its elements and Spirit.

Some people go to church every Sunday, I go to the desert and get very intimate with the mud to keep cool in it.

As I drove back in the car with a couple of out-of-state friends (who are equally insane) from spiritually bonding with the high chaparral wilderness , we chatted about the research I'm doing for my upcoming book Brand Avatar - about branding on Second Life, social networking sites, blogs, Twitter, and the realm of the much overused term of "Web 2.0."

She asked, "Don't you think there's a lot of dark stuff on these sites?"

No, she didn't mean dark colors being used in the design templates, she meant "the dark side" - malevolent energy working through the ethers. Juju erring on the side of mal intent.

"Yes," I replied, "but if that's all you're looking for, then that's what you'll find."

[And now comes the politically incorrect statements....]

Everyday I'm working with this thing called with Internet, I see them both: the dark side and the light side. It's absolutely no different than walking in real life - there are good apples and nasty ones. There is kindness, benevolence and and earnest effort to create change for the better and that which is jaded, sarcastic, sucking, depleting, nasty energy. There is that which wants to con, rob, steal, oppress, perpetuate lies and keep people ignorant and enslaved to making change and real choices.

I love technology, I love the Net, and I love the fun and connection that can be made with people instantaneously around the world. It is a real expression of power. The question is how are you using that power?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Holy Grail of Naming

It struck me today as I was reading a Fast Company blog about Washington Mutual bank's attempt to strong arm the country into calling it WaMu, that companies can be entirely too predictable and rigid about what they want in a name.

WaMu in and of itself is a terrible combination of vowel sounds that doesn't roll off the tongue and feels even more ridiculous to say. I love Ruth Sherman's account of her teen boys yelling out "WAAAAMUUUU!" as they passed a branch in the Golden State.

But... as ridiculous as the name sounds .... the name was guided by the Five Holy Grail Points of Naming:

1. It's ultra short ... the shorter the better. Why? I still don't know. Some people are just convinced a name has to be a few letters and no more.

2. It doesn't confine the company to a geographical region (a.k.a. the regional brand)...especially as the banks migrate to other parts of the country - like say - Arizona.

3. It retains the brand equity and recognition to a greater degree than starting from scratch with a brand new name.

4. It's poised to intrude into modern lexicon and therefore pop notoreity - like the brand idol of idols: Fedex.

5. It's a trademark that can be owned and defended in a court of law. Let's face it, what good is a trademarked name when it's weak as hell to defend against other wanna-be names?

Now here's the reality of the Five Holy Grail Points of Naming...

If a company is forcing a fit, the strategy can sincerely backfire on a brand. If the forced brand was a person you met at a dinner party, you'd probably walk away muttering "What a fake dork (**or insert expletive**)" and not give the person a second thought let alone the time of day. Now translate that over to how someone regards a brand...potential customer turned off. Even in the world of naming, authentic wins every time.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Evolution of a Metapreneur

I've always felt like a bit of a nut case when people ask what I do - never quite knowing what I should reveal or even not reveal about the vast areas of interest that take up the majority of my waking hours.

Really nothing that I do can be easily understood in one phrase.

I'm not a doctor, a lawyer nor a school teacher. I'm a brand consultant...and I've named some famous companies...and I'm a published writer and author in branding...and I speak in front of people like Stanford University MBA students and luxury brand execs... and I play a very big harp as more than just a hobby... and I'm influenced by classical, jazz, world, rock, r&b and pop music....and I compose and create a new moving form of music each time...and I've played with symphonies and even at the Whisky A Go-Go...and I teach little kids at my son's montessori school strings and music theory...and I'm a mom to an 8 year old and an 8 month old...and I study indigenous shamanic teachings as well as European Christian mysticism....and I'm fascinated with the world and how I can contribute to help people improve their lives...and I'm a student of all the above...and I'm an educator of all the above...And, and, and...

And you know...I'm not the only one. I know there are others of you out there who are very gifted in very disparate ways.

And so one day it came to me when contemplating the "metaverse" -- thank you Neal Stephenson -- of course, that's what I am...a metapreneur. And a modern one at that. One part left brain balanced by the right and a healthy dose of eccentric taste.

At the very least, I finally have a label that isn't associated with the mental health industry.