Wily Mktg

SM: New College Major and Major Classroom Headache

Posted on: Wednesday, April 24th, 2024
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Unplugging, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Yep, traditional higher-ed institutions will soon be graduating students with degrees in social media. It’s a million times more relevant than Shakespeare, so how could they not?

Within the last week or so, social media has become a headline in so many ways that social media itself can barely keep up.

In Minnesota, the U of M has announced plans to create a social media minor, and already has some classes; St. Thomas (across the river) has had a digital media arts major for some time. Meanwhile, the MN legislature appears close to some sort of ban on cellphones in the classroom (though school districts would create their own policy). And in faraway Washington DC, new legislation to ban TikTok in the USA just sped through Congress.

  • Phones are ruining us

The BreakAway board has, for years (decades?) railed against c-phone/tech addiction, and the ways they have ruined communication, civility, and sanity. These issues have now become so omnipresent that, well, we rarely comment or preach the gospel of Unplugging of late. So while it’s terrific to see the world sorta catching on, let us be the first to say: TOO LATE!

  • Try teaching to plugged-in students

Having taught at two art colleges—during the years that phones and nonstop tech were gradually gaining ground and taking over brains—I can tell you this: It’s not easy. Policies rarely worked, and students were so clever they could practically text with their toes. As a guest speaker in other classes, I’d wander and see most of the students were NOT taking notes on their computers; they were shopping Amazon or perusing the latest posts from Nikki Minaj.

Yet, my writing class incorporated social media writing. (I called the course ‘Contemporary Marketing Writing,’ though the official title was an inherited, tired tangle of verbiage.) The challenge persisted always: Professor Kirk insisted the students write with traditional grammar and punctuation, if only cuz this is college, even though SM rarely bothers with such. At some point, I had to give up! And in truth, my approach was probably dated, if appropriate. #whatevs

  • Will TikTok go away?

In a word, NO. The owners (who are Chinese) can fight the ban in courts. For years. Should it go away? Yes. China is accessing our data, spying on our people, and successfully spreading bogus information to harm our country. This culture critic tires of conspiracy theories. But this is no theory. Even the dunderheads in DC have finally figured that out.

Anyway, polls of kids confirm that if TikTok goes away (which would be toats Debby Downer), they’d just shift to other platforms. And other platforms would probably get better at mimicking TikTok.

  • Ancient Chinese secret

People often quote the ancient allegedly Chinese proverb: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Well, we do. So interesting that 49% of 15-17 year-olds have experienced cyberbullying within the last year (Pew). So fascinating that excellent teaches are quitting because they can’t compete with phones. So intriguing that our state and national governments are trying to control the chaos through a myriad of laws that will have little or no policing or power.

There’s so much more to say, and maybe we will, someday. But just now, we just wanna ditch this tedious writing nonsense and check our latest Facebook feeds.

Keep the faith.

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Travel Fights Hate Better than lululemon

Posted on: Monday, October 24th, 2022
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

“Welcome…We expect you to…We will not tolerate…”

Today’s post dips into many of the topics we’ve been wading in of late: Advertising, wordsmithing, photographic messages, escapism, cultural chaos, and of course, travel. Please dive in and discuss amongst yourselves.

  • When life gives you lulu…

When I found myself escaping to the mall yesterday, I found myself taken aback by this sign at the entrance of lulu’s boutique of lemons. On the one hand, high 5s for the aggressive, stern stance. On the other hand, really? I mean, I’ve received unprovoked stinkeye for walking into rooms hosting folks from rednecks to blue bloods. But a trendy yoga gear store?

I felt guilty, though un-charged.

  • Words matter

After kicking it around for a while, the BreakAway Woke Committee flashed the yellow card at Ms. Lemon. Lulu’s marketeers likely loved our mild warning; it was yellow, after all.

We take our writing, if little else, seriously here at BreakAway. And delicate nuances that always deserve extra consideration are tone and voice. Does lulu’s verbiage feel inviting? Inclusive? Encouraging and moving? Statements of aspiration or mission can be great, and should strive to guide and inspire. You want to get such things right.

Does this feel right? Maybe to their customers, which skew white and middle/upper class (though I doubt it). That’s not me, not exactly. And the only thing I ever bought at LLL was a discounted (but still $$$) backpack. The zipper immediately broke—with no returns on sale merch. So maybe I’m still sour…lemons.

But still, let’s strive, dear readers and travelers, to preach our messages and change the world with graciousness, welcomeness, and positive voices.

As George Clinton (the King of Funk) says (and he knows way more than the lemon crew about shaking your booty), “Free your mind…and your ass will follow.”

  • Moral of the story 

I asked myself about two favorite, oh-so different, places I love to escape to: The Caribbean and Italy. I pondered: Would you see such a sign there? Highly unlikely. Do they have issues about race, class, and tolerance? Yes. Is saying “We expect you” and “We do not tolerate” a great way to start the conversation about (to quote Rodney King)…”CAN’T WE ALL GET ALONG?

When you travel, you have no choice but to get along…to open your mind to new people, new viewpoints, new ways of living. And they open their doors to you: In my experience, most (if not all) destinations proudly accept you. And tolerate you. And welcome you warmly…with curious and generous hearts. I’ll say it:

People who travel a lot, assuming they get out and experience things, grow more open minds. And hearts. Thanks to their hosts. (What kind of a host is lululemon?)

Journey pilgrims are also always dreaming and scheming their next big (or small) Breakaway. They want their hearts to grow three sizes more, like the Grinch.

They go home grateful, spiritually moved, and more hopeful for humanity. That can be a rare feeling these days. lululemon must agree, or they might not post such a sharp but blunt “welcome” sign.

  • Go with good intent

Having said all THAT, may their sign somehow be making the world a better place. I think that’s their objective. Insert 🙌 (raised hands in celebration) here.

“Love is the answer.” ~Todd Rundgren (rock star)

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” ~Jesus (Jesus Christ, Superstar)

Keep the faith. (breakawayguy)

My boy learning about fishing from lovely Caribbean locals with love in their hearts…

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MktgMndy: Martha’s Mag Death Signals Reading’s Demise

Posted on: Monday, August 29th, 2022
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Magazines, once thriving lifestyle and status tools, are now headed toward extinction.

Welcome to Marketing Monday (MM), our periodic dive into all things design, branding, advertising, wily wordsmithing, and more. Your site host (one Kirk Peter Horsted) once taught and still works in these fertile fields, and just can’t keep his keyboard shut any longer. Please enjoy, ponder, and feel free to disagree!

We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.

~ Marshall McLuhan

  • Where have you gone, Mrs. Tastefulness?

Martha Stewart Living got killed off last spring. Along with 7 other magazines published by Des Moines-based Dotdash Merideth (including EW, Health, and Parents—what will people page through in doctors’ waiting rooms?).

The rationale for shuttering these iconic brands is, as usual, peppered with bloviated boasts of upping the game toward new! improved! websites. That’s the future, which clearly ain’t what it used to be. Picture short, bad-grammar tidbits targeted to frenetic web searches. With lame stock photos. Surrounded by obnoxious ads and contrived verbiage punched out by underpaid blurb-slaves.

Meanwhile, many excellent, experienced, educated writers in NYC and beyond just became unemployed. We wish them well on their unscheduled Sabbatical.

Who needs real writers anymore? Who reads? What does these mag closings signify, anyway? Please read on…

  • What this means: 1. Perusing publications no longer pleases an impatient public

Remember lounging on your bed (on the beach or patio) with a fave mag? The reverie from reading and scheming offered a short mental vacation, rather like a Calgon “take me away” bath. Pages got ripped out for future ref. Dreams and ideas took root; maybe that’s why you painted a nightstand, purchased an album, or vacationed in Venice. Above all, the bright pics and shiny pages were…palpable.

Now, we stare at tiny phone screens with blank, fried eyes. Clearly, we prefer a smaller, and (dare I say) more manipulative presentation of ever-fleeting information. Glance, click, swipe, move on. As Martha Stewart Living dies, so does our attention span.

  • What this means: 2. Our curiosity for organic learning is rotting

Allow me to admit a bias: I made my living, and a rewarding one at that, for years as an advertising sales manager in magazines. One of my secrets for making my staff perform smartly (literally)? They had to read every issue. Yes, we had quizzes. Yes, we had sales meetings where we sat around talking about editorial details. If you disliked an article or thought a new direction hurt ad sales, no problem. Opinions welcome; ignorance NOT.

Is ignorance where our culture is heading…and magazine readership just another sign of it? Well yeah. Duh! Not to say you can’t read on your phone but…do you? We know books are on the endangered media list; next to expire on the verbal brain chain must be mags, newspapers, and more. And words in general. Soon, the in-use English language may decline to, oh, 2,000-5,000 words, many misspelled. And 55,000 emojis.

  • What this means: 3. Aesthetic sensibility will get simple-minded, and if not mindless

Every detail in mags like MSL goes through rigorous layers of criticism, collaboration, and refinement. Those movie scenes where media perfectionists are up all night getting everything just right? It’s true. And they’re back at it (in fresh, dressed-to-impress outfits) in the morning.

Martha (and so many more mags) delivered savvy headlines, articles, captions, and more—surrounded by cool and creative images that sparked the brain to new concepts. It’s called design. It used to determine how you lived, who your customer would be, and how you’d present yourself to a watchful world.

Moreover, and if nothing else, such impressive design offered readers a sumptuous release into inspiration, entertainment, and escapism. The experience was often learning lite, of course, but that made it brilliant. Hey, when college and Shakespeare are over, it’s time to turn the page to novels, self-improvement guides, publications, and a world of possibilities.

Nowadays, do people even know how to turn the page?

  • RIP, information society

Without getting political, or disparaging the infranets, let’s just agree that the manipulation of information has replaced the search for knowledge, wisdom, intelligence, even common interests.

These ruthless market forces always win, and will continue to mow down Martha and much more. And deprive us of the tactile, lush-papered, colorful WOW that was part of our personal diet, development, and dreamscape.

  • A random, charming memory

Not to be TOO nostalgic, BUT…We still have memories, right? Like this one…At my publishing company, when the freshly-printed box of the new monthly edition burst into the office, everyone ran to the lobby, greedily grabbed one, and ravenously pored through every page.

Did the 4-color black-and-white cover idea pop as hoped? Did the 2-page spread with the tough gutter picture and bleed off the sides align impressively? Did the mix and placement of ads and editorial work for all parties—especially the reading audience?

That feeling, that just-inked smell, that nervously hypercritical eye. That miracle of competitiveness, teamwork, and talent made all the fights and angst and deadline stress worthwhile.

Countless subscribers knew a parallel sensation of their own when opening their mailbox to discover the gift of a sexy magazine glowing like a promise amid the detritus.

  • And now, for the good news…

Before finishing this praise of the page, let’s acknowledge the good news: Some people still love magazines. And books. And reading and learning and…comfortable BreakAways into glorious verbal and pictographic escapism. Long live print, please! And thank you!

Keep reading. Keep your standards high. And keep your ideas open.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Wish You Were Here, Prince

Posted on: Friday, April 23rd, 2021
Posted in: SoulTrain, FOTOFRIDAY, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Our local superstar took ownership of our hearts…and the color purple.

Price died 5 years ago, and fans still ache from his unexpected passing—another day the music died. A local radio station pumped his jams from Song 1 to his final release; my personal tribute was to pick up a purple orchid to prompt memories and provide beauty.

I am not alone. IMHO, Prince was (without question) THE consummate musician creator, and performer—probably the best ever. (And I was fortunate to see him many, many times.) Paisley Park allowed some guests yesterday and, as usual, still-grieving fans from all over the world showed up for a mere few moments of presence.

Sometimes I wish that life was never ending.

~ Prince

Music remains the ultimate BreakAway. Listening takes you somewhere else, relieves whatever’s ailing you, and opens your ears and brain to new impressions and possibilities. People in the KNOW say there are at least 8,000 finished, unreleased songs in The Vault. Yet another reason to…

Keep the faith.

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BITN: Gap Years, Resume Gaps, & Killer Perks

Posted on: Monday, November 2nd, 2020
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle, BITN, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

  • Pandemic lemonade: Take time off

An FA group out of SF is encouraging their Gen-X clients to consider a shift into Gap-Year mode during these helter-skelter times. Yep, the Advisory Group of San Francisco proclaims to their 40-something investors that, “midlife is now even more intense.” And that research shows that age 47 trends to be the low point in the lifetime happiness curve. So…why not? A 16-p guide is available for the asking.

Midlife is now even more intense

AGSF also mentions “gas pedal risk,” that go-go faster-faster feeling that can happen when life brings maxed-out demands like kid-rearing, peak career loads, and … so much more. Nice idea, a mid-life gap year. BreakAway applauds and of course advocates exactly that (your children will thank you!) along with gap years (or months) most anytime throughout this “one wild and precious life.”

  • Um, about those lost years…

Okay, back to work! Last summer, MoneyTalksNews ran an article about a common theme that continues to grow in attention: How to explain gaps in resumes. The challenge thickens given that many firms essentially have robots that screen resumes via “tracking sytems.” Said bots may flag and dislike breaks! (After all, robots never rest.)

So what to do? The author suggests being upfront and giving a reason for the gap in both cover letter and resume, as research suggests that approach alone can up the odds of your info making it past the bot-bouncer by 60%. Mention any training and networking you’ve done. And of course, keep the focus on your key skills and talents.

At BreakAway, we fearlessly ask: Hey, doesn’t everybody need (and deserve) a pause now and then? Or are we really supposed to work from age 22 to 67 with nary a pit stop during the rat race? Besides, people who take time to raise children, help family, and travel curiously are just plain more well-rounded and worldly.

  • Best workplaces serve up juicy bennies

Comparably is a savvy site “Comparing Employers, Brands, and Salaries.” A recent and impressive post lauds 11 companies that offer innovative perks to keep employees content, motivated, and loyal! 2020 and its shifting work realities make such bonuses particularly useful and no doubt appreciated.

Examples include a home-office stipend, mental-health help with easy access, debt-free degrees, and (my favorite) virtual happy hours with at-home drink delivery during the pandemic.

All great, but what about FREE time? Here you go—just some of the ways that innovative employers are keeping their staffers savvy and sane…

·      Unlimited paid time off

·      Extended holiday weekends

·      Company-wide recharge days

·      1 mental-health day per month

·      Summer Fridays off

·      One-month sabbaticals after three years service

One month off after three years? If that doesn’t make recruiting and retention easier, we’re out of ideas! As countless prospective employees are likely saying…Sign me up!

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FOTOFRIDAY: Live Music Lives On!

Posted on: Friday, October 23rd, 2020
Posted in: SoulTrain, FOTOFRIDAY, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

  • What will you be doing at age 92?

When it comes to Wily Marketing, few businesses can compete with Crooners, a large jazz club here in the ‘burbs. (Yes, the ‘burbs!) They’ve found ways to keep open, keep the conviviality flowing, and keep the musicians working—much to the glee of the socially-distanced, sell-out audiences. Their latest innovation: The tent.

Last week, at age 92, the Marvelous Marilyn Maye filled the big-top for 5 nights with world-class music, spontaneous and spot-on humor, and enough Covid-may-care charisma to leave the audiences deliciously, if temporarily, filled with faith. Don’t believe me? Peruse this rave review from the Star Tribune’s seen-it-all critic.

I sit in awe during her shows. And I’ve seen, oh, 55? 95? Because I spent a few summers working a club in Okoboji, where she played—and has for 64 years—2020 being the first miss since the run started. She also plays fine venues all over including in NYC, Palm Springs, and (in the day) Johnny Carson’s show a record 76 times. No wonder I still show up giddy.

A silly pandemic couldn’t stop her from a five-night run at Crooners. She even flew in her favorite but often-unavailable pianist (since he also accompanies starry names like Liza and Bette), Mr. Billy Stritch. Never heard of him? Just trust me when I say he’s the best. And their harmonious chemistry makes your heart pound.

So…YES! Life goes on. Mini-musical-BreakAways can still happen. My obsession with live performance (best served live with good friends and red wine) has not died of C-19. And there are still savvy establishments like Crooners that won’t shut down, and won’t shut up. Instead, they throw up a tent and invite everyone inside.

Marilyn and Band remind us to fight the fear, support your loves and causes, and of course, to…

Keep the faith.

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FOTOFRIDAY: I Saw the Comet!

Posted on: Friday, July 24th, 2020
Posted in: FOTOFRIDAY, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Yes! I did! In the city, even, where there is (waaaaaay too much) light pollution. I had to kayak out on a lake (not the safest thing to do but, hey) and use binoculars on a clear night. Once spotted, the feeling was magical. Almost emotional, even.

I couldn’t manage a picture, of course. So here, instead, is a tip case from an excellent NOLA street band. The musicians are suffering, along with other performers and service workers. They’re floating in space, rather like the comet. (There.)

So sad. They need us. More important: We need them. Keep the faith.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Life Before Costco

Posted on: Friday, February 21st, 2020
Posted in: Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Here you see a shop-owner dutifully working in the shadows of his perfect produce shop just outside of Paris 20 years ago. So much has changed on USA soil; there are myriad grocery options in most American cities, yet a family-owned fruit and beverage boutique may be impossible to find. Who can market a small market and make a living?

So this is life before Costco. It also portrays the other-worldly passion of worldly Paris, where such artisanal shops in 2020 are probably less omnipresent but still very present. And residents show up.

This writer-chef loves the savvy of Trader Joe’s and the convenience of a Target that sells everything from grapes to undergarments. But as I reminisce this random Parisian morning and a sight any traveler to France will encounter countless times, there’s no question which lifestyle offers better connection, quality, and values.

Long live Costco? No. Viva la France!

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Forbes & Motley Fool Endorse BreakAways

Posted on: Saturday, February 8th, 2020
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Work/Life Hacking, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

To everything there is a season: A time to work, a time to play. 

The BreakAway Crew has been selling sabbatical lifestyles since 2008. Yet we’re always delighted when bigger influencers like Forbes and the Fool affirm our Big Idea. Both approach the topic from a career-centric POV. And that’s swell, since most folks have a career-credit-card focus and that encourages MYBA room to romp in the equally vital faith-&-freedom space.

  • Iconic takeaways from media masters

You can peruse these articles quickly, but here are the primary reminders in case you need to get back to tic tok. 

Career breaks…

  • WON’T RUIN YOUR CAREER….

Since they give you a chance to try new challenges, embark on an entrepreneurial endeavor, diversity your skill set, volunteer for something impressive, up your passion profile, boost your confidence, and more.

  • HELP YOU STAND OUT…

Because these days, so many jobs are LinkedIn-predictable and (for many) STEM-ish. Travelers have grander perspectives and wider exposure. Savvy employers want nothing less. As we say at BreakAway, it’s about self- Wily Mktg.

  • PLAY INTO THE ‘CAREER WAVE’ TREND RATHER THAN THE CONVENTIONAL ‘LADDER’…

This will make more sense as the Millennials take over. And they will comprise 35% of the work force this year. And get this: 84% of them foresee career breaks in their future.

  • FIGHT BURNOUT….

Since, frankly, that’s a career (and well-being) killer. Forbes says that 23% of full-time employees report burnout often; another 44% say it hits them sometimes. Our side-EFX-free RX: BreakAway ASAP.

  • “CLARIFY WHAT TYPE OF LIFE YOU WANT”…

My favorite. Paths, passion, restlessness, test drives, that whole deal. And our Motley not-so-foolish writer remind us that, depending on your age, many retirement funds are eligible to pay for your adventure. (Why wait until you’re old and rickety!?!)

  • Free your mind and your ass will follow

So says one of my heroes, George Clinton (and Funkadelic). Our fine writers agree but might paraphrase thusly: 1) Free your mind and your career will follow. 2) Free your mind and your career break will follow. 

So do like Forbes and the Fool and start planning BreakAways into your life already! Or just agree that careers are long yet life is longer so…When the time is right, why not go? 

PS Thanks, Forbes and Fool!

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Stuff is Making Us Stuck (Part 2)

Posted on: Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Sabbatical Shuffle, Spendology, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Last month, in Part 1, we dove into our junk piles and bemoaned the detritus that weighs on us, our culture, and our shifting populations. We continue that slog by taking a peek into where our rejected stuff goes.

It’s not pretty. In fact, the benevolent feeling we may enjoy when dropping off our rejects to charity might be just plain ignorant. Ex-Minnesotan Adam Minter, now a columnist for Bloomberg in Malaysia, provides a rare expert overview, having grown up in a Minneapolis family that has run a scrap heap since 1920s, published a book titled “Junkyard Planet,” and late last year released a follow-up book called “Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale.” Mr. Minter also did an interesting Star Tribune interview when recently in town.

  • “People like shiny new things”

States Minter. It’s human nature, yet he advocates making things last as long as possible. How? Buy quality, for starters! Not only can you enjoy it longer, but the reuse market should be more plausible. He also recommends repair, despite that cheap goods often sway us just to replace. Another idea: Seek second-hand stuff, since a heckuva lot of it is nearly new.

  • What else causes this glut?

You may have noticed this: Often, the merch in Marshall’s has about the same price tag as that in consignment stores. Why? Because the mass production of goods—especially when lower-quality—can be surprisingly price-competitive. So people buy new, and second-hand stores get less traffic.

In fact, Minter notes that thrift stores in the US sell only about a third of their inventory, while the rest gets exported, recycled or tossed in the trash. Ouch.

  • Will millennials save us?

Much has been made about their less materialistic lifestyle. But don’t bet on it, says Minter, who cites research suggesting that the shared economy only appeals when it’s cheaper. And that as the millennials accrue more spending power and maturity, they’ll buy happily acquire more, just like other generations.

  • Good ideas to help clean up this mess

As mentioned, Minter promotes repair before replace, and insisting on quality. But even more radical, common-sense solutions could include “durability labeling,” which tells you things like how long a company will support smart phone or how many washings a shirt might endure.

He also proposes “right to repair” laws, noting that much repair information is protected by companies, trademarks, trade barriers, and more. Brilliant.

  • Sins and solutions

We can all think about our own sins and solutions, of course. And here’s one of mine: Sin—buying lots of new clothing recently at insanely affordable January clearance sales. (When asked who’s my favorite designer, I always say Clearance!) Solution: Spread it all out alongside similar old favorites, and make smart choices about what to keep and what to return.

Heck, sometimes that nice $15 shirt hardly seems worth the bother to take back, right? But there’s principal at work here too. And $15 is $15. Save $15 a day somehow, and you’ve got $5,500 to apply toward that BreakAway you want more than more stuff.

Even better, there will be less clutter-y obstacles in your way!

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