Tag Archive | "fashion"

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How Microsoft’s Director of Innovative Engagement Designs Meaningful Experiences

This post was originally published on the PivotCon blog on April 6, 2013.

Guest post written by Mark Drapeau, Director of Innovative Engagement (Public Sector), Microsoft, @cheeky_geeky

Adam Conner of Facebook dances “Gagnam Style” at the DC show in Fall 2012.

Have you ever made your Facebook profile pic a photo of you laughing with friends at a Microsoft event?

For most people the answer to this question would be “no.” However, a novel social engagement I began for Microsoft in 2010 named Geek 2 Chic has slowly but surely begun to change that answer to a resounding “yes” for a modest number of highly influential people.

One of the nuggets of wisdom I like to drop on corporate folks who ask me for advice about social media is the following: Social media is 20% about what you say you do, and 80% about what other people say about what you do. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule or anything, but it’s a good enough approximation to be an eye-opener.

You see, most large corporations think that talking about themselves and measuring how many hits a corporate blog post received or how many media outlets regurgitate the headline with a modicum of opinion attached is equivalent to “landing the message.” Sometimes it is, but in many cases it’s easy to overestimate its value.

Eric Kuhn of United Talent Agency rocks the hoodie in a Spring 2012 show in Los Angeles.

The reason for this is that even people who see the IMPORTANT CORPORATE MESSAGE do not necessarily experience it – interactively, physically, or emotionally. Thus, there’s a good chance that they don’t retain it in a meaningful way. And therefore there’s a very good chance that they don’t share it by spreading authentic, personalized word-of-mouth to people who trust them.

Geek 2 Chic is a charity fashion series collaboration between Microsoft and Bloomingdale’s which raises money for and awareness of a wonderful nonprofit called the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, or NFTE, which provides mentoring and resources for at-risk youth to start their own businesses while they’re in high school. We produce a true fashion show, featuring high-end designers from Bloomingdale’s clothing racks, and we charge for tickets. But there are no professional models in our show; everyone on the catwalk is a “geek” representing big tech companies, hot new startups, government agencies, academic institutions, and more.

Stylish guests attend a recent Washington, DC show

Our event is most likely the only time that these techies, scientists, and innovators will ever be on a catwalk, so people from the community come out to experience the event, see their friends and acquaintances, take photos, and share. Spouses, employees, and gawkers alike are not immune to the draw of seeing someone transformed from a hoodie-wearing programmer to a tuxedo-wearing stud for one night only. And what we’ve found in cities across the country – Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles – is that people in the geek community share photos from the events enthusiastically, on Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, and Instagram. They tag them. They become Facebook profile photos, sometimes for months and even years.

Don’t misunderstand my earlier comments about traditional PR metrics – We love mainstream media stories. Geek 2 Chic has received coverage from Vanity Fair, Bloomberg, BBC News, the Washington Post, a host of local news outlets, and a bevy of glossy magazines and fashion bloggers.

Jabious Williams, a recent NFTE program recipient, walks the runway in a tuxedo

But while it’s tempting to point to a slide show on VanityFair.com, pat ourselves on the back, and conclude “we done good,” the real value is not the quantitative fact that we landed a headline in a particular publication, but the underlying qualitative story that the photos tell – people smiling, having fun, celebrating geek culture, highlighting a good cause. And the reason people far away from the cities where we actually do the events know about them is mainly because someone they know was tagged in an interesting photo on Facebook, not because they read a recap of the event on a fashion blog.

Think about it this way. Seeing a headline or a retweet or reading an article quickly forms a short-term memory in your brain: I am temporarily aware that something happened. After 20 minutes or so, you start to forget. Other information infiltrates your brain’s frontal lobe. The details of that headline suddenly…become…fuzzy.

Experiencing something remarkable, interactive and pleasurable, however, forms long-term memories, deeply implanted memories, things you think about while you’re sleeping, facts that literally rewire the neural connections in your brain resulting in a semi-permanent state of change. Microsoft could merely write blog posts about the opportunities we’re providing for youth around the world with our YouthSpark initiative, or about the support we provide for new startups with our BizSpark program, but events like Geek 2 Chic take the storytelling about these topics to a deeper, more meaningful and memorable level.

The next Geek 2 Chic show will be in San Francisco on May 15th. Tickets now on sale.

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Hearst Hosts Fashion Week Hackathon Amid an Evolving Publishing Industry

This post was originally published by PBS MediaShift on February 13, 2013. I reported live from the Hearst Fashion Hack, during Fashion Week, during a blizzard. Totally ruined my shoes.

Picture this: You’re waiting in line at your favorite local drugstore or grocery store and have two minutes to kill. What do you do?

Five years ago, many people would flip through one of the many magazines positioned near the checkout counter: Cosmo, maybe, or Esquire.

In 2013, we still browse and buy magazines in checkout lines, but customers are much more likely to whip out their smartphones — checking text messages, updating Twitter or Instagram, maybe a quick game of Angry Birds. But not so much reading sex tips in Cosmo anymore.

That’s a big problem — not just for your spouse or significant other, but for the traditional magazine publishing industry in general, which has seen it’s single-issue sales plummet because of scenarios just like I described above. Why buy four magazines and a newspaper for a cross-country flight, when you can get lots of media on your iPad or Kindle?

“We do find a number of people, if stalled for a minute, will steal a look at their email or news feed. Everyone that has products at checkout has to battle for consumer attention,” David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, was recently quoted as saying on the front page of the Financial Times. You see, Hearst Corporation publishes Cosmopolitan and Esquire and a number of other popular titles like Elle, and you’re not buying as much of them as you used to. Roughly 18 percent less of them in the U.S., in fact.

Not coincidentally, I found myself sitting in the auditorium at Hearst Tower the very day after that quotation appeared in the FT, listening to Carey kick off a hackathon with roughly 150 hackers, designers, and fashionistas in attendance to compete for cash and prizes for the best new pieces of software designed in a frenzied 24-hour session focused on fashion and mobile.

If you’re going to look at your phone at Whole Foods, Hearst wants to be in your phone. As Carey said in the Hearst Fashion Hack kickoff, “We are blessed with so much IP.” Now the only question is, what are all these geeks going to do with it? It’s easy enough to come up with some applications of Hearst’s API, but will the new apps be truly relevant to readers as they move from print and across screens? That was the question posed to the hackers by Hearst’s creative CTO, Phil Wiser.

Creativity compressed

Hearst is an old company — over 100 years old, in fact, founded in 1886 by an American icon, William Randolph Hearst. The company is still, to a large degree, controlled by his direct descendents, which is great for control and stability but not necessarily for creative destruction. Regardless, the face of media and publishing is evolving rapidly, and Hearst and similar organizations (think: Conde Nast, News Corp., large book publishers like Pearson) need to experiment with new technologies and business models for their very survival.

And so an experiment began with these hackers and their technology company partners and sponsors, including Microsoft (which I work for), Google, Amazon, HTC, Klout, GILT, and more, fueled by Red Bull, coffee (writer’s note: the coffee in the Hearst Tower lobby is actually pretty great), cookies, and a phalanx of beefy, suited security guards watching over more nerds in one room than they’ve probably seen in their lifetimes.

At some point during the Hearst Fashion Hack, the VP of Engineering at Hearst, Jim Mortko, commented, “There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you have to get something done in a compressed time period.” And compressed this hackathon was, down to only about 24 hours due to, oh nothing, a Fashion Week blizzard that befell the city the evening before. But passionate hackers arrived on time in the snow and slush, ready to create fashion and mobile applications drawing on Hearst’s API and those of the tech partners present.

The hacks

I write in some detail about the best apps (and particularly about the best Microsoft platform-based projects) elsewhere at Publicyte.com, but here’s a sampler of some that I liked, in general:

  • Co-Fashion correlates static content from Hearst’s magazines with trending social conversations (on Twitter, etc.), filtered and curated by influence and theme. For example, I could pull up all the Esquire articles about coats from 2012 and cross-reference that with what coats influential people are sharing photos of online; I may find that Esquire recommends bold, plaid coats, but that influencers I follow outside of New York City and Boston haven’t bought into the message yet.
  • Zine helps you self-publish your own magazine based on Hearst’s content. Their tag line is “Ziners gotta zine.” For example, if I wanted to I could publish a zine that deciphers women’s fashion trends for urban men (I’d call it Mysterious.)
  • Shop Up extends the retail experience by empowering you to pull up Hearst content about a specific item of clothing. If you’re like me and one dress shirt looks a bit like the next one, you can actually scan the bar code and learn that Esquire recommends, say, the Ralph Lauren dress shirts but never discusses Hugo Boss ones, and that may influence your purchasing decision. (This one would be nice to see on kiosks in in retail stores too, perhaps.)

One new app even projected Hearst’s magazine content onto the inside of an umbrella (how apropos in the bad weather) — take that, smartphones!

With startups like ModCloth, StyleSeat, Birchbox and others merging fashion and technology and making Fast Company’s “most innovative companies in technology” list for 2013, it’s more important than ever for fashion brands, media companies, and other entities in the space to be building relationships with tech-savvy idea people, developers, and established entrepreneurs.

By that standard, Hearst Fashion Hack was a success for its namesake. Wiser summed it up nicely for me just before the final app judging on the stunning 44th floor of Hearst Tower, overlooking Central Park and midtown Manhattan: “This event has already exceeded our expectations…Everything is upside from here.” I’m looking forward to seeing if Hearst Fashion Hack becomes a yearly New York Fashion Week staple.

Mark Drapeau, Ph.D. is the director of innovative engagement for Microsoft’s public sector division, is a member of the Microsoft Office of Civic Innovation, and is the producer of the Microsoft-Bloomingdale’s charity fashion show series Geek 2 Chic. You can follow him on Twitter at @cheeky_geeky.

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Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: Crooked Monkey Style

This post was originally published on BrianSolis.com on October 21, 2009.

Guest Post by Dr. Mark Drapeau – read his blog, follow him on Twitter

I hadn’t heard of the popular t-shirt company Crooked Monkey until I was invited to an exclusive party they recently held. You see, even though they get great press from actors wearing their shirts in movies and magazines talking about their fashion styles, Crooked Monkey is based in Washington, DC not widely known as the fashion capital of the country. And they wanted to do some local brand building.

This wasn’t just any party. Sure, there were attractive guests in a cool setting with great drinks and music all the usual stuff. It was what they did differently that made it the most memorable event Ive been to in a long time.

Lets start with how I even found out about the event a secretive email from someone I didn’t know telling me that my friend recommended me as a guest for the event. This is somewhere in between Facebook and Eyes Wide Shut.  Then, a request for my home address, to which was mailed a package containing an envelope with a paper invitation, and also a sparsely decorated white t-shirt, which I was required to save for the party two months later and bring with me to gain admittance. Finally, a bag of tart banana candies finished the package.

Further inspection revealed that the event was on a Sunday night (no night is safe from parties! ) at a secret location to be given to us later. Keep in mind that I dont know the person behind the party, nor the other guests, and now also not the location. Still later I discovered by email invitation that the event would be in a warehouse in a not-so-savory part of Washington, DC and that we MUST bring our white t-shirts because wed be doing something with them on the night of the event.

When the day of the event came, I really couldn’t stand not knowing anything! I texted the contacts I had for the event to ask questions, but they revealed little. I emailed some socialite friends to try to figure out who else would be there we knew it would be all tastemakers of different sorts, but no one really knew who was going, which was exciting. I used Google Maps to investigate the location of the warehouse. I stressed about what one wears to such events (I think I chose well! ).

Even the party itself was very engaging. An artist created a mural from our white t-shirts that we used for entry right in front of our eyes. An old-fashioned photo booth let us take pictures with each other, and the photo strips had (what else?) a Crooked Monkey logo on them.  Even the name of the event Photoshoot at the Warehouse gave the party an active quality.

Do you detect a pattern here? Crooked Monkey kept busy, elite attendees who get invited to tons of events mentally engaged with their event for weeks. They made us part of telling their story. They got us to talk about their brand before, during, and after the event.  And in the end, the event delivered with a cool venue, outstanding bar, fun atmosphere, and lots of fashion.

Photoshoot at the Warehouse is a great example of putting the public back in public relations and brand engagement. How great? Im writing an entire post about them – and I dont even like wearing t-shirts!

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