THE BLOG

26
May

Little Golden Books Illustrate Why Visual Storytelling Is So Powerful

I want you to go back in time to your childhood days and remember one of your favorite books.

Got it?

Now put yourself back into the body of that five year old and snuggle in to listen to your favorite story.

You may recall being tucked in bed with mom or dad perched next to you, sitting on grandma’s cozy lap which was just right for your little body or curling up on the floor next to classmates as your kindergarten teacher picked up that book. As each read to you, they held the book up, showing you all the colorful and wonderfully imaginative pictures. Some may have brought the story to life even more with animated facial expressions and voices that imitated the characters they were reading.

Now I want you to envision that story being read to you once again … but this time I want you to imagine listening to the story with your eyes closed.

The story loses a bit of its punch, doesn’t it?

Why? Because the visuals – both from the book and from the person reading – were such an integral part of the storytelling process.

Perhaps without those pictures. you wouldn’t have been able to envision just how saggy the Saggy Baggy Elephant was.

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Or how adorably cute The Poky Little Puppy was … even if he did get in a lot of trouble.

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It is the visuals that truly animate the story, bringing it to life in a way that many of us could not do on our own. Without visuals, each of these stories may have faded from our memories over time. The creative pictures and illustrations that Little Golden Books provided to so many of us as children help us better understand why visual storytelling is so effective, particularly when inundated by a virtual sea of communications.

Research has shown that 65% of individuals are visual thinkers and the mind processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text (GT Ignite). We bring moments back to life much more rapidly through the images we collect and store in our brains.

So, is it really that surprising that visual mediums are the fastest growing of all social media channels? The following chart from Tech Crunch identifies the top three fastest growing social media platforms as Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram.  You can’t read a post lately without some mention of the power of visuals. Twitter is rife with posts on how visuals increase engagement with your tweets and LinkedIn recently launched a publishing platform that includes an image as an integral part of the post.

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So, in this day of storytelling, remember that visuals can help bring your brand to life far more effectively than words alone.

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22
May

Is The ‘Tupperware’ Home Party Business Model Dead?

Lia Sophia Announces Plans To Close

On Thursday, I received a letter from Lia Sophia (direct sellers of women’s quality costume jewelry), informing me that:

“Due to the challenges of our business model, we sadly and reluctantly decided to cease operations…”

At first, their declaration to close shop gave me pause; after all, they have been in business for over 40 years and thousands of women across the country proudly wear Lia Sophia necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings.

But, after thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized their decision really didn’t surprise me at all.

Tupperware Pioneers Direct Selling

Back in 1946, when Tupperware first pioneered direct selling, it was heralded as a novel way to reach women with a personalized brand message. An independent sales rep asked interested women to invite family, friends and neighbors to their homes. Amidst a backdrop of food, wine and conversation, the rep passionately connected with the women, telling them stories about her products, sharing tips among friends and answering their questions one-on-one. The women loved hearing the stories behind the products and enjoyed seeing which products their friends chose to buy.

It was a three-way deal that benefited all.

  1. The sales rep earned commission on the products sold.
  2. The hostess earned free products based on the total dollar sales of her party and the number of parties her friends booked.
  3. Her friends had a valid excuse to get together for an evening of fun, food and wine, plus they could buy new products, play games, win prices and take advantage of special deals.

This was word-of-mouth marketing at its best.

Direct Selling Explodes

As women warmed to the idea of buying products in the comfort of a home setting, the business model exploded. Joining Tupperware were a multitude of new products, ranging from makeup (Avon and Mary Kay) to food (Herbalife) to cookware (The Pampered Chef) to fragrances (Scentsy) to baskets (Longaberger) and everything in between. Invites to home parties doubled, tripled, quadrupled … especially if you were popular in your social circles.

Women Look For A Plausible Out

With the rapid influx of party invites showing up in their mailboxes, women increasingly began to think of home parties as annoying. Websites and blog posts exploded with advice on how to sidestep these parties, with titles like, How to say no to a home party held by friends selling stuff and Best way to decline ANOTHER party???? Women started inventing really creative excuses for why they were unavailable the night of the party, just so she wouldn’t hurt her friend’s feelings.

The tide had turned.

Life Is Just Too Busy

Added to the increased home party competition, life had just become exceedingly busier.

  • There were kids to taxi from basketball to school plays to Boy Scouts.
  • There was dinner to quickly put together between activities.
  • There was homework to help with, sometimes late in the evening.
  • There was the stress associated with balancing a family and a job.

Net net, there weren’t many minutes left to get together with the girls … and when those precious times did come around, the last thing anyone wanted to do was look at plastic bowls or yet another scented candle.

Amidst all this chaos, women found the best way to avoid buying products she didn’t need or want was to stay home.

Smartphones Grab Our Attention

Then, technology came knocking.

Women became obsessed with connecting with their friends through electronic means, rather than in person. When they did connect face-to-face, they were so busy snapping selfies and answering messages that their time together just wasn’t the same.

Multitasking had become the new reality.

The Wall Street Journal wrote an article a few years back titled, Just look me in the eye, already, in which the writer laments the loss of eye contact within our society. Today, everyone has their faces buried in their smartphones. Many have lost the fine art of actually connecting with each other.

Just imagine a 1980’s Lia Sophia or Tupperware party in today’s world. Do you think it’s possible that a roomful of women would actually talk to and engage with each other for the duration of a two-hour party rather than <GASP!> reading their Facebook messages and texting their friends?

Not likely.

The Face of Retail Changes

But, people are still buying products and services. So, how are they buying and what do they view as engaging?

Today’s shopping is different in so many ways.

  • Items can be easily purchased through one click on Amazon.
  • Etsy customizes products to match a person’s home or personality.
  • Brands are inviting consumer participation.
  • Consumers are using social media to compliment and criticize.

Today’s Millennials – those born between 1980 and 1999 – are seeking a totally different shopping experience, largely driven by technology and their ability to get anything they want without stepping foot outside their homes. They embrace novelty, self-expression and personalized experiences that invite them to participate in the brand and then provide the means to share their experiences with their friends via Instagram or Snapchat.

Here are a few examples of how shopping has evolved.

Adore Me takes lingerie shopping to a new level. By joining their monthly club, women of all shapes and sizes have access to over 500 styles of lingerie and swimwear delivered right to their doors. A quiz at the beginning of the relationship helps the company determine the types of lingerie a buyer will feel most comfortable in. Members are rewarded with free lingerie after their sixth purchase and never pay shipping fees.

Monthly subscriptions can also be secured with sampling companies like Ipsy who arrange partnerships with beauty companies like Smashbox, Urban Decay and Nicole by OPI. Stylists at Ipsy hand select exciting new products for its members to try each month. The products are sent to members in a collectible bag, at savings up to 70% off retail. Members can also watch tutorials on new products and win free items.

Pushing the experiential limits of body care products is Frank,  a coffee-based body scrub that targets skin conditions. Language used throughout the website is deliberately edgy – “get naked. get dirty. get rough. get clean.” Their blog shares ‘dirty talk’ with its readers, offering suggestions on how to use their products.

Capitalizing on the fresh and local trend are companies like Door To Door Organics which deliver seasonal food from local farmers right to your doorstep. Not going to be at home? No problem. Just leave a cooler. Fresh. Healthy. Local.

The Growler Station takes the authenticity of the beer you drink to a whole new level. Back in the late 1800s, men carried fresh beer from the local pub back to their homes in a small, galvanized pail. Today, patrons fill half-gallon glass bottles with freshly brewed craft beer themselves and take it home, effectively extending the pub experience to the sanctity of their own homes.

Are Any Home Parties Doing Well?

When it comes to home parties, one direct seller seems to be riding out the storm – sex toy parties. Although the concept has been around since the 1970s, its popularity didn’t really take off until a few decades later.

Direct sellers, like Pure Romance, take a previously frowned upon topic and encourage women to get comfortable with their sexuality.  Purely based on having fun, over the top and just a little bit naughty, these parties take talk of sex to an experiential level. It’s a modern day slumber party where girls can uninhibitedly talk about their needs in the bedroom without blushing or feeling shy.

These slumber parties may not be anything like those we saw back in 1978 on the movie, Grease, but perhaps that’s what makes them so special.

The Death of Direct Selling

Lia Sophia’s decision to close up shop may be a sign of things to come.

Or perhaps the in-home party just needs to be livened up a bit, similar to what companies like Pure Romance, Passion Parties and Intimate Expressions have created … an experiential event that invites social media chatter.

Only time will tell.

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06
May

8 Ways to Read Body Language To Understand Emotions

I was reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman the other day when a particular phrase gave me pause.

“…you think with your body, not only with your brain.”

As a career-long moderator, I have always felt energy when I walk into a focus group room. Within an instant, I can feel whether it’s going to be an easy conversation or a more difficult one. Over the years, I felt that, perhaps, I had just become attuned to people and their emotions. But, Kahneman’s book made me realize there are likely other forces at work in my speedy interpretation of people.

Namely, body language.

Perhaps, over the years, rather than accurately reading group energy, I had become highly skilled at quickly reading their body language. If you are a student of psychology, you learn that although people may think they are controlling the signs they are emitting with their face and body, that much of this occurs subconsciously and is, therefore, not under their control.

In fact, research conducted by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, reveals that 55% of communication occurs through body language cues, like; facial expressions, gestures and posture. (Source: The Nonverbal Group)

So, what are some of the more obvious cues that can help you understand what people are thinking … without uttering one word?

1. Microexpressions: Look at the forehead and eyebrows to detect small nuances that can show fear, disbelief or lying.

2. Eye Contact: Steady eye contact can indicate a desire to connect, while shifting eyes may suggest a desire to hide something.

3. Arms: When an individual crosses their arms, they may be indicating they are closed off to others or, perhaps, not receptive to a specific topic or person.

4. Twitching: Movement of legs, feet or arms can signify anxiousness, discomfort or intimidation.

5. Leaning: Positioning one’s body toward someone indicates attentiveness, while leaning away suggests disinterest.

6. Proximity: Being close generally indicates greater openness and warmth, although distance is also governed by cultural nuances.

7. Mirrored Actions: When someone mimics another’s actions, it generally indicates a desire to establish rapport.

8. Gestures: Passion for a topic is often shown via elaborate or expressive gestures.

Clearly, these are general rules-of-thumb that can vary from person to person; however, they can offer great insight into the emotions people are feeling … often subconsciously.

So, next time you are conversing with someone, listen with your eyes as much as you listen with your ears.

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