Sh*t (STUFF) I found interesting (2020/1 Edition)
Note From Me: Hi I’m Amber, I’m an aspiring strategist and a senior at Boston University. SIFI, short for sh*t I find interesting is a series I hope to do as I collect things that I see happening in culture. Much like collecting shells on the beach, there will be beautiful shells that show humanity in its purest and kindest forms. But there will also be broken shells that reflect the bad and trama we face in this world. Yet, that is life, isn’t it? We wouldn’t be complete without both the Ying and the Yang, so stay a little, maybe you’ll find something interesting too. If not, shoot me an email and let me know what happened in the world right now interests you :)
Format: What is happening, insight, how are people feeling/talking about it, what are brands doing.
Bye Cis-heteronormativity! Who are the She/they? - The human awakening:
If you have been on any social media in quarantine, you may have noticed there has been a sense of sexual/gender awakening in people and predominantly in women (Men too, however, you can see it significantly more in women). The search for ‘She/them’ in google trends had a significant increase from June 2020 to now compared to the almost zero searches over the past 10 years. Depending on the individuals, there are many different reasons behind this development, however, the isolation enforced by the pandemic played a big role in people’s self-discovery. The theory proposed by Judith Butler is that gender is not innate but rather created by society through a stylized repetition of acts and gender exists within the time of doing those acts, it is performative. So when applying that theory to a nationwide quarantine, people, especially women, no longer needed to perform those gender acts because they are alone in the comfort of their own space, to be just themselves. This allows an increase in self-awareness that what they are doing is for their own pleasure, like not wearing a bra or makeup, cutting their own hair, exploring different fashion, and ditching their gender binary pronouns. Most importantly people are feeling liberated now that they are more in tune with themselves.
I think the basic takeaway from this for brands is: people are discovering who they really are and what they are comfortable with. They could be shifting self-expression, self-discovery, and self-compassion higher in their values list and what they seek from brands. Therefore, brands should be, if not already, have this in mind when it comes to the language and tone of address in their audience. Because those who have reflected on themselves this year are likely much more comfortable with who they are now. In the grand scheme of things, brands had played a supporting role in isolation, either the brand was alongside people’s self-discovery journey or they have been a part of what distracted them from self-reflection. So now, brands have a choice to either continue to be the distraction or support consumers their expression.
Lastly, people are starting to really understand themselves or at least learning to understand themselves because of the time they had for self-reflection. I think it will be interesting to see what people will do now after going through such isolation, will they change their purchasing behavior? Will they have different values? Will they act differently? Want more from brands or less? It is exciting to see.
Here is an article by Tracey Anne Duncan that explains this experience on a more personal level.
Here are some resources on how brands should navigate when targeting non-binary audiences.
Here are some resources form http://transcaresite.org/ for Non-Binary, Gender Non-Conforming (GNC), Genderqueer, Agender, Androgynous, Genderfluid, Bigender, Pangender, Neutrois & other folks:
Gender Queer Identities: The aim of Genderqueer and Non-Binary Identities is to provide awareness, information, and resources for genderqueer, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people and their allies
http://Genderfork.com/: Genderfork is a supportive community for the expression of identities across the gender spectrum.
Gender Queer: Beyond the Binaries: A Tumblr with images of gender-bending, trans and queer people of all sorts, meant to empower and celebrate the beauty within all gender expressions.
Neutrois: Neutrois is a non-binary gender identity that falls under the genderqueer or transgender umbrellas.
I Heart the Singular They: An educational website dedicated to the singular they pronoun, filled with colorful and bright animation.
WhY iS tHIs a mEme? (to be honest, we don’t really know...but is kind of funny?)
More memes to come, only if you think it is funny tho :/
The Bean dad: Twitter has been trending for days with the Bean Dad debate, and if you happened to miss here's a quick summary: A guy on Twitter shared a story (multiple threads) where his hungry 9-year-old daughter wanted some beans but didn’t know how to open the can so she ask him for help. He realized he hadn’t taught her how to use them can opener, so instead of just showing her how, he went on a 6-hour journey with his 9-year-old child to figure it out on her own. He thought this was a great teaching moment and an example of good parenting, however, most other people don’t see a 6-hour ordeal of a crying/hungry child not understanding how a fairly complicated tool works as good parenting. Twitter begins to roast him.
Some memorable memes:
Twisted Tea (TW: violence): Poorly photoshopped photos of Twisted Tea thrown on different people (celebrities, politicians *aka mitch mcconnell*, streamers) have got Twitter users chugging, here is a summary of how it started: A video was leaked from a Circle K gas station in Ohio where a Black man was continuously harassed with racial comments by another customer. Finally, after a verbal altercation, the man yelling is struck in the face with a can of Twisted tea, sending him to the ground. The video garnered over 1.6 million views and 41,000 likes in 4 days, and soon the remix/parodies begin to circulate on Twitter. Users were also in the high of anger towards the $600 stimulus check, which led to many of these memes aimed at politicians (*whisper* mitch mcconnel).
Some memorable memes:
Weirdly specific playlist (What do you mean not everyone has a “overnight at an abandoned Church during a zombie apocalypse” playlist?)
To complement this part of the newsletter I would recommend the playlist “shit i cry so much sometimes i feel like im gon just turn into drops,” it really sets the tone.
Whatever you feeling right now, however specific it is, there’s probably a Spotify playlist out there that reflects precisely that feeling. From “getting coffee and bagels with the girls” to “that scene in a coming of age film where the main character realized they're at the peak of their life,” young people today are seemly making playlists for every situation, person, mood, aesthetic, and place they can think of. This could be a sign that teens today are starting to treat music streaming platforms like Spotify kind of like other social platforms. With aesthetically visual striking playlist covers and descriptive captions, is like an interactive social feed where audio becomes the main focus. This allows people to upload a piece of themselves or a moment of their lives to recreate a specific feeling or share it with others.
This also reflects Gen-Z’s interaction and feelings towards music. They are more likely to explore different genres and discover new music. It helps them deal with a situation or overwhelming feelings, making them feel less alone especially in isolation. Spotify reveals that “Gen Z craves discovery” it often helps them feel good to create these digital time capsules or a collection of their thoughts. It is a reflection of emotional adventure in a digital space.
People are tired of the different streaming options: Peacock (C’mon, another one?)
Peacock is a new streaming service owned by NBCUniversal. As of January first, the show "The Office", which is owned by NBCUniversal, is no longer available on Netflix and can only be watched on Peacock. Many are upset with the overwhelming range of streaming services and feel they are unable to afford all of the available if their favorite shows are across platforms.
"The Office" up until it was removed was the most-watched show on Netflix to a point that many people would joke that it's just a "The Office" delivery system. So it only made sense for NBCUniversal to want to take that back and bring viewership to their own platform. We are entering an age where there won't be just Netflix and Hulu for streaming services, but every license holder will end up having their own. Warner Bros has HBOMax, Disney has Disney+, and now NBCUniversal has Peacock.
Now more than ever, there is an opportunity for a bundled service that could satisfy the audience’s needs. Much like Spotify’s student offer, for $4.99/m students are able to access Spotify Premium, Hulu (ad-supported) plan, and SHOWTIME.
Where is Jack Ma? (the disappearance of the Alibaba founder)
Jack Ma stepped down from the Alibaba board in 2019 to focus on the initial public offering for a digital payment platform called "Ant Group." The Ant Group owns China's largest digital payment platform Alipay, which serves over one billion users and 80 million merchants, with a total payment volume reaching CN¥118 trillion in June 2020. (DAMN!) It has been trying to present itself as a tech firm instead of a financial gain, the valuation of the group up until now has benefited from its tech focus.
Ant Group raised the highest valuation of an initial public offering of all time at $34.5 billion, with the company being valued at $313 billion. However, China’s government regulators took the extraordinary step of suspending the company's IPO. Supposedly, Xi Jinping, the leader of China's government, has been upset with Jack Ma for criticizing Xi's campaign to control financial risk. Ma hasn't been seen since. (Warning: Conspiracy) For a while, people assumed he was just still negotiating with the government or whatever. But that it's been a few months now and people are starting to speculate that Chairman Xi may have been a part of the disappearing Jack Ma.
Side note: Chairman Xi has been notorious for cracking that corruption within China, especially in high-ranking officials, over the past 10 years. However, people do speculate if his intention has changed after gaining more power. Meng Hongwei, the former head of Interpol, who disappeared in September 2018 during a trip to China from France, has now been found sentenced to 13 1/2 years in prison on bribery charges. Meng’s wife believes that her husband was innocent and that his detention was politically motivated. She said, "It's not justice," she said, adding: "I think the anti-corruption campaign in China has already been damaged. It has become a way of attacking people who are your enemy."
When doing business with/in China, brands need to have a strong understanding of the way things work and culture. Internally, there are many problematic decisions made by the government that the West doesn’t understand (and probably no one does). However, the 1.6 billion people are not the ones’ brand should be worried about, most of them are probably unaware of what is happening.