AI And Newton’s Third Law of Physics

Al is great.  It’s been a big help to me in a number of ways.  Do I want AI to go away?  Not necessarily, but I do wonder what how it could affect our culture – because if AI continues on its current path, it will.  

Anytime there’s a significant change in the way we live it causes a cultural shift.  We are hearing more and more about the many different ways in which AI has been changing our world. AI been a ubiquitous subject of posts and significant amount of them are about how AI can’t do what humans do.  But it’s more than just AI naysayers having a field day.  Take a closer look and you can see the subtle underlying sense of fear in those reactions

Much of that fear of AI centers around job security.  It the same kind of fear that comes with the threat of unemployment caused by recessions and outsourcing to other countries. The difference is those job losses aren’t a commentary on our personal abilities.  It’s just tough luck. This is a fear that is about being replaceable. It’s the sense that there’s something out there that’s better than you.  It’s smarter, faster, tireless, and doesn’t complain. But most of all, the ability of something to replace you at your job means the ability to erase a big part of your sense of who you are.  Our jobs play a significant role in our self- identity.  We define ourselves and each other by what we do 40+ hours a week. “I’m a cx designer” “I’m a social media strategist” “I’m a project manager”.  The first thing we usually ask each other at a social gathering is, “What do you do for a living”. Some of us think we are safe because we are in professional arts.  That is, until we find out about something like AIVA, the AI that composes emotional “original and personalized” soundtrack music.  

The most common feeling expressed by people who can’t find a job, get fired, or can no longer work, is one of feeling lost, without purpose, or meaningless.  They also feel angry, humiliated, and insignificant. What’s important here to understand is that the destruction of a self-identity is a form of death because the “you” that you know no longer exists. And if that part is dead and gone, it’s no wonder AI is causing a fair amount of alarm.

Fear is a powerful thing and, for better or for worse, it’s been the driving force behind every horrific war in world history.  I say “for better” because fear (and a healthy dose of courage) resulted in some good things like ending slavery, and liberating countries as in the case of WWll.  In other words, I’m not saying that AI will be self-identity Armageddon and we on a one-way trip to an AI dystopian world.  But we’d would be remiss to think that our culture couldn’t be somehow affected by AI.  

AI has to gather a lot more momentum before it can have any significant effect on our culture. If that happens, I have no idea of how our culture could change.  All I know is that it will.  For every action there’s a reaction.  It’s Newton’s Third Law.  You can’t argue with physics.  Well, I guess you try, but you’ll lose every time.  It’s like Star Trek’s Scotty says “Ye canna change the laws of physics”.  So, if AI continues to spread and pick up steam, I can’t help but wonder about AI’s cultural effect. I guess we will find out soon enough.

Nothing Markets A Product Better Than Culture

When I was a kid, my cousins and I used to poke fun at my abuela who used Vicks VapoRub for everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything.  I’ll never forget the time when one of them hid her arm inside her t-shirt so it looked one of the sleeves didn’t have an arm in it. She doused the empty sleeve with ketchup and ran into the house yelling, “¡Abuela! ¡Ayúdame, ayúdame! ¡Mi brazo ha sido cortado!!”  My abuela rushed out of the room and, yes, she came back with a jar of VapoRub.  To be fair, she also told my sister to call the doctor.  I don’t think we’ve ever laughed so hard before or since.  Luckily for us my abuela had a good sense of humor, and once she recovered from her shock, she chuckled.  However, my fondest memory is of my little sister coming home crying because a boy she liked asked another girl to a dance. My abuela rubbed VapoRub on her chest over her heart.  

Stories, jokes, tweets and memes about VapoRub abound in the Latino culture. They are shared between Latinos of all ages, backgrounds, and countries.  VaproRub is a common denominator among all Latinos no matter where they are from or what lifestyle they lead.  Which explains why for nearly 100 years, Vicks VapoRub has held a cultural foothold in Latino culture.  It can be found in practically every medicine cabinet, nightstand and vanity of Latino homes across the United States and Mexico.  Fondly referred to as “Vipuro”, Latinos have found endless uses for VapoRub including relief from congestion and coughing, cuts, bruises, sprains, headaches, toe fungus, stomach discomfort, face moisturizer, and bug bites.  It’s also used as a soothing calmative and sometimes combined with a little tequila for a digestive.  Bottom line is, VapoRub always makes you feel better.

Created in 1912, VapoRub was first advertised and promoted as a product for traditional middle-income Anglo-American wives with children living a modern lifestyle.  The messaging couldn’t have been further removed from Latino culture.   However, VapoRub had a product attribute with a strong cultural familiarity that attracted Latinos.  It was the scent of eucalyptus. Common homemade medicinal remedies used by Latinos often contained eucalyptus and other herbs with similar scents.  That scent is also probably the same reason why my abuela, all my tias, and my mom used Pin Sol.  Scent evokes powerful memories and emotions, and for Latinos the smell of VapoRub brings on strong emotions associated with the feelings they experienced as children when cared for and comforted by their mothers.  VapoRub is a scent that’s often associated with home.  Latinos who have moved away from their families tell of times when they would open a jar of Vicks just to smell it so they could feel like they were home with them again. When Vicks started distributing VapoRub in Mexico it was a product that was completely unknown to Mexicans.   VapoRub was affordable and easily accessible for Mexicans.  The scent that attracted them was resonated with their cultural experience – especially with their sense of home and role that their Latino mothers played within it. And, because a tightly woven sense of family and community is a hallmark of Latino culture, VapoRub quickly spread from home to home throughout Mexico.   Today, Vicks VapoRub continues to be a top selling brand in Mexico with a market share of 95%. It’s safe to say that the little blue immediately recognizable jar of eucalyptus-scented ointment has come to embody the heart and soul of Latinos.  It’s why Vicks VapoRub has dominated the market and it will probably continue to do so for a very long time as Latinos pass the VapoRub along their memories, and their stories about it from one generation to the next.

The Myth of the Iconic Brand

The first official brand emerged in the 1818, and since then nearly 90,000 brands in the United States have come and gone.  Today there are 50,000 active brands out of which roughly 5% to 8% will become memorable.  Of those, only a chosen few become iconic.  Like myths, brands that live on to become icons are shared far and wide, and are handed down from generation to generation.  Think of them as brand gods.  They are the Apollos, Neptunes, Hades, and Dionysuses of brand identities.  Although these gods don’t really exist, they represent the immortal truths of human nature.  Iconic brands are no different.  In the same way that, of all the stories ever told few of them go on to become centuries old cultural myths, so it is for the brands that become legends in our own culture.

Today, brand identity and positioning are created through conventual methods of advertising and marketing.  However, many of brands that have reached iconhood in the past had brand identities that were created more by the people using them, than the company that created them.  Vicks VapoRub, Harley Davidson, and Levi Steauss are examples of brand identities that were initially defined in the absence of brand strategy or marketing.  Instead, their growth to greatness was organic in nature as a function of co-creation between brand and culture.

Vicks VapoRub
For nearly 100 years, Vick VapoRub has been revered by Latinos everywhere. It can be found in practically every medicine cabinet, nightstand, and vanity of Latino homes across the United States and Mexico.  Fondly referred to as “Vipuro”, it has an endless array of uses including relief from congestion and coughing, cuts, bruises, sprains, headaches, toe fungus, stomach discomfort, and bug bites.  It’s also used as a face moisturizer, soothing calmative, and sometimes it’s even combined with a little tequila for a digestive.  Bottom line is, like Demeter the Goddess of Motherhood, VapoRub always makes you feel better. 

VapoRub has become a beloved common denominator among Latinos no matter where they are from or what lifestyle they lead.  Likewise, VapoRub humor, jokes, tweets and memes abound and are shared between Latinos of all ages, backgrounds, and countries.  Created in 1912, VapoRub was first advertised and promoted as a product for traditional middle-income Anglo-American wives with children living a modern lifestyle.  It couldn’t have been further removed from Latino culture.   However, VapoRub had a product attribute with a strong cultural familiarity that attracted Latinos.  It was the scent of eucalyptus.  Common homemade medicinal remedies used by Latinos often contained eucalyptus and other herbs with similar scents.  Scent evokes powerful memories and emotions, and for Latinos the smell of VapoRub brings on strong emotions associated with the feelings they experienced as children when cared for and comforted by their mothers.  VapoRub a scent associated with home.  Latinos who have moved away from their families tell of times when they would open a jar of Vicks just to smell it so they could feel like they were home with them again.  

Shortly after VapoRub began being sold in the United States, Vicks started distributing it in Mexico.  VapoRub was affordable and easily accessible for Mexicans, but most of all, it played into the role held by Mexican mothers.  And, because a tightly woven sense of family and community is a hallmark of Latino culture, VapoRub quickly spread from home to home throughout Mexico.   Today, Vicks VapoRub continues to be a top selling brand in Mexico with a market share of 95% .  It’s safe to say that the little blue immediately recognizable jar of eucalyptus-scented ointment has come to embody the heart and soul of Latinos.  It’s why VapoRub brand has remained beloved and will continue to beloved by many generations of Latinos to come.

Levi Strauss
Levi Strauss’s rise to icon stardom was a combination of luck, timing, and a sharp eye for opportunity.  Originally, Levi’s were pants for miners and factory workers who needed a more durable work pant that didn’t easily tear or wear out. Known as waist overalls, they were made of hemp canvas typically used for making ship sails.  While they were sturdy, these work pants lacked flexibility. Jacob Davis, a tailor who had partnered with Levi Strauss, solved the problem by adding rivets at the hips and switching from canvas to denim which was a more flexible fabric.  Also in those days, pants used for ranch work were made from burlap or wool.  Since the bulk of a ranch hand’s day consisted of hiding horses and working cattle, the combination of flexibility and durability was a godsend.  Levi’s caught on like wildfire.  Ranch hands were referred to as “cowboys” and were easily recognized by their attire.

It was a stroke of luck that Levi Stauss had created lather patch containing two horses to put on their first work pants. 

It was completely unrelated to their work pants adopted by ranch hands.  Unbeknownst to Levi Strauss that same leather patch would go on to become an important part of Levi’s strong association with cowboys.  Serendipity had a hand in the timing of Levi’s use among cowboys and the resurgence of Western films in popular culture. Western cinema attracted movie stars like John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart who’s acting brought the cowboy character to life. Because of the grand scale of movie screens, these celluloid cowboys became bigger than life and Americans became enamored with them. Wearing jeans was a massive cultural opportunity in the making and it was not lost on Levi Strauss. They immediately created ads and promoted the idea that by wearing Levi’s those who wore them would take on the same qualities as the cowboys on the big screen.  From there on in, Levi’s and their leather patch became emblematic of rugged independence, a free and untamed spirit, and the ethic of hard work which was a cultural cornerstone of American values. 

When America entered the 1960’s no one could have possibly predicted the immensity of the oncoming cultural revolution led by a new breed of cowboy that would come to be known as the counterculture.  They were the untamable, individualistic, and stood steadfast in their ideals built around freedom of progressive thought.   And they all wore blue jeans.  Once again, Levi’s was at the right cultural place at the right time and was in the perfect position to take advantage of a cultural opportunity in the making. For the youths of America, the countercultural movement was perceived as cool which meant wearing jeans was cool.  Jeans were a visual and easily identifiable way to separate oneself from a fuddy duddy generation of squares and their unprogressive thinking. It was what allowed Levi’s to stay relevant in a cultural revolution that would go on to rock the foundations of an established American society.  All Levi’s had to do was make a lateral move in the brand’s identity to create advertising that captured a new but yet similar cowboy culture.  And of course, also put the production of Levi Strauss blue jeans on steroids to meet the demand.  

Levi Strauss also had the good sense to not mess with their leather patch and its design. The patch had become a highly recognized symbol that was inseparable with what the Levi Strauss brand stood for.  For nearly five generations Levi’s has kept a firm grasp on their core identity. Levis Strauss’s website continues to echo what the brand has managed to maintain from the very beginning and promote their jeans as “a brand that epitomizes classic American style and effortless cool.”.

Harley Davidson

Few brands have become as legendary as Harley Davidson, and this year marks its 120th anniversary since the first Harley Davidson hit the road.  Walter Davidson was a motorcycle enthusiastic with a passion for racing motorcycles who began tinkering with motorcycles in a small wooden shed.  He came up with a two-cylinder motorcycle and named it “Harley Davidson” after his two other brothers and William Harley.  They were the four founders of a motorcycle company that began making two-cylinder motorcycles with an engine, known as a V Twin.  It was an engine that could reach speeds of up to 60 mph. 

Harley Davidson’s traction began when the partners decided to sponsor a motorcycle racing team called “The Wrecking Crew” who had a reputation for being dare devils.   While company-sponsored racing teams are commonplace now, it was a revolutionary idea at the time.  On top of being made in America, Harleys were also chosen by the military to use in WWll.  One could say that Harley Davidson took on the aura of Ares, the god of war, because they were the motorcycle that helped win WWll.  Those two factors led to a brand associated with American pride.  

Harley Davidson’s image began taking a visible form when, because of the motorcycle’s use in WWI, police departments across the country started using Harley Davidsons.  The motorcycle cops at the time typically wore boots, breaches, and saddlebags which gave them a Wild West look.  Being that western movies had become highly popular, the general public, particularly young boys, were drawn to the combination of a tough guy motorcycle with the persona of masculine independence as seen in western cinema.  Harley Davidson capitalized on this emerging opportunity by selling Harley Davidson clothing and accessories that underscored that perception.  Then along came the 1960’s cultural wave of non-conformance.  Harley Davidson, already associated with the wild west outlaw, was in the perfect place to catch the wave and ride it all the way to shore. Ironically enough, the motorcycle that only a few years earlier had been associated with motorcycle cops, suddenly became synonymous with anti-establishment rebellion. 

The four partners stood in awe of their good fortune as the popularity of their motorcycles continued rising to new heights accompanied by sky rocketing sales.  But what happened next that was beyond thier wildest dreams.  It was Easy Rider.  The movie became an incredible nation-wide sensation and brought Harley Davidson along for the ride. While most brands would have been mortified at the thought of being associated with two weed smoking renegade hippies with questionable values riding across the country on their anti-establishment motorcycles, for Harley Davidson it was gold. Because of Easy Rider, Harley Davidson’s brand identity, through sheer luck, down shifted and punched through the stratosphere of cool.

Around the same time Sturgis Rallies were gaining steam and over half of the motorcyclists rode Harleys.  Because it was mostly ridden by the hard-core motorcyclists that traveled in packs to the rally, Harley Davidson became associated with comaraderie Eventually distinct values like comaraderie fused with additional traits and symbols of Harley Davidson and solidified to become a badge that signified membership to the echelon of Harley Davidson motorcyclists. This was a badge that said “you’re one of us” and meant anyone who rode a Harley was welcome to ride with a pack even if that rider was a complete stranger. 

Today Harley Davidson faces plenty of competition, however no motorcycle can compete with what Harley Davidson has come to symbolize in the American culture.  Fiercely independent, unyieldingly individualistic, and an intense comradery of shared values, is the foundation on which America was built. When it comes to that, no motorcycle can even come close to taking Harley Davidson’s iconic crown. 

The Surprising Success of Iconic Brands
What’s so amazing is that despite their humble beginnings and starting out in the absence of marketing, advertising, brand insight or strategy, these brands were able to reach icon hood.  Of course, advertising and market eventually took the wheel and guided these brands, but initially the identities of these brand were organically created by the people that used them.  When a certain attribute of a brand began drawing a significant number of people that an astute company could jump on the opportunity to capitalize on it.  It was a precursor to brand insight, only it wasn’t used to develop positioning prior to a coordinated launch.

Also remarkable is not only have most of these legendary brands been successful for over 100 years, but they were also able to retain their original meaning in a way that’s still relevant.

The Immorality of a Brand God
Myths behave in much the same way, and the rise to icon by brands like Vicks VapoRub, Levi Strauss, and Harley Davidson parallels that of the Greek gods and legends.  Think of the Greek god Dionysus as a brand god.  His logo consists of grape clusters, pinecone staff, wine cup, and panther.  Innumerable artifacts throughout the antiquities such pottery, jewelry, sculptures, and architectural elements contain the symbols that represent Dionysius. He also often showed up as a product placement in many Greek plays.  This brand god was associated with revery, fertility and abundance which was expressed through the cultural prevalence of high-octane festivals, celebrations and banquets. An extension of the attribute of abundance was the power to inspire and create extasy as evidenced by the copious number of tragedies and comedies that were central to Greek festivals. 

How Dionysus Became An Iconic Greek God
Dionysus rose to become an iconic Greek god because his story tapped into the human condition of the culture in those times.  Violence of invasions and wars were commonplace.  Death was around every corner in the form of plagues, diseases, and injuries and more.  Dionysus represented death and rebirth.  He stood for the exuberance of life in the face of tragedy.  This was a god who flipped the bird at death.  Dionysus became an icon and stayed relevant because this theme is perennial part of the human experience.  Like every iconic Greek god, his identity acquired some additional attributes during times of cultural change, however his central identity remained intact.  In addition, the symbols by which he was recognized remained unchanged.

Iconic Brands Are Co-Created
What iconic brands and myths have in common is an organic evolution of identity.   Whether god or brand, their meanings are co-created. When a culture has a hand in creating a brand identity, it contains part of themselves. And something that contains part of oneself is not easily left behind during times of cultural change.  Instead, people tend to look for relevant ways that a brand becomes modified in order to bring that brand along with them.  

The point is that a brand will stand a better chance of becoming an icon when a company stays aware of cultural change, the ways in which a brand identity’s meaning is being modified by people when a culture undergoes change, and seizing the opportunity to align a brand’s identity with what it is coming to represent without losing it’s core identity or the logo that symbolizes it.  While the chances of becoming an Iconic brand are slim, perhaps taking a page out of the myth making playbook can provide the insight needed to better a brand’s likelihood of becoming the next brand god to enter the halls of iconic fame.

Dear 1980s, We Miss You.

The 80’s Were Voted Best Decade to Live In
Despite shoulder pads, glam rock, and yuppies, the 80’s were voted #1 on The Top Tens list for best decade to live, or wish you had lived in.  What’s particularly striking is that the number of those who voted for the 80s, were yet to be born.  Like, not for another 20-30 years.  

Their comments mention having birthdays somewhere in the early 2000s, and references to the teen experience.  It suggests that there’s a percentage of American 20-somethings who are strongly drawn to a perception of life in the 80s that includes a teen experience. While the question is, what’s the percentage?, the bigger question is, do the 20-somethings of today feel robbed of what they thought their teen hood experience was supposed to be?  

The teenage experience is one of our cultural biggies.  Remember the day we got to say “teen” after our age?  It led directly to our first experience of crossing a very real and amazing threshold of our journey into the adulthood.  For the next 7 years our pre-teen leashes would continue to grow longer and the world would become increasingly less curated.  Because we were sponges, we soaked up everything the world had to offer. By the time we hit 20, in just a handful of years, parts of us had become almost unrecognizable to ourselves. It was incredulous to us there was ever even a time when we had 10pm bedtimes, sat at the “kids table” for Thanksgiving, and spent every last cent of our allowances on Pokemon cards.

However, it was during our teens that we had those game-changing coming-of-age experiences. You know, the one where suddenly everything looked so completely different that it could never look the same again? Yeah, that one.  So, getting back to the question about a sense of losing out on teen hood and the coming-of-age experience, one can appreciate how that time would carry a good deal of weight for a 20-something.

What is it about the 80’s that those 20-somethings perceive they missed out on that was so important?  What is it that they are really yearning for?  It’s not just 20-year-olds either.  People in other age groups, although not as many, also said the 80s was the best decade to live in.  Judging by the comments, things were perceived as going downhill fast sometime between 2010 and 2015. From 2020 on it’s pretty fair to say we were all stunned to discover we could sink to a level of worse far beyond what we ever thought possible.

Here are the rankings for the best decade to live in from 1900s – 2020s along with some of the comments.  

1.  The 1980s

Mixed tapes! I loved listening to the American top 40 and recording all my favorite songs”.

“There were jobs and life was simple. Helping one another was the normal and we didn’t believe in bullying”. 

“We were breaking down social walls…”

“the 80s seemed such a fun and prosperous time.”

“One of the best things about the 80s and early 90s is that there was no internet and no chat rooms. People socialised outside. They went to parties and evening dances. We just don’t have that…”

“I was born in the early 2000s but from what I’ve seen in movies and read in biographies, the 80s were the best in the US.”

“Hands down 80’s…Why am I born in 21st century?”

“I was born in the wrong generation. I love all the music from the 80s, like nervana and led zeplin and pink floid.   I WISH I COULD HAVE BEEN A TEEN IN THE 80’s!

2. The 1990s

“It was probably the most peaceful of any decade in the last 100 years. Everyone had money and everyone was (relatively! ) happy. We had mobile phones and the Internet but they hadn’t taken over our lives yet and we got great movies and T.V. shows”. 

3.  The 2000s

“… grew up in the 2000’s, it was great. Technology was not abused, and it was lighter. There wasn’t so much pressure. It was like a prolonged 20th century.”

“… there was a hopeful outlook for the future, particularly with the progress being made in science, technology and egalitarianism.”

“Enough technology that we could find out things, it wasn’t until the 2010s that the internet completely ruined everything.”

“… early 2000s to like 2007 were a lot like an extension of the 90s.”

4. The 1970s

“The best music was spawned in the 70’s…musicians actually played instruments we used record players and not digital music.”

“Everyone that I know who grew up in the 70s is really nice.”

“People seemed very casual in the 70s.” 

 “The 70s had THE BEST cars. You can’t say there’s anything cooler than a bright red 73 hemi cuda with yellow flames and slick tires with stripes on the sidewalls.” 

The Vietnam War ended. A new realism in movies, T.V., music, and comedy. It was the 60s dressed in a Leisure Suit, in a good way.

5. The 1960s

Great Music and hippie culture. – The Beatles (Need I say more).”

First Wave feminism and less of a class based society in Britain.

“…we may of been poorer but life had a cadence to it.”

6. The 2010s

“…got broken by the information overload, fakeness and health crisis of the 2020s.”

“I say that any decade before 2010 is a good decade.”

“The 2010s for me weren’t actually that bad. I actually miss them. Would be happy to go back and live there. Much better than the 2020s with COVID or the 1940s with WW2.”

“Kids don’t act like kids anymore instead they act like they’re a bunch of adults with boyfriends and iPhone 6s, the 2010s sucks.”

7.  The 1950s

“1950’s was an amazing decade! WWII was over and US citizens benefited greatly from this victory. The dollar stretched far & wide, the cars looked tough and were super affordable.

“As a white man, the ’50s may have been the best decade to grow up in. As a black man, the ’50s easily ranks at the bottom of the list.”

“Cool music and fashion but not the best time to live in if you are a person of color, LGBTQ+, or even a woman.”

8.  The 1920s

“1920s! The time when everybody wore suits and dresses, people had so much class. They were very polite. Like bro. I’d give second to the 70s and third to the 90s. Then the fifties.

It was all about the party back then. Murders? What murders? Oh, yeah I forgot about the gangsters and polio. At least we were classy.

I agree, it was classy. The flappers were pretty cool too. I wish people were as elegant nowadays

9. The 1900s

Far from the best but this decade looked better than the horror that was the 1930s or WWI throughout the 1910s ( 1910-1913 and 1919 looked okay though ).

10.  The 1940s

“Wartime decade in the history. Compares to the worst decade of 2010s or so and 2020.”

“Yeah, probably not the best time period to live in if you were German, Jewish, Russian, British, Polish or Chinese…”

What Does It Mean?
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that this is an accurate glimpse in to the current mindsets of Americans. It would stand to have a profound influence on how our culture continues to shape itself going forward and would be unmistakably played out in values, beliefs, perceptions and behaviors.  In what ways?   Good question.

Pssst… Instinct, You’re Not Always In Control

Who’s In Charge Here?
Instinct is an innate behavior that is present at birth. It is not learned nor is it prompted.   Curiosity, self-preservation, fear, play, connection, sex, and anger are just a few of the many instincts hard-wired into our brains.  Our capacity for relating to our fellow humans lies in our ability to understand ourselves, each other, and recognize that we share an inescapable common denominator of exactly the same instincts.

Instinct fall into 3 separate yet closely related groups. They are intertwined with the mechanisms that form our behaviors. None of which is static. Instinct reacts like mood rings, constantly revealing  themselves in an endless spectrum of colors created by with whatever they cross paths. The sound of a baby’s cry, an attractive man or woman, a scent, the feeling of being alone, a freshly stocked pantry,  a loud noise, a glance, a hormone.  Instincts kicks in at the speed of light. Our instincts would happily hum along with a perfect, stable, and unchanging world. But the world we know is quite different and often find ourselves in the center of the whirlwind we call life.  It stands to reason that,  depending on direction, temperature, and force of any particular wind, an instinct or a combination of them, will come forward.  If it’s a good wind instinct will greet it with open arms. An ill wind?  Instinct opens the door holding a shield and brandishing a club.  Ultimately, all instinct wants is to either maintain or restore order to its world. Such a simple request, right?

The three categories of instincts are:

  1. Self-preservation
  2. Sexual
  3. Social

Fear is probably the most ancient of our survival instincts and is at the heart of self-preservation.
It has occupied that place for hundreds of thousands of years and is buried deep in our amygdalas.  Protecting ourselves, family, home, resources, and status, is directly tied to fear.  We’ll feel an intense sense of alarm if there’s a threat that any of them could being taken or destroyed.  It is also this fear that leads us to seek out a way to remedy the situation for sense of security.  Anger is also an offspring of fear and also can happen when we perceive a threat.  When that instinct rears its head, we are likely to react with a fight response. However if the danger is perceived to be overpowering, then we are likely to react by fleeing.  These self-preservation instincts fall have had an incredibly powerful impact on shaping ourselves and our civilizations in unmistakable and  sometimes even irreversible ways. 

Also central to our collection of instincts is the need for reproducing to ensure the survival of our species.  Here, fear is not the dominant factor.  Our behaviors  play out in the form of arousal, attraction, mating rituals.  However if a rival appears, things can quickly move into territorial behavior where there can only be one winner.

Perhaps not as intense in nature as self-preservation or dramatic as sexual instincts, the social instincts have a less obvious foothold in the realm of instinct.  But don’t underestimate the power social of instincts. They are just as strong and important.  Cooperation, play, bonding, curiosity, maternal instincts, and cultural traditions such as the Chinese New Year, Hannukah, Día de Los Muertos, and Easter. Social instincts are the glue that hold civilizations together.

Move Over Instinct
The instincts mentioned above just scratch the surface of the many instincts silently operating beneath the surface of our consciousness.  It’s tempting to think in presence of instincts, free will stands little chance.  However, humans have a profound ability to reason, learn, adapt, and apply experience to navigate the wildly varying terrain of instinct.  In fact we defy our fear instinct when we charge into burning buildings, submerge ourselves hundreds of feet beneath the ocean’s surface, and fly 30,000 feet above the ground.   Firemen, scuba divers, and pilots do it every day. 
We’ve also learned to harness our instinct of cooperation when we organize a humanitarian effort, and the instinct for self-preservation by creating clean energy.

Perceptions, values, beliefs, attitudes, and cultures are forged out of instinct. While what drives human behavior begins with instinct, our behavior can take an exit onto a road of progressive expression built from logic, reason, awareness, and decision-making abilities. We experience the results of those expressions in the form of medicine, commerce, technology, healthcare, education, energy, innovation, the arts, government, and the justice system.  It’s not so much that instincts are what drives us as it is about what we can do with them.  Instincts are the launching pad. We are the rocket ships who determine where we want to go.  

The Importance of Accessibility

No matter how great a brand is, it doesn’t do any good if a quarter of the population can’t use its website. According to the CDC, 25% of adults in the United States have some form of disability.  A good percentage of disabilities are those with hearing and sight impairments. When it comes to using a website, products or service descriptions, online videos, purchasing, and navigation, should optimize your content for accessibility.  And because niche markets have specialized interests,  the markets sizes will be smaller that larger segments of the population. That means for a niche business, every sale counts.  So, optimize your website to include those with hearing or sight impairments, or you will lose out on online purchase opportunities from those potential customers.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the standard for full and compliant website accessibility. There’s a rather long list of requirements. While full WCAG compliance takes some time, there are easy adjustments you can make now. It’s also helpful to use an accessibility checker.  There are free ones, and websites like accessiBe provide accessibility checking, and Microsoft 365 accessibility checker.  So what can you do to make your niche website more accessible?  Read on.

Ways to Make Your Website More Accessable

Here are some things to check to make sure your website is accessible.

Visually impaired people need high contrast between text color and background color in order to read your text.  High contrast is especially   important for retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy and cataract.  

Alt Text
Seeing images is difficult and sometimes visually people with visual impairments can’t see them at all.  They depend on alt text to tell them what the image is about.  Alt text is written copy that’s read aloud by a screen reader.  It’s also indexed by search engines and appears when an image fails to load. Alt text does not appear on a screen. Instead it is contained in the HTML code. Most design templates do the coding for you all you have to do is write the words.

Descriptive URLS
For visually impaired people, descriptive URLs give context of a URL, and make it easier to skip to the right content.  For example, a meaningful description that gives some context for a URL is the “About” page.  Instead of, it’s better to use a URL such as

Structured Headings
Visually impaired people use screen readers. When they open a page, they use a screen reader to understand the nature of content.  That’s why it’s important to Structure your headings so that your main heading (H1) identifies the topic with subheadings to group topical information into a logical order. Think of structured headings like an outline for writing a paper. 

Adjustable Font Size
Those with low vision often need to resize text to read it.  Thankfully the ability to enlarge text is done in a browser’s setting. However, every now a website may truncate or overlap the text when a user enlarges text.  Website that are built with predesigned theme templates are usually coded to prevent that problem.  Make sure you go on your website and view it at various font sizes to make sure the text is resizing properly.  WordPress Mobile-Friendly Themes are quite good ad building websites that not only can adjust text/, bur also responsive text.

There are two kinds of captions.  There are called open and closed captions. Open captioning appears at the bottom or top of a video with words that are the same as the audio. Open caption is always on and can’t be turned off.  Closed captioning can be turned on or off by the viewer. Video captioning is highly important for people with hearing impairments.  Your website videos will be of little use if they can’t hear audio.  On a side note, over 50% of viewers with unimpaired hearing watch videos with the sound off and use captions instead.  Rev is a good for creating open and closed captioning.

Keyboard Navigation
Visual and physical disabilities make using a mouse difficult if not impossible., and they need a to a keyboard to use the internet. In addition to those with disabilities, there are many people conditions like arthritis, hand tremors, and carpel tunnel syndrome.  To provide keyword navigation requires html coding.  Unless you know how to code, you’ll have to find a website designer to do it for you.

Make Optimizing for Accessibility a Priority
Just because someone with a disability wouldn’t use your product or service, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it accessible.  People with hearing or sight impairments buy gifts for someone who doesn’t have an impairment. Gifts for birthdays anniversaries, Mother’s and Father’s Day batmitzfas, graduations, and wedding presents are all commonly purchased by people whose hearing or sight are impaired.

Optimizing your niche website for accessibility makes good niche business sense.  Your sales will be higher if people in your niche market can use your website. It’s not hard to do and you will reap the purchase rewards for doing it.

 Public Relations and Woke Campaign Nightmares

Companies are finding out the hard way how a woke-driven campaign can have  disastrous consequences. Before 2017, anyone outside the Black American culture, had never heard of woke.  Fast forward 4 years and a plethora of companies are piling onto the woke wagon.   Now with so many of them trying to appear woke, there’s a lot of woke washing going on.  Which also means a lot of woke washing blunders, some of which are so bad that a company suddenly finds itself in crises mode.

But how many companies in a woke washing train wreck turn to public relations for help?   Many times a mistake can be remedied with an apology, however serious mistakes are a different story leaving a company with serious damage control on their hands.  In those cases, public relations can go a long way to help a company repair the damage.

Houston, We Got a Problem
Hyundai, in an effort to be associated with being environmental conscious, ran an ad called “Pipe Job” about a man trying to commit suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning with one of Hyundai’s cars.  The man failed because but the Hyundai ix35 is a fuel cell car, and its tailpipe emits only water vapor.  In fact it’s so clean you can’t poison yourself.  It’s hard to imagine the backlash could get any more deafening . But it was turned up to an 11 after there was blogpost by an advertising copywriter whose father committed suicide in the same way with a Hyundai car.  She also included the suicide note.  Hyundai pulled the ad, but the damage had already been done.  The blogpost had gone viral.  Hyundai, even though it withdrew the ad, but because it went viral, the ad is still  on  the internet and continues to rack up the clicks. 

DiGiornos had a lot of explaining to do when  after suspension of NFL player Ray Rice for beating his wife, DiGiornos  hijacked the hashtag  #WhyIStayed and used it to sell their frozen pizzas.  It was an attempt to stay relevant, but unfortunately the hashtag was a collection of domestic violence survivor stories.  As you can imagine, there was an avalanche of blowback.  DiGiornos apologized. For how long?  A very, very long time.   

Then there’s Burger King who  launched  its #FeelYourWay campaign to mark Mental Awareness month.  As part of the campaign they sold products such as a “Blue Meal” and the “Pissed Meal”.   Unsurprisingly that also ended up fueling a public uproar and a slew of angry tweets.

Haste Makes Waste
These are just a few examples of woke campaigns gone wrong.  There are many more companies who have found themselves in the same boat.  It’s mostly because in the rush to jump on the woke bandwagon they don’t take time to consider the possibility of tone deafness.  Which is surprising because the biggest cause of woke campaign nightmares is tone deafness.

Here’s the thing about tone deafness – people who are tone deaf often don’t know they are tone deaf.  While his/her brain is able to perceive differences in tone, there’s a dissonance between registering a wrong note and the person’s awareness of the wrong note.  The only way to be aware of being tone deaf  is if someone else listens that person sing.  The same goes for companies.  The only real way to be aware of a campaign’s tone deafness is to have someone else look at it.  Given the number of woke campaign mishaps, one has to wonder if companies consult with public relations for a litmus test before launching a woke-driven campaign.  With the  potential risk and consequences that come with those campaigns, it’s hard to believe a company wouldn’t involve public relations to help vet their concepts.  What about qualitative concept testing to get a sense of how a campaign would be received?  Or insight gathering to understand what their audience considers a meaningful action and what that action should be. Those kinds of safeguards would keep companies from spending a great deal of money,  not to mention the cost of a damaged corporate image.  

Getting Public Relations on the Radar
Curiously there was only one or two articles on the internet about how a good public relations professional can help a company avoid or remedy a woke campaign blunder.  It surprised me how little content there was on the subject that was written by a public relations professional.  In addition to helping companies repair woke campaign damage, articles on the subject written by public relations professionals would also demonstrate the importance of a public relations’ role in a woke campaign crises.

Hopefully companies will learn from their mistakes.  Even better would be to get entirely off the woke wagon unless the reason for a work-driven campaign is authentic and the company backs it up with meaningful action. It stands to reason that a good  public relations firm can do a lot to help companies avoid serious mistakes, contain damage,  and recover from a woke campaign gone terribly wrong.  I don’t have a sense of how much companies understand and value the role of public relations.  But my guess is it would serve them well to turn towards public relations for guidance and help especially when a woke campaign backfires.   

Should You Use Latinx, Latino, or Hispanic? It Depends.

Whether to use Latino, Latinx, or Hispanic has many of us walking on eggshells. You’re not alone. Even though I have a Mexican upbringing,  and I was confused too.

There’s a reason for the confusion.  It’s because we use  Latinx as an alternative way to describe the entire Latino/Hispanic population. We’re also confused if we should say Hispanic or Latino or Latina”.  Being that I’m hardwired for research, I ended up spending a few hours scouring the internet to figure all this  out.  I looked at multiple sources to make sure I was getting accurate information.  Amidst the variety of opinions I looked for information that was consistent and to  for draw a conclusion. 

So, without further ado, I will  share what I learned with you all.

Before we get to Latinx, it’s important to first understand the difference between Hispanic and Latino.    Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish, come from Spanish speaking population, or from Spanish speaking countries.  Latino refers to people who are either from or descended from Latin America.  In other words.  Latinos can be Hispanic because Latinos speak Spanish.  But  Hispanics who don’t have  Latin American roots aren’t Latinos.

Now, on to Latinx.

The word “Latinx” was never meant to address the entire Hispanic  population. Latinx emerged as a way for non-binary gender Latin-Americans to identify themselves.  More specifically it was used in the LGBT community as a means of challenging the use of masculine and feminine in the Spanish language.  From there the meaning of Latinx morphed into a label  used to identify anyone of all Latinos/Hispanics  First Latinx was used by academia,  university students, and in turn the  LGBT community.  Next came the progressives who started using Latinx and then it  caught on within the general American population.

The key idea at the heart of Latinx is the concept of self-identity.  Originally Latinx was created as a means of self-identification for members of the Latino LGBT community.  The  Latino LGBT movement invented and chose Latinx for themselves. 

A number of articles have been written about how Latinx is offensive to Latinos/ Hispanics, and that it’s a divisive word that’s causing a rift within them.  The truth is, the majority of Latinos/Hispanics couldn’t care less about Latinx.  In fact, the majority of Latinos/Hispanics don’t know about, or have no interest in the term “Latinx”.    According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 19 percent (roughly 62.1 million) of the total U.S. population is Latino or Hispanic. Only 1 out 4 U.S. Hispanics/Latinos have heard of the term Latinx, and only 3% of the 1 out of  4 use it.

On side note,  I was spending some time in Mexico and asked a friend if he preferred to be called Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx.  He looked at me with an expression on his face like “What’s the matter with you” and  said, “I’m Mexican”.

Here is a link to a great explanation of “Latinx” by language researcher and respected author,  Dr. Jose Medina.

So, should you use Latinx, Latino, or Hispanic?  Well,  by definition if someone  is Latino LGBT, then most likely it would be Latinx.  If someone is Hispanic or Latino, you can safely say Hispanic since Latinos speak Spanish.  Problem it’s hard to know which term to use when you don’t know if someone is Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx. I have two work arounds.  First when it comes to writing,  I cover the bases with Hispanic/Latino.  If I’m speaking to someone who is Hispanic/Latino I just say  something like “I want to make sure I don’t say accidently say something to offend you, so please tell me if you prefer Latino, Hispanic, or  Latinx”.   I wouldn’t  worry to much about using Latinx when speaking to someone who is Hispanic/Latino.  There’s a good chance she or he will be unfamiliar with the term.  And if they are familiar,  Latinx means absolutely zilch to them.   However there’s also a chance of you coming  across as being out of touch with the world of Hispanics.  

Hope all that was helpful and hasta la próxima!

Nike’s Success And The Impact Of Culture

The insight that came to encompass Nike in its entirety, was grounded in centerpiece of sports within American culture. It was the insight that helped Nike create a strategy from which came great slogans like “Just Do It”, and “Believe in Something”.  It also led to a campaign called “Unlimited” which encouraged people of all abilities and in tandem with a film called “Unlimited You” that featured well known people who had achieved great things along with who Nike considered the real stars – regular men, women, and children.

Nike’s brilliant two-pronged move fit hand in glove with a new version of f American culture. Nike inspired and re-affirmed the belief that no matter who you were or what race you were from, women, men , and children through dedication and hard work could achieve anything.  It was an American dream that now included everyone.   To underscore that point, Nike signed up the greatest athletes that included women, different ethnicities, and multiple types of sports to reflect that belief.

The Mysterious Alchemy of Nike’s Success
Still, no one has really been able to explain how Nike grew to a level of success beyond imagination.  Like Bowerman and his running shoes, we’ve tried countless times deconstruct and reconstruct Nike to figure out how it was made.  All we know it wasn’t just one thing. Nike was an undefinable combination of many things. Much in the same way, culture can’t be deconstructed and reconstructed because it is always in the process of changing and redefining itself along the way.   It wasn’t that Nike had become a part of American culture.  Nike instead melded with and mirrored American culture as it went through its changes. Nike’s founders Knight and Bowerman, were themselves an offspring of American culture and expressed through their running shoes the same American values found culture of sports, which in their case was running. That could explain how Nike was able to expand to cover all sports through which they the were able to eventually root themselves into an entire nation. Because of Nikes relationship with American culture, they were a mirror of America’s self-identify that was reflected back to itself.  In turn, that had an influence on American culture that was then was reflected back to Nike.  The company, informed by the changes they saw in that reflection, incorporated it into new shoe designs which, of course, mirrored American culture to itself. . And so it goes.   It’s like changing the wheels on a moving car. One could say that Nike and American culture have a symbiotic relationship.  If that’s the case, Nike’s mysterious alchemy that transformed Nike into a legend will forever remain a mystery.

Obviously, Nike’s intertwined relationship with culture can’t take all the credit for the company’s success. There were other important factors such as the role Japan played in the early days, Nike’s business management and operations, its financial management, logistics, a large, strong, and committed work force, etc.  Without those there would be no Nike.  That said, Nike’s involvement and insight into America’s ever-evolving cultural and subcultural mindset combined with Nike’s timeless mantra, certainly made a significant contribution to Nike’s success. One can make the argument that it was the fuel for Nike to become the $192 billion-dollar megalithic company of today.   Not bad for a couple of crazy founders in Oregon, that started out with only $300, and sold running shoes out of the trunk of a car.

The Ultimate Niche Market? Wingsuits.

Imagine this: “I thought of a great idea for a niche market!   I’m going to make suits with wings that allow people to jump off cliffs and fly hundreds of feet off the ground!”  Sound crazy?  Not if you are creating wingsuits for a niche market that’s grown over 300% over the last year. And according to Transparency Market Research , the wingsuit flying market is expected to continue growing.

Wingsuits are an example of an ultimate niche market product. It’s a specialty product for a well-defined audience, there’s demand, people are actively searching for them online, and there are limited competitors. Best of all, this is a niche market that doesn’t have to worry about the competition selling wingsuits for a lower price.  If you’re going to jump off a cliff,  are you really going to  buy the cheapest wingsuit?

So, what is a wingsuit?  It’s a special suit with wings for soaring high in the sky like an eagle.  Yes Steve Miller, now you really can fly like an eagle. However to take flight, you must jump off a cliff.

For those who are unfamiliar with wingsuit flying, you have to see it to believe it.

Point is, profitable niche market business opportunities are everywhere.  You just need to muster up the courage to jump into one.