On Individuality - or Range As The New Hang Time

I keep a close eye on Droga5. They produce some of the most consistently innovative marketing campaigns around today. The latest for Under Armour is no exception. Entitled "Flash" it features Steph Curry and Jamie Fox. 

When I played little league basketball, I was scrawny and slow. I excelled in several sports and basketball was not one of them. Even though I was a mediocre player, in my head I was convinced I was Kareem Adbul Jabbar. The reason is that Jabbar mastered the one shot that I figured if I could master, I would be able to compete with the other girls who were much bigger and faster. 

I spent weekends, weeknights, early mornings practicing my version of the skyhook. The difference between myself and Jabbar is that Jabbar mastered the skyhook as a center - in my 10 year old head I was going to master the skyhook as a point guard. 

The first time I threw up a skyhook in a game (from the 3 point line), I felt venomous steam rising from my mother's head as she watched with pure disdain (my parents do not tolerate anything that resembles "showing off").

It was a long ride home that night.

I finally convinced them it was out of necessity and not ego. They acquiesced and off I went chucking skyhooks from center court. It became quite a spectacle - partly because I could actually make them, and partly because my shorts would drop every time I did it (I would learn to use the other hand to hold them up). 

I heard it all - "you can't do that", "who do you think you are?", "that's not real basketball", "play like you are suppose to play". Some people loved it, others hated it - but it didn't matter because it was never about them.

I still practice the shot at my local track/basketball court. 

My point: individuality is always in style - even when people don't vibe with it (especially when people don't vibe with it).

Future Classic: Ikiré Jones & The Role of Story In Fashion

From the Ikiré Jones website:

"The things that we make may not be widely accepted as beautiful to everyone, but they will be fiercely embraced as beautiful by a special few. It is for people like you that we work so hard. It is because of dreams like yours, and ours, that we have chosen to brave this path.  It is because we know that someone has to make things better, and that it might as well be us."

Here at AEY Consulting we have not found another brand that embraces that ethos of TXTR quite like Ikiré Jones, a Philadelphia-based menswear brand dedicated to making carefully tailored West African-inspired clothing with a focus on storytelling and political context. 

Ikiré Jones is the endeavor of designer/afrobeat musician/attorney Walé Oyéjidé, and musician/bespoke tailor Sam Hubler -  "two artists with a zeal for creating beautiful things that sit to the left of what has been resignedly accepted as the status quo".

In addition to a bold, stunning approach to menswear, Ikiré Jones understands the role of story in their work. From the Ikiré Jones site: "there is magic in the idea that every item we produce means something; and more importantly, means something different to different people. We strive to give each piece an identity and history of its own. It is our hope that these small pieces of (often-invented) history will give the wearer a story to tell, a place to visit, and a new memory to create."

“[Our clothing line] pays homage to African children all over the world whose lives were tragically shortened by domestic terrorism, disease and by the perils of migration,” the brand’s Nigerian-born creative director Walé Oyéjidé explains. The designer added that the collection’s array of Renaissance-era tapestry-styled silk scarves featuring people of color intends to offer social commentary on Western perceptions of Africa.

October 5, 2015 - Monday's Kick

We're riding one serious energy high coming off an excellent week with three events that had us moving around the rain last week like nobody's business.

A special shout-out to the organizing team at Washington DC Ad Week and a special thanks to Scott Williams, COO of the Newseum, for kindly inviting us to speak. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the event.

Outside of event hopping last week also notable was an epic run-in with some carrot cake (the tuna here was amazing).  We'll behave this week.

It is the first week in October and officially Get Organized Week (it's also Eat Country Ham Month). But before we go do either one, it's time for Monday's Kick.




Here we go:

  • Kanye West recently said he wants to be the Creative Director for The Gap. We think he should go here instead. 
  • Design has become the new language of business and the ultimate disruptor. Exploring this theme is "Design Disruptors", a documentary by Invision. 
  • My style, in style. It was just a matter of time.
  • In thinking of brand and texture (AEY's signature approach to brand), it's worth noting Vanessa Friedman's article in the NY Times today on Alexander Wang's final collection for Balenciaga. Writes Ms. Friedman "occupied by his own house back in New York, he never had the time (or took the time, depending on how you want to look at it) to truly learn the Balenciaga catechism. And it’s only when you know it by heart that you can begin to deconstruct it, the better to rewrite it". A lesson for anyone looking to craft a new vision for a brand.
  • The decline of big soda - "the single largest change in the American diet in the last decade". Good news for health, challenging news for soda brands. 
  • Showing hometown love to LaToya Ruby Frazier, the only photographer among this year’s 24 winners of the prestigious MacArthur Genius Grants. From Ms. Frazier's site announcement: "Frazier explores identities of place, race, and family in work that is a hybrid of self-portraiture and social narrative. The crumbling landscape of Braddock, Pennsylvania, a once-thriving steel town, forms the backdrop of her images, which make manifest both the environmental and infrastructural decay caused by postindustrial decline and the lives of those who continue—largely by necessity—to live amongst it."

September 28, 2015 - Monday's Kick

It's the last week of September and the last week of Q3. We are three quarters through the year - we have three months until the end of the year.

It's time to focus in and make sure 2015 is a year to remember! 

On our mind(s) this week: baseball, this special holiday, and events. 

Last week we attended an excellent TEDx Mid-Atlantic event. One of our favorite presentations came from Bill LeoGrande, professor of Government and former Dean of the American University School of Public Affairs. LeoGrande spoke on back channel communications between the US and Cuba (check out his book).

This week we have Washington Ideas Forum hosted by The Atlantic, and, of course, AD WEEK DC. We hope to see you on Thursday morning for our session on innovative uses of storytelling in marketing. And send us a note if you'd like to join our luncheon at Bistrot du Coin!

And, finally - we announce our Q4 event calendar today, including the launch of the STORY Event Series starting in November in collaboration with Interface Media Group.  It will be a fantastic series, one that will continue into 2016. You can find out more on our Facebook page.

CREDIT: Morley, Graffiti Artist

CREDIT: Morley, Graffiti Artist

And, Monday's Kick:





On Being Exceptional

A few years ago I did a workshop on digital transformation and what it means for organizations struggling with change. One of the attendees in the workshop was an executive director of an association that supports children with learning disabilities - or children with "exceptionalities". This gentleman was impressed with the workshop and brought me in for ideas on a marketing campaign to launch the association's new membership structure.

As part of the ideation and discovery portion of the engagement I spent a long weekend thinking hard on what it means to be "exceptional" - but as an individual and not just a child with exceptionalities.

I started my own creative exploration that weekend with a dictionary:


This definition got me thinking close to home.

I have two sisters and four nieces (and one nephew). I stared at a picture of two of my nieces. They were at a playground and one had her arm wrapped around the shoulder of the other. The one on the left, Emma, has Down Syndrome and the one on the right, Cammie, leads a "normal" life. 

What struck me is that at some point, in the near future, Emma will realize she is "exceptional" - different from everyone else, unusual, not typical. And, at some point, she will want to be anything but exceptional. She will want to be like all the other children, she will want to be "normal".

Cammie, at some point her life, will want more than anything else to differentiate herself, to stand out, to be atypical. Cammie will spend her life looking for ways to be exceptional.

So, with that, what makes someone truly exceptional? 

First, I determined that being exceptional had nothing to do with physical attributes, though my niece Emma will certainly be defined by hers. As much as our world operates and defines status based on physical, nothing exceptional exists on surface alone.

One can argue that being exceptional is based on skill - the talent(s) a person brings to the world. Very few people can play basketball like Michael Jordan and very few people have a vision like Steve Jobs.

But there are also a lot of really talented, lazy people. So then it becomes about work ethic and what you do with the gifts given to you.

There is a famous Michael Jordan Nike commercial where Jordan apologizes for "making it look easy". The hours of hard work very few witnessed - most people only saw Michael Jordan at game time.

Talent coupled with work ethic does not paint a full picture. Not to many will argue that Steve Jobs had a brilliant mind yet where he fell short came by way of how he went about making his dent in the universe (Jobs was often criticized by how he treated colleagues).

So then it becomes a matter of character and how you choose to carry on in the world.

Are you giving more than you take? Are you operating your life with integrity and acts of kindness and altruism? selflessness?

Every day, every act, every exchange with another human being is within your control. Over a lifetime, these daily interactions, these daily decisions you make, either contribute or take away from living an exceptional life.

The two things that will define exceptionality for Emma and Cammie, and for all of us, are effort and character.

Both of which is in their (and our) control.