Category: Trends & Culture

Why Are Stories That Glorify Murderers So Popular?

There was already a TV show called How To Get Away With Murder, but the new Netflix series Monster about mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer’s life might be similarly instructive. As the new TV miniseries reaches record audiences, many are asking whether the sympathetic portrayal of one of the most notorious serial murderers in US history is doing more harm than entertaining. The show helps audiences empathize with the killer, while forcing victims and their families to relive tragic memories.

An increasingly popular narrative arc in storytelling is to take a classic bad guy and humanize him to flip the story. The bad guy isn’t intrinsically bad – but becomes that way through some sort of trauma. When it’s used in animated films like Wreck-It-Ralph or Megamind, we’re happy to celebrate the redemption of a bad guy who isn’t a bad guy. When the same method is used to humanize someone like Jeffrey Dahmer, the valid fear is that it can end up glorifying the horrific in a way that makes future “monsters” aspire to become one themselves.

What the Popularity of Closed Captions Tells Us About the Value of  Making Accomodations

Twenty years ago when I was leading web production teams, we had to ensure our sites were compatible for people with slower browsers, screen readers and any other accommodations. At the time, I remember feeling like this was far too much effort for a relatively small population. Eventually I realized the problem with this mindset and began to understand how many people are left behind when technology is not accessible.

In the WSJ this week, there was a feature story about how closed captions (once seen solely as an accommodation for the hearing impaired) are hugely popular among multitasking young people who prefer to leave them on for all videos. The story is a great reminder for us all that making things more accessible doesn’t only benefit those who have a disability. When you take the time to create something that is accessible by those who need the most help, you often end up creating a better experience for everyone.

Here’s Why Everyone Loves the 90s Again

Non-Obvious Story of the Week from Rohit Bhargava

Why are the ’90s so popular? According to self-described “white boy rapper” Vanilla Ice, “the ’90s was the last of the great decades, because after that, computers killed the world.” Now the 54-year old rapper is headlining the “I Love the ’90s” national concert tour along with “other forgotten acts of that decade including Color Me Badd, Coolio and Tone Loc.” He has a new energy drink flavor named after himself, and he’s even opening a pop culture museum in Florida.

“The ’90s are infectious. The decade was so colorful with neon colors. Nothing was that serious. It was, ‘Let’s enjoy life, let’s make friends.’ We had Beavis and Butt-Head, we had block parties, we had fanny packs. If you walk through the mall today, everyone is wearing items from the ’90s. Sneakers are going crazy. The checkerboard Vans, that is from the ’90s. It’s all back.”

I wrote about this resurgence when I identified “Revivalism” as one of my Non-Obvious Megatrends back in 2020, and in the two years since this movement has continued to accelerate. Nokia brought back their iconic phone from the ’90s. There is a 90s resurgence in Hollywood. 90s fashion styles are popular again.

As we see more examples of technology reshaping our world in disturbingly dystopian ways where even your vacuum cleaner can spy on you, this cultural desire to recall a simpler time will only get more pronounced.

3 Marketing Lessons From The Minions Movie

Last night we got dressed up to see a movie.

To be more specific, my boys and a group of their friends created their own matching yellow t-shirts while I sported a black t-shirt and Gru-scarf to complete our crew. Our dedication was slightly before the full hype started for for the latest installment in the Minions franchise – Minions: The Rise of Gru. This #minionscult fever has led the film to a blockbuster opening and a meme that has overtaken Tik Tok and other social media platforms, filled with people dressing up in formal wear or minions garb to enjoy the film.

The movie is the latest in a string of box office successes leading to a resurgence in movie theater attendance after two long years of depressed sales. For the most part, the movies dominating the 2022 box office list belong to large franchises: Marvel’s latest Spiderman, Thor and Doctor Strange films, the Top Gun sequel, and the Jurassic World sequel. Their successes, though, are likely causing marketers and leaders in all industries to wonder if they can recreate some Minion marketing magic for themselves. To do it, there are a few questions they should consider first:

1. Is the level of effort involved reasonable? One of the reasons movie launches like this generate so much passion is because they only require a momentary commitment. I don’t have to dress up like a minion every day or start writing a minion blog The short term extreme fandom works for (Read more...)

Magazines Create Empathy That Can Change the World. Here’s How To Save Them.

“The print magazine is an antidote to information overload, a form of media that contains a finite amount of content, releasing readers from the laborious task of deciding what to consume in the limited spaces of time in a day.”

Magazines are my favorite media. I read an ode to the power of the printed word in magazines this week and it reminded me of all the things I love about them. The process of curating this email is a constant battle to avoid overload, and I find that magazines always help. Unlike a lot of online content, the stories and images in magazines are usually professionally produced by real talented editors and creators. The long take they regularly offer is unique and their ability to select and publish stories that are timely without feeling outdated is a constant inspiration for me to try and do the same.

Sadly, many magazines are ceasing operations or moving to an online format only. The good news is, magazine subscriptions remain a steal compared to the cost of other things. So if you’re like some of the people interviewed in the article and have forgotten about the appeal of magazines, maybe now is a good time to restart some of those subscriptions you once had – or find some new ones.

Why We Still Need Conferences and Convention Centers

Convention centers can be beautiful energizing places. They can also be sad lonely reminders of why business travel sometimes sucks. I have spent many hours inside convention centers as a speaker before they became one of the first big casualties of the pandemic. A Businessweek feature this week focused on the collective efforts of architects, city officials and event planners to imagine a richer future for these forgotten convention spaces. The events industry right now is filled with hope, which is fueling multi-million dollar investments. The irony is that hope is also the one thing that these events themselves can bring us.

Gathering the smartest minds in a profession together face to face for future-shifting conversations inspires hope. It is undeniably important. Every time I am invited to an event, I experience this hope. It’s what makes the travel delays, time away from family and long hours worth it. And like the magic of a wonderfully planned and executed convention, hope is one of those things that is really hard to recreate over Zoom. 

How To Archive Yourself In the Digital Age

“I thought self-archiving could lead to self-actualization. I filled as many spaces as I could with information, whether it was on my blog, in Facebook albums, on Twitter, or on any of the many social media platforms I’ve used through the years. It was like collecting data on myself. But I also had an overall fear of letting go, of impermanence. I was so scared of forgetting pieces of myself—even pieces I longed to discard, like bad relationships and bad friendships and, I guess, other people in general. They discarded me more easily than I discarded them.”

I have the luxury to remember myself cooler than I actually was in school. As I have sometimes shared on stage, there are no social media posts from the ’90s to contradict how I think of my younger self from 25 years ago. The digital archives we are now creating for ourselves can be a gift, but also can weigh us down. Writer Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya explores this idea in an essay this week that suggests perhaps the path to self awareness requires deleting the past … a conclusion she reaches after much soul searching:

“Easing up on my self-archiving felt like building new trust with myself, giving myself permission to change and grow. I used to believe saving everything was the only way to find out what I really wanted, who I wanted to be. But when I delete things, I just make space for something new.”

It’s not easy to admit, (Read more...)