I Want to Be Michelle Obama When I Grow Up

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“Michelle Obama is the current center of the fashion universe” – Cameron Silver

Michelle Obama’s middle name must be “Sasha Fierce”. Politics aside, our First Lady is bold and absolutely stylish. Fashion critics love her flair for clothing and accessories. The Chicago Tribune claims Michelle has become one of the four major women in the modern political fashion world.

In my opinion, First Lady Obama’s clothing is both palatable and glamorous. What I love most about Michelle’s style is how she makes conservative clothes pop.

I started following a very informative blog, Mrs. O, that tracks not only her, but her outfits. The blog post this past Tuesday for the Obamas’ arrival in London covers one of my favorite Michelle ensembles. The blogger reports her donning a chartreuse silk crepe sheath dress by Jason Wu with a black duster by Michael Kors. Her signature Azzedine Alaia studded belt ties it all together, making my J.Crew heart melt (see photo above).

As the Obama’s conduct their politics around the world, designers have the opportunity to showcase their clothing on a model with worldwide visibility. What is more powerful than a fashion endorsement from the First Lady? The following are some other designers Michelle wears:

  • Zero + Maria Cornejo
  • Maria Pinto
  • J.Crew
  • Jimmy Choo
  • Junya Watanabe
  • Isabel Toledo

Michelle is already a powerful force in shaping popular culture, officially joining the ranks of Jacqueline Onassis, Princess Diana, and Madame Sarkozy. These political fashionistas choose to not wear a pantsuit 24/7. So thank you, Mrs. O, for going sleeveless, mixing high-end with low-end, and sporting lime green hues instead of stiff all-red suits.


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Why the Snuggie Makes Me Smile

In terms of rank, infomercials are definitely at the bottom of the TV advertising totem pole. But the Snuggie, the groundbreaking “Blanket with Sleeves”, distinguishes itself as one infomercial product that has created as much buzz as a Budweiser campaign.

The Snuggie commercials first appeared last November amid the presidential election and sinking economy. Today, the Snuggie cult phenomenon has swept the nation and our homes. As of today, four million Snuggies have been sold. According to Good Morning America, the Snuggie has gained the most exposure in informercial history. Almost every daytime talk show host has worn the product on their show, including Ellen DeGeneres. My supervisor loves the commercial and we all watched it during a break at work. My BFF told me about an upcoming Snuggie pub crawl in Boston. I even follow The Snuggie on Twitter. The following are some of my favorite tweets by TheSnuggie:

  • “Snuggie > Slanket”
  • “I like to cuddle”
  • “Jesus [rocked] a Snuggie”

The Snuggie is infectious, good-humored, and irresistible. Yes, the Snuggie looks a little too much like a Ku Klux Klan robe and it is overpriced for its apparently thin fabric (retail price for one Snuggie = $15). Above all, the Snuggie has successfully proved that it’s definitely not just an ordinary blanket. Even in this dismal economy, there is a market for cuddling and cupcaking (even if it’s with yourself).


Facebook’s New Home Page: More is More?

facebook-vs-twitter

I am a strong believer that less is more. Call me a Martha Stewart fan. Some of my favorite meals have a few, fresh ingredients like pasta mixed with pesto or a good steak seasoned only with pepper and salt. I love the simplicity of a clean, simply decorated room. Maybe that’s why I love J.Crew’s aesthetic or Apple computers. And maybe that’s why web 2.0 (and the web in general) overwhelms me sometimes. Ultimately, social media celebrates the fact that less is not more- more is more.

Tomorrow, March 11, Facebook is set to launch a new home page that will provide users with even more information about their friends through a stream of constant, updated feeds. The change adopts Twitter’s news feeds by speeding up the delivery of information to near real time. Furthermore, Facebook will also allow marketers to make their profiles more user friendly by making their pages seem like a genuine, real person.

Of course, these new developments will enable users to stay closer connected, which means being better informed and even more addicted to new information. What interests me is the convergence of two separate social media tools: Facebook and Twitter. The modification is not a radical innovation. Users will be able to get information just as fast as on its social media competitor, Twitter.

People are pretty vocal about any drastic change made by Facebook, and I expect to be inundated with angry messages on my new home page. I wonder whether or not I will become more engaged just the way Facebook wants me to, or whether I choose to readjust my settings to screen out the status updates of my “friends.” I guess the good news is that I can always condense more information down to less.

Fourbucks Gets Roasted

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Starbucks, otherwise known as Fourbucks, just got roasted. The outdoor advertisement pictured above is the product of a local McDonald’s advertising campaign in Seattle. The billboard, which was planted in view of Starbucks headquarters in Seattle this past December, is still one of my favorite ads. Starbucks, the world’s largest coffeehouse company, is now lagging behind the world’s largest fast food chain, McDonald’s in a heated popularity contest.

Not too long ago, Starbucks was the provider of trendy specialty coffees. Of course, you paid a slightly outrageous price for a fancy cup of joe, but who cared? That was BR (“Before the Recession”).

Apparently, Starbucks is proving to be a luxury brand now more than ever. Decline in sales, widespread layoffs, and closings are jeopardizing the company’s vitality. Starbucks’ own brand is hurting its own company as most consumers look for more value. In a Wall Street Journal article released last month, Michelle Gass, Executive VP of Marketing and Category at Starbucks, says, “There have been others that have been propagating the myth of the $4 latte, and that is not true”. She claims that the average price of a Starbucks latte is $3.25. But different state tax rates disprove her claim. For example, a 16 oz. latte sells for $3.52 including tax in Dallas while the same drink costs $4.06 including tax at a Starbucks in NYC. Meanwhile, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts offer more affordable prices. McDonald’s actually offers the cheapest specialty coffee drinks (small latte is $1.99 and a medium latte is $2.29).

I applaud McDonald’s campaign strategists for their wit and derision. But most importantly, I am left wondering how and if the recession will truly change consumer spending habits. Will McCafe be the new cool Starbucks? What about Payless versus Nike? Will Hood orange juice beat Simply Orange?

If you are wondering where I will go to get my coffee, the answer is nowhere. I am a tea drinker, and I always brew my own pot at home. Now that’s a better value for my buck.

The House of Blues Boston: My New Heart & Soul

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My temporary hiatus has been caused by beginning my new job at the House of Blues Boston. The past few weeks have been absolutely overwhelming with the Grand Opening landing on February 21. Between learning the 5 Vedic principles (Truth, Peace, Love, Righteousness, and Non-Violence), brushing past the J.Giels Band, remaining calm in the presence of Dan Ackroyd, and the mandatory food tastings, I have fallen in love with the HOB. The people at work are incredibly warm and friendly. People already know each other’s names and make a point to stop and chat. It amazes me that the venue truly operates like a house – a home. It’s very unlike Boston, where drivers show little love for one another and the nasty weather is making me a bit grumpier everyday. I had culture shock just being at the HOB.

That’s why I was surprised that the first House of Blues venue opened in Cambridge back in 1992. Where did the good old southern hospitality come from? The answer definitely lies with the people. Of course, the House wants to bring live music to the public. Nowadays, there is no lack for good food, nice people, and great entertainment. But the HOB would be nothing without the dedicated chefs, servers, bartenders, security officials, production crew, retail sales associates (FYI, that’s a personal plug), and on and on. I’m glad the House of Blues is back in Boston. It’s my new home away from home.

Microsoft Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree

clippy

“Hello! I’m Clippy. It looks like you’ve entered a Microsoft retail store. Do you want help buying a product?” –Ashlee Vance

I am both surprised… and not surprised to hear that Microsoft is opening its own retail stores. On February 12, Microsoft Corp. named David Porter as the vice president to the company’s retail stores. Porter will, “lead Microsoft’s efforts to create a better PC and Microsoft retail purchase experience for consumers worldwide through the development and opening of the company’s own retail stores.” If you haven’t already thought that this retail endeavor sounds familiar, then you probably haven’t seen a flashy Apple store yet. Indeed, Microsoft seems to be following suit yet again. Some question whether Microsoft retail stores will be as appealing as Apple retail stores, and I agree. Does Microsoft stand a chance while Apple stores radiate a magical glow that seems to naturally draw people like me into their shops?

I never go into an Apple store with the intention of buying a new MacBook Pro or iPod Touch, but the stores do let me play with expensive toys and allow me to imagine that I own the coolest phone in the universe: the iPhone 3G. Apple stores are visual eye candy as they seamlessly combine product design with architecture. They are a playground, a guilty pleasure, a tease. The Apple store is a destination for shoppers of all kinds at malls. It bring us together to feel, touch, and test the newest gadgets. Most importantly, the retail stores heighten the Apple experience, reinforcing the brand and its position as a leading innovator. As a former Dell user, I can attest that the brand actually convinced me to abandon my PC for a sleek Apple laptop.

Porter will need to create a unique vision for Microsoft’s own retail stores and offer something that Apple can’t deliver. Despite being faced with a fierce competitor and a troublesome retail market, this may be Microsoft’s time to step it up and engage customers they way Apple did with me. Who knows? Maybe they can make me a born-again PC user.

Trojan Wishes You a Happy & Safe Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is just another American commercial holiday that lures consumers to buy Hallmark cards, chocolate, flowers, and condoms! If you are sharing the love with someone this V-Day, remember to first and foremost love and protect yourself. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Google Latitude: Going One Step Too Close?

google-latitude

The latest Google application makes Facebook stalking seem tame. Google Latitude is a new feature on Google Maps and a new gadget on iGoogle that allows you to share your geographical location with your friends. You can access Google Latitude on your GPS-enabled cell phone or on your iGoogle account from your computer. That’s right. As a Latitude user, you will know where your friends are, and they will be able to see where you are. This means that not only can friends meet up easier knowing they are only blocks away from each other, but parents can keep tabs on their kids and spouses will be able to monitor their better half’s whereabouts.

On one hand, Latitude is certainly an impressive Google innovation that provides extraordinary opportunities to businesses. Imagine walking down the street and receiving a text in front of your local Whole Foods Market advertising a special promotion on avocados that are on sale. Or getting word that a showing of the recently released comedy, He’s Just Not That Into You, starts in 30 minutes at the movie theater down the road. This seems like a marketing goldmine, but the concept strikes me as invasive and overwhelming.

Of course, Google Latitude is entirely voluntary. No one can follow you unless you want them to. Users must accept any request in order to be followed. Users also control as much information they wish to share, and with whom. For now, Latitude is aimed at you and your friends (watch this video to learn more). It’s only a matter of time, though, that Dunkin’ Donuts and Gap will want to follow your every move.

Michael Phelps Wins Some and Loses Some

phelps

“Epic. It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time. He’s the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.”-Mark Spitz

The breaking news story directly following the Super Bowl last Sunday centered on the release of an incriminating photo capturing beloved Olympic champion Micheal Phelps smoking cannabis. In my mind, Phelps screwed up. Of course, an element of bad luck had to play a part in this photo leak. He was probably with a bad crowd at the wrong time (It reminded me of a recent story I heard about a guy being dumped by his girlfriend after after she found him cheating in a picture posted on Facebook. He should’ve been more aware of his tagged photos). Nonetheless, I was worried Phelps would be another star that is praised one moment by the media and simply chewed out the next.

The issue here is not that he smoked marijuana, but rather that he smoked marijuana as Michael Phelps, mega-athlete and sports hero that he is. The “Olympic swimmer/man-dolphin” won 8 out of his 14 Olympic medals in last year’s games. He has 48 career medals and was titled Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportsman of the Year in 2008. This is a guy who captivated nearly 40 million American viewers during his final swim in the Olympics. Everyone watched and admired him as he made history winning the most Olympic medals ever. Phelps was the American idol.

“Michael Phelps” is a self-made brand name. I remember really marveling at the fact that his agent claimed the swimmer had the potential to make over $100 million in celebrity endorsements. It’s true-Nike, Speedo, PowerBar, Subway, Kellog’s, and Mazda have all tapped into his celebrity, and Phelps has made over $5 million in celebrity endorsements. As soon as I saw his defiled picture, though, I knew his contracts would fall through quicker than the time he set for the Olympic record in the 100 m butterfly event (51:25 s, in case you were wondering). I was interested in seeing how the companies would respond.

Here’s the scoop so far. Kellog’s announced that they are not renewing Phelps’ sponsorship deal, which ends in late February. Yesterday, though, Subway publicly admitted they will keep Phelps on as their endorser. However, his name was quickly removed from SubwayFreshBuzz website listing their top “Fresh Celebrities”, and the release of his new television ad campaign is postponed. The biggest blow yet might have been when USA Swimming suspended him for three months. That must have hurt.

While this story continues to enthrall the media, I am reminded that Phelps, the alleged man-dolphin, is essentially human. I’m hoping that he’ll do what he does best and swim. Then maybe he’ll eliminate the doubt his critics may harbor of him. I’m also hoping that the new Subway ad campaign will outperform the current lousy “5 Dollar Foot Long” commercial. At the very least, Phelps can still count on getting his 10,000 calories a day with free foot-long Italian BMT’s.

Will Hulu Kill Cable TV?

welcome-to-hulu

Throughout college, watching television never fit into my packed schedule. I buried myself under my books while my friends religiously watched America’s Next Top Model and Gossip Girl. Despite the fact that I was a Film Studies major, my pop culture literacy actually suffered. I looked forward to graduation partly because I would be released from academia’s paralyzing grasp to enjoy freedom. To me, that freedom included the ability to watch whatever I wanted in my spare time. I was eager to catch up on the recently released television series and movies I had missed during the past four years.

That was until the “real world” greeted me with an unfriendly job market and recession. As a recent graduate faced to pay her own bills, I quickly discovered that cable was a luxury item beyond my reach. But when I moved to Boston a few months ago, giving up television was not something I had to do, but actually something I wanted to do. My roommate and I had ambitious plans to listen to radio programming, read books, and even reserve a plot of land in the Fens to garden. We were going to prove to ourselves that we did not need TV for entertainment. However, we soon fell along the wayside. We cheated…kind of. What happened? We found Hulu.com.

Hulu, the joint video venture between NBC Universal and News Corp., gives YouTube a run for its money. For my roommate and I, Hulu was the next best thing to cable TV. In some ways, Hulu was better than cable. The database, although somewhat limited, offered a realm of free shows and movies with minimal commercial interruptions. For the first time, I was willing to watch extended video on my tiny computer with another person. We actually enjoyed watching the full-screen, high-quality video on my 14” laptop screen. For better or for worse, I eventually caved into my roommate’s demand for live sports broadcasting, and yes, I am now a digital cable subscriber. Nonetheless, I remain an avid Hulu fan. At least I have the option to revert back to it if and when the recession gets worse.

Because I was able to watch the Super Bowl XLIII on my own TV, I had the good fortune of watching Hulu’s highly anticipated first television ad. The blockbuster “Alec in Huluwood” commercial features Alec Baldwin, star of NBC’s 30 Rock, as an alien explaining hulu’s plot to rot viewers’ brains. The take-away comes with the closing tagline, “Hulu. An evil plot to destroy the world. Enjoy.” I never imagined a more sinister, self-aware motto was possible. Hulu pushes the boundaries and subtly threatens cable television. I am officially scared.

The premiere of this nationally televised ad, along with Hulu’s one-year birthday that marks its public debut coming up on March 12, signals the beginning of the website’s success for 2009. Hulu is already the sixth most viewed video website, and I bet you would be hard pressed to find that video downloading will be more popular than instantaneous video streaming in the near future.

Hulu is the advent of something big (note the nod to my blog’s title). As the website continues to draw on network programming and build its advertising base, viewership will grow as the novelty of on-line video watching wears off and eventually becomes an established past-time. The humorous, menacing tagline is not far off the mark. Hulu may or may not destroy cable viewership, but it will certainly revolutionize the media world.