In January, Dollar Shave Club began its bid to crack the UK market by launching a TV ad campaign. The mail-order razor company’s success stemmed from a brilliant YouTube video that went viral in 2012, generating growth that, four years later, led to a $1 billion buyout by Unilever.
Now part of a multinational conglomerate, Dollar Shave Club’s advertising is taking a more traditional media buying route. At a time when many other businesses are reducing their dependence and spending on traditional media, this move by content marketing’s poster child feels like a backward step.
The Media Buyer is No Longer King
Advertising used to be simpler. With only so many billboards, magazines, and TV ad breaks, much of a campaign’s success depended on securing the right media placement. This made media buying your biggest expense and the typical budget split between media and the production costs of the ad you wanted to place was 80:20.
If spending just 20% of your campaign budget on production seems low to the modern marketer, it’s because the content landscape has changed dramatically. According to former PepsiCo president, Brad Jakeman:
“20 years ago, brands created four pieces of content a year, each taking about four months to make, with a budget of $2 million. Nowadays, brands are pushing out more like 400-4,000 pieces of content… four months has changed to four days to four hours.”
With more emphasis on earned media and using data to discover cost-effective ways of reaching highly-targeted audiences, businesses today are pushing the media vs production ratio towards a more even split. The most innovative advertisers, who focus more on digital than TV, are now in the 55:45 range.
A major reason for this shift is that advertisers now have access to a vastly increased number of ways to reach specific customers. This requires a firehose of data-driven creative content that you can personalize, test, refresh and reuse across a range of channels. The more even split between media and production also demonstrates that creative content is no longer the add-on to a media buying strategy. The creative and the data now both inform and influence each other equally.
The traditional agency and media buyer model remain relevant for producing and launching big TV campaigns. But creating and managing dynamic, everyday ad content is often left to in-house marketing teams, who are typically under-resourced and lack the skills to produce successful content efficiently.
BONUS: What’s next in terms of figuring out what makes great ad creative? We’ve put together a free Cheat Sheet to help you ensure your creative drives better Facebook Ad Results. Get your hands on your free copy here.Fortunately, this gap in the market is being filled by the emergence of creative technology platforms like Shuttlerock….Continue reading
To some, LinkedIn’s try-hard nature has become a perfect example of the worst of corporate culture. But the site’s influencers say the joke’s on everyone else, as they pull in big money with ease. “The only opinion that matters is the market,” one said.
When Justin Welsh set out to start a consulting business a few years back, he knew he would need to get potential clients’ attention. A former software executive, he knew he had the bona fides to help early-stage tech companies succeed; what he wasn’t sure of was how to let potential clients know that.
He’d been on Twitter for years, but it seemed too negative a place for what he was trying to do. By comparison, LinkedIn seemed safer, more positive. To boot, Welsh’s potential clients spent significant amounts of time on the site, and there weren’t as many people creating content. That meant less competition.
So in late 2018, he started to publish “practical and tactical” tips for growing startup businesses each morning on the platform, with a dash of an emotional element here and there. (Representative post: “People vastly underestimate the value of their knowledge. Publish yours and let the market pleasantly surprise you.” One thousand and seven hundred likes.)
By this year, he’d gained more than 300,000 followers. Along the way, he noticed a shift in the inquiries he received. No longer were people mostly asking for software advice. “They were asking me about how I was using LinkedIn,” he said. Today, Welsh is a full-blown LinkedIn influencer who teaches other people to use the platform as well as he does, and his one-man LinkedIn-focused business now brings in nearly $2 million annually, he said.
After years of being known as a place to share resumes and search for jobs, LinkedIn has quietly transformed into a center for a different sort of influencer—the ROI-obsessed go-getter. It is, in many ways, ground zero for hustle culture and what some have deemed “toxic positivity,” an aspirational place for people more concerned with self-care and cash flow than wisecracks and unattainable beauty.
“They feel like, ‘Hey that can be me,’” said LinkedIn influencer Tobi Oluwole, who has built a successful career coaching business through his LinkedIn following. Elsewhere, the site has become the butt of the joke and a focus of increased scorn—the perfect example of a try-hard corporate culture where people mistake banal, rote platitudes for authenticity, a puffy Patagonia vest in website form.
In August, when the CEO of a LinkedIn-focused marketing company was roundly mocked and chastised after he published a tearful video announcing layoffs, the derision was fueled as much as anything by how perfectly it represented what LinkedIn has become to bewildered outsiders.
The hatred of such self-absorbed posts on LinkedIn has become so intense that a subreddit dedicated to mocking the platform’s most “insufferable,” “cringeworthy” posts—like business leaders advocating for taking less vacation to prove your worth or rebranding lunch as “JUST EAT PowerHour”—has garnered 175,000 followers. But the disgust doesn’t reckon with why so many people have become unironically attracted to the platform.
Justin Welsh has built a seven-figure business based around teaching people to use LinkedIn like he does. “People are still kind of puzzled by it,” said the D.C.-based author and advisor Jeffrey Selingo, who has more than 600,000 followers on LinkedIn. The joke is perhaps on everyone else, as many of the same people getting ripped apart on Reddit have figured out a relatively easy way to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars by spouting inspirational, if often conventional, wisdom.
The influencers themselves say the platform has become a profit machine, the sort of business-friendly space where a strong presence can directly lead to speaking gigs, brand deals, sales leads, career coaching opportunities, and more—and without the second-by-second scrutiny that comes with Instagram.
“Opportunities just come flooding through your doors,” said Chantel Soumis, a LinkedIn influencer who said she received $1 million in revenue-generating opportunities in three months after she publicly launched her creative side business on LinkedIn. The shift is partially the result of a conscious, years-long push by LinkedIn to increase its standing as a social platform relative to the competition.
LinkedIn has developed new creator-focused tools and programs and hired full-time employees called creator managers who actively help influencers build their audiences. In recent years, the alterations have started to reap dividends as people started to view the platform as the closest thing the internet had to an online watercooler.
“It’s changed people’s behavior,” said Sujan Patel, who has nearly 40,000 followers and is the co-founder of the software company Mailshake. Compared to the rest of the internet, LinkedIn has developed into a positive, almost benign place, slightly less prone to political infighting, which made it the perfect place to do business. The reason for the “toxic positivity,” as Oluwole put it, is that the stakes feel higher with a name, photo, and employer attached to each individual post.
(“People don’t want their jobs and careers threatened,” said Oluwole, who compared the platform to navigating workplace politics. “You’re smiling even though you don’t really care.” Soumis agreed: “There’s money on the line.”) Inoffensive hashtag campaigns like #LetsGetHonest gained traction on the platform as the most positive members of the business world started to see the platform as a respite from the rest of the increasingly ugly internet—a place where being polite still mattered and self-improvement was valued….Read more….
We often hear about the need for students to learn how to program in order to be ready for STEM fields and the Information Economy. It’s what we’ve been hearing for over a decade. However, there’s a fascinating piece from the Washington Post that explores how the so-called “soft-skills” might be even more vital than ever.
For years, Google focused on hiring the best computer science students who excelled in their core content area, positing that innovation required the best computer science minds in the world. But when they tested this hypothesis, they were shocked by the results.
According to the article:
In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998. Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.
The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.
Don’t get me wrong. Students need to master content standards. But Google’s survey proves that many teachers have been saying for years: that the so-called “soft skills” aren’t soft at all. Fortunately, when students engage in PBL, they develop these skills and disciplines needed to thrive in the Creative Economy.
But it goes beyond economics. When students engage in PBL, they experience the sheer joy of learning. They are able to hit a state of creative flow and learn that there’s something deeply profound about creativity. They become self-directed, independent thinkers.
The following are some of the trends that I notice when students engage in project-based learning. This is not a scientific study so much as observations I’ve noticed from my own experiences. However, I am currently working on a larger literature review on the benefits of PBL. I’ll be sharing it out within the next month. Many of the ideas in the following video are backed up by research (like the soft skills, the “stickiness” of information, and the moderate increases in student achievement).
#1: Students learn how to engage in meaningful collaboration.
When students engage in PBL, they often get the chance to work on collaborative projects, where they work interdependently to solve problems. Initially, this was really challenging for me as a teacher because I hated group projects as a student. I hated doing all the work and then watching everyone else get the credit. But then I realized something. Collaboration isn’t just a skill.
It’s a discipline. It’s something that takes years of practice. So, I started to embed structures that would help guarantee that every student participated in collaborative projects. It didn’t work every time but slowly, I watched students learn how to engage in meaningful collaboration.
When students genuinely collaborate in PBL, they learn how to speak up and listen. They learn how to ask incisive questions, how to contribute to the team, and how to give and receive critical feedback. Which leads to the next point . . .
#2: Students learn to see nuance and multiple perspectives.
When I did that History Day Project in the eighth grade, I encountered perspectives on the integration of baseball that I would have never experienced in reading a textbook. The same thing happened with my eighth grade students. When they were immersed in a PBL environment, they got to wade into the nuance of multiple perspectives.
Teachers can tap into this idea by specifically asking students to consider new perspectives. During the initial inquiry phase, it can help to let students ask multiple questions on their own and then share their questions together. When they engage in research, it can help to ask students to find sources from various perspectives and deliberately wade into the nuance of the ideas. As they ideate together, you can utilize a structured brainstorming approach that encourages them to examine ideas from multiple angles.
#3: They become divergent thinkers.
The best project-based learning units encourage students to tackle problems from a unique perspective. This is at the heart of divergent thinking. It’s the ability to explore problems from different angles, use materials in different ways, and ultimately grow into innovators. Here’s where creative constraint comes in. Teachers often have to work with limited resources or tight schedules. They have to hack the standards to tie them into a PBL unit. But in the process, they are helping students to think outside the box by “thinking inside the box.” Here’s what I mean:
When students learn to “think inside the box,” they are practicing the type of divergent thinking that they will need in the future. This is the type of thinking that can’t be replaced with artificial intelligence or automated with a machine.
#4: They learn project management.
When I talk to people in business, in the arts, and in the STEM fields, I often hear people mention that they wished they had learned how to do project management when they were younger. If we want students to think like artists, entrepreneurs, and engineers, they need the chance to engage in project management. When students have full ownership of the project process, they learn how to engage in project management. Here, they are able to set goals, monitor progress, make adjust, and reflect on their learning.
Project management is about more than just setting a schedule. It’s the idea of following through on your plans and continuing with tasks even when nobody is looking over your shoulder. It’s what happens when you learn how to set meaningful, realistic goals and break those down into tasks.
#5: They develop a maker mindset.
One of the most tragic things I hear students say is “I’m just not the creative type.” I don’t buy it. I don’t believe there is a “creative type” out there. We’re all creative. Every one of us. And PBL is a great chance for students to own the entire creative process, leading to a maker mindset where they can think like designers, artists, and engineers. When this happens, students are able to embrace a larger definition of creativity and value the creative contributions of those around them.
We often hear that our current students will work in jobs that don’t exist right now. But here’s another reality: our current students will be the ones who create those jobs. They will have to rewrite the rules. Some students will be engineers or artists or accountants. Some will work in technology, others in traditional corporate spaces and still others in social or civic spaces. But every single one of them will need to think creatively in their jobs.
As students work through PBL, they are able to experience a broad spectrum of creative thinking. They learn how to think like an artist but also think like an engineer or a hacker. At one moment, they might be building empathy by doing an interview. In another moment, they might be doing prototyping in an engineering project and or engaging in information literacy for a publishing project.
Over time, they see that creative work is interdisciplinary. And this ultimately leads to a maker mindset, where students learn to view the world differently and find new solutions to complex problems. Which leads to the next point . . .
#6: They become problem-solvers and critical thinkers.
PBL encourages students to solve complex problems by engaging in inquiry, research, and ideation. This is the kind of work that you don’t accomplish in filing out a packet or doing a worksheet. It requires students to view problems from multiple angles and sometimes even navigate multiple systems in order to solve these complex problems.
Not only are they solving the problems but they are taking it to the next level and actually creating the solutions. So, they are able to see that problem-solving actually connects to real-world contexts. I remember when we were doing our Tiny House projects and a student said, “I get it now. I understand why people need to know proportional reasoning.” He needed a complex problem, rooted in a real-world experience, for that concept to make sense.
Note that this doesn’t always work. There are moments when it gets frustrating. However, that’s also part of the problem-solving process. Students get the opportunity to fail forward. Which leads to my next point . . .
#7: They develop iterative thinking.
Project-based learning includes a phase for revision. In some cases, it’s more about feedback and revision while other projects require testing and revision. But the idea is the same. Students test, revise, and iterate. This is one of the areas where I see a big disconnect between school (where you are graded once and move on) versus life (where you are constantly improving and iterating).
I want students to learn how to figure out what’s working, make sense out of what’s failing, and then create a better iteration. But this requires a shift toward mastery-based grading as well as the freedom to make mistakes. For all the talk of “high standards,” iterative thinking only works when students experience slack. And yet, when they have this permission to fail, they can then improve their work and develop endurance.
#8: They are more likely to develop a growth mindset.
Iterative thinking ultimately leads to a growth mindset. It’s counterintuitive but the best way for students to have higher standards is to experience the permission to fail. This doesn’t mean we embrace failure but that we treat failing as a part of the learning process. After all, fail-ure is permanent and fail-ing is temporary.
Note that failing isn’t fun. It actually sucks when stuff doesn’t work out. And that’s an important reminder. Sometimes PBL isn’t fun. Sometimes it’s really, really frustrating. I have had students cry when something didn’t work. It wasn’t because of a grade, either. They were simply so into their project that they wanted it to work. But eventually, when it did work, they were able to develop a growth mindset.
#9: They grow more empathetic.
One of the PBL approaches we will explore is design thinking, which is centered around the idea of empathy. In some models, empathy is the starting point. Other times, it occurs in the research and ideation phases. But regardless of when it happens, if students are going to launch heir work to an audience, they need to design products out of a place of empathy.
This is one of those areas that goes far beyond the corporate world. We have a crisis of empathy in the U.S. I see it every time I go to Facebook. People talk over one another and lob easy insults at the opposite side. Trapped in their echo chambers, they move into a place where they miss the pain that others are experiencing. But I think we can change this as educators when we ask students to engage in empathy-driven design thinking.
#10: They increase in metacognition.
When I first saw the metacognition cycle, I thought, “Man, this seems so similar to aspects of PBL.” This is because PBL encourages students to plan, monitor, and reflect throughout the entire process.
So, if we want this for students, they need to work on projects. Real projects. The kind of projects that they get to own. And ultimately that requires a teacher who is wiling to take the leap and make PBL a reality.
You’re a highly empathic person. You fully and intently listen to others. You tend to focus on others’ emotions, often feeling them more so than your own. In fact, it’s like you feel someone else’s pain deep inside your bones. It’s that visceral.
And you frequently find yourself utterly exhausted because tending to others comes more naturally to you than tending to yourself, according to Joy Malek, a marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with people who are intuitive, empathic, creative and highly sensitive.
And this struggle includes setting boundaries. Your discomfort with boundary setting may stem from these three reasons, Malek said: You don’t know your needs in the first place—and only realize that a boundary was necessary after the fact. You fear that the validation you receive for being so caring and nurturing will disappear, and when you say no, others will no longer see your value. And many of the suggestions on boundary setting stress assertiveness, which to you might actually feel aggressive.
So you have a tough time ending conversations when you’re tired, or declining requests when you’re completely drained and desperately need downtime. So you remain silent when you’re uncomfortable, or don’t ask for help when you’re hurting, too.
When you do try to set boundaries, you might find yourself over-apologizing, and minimizing your concerns so you can again focus on the other person’s feelings, Malek said.Ultimately, you conclude that you’re just “bad at boundaries.” In reality, however, “you haven’t found a style that feels organic to your nature.”
Here, Malek shared invaluable insight for setting boundaries that protect your needs and boundaries you feel good about.
Identify your own needs. “Empathic people can especially benefit from boundaries that put limits around the amount of time and energy we give to others,” Malek said. “Without these limits, we often find that our needs are met last, or not at all.”
Take the time to think about your needs. How much space and solitude do you need to feel your best? What genuinely refreshes and recharges you? What tends to drain you? What people tend to drain you? When do you feel your best? When do you feel your worst?
Start creating boundaries around your responses, and check in with yourself regularly. Because our needs change and evolve. You might check in with yourself every hour or so for only a few minutes. Then you might do a more thoughtful check-in every evening, and journal about your thoughts and feelings for 15 minutes.
Pause before saying yes. When someone asks you to do something, you might blurt out, “yes, of course!” without even thinking about it. Your automatic response is to help—and you might feel awkward saying anything other than yes. Plus, sometimes the other person creates a sense of urgency that doesn’t exactly exist (or we somehow feel one).
However, Malek suggested simply pausing before committing. You can always say, “I’m not sure. I need some time to think about that,” or “I need to check my schedule, but I’ll definitely let you know tomorrow.” “In that pause, we can ask ourselves how we actually feel, and whether we have the time, energy and desire to accept the request.” Which means that it’s totally OK if you have the time and energy but simply don’t want to. Your wants count, too.
Shift your perspective. When you want or need to say no, think about how you’d like someone to decline your request, Malek said. For instance, this might include expressing empathy for the other person, and explaining that you’re unable to meet their request, she said. What does this actually look like?
For instance, Malek shared these examples of kind, empathic personal boundaries:
“I know you’re hurting and I really want to be there for you, but the truth is that I’m struggling right now, too. I’m looking forward to supporting you once I’m back on my own feet, emotionally.”
“I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, and part of me doesn’t want it to end! I’m noticing, though, that I’m getting really tired, so I’m going to head home.”
Malek also shared these examples of professional boundaries:
“I’d really like to take that project on, but I know I’d be compromising the quality of the projects that are already on my plate. It’s my priority to do a great job with what you’ve entrusted to me.”
“I’m in the office during business hours Monday through Friday, and I return calls, texts and emails during those times. If you reach out in the evening or on a weekend, I’ll look forward to following up with you during the next business day.”
See reactions as valuable signs. Pay attention to how others react to your boundaries. Do they push against them? Do they have a hard time taking no for an answer? Do they make you feel guilty or bad about yourself in some other way? Do they take you seriously or think your boundaries are unreasonable or don’t apply to them?
All of this is helpful information about the quality of that relationship, Malek said. Of course, it really hurts when the people we love and care for don’t have the same consideration for us.
However, “It makes sense to invest more in relationships where our boundaries and needs are respected than in those where they are not.”
When you’re a highly empathic person, setting boundaries can feel impossible. But it can absolutely be done. The key is to find a style that works for you, and to keep practicing. Boundaries can be kind and loving—and remember, as Malek said, your needs are legitimate, too.
Also, don’t wait until you’re completely exhausted and overwhelmed to care for yourself and to protect your energy. Start setting boundaries that are respectful of yourself and your natural tendencies right now.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, having too much discretionary time is “linked to lower subjective well-being.” In other words: more free time won’t always make you happier.
It sounds pretty damn counterintuitive — who wouldn’t want to lie on the beach or couch all day long? — but the project’s researchers discovered that having an abundance of task-less time often leads to a “lacking sense of productivity,” which can only be reduced when people spend time on activities that give them a sense of purpose.
Marissa Sharif, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the study, told The Washington Post that a “moderate” amount of free time appears to be best: “[It] leads people to be better off or happier compared to having a large amount of free time.”
What does moderate mean? Somewhere between two to five hours a day. Push past five hours and human beings tend to feel aimless and idle. They rue their lazy choices (e.g., Netflix binges) and have trouble commencing whatever creative project they swore they’d start (e.g., the next great American novel).
In order to reach these conclusions, the authors analyzed data sets from both the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey and the Society for Human Resource Management’s National Study of the Changing Workforce to get a feel for how much free time Americans have, and how they generally respond to that free time.
Fascinatingly, the study also pointed out that having too little free time is a poor mental health play. That may not seem particularly revelatory, but it’s a reminder that the American worker — one of the most over-stressed employees in the world — gravely needs. In this case, spending less than two hours a day on time to oneself (whatever that may mean to you), will lead to a drop in well-being.
The key here is to find an amount of time between two to five hours that works on a consistent basis, and can be revisited after life-changing events. Consider: the period in between jobs, or immediately after your retirement. Having a plan (which you can keep reasonably loose, for spontaneity reasons) is your best friend.
And speaking of friends, about the only situation in which having too much free time actually helped subjective well-being was when it was spent with friends, family and colleagues. So pencil in leisure time with peers. Think dinners, tennis leagues, game nights. Alone time can be healthy too — a reading habit is dynamite for your mental health — but too much of it could put pressure on your psyche in the long run.
We long to get all our work done in order to have free time. But we should be very careful with leisure. Having nothing left to do work-wise can be a very dangerous challenge for our psyches: it can bring on despair and self-loathing. It may be that always having projects on the go can insulate us from mental unwellness. Sign up to our new newsletter and get 10% off your first online order of a book, product or class: https://bit.ly/2TMs0dT For books and more from The School of Life, visit our online shop: https://bit.ly/34vN4uL Our website has classes, articles and products to help you lead a more fulfilled life: https://bit.ly/2EzjKsp Join this channel to get access to exclusive members perks: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7Ic…
Bishop, M. (2015). The Good Life: Unifying The Philosophy and Psychology of Well-being. Oxford University Press.
Hakulinen, C., Fried, E. I., Pulkki-Råback, L., Virtanen, M., Suvisaari, J., & Elovainio, M. (2020). Network structure of depression symptomology in participants with and without depressive disorder: The population-based Health 2000–2011 study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-020-01843-7
Benson T, Sladen J, Liles A, Potts HWW. “Personal Wellbeing Score (PWS)—a short version of ONS4: development and validation in social prescribing”. BMJ Open Qual 2019; 8:e000394. doi:10.1136/bmjoq-2018-000394