Sunday, March 30, 2014

Blog 10: Grazing in the Grass

This past week of school I noticed a trend through most of my classes. Three out of four classes have had elements of discussion based on the global level. In Music Theory II we discussed the different forms of the augmented sixth chord (please excuse the following musical jargon) whether it be the German, Italian, or French sixth. In History of Jazz we discussed the growth of Jazz as world music. I even gave a presentation on the great South African artist Hugh Masekela! Finally, in this class we dealt with marketing on a global level. Coincidentally, Africa ended up being the most talked about global region. There was a short video on Coca-Cola's level of involvement in African culture. The question that ended up presenting itself was whether or not it was ethical for Coca-Cola to be influencing African culture the way it has been? This is what I would like to focus on.

First I want to provide a little background on Hugh Masekela. Growing up in apartheid South Africa, Hugh was exposed from an early age to the effects of foreign influence on a different culture. What I mean by this is the whole idea of a central government developed by the imperialist-capitalist society that I am a part of, but more on that later. After he left South Africa, he began to hone his playing style by incorporating African elements with traditional Jazz styles. Throughout his following career, Hugh dedicated much of his work to representing the rich culture of Africa outside of the standard western interpretation. Now we can start to investigate the initial question.

Personally, I have gone through quite a transformation this year where I actually care about what my society does. This is why I believe that it is unethical for interference in Africa. This continent and its many culture's have been bastardized and destroyed by western thought. The continent is ravaged by political upheaval and starvation because of western imperialism. Why do African's need business? Why should they care about stocks? Why is there an idea of social structure and class? As a culture, the western world forced its ideas on a group of people and forced them to believe that their culture was inferior. That is why what Hugh Masekela does is so important. He uses his music to express the greatness of his people. He refers to this as Heritage Restoration. Ultimately, I think that small, local communities with small, local economies are far superior to a globalized capitalist economy. As much as I love a good Coke, they are part of the problem like the entire business world.

Perhaps I am too bright eyed, but being a part of a subsistence economy sounds like the way to go. Maybe we just need to go grazing in the grass for a little bit and see that the world is enough for us.

Hugh Masekela Prezi

(All sources used in this Prezi I made are used in this post. Enjoy!)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Blog 9: Don't Believe the Hype

Spring break sped by way too fast. Its amazing how quickly time passes when you have nothing better to do. All of the free time involved with going home gave me time to rest and to think, but most importantly, gave me time to spend money (this is not a good thing.) While i was home I had the capability to drive around Massachusetts and use my hard earned cash on frivolities (I imagine I spent a solid 100 dollars on food alone!) Apart from food, I also decided to attend a Reel Big Fish concert at the last minute and buy a pair of new headphones. I will be the first to say I know very little about the headphone industry and which brands are the best. What I can say is that I will not spend 200 dollars on a pair of Beats by Dre headphones. My new Sennheisers get the job done just fine at a quarter of the cost. My quest for new headphones shows the power of firsthand experience versus advertising.

Now there are some who say "What? Beats are great! Why wouldn't you want them!?!" I've already stated the first reason: price. There are so many great alternatives to Beats at far cheaper costs that even with their advertising prowess I could not be swayed to buy them. Another factor in my decision was the perks of the headphones i ended up buying. The pair I have provided great clarity of sound, are incredibly comfortable on my ears, and cost the same as another set I tested that offered inferior quality (but they did look way cooler I must say!) Now that there is a little background on my purchase, let us look at what my decisions have to do with marketing.

The area that influenced my decision was brand image and awareness. Beats have far more reach as far as advertising go and have built a solid image as a new, stylish, quality headphone. Sennheiser is just a name that I recognized as quality without having ever seen any advertising for it. The name was enough to influence me. Another aspect of brand image that I observed was the image of the Beats customer. The Beats user is a young, hip person looking for what is in and is accepted as top quality (granted Beats are not bad headphones, they are just over-hyped as the best.) Being the rebel that I am, I was very unconvinced by the hype because of my distrust of most things that people seem to like. Brand image was all it took to steer me away from a purchase. 

Ultimately, I see that my purchase stemmed mostly from my disillusioned view on Beats by Dre and less from the quality of the headphones I now own. I did not even try a set of Beats when I was in the store. Brand image and price were enough to convince me Sennheiser were the right direction. I'm going to leave you now with this statement: don't believe the hype.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Blog 8: Bankrupt On Selling

Hello again! I've spent a large portion of this blog writing about the Punk attitude I try to have about much of what I care about. I love the community, I love the music, and I love the sense of identity it brings. Being true to yourself is incredibly important to remaining sane. Punk is supposed to be anti-corporate and materialistic, but here I am, a second year business major with a soft spot for buying shoes. I can't help but feel like I'm betraying everything I should stand for. I have started to feel the difficulty in reconciling  my Punk roots with my educational aspirations. I suppose the question I'm trying to approach in this blog is whether or not this can be done: Can one keep one's integrity in the business world? I am not sure I will have an answer.

The Bad:

  1. The feeling of manipulation I have been starting to have in regards to marketing techniques and strategies. 
  2. The worrisome way children are marketed to in this country.
  3. The idea of large corporations controlling the world (you can't tell me they don't, its messed up.)
  4. The direction the human race is going in this constant consumer culture where we invest our time in consuming products for the sake of consuming (this is especially worrisome because I do it too.) 

I have pondered much over these bad ideas recently. I can't stand the idea of trying to convince/manipulate people into purchasing the latest gizmo or gadget. Maybe I'm too starry eyed and idealistic, but I believe that whatever it is that is being sold or produced should speak for itself. I think this comes from my belief that music should speak for itself instead of trying to spoon-feed it to the music-listening world. It is why I can't stand the idea of music critics. Who are they to say whether an album is good or bad or "art?" Just listen to it and make your own decision! The topic of children marketing scares me as well. It is so underhanded and I definitely believe it has created a generation of children who are complacent consumer cadets. This is allowed to happen because the government decreased regulations in the 1980's. The fact that business has such a hold on policy is terrifying for a person like me who already doesn't have much faith in the government. There is some good however.

The Good:

  1. I have developed excellent interpersonal skills. I have my grocery store job back home to thank for getting me out of my shell. 
  2. My ability to work with/lead a group has increased. 
  3. I am developing good organizational and work skills.
  4. I'm good at being a business major. 

I have learned many useful skills that I cannot deny have made me more adept at existing in the world we live in. I am no longer the shy weirdo I used to be. I have gained the ability to talk to people and work with them and even offer my own opinions as a leader. I have finally made the work ethic my parents instilled in me even better by finally getting organized and procrastinating less. The final observation I have made is that I'm good at what I do. However, this scares me more than anything. Have I lost track of who I am? Why am I doing what I am doing when I cannot identify with it, and why am I good at it?

This is not my most cheerful post, but I believe it is important to question what is being taught. I wish I could offer better insight, but I think I'll leave it up to whoever reads this to come to their own conclusion. As always, here is a song I really like that is somewhat related (I think). Modest Mouse -Bankrupt On Selling

(The above song was written by a blue-collar high school dropout and yet I see so much truth and wisdom in what he sings. Does one need a college education to understand the world? Maybe not.)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Blog 7: ...My Soul is on the Ground and I'm Walking Down the Street [Shoes: Part 2]

We were discussing my love of shoes when we last left this blog (I hope you all listened to the song.) Now that there is some familiarity with my favorite shoe company Vans, we can look into what makes me swoon over their products.

The first reason I prefer Vans is simple: I like the look and feel of their shoes. It is not only a quality product that serves a functional purpose, but also has a certain style associated with it that I like to show to the world. The second reason: there are many varieties of product available. Vans not only offers many different styles of shoes but has a complete clothing line that includes pants, hats, and other accessories. The Third reason: Vans is a strong supporter of youth culture, especially punk rock culture. The vans warped tour was a revolution in the way concerts could be held. Instead of selling out a single stage area for a weekend, Vans decided to take its stages on the road and hit well over 20 cities in the U.S. every summer since 1995. Thousands of fans come every year to see many of their favorite bands. What I found from my own visits to the tour is the sense of community brought on between different groups of people. I saw families with children, skateboarders, metal-heads, and every other type of music lover in between. Vans helped to bring many different people together for several common goals: good music, good fun, and a good community, as sponsored by good shoes. This is what I see as Vans greatest strengths and this gives what is called a competitive advantage.

The book definition of competitive advantage is an advantage over competitors gained by offering greater customer value, either by having lower prices or providing more benefits that justify higher prices. Vans offers a high quality shoe, stylish shoe with prices usually ranging from $45-$65. The company also offers customers the ability to make custom designed shoes from a variety of unique patterns and colors for several styles of their shoes (the individual marketing strategy.) Finally, the company stands for community as well as individuality. But what of other brands? Let us look at one of my other favorite shoe companies, Converse.

Converse has an unmistakable classic style that is known throughout much of the world. The Chuck Taylor style is associated with many different subcultures including musicians, skateboarders, hipsters, and basically everyone. Their shoes are comfortable and durable like Vans and prices are very close (about $50-$75.) They also offer customizable shoes. However, most Converse shoes are based of of the Chuck Taylor design and this makes it difficult to differentiate which styles are which. The higher prices can make it hard to determine what type of shoe to buy because they all look similar (Why is this one hi-top shoe more than this nearly identical one?) Vans has a competitive advantage because it offers more varieties of distinguishable shoes at lower prices. 

Well there you have it, the end of a brief discussion on one of my favorite products. See you all next week.
"...My soul is on the ground and I'm walking down the street" - The Suicide Machines