Monthly Archives: September 2014

How to minimize being impacted by “cultural imprinting” in advertising

I read an article this morning about how ads work (and how they don’t work) and the author describes the difference between how we think advertising works:

  • ads make you want something by associating the thing being advertised to a feeling/value/state-of-being you want, (“emotional inception”)

And how he thinks advertising actually works:

  • ads make you want to associate yourself with a value that has been agreed upon by a group of your peers as being associated with the thing being advertised, (“cultural imprinting”)

Cultural imprinting relies on the fact that even if you have lived under a rock and avoided television, radio, magazines and advertising of all forms, your peers have not and they have agreed upon a value being associated to a specific thing.  Because of the widespread viewing of the Corona ad above, for example, if you show up at a party with Corona, you may be perceived as a relaxed, beachy kind of person.

The beneficial part from what I can tell, is that this type of advertising doesn’t always drive you to purchase, it is more of a purchase decision influence … kind of like the “Choosy mothers choose Jif” ads of old that ensured you would buy Jif when you were in the market for peanut butter, but didn’t make you feel the need to run out and buy peanut butter.

The downside, though, is that some of things I try to do to minimize my shopping desires — things like eliminating commercial television and canceling magazine subscriptions and catalogs — are of no use against this type of advertising.  If I’m feeling a lack of creativity, I may feel compelled to run out and buy an Apple product or a Moleskine to get a needed boost.

So how do I minimize the impact of this type of advertising?  First, I do not assume that these ads speak the truth.  Second, I continually strive to know myself.  Is buying water in a recycled plastic bottle really consistent with my environmental values or is carrying my own reusable bottle more in-line?

How about you?  Have you found yourself buying into a product’s image rather than the product itself?  How do you minimize the impact of cultural imprinting in your own life?

Tolerance is so yesterday …


I’ve seen this bumper sticker … a take-off on the similar Co-exist but this one leaves me feeling less enthusiastic … jaded, even.  (Don’t believe me, google “tolerate” and check out the images — it’s not as pretty as it sounds.)  And the definitions of tolerance confirm my feelings:


transitive verb \ˈtä-lə-ˌrāt\

: to allow (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) to exist, happen, or be done

: to experience (something harmful or unpleasant) without being harmed

: to accept the feelings, behavior, or beliefs of (someone)

The time for tolerance was when you didn’t have a choice … because you grew up in the same town where your parents and grandparents lived and leaving wasn’t so easy … because your best friend married that schmuck from science class … because you grew up being a minority in your community in some way … whatever your reason was, tolerate was something you did because you had to.

Today, the ability to surround ourselves virtually and even literally with “like-minded” folks is easier than ever.  To simply tolerate, therefore, is no longer a valid benchmark.  I am now setting my sights on celebrating.  Care to join me?



10 Things I learned at a Privacy/Security conference in Silicon Valley

  1. Hipsters in Silicon Valley look just like hipsters where I live — plaid shirts, unnecessary knit caps (it’s 85 degrees?!); skinny jeans, no socks, etc.
  2. “Business” culture is changing — while DC lawyers are still pretty easy to spot, casual attire and behavior is definitely the conference norm.  (At my first privacy conference held in DC at the Federal Trade Commission, I remember saying to the grey-suited woman next to me, “I thought this was business casual.” to which she replied, “This IS my business casual.”)  This conference even included a block party (with live music, bottled beer and a photo booth).
  3. Privacy and Security are finally in the same room.  They’re not speaking the same language yet, but it’s a start.  (And I heard that some of them danced together …)
  4. Keynote speeches are now designed to look and feel like TED talks.  They’re shorter and speakers generally are more engaging and move around more.  My favorites this conference were Judith Donath and Julie Hanna — both with inspiring content, engaging speaking styles and a way of seeing old things in a new way that was (honestly) a little life-altering.
  5. Networking has become a little easier for those of us who are introverted.  Instead of awkward small talk, you get to spend your time pulling out your smartphone and showing each other how to find your profile in LinkedIn so you can connect.  (Plus, as an added benefit, you can pull your phone or iPad out at anytime to avoid awkward conversations in between sessions and the conference even had its own app.)
  6. Conferences are still planned by extroverts.  Even in the world of Privacy and Security (which surely has a high percentage of introverts some of whom might even be called “anti-social,”) this conference included cocktail hours, speed networking and a dance.  The up-side is that activities like these drove like-minded souls seeking escape from excessive stimulation to meet up in quiet hallways where conversations and meaningful (LinkedIn) connections happened.
  7. Technology is really, really, really changing the world.
  8. Being a geek is good.  The most fascinating sessions were the ones where Privacy/Legal/Techno geeks could dig deep into their field.  I never thought I would be interested in search-and-seizure laws, but listening to the lawyers in there geek out about case law was actually fascinating.
  9. No approach to privacy is perfect.  While I appreciate the “fundamental human right” adopted by Europe, it also is clear that this approach slows innovation.  And while I strongly believe that America’s greatest strength is innovation, our wild-west mentality often results in negative unintended consequences.
  10. Privacy and Security are both growth industries with lots of opportunity to be of service to others, if you just keep sight of why you’re here.