dry oil vs. wet oil

The beauty industry sure loves to confuse consumers. All the rage these days is “dry oil,” which supposedly hydrates skin without clogging pores. That sounds great and all, except I’ve been conditioned to expect the exact opposite for decades. Since I was 12, I was told to buy only “oil free” products, because oil gives you acne, blackheads, is evil and nasty, blah blah blah. And now, all of a sudden, oil is supposedly the miracle ingredient that will fix everything from zits to wrinkles.

I’m really curious to find out how brands are marketing the concept of “dry oil” and what their strategy is in re-programming educating consumers. Because, I mean, they must recognize this as a bit of a marketing challenge, right? When I was at a Sunday Riley counter at Barney’s a few weeks ago, the rep spent some time explaining the difference between dry oil (skin-friendly kind) and wet oil (the greasy kind, like cooking oil). And then he gave me a generous sample of their oil called Juno. I’ve also noticed that Sephora has been giving out a lot of samples of Nude Skincare’s oil recently, and their website also has a separate “Face Oils” section under skincare, with quite a lot of info about the benefits, multiple uses, and how it’s good even for acne-prone skin, etc., etc.

To be honest — I read/listen to all these things with a huge grain of salt. “Dry oil? O RLY? Did you just come up with that so that you can justify charging $100+ for an ounce of cooking oil?” AND YET! That has not stopped me from talking up Juno to all my friends. So… I guess the marketers win again? (Pfft, as if I ever stood a chance.)

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The “Benefit” of Living in NYC

One of the best things about living and working in NYC is that there are so many opportunities for random treats and freebies. Today, for example, we got to hop in a pink SUV and get a free makeover and a bag full of awesome samples as a part of Benefit and Uber NYC‘s New York Fashion Week event.

I can’t say it was the best makeover I ever got (I mean, we were sitting in the back of a moving SUV with tinted windows — dark and shaky, not exactly an ideal setting), but it was fun and free and spontaneous and it was the best thing that could happen on a Monday workday. We were so delighted that we even hammed it up and instagrammed ourselves with #beautyrescue and #NYFW. And I assure you, I am not the kind of gal that uses hashtags very liberally.

One of these days, I am going to say something big and important about harnessing the power of social media and on-line communities and how user engagement translates to profit, blah blah blah. It’s gonna be amazing. Unfortunately, that day isn’t here yet. For now, I think it just builds brand awareness, good PR, and probably loyalty, and if I tried to say anything more than that, I might be talking out of my ass. I will say one thing, though. User engagement — it seems to be a lot easier with women than with men. I speak from experience here.

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mystery of the 59fifty hats and their golden stickers

When I returned from China and rode the NYC subway for the first time (in years), I noticed a young dude wearing a baseball cap with the sticker labels still on the bill. I assumed he’d forgotten to take it off, and chuckled to myself thinking it looked a bit silly. But then, I started noticing more and more of them. Sometimes they only have a round gold sticker of 59fifty brand. Sometimes it’s a big sticker that covers the entire bill. I was so mystified that on numerous occasions I considered stopping a hat wearer and asking him about it. (But I had a feeling it was a very dumb, probably unwelcome question.)

So today I decided to get down to the bottom of this mystery by Googling it, and it turns out that people have a lot of opinions about this trend! Apparently, the stickers are left on because some people think it’s cool (don’t ask me why) and they also want to prove that the hat is authentic. This trend has been around for quite some time, and it’s been the source of many heated discussions! Some people say it’s associated with being gangsta or thuggish or whatever. Others say it’s annoying and douchey and plain ol’ dumb. There are even Youtube videos defending this trend. I like the guy in this video: he knows a lot about these hats and says that one of the major reasons for keeping the sticker on is to protect the bill from getting dirty. Just like grandma and her sofas covered in vinyl!

But really, this is like a marketer’s dream, isn’t it? When your product and brand are so popular that people want to leave the label on and show it off to the world? It kinda reminds me of the Gap drawstring plastic shopping bags, which all my middle school (girl) classmates in the 90′s proudly used as gym bags. I even had friends fight over a bag once. I think Gap still uses the same design, but I doubt anyone fights over them nowadays.

Anyway, 59Fifty is definitely something special. I would love to talk to the marketers at their office and hear their thoughts on this whole trend. (BTW, there are also a lot of discussions on-line about how to take the 59Fifty stickers off. Which is weird. I mean, is it that hard? What IS it about these stupid stickers?)

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things you can do with your kid’s artwork

I don’t get excited about too many new businesses out there, because I feel like most are not very original. But I think this one is totally brilliant. Child’s Own Studio custom makes soft toys out of children’s drawings. So wacky! So special! So awesome!

Since every toy is custom made, I imagine the service is pretty expensive. Also, it appears that the owner has a long waiting list and is not taking any more orders at the moment. But this is definitely something I’m going to file away for when I have a kid someday. Assuming s/he can draw something other than sticks and circles (which would actually make very easy custom-made toys that even I could make, so… yay for sticks and circles?).

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selling deodorants to strong women

The commercial for Degree Clinical deodorant goes something like this: “Women are strong. Not strong with an asterisk. Not strong but. Women are strong. Period.” The slogan for this product is “Unapologetically Strong.” 

I was wondering why it sounded so… I dunno… like they’re pandering? Something. And then I realized that the ad was a giant dig at Secret deodorant, whose slogan for decades has been “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.”  

Blah blah blah, it’s all nonsense. What does being a woman — strong or not — have anything to do with deodorants anyway? Is there some correlation between armpit sweat/smell and a woman’s strength? Is there a separate deodorant for weak women? Is it that hard to find a way to sell deodorants to women? And why are so many ads geared for women so friggin’ condescending?

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things chinese people (don’t) buy

There’s an article in WSJ today about American retailers pulling out of China after failing to understand the local market. Home Depot, for one, says that with its cheap labor, China is more of a “do-it-for-me” kind of culture rather than DIY, so there isn’t a whole lot of demand for things like lumber and power tools (actually, I don’t even think most professional handymen in China carry power tools; they usually go around carrying rusty little doodads and struggle to do what they can with what they’ve got.) So after six years in China, Home Depot is closing down the remaining seven big-box stores in the country.

Anyway, the article also mentions a couple other failures:

  • Mattel’s Barbie flagship store was shut down last year because Chinese parents would rather have their kids read.
  • Best Buy closed its nine outlets because Chinese consumers need washing machines and air conditioners, not espresso machines and fancy stereo systems. Although, I don’t understand why they couldn’t just start selling more washing machines and less espresso machines. Also: maybe they should have looked into selling more cameras — because CHINESE PEOPLE LOVE TAKING PICTURES. SO MUCH.

Of course, the article also mentions KFC and Pizza Hut as model examples of companies that did successfully adapt to the local culture — with menu items like egg tarts and soy milk. And you know what else I’ve noticed they do in China? They  give out plastic disposable gloves for people to use while eating chicken and pizza — because they know Asian people are not used to eating with their hands and think it’s kinda unclean.

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friends don’t let friends shop at Hollister

I hate Hollister for soooooOOOOOoooo many reasons, and some little evil part of me is excited to see that they keep living up to the epic-level doucheyness that I’ve come to expect from them.

The latest is that Hollister just opened its first store in Yeouido, South Korea, and the models that were flown in to promote the new store exhibited offensive/racist behavior. Such as:

  • One photo features a Hollister model standing in front of Gyeongbokkung Palace, squinting his eyes and making peace signs with his fingers. When one commenter remarked on how many Asians had liked the photo, he responded, “Hahahaha they ruhhvvvv itttt!”
  • … A third model had flashed his middle finger during the photo session at the store opening and went on to post his own mocking photos on Twitter

The company has since issued some half-assed apology and said they fired the dumbass associates responsible for these tweets. Yeah, I think that’s the very least you can do. Now, as a precautionary measure, maybe you can just fire everyone and stop existing altogether as a company? Oh, and take your Tweedle Dum, Abercrombie & Fitch, with you?

I hope Koreans boycott the hell out of this store. Besides, why does Korea even need a Hollister? Korea has its own —  Who A.U., which is basically the same thing, with shirtless, ripped white male models in sepia-toned photos.

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Fashion’s Night In

Every year, I hear about Fashion’s Night Out and get all excited about the thousands of fun events and promotions running all over the place. But I’m rarely in the right place to take advantage of these deals — last year I was in China, and the years before that, I was a starving grad student.

This time, for once, I am living and working in NYC and am in the perfect position to take advantage of the worldwide shopping extravaganza, and what did I do?

Nothing.
I came home.
I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some milk and bacon, and then came home.

This is highly disappointing. And also a little troublesome.
My next blog might be called “Consummate Lazyass.”

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Chicken or Beef?

I’ve been on a lot of international flights in my lifetime, and because I am loyal to no one but my own wallet, I almost always fly on a different airline. Whatever is cheapest, that is what I fly. And sampling many different airlines from many different countries has taught me the following:

When the stewardess asks what you want for your in-flight meal, always choose the cuisine of the country in which the airline is based.

So that means if you’re flying Asiana or Korean Air, choose bibimbap. On Cathay Pacific, choose the noodles. On Air India, choose the rogan josh. I can’t promise you that it will be delicious, but I can almost guarantee that it will be much, much better than the alternative. That’s been my experience, and it hasn’t failed me so far.

Oh, but if you’re on United or some other U.S-based airline, you’re screwed. Whatever you choose will taste like armpits. Or cardboard. Maybe armpit-flavored cardboard.

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eating meat in the U.S.

While I was in China, I became a little (!) educated about factory farming. And I vowed that when I came back to the U.S., I would become an ethical meat eater (well, as ethical as you can be as a meat eater) —  which would not be an easy option while living in China.

So now that I am back in the US of A, I’ve been seeking out free range chickens and eggs and all that good stuff. I often wonder if companies with clever packaging and liberal interpretation of words like “organic” and “no cage” are pulling a fast one on me. Because I am an ideal target for manipulative marketing: I’ve read and heard enough nightmare stories to know that the likes of KFC and Tyson are no good, but I’m too lazy to do thorough research on brands that claim to be better. I imagine there are a lot of consumers like me out there.

I’m taking the lazy approach and trusting Whole Foods for now. I’ve noticed that WF has this new (well, it’s new for me, maybe not for the rest of you) Animal Welfare Rating that tells you how the animal you’re about to consume has been raised, handled, and transported. You can read all about it here and here – it appears that the the ratings range from 1 through 5+, and higher is better. I do wish they made more of an effort to educate the consumers about the significance of these ratings, because I had to come home and use Google to figure out what the whole thing meant. Couldn’t they put up a sign or something near the meat section of the store? Why does everything need to be Googled these days?

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