Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dressing well when your budget's bare.

Since you probably still have a small amount of pride left, you want to give off the same air of success in person that you’ve been cultivating on your Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Not so easy now that you've started referring to the never worn taupe Juicy Couture velour sweatpants you bought in 2001 as your "dress pants".

Fortunately, all the latest in designer names are still at your disposal for those rare occassions you have to get dressed and go somewhere. Free.

Many happy returns!

If you still have a valid credit card, your best bet is buying and returning (aka “bulimic shopping” to diagnosticians and “borrowing” to those who practice it.

A psychological lifesaver for the broke fashionista, bulimic shopping allows you to binge on high end designer clothes and purge them once they're out of style (usually in a day or two). Sure, you’ll have to keep the price tag on, but a little rectangle of cardboard digging into the fleshy part of your back is a small price to pay for the status of wearing the same dress Gwyneth was spotted in at the Ivy.

Once you've worn the item once, the thrill of ownership is gone and you realize that a $1,999 white silk dress just isn't practical for your impending employment at Denny’s (if all goes well), simply bring it back for the full refund.

To ensure a successful return, be very careful when wearing the article. Don’t walk, eat, lean or sit. If you must drink, only consume clear fluids that don’t stain. Check the refund policy or you may wind up paying for a one night stand (in Stella McCartney) for the rest of your life (or 30 years, whichever comes first). To learn more about refund policies from an expert, click here.

Finally, never wear your borrowed clothes on a date in which you plan to get naked—nothing’s more of a turn off than a woman (or man, for that matter) with drooping tags.

Foot notes

Unless you don’t walk, returning shoes can present problems, as the soles can be dead giveaways come refund time.

If you’re the eccentric artistic type, you might be able to get away with wrapping those strappy Pradas in Baggies, but it does take away from their timeless, yet modern elegance. There's also the risk that logo watchers might think your shoes were designed by Ziplock. On the plus side, the Baggies can help camouflage the crappy pedicure you had to do yourself.

As a rule, the only shoes that make sense to borrow are “ f***- me” pumps, since your feet will be in the air most of the time anyways.

Fashion straight off the runway

One of the best places to pick up free, quality clothes is at airport baggage carousels . There’s little danger of getting caught since security is much more concerned with catching tweezer and fluid carriers than luggage thieves. The only risk involved is not knowing exactly what’s in the suitcase until you’ve already taken possession of it. But that’s also what makes it exciting. Every bag you steal is like a gift...maybe that Dolce & Gabbana blazer you've been wishing for is in there. Or better yet, the original owner is a jewelry smuggler!

To increase your chances of getting something wearable, stick to carousels arriving from places that wealthy people travel and shop. Paris, Milan, Hong Kong and Dubai are always good bets. The first class baggage comes out of the chute first, so get there early. Avoid discount carrier carousels. Always grab designer luggage, since even if you can't use the contents, it'll get a good price on eBay.

It's not old, it's "vintage"

If all else fails, do what Rachel Zoe does when she’s in a pinch—wear that frayed, slightly stained, hopelessly out of fashion Chanel/Gaultier/Dior you’ve got in your closet, hold your head high and tell everyone it's vintage. They'll think you’re a trendsetter instead of just a poor slob.

Return policy guide for bulimic shoppers

Since I'm no longer allowed in stores, I dispatched my good friend Debbie Kasher, who happens to be a leader in the field of bulimic shopping, to scope out the return policies at her favorite places to practice her craft. Here’s what she came up with:

• Saks and Barneys are now only accepting returns for 30 days, which is no problem given those, fringed gladiator wedges won’t stay in style much longer than that.

• When you make a purchase using a store’s holiday 30% off discount coupon, those items are non refundable. They only tell you that in print finer than the silk of the Gautier blouse you are now stuck with paying off

• The word credit can be very confusing. Credit does not mean credit to your credit card. It means a store credit, which is of no use to you when creditors from your credit card company are threatening to destroy your credit. You need to look for the word refund.

• Many online stores do offer free no hassle returns. These words are Mallomars to the bulimic shopper. Just make sure the post office is close by so you don’t put wear and tear on the shoes you actually do have to pay for.

• Be ruthless. Don’t give a second thought to the sales person who is about to lose her commission. Remember the disdain with which she looked at you when she noticed the hole in your sock. Socks are not returnable.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The next big thing in marketing: Anti-Social Media

Economic and demographic figures show a rapidly growing segment is tuning out Twitter, Facebook and other social networking phenomenon in favor of isolation, gazing blankly into space and weeping a lot.

The question facing marketers is how to reach the emerging "impoverished isolator" demographic; people who rarely leave their homes, have stopped keeping up with friends and family and often spend several hours a day in the fetal position.

Smart marketers are looking into Anti-Social Media -- any place you can put an ad or logo that reaches an audience that has ceased caring about anything except meeting their most basic needs.

The print revolution

Print media isn’t dead, it’s just changed location. With traditional media facing extinction and a disheartened, disinterested public, Toilet Paper Messaging (TPM) has emerged as one of the most effective marketing tools out there. Even in a difficult economy, toilet paper users remain loyal with a share holding steady and even growing as people begin using it as a replacement for pricier Kleenex. If you’re trying to reach a wide audience, not even a Superbowl ad matches toilet paper’s reach. TPM guarantees exposure 3-4 times a day while the Superbowl ad is a seven million dollar, 30 second, one shot. It should also be noted that toilet paper enjoys high viewership during Superbowl ads.

The soft sell strategy

Considering that ever since its introduction, the pillow has consistently averaged at least seven hours a day consumer exposure within virtually every target (A.C. Nielson, June 2007), it's surprising its marketing potential hasn't been exploited sooner. Recent studies show that the time consumers spend with pillows rising at an astronomic rate, with the average now ranging from 8-24 hours a day. The above ad illustrates how placement and messaging can create a powerfully persuasive communication. 95% of the focus group responders said they'd consider Met Life as a life insurance option if they could afford life insurance.

Mobile technology for an audience going nowhere.

Twitter, texting and other mobile messaging tools are losing their effectiveness as the public becomes immobilized by debt and depression. Fortunately, new technologies are being fashioned to replace them. One promising mobile device being tested in beta, involves attaching your message/graphic/logo to a string, wire or whatever is handy and hanging it from ceilings. Like its mobile predecessors, it hasn't done much for sales, but top-of-mind awareness numbers are through the roof. It also enhances multi-tasking abilities by allowing the target audience to engage with a brand while simultaneously staring at the ceiling listlessly.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A few telltale signs you're going under.

1. You’ve been using the stack of unopened bills in the corner as a table.

2. Suddenly, spending three hours on the phone with your bank demanding an explanation for a $35.00 late fee is the most profitable way of spending your time.

3. In a blind taste test of Ramen flavors, you got 100%.

4. You’ve sadly noted that the prevalence of cellphones makes coin returns no longer a viable source of income.

5. You occasionally wish that some hacker would steal your identity (boy, would he or she be sorry).

6. You find yourself flummoxed by decisions you would have considered obvious a year ago…like whether or not to eat the 20 year old misshapen can of beans you found in the garage next to the paint thinner.

7. You envy your pot dealer for having a viable career.

8. You’re boycotting the banks and credit card companies (well… that’s what you’re telling everyone)

9. You don’t even bother to get up and answer the phone when it rings, you just flip it the finger from your recumbent position on the couch.

10. You spend an inordinate time regretting random past opportunities missed (like not eating more of the fried chicken at the office picnic back in 1994)

11. You’ve discovered after all these years of insisting you’d never sell out for money, it turns out you would. In fact, you’d be willing to sell out for a piece of chicken.

12. You find hope in the possibility that Armageddon may occur during this billing cycle.

13. You've started contemptuously referring to anyone wearing this season's shoes as "the man".

14. You’re on your third TARP bailout.