In the fall of 2015 when I had moved home from Boston, my mom told me our very close family friend was sick.

Photo by Kayleigh.

“Sick with what” I asked

“Just sick” she responded.


He was our neighbor growing up, the father of my childhood best friends. Our families became inseparable, where all of us kids would eat, swim, and breathe together in the summer months. As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child” – this was the village and we were the children. He was the neighbor that walked my crying brother home to my mom when he fell and busted his chin open at six years old. He helped me to install shelves into my room when I was eleven and needed to “reinvent my room”. He was the neighbor that gave out full-size candy bars on Halloween and always gave my brother and I two instead of one. We were lucky to have him in our lives.

As us kids got older, we all found our independent friend groups but never lost touch, our parents all remained especially close. His son and I had a joint high school graduation party at their house because it made sense: we were family.

We didn’t know it at the time, but he was sick with Lou Gehrigs disease. Also known as ALS, it’s a rare, nervous system disease that weakens muscles and eliminates physical function. His sickness was devastating to all of us. My mom cut back her hours at work to be one of his full-time caregivers, helping him to live his most comfortable life and assist in his everyday activities.

After a day of being with him, my mom came home crying. I sat with her and tried to gently figure out what happened.

“I tried to shave his face today,” she began. “It was… so hard. I felt like I was hurting him, I think I may have accidentally cut him a little” she cried again. This everyday activity that used to be easy for him now became a pain point.


Earlier last week I saw a tweet that left me breathless. It was from Gillette, and it showed a razor that was specifically designed to shave someone else. The Gillette Treo read,

“Together we can provide a great shave for those in need”.

The Treo razor has unique features like a disposable blade after one use to reduce infection, a safe shave head to prevent cuts, and shave gel built right into the handle. Simple improvements built into a universal product to change someone’s life, and it was designed through empathy.

It’s become common for brands to utilize empathy to enhance marketing and product development. Instead of buying into a brand, the brand buys into you, taking a special interest to recognize what your need states are, pain points, and where your moments of joy come from. When companies work through empathy, they create meaningful products that positively exist within consumers lives. While sympathy looks at your shoes and feels sorry for you, empathy looks at your shoes, tries them on, and walks miles in them to understand how you feel. Empathy doesn’t sympathize with you, it identifies with you- it feels you. When marketers understand their consumers to the point where they ache when you ache- the entire tone deviates. Empathy marketing creates a different kind of consumer value, one that changes lives and evokes change.


When you have the privilege to help someone when they need it most, you search for things that make life as normal as possible. Sometimes these things can be a favorite meal after a bad day, a car ride to a familiar destination, and sometimes, it’s a razor. There must be some kind of oxymoron in the idea that a sharp tool used for cutting could provide someone with so much comfort. I think about the Treo razor and how it would have made him feel, how it would have made my mom feel, knowing that he could get the simplicity of a clean shave.

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In Italian, the word sfumato literally means, “going up in smoke” but is recognized to artists as a technique that allows colors to blend without borders.

Leonardo Da Vinci was a master at this technique and displayed his sfumato talents in works like The Virgin of the Rocks, and St. John the Baptist. Besides his artistry, Da Vinci also found an alternative meaning to sfumato. He used sfumato as a principle to help him embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty. In keeping an open mind during times of uncertainty, he found that he had unlocked a free flow of creativity. As an active learner, he began to confront ambiguity in search for contrasting paradoxes.

Photo by Kayleigh.

To better understand beauty, Da Vinci explored ugliness.

To appreciate flowers, he studied rocks.

To recognize youths, he considered the elderly.

Through his awareness, he created the most famous paradox of all: Mona Lisa.

In Michael J. Gelb’s, How to Think like Leonardo Da Vinci, he wrote,

“Mona Lisa’s smile lies on the cusp of good and evil, compassion and cruelty, seduction and innocence, the fleeting and the eternal. She is the Western equivalent of the Chinese symbol of yin and yang” (146).

It’s no wonder that it’s the most famous work of art in the world, it’s the popularity of paradoxes.

Gabrielle Chanel had an equally successful time defining herself and the Chanel brand through a series of paradoxes. Before 1920, women were still wearing clothing that was made to enhance curves. Corsets, hoop skirts, and bustles were a part of the everyday female wardrobe. In 1926 Gabrielle created the little black dress, that was picked up by American Vogue and hailed as,

“The Chanel ‘Ford’ Dress, the frock that all the world will wear”.

What made this dress such a paradox was that Gabrielle took garments from men’s wardrobes to enhance the female figure. The simple, straight dress resembled a pair of loose fitting men’s trousers, yet made women look more feminine.

Another paradox that Gabrielle loved to tease with was her relationship between real and fake. Costume jewelry was a trademark for Chanel, layering a dozen strands of fake pearl necklaces with one real gemstone piece. Her simplistic outfits served as a canvas for the different layers of her costume jewelry and suggested that cheap was luxurious. Jewelry had now become a household trend where the fake pearl necklaces now existed within a real, luxurious lifestyle.

Like Da Vinci, Gabrielle found success when she practiced openness in sfumato. She allowed herself to sit with vagueness to create fashions that the world had not yet dreamed of. Like the paradox of gargoyles perched on the walls of cathedrals, they do this to highlight the holiness of saints. One cannot exist without the other, and one would not be appreciated without the other.

The tension of opposites has a unique ability to pull ideas together in ways that may not be so outwardly clear. Sfumato helps to reorganize what is accessible to the human gaze and creates connections through all things despite their unlikeness. It’s about learning new ways to think about our capacity for doubt and how rewarding it can be to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.


Gelb, Michael. How to Think like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Every Day Genius. Delta Trade Paperbacks, 2004.
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Most people recognize sharks as a fish with large teeth, dorsal fins, and who are scary by nature.

Sharks in the business world are thought of as slick, skilled in their activity, and are often deceptive.

Both these sharks have something in common: they’re carnivorous.

In the way a real shark is hungry for prey, business sharks are hungry for market space. Business sharks are constantly in competition with their rivals for a larger share of a market space. When the market space becomes overcrowded, there are less resources, less demand, and less profits. The ocean that is the market space becomes saturated, bloody, and red.

Photo by Kayleigh.

This called a red ocean.

Blue ocean is significantly different.

The authors of the book, Blue Ocean Strategy, wrote:

“Blue oceans, in contrast, are defined by untapped market space, demand creation, and the opportunity for highly profitable growth” (4).

They innovate new ways to their own oceans and set their own rules and boundaries. Many products we have today were innovated through blue oceans. An example of this is the automobile. Henry Ford was quoted saying, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. Ford saw an untapped market space for an invention that would change people’s lives forever. He invented his own blue ocean. Companies, businesses, and brands all strive for this. Differentiating yourself to the point where you’re uncontested and you are your own competition.

Strategy makes all the difference when it comes to a business’s approach for finding their way in the blue ocean. The book equates this strategy as value innovation.

“Value innovation is the cornerstone of blue ocean strategy. We call it value innovation because instead of focusing on beating the competition, you focus on making the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company, thereby opening up new and uncontested market space” (12).

The value innovation focuses on cost saving for the business to afford the customer a higher buying value. The key ingredients are differentiation and low cost.

It hardly seems like a question; would you rather swim in a red ocean or blue ocean? With the success that brands have with their blue ocean strategies you would wonder why more aren’t doing this. Many brands swimming in the red ocean have allowed for confined industry boundaries, stifling their ability to innovate. Despite their saturation, it’s still important to know how to swim through a red ocean. Competition will always be relevant in business, but companies need to begin swimming past their competitors and find ways to revolutionize their brands.

Kim, W. Chan., and Renee Mauborgne. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant. Harvard Bus Review Press, 2016.
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Karl Lagerfeld believes that analysis kills creativity. Andrew O’Hagan of the New York Times Style Magazine quoted him saying,

‘‘Analysis? What for? To get back to normality? I don’t want to be normal.’’

Fortunately for Karl as the Head of Design and Creative Director of Chanel, he has an entire team to analyze his work for him. While he vacations with his pet cat, Choupette, his team of creatives work diligently to execute his ideas and bring to life his creative process.

Unfortunately for us normal folk, we must take these actions ourselves. Without action, an idea can never be put into motion and exist how you imagined it. Creating specific and attainable guidelines can help when developing the start of a new endeavor.

I’ve created two prospectuses on both my research article and applied project that will act as my creative guidelines to ensure success in my ideas. Read them below.

Marketing For A Creative Service

For my applied project, I’m collaborating with another Interdisciplinary Studies capstone student, Ke Cawley. Ke is a visual artist with a focus in surrealism, her work is vibrant and full of interesting detail. In collaboration with Ke, I’ll be helping her to market her exhibition of curated work.

Photo by Kayleigh.

My focus will be on developing an opening night to begin her installation in Lamson Library. Hosting an opening night would require areas of advertising, communications, and event planning- all of which I fit under the umbrella term of creative marketing.

My goal is to work alongside Ke as if she was a client to my imaginary marketing firm, where every effort I make is made to optimize her potential. In doing this, I gain a better understanding of how to market for different creative industries. Through our planning process, Ke and I will be documenting our individual progress though pictures and notes which will be condensed to fit within our ePorts. Photography of the opening night will be my final visual documentation for the deliverable online piece of this project.

Partnering with Ke will be the real, creative marketing effort that I aspire to have as a career. This project encompasses so much of what I love and what I’m passionate for which makes this collaboration feel like no work at all.

Below is a timeline of deadlines I’ll meet to help guide me through the applied project.


Gather materials for the show including food, music, and any additional items necessary. I’ll be creating signage and content to promote the show.


Print signage and finalize advertisements for the show. Hang posters two weeks before opening and utilize social media for promotion. Help Ke with any installation needs.


Opening night, December 4th. Work on deliverable project proof to upload to ePort.

The Cult Within Culture: Marketing Strategies

We are a generation of followers. We spend hours a day on social media looking at products and lifestyles of the individuals we follow, trying to stay within the mainstream. To differentiate ourselves from the masses, we align with brands and products that we identify with to signal who we are.

You have an iPhone or an Android. You drink Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. You prefer Marvel or DC.

We buy into these brands because it suggests what our personalities are and what our values might be. In doing this, companies amass huge, cult-like followings. The research article I’ll be writing explores how products, brands, and companies have developed their cult-like followings and what tactics they use to keep them successful. How do these companies stand out from their saturated markets to get a consumer to drink their hypothetical Kool-Aid?

Just like an artist would study the masters, a marketer should study the cults. Companies with dedicated followings are wildly successful and are constantly innovating new ways of doing business. Learning how these companies differentiate and reinvent themselves will be valuable knowledge that I can carry into my career. This research will also give readers a chance to better understand how businesses use sociological strategies to transform one time buyers into repeat customers.

The timeline I’m proposing for the article is as follows:

October 8

Finalize a brainstorm of all ideas and interest. Collect sources that stand out in this process. Begin to organize an outline.

October 15

Outline complete. Library resources are being utilized to help source articles, books, and additional materials.

October 22

Imagining that the outline can be broken into fourths, begin working and complete section one.

October 29

Begin working and complete section two.

November 5

Begin working and complete section three.

November 12

Begin working and complete section four.

November 19

Work on opening and closings for the article.

November 26

Begin to finalize article and make an appointment at the Writing Center.

December 3-10

Use this time to make final edits, draft and redraft. If fall behind, this time offers me a cushion to get back on track. Final version uploaded to ePort.

I assembled both my research article and applied project around questions I had within my disciplines. I took this opportunity to use self-directed learning to further stretch my interests and see what specific niches I find myself drawn to in business.

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