Pinterest Success in 2012

I have been seeing bloggers refer to “pinning” images on Pinterest for a year or more and just recently I finally got an account started. Pinterest required linking to my FB profile which was a dealbreaker, but I deleted the app and unlinked it afterwards. I was curious as to why Pinterest was different than other mood board sites (polyvore) I had seen that didn’t really impress me. At the same time I have been reading more about how Pinterest drives more traffic to retailer sites than Google Images, how women are the primary audience and why Pinterest traffic has taken off like a space rocket.

My take on the site as a web analyst, a woman and a user of the site may be different than the media’s perceptions. I concentrate on the behaviors and uses of the site and have listed my opinons on their growth/success here:

Some reasons I think Pinterest has been a growing site:

1. Images do say more than a 1000 words – They can make you feel hopeful, creative, inspired and motivated. Great images move people. That is why good photography is both art and marketing at the same time. (think Flickr/Instagram) What happens when you want to see that powerful/inspiring image again? Do you bookmark it? With your other 1,000 bookmarks? Blogging it has been better, but not everyone wants to blog and some people frown on hotlinking in your posts although that is what Pinterest uses. Flickr has been great with it’s searchable favorites image list, but not everyone likes Flickr like I do. Some people just want to link other people’s photos and not upload their own. Facebook is ok if you want to blast your friends with all the images you save/share about your home remodel project and make everything archived by the borg, but I really think image saving/sharing is out of context on your personal branding page. Capturing and sharing this image information has had a tricky history and Pinterest solved a problem we didn’t know we had.

2. People are busy and ideas are fleeting – Maybe this is the ADHD generation? I am a GenXer. I have way too much to do, a reasonable income and a very short attention span. I have a hard time keeping track of things that aren’t completely essential and ideas are on that list. In a personal example: With my process of moving around a lot in the last few years, my confidence in the house decorating department was a bit threatened from being a bit out of practice. I have made up for it with a huge file of images saved on my computer from design blogs. It was an old school solution to needing a place to look for ideas from images I already filtered and liked. Did it create solutions for my house? Yep, several rooms in the new house have been redone based on color pallettes from those photos. But in a day I may only see 1-3 photos I like from 50+ interior design blogs. In a year that is a lot to comb through and it isn’t share-able offline nor is it accessible from anywhere. So, Pinterest has recently proved more accessible and more shareable for keeping these images. Plus it is free for now. I could see them evolving into suggesting ad based photos by retailers based on your tags/likes/pins in the future.

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3. Trends/Decisions are easier to analyze when you have all the information from multiple sources in one place. I find it difficult to make buying decisions in this day and age because in most every category there are too many brands, products, colors, choices, prices and options to keep straight. (information overload) Making a pinning board for new shoes you are considering buying takes a lot less time than going to the 5 stores in your area and trying to decide that way or ordering online from Zappos and having to return them all. Plus you can save that pic of that shoe you love but don’t need right now for later. Side by side lists and comparisons make shopping a little easier, but in most cases these wishlists really work on selling to you and others. Someone recommends something, you loooove it, click-click-bought. That isn’t really a bad consumer strategy. I have found that if I ever pass on an item and want to look it up to buy later, it is impossible/gone  with how short the merch time is in stores (online and off) and how styles change so vastly that it may never be seen again. (yet the things you’re never very thrilled with seem to pop up again and again in many different stores). Items/Pictures that are popular on Pinterest may have more staying/selling power due to the large audience or they may be more trendy when people move on to the next micro trend. I am not sure yet because there is a lot of churn in products these days, some people consuming constantly, others stopping completely.

4. Like TED some ideas are worth sharing. I enjoy seeing what my friends have discovered and pinned. It tells me what they are into, what is new, what really good ideas/recipes they want to share and hopefully some of those ideas are good for me too. I have found some interesting clever solutions for household annoyances this way. True, this may just mirror the offline world where women would share tips on household stuff while chatting in the yard, but it makes sense for other subject matter/industries too as long as there aren’t proprietary info in the photos and there is a collective community sharing information. This could be a marketing strategy if you have real solutions your product offers and the story can be told in an image that looks real.

5. The biggest reason? Discovery is a process that a lot of us get a big burst of happy from. It doesn’t matter if it is online discovering photos, reading a magzine, watching a TV show, taking a vacation or creating something like artwork or crafts. Many of us have jobs that are pretty specialized and we do a short list of things for the company and don’t have a lot of variety or creativity in our daily lives. I have found that I need some form of creativity (writing, photography, art, dance, design) in order to be happy and I have a feeling that this may be the case for others too. Even the simulation of creativity by discovering and learning from photos of how to keep wrapping paper on the roll with a sliced toilet paper core haves us that Aha moment and makes us feel happier, smarter & more connected. All this in an easy to use format and without requiring much reading for the ADHD generations.

6. Another reason it may be growing is that Pinterest is very accessible on iPads which can go anywhere in the home when you have time to look at it. (the app is just fair, I prefer the full site in the browser on an iPad) It is a guilty pleasure just like celeb blogs on some level. I think mobile/tablet use is making the site more addictive although probably not the main reason for it’s success. Now that retailers (Etsy) has added pin it button to their listings pages I hope more retailers do this to help promote their products. One thing is clear though, it will take 500+ views and likes before you find someone ready to buy, and you will probably have to have some familiarity/trust built with them first. Most people do a lot of window shopping/dreaming on the site, a lot more than buying. But that is part of marketing, getting the word out in the first place, or as some say, creating the need. A large enough audience may just be able to significantly impact sales too.

7. The more I think about it there are more reasons that this site works well and attracts people so quickly. An element of new sites that often works well is keeping the interface simple and the navigation self explanitory. (especially with people who don’t have a lot of time or patience) In this case the content/images take center stage and the navigation/functionality is uber simple and almost in the background. If/when they would like to expand on it they can build more complexity over time and teach the audience along the path to more features just as/or before they get bored with the current ones. Facebook has done this pretty well and has been able to innovate its way ahead of many other sites.

Any other reasons you think Pinterest is growing so quickly?

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Design Trends 2012: More reprocessing of the past

This article in Vanity Fair describes a design rut that we seem to be in at the moment.

I’m not sure I would describe it as a rut, but I think there is a lot of reprocessing going on.

You may wonder why I care.

I don’t work in design but I do have this habit of moving around a lot, and buying/selling/decorating houses so I can move seems to be my unofficial job. I also have 47 blogs in my RSS reader under the home/interior/design category that I have been using as resources for about 4 years. I see a LOT of design in order to have an opinion on it.

Looking at all these blogs, I have wondered how the 18-25 crowd looks at a lot of the resale stuff, clothing and music from years past as new. (anthology, lonny, backgarage are examples) I attribute this to a specific age group because that seems to be my observation from the bloggers but it could be more widespread.

I do think as a rule the younger generations tend to drive style & design innovations and it then travels through age brackets like waves. By the time it reaches the eldest brackets the youngest don’t want it anymore.

eddie izzard coolness circleIts like Eddie Izzard once said, things work in a circle: cool hip & groovy is right next to looking like a dickhead, but you can’t back into it, there is only one way around.

Some of my thoughts about this younger generation’s design mash ups:

  • They take furniture that my grandparents donated to charity years ago and call it mid-century modern and cool. I sometimes call this style “granny chic”. I make fun of it, but I do have a 1965 stereo credenza in my living room now.
  • Sometimes the rooms look like a 19th-20th century explosion with no 2 pieces with any similarity whatsoever. I sometimes think of it as the garage sale look. (I also have a mixed era home.)
  • This new generation takes jeans and sneakers from the 80’s and call them cool one day and wear bell bottoms from the 70’s the next. (This I can’t do)
  • They have convinced me that yellow gold colored jewelry is ok again after loathing it for about 20 years post 80’s. (about 75% of what I wear is yellow gold now)
  • They like 80’s music, and not really the stuff I feel nostalgic about.
  • The people who haven’t lived through much of the 20th century seem to be driving the rebirth and reprocessing of all the styles from that time.
  • It is also important to note that the millennial generation has the highest unemployment of any age bracket due to the recession. It may not be a surprise that they would think so differently about design/life and choices based on what they can afford and have experienced.

The vanity fair article cites several reasons for this design rut. One being a cultural overload where people just can’t process any more new information because the internet/call phones was too much! This may be true for the Boomer age groups but not the Genx-Millennial. I think the millennial is actually driving the design changes and for completely different reasons.

Does this drastic innovation make me less interested in new stuff? New design? More nostalgic for the past? Not at all.

I feel lucky that all the drastic innovation and change that is listed in the article happen just after I graduated high school. (internet, computers, cell phones, social networks, search engines) None of the available professions at the time really appealed to me so it makes sense that I now work in a field (internet marketing) that didn’t exist in 1993. I look at these radical changes as “normal” and something I need to and like to learn about.

I think there are other elements to this design nostalgia epidemic and reprocessing phenomenon.

1. It is easier and cheaper to reprocess than invent. This relates to my previous post about ROI being the only metric in business these days.  Society has no time for developing cutting edge design. Good ideas come at the sacrifice of time and a lot of re-dos, and time is expensive just like materials. And what materials are available now that weren’t 10-20 years ago? No real innovation there either. Things just keep getting made from cheaper less durable materials. The only R&D going on is how to make things cheaper that look good but fall apart quickly so the customers come back again to buy more. Plus we don’t have enough trees for everyone in the world to own teak/oak/mahogany furniture.

2. We have had a more documented history in the last century than ever before both through museums, video/audio, photographs and the family history of people passing down their personal stories while living much longer. We look back at history and think, boy they had it right.  Nothing is as elegant as how they designed things back then. And they took pictures in B&W, what an elegant design choice! You get reprocessed things like the PT Cruiser/Plymouth Prowler/Chevy SSR, Oxford Heels, Swing Dancing, Sailor Pants, Pea Coats, Red Lipstick/Bottle Blondes, Bombshell hair, Mad Men, Starburst Clocks and just about any kind of hat.

3. Law of diminishing returns: It is also more difficult to keep finding something “new” in design when we have to design so much more stuff. It is common for Americans to replace their entire closet of clothes every 3 years and retail stores have to replace everything on the sales floor every 6 weeks to seem “new” again. We kind of don’t respect good design, or any design. As a culture we want to throw it out as soon as we see it in too many places and be more unique again. Shows like Project Runway also show how anyone can be a designer with training and everyone gets more educated about what the demands of great design should be. This makes the general public much harder to impress.

4. At the same time a certain part of the population is sick of all the new-new-new and the churn that happens. We want useful, dependable, reliable and timelessly elegant.  We don’t have time to go shopping for things every 6 weeks in order to find those elusive great items at a great price before they’re sent off to the overstock stores. And of course when you do need something…you can’t find it anywhere because the supply chain in China didn’t anticipate that need 6-12 months ago, and it’s not “new”. I think some people literally choose to go retro because they see it as timeless. In many cases this is cheaper, more elegant and less work.

5. Globalization happened. We used to think it was quaint to go visit another country and come back with something to remember it by.  Now we see places all over the world in places other than World News Tonight or National Geographic. We see the world on Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Imagur, Stumble Upon and Google. What used to be new to us is not all in mash up mode. We take the best of every era as well as every culture in our past to create this new hodgepodge mix that represents who we are. And everyone is more global now than we were 20 years ago. I have had fascination with Asian prints and Indian jewelry as much as Scandinavian furniture. We have bought most of our cars from other countries for a while. It is just lagging that the rest of the items we buy are more globally influenced too. I sometimes click to buy things on Etsy or from a blog link to a store and don’t notice that the store isn’t even in the USA until I see the shipping cost. Sometimes I buy it anyway, it is a rare moment to be unique in my neighborhood.

Lastly, we’ve seen the future before.

We grew up hoping for flying cars and they never showed up.

Our future can be found in watching FUTURAMA. Or Wall-E and  Idiocracy.

We know where things are going, and it seems more about recycling and less about space ships so I’m going to hang out with the millennials and see what else they come up with.

New Ideas for 2012 and Beyond

Concepts and ideas I believe in that I think will become important in 2012 and beyond:  

1. Resale Stores selling Vintage stuff like New Merchandise – furniture, clothing, housewares. These things cost a lot to produce (time, money, materials, labor, shipping from China) and are being thrown out by the garbage load. Americans don’t value what they have and give a lot of things that are perfectly good to the trash. Things have changed somewhat with a lot of charity resale stores gaining popularity in the last 10 years and since the 2008 recession more mainstream stores have popped up. EBay & Etsy also foster this trend. I buy a lot of stuff through resale/etsy. But I have grown up within the vintage/antique culture and know what I like. I also pay attention to a lot of design blogs that continually reinvent old stuff to look new again and use things in new ways I never thought of. Bringing value to things that were otherwise not worth much. The resale business requires a good eye for possibility, sourcing, cleaning, warehousing, categorizing and marketing/sales.

2. Gold – Those cash for gold places have made many family heirlooms dissapear. Along with the clean out all your grandmother’s hoarded stuff trend, there is a lot of wealth being redistributed from the bottom to the top. People don’t know what stuff is worth, need cash, sell it for less than the real value and the few pieces of jewelry they had that would increase in value over time are gone in order to pay the rent. I think these cash for Gold places also foster thefts, but I don’t have a lot of data on that. These phenomenons are related to the standard of living in the United States in some decline while the rest of the world races to catch up. We may very well meet somewhere in the middle, accepting a life less than what we thought the American Dream provided.

Healthcare Ideas: (I’m not a Doc, and this is my opinion only as a patient/consumer)

1. Therapists/Counselors/Coaches for more than just prescribing drugs – depression is prevalent and is easy to hide. Drugs help some (or most?), but understanding how your mind works is really very valuable and only possible through therapy. Finding someone who does cognitive behavioral therapy that you work well with, and affording it is another story. I view this as more training/education than therapy for some people.

2. Gene studies, counselors and understanding your genetic health. 23andMe.com has made this cost effective for many more people, ($200/Yr)  but understanding and interpreting this data will be key to living longer. I tried this service a few months ago and find it fascinating although not very impactful with my health yet because I’m not sure what to do with it and my regular doctor isn’t really into genetic analysis. I found I am 87% genetically similar to my brother, I have none of the rare genetic diseases they test for, I am lactose intolerant (I suspected this anyway) and the top health risks that I face genetically in the long term (in comparison with average population risk for these diseases). I think there are far better services than 23andMe but they’re the entry level price company.

3. The yearly Physical Exam making a Comeback – I have read about this gaining momentum, I think this is relevant based on aging baby boomers increasing health needs and GenXers falling apart much earlier than their predecessors. We all had yearly physicals in order to play sports and enter school as kids, when we lost our pediatrician after college we had nowhere to go, no insurance to help pay for things (and no job either) so we stopped going. And jobs don’t require physicals like school did. I think GenXers (like myself) may be seeing how important that these are now that I am in my mid 30’s with so many health issues. The Obamacare law may make this accessible for everyone and impossible to get an appointment.

5. Digital Health Analytics – This is a big one that stretches from having your test results in a portal that contains your digital medical records and may allow you to send messages to your doc (MyChart) or as far as tracking all your health data over the long term and analyzing changes in test results and readings that may indicate an earlier detection of disease and aid MDs when they don’t have a lot of time with each patient anymore to do the analysis themselves. This works well with the people who do go for a yearly physical.

6. Radiation: Patients may start asking questions about the necessity of X-rays & CT Scans and instead ultrasound (harmless but not as clear) may be a preferred (lower risk) way to investigate some health issues with ambiguous and or minor symptoms. The Fukashima power plant meltdown has raised issues about what allowable levels of radiation we should have (milliseverts) as well as long term effects of radiation exposure, and nobody ever tells you how much radiation is being sent into your body by that machine taking pictures. Things like microwaves and granite counters may also go out of popularity because of the low level but accumulating radiation you are exposed to by being in the kitchen all the time. We live in the Midwest so Radon is also a silent killer more people are learning about, but like with any of these ideas this comes with a lot of skepticism.

Things that annoy me: (these came up today while reading, although they are not new)

1. Juicers and people who swear by this. Seriously? It is like a weird cult headed by Gwyneth Paltrow. Eat your veggies yes, juice them not necessary unless you really want a 15th appliance in your kitchen.

2. Paleo DietPeople in the paleolithic time lived so much longer than us…We should definitely do that. (Sarcasm) Avoiding processed foods, the raw diet philosophy all have some logic to them, but overall we have to moderate things.

3. Brita Type Filtering Water in Showers/Whole House – For most people this may not really make an impact, but if your water quality isn’t good, maybe it is worth it. Sounds expensive and just another thing to maintain in a house that keeps falling apart.

4. The Nothing Is Free Attitude – People get turned off by being nickeled and dimed whether it is their phone service or their doctor or their car. Companies should be willing to spend money up front proving that the process works or giving certain things away to build the relationship. Once broken not all relationships mend quickly. This idea also permeates a lot of  R&D, Business Development, Product Development and Venture Capital Investments. If we don’t do the research, testing and try things we won’t ever discover the next better innovation. With a life cycle of 3-5 years for some businesses it seems like the risk outweighs the reward and nobody is willing to move forward and the economy stalls further. Reinvention is key for most industries.