Monthly Archives: August 2013

Bump Beats! Get Skullcandy.

skullcandy

A few years ago, I got my first set of Skullcandy headphones.

I was about to get on a plane to France, and had forgotten my headphones at home.

So I had to cop something from one of those little expensive ass stores inside the airport.

They had all kinds, but one particular pair stood out.

No. Not Beats by Dre.

I was not about to part with three bills for an over-priced set of headphones.

I’m not an audiophile, nor am I a fool.

Not to say that anyone who spend $300 on a pair of headphones is a fool, but…

I digress.

The pair that stood out were Skullcandy Skullcrushers.

My first pair of Skullcandy headphones.

My first pair of Skullcandy headphones.

From a features perspective, the Skullcrushers were indistinguishable from the rest: volume control, bass boost, collapsible.

But what set it apart were the two skulls on either earpiece.

Hence Skullcandy.

I figured walking around with a pair of white skulls on my ears would be an adequate deterrent to anyone thinking about trying to test the kid, so I bought them.

And you know what? It worked.

Beyond the effective anti-social shielding, they were a damn good set of headphones.

I’ve tried all sorts of headphones, and I prefer the over-the-ear style.

I’m not an iPhone in-the-ear kinda dude.

For one, they never actually stay in your ears.

More importantly, they lack the noise canceling aspect of headphones that cover your entire ear.

My first pair of Skullcandy headphones kept me right – that is, until the little clip on the bass boost broke.

This particular pair had a battery powered bass boost, which you could clip to your clothes.

It contained a switch, to alternate between bass boost and no-bass boost modes, and the volume.

It wasn’t heavy, per se, but it definitely was awkward having this dangling thing on the cord.

Long story short, the clip broke and I was reduced to putting the bass boost switch in my pocket.

Not fresh.

So the other day, I went online and found out that Skullcandy products carry a lifetime warranty.

You heard me right.

Lifetime warranty.

As long as you didn’t do anything to damage your headphones, they’ll replace them.

You heard me right.

They’ll replace them.

You’ve got to complete a form and mail them back to Skullcandy at your own expense.

But of you do, they’ll give you a credit for a replacement pair.

So I sent back my headphones and just got a new pair of Hesh headphones.

hesh-black-front_1

Aren’t they beautiful!

They’re awesome.

Great sound.

Noise canceling.

Durable.

Stylish.

And the best part is that these have a detachable cord with a mic, so I can use them with my iPhone.

If you’re not familiar with Skullcandy, I’d suggest you get acquainted.

They make some wicked headphones.

The next time you’re looking for a pair of over-the-ear headphones, and you don’t want to mortgage your home or sell one of your children to afford them, Shullcandy is the way to go.

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iOS 7 for dummies (like you)

There has been a buzz of activity over the upcoming release of iOS 7 to the public.

Brands are scrambling to make sure that their apps will be compliant with Apple’s latest operating system, but what does that mean for we regular folks, with no skin in the game?

Why do/should we care?

I mean, what is iOS 7 doing for me?

Well, that’s a good question.

And the answer is: a lot.

For one, if you own an iPhone 4, 4S or 5, upgrading to iOS 7 is free.

But that’s not all.

Apple’s latest OS comes chock full of UI/UX changes that will make your iPhone look sleeker and run better.

You don’t have to take my word for it (although you should), as I’ve compiled a rundown of the cooler iOS 7 upgrades to be on the lookout for, in a short list I like to call:

iOS 7 for Dummies.

And since this is iOS 7, I thought it apropros to focus on seven features.

1. New icons. The tech sphere is all agog over the new “flatter” icons being used by Apple. Jony Ives really dug deep for this. Not.

iOS 7 screenshot courtesy of BusinessInsider.com

2. New phone. Gone is the two tone dialer keypad. Gone are the square buttons. In their stead is a clean white background with blue circular buttons. So purty.

Screenshot courtesy of BusinessInsider.com

3. New control center. No more looking for that gear icon to get at your most-used functions. By simply swiping up from the bottom of your screen, you can access the control center. Handy, huh?

Screenshot courtesy of BusinessInsider.com

4. New keyboard and search. Swipe your finger down the screen and voila! you’ve opened up Search. And they’ve put one more icon in the bottom row, so that instead of mistakenly opening Siri, you can mistakenly open the Internet. What will they think of next?

Screenshot courtesy of BusinessInsider.com

To open search, simply drag your finger down the middle of the screen.

5. New browser. If you’re not fond of being unable to see all your open browser tabs/windows, then this is your lucky day. With the new tab display, you can simply scroll through your browser tabs like index cards. Can you say “Android”?

Screenshot courtesy of BusinessInsider.com

Thumbing through open browser windows seems very…Android-like. Hmmm…

6. New notification center. Notifications on iOS 6 is cute, but on iOS 7, its received a complete overhaul. Add the ability to categorize your notifications and you’ve got alerts on steroids.

Screenshot courtesy of BusinessInsider.com

7. New multi-tasking mode access. Double-clicking the home button will not longer simply expose apps running in the background. It will show you the screens themselves, which you can swipe up to close.

Screenshot courtesy of BusinessInsider.com

Double-clicking exposes both the icon for apps running in the background and the screen.

Now this is really just a short list of all the aesthetic changes you’re going to see when iOS 7 formally rolls out.

Apple has changed virtually everything: maps, mail, calendar, iTunes, the camera, weather, the App Store, search, Siri, the settings menu…everything.

They’ve even made it easier to upload pictures and video, by adding Flickr and Vimeo integration.

I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you my loquacity and send you to the definitive source for your iOS 7, BusinessInsider.com, which does a great job breaking it down.

I’m sure you’ve been waiting with bated breath for the release.

But now, you’re at least prepared for what Apple’s going to come with.

Don’t you feel less dumb better?

CD, you’re welcome.

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Stand Your Ground. Music is the weapon.

pharoahe monch stand your ground

Once again, I’ve decided to break protocol and talk about something that will invariably make a few people uncomfortable.

Trayvon Martin.

On the eve of the one month anniversary of the verdict, I’m not going to go on a tirade about how wrong the verdict was.

Or was not – based on where you come down on the issue.

But I am going to say that I place the blame for the fact that we’re even having this collective qualm of conscience squarely at the feet of George Zimmerman.

His recorded 911 calls let us know unequivocally that he actively sought out the encounter that resulted in Trayvon Martin’s death.

Regardless of whether Florida’s laws gave him the right to shoot to kill, if he had stayed in his car, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

But since he did, we’re are.

And I’m sure some of your are cringing, right now.

What may be a few lingering moments of discomfort for you, is an inescapable part of the Black experience.

Get over it.

Don’t worry though, I’m not going to make you suffer for long.

Because I’m not here to talk about the child killer.

That’s depressing.

I want to talk about something more uplifting and positive: the various tribute songs that have sprung up in the wake of this incident.

By far, my favorite is “Stand Your Ground,” this rough by Pharoahe Monch.

“Stand Your Ground” is a protest song which flips Florida’s ‘self-defense’ concept on its ear.

Pharoahe isn’t the only artist to feel away about the Zimmerman verdict.

Rick Ross expresses his outrage in “I Wonder Why,” when he says, “Now I’m being followed by this creepy ass cracker.”

Creepy ass cracker indeed.

Skip to 2:19 to hear the reference, if you’re not a Rick Ross fan.

Young Jeezy adds his “It’s A Cold World” tribute track to the mix.

And Wyclef Jean’s “Justice (If You’re 17)” puts the now notorious neighborhood watch captain on full blast.

This little curated collection is by no means all that there is.

Numerous artists have released their own personal tributes for Trayvon, some of which are a lot less veiled with their feelings about Zimmerman and the verdict.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno performance by Talib Kweli, Nelly and Abbey Dobson, gives those who are having a hard time understanding why people of color are so angry (about the verdict) visual aid.

All I can say is that while Zimmerman got away with murder, he will forever be memorialized, in song, as the coward he is.

Music is the weapon.

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Make ’em watch! How to make money with mobile ads.

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I was reading an article in AdAge this morning about how mobile is overtaking TV in terms of the amount of time spent on each.

The article reviewed this trend, and specifically examined the disconnect between the amount of time spent and the amount of revenue generated on mobile.

What should otherwise be a boon for mobile advertisers, is actually something of a conundrum, as marketers have yet to figure out how to translate the time (spent on mobile) into revenue.

Since mobile has less real estate to work with, embedding ads that are visible and compelling is a challenge.

Moreover, convincing advertisers to switch from TV to mobile, in the absence of empirical support for that reallocation is a hard sell.

But all is not lost.

If mobile advertisers are looking for ways to increase click-through rates (I know click-through rates aren’t really for mobile – bear with me), there is a fool proof strategy they can employ.

Force users to watch their ads.

That’s right, I said force.

Sure, no one asked me my opinion, but I’m going to give it anyway.

Advertisers need to use more video on mobile and make people watch.

And do away with static ads altogether.

How?

I’ll tell ya.

Now gather round…

I’ve found that the most effective ads on mobile are video ads.

And the most effective video ads are the ones which don’t give you the option of canceling or closing them until they’re done.

The next most effective are those that give you a time-delayed option, before revealing your opt-out option (the little “x” on the screen).

Efficacy in Stephen’s world is defined by users viewing (and not automatically canceling) an ad in its entirety.

YouTube uses these “mandatory watch” and “time-delayed skip” options effectively in their videos, and mobile advertisers would be well advised to model their behavior.

In addition, mobile advertisers need to adopt a “takeover” mentality.

If they’re going to serve an ad, serve it.

Don’t be shy about taking over the user’s screen.

While most would agree that users don’t want ads and pop ups, few would argue that ads and pop ups are an interruption that people have come to tolerate and accept.

Take me for instance.

I play solitaire on my iPhone all the time.

It’s a free version, so between every hand, there’s an ad.

Most are simple overlays or pop ups, advertising other games or apps, that I close almost reflexively.

But increasingly, the ads being served are videos from car makers, insurance carriers, and the like.

And they employ both mandatory and time delayed opt-out watch options.

Generally, ads are no longer than fifteen seconds (which seems like an eternity when I’m trying to get to my next hand) seem to offend me the least.

I find myself sitting patiently through them until either (a) they’re done or (b) that little black “x” appears on the screen.

Sometimes, I’ll watch until the “x”‘appears.

At others, if its engaging, I’ll watch all the way to the end.

And every so often (and this is rare) I’ll actually respond to the call to action or follow the link at the end.

I’m sure I’m like most people.

If the content is good, I’ll watch, read or listen to an ad without objection.

If its crap, I’ll skip it.

The issue (for me) is both form and substance.

So (in my opinion) the objective for marketers trying to drive engagement and conversions with mobile ads is twofold: (1) make interesting engaging ads, preferably video, and (2) force people to watch by adding time delayed (or no) opt-out options.

Now we could go deeper down the rabbit hole (as AdAge does) to explore the differences between serving ads in apps versus ads in mobile web, but that’s for the Master Class.

Suffice it to say, applying desktop rules of engagement for mobile ads is a losing strategy, and brands would do well to rethink how they’re targeting mobile users.

Or simply hire me.

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Filed under mobile, mobile ads

Tips from a dandy urban guerrilla.

urban guerilla

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m sort of a dandy.

Well not sort of a dandy.

I am a dandy.

And?

I take pride in the way I look.

Even when I’m looking shabby, best believe it’s shabby chic.

As someone who is constantly commuting into and out of the city, dressing practically is très important.

And since it is NYC, being fashionable is equally (if not more) important then being practical.

To tackle the urban jungle, the clothes I wear must be light and cool.

If you’ve got to handle the heat generated by mad bodies pressed all up on ya in the subway and trains – you can’t be rocking heavy shit.

But they can’t be so light and insubstantial that they offer no protection from the elements if the weather changes suddenly (as its prone to do).

When you’re pounding the pavement, your shoe game has got to be tight.

Trust me, I know.

With these big ole size 13s, my kicks have got to be on point.

I’m not trying to cultivate corns, bunions or hammertoes, by jamming my toes into a pair of wack shoes.

My footwear must be stylish enough to keep heads turning, but durable enough to withstand the onslaught of folks invariably scuffing, scraping and stomping on my dogs.

And my bag has got to hold me down.

If you’re like me, you’ve got a laptop, tablet, smartphone, cables and charges to boot.

I may be a technophile, but I don’t want to look like one.

You know who I’m talking about.

The sweaty dude with a backpack laden with electronics.

Always trying to squeeze his humpback ass into an already jam-packed space, bonking and abusing folks in his wake.

I hate that dude.

So my bag has got to marry fashion with function.

Needless to say, there’s a certain amount of urban guerrilla that one must apply in order to achieve the appropriate mix of smart and sharp.

And I believe I have achieved couture nirvana.

Take yesterday, for instance.

White cotton Brooks Brothers button-down shirt. Check.

Navy blue silk Gucci tie. Check.

Second hand blue cotton vest (or waistcoat for my dandy brethren). Check.

J Crew Seersucker slacks. Check.

Tan leather belt with distressed silver buckle. Check.

Tan Giorgio Brutini leather shoes. Check.

Brown Louis Vuitton messenger bag. Check.

Silver Ray-Ban sunglasses with tan lenses. Check.

As you can see from the photo accompanying this post, I’m styling and profiling.

My outfit kept me cool in the heat of these urban jungle city streets, but kept me from freezing inside my climate controlled chilly ass office.

My kicks had me floating on cushions of leather goodness, and not cussing folks out whenever I happened upon the occasional cellphone walker or aggressive stroller pusher.

And if I got another compliment on my bag, you might have seen a black man blush.

The thick strap of my bag distributed the weight of its contents nicely, and kept me from being the aforementioned mad bonker.

Truth be told, the LV was actually my wife’s former diaper bag – but I still looked good.

What’s the point of all this?

Am I just sweating myself because I look good?

No.

Well, yes. I look good.

But no, I’m not actually sweating myself.

I’m trying to learn you in the ways of surviving these mean streets in style.

If you follow my tips, you too can be a dandy urban guerrilla.

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Filed under branding, fashion