If you haven't heard by now, I'm in sales. I manage the merchandising and replenishment process for several million dollars worth of apparel and accessories at one of the nation's largest retailers. Selling apparel and accessories is distinct from other selling other merchandise because fashion isn't predictable. And when your product isn't predictable, it better be relevant.
A large part of my success relies on being able to use different tools and techniques to enhance a brand's relevance so that people will buy it. I teach my team how to align both themselves and our product to our guest and her lifestyle. We are obligated to notice the way her life unfolds. We owe it to her to know her and appreciate her just the same; the good, the bad and the broke.
Typically, we organize women's clothing by brand, because women shop by brand. They know which brands fit and which ones don't. Our men's clothing, however, is organized by type (pants with pants, shirts with shirts) because men are from Mars.
When the economy started getting shaky, bargains began to take precedence over brands. As the leader, it was imperative that I did not pretend not to notice that things were changing. So I decided to re-merchandise our women's clothing. My team and I disrupted our previously successful brand blocks in order to move all our clearance merchandise to one area; you know, the one that's closest to the fitting room :)
Then we organized it. Because women are from Venus.
Soon all of our discounted merchandise was displayed in one area by price, then by size, then style and, of course, by color. It didn't "feel" like bargain, it felt like BRILLIANT!
All of the size smalls were together, all of the outerwear was together, all the autumn colors were together, but much to the chagrin of our HQ team, all of the brands were now together. We were nervous at first and had every right to be. Our guests, however, were ecstatic.
I'm not sure what age you master it, but I've found that being able to understand what is relevant and what is not, is critical to life and maintaining relationships. Understanding relevancy allows you to adapt to the changing world, yet still have a full respect for tradition. Relevance is the difference between hearing noise, hearing voices that matter, and then choosing to respond to the latter.
A voice that matters to me told me that using the f-word in posts that potential employers might read is not a great idea. I totally agree. Another voice that matters told me that the fear of being dooced should keep me from writing about personal matters online. I agreed with that too.
But, then my own voice chimed in. And I wondered if my writing would still be relevant if I removed those elements. Anxiety, transparency, and the occasional use of four letter words (like love), are what transform basic plots into useful narratives. After all, this is a blog, not a job interview. The mediums are different, and so are rules for effective communication.
Seth Godin said it best, "social media isn't about aggregating audiences so that you can yell at them about the junk you want to sell. Social media, in fact, is a basic human need, revealed digitally online." Which leads me to wonder how much a person can reveal before it starts to seem wrong. It's probably when the revealing starts to become irrelevant.
Or maybe it's the point when I seek to merely speak my mind, but somehow become a caricature.
If social media is a culture where authority is derived from voice, then I have no excuses, aesthetic or otherwise, to not act within that cultural context. Rest assured, I understand the 'real world's' cultural context is something entirely different. And for now, I transition quite nicely between the two.
As the diverse readership of this blog continues to be revealed, by way of fate or by way of Google, I can only hope that my readers do me a favor and sort what is relevant to our relationship and what is not. To do otherwise would be doing a disservice for both of us.
When blogging becomes passe and these posts just become the archives of a random twenty-something, my hope is that they also become the proof for all those who understand there's power in your values, experiences, and most importantly, your voice.
Dr. Seuss brilliantly said it and only now do I understand, "Everything stinks until it's finished"...