the sally sisson blog


March 9, 2018

Wear Equality: Design of the Times

Last fall, on a guided walking tour of the Helsinki Design District, I learned a fun fact in the Marimekko flagship store. The Tasaralta, their iconic striped shirt (pictured above), is more than just a wardrobe staple. It’s also a bold statement piece.

Unlike the stripes on, say, the classic Breton or L.L. Bean sailor shirt, these ones are equally spaced. The even stripes symbolize equality—between genders and people of different ages, shapes and sizes. “Even stripes for equality” is the tagline.

This was news to me. I’ve been a fan of the textile brand for decades (even making curtains out of Marimekko sheets to match my Marimekko bedspread in my first college dorm room). But I guess I’d never given the stripes on their pillows and T-shirts a second thought.

Purposeful design is a hallmark of the company. “Fairness to everyone and everything” is one of their company values. The vision from the start was to create functional, everyday, often unisex (or anonymous) clothing that would suit anyone and everyone, “empowering people to be true to who they are.”

Last year the company teamed up with Equality Now, an organization dedicated to protecting the human rights of women and girls around the world. As part of a six-week campaign, Marimekko stores in North America and online donated $10 USD to the charity for each Tasaraita “even stripe” garment sold. Read more here:

WWD: Marimekko Partners With Equality Now for Partnership to Encourage Women’s Empowerment

Feminist icon, ahead of her time

Later that day I lingered in the Design Museum and learned more of the backstory. Finnish textile designer Armi Ratia and her husband Viljo founded Marimekko in 1951 after buying the Printex fabric company. These were drab post-war times and their aim was to crank things up with bold, colorful patterns and create inventive new designs. In the first decade Marimekko built up a solid line of clothing and home accessories, along with a loyal Scandi following.

It wasn’t until 1960 that the company really made a name for itself worldwide. That’s when Jackie Kennedy bought seven of their dresses in a single shopping spree, later showing them off on the campaign trail. Pictures of the First Lady in her crisp, modern frocks soon made the fashion news and, most famously, the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. The fashions were seen as comfortable and approachable, everyday designs for everyday life.

The late sixties brought bolder designs and political statements. 1968 saw the launch of the Equal Rights Amendment campaign in the U.S., a strike for equal pay by 850 women machinists at the Dagenham Ford factory in the U.K., and the election of Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to sit on the U.S. House of Representatives. Looking back now, the debut of the Tasaraita even-striped T-shirt that year makes perfect sense.

 

“I don’t sell clothes, I sell a way of living. They are designs, not fashions. I sell ideas, not dresses.”

– Armi Ratia, textile artist and founder of Marimekko, 1963

It wasn’t until decades later that Armi gained the recognition she deserved as Finland’s foremost female entrepreneur—and one of the world’s most famous designers.

“At Marimekko, Armi Ratia was a textile artist, managing director, creative director, wizard of words, publicity guru, and wellspring of inspiration. She had an incredible ability to decipher the mood of the times and sense future trends. She also had a genius for recognizing talent and finding ways to realize even the wildest, most imaginative ideas. 

“Even today, Marimekko’s success owes much to Armi’s ideas. She was a trailblazer who made Marimekko a way of life, an attitude, a phenomenon embracing the everyday and the extraordinary.”

– marimekko.com 

Another bold icon to celebrate on International Women’s Day, I’d say.

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November 7, 2017

Kicking Up the Creativity in Content Marketing

Airlines that take branded content above and beyond

Digital marketing is soaring in the airline sector, with digital, social, apps and experiential (big time) increasingly added to the mix. A bit over the top in some cases, but it’s proving to be effective as airlines crank up their creative to lure millennials and differentiate their brands in a competitive space.

As a writer, I’m more wowed by words than virtual reality, but recognize there’s value in both. I recently flew on two airlines with notable approaches, one more old-school than the other. Both were on the economy end of the scale, but both provided content-rich experiences that made the experience feel anything but.

Case Study #1: Icelandair

Two years ago I knew two people who’d been to Iceland. This year it’s 20 and counting. Thanks to a brilliant airline marketing campaign, more people than ever are visiting the Nordic island nation, not just jetting over it. Read “How Icelandair’s ‘Stopover Buddy’ Experiential Campaign Boosted Sales by 30%” if you don’t know the backstory.

I did my own mini version of that, taking a 24-hour stopover on a flight from London to Boston—just long enough to wash my cares away while drinking cold beer in a steaming geothermal hot spring at the Blue Lagoon spa, set in a lava field 10 km/6.5 miles from the airport.

So I knew the airline was riding high as a result of this experiential campaign. I just didn’t realize that content played such a prominent role in the overall branding and was pleased to see so much of it sprinkled about.

content marketing airline headrest

Bite-sized content

The first thing I notice upon boarding is the messaging on the headrests. Each cloth has a line of clever copy: snippets that entertain and inform and leave you wanting more.

Then I get to my seat and find a blanket and a pillow, each telling a different part of the bigger story. The design is clean and distinct, making my economy class seat feel more “Scandi sleek” than utilitarian.

 

Fun factoids

Mealtime brings yet more snackable content, with napkins and cups printed with factoids about volcanoes and glaciers and hot springs and other geological wonders. Most include some Icelandic [íslenska] vocabulary to pique interest and get you in practice.

While a translation for “hello, where is the bathroom?” might be useful, this STORKUR steam on my coffee cup is a lot more compelling. The messaging is doing its magic. My in-flight magazine tells tales of geysers, volcanoes and geothermal spas. I learn that Iceland is richer in hot springs and high-temperature activity than any other country in the world. That people have been bathing in these primitive volcanic pools since the days of the Vikings. I’ll be damned if I’m not one of them!

Words and more words

The one at the right shows seven different ways to say cup. At least I think that’s what it is. Or seven different terms for drinking vessel.

I won’t remember more than one, but that’s not really the point, is it?

 

credit: designweek.co.uk

Even the bathrooms are decorated with branded content.

Drip, drip, drip.

I learn something new about Iceland at each touch point. I’m genuinely eager to learn more.

@randfishkin tweet Icelandair

The customer experience

Blue Lagoon, Grindavik

My whirlwind #stopover is an exhilarating success. A bucket-list experience for the books and I return to Reykjavik airport rejuvenated and scrubbed clean with algae and minerals. I pick specs of silica out of my damp hair and stuff my backpack with brochures for my next visit.

On the plane I snuggle up in my (branded) blanket, ready to bliss out. I rest my head on my lullaby pillow and watch the “Northern Lights”—mesmerizing mood lighting beamed from the ceiling and side screens lining the cabin. This might be the closest thing to hygge I’ll ever find at 35,000 feet. A satisfying customer experience indeed.

HYGGE (pronounced “HUE-gah”) is a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.

 

Bilingual Lullaby Pillow

Bye bye and hushabye,
Can you see the swans fly?
Now half asleep in bed I lie,
Awake with half an eye.
Hey and welladay,
Over hills and far away,
That’s where the little children stray
To find the lambs at play.

– An Icelandic Lullaby

 

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March 8, 2016

Road Map for Content Writing

 

Content_Writing

A Writing GPS: The Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Next Piece of Content [Infographic]

A step-by-step process? Really? Why not just wing it? Why not just… write?

Because in writing, argues Ann Handley, process is necessary. Because, as she says, you need a road map to get you to where you need to be.

Handley’s handy GPS gets you from one place to another: “from discombobulated thoughts to a coherent, cogent piece of writing.” Numbered steps prompt you to pause and think:

1. What’s your business goal?

2. How does your idea relate to your readers?

3. What credible sources and data support your idea?

4. What format would best communicate your point? (Blog post, infographic, case study?)

5. Who is your audience? (Write to one person. Period.)

Now start writing.

Write, walk away, rewrite, walk away. Write, edit, edit again.

Pass it by a co-worker or read it to your cat. Proofread. Polish. Is it ready to publish?

Call to action.

Check the 12 steps. Have you left readers hanging? What should readers do next?

Subtly prompt, nudge, guide, steer or drive in the right direction to reach the desired outcome or destination.

Now push the button and pat yourself on the back. Stretch, breathe, crack your knuckles, relax.

Before you write your next post, read Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Writing Ridiculously Good Content.

Because, as Ann says, “in today’s content-driven world, writing matters more… not less.”

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