Felicia Zhang

Felicia Zhang

Advertising, Eating, Shopping

Passion In the Hustle

One of the most cliched traits people say about themselves is “passion.” Everyone is “passionate”, just like everyone is “busy.” To me, the word passion means an intense, extraordinary emotion towards one particular thing, something that is essential to one’s being. If passion has, instead, become a personality trait and, on top of it, it’s a trait that everyone possesses, can it really be called passion? If every person thinks they are busy, then that actually becomes the baseline of normal. If every person thinks they are passionate, what does that mean?

 

I question the meaning of the word passion, but I also think it’s important to anyone looking to work on a side hustle. As a proper (older) Millennial, I have been regularly getting together with smart friends, talking and thinking about minimally viable startup ideas that would be cool things to invest my time, energy, and money into. There have literally been zero ideas that have inspired any of us to break the inertia of our daily lives. I could have the most inspired conversation about how one idea would work, how to get customers, how to differentiate. But, when we go our separate ways, that idea remains in fairyland.

 

I recently read on Vinivius Vacanti’s blog that no one learns to code when it’s a nice-to-have skill. People will buy the books, maybe sign up to class, but they will only actually learn it when they need it, such as when a product doesn’t work, when there’s no one else who can do it, or when their livelihoods depend on it. That made me think - to me, by its very definition, passion can’t be applied to something that’s a perceived non-essential part of our lives. With these weekend brainstormed ideas, it’s no wonder none of us have done anything - we don’t have the feeling that if we don’t do this, we will die. Because it’s not true - we have plans. And jobs. And dinner reservations. Starting something has been made much easier with the breakdown of technological barriers, but I’m finding that there are still significant personal barriers to entry.

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Yahoo Answers and Brand Strategy

I’m a member of my generation and all, so I like Quora (especially for work). But in my heart of hearts, I have an inexplicable love for the low-brow weirdness of Yahoo Answers. 

I was thinking of a request I’d heard - everyone wants ads that makes the consumers feel deeply emotional about their brand. That’s usually as clear as a request will get. Sometimes, they go one step farther and clarify that an ad should encapsulate a cultural movement and make the viewer feel alive.

While this is a headbanger for me, this is an excellent request from the standpoint that if I were a brand manager, I would definitely want this. Of course I’d want my metal manufacturing brand (just for example) to make people feel emotional, to lead culture, and, most importantly, to enable people to feel alive.

I actually like challenges like this. It gives me something to shoot for - much more than say, let’s anniversary our ads from last year or let’s do a market share ad. From my perch, I just try to break it down to real, manageable bites before building the pieces back up to a big idea. What does it mean to feel alive? When do people feel the most alive in the first place? Does feeling alive evoke emotion? How can an ad possibly evoke any of this?

I thought about it myopically (focus group of one), and for me, I feel most alive when I’m in an act of doing - riding a Citibike in and out of NYC rush hour traffic, for example. I wanted to see what other people felt. Lo and behold, Yahoo Answers to the rescue. Some of the excellent answers below:

  • WHEN I’M SCARED TO DEATH AND JUST AFTER.
  • When I’ve just placed my fabrics in a very eye pleasing display. I get the physical rush of lifting some incredibly heavy weights and the joy of aesthetic perfection.
  • when i am with my best friend. doing flips off her couch while listening to system of a down!
  • When I cry.
  • whenever i’m in a place and think. I never thought i would be here.
  • (plus a lot of answers referencing orgasms)

I came looking for patterns or themes, and clearly, there isn’t one. However, that tells me something altogether different - it’s not the commonalities that could connect us to each other (and the brand potentially), but rather the differences. After reading the Yahoo Answers post, I think it’s an infinitely more interesting exercise to find out what makes all types of people feel alive and make a whole project around sharing that with the world. This excites me, because it’s not an ad, it’s a connection with the world where both a commonality - that we’re all mortal human beings - and our differences connect us to each other.

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I go out every day. When I get depressed at the office, I go out, and as soon as I’m on the street and see people, I feel better. But I never go out with a preconceived idea. I let the street speak to me.
- Bill Cunningham, NYT legend
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I grieve for what could have been, had we been walking by faith instead of by fear.
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…stop associating self-promotion with Kim Kardashian. Self-promotion is an inescapable part of today’s creative process. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one will.
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My Defining Career Moment #1

Sometimes, you will work on things early on in your career, before you really understand the pressure and magnitude of things, that will completely shape you professionally  Somehow, everything you work on after that circles back to that experience.

A few years ago, after working in banking and before business school, I worked at Cole Haan for three years. That in itself isn’t at all remarkable, but I happened to work there during the recession, when it was owned by Nike, and at the point when we completely re-branded the company. That re-branding was born out of desperate need, due to economic environments, margin requirements, and vendor agreements. We needed to be a brand that can create desire at full price at a time when everyone was putting the house on sale. We needed to appeal to Millennials - not just with cheaper products  but by understanding a new wave of culture. Working on that re-branding, as a young person on a small team, was eye-opening and life-changing. But most of all, it was FUN. It was the combination of being just at the cusp of a new cultural movement, understanding consumer mindsets, infusing heritage with relevance….it was the most fun I’d ever had, intellectually and creatively, at work. And I worked with giants - people who blew my mind with their thinking and their generosity in teaching.

Now, I’m in advertising after graduating from business school, largely because I was so heavily influenced by that experience. Thinking back to the work I’ve done for brands, especially for those looking to appeal to Millennials, my experience at Cole Haan still guides and influences me. The work still stands today, almost 5 years later - with next level executions. And today, when I talk to the exact type of people we were aiming for 5 years ago, they tell me that they now really like Cole Haan but didn’t used to a few years ago, and I am so proud and so happy. Because as a marketer, you should always ask yourself, did that work? And in this case, it’s a resounding yes.

Evolution of Cole Haan:

2008

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2009

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2010 (Inspired Life campaign)

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2011

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2012

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Sh*t Kanye Says About Kanye to the NYT

It [my instinct] has only led me to complete awesomeness at all times.

You know, if Michael Jordan can scream at the refs, me as Kanye West, as the Michael Jordan of music, can go and say, “This is wrong.”

I don’t know if this is statistically right, but I’m assuming I have the most Grammys of anyone my age, but I haven’t won one against a white person.

I remember when both Gnarls Barkley and Justin [Timberlake] lost for Album of the Year, and I looked at Justin, and I was like: “Do you want me to go onstage for you? You know, do you want me to fight”… I am so credible and so influential and so relevant that I will change things.

If anyone’s reading this waiting for some type of full-on, flat apology for anything, they should just stop reading right now.

Yeah, respect my trendsetting abilities. Once that happens, everyone wins. The world wins; fresh kids win; creatives win; the company wins.

I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means. I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it’s like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.

Source: NYT

This is AMAZING. Ironically, unironically - I love him for thinking this way and actually saying it OUT LOUD, to nothing short of the New York Times.

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Wish I were here right now. Pic taken from apple orchard in Eastern Washington (state) where the clear arid sunshine grows sweet, crisp fruit. I’m having the usual summer-in-the-country daydreams here in NYC.
From my Instagram archives.

Wish I were here right now. Pic taken from apple orchard in Eastern Washington (state) where the clear arid sunshine grows sweet, crisp fruit. I’m having the usual summer-in-the-country daydreams here in NYC.

From my Instagram archives.

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Congrats to Mr. Jason Wu for being named the new Artistic Director of Hugo Boss today. In honor of this momentous occasion, I’m not even going to say anything about this iridescent denim ensemble he designed  - not for his first collection 15 years ago, but for Resort 2014. 

Congrats to Mr. Jason Wu for being named the new Artistic Director of Hugo Boss today. In honor of this momentous occasion, I’m not even going to say anything about this iridescent denim ensemble he designed  - not for his first collection 15 years ago, but for Resort 2014. 

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Your post about derms is honestly a common experience...But be wary about derms who will recommend tons of treatments if you don't need them. Pretty much all of the treatments they recommended are out of pocket cosmetic treatments. They are typically one of the most major sources of income in a practice. Research, ask tons of questions, and think about what YOU want from your skin. That's how you get the right care. -Your friendly neighborhood derm nurse

Hey, thanks so much for your note. The beauty/derm industry is one that, even for the most savvy marketers, is easy to fall into. Philosophy describes it well - it’s Hope in a Jar. Thanks again - and would love to hear more from your perspective as well.

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Alright y’all. I’m turning 25. Can’t do shit about it except drink.
- Getting this email from a friend when you’re turning 30 is depressing as fuck.
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“Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last—the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.” ― E.B. White, Here is New York

In New York, wonderful things just sometimes find you. I stepped out of my hair salon on West 17th St, happened to cross the street and look up, and saw this amazingly beautiful picture. In one moment and with one image, this iPhone pic captures all the reasons I love New York.

“Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last—the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.” 
― E.B. White, Here is New York

In New York, wonderful things just sometimes find you. I stepped out of my hair salon on West 17th St, happened to cross the street and look up, and saw this amazingly beautiful picture. In one moment and with one image, this iPhone pic captures all the reasons I love New York.

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Connect with me on every social network.
- Co-worker to another co-worker on her way out.
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Baby fashion realness. Lovin it. Wearing to work tomorrow.
glamour:

Can’t get enough of Hailee Steinfeld’s (award-winning!) Suno look (via Best Dressed at the CFDA Awards)

Baby fashion realness. Lovin it. Wearing to work tomorrow.

glamour:

Can’t get enough of Hailee Steinfeld’s (award-winning!) Suno look (via Best Dressed at the CFDA Awards)

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Girrrl, I don’t need you! I’m out with two clients and a gay guy tonight. I’ve got my shit together.
- Hilarious co-worker’s thoughts on being set up by X, for X’s family member, then being told said family member is not ready to settle down.
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