Color Schemes: Semiotics & Sports

Today, Yahoo! Sports launched, a daily magazine that will publish lengthy articles and reports on athlete style, sports technology, and a new blog called FutureSport.  Today, Erica’s article debuted on the site.  Take a look her piece on “Color Schemes:”

What gives a team an extra edge in a big game? Is it the athleticism? The coaching? The chemistry? Or could it be color?

We all know how Boise State University painted its football field blue as a way to draw attention to the school. It worked. And the team has won on that field – a lot. Since the dawn of the blue turf, the team has not lost a home WAC game, it is 77-2 at home since 1999, and Boise is now a national power despite its small size and budget. Coincidence? Maybe not.

The use of color – and how it resonates in the brain – is still a fairly new science, and we don’t yet fully understand its power. But color has long been a part of sports culture. We associate our favorite sports teams by hue: the Red Wings, White Sox, Cleveland Browns, the Delaware Blue Hens and Syracuse Orange (my personal favorite for obvious reasons) are among a few teams to incorporate color into their name. And the meaning behind color affects nearly every area of life: clothing, graphic design, packaging, food choices, etc. But color can also be a powerful psychological tool. It can be used to send a positive or negative message, encourage sales, calm or incite a crowd, or even make an athlete pump more iron.

In academic circles, this is known as semiotics – or, in other words, the study of signs and symbols. That includes color. Uniforms, equipment, team logos, and even stadiums all employ the “psychology of color” as a way to convey messages — whether they know it or not. This is similar to the way that the color of your car reveals a lot about you: your personality, your traits, and even how satisfied you are with your life.

So when we look at the connection between sports and color, what does all of this mean? Research has shown that women from the U.S., Germany and China find men more attractive and desirable when they are pictured in red. (I argue the same can be said of men, as women have long-known the power a red dress and some red lipstick.) Another piece of research found that referees are biased in favor of athletes who wear red. It has also been found that wearing red is linked to a higher probability of winning across a range of sports. Some years ago, a study of 56 seasons of English soccer found that, on average, teams in red won more home games than teams in other colors. Another report showed boxers dressed in red often performed better. Perhaps this is because our perception of red has an evolutionary basis, with our forebears knowing it as the color of blood, power and danger. Athletes may have a subconscious reaction when they see opponents wearing red, putting them at an inherent disadvantage.

Does this mean sports teams should wear more red? Maybe so. When opponents are equally matched, the effect of color can be enough to tip the balance in the favor of the team wearing red. As semiotics advances, maybe we will see NBA and MLB teams take after the NHL and NFL, in which the darker color is usually worn at home. But a disclaimer: when there is a clear talent advantage, color has no effect on outcome. Sorry, but there will be no color doping scandal.

As for blue? Some studies are now showing weight-lifters can lift more in a blue gym. In fact, almost all types of sports performance are enhanced in blue surroundings. People tend to be more productive in a blue setting because they are calm and focused on the task at hand. (This is probably good news for travelers on JetBlue.)

Does that mean Boise State is more calm and focused than opponents? Could be. Blue also fosters creativity, and we’ve seen what head coach Chris Petersen can do with play-calling under pressure. Of course the sample size is too small to make conclusions, so athletic directors might want to wait for more information before heading out to the Behr or Glidden outlet. And there’s really no viable response for teams like the Tulane Green Wave. But perhaps eventually Michigan should sub out its Maize Rage fan section for a Blue Crew. And maybe the Detroit Lions should paint Ford Field blue; they have nothing more to lose.

Either way, expect more and more teams to get an edge by wearing red and painting the town blue. Though be careful. Eastern Washington recently colored its football field red. With too much wear and tear, the Eagles may be playing on pink.

There will be more to come on the future of sports, so stay tuned.


Happy 2011…We’re Back!

Between the holidays, the New Year, eating way too much and traveling way too much…we are back and ready to start 2011 off with a bang!

Today, Jared is speaking to to the ultrasound division of GE at a conference in Phoenix, and Edie is speaking to Walmart in Arkansas.  A great way to start the year.  We’ll continue to keep you posted on new programs, talks, online content, etc.

Happy 2011!

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Behavioral Androgyny: Marketing Cues Hint at Masculinization of Girls

Disney just released Tangled, its 50th animated film. The film is also Disney’s latest animated feature that follows the fairy tale tradition and/or features a princess character. However, this could be the last of a long and storied line of such Disney films, as the company ponders a reinvention of sorts. Disney is now hinting that it is ready to deviate from “princess” films, fairy tales and musicals – and move more emphatically in a different direction, a direction that is tailored more toward action themes, masculine characters and boys’ preferences. This shift in thinking may be due (at least in part) to a desire to directly compete with the wave of highly profitable live-action blockbusters that have captivated both kids and adults alike in recent years.

About ten years ago, Disney launched its Disney Princess franchise. Disney Princess has been extremely successful from a commercial standpoint and has grown into a huge consumer products and experiences franchise. So, taken in a vacuum, it certainly appears that Disney is capitalizing on the power of traditional girl appeal.  It should then follow that any counter-movement from the company would seem almost wholly counter-intuitive. However, we always caution our clients and readers to consider possible counter-trends that may occur in response to (or in spite of) established trends. In this case, we may be seeing the underpinnings of a newly-emerging trend toward a not-so-subtle masculinization of girls, whereby boys’ preferences with respect to certain media or product categories are considered paramount and more universally appealing – and thus more lucrative.

Several media, game and toy companies will likely follow suit, and may already be doing so. If this dynamic were envisioned as a Venn diagram, it might look something like this:

Marketers may identify the most profitable segment with real critical mass as the segment where boy-oriented products overlap with products that have universal appeal. In essence, the assumption is that girls are far likelier to engage in male-oriented themes (action, sports, etc.) than boys are to engage in female-oriented themes, which traditionally include softer characters like princesses. So, the first marketing consideration would be the desire to avoid alienating the boy market with any new releases. Add to this that girls as young as young as 5 or 6 are increasingly placing more importance on their appearance and social status – and thus not viewing things like princesses as “cool” – and you have a profound undercurrent of social change brewing.

Other Topics to Consider:

The far-reaching effects that title IX legislation has had on gender balance in collegiate athletics is also relevant here. Proponents suggest that such legislation has simply expanded opportunities for females in competitive athletics over the last four decades. However, opponents argue that those new opportunities have arisen at the expense of funding male athletic programs where there is more inherent participation and interest. Regardless of where one stands on the issue, it is clear that more women are encouraged and able to participate in activities that were once deemed as predominantly “male.” Girls once considered “tomboys” for playing sports are now considered to be just as feminine as their counterparts. Thus, widespread social acceptance of girls liking “boy” activities, products and media could be an important consideration.

Also consider that many boys who once relied on athletics as a vehicle for releasing aggressive energy are now being forced to harness those energies – often unsuccessfully – in academia where they are increasingly failing, dropping out and/or being diagnosed with myriad behavioral disorders.

As a separate (but similarly relevant) consideration, recent research indicates that women are primed to be more attracted to strong, aggressive, typically-“masculine” men when selecting a casual mate or dating partner – yet they become more attracted to sensitive, intuitive men when choosing a long-term mate or father to their children. Within this area of research is an intriguing study that examined how women are more immediately attracted to men who display “masculine” scars, but that they view those same men less favorably when selecting marriage partners. Will a potential increase in androgynous characteristics among members of both genders affect these long-engrained principles of attraction?

Broader Implications:

What are the long-term repercussions of all of this? For the last several years, observers have asserted that male culture – particularly urban male culture – in the U.S. is becoming increasingly “metrosexual” (i.e., adult males – and sometimes even adolescent males – are spending much more time focusing on their appearance, fashion and beauty than ever before), and therefore more feminized. Will both of the aforementioned trends (feminization of many male adults; masculinization of many female children) continue? And if they do continue, would they truly constitute opposite trends, or are they actually signaling the same dynamic? Perhaps, similar to the centrist movement we often see with political ideology, greater percentages of those that encompass both genders are moving from the extremes (i.e., displaying traditionally strong gender tendencies) toward a more amorphous middle. It will be interesting to consider whether much of this is being driven directly by marketers who have a financial stake in shaping these markets and behaviors – or whether this is more the result of an organic evolution borne out of the reinforced behaviors in today’s social environment.

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Future of Aerospace

In the November issue of Professional Pilot Magazine, I wrote an op/ed on what I see as one potential future for the aerospace industry:

The movement of people and goods is increasingly showing the impacts of technological developments.  At a time when the costs associated with travel, transportation and shipping will increasingly matter to the bottom line, it will be imperative to rethink the way in which we view transportation in the coming years.  Some factors – energy concerns, environmental issues, terrorism and crime, etc. – are significantly affecting all aspects of travel and transportation. Other changes are incremental; some are revolutionary, in some ways bringing to reality what were formerly the fantasies of science fiction writers.  In the face of concerns about the environment and negative impacts of travel, the Internet (and virtual reality) will significantly reinvent the way in which we traditionally viewed transportation, and more specifically, aviation.

In our shop, we define virtual reality as tricking the brain into being somewhere else, doing something else, in real time.  By 2011, four out of every five people who use the Internet will actively participate in some sort of virtual environment.  This means that 1.6 billion out of a total 2 billion Internet users will have found new lives online. The virtual economy is growing at an exponential rate, and environments such as Second Life have morphed from a virtual playground into a force for change in the real world. As virtual objects and services gain real world value, a flourishing internal economy has emerged.  And today’s virtual worlds are primitive compared to what they will evolve into in the next few decades, as virtual reality comes closer to “real” reality.  As virtual travel becomes billed more and more as an environmentally-friendly alternative to real world travel, companies in the aviation industry may become more involved in this space by setting up profitable businesses there, information centers, experiential learning centers, etc.  It will also mitigate the need for excess baggage, passports and costly flights!

Airlines could use virtual environments to prototype new planes, terminals or airport lounges, thereby allowing consumers to test-drive features in virtual space before they are introduced in the real world. At a time when financial difficulties and ecological worries may limit actual tourism, a cheaper climate-stable virtual world can enable the aviation industry to navigate the future effectively.

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The Emergence of a Global “She-conomy”

The emergence of a global “She-conomy” will have a major impact on everything from education to marketing and branding to fertility levels. There are already many more women than men enrolled in and graduating from universities. Women have just overtaken men in the U.S. as the majority in the workforce. Women increasingly serve as household breadwinners and white-collar executives – and they are widely considered the most powerful and growing demographic with respect to global consumer power. Many indicators point toward women comprising a greater percentage of white-collar professional positions going forward, while men who have been displaced will need to find alternatives – perhaps through vocational training or entering trade professions.

In the “she-conomies” that are emerging, communication and leadership styles that resonate with, inspire and include women will also be in greater demand.

Here are some noteworthy statistics:

  • Women account for more than half of college students and half the work force, which has delayed motherhood and marriage. For the first time, a majority of mothers, 54 percent, have a college education, up from 41 percent in 1990.
  • Women have suffered less than men in this recession. They were more likely to be in health care and other sectors/jobs that were not hit as hard as construction and manufacturing. They are also increasingly likely to have the education required. One in five men 25 to 54 is not working. The jobs that many of these men once had will not return. Institutional demand for workers with limited education is waning.
  • Globally, women total $13 trillion in yearly earnings and could reach $18 trillion in the next five years, representing a growth market twice as big as China and India combined.  But many women still feel underestimated and undervalued in the workplace, and few companies have responded to their need for time-saving solutions. While more mothers are working, more have considerable guilt about leaving their children at home. Thirty-four percent of mothers with kids under the age of 18 opt out of the workforce altogether, thereby depriving the workforce of a vital source of talent.
  • Japan is suffering from a productivity problem because they are squandering one of the world’s best educated labor forces on mundane jobs that do little to make the economy grow. Japan’s ability to emerge from the recession will depend partly on its ability to make its service sector – which makes up 70% of Japan’s economy – more productive. Evidence of low productivity in the service sector is everywhere. Retailers employ twice the average number of workers as their peers in other countries. Women are central to this issue because they are placed in menial jobs, and their talents and skills are wasted.
  • 1 billion additional middle class women expected to enter the global economy over the next decade. If China and India each represent 1 billion emerging participants in the global marketplace, then this “third billion” is made up of women, in both developing and industrialized nations, whose economic lives have previously been stunted, under-leveraged, or suppressed.
  • We are also learning more about the impact of testosterone levels in the workplace. We have long known the link between males and testosterone, but we are now learning more about how it applies to women. However, we have yet to discover the relationship between high testosterone women and productivity.

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‘Hacking’ Memories & Manipulating Behaviors

In our shop, rather than always dismissing science-”fiction” as just that — fiction, we look at how it may be informed by current technology that can profoundly impact the future. Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek was always to introduce both sociopolitical themes that were metaphors for current reality and technologies that represented a feasible vision of tomorrow based on the trajectory of modern innovation.

We’ve seen many popular contemporary films like ‘Terminator 2,’ ‘Minority Report’ and ‘Surrogates’ showcase technologies that seem radical at the time of release, but that are already becoming feasible. Along the same lines, techniques related to those used to manipulate dreams in the recent film ‘Inception’ may be coming to a social networking site near you soon…in the form of subconscious product preference manipulation.

Using a strategy of visual trickery and psychological manipulation, consumer products companies may soon begin to carefully insert product placement into people’s personal pictures stored on social networking sites like Facebook. Because of the complex interrelationship between pictures and memories, the photo alteration may effectively place advertisements into people’s subconscious, waking minds. By taking advantage of implanted memories, product placement in photos on social networking sites could profoundly affect brand loyalty. Experiments have already proven that targeted false memories can alter shopping patterns.

This has the potential to become a very effective advertising strategy for consumer products companies — and thus a very attractive revenue stream for social media platforms that serve as the gatekeepers. However, as with any emerging technology/strategy like this — we have to be mindful of potential obstacles, including the myriad ethical considerations that are sure to arise. Consider the following scenario: Since both the user and their contacts view their social networking photos, altered photos could, in fact, manipulate the memory of all viewers — with or without their consent.

At this point, no company has implemented this type of social networking-based strategy for profit. However, once this process mainstreams, it could spread beyond advertising applications, and into many other areas. What will people think about this? Does it represent exciting possibilities? Will knowledge of these processes scare consumers away from certain social media outlets and brands, or will ambivalence take hold? Regardless of the the general public’s perception, this is an area that companies will undoubtedly seek to monetize, and where serious dollars likely will be made in coming years.

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Cashless Utopia

Last night, Jared and I (Erica) had the pleasure of attending PayPal’s Cashless Utopia Event at the Chelsea Art Center.  PayPal’s aim is to usher us in to this utopia by establishing itself as the standard mechanism by which we pay for everything – online, on mobile devices, and even in the physical world. For PayPal, the difference between online and offline, in many ways, is starting to disappear.  PayPal’s apps for Apple’s mobile devices and for Android allow users to find merchants that accept PayPal, and then pay for their purchases electronically.

At this great event, we were able to tour PayPal’s 7 “passport destinations.”  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Mobile: PayPal’s Bump technology enables iPhone users to bump their phones together to exchange cash.  iConcessionStand is a new app that lets you order food and beverages from concession vendors, such as those found at a sports stadium, and pay using PayPal.
  • Student Account:  This allows teens to shop in stores and online with PayPal, while their parents can monitor all account activity and transfer money to them.
  • Travel: Bill Me Later is a convenient and secure payment method which allows users to defer payment for your purchases for up to 6 months.  The Mail A Postcard app allows you to turn a picture into a real postcard.  The cost of the postcard and the stamp is deducted automatically from your PayPal account.
  • Home & Lifestyle: PayPal has teamed up with P&G to provide a way to search for great deals online and shop on your mobile using PayPal.

Some important charities were also represented: Save the Children, Donors Choose and the ASPCA.

I encourage everyone to check out PayPal’s blog to learn more about their cool initiatives.

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Exciting New Strategic Partnership With GfK Roper Consulting

Check out the press release below which announces our exciting new partnership with GfK Roper Consulting:

GfK Custom Research North America announced today a strategic partnership between its trend consultancy division, GfK Roper Consulting, and futurist firm, Weiner, Edrich, Brown, Inc. (WEB).

This partnership will bring together consumer trends insights that GfK Roper Consulting provides to its clients through its various services, including flagship programs Roper Reports® US and Roper Reports® Worldwide with insights from WEB.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with WEB to further provide our clients with the tools that they need to understand, manage and profit from change,” says Holly Heline Jarrell, group managing director of GfK Roper Consulting. “By combining forces with WEB, we are providing a new level of insight on the future that marry our rich consumer perspective with key social, political and economic trends impacting business. We believe this powerful combination will enable our clients to anticipate and understand the future in an unparalleled way.” Edie Weiner, president of WEB, further comments, “We are delighted to be able to partner with GfK Roper Consulting and thus bring together two premier organizations to provide our clients with a greater understanding of what is happening in the world today and what will be happening in the world in the future.”

The first collaborative effort from this strategic partnership will focus on the current global economic climate and the opportunities that it presents, and is planned to launch in mid-November.

About GfK Roper Consulting
A division of GfK Custom Research North America, GfK Roper Consulting is comprised of GfK’s syndicated consumer trend services — GfK Roper Reports® US, GfK Roper Reports® Worldwide, GfK Roper Green Gauge and the GfK Roper Youth Report — which monitor consumer values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors in the US and more than 25 other countries. GfK Roper Consulting’s mission is to help clients turn insights into inspiration and foresight into advantage worldwide.

About GfK Custom Research North America
Headquartered in New York, GfK Custom Research North America is part of the GfK Group. The GfK Group offers the fundamental knowledge that industry, retailers, services companies and the media need to make market decisions. It delivers a comprehensive range of information and consultancy services in three business sectors— Custom Research, Retail and Technology and Media. The no. 4 market research organization worldwide operates in more than 100 countries and employs over 10,000 staff. In 2009, the GfK Group’s sales amounted to EUR 1.16 billion. For more information visit Follow us at or on Twitter @gfkamerica.

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Jared Weiner at NACS Conference

This morning, Jared spoke in Atlanta at the annual NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) conference.  He  spoke about psychographic shifts among consumers for an audience that is generally comprised of convenience/petroleum retailers and retail product suppliers.

Here are some highlights from his talk:

On the surface, the current recession might seem similar to past recessionary cycles, but the true impact this time around is striking. Unlike past cycles where the pendulum returns to the middle, there has been a reset that has resulted in a true transformation. By better understanding the ethnography, lifestyle, life stage and macro changes to consumer behavior, you will be better able to meet the new needs of your transforming customers.

He also touched on the 8 growth areas of the emerging Metaspace economy; the shifting pricing strategies brought on by consumer psychographics, and trends relating to transportation, social media and youth.

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The Science of Spirituality

As the world enters the next stages of technological revolution, what we are beginning to unravel about the universe is rapidly propelling us to the frontiers of the unknown.  Now, and in the years to come, all of our bodies of understanding will be profoundly changed.  What we did, what we made, what we believed and what we valued are all undergoing fundamental transformation.  What we measure, still, is what we can see, what we can touch, and what we can replicate.  These measurements are no longer appropriate and effective for the world into which we are moving.  We are only beginning to realize that we need to learn how to measure different things differently if we are to thrive as people and as institutions.

Recently, we have heard a lot come through the pipeline as it relates to the Theory of Everything, String Theory and the Akashic Field.  All, in essence, claim that every point in space is connected with every other point; and every thing with every other thing. Other theories are gaining more mainstream traction, too.  The growing field of Evolutionary Panpsychism, for instance, posits that consciousness is universal and applies to all things.  This thinking represents a revaluation of the natural world in which human and non-human are one.  If our thinking shifts to view the world so holistically – with no duality between humans and nature – what are the ethical consequences? Will this eventually serve as a source for more compassionate and ecological values?

Many believe human communication and interaction is limited to our sensory channels.  Our views and experiences are restricted by our own senses.  The human, for instance, only sees within a small portion of the light spectrum.  The five senses are the key instruments that we have in life to perceive the world and make our way within it.  We are just beginning to learn how to unleash our higher – or heightened – forms of seeing and hearing that could link us to the greater universe of consciousness, just as our outer senses connect us to the external world.

We are learning that we are linked by more subtle and encompassing connections as well.  For all of human history, the wider universe of waves, frequencies and vibrations was virtually unexplored…until now.  Here are a couple of examples:

  • In the laboratory, modern people display a capacity for spontaneous transference of impressions and images, especially when they are emotionally close to each other.
  • Reliable evidence is becoming available that the conscious mind of one person can produce repeatable and measurable effects on the body of another.
  • Intercessory prayer and spiritual healing, together with other mind- and intention-based experiments and practices, yield impressive evidence regarding the effectiveness of telepathic and telesomatic information- and energy-transmission.
  • The chanting of monks and the sounds absorbed in the womb from the mother have long been known to affect the physical being, but imaging research is now confirming the effects on the brain and development.
  • Questions about what is happening to bee populations around the world – populations vital to the food chain – often center around the effects of confusing signals in the environment, disorienting them.
  • New forms of therapy are emerging which are being used as personal tools for growth, transformation and healing: sound healing, consciousness healing, transcendental meditation, magnet therapy, chakra clearing and balancing, out-of-body experiences, clairvoyance and ascension, pranic healing and seichim (learning how to harness personal energy systems and living light energy).

The fusion of cosmology, quantum physics, quantum biology, neuroscience and parapsychology (among many other factors) are now beginning to reveal that our bodies and minds are not just biochemical systems. This convergence of seemingly disparate fields of study may in fact provide a physical-scientific basis for universal consciousness. Further, it demonstrates that certain spiritual or transcendental states of collective consciousness could have a valid basis within scientific circles. This delicate interplay is also dramatically altering our traditional notions of time and space.

What we are seeing is that a new form of spirituality is arising, not out of ideology, but out of scientific hypotheses and applications, especially as science gives more nods to the non-linear, non-rational and non-tangible.  Concepts like virtual, interconnected or appropriate (appropriate technology (AT) is designed with particular consideration to the environmental, ethical, cultural, social, political, and economical aspects of the community it is intended for) could likely gain a new significance. The “science of spirituality” will continue to evolve, especially as the lines between the two become increasingly blurred.