Understanding the Visual Draw of Men

Understanding_VisualWe’ve all heard that men are visual. We’ve even heard that they are more visual than women. We’ve also been told that this difference is significant. So monumentally different, in fact, that women can’t quite understand what it’s like to live in a man’s visual world.

In a recent video hosted by Dennis Prager of Prager U, Dennis clarified some of the visual differences between a man and a woman. His examples were all related to sex, since this is one area more easily explained. However, the difference between a visual person and a literary-oriented person are far more reaching than the one life category of sex.

The Internet shifted from being a literary to a visual platform in 1994 with the first release of pictures and direct broadcast images. This expanded to far more homes in 2010-2014 with the introduction of broadband connections. Today there are hundreds of millions of visuals being consumed daily across the globe.

This increase in video-based Internet connections causes many women to believe they have become more visual. The great decline in the written word suggests there is something to the idea. But being visually versus literarily driven is not determined based on the amount of visuals consumed. It is established by how the visual impacts the individual.

I had the opportunity to observe a woman in her natural life setting as she interacted with the Internet, TV, and a book. She considered herself a visual person, as she explained during our conversation about visually driven men. She never understood how her thoughts of being visual were skewed by the fact that she was not actually visual.

When she read her book, I tried to converse with her, but nothing seemed to get through. Once I became overly rambunctious about chatting, she set the book to the side with extreme anger for me having interrupted her story. She was a literary-based person and I had interrupted her flow.

During a movie she watched on TV, I interrupted her often and she had no problem responding. She even took her eyes off the screen numerous times during our conversation. Pulling away from the visual medium took her little effort. In fact, she got up and walked into the kitchen several times without concern for having missed any visual information.

The Internet gave an interesting twist to my observations. When she was reading text, our interactions were just as adversarial as our book experience. But she had no qualms about being interrupted while watching videos online. The pause button was simple for her to push regardless of the visual story unfolding.

The woman who thought she was highly visual didn’t understand the drive that visuals have on men, nor the understanding that she was not consumed by the visuals. When we discussed it, she tried to point out how visual she was due to her inability to pull herself away during one part of the movie. I asked what was happening at the time and she mentioned her transfixiation with the dialogue—a literary, not visual element.

To help women understand men’s visualness, I’ll explain it using literary terms. Visuals are typically a man’s first language. Little boys do not chatter it up like little girls do, instead they keep a close eye on their toys and make sounds as they picture the dump truck backing into the construction zone filled with its load of gravel.

When I was at a Fortune 50 company a woman handed me a stack of reports to review before my afternoon meeting with our male executives. The pile was just shy of an inch thick. After reviewing the materials, I designed a one-sheet dashboard report with seven graphics.

I placed the thick report in front of each executive and handed them my one sheet. Within two minutes the action steps were decided and the executives asked if they had missed any key points from the report. I merely pointed out the woman’s name who worked diligently to produce the report and suggested they give kudos for her impressive and detailed efforts.

They agreed, got up, leaving the reports on the table, and took the dashboard report. The visual tool was a reference for our newest venture announcement minutes later, which was based on the report. The executives never read the report, but they referenced the visual dashboard report daily. Why? Because it gave the same information using their first language of visuals.

After my last speaking engagement, I was surrounded by business people wanting more information. One person noticed the notes for my keynote presentation and asked if he could take a picture of it. Within a few seconds men were lining up to do the same. For longer speeches, I use a sketchnote outline.

My notes are made up of a series of visuals depicting each portion or step of my speech. The pictures are directly correlated to my talk. I’d say it’s similar to an infographic that rapidly explains my entire talk with pictures. In fact, when these moments happen there is always one or two people who demonstrate their prowess by citing the part of my talk for each picture they see. They are amazed at how well the picture captures the talking point, which of course is why I do it.

I’m a visual person who has never been able to give a talk from a written outline. However, I found that longer talks are easily presented using a sketchnote outline. Why? Because I’m visual. Or, I can put it another way…I read, write, and speak visual first, English second.

So what language drives you…visual or literary?

© 2018 by CJ Powers
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Story and Audience Targeting

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The number one problem producers and pastors have in common is their ability to bring the right story to the right audience. Both have to target multiple age groups with a story that’s broad enough to touch everyone, yet only a percentage within the larger group will find that the story resonates with them.

To compensate, many pastors will tell several stories within their sermon to help demonstrate how the teaching applies to each generation. Filmmakers do the same thing by having some scenes aimed at Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z. The scenes must play well enough for all generations to accept it as a functional part of the film’s story, but the generation that the given scene is aimed at will find that particular scene speaking into their lives.

I wrote a screenplay titled The Professor that is aimed at a four-quadrant audience. Some scenes are specifically for Gen Z, while other scenes jointly aim at Millennials and Gen Xers, and a few scenes speak directly to Baby Boomers. The results are clearly spot on when my script is read by each generation. Not because each of my scenes work for everyone, but because there are specific scenes that speak into each generation’s life without detracting from the other generations reading the story.

To develop a story that speaks specifically to each generation takes a tremendous amount of work. The four-quadrant audience, which is broken out between old and young, and male and female, is the basis for each generational viewpoint. In other words, to speak directly into each guardant within each generation will take a minimum of 16 scenes. Those details are better shared over several chapters in some future book I might write.

For now, I’m going to share the three base drivers that must be used to target a story to the right audience. Since only one driver can be clearly used through the protagonist, I’ll use the hero model for my explanation.

Story is about change. The person who changes the most is the protagonist or hero (yes, there are exceptions, but I’m trying to keep this post short). The hero has a worldview that is driven by a core belief that can be categorized as lawful, moral, or ideological.

LAWFUL: The hero believes in institutions like government, religion, schools, and any other man-made system used to protect or grow our communities.

MORAL: The hero takes responsibility to make a difference when something goes wrong with our institutions or thinking. This might be a whistleblower, vigilante, or a (fed up) underdog.

IDEOLOGICAL: The hero believes in something that is overarching and sees each life as a small pebble in the greater scope of humanity. However, the hero also understands that each pebble might be the one that creates the avalanche, like the final straw on the camel’s back.

From these three vantage points we can quickly direct the perceptions of the audience as they follow the hero on his journey. Gen Z is all about the ideological and they want it in the form of what is real. They can see through the fake or the trumped up.

The Millennials and Gen Xers both relate to the moral and feel a responsibility to correct the wrongs put in place by the Baby Boomers. And the Boomers, well, they are all about the lawful and supporting the institutions that made their generation great.

Pastors find their words about the institution of communion and worship resonating with the Baby Boomers. Those pastors who empower church members to help those hurting in the community find their messages speaking to the hearts of the Millennials and Gen Xers. And, those pastors who talk about the actions we must take in order to participate in God’s overarching plan find Gen Z embracing every activity required of them to fulfill the big picture.

The pastor who wants to teach on prayer would tell Boomers to pray without ceasing according to the scriptures. He’d teach the Millennials and Gen Xers how prayer changes us and thereby changes our communities for the good. To Gen Z he’d teach the truth that some prayers go unanswered, but for the ones that are answered, they are only answered when they are prayed. For God’s overall plan to work, we each have to pray daily for our part in the matter and for others.

The filmmaker has to break things out in a similar fashion. If he is making a film that suggests we can’t be great living a life of apathy, the message must be contoured for each generation. A scene designed to resonate with a Boomer might include the hero learning the discipline of football basics. The Millennial and Gen Xer might be moved by a scene about the hero realizing that he must perform well at the game to earn a scholarship to lighten the financial load of his parents concerning his college tuition. The Gen Z scene could show the hero playing defense across from the starting offensive line to prepare them for the sake of all the students counting on a homecoming win.

By targeting each generation with the right portion of the story drives box office success. Films that only reach one generation must be all the more targeted in its marketing approach to draw the right crowd. By creating a universal story that can touch multiple generations, a filmmaker and a pastor can stir far more people with the right message than others who don’t target their story.

© 2018 by CJ Powers

 

The Film and Corporate World Flex or Die

PosterIt was an amazing weekend for the box office. Independent film Beautifully Broken exceeded the film distributor’s (ArtAffects) lifetime box office gross (including adjustments for inflation for its previous titles) in its first weekend with just under $500K as a limited release. However, the small ad budget restricting the film’s promotions and the lack of available screens for expansion in this saturated market might kill the picture’s chance to surge this weekend. In other words, this weekend might be its last in theaters.

Crazy_Rich_AsiansCrazy Rich Asians was the biggest winner with a $25MM take at the box office. While most films’ ticket sales drop 35-60% during its sophomore weekend, Crazy Rich Asians fell less than 6%. This is in keeping with the new movement of audiences looking for lighter films with redemptive endings. You can read more about it in my post titled Gen Z Drives New Stories.

Filmmakers always need to be ahead of the curve to lead shifts in the marketplace, rather than try to catch up to the trends. Corporations have also been forced by the demands for innovation to be flexible and agile with every market shift. The good news is that trends are not only trackable, but they give off hints 3-5 years in advance—for the alert CEO.

IMG_0142In my latest talk, No Box Creativity: Building Innovative Teams, I speak to the patterns of change that every company faces. From entrepreneurial and boutique businesses to Fortune 500 companies, I share case studies of why some companies fail and others expand.

Companies like Radio Shack and RCA disappeared due to inflexibility, while Britain’s GKN, originally a coal mine, became a cutting-edge aerospace company since it launched 144 years before airplanes were invented. GKN’s flexibility allowed it to transition to iron ore and become Britain’s largest producer by 1815. Shifting again in 1864, the company produced fasteners and became the world’s largest producer by 1902. By 1990 the company sold off its fastener business and provided services to Boeing. GKN clearly knew how to think out of the box.

Earlier this year, Adobe and the Forrester Consulting group released their findings from a survey dedicated to learn more about creativity in business. Numerous Fortune 500 companies participated in the survey of which 82% of the companies saw a correlation between creativity and business success.

With innovation being a big influencer in the marketplace among startups at the turn of the century, most people weren’t overly surprised by the findings. The real surprise came further into the survey with the revelation that while companies saw the correlation, only 26% did anything about it.

The first two decades of the 21st century have started to see numerous out-of-the-box oriented companies meet their demise due to disruptive innovation brought on by competitors. Large agile companies like Lucent Technologies with 165,000 employees quickly dropped to 25,000 employees due to its improper handling of its own disruptive innovation—IP phone technology switches. Lucent was soon taken over by Alcatel, which was then absorbed by Nokia.

The business community in a short period of time shifted from a box mentality, to an out-of-the-box mentality, to a no-box mentality. Unfortunately, only an estimated 10% of the market shifted with each change and another 45% attempted to catch up. This left 45% of the businesses to waver and shrink, if not totally collapse like Radio Shack and Polaroid. The survivors that held on either purposely or accidentally stumbled upon a sustainable customer need that had not yet been disrupted.

The survey made it clear that innovation is the only thing that will save businesses in our future ever-changing, no-box marketplace. That innovation can only flourish when led by creative thinkers that understand our new intangible marketplace. Companies desiring to be leaders in this new frontier are forced to learn more about No Box Creativity to drive their innovations and catapult their disruptive market share-grabbing initiatives.

If you know of any companies looking for a guest speaker on surviving the trends using creativity to innovate, please let them know about my latest talk No Box Creativity: Building Innovative Teams.

© 2018 by CJ Powers

 

Gen Z Drives New Stories

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Screenwriters will shift the perspective of their screenplays next year to reflect the lives of Gen Z (born after 2001, although some groups have labeled them from 2000) as they move into decision-making roles in America. In 2019, this upcoming generation is also expected to outnumber the Millennials. According to Bloomberg analysis, our population next year is estimated to be made up of 32% Gen Z and 31.5% Millennials.

The tonality of many films will also shift from dark stories to happier and more optimistic ones, in keeping with Gen Z’s outlook on life. This generation is the first to have only known a digital world. They were raised during the war on terror and the global recession, driving them to seek out things associated with joy, peace, and happiness. To capture this market, studios will have to shift to stories that bring hope and joy to audiences.

Faith-based production companies will have to be careful with how they proceed. Films with a utopian worldview go too far to the opposite extreme and will be seen as silly. This is due to Gen Z being surrounded by a tremendous amount of darkness in their upbringing, and yet they were able to learn how or found ways to overcome it. Films with redemptive endings will quickly capture the market. Stories depicting true life with happy endings, which Gen Z can directly relate to, is expected to dominate the box office.

Having planned ahead for this shift in the market, several companies will join the streaming and video-on-demand competition. Due to the disposition of Gen Z for happier programming, you’ll see Disney and WalMart enter the market in 2019 and 2020. In the meantime, Netflix will hit its saturation point and may have to rebalance and reduce its original programming to meet the slowing subscription growth and the influx of Gen Z decision makers.

Niche companies like Pure Flix will also have to adjust to the shifts in market demand. Their primary (Baby Boomers) and secondary (Gen Xers) market is rapidly shrinking, so Pure Flix will have to develop new lines of programming to satisfy the Millennials and Gen Z. However, they might have a wider window to adjust than most companies, as their evangelical audience lags in the area of change by 10-20 years depending on demographics.

This lag effect began in the 1980s with religious programming on TV stations, and then moved into Christian Contemporary music. Prior to the 1980s Evangelicals created cutting-edge entertainment that competed head-to-head in the general marketplace. Most Christian entertainers today are no longer able to manage a livelihood in the field of entertainment, let alone create cutting-edge films, TV shows, and music.

While there are less than 15,000 TV stations (includes low-powered stations) still working that once carried a few hours or more of religious programming each week, today only 100 TV stations broadcast evangelical shows. The story online is a bit different with Roku offering about 200 religious channels. However, most of these channels are large churches uploading their sermons for their congregation with little narrative stories to choose from.

The top three companies perfectly positioned for this new generation are Disney, Marvel, and Pixar. Their upcoming shows have just enough darkness in them to keep the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers coming to the theatres, while stepping up the Gen Z joy indicators. As for the Millennials, the only satisfaction aimed at this people group comes from the Millennial stars playing the characters within the Gen Z stories.

For those tracking the entertainment news carefully, most have already noticed the companies that led the release of darker films a couple decades ago have hit financial and political struggles. If they haven’t already, most will see bankruptcy looming or larger companies buying out their libraries.

The best news about these major changes in the industry will be at the independent level. Film budgets will slowly drop, making name artists more available for new cutting-edge and uplifting stories aimed at Gen Z. Redemptive stories will be salted with romance, chivalry, and patriotism. Heartwarming films like The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins have even begun to see a resurgence.

This is not to say that people will long for the sappy; those days are over when it comes to Gen Z. This generation wants reality with silver linings. They know that happiness can be found in the darkest of situations, especially since darkness can only prevail for a shortened duration.

I’m looking forward to these changes and can’t wait to see all the films written with Gen Z in mind. The doors will be open for more mainline films with universal stories that are filled with redemptive qualities, wholesomeness, and morals.

© 2018 by CJ Powers

Responsible For Your Personal Brand

PERSONALI was walking down a corridor when a woman stepped in front of me and shared her amazement for the depth of my soul. I took her comment as a compliment until she added, “So why don’t you live more like the stories in your book?”

The book she referenced was a series of true life events that I had experienced, which meant I did live like the stories in realtime when I actually lived out those moments. But for some reason our casual meetings had never allowed her to see any of those attributes of mine.

She was convinced that I was a shallow man. At first, I thought it was her fault for never taking time to get to know me. But after pondering the idea, I realized that I was in control of what I presented and withheld.

In that moment, I realized I was the only one in control of my personal brand. It was my responsibility, and the neglecting of it was a choice that could promote the opposite of who I am.

Frank_Cutitta“A personal brand is really a story that highlights your attributes,” says Frank Cutitta, founder of the Center for Global Branding. “This story will help others understand who you are and where you fit into your industry’s or company’s marketplace.”

While many people have created personal brands for themselves via their choices of what is published on Facebook, they really aren’t aware of how the style or imagery represents them. Few people know how to assess their posts, which becomes the foundation of their personal brand or story.

What You Play Up Stays Up

Raynard_JacksonRaynard Jackson, President & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C. public relations/government affairs firm, who is regularly on CNN, MSNBC, BET, FOX News, and C-SPAN, giving his analysis on subjects from politics, culture, foreign policy, and economics, recently addressed the black community about their personal brand.

“What have Black folks done that causes police to totally undervalue our lives and causes others to feel threatened by our mere presence and immediately feel the need to call the police?”

In a controversial statement, Jackson put the onus of brand on the individuals. He also suggested things that fuel misperceptions can create an artificial reality, including the television shows like Empire, Insecure, and The Quad that showcase and popularize Blacks in very negative roles.

“We glorify the thug life in our music; scantily-clad Black women have become the standard in music videos,” he says. “Put yourself in the shoes of a White person riding public transportation that sees a train full of Black teenagers with their pants hanging halfway down their butts, calling each other n–gers, and constantly grabbing their crotches.”

“Or the police pulling up to a crowded park and hearing loud rap music being played talking about ‘f-ck the police’ or ‘b–ch this’ or ‘b–ch that.’”

“We have almost thirty years of negative images about Blacks throughout every media platform available and now you want to act surprised that people have these negative perceptions about us? Come on, man. Let’s be real.”

“Don’t tell me you are a hoe and then act surprised when I treat you like one. Don’t introduce me to your best friend by saying, ‘this is my b—ch, Jennifer’ and then get mad when I call her a ‘b–ch.’”

“Maybe Whites believe in the old adage that says, ‘when a person shows you who they are, you better believe them.’”

“So, what I am saying to Black folk is pull up your damn pants, stop calling each other n–gers in public and private, stop calling each other b–hes and hoes and thinking these are terms of endearment because they are not.”

The film, television, and music industry is known for focusing in on stereotypical angles of life for any given community to save development time. Breaking away from these misperceptions can be done with a personal brand.

Develop Your Personal Brand Before Society Does

A personal brand matters and happens every time we communicate in business and socially.

Your personal brand will develop your online (and offline) reputation, increase trust in your authority and ability, make you more memorable, and open networking opportunities for your future. Therefore it is worth our time to take responsibility for our personal brand and not leave it to stereotypes or the media.

The following steps will help you take control of your personal brand.

  1. Define who you are professionally.
  2. Define who you are socially.
  3. Craft responses on key topics that reveal who you are.
  4. Adjust your online presence to match up with 1-3.

The goal is integrity, to make sure you seem like the same person across all of your social media sites. If you want certain things to remain personal, then adjust your online settings to keep it private. The key is taking responsibility for your image or personal brand, and not leave it as prey to be gobbled up by stereotypes or the sum of misperceptions.

(Raynard Jackson quotes are attributed to the Freedom’s Journal Institute’s article titled “Black Hollywood is Complicit in Negative Perception of Black Community” by Raynard Jackson.)
Copyright © 2018 by CJ Powers

New Negligent Parenting Laws

Old Enough for Bad Movies

Few states tell us how to raise our kids. Illinois is now one of those states that says, “any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor” is being negligent.

The new law suggests that I would’ve needed a babysitter when I was 13 years old—a teenager. The funny thing, I was a babysitter for the little kids around the block at age 12. I was responsible, being raised by a police officer and teacher, and I knew how to keep the kids entertained. I even handled a faulty gas line fire both calmly and efficiently, making the parents thankful they hired me.

A few high school and college kids I knew were far less responsible and couldn’t manage an emergency if it happened. They allowed the kids under their supervision to wreak havoc, creating a huge mess for the parents to clean up after their return.

And what about the fact that our 13-year-olds are allowed to watch a single occurrence of natural frontal nudity and hear two F-words in a PG-13 movie, but they can’t stay home alone for a subjective unpublished time frame?

The law does allow you to leave your child for a “reasonable” amount of time, but if a neighbor makes a call suggesting negligence, the state can take the child into custody without a warrant. Once a court date is provided, the judge has 15 non-exhaustive factors to consider in determining the guilt of the parent. Unfortunately the courts do not provide a list of criteria to help the parent determine if his or her 13-year-old can be left alone for a short time.

I’m a firm believer that most parents know if their 13-year-old can be left alone and for how long. I’m also confident that the government has no idea if a young teen is capable of being left alone, regardless of the period of time in question. This perspective suggests that the new law was put in place as a tool to punish a very small percentage of people who are negligent when it comes to raising their kids.

The problem with a law aimed at so few, rather than being a law for the majority, is that it opens the door for someone wanting to abuse or hurt a healthy family. It only takes one phone call to engage the system and pull a kid from their home until the issue can be resolved in court.

Worse yet is the list of 15 non-exhaustive factors a judge can use in making his or her determination. This list is not available to the general public (at least not at the time I wrote this blog), which means parents don’t know the criteria that their parenting skills are being judged on.

And, what happens if the political landscape changes and a new list warns the judge about children living in what might be considered an overzealous “religious” home? Can the government eventually define healthy parenting as those who “protect” children “from” religion until they become adults? That’s the way it is in some countries.

Whenever laws are put in place to punish the few instead of protecting the many, we find more restrictions placed on our lives, which takes away another piece of our freedom. Historically, specific and objective laws were designed for the majority of the people and the few oddball cases were determined by the judge based on the intent revealed by the majority of the laws.

Abuse becomes too prevalent when laws become highly subjective and parents are being measured by a list that is not available for their review. Our society has become so focused on protecting the few that we’ve lost sight of how we protect the majority.

I hope we protect all children who face abuse, but we do it without jeopardizing the freedom of the majority of our children. There has to be a better way. Shouldn’t lawmakers look for it?

Copyright 2018 by CJ Powers