October 24, 2014

Lamentations of the Heart, Soul, and Mind - In Honor of My Mom and Grandma

The "tl;dr" summary 
Today marks both the 8th year of my mom's anniversary in heaven and 3rd for my grandma.

In remembrance of both these godly women, I am dedicating the song “Lamentations of the Heart,” a summary of the book of Lamentations, and some thoughts from the contrasting beauty of life and death in moments of my own lamentations.

Dark Night of the Soul - Lamentations of the Heart by Philip Wesley

If there has ever been anything that has astounded me the most, it's trying to determine the value of art and aesthetics. Sure, as a marketer, trying to figure out why Willem de Kooning's "Untitled VIII" sold for $32.1 million will always boggle my mind.

"Untitled VIII" sold for $32.1 million at an art show in New York

But why do we care about beauty?

Does placing a photograph from Ansel Adams change the atmosphere of a room compared to one without it?

Does playing baroque music improve your performance, temporarily boost your IQ, and aide in lowering stress and anxiety? If so, is there any shared benefit when you listen to dub-step, death metal, or dance-pop instead?

Do we care about the words that are used, even if it communicates virtually the same message?

This past year, I've begun to weight the importance of these transcendent (incorporeal?) matters. From studying the power of George Whitefield, George Herbert, and C.S. Lewis in their writings and rhetoric, to the effects of culture on the arts, and perhaps just as much, the arts affects on our culture - what once seemed elusive now began to take concrete form.

In anticipation of the anniversary of both my mom and grandma going to heaven, who in God's sovereignty both passed away on October 24th (2006 for my mom, 2011 for my grandma), I've prepared a piano piece, a partition of God's Word, and some personal reflections since this time.

Lamentations of the Heart by Philip Wesley


“After a painful divorce and major life changes, solo piano artist Philip Wesley channeled his deep emotional angst into his music, rising up to become one of today’s most popular solo piano artists in the country.” 
“Before and during my own divorce, I felt like my life was over.  Like being in a deep, dark pit, escape felt hopeless.  I felt truly helpless; it was the darkest and lowest point in my life.  However, I took those gut-wrenching emotions and channeled it into my art.  The result blew me away...” Excerpt from Philip Wesley's website. For more great music, check out his works at www.philipwesley.com.

The Lamentations of Jeremiah

Woodcut for "Die Bibel in Bildern", 1860. Lamentations of Jeremiah.

It is not too common that you hear people sharing about the great time that they've had reading the book of Lamentations in the Bible. Though brief, it is of no surprise that most of this book is, well, a lament from the prophet Jeremiah.

After the destruction of Jerusalem from the brutal hands of the Babylonians, Jeremiah expresses his raw emotions as the city lies desolate and barren. Yet in the middle of great pain and sorrow, Jeremiah likewise points to the mercy and faithfulness of God.

In the first four of his five poems (with the 3rd using 3 lines per letter), Jeremiah utilizes an acrostic to express his grief, perhaps to signify the totality of the matter, from A-to-Z, or aleph to tav. Although I do not know Hebrew well enough to verify this, other scholars mention that the 5th chapter still as a similar rhythm to it as the first four.

Jeremiah also writes in a chiastic structure, meaning that with however many points are used, the first point relates to the last point, the second point to the second-to-last, and so on, with the middle point being the major climax.

A simple outline of Lamentations:

1   The misery and destruction of Jerusalem
     2   God's punishment of Jerusalem
          3   A prayer for mercy
     4   God's severity of Jerusalem
5    The prayer for restoration of Jerusalem

I think it wise to note that Jeremiah was very meticulous in his writings during his time of mourning. How often do we see this in our culture people make light of or gloss over the pain and puzzlement of suffering?

I heard from many people that “my mom/grandma are in a better place now.” Yes, true, and praise God that He saved them from the punishment of eternal separation that they (and you and I) deserve!

Have you come to consider why there is such great pain? Have you stopped to consider what may happen the moment you will die?

I wrestled with understanding what God's purpose was through these events in my life. A year before my mom died, I spent time reflecting on the life of Job. 

After facing the first round of disaster in which he lost all livestock, servants, and his 10 children in one fell swoop, he tore his robe, bowed before God and stated, 
“Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I shall return. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” Job 1:21.

William Blake Job's Tormentors c1785-90 this state 1800-25 British Museum London


Through this man's faith, I came to recognize that I came into this world with nothing, and I'll leave in the same way; with nothing. The only thing that will remain are the treasures that I lay up in heaven; the things that I do that honor and please God (Matthew 6:20).

There is a part of me that will never fully know the answer to why God allowed my mom and grandma to die. His ways are far above my own (Isaiah 55:8-9). And yet, I take great comfort too that perhaps I don't need to know those things, otherwise He would have revealed them (consider Romans 16:25 and Ephesians 1:9).

Throughout Lamentations, Jeremiah described much of the horrific suffering the children of Israel were going through as a result of their sin. 

But what is the central theme of Lamentations?

Even though the Israelites were greatly disobeying God (likened to an adulterous wife, spiritually prostituting herself to other gods) and thus facing the just wrath of God, God still is a God of hope.

Looking at the chiasm, we'd expect it to be in chapter 3, and there it is in verses 22-25:
“The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.”
No matter how far we have gone from Him in every wrong committed, we can ultimately find compassion and forgiveness if we repent of our sins; turning away from our old way of life and pursuing Christ.

“Restore us to You, O LORD, that we may be restored; Renew our days as of old” Lamentations 5:21

July 03, 2014

The One Thing a Marketer Needs to Do to Get You to Buy Anything

Advertising by "Wrote"

I've always found it humorous when people tell me that advertising doesn't affect them. They believe that somehow they are completely immune to its forces and for some reason, those big corporate knuckleheads just haven't figured it out.


Let's consider the Superbowl, which has been known to attract the most eyes (and not surprising also the most advertising revenue) of any event. If you take a look at this chart, you'll notice that the net price of a Superbowl ad has steadily increased since 1967.

2014 set a record not only for the most viewers, but also the cost of a 30 second ad, averaging around $4 million per 30 second commercial. That's a lot of money to throw around for something “that doesn't affect anyone.”

“Yeah, but I did not buy a bag of Wonderful Pistachios or Doritos, a Hyundai, Honda, Toyota, Audi and Volkswagen right after the SuperBowl aired.”

That's probably wise of you... considering that would cost you around $150,013.98 (gotta watch out for those Doritos, they're pretty pricey). But every marketer knows that they are in it for the long-haul as they first create awareness as a solution to your problem, increase your consideration of buying your product, and finally attempting to convert you to a buyer when looking to solve the situation you are in.

There are a lot of things that marketers have in mind as they develop their social media campaign, send out coupons, display their billboard, or print their ad. And there is only one thing a marketer needs to do to get you to buy: channel your desire towards their product.

A marketer is aware of a woman's need to feel attractive, a man's desire to be masculine, an average American's longing to become rich with no work, or a rich man's hunger to live longer. 

As creepy as it may sound, a brilliant marketer probably knows you a lot better than you do. The perceptive marketer knows the beginning, fulfillment, and reversal of a trend. He must be able to see the rising tide when it's almost imperceptible, sense which of the appeals in his product he should stress at any given moment, and always how to be there first.

The question then becomes, when does a marketer cross the line between guiding someone's desire and manipulation?

If we can get people to earn money by obeying the speed limit or create a game out of recycling, that seems beneficial for everyone. But if Facebook alters your News Feed to see if your emotions will change, then this is seen as unethical.

I must admit that to a degree, I'm still working out where the line is and when/how it gets crossed. Still, I write this so that you become aware that if you govern your decisions based on your emotions, don't be surprised that you will find yourself doing things you'd rather not be doing.

Do you believe seeing more ads would either benefit companies (because a person is more apt to see their message consistently) or less beneficial (because they are bombarded with several ads, perhaps causing them to ignore all ads they see)? In what ways have you seen advertising work well and other times not so well? Let me know in the comments below!

June 26, 2014

The Orator, The Lyricist, and The Marketer: Seeing Beauty in the Words We Use

“Right now, I would pay a $100,000 for 10% of the future earnings of any of you.”

“You could improve on that, many of you, and I certainly could have when I got out, just in terms of learning communication skills. It's not something that's taught... But if you improve your value 50% by having better communication skills, it's another $500,000 in terms of capital value. See me after the class and I'll pay you $150,000.”

Warren Buffet made this tongue-in-cheek statement to the hundreds of Columbia Business School students who attended a CNBC Town Hall Event with Bill Gates.

There is great value in the things we say and how we say it.

And there is great beauty in the words we choose. While at times I will simply write whatever words come to mind, other times I'll painfully labor several minutes over a single word or phrase until it perfectly communicates the exact thing sentiment I wish for it to convey.

But my decision is more than simply choosing a lavishly equal word from a thesaurus as I vainly embellish in my waxing to flaunt my diverse vocabulary (sorry about the unnecessarily complicated words, just wanted to make a point).

Do I write longer sentences in attempt to better communicate a single point that I want the reader to understand? Or keep it short? Maybe I offset one type of sentence with another type. Should I use simple words or convoluted, multi-faceted, and complex words? What about, things like, well... “superfluous” punctuation to change my rate of speech? (Seth Godin believes semi-colons are rarely needed; I beg to differ).

Communication is more than just the words we use

Yet even though I write to keep my readers interested and entertained in what I say, there is much that I cannot communicate through written word alone. Perhaps the greatest TV show I've ever seen prove to this is the Muppets.

Whether it be the single-worded Beaker, the unintelligent Animal, or the unintelligible Swedish Chef, each of the Muppet characters conveyed many more things than what they spoke.

When communication transcends words (and even the lack of them).

Consider this: if the power of what we communicated was just in the words we used and how we used them, of what value is there to music or paintings? Ever wondered what the fox would say without music? Though funny in its own right, there is a reason it has .05% of the views of the original music video.

Sometimes we can have a deeper appreciation when we understand the history and purpose of an item's creation. Taking that into consideration makes “What Does the Fox Say” even funnier, knowing Ylvis's initial intent to be created to fail and their satirical nature against meaningless but catchy American pop songs.

Okay, that's cool Quey, but what's your point?

As I've dived more and more into the world of marketing, I've been humored to see how the world responds to some of the silly promises marketers give them. Some of the time, I wonder if the marketers actually stopped to really think these things through. Other times, they are like Ylvis (the band that wrote "What Does the Fox Say"), laughing at the inside joke against us Americans.

Everyday, we are marketed to. Anytime you buy something, you've been “marketed to.” That's not inherently a bad thing, because, well, you know... you've gotta buy something sometime.

But on the other hand, that does not mitigate our responsibility in being aware of what we buy and why.

Ever experienced buyer's remorse? Feeling the sting of being buried deep in debt? 9 times out of 10 it is because a marketer has learned to appeal to your senses.

Again, the problem isn't in being marketed to, the problem is when we buy something because we are driven by our sensual desire.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to do something that could be seen as career suicide: I wish to educate the world of the both the glamorous and dark arts of marketing.

I will bring to light to the tricks of the marketing trade that we do to harness your desires to buy our product or service.

Sure, most of the world won't read my blog and not even all who do will want to make the mental adjustment. But for those of you who want to regain and be in control of your thoughts, finances, health, career, spiritual well-being, family, social life, and any other aspect of your life, I offer you my knowledge.

Why, you ask? Because I believe we've been told too many lies.

We've been strung along into doing too many of the wrong things. And if... IF somehow everyone knew the truth, then we would see the world for how it should be and the truth would truly set us free.

John Piper inspired much of what I wrote in this post, from his book "Seeing Beauty and Saying It Beautifully". He describes the beauty and power of words through the poet George Herbert, the orator George Whitefield, and the philosopher and author C.S. Lewis. 

As with much of Piper's works, you can download them as a free PDF on his website.

PS – If you ever get bored, you can find all the silly marketed items I've started to catalog on Facebook with the tag #‎lifethroughtheeyesofamarketer‬. Feel to post your own when you find some, though I ask you keep it clean and appropriate. My favorite so far is courtesy of Taco Johns.

Oh, and don't worry about my career, this will just make things... “funner” for all of us marketers if this dream comes true.