Strange Greeting Cards I Have Known

Cats with cigars. Comfort for the newly divorced. I explore the wild world of greeting cards!

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March 2014

I typically limit my fixations to Internet media, but lately I’m fascinated by “real life” greeting cards. Greeting cards are like congealed zeitgeist. They’re personalized memes for sale.

Unlike memes, greeting cards are intended for one person. They’re usually meant to express comfort, support, and/or love. Most Americans know what the typical greeting card is like. It is exceptionally inoffensive and quotidian, and it says something like “Happy birthday and many happy returns!”

Here’s an example of the typical greeting card message, although the actual card edges towards weirdness:

And then… then there are the really weird ones. I have been hunting these Weird Ones, tracking them through their habitat of indie bookstores and hipster boutiques. Behold my Instagram trophies:

Number One

This is probably my favorite greeting card of all time, yet I have no idea what the creator intended it for. I found it in a small stationery shop in Alameda and, to my eternal regret, I did not buy one. Nor did I record the shop’s name. I have only this photo to remind me of my greatest find.

I wish I’d bought 200 of these cigar-wielding cats. If I ever get married, they’d make great wedding invitations.

Praying Skeleton

This praying-skeleton card is from a hipster stationery shop near the Seattle waterfront. Like the cat with the cigar, I cannot imagine what this card is intended to mean. In what context would you send this card? Who would you send it to?

Sorry About Your Divorce

I like this divorce comfort card, actually. It’s relatively tasteful, considering its content. (I seem to recall that it’s on sale at Diesel Bookstore in Oakland.)

Better Than Facebook

The modern greeting card struggles to justify its existence in the face of social media. (This one’s from Merch, on San Francisco’s Haight Street.)

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Goldman Sachs’ Big Problem With Twitter

An interview with the elusive and anonymous man behind the @GSElevator Twitter account, which mocks Goldman Sachs by publishing terrible, inane, and breathtakingly arrogant quotes overheard at the office.

Topics: Social Media
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November 2013

I don’t know much about investment banking, but even I know that Goldman Sachs has a controversial history full of alleged misdeeds. The 144-year-old company is not famous for its openness, so there was a bit of a stir when it officially joined Twitter in 2012. One might say GS already had a Twitter presence, though: the “Overheard in the Goldman Sachs Elevator” @GSElevator account reportedly had 261,000 followers by the time @GoldmanSachs sent their first tweet.

Today, @GSElevator has over 520,000 followers — over seven times as many as @GoldmanSachs. It has been featured by media outlets from Gawker to CNN Money. In fact, the first Google auto-complete line after “goldman sachs” is “goldman sachs elevator.” This might be great for Goldman Sachs, but it’s hard to say because… well, here are some @GSElevator tweets:

Basically, @GSElevator is an anti-Goldman Sachs mini-blog. The person behind @GSElevator doesn’t use Twitter for conversation; the account is entirely devoted to mocking the company by publishing terrible, inane, and breathtakingly arrogant quotes overheard at the office. It used to include racist and misogynist quotes too, but the creator of @GSElevator decided to stop tweeting those in July, after he concluded that he was accidentally supporting the bigotry he abhors, and also because his agent advised him to stop. Because he has an agent. And he’s working on a book deal.

This could be seen as the ultimate example of a media debacle for the brand… but is it? I caught up with the elusive (and anonymous) Mr. Elevator by email to learn more about what inspired his online presence, what he thinks about the official Goldman Sachs Twitter strategy, and Twitter strategy at large within the finance world. Mr. Elevator has apparently been in finance for 15 years, though he hasn’t been with Goldman Sachs the whole time. That would imply that he likes it, right?

Or not. “I am very cynical for a few reasons,” he wrote to me. “1) People in this industry take themselves far too seriously. 2) There really aren’t that many people on Wall Street that are truly impressive as people, thinkers, or innovators. 3) For the most part, the job is not terribly difficult, yet bankers act like they are rock stars. 4) The culture is exceptionally deviant and morally deprived.”

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Brandopolis: A Big Brand Strategy Report

I spent the summer working on an in-depth report about content marketing and digital media strategy. I’m so pleased to announce that you can read it now!

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November 2013

Over the summer, I heard that a marketing agency called Distilled was seeking a journalist to cover the content marketing landscape. My heart was in my throat as I applied: The assignment sounded really interesting! I knew it would give me the chance to do plenty of in-depth research and analysis.

I’m really happy to announce that the results are in! Brandopolis: A Big Brand Strategy Report.

I had a great time working with Distilled, and I’m proud of the results. I read up on lots of major brands’ content strategies, and I interviewed marketers at those brands as well as the agencies they’re working with. I had the chance to sort out some of my thoughts about online media and to explore some questions I’ve been thinking about, like how social networks act in their early phases, and how marketers think about media differently from journalists.
Lydia Laurenson in front of a camera. Photo by Paul Garber
My favorite section of Brandopolis might be Early Adoption Stories, where I discussed what it means for brands to get into certain networks early — and how to systematize that. (But all the sections of Brandopolis are my favorite!)

Special shout-out to Paul Garber and Justin Oliphant at Compound Creative! They helped me in my time of need by recording my Brandopolis promo video. Paul also took this great photo of me in front of the recording camera, and my mother keeps sharing the photo on Facebook. (I love you Mom!)