Forbes: The Brand Story Problem

UM marketing professor quoted in Forbes story on marketing strategy

The notion of brands telling stories, presumably stories that customers will find sufficiently intriguing to motivate trial or cement loyalty, is both admirable and flawed.

Admirable, in that at its best, storytelling is an irresistible marketing elixir.

Flawed, in that many brands simply don’t have interesting stories to tell.

Storytelling can illuminate the value proposition, help the consumer better appreciate its components, evaluate its benefits and determine its appropriateness.

But not every brand was born in a garage and nurtured with a founder’s foresight and grit.

And not every brand can backpack into rainforests in search of elusive and differentiating organic ingredients.

Perhaps the best that a more prosaic brand can do when it comes to storytelling is to showcase its consumers.

The Best Opportunity For A Brand Story

When does a brand story work best?

“Consumers are typically most receptive to brand stories when they are making decisions and purchases based on emotion, rather than rationality,” says Christopher Newman, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Mississippi.

Read the full story here.

Harpers: Surviving a Failed Pregnancy

A moving, feature-length article by Meek School assistant professor Vanessa Gregory appears on the June cover of Harper’s, the nation’s oldest general interest monthly magazine.

Gregory’s article, “Surviving a Failed Pregnancy,” combines memoir and reporting to explore the rarely discussed subjects of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. The narrative examines personal resilience, medicine’s relationship to the female body, society’s response to pregnancy loss, and reproductive politics.

Readers have described the story as “eloquent” and “beautiful.” Research and writing took more than six months, followed by a lengthy submission and editing process.

This is Gregory’s second published piece with Harper’s, a magazine celebrated for its fine writing and original thought. The magazine is known for publishing literary luminaries such as David Foster Wallace, Annie Dillard, and Willie Morris.

Gregory’s work has also appeared in The American ProspectThe New York Times, and Garden & Gun. She was a Middlebury Fellow in Environmental Journalism and studied literary nonfiction at the University of California, Berkeley. Read the entire story. 

USA Today: Ole Miss takes concussion research head on

OXFORD, Miss. — In the fall, Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will be the only facility in the world equipped with the capability to detect the mechanism of a concussion in athletes in real time.

It’s a huge concept, and it goes far beyond bragging rights, and even a little beyond the exponentially increased safety of the athletes on the field. This technology, and the network of researchers, professors, and others behind it could ultimately change the world for victims of concussions, traumatic brain injuries and one day possibly autism and learning disorders.

The technology as it applies on the field begins in an “X patch” engineered by X2 Biosystems, a company that does similar hardware and software for all 32 NFL teams, as well as hockey, soccer, and the Department of Defense. The patch is put either behind an athlete’s ear or in his mouthpiece and it registers impact to the head.

Assistant Engineering Professor Matthew Morrison says the underlying technology in the patches allow medical professionals to tell the angle of the impact, as well as the rotational forces. Eight wireless spots around the field can instantly access the data so that the team’s athletic staff can better assess what a player is dealing with internally after a hit. Read the entire story.

WTVA: Former UM Artist-in-Residence Passes Away

HICKORY, NC (WTVA) — Actor and founding member of the Mississippi Film Commission James Best has died.

The actor, remembered by many as Roscoe P. Coltraine in the Dukes of Hazzard, died Monday night after a brief illness.

Click here to read the full story from WTVA.

HRC Blog: HRC President Chad Griffin and Dustin Lance Black Travel to Mississippi

On Tuesday October 14, Chad Griffin, HRC’s President and Dustin Lance Black, Academy Award-Winning screenwriter of the groundbreaking 2008 film Milk, are continuing their tour through Project One America States as they participated in a forum at the University of Mississippi about the critical importance of LGBT people and their straight allies sharing their courageous stories and coming out.  On Monday, Griffin and Black were at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas. Both events coincided with the recent celebration of National Coming Out Day (NCOD) on October 11, now in its 26 year.

Through exclusive videos and a week-long blog series leading up to NCOD, HRC has been sharing the diverse experiences of people from all walks of life who’ve come out, and highlighting stories via Facebook, Twitter, and for the first time, Snapchat. HRC also released a compilation video of celebrities and public figures who made the decision to live openly earlier this year, including Former Miss Kentucky Djuan Trent  and actress Ellen Page, who came out at HRC Foundation’s inaugural Time to THRIVE Conference.

When people know someone who is LGBT, they are far more likely to support equality under the law. HRC encourages LGBT people and straight allies to share their stories and has resources available that can be helpful to start those conversations. Learn more about the history of National Coming Out Day as well as helpful coming out guides by visiting HRC’s website.

Read the entire story. 

Clarion-Ledger: Mississippi Soldier Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

JACKSON, Miss. – When Army Reserve Sgt. Randy Sandifer of Pinola deployed to Iraq as a sophomore at Ole Miss, he didn’t realize he was on a journey that would take him not only overseas, but eventually would tie his name to one of the most prestigious honors in the world.

Sandifer, now 30 and a ballistics expert at the Army Crime Lab in Atlanta, is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for research he did while stationed at Abu Ghraib prison — research that ultimately would lead to the closure of the controversial facility.

Read the full story here.

New York Times: Mississippi Death Row Case Faults Bite-Mark Forensics

In one of the country’s first nationally televised criminal trials, of the smirking serial murderer Ted Bundy in Florida in 1979, jurors and viewers alike were transfixed as dental experts showed how Mr. Bundy’s crooked teeth resembled a bite on a 20-year-old victim.

Mr. Bundy was found guilty and the obscure field of “forensic dentistry” won a place in the public imagination.

Since then, expert testimony matching body wounds with the dentition of the accused has played a role in hundreds of murder and rape cases, sometimes helping to put defendants on death row.

But over this same period, mounting evidence has shown that matching body wounds to a suspect’s dentition is prone to bias and unreliable.

A disputed bite-mark identification is at the center of an appeal that was filed Monday with the Mississippi Supreme Court. Eddie Lee Howard Jr., 61, has been on death row for two decades for the murder and rape of an 84-year-old woman, convicted largely because of what many experts call a far-fetched match of his teeth to purported bite wounds, discerned only after the woman’s body had been buried and exhumed.

Read the entire story.

Inside Science: Astronauts May Grow Better Salads On Mars Than On The Moon

Any explorers visiting Mars and the moon will have to boldly grow where no man has grown before.

Setting up lunar or Martian colonies will require that explorers raise their own food. New research finds that simulated Martian soil supported plant life better than both simulated moon soil and low-quality soil from Earth. But many problems must be solved before astronauts can pick their first extraterrestrial eggplant. The study appears in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Research like this is needed to fine-tune future plans for growing plants on Mars, which I think is going to be a very useful thing if we want to have colonization or even a shorter-term stay on Mars,” said John Kiss, a plant biologist at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, who did not participate in the research. “It’s hard to carry all the food with you.”

Read the entire story. 50 Best Colleges for Summer School

University of Mississippi named as one of top locations to study

Students looking to boost their academic credentials over the summer needn’t give up their precious vacation time completely. Some university campuses are naturally conducive to a healthy work-life balance; some are set in cool college towns replete with outdoor restaurants and cafés, happening music scenes, and interesting cultural activities; and yet other campuses are ideally placed for major music festivals. What’s more, many U.S. universities accept visiting and even international students, so as well as staying put, there’s also the option of heading somewhere new and exciting.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the 50 most desirable U.S. colleges at which to attend summer school. The following institutions were selected based on their proximity to hip summer festivals, surf-ready beaches, majestic mountain scenery, hiking and cycling hotspots, water sports-friendly lakes and rivers, and action-packed towns where there’s always something going on.

Click here to see the full list.

Washington Post: New case again demonstrates duplicity of embattled Mississippi medical examiner

In February, I wrote about a Fifth Circuit decision rejecting the claims of a defendant who was convicted based on improbable testimony from the controversial medical examiner Steven Hayne. Over the course of about two decades, Hayne nearly monopolized Mississippi’s criminal autopsy referrals, performing 1,500-1,800 autopsies per year all by himself. Most of these were done for the state’s prosecutors. Hayne’s testimony was responsible for several convictions that later resulted in acquittals after a new trial, dismissed charges, or DNA exonorations.

I’ve been covering this scandal for the better part of a decade now. Hayne has been found to have given testimony completely unsupported by science, regularly worked with known charlatans like the discredited “bite mark expert” Michael West, and has been sharply criticized by colleagues for his improbable workload, sloppy practices, and dubious testimony. He has also been shown to have perjured himself about his qualifications. Despite all of this, and despite the fact that there are literally thousands of people in prison due in part or mostly to Hayne’s autopsies and testimony, neither state nor federal courts have shown any interest in determining just how much damage Hayne may have done to the criminal justice system of Mississippi (and to a lesser extent Louisiana). The Mississippi legislature hasn’t shown much interest. And state attorney general Jim Hood continues to defend Hayne. (Hood often used Hayne during his time as a district attorney.)

In past cases, Hayne has included in his autopsy report the weight of a man’s spleen, and made comments about its appearance, even though the man’s spleen had been removed four years prior to his death. In an autopsy on a drowned infant, Hayne wrote down the weight of each of the child’s kidneys, even though one of them had previously been removed. In one murder case, Hayne documented removing and examining the victim’s ovaries and uterus even though the victim was male. Read the entire story.