Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
'It's only the unpopular ideas, that are capable of slowly gaining a few disciples until it's then possible for them to have an effect...because they are original'
Vivienne Westwood, describing, in effect, the notion of disruptive innovation.
The process of creating ideas and things which, on the face of it, often have characteristics that the mass market may not appear to want, or in many cases will be fundamentally opposed to and possibly afraid of.
But doing it anyway.
Friday, April 23, 2010
A lesson in how to turn a piece of direct mail in to a 'brand experience', in this clip courtesy of the Justin Basini Brand Marketing blog.
For me, one of the most powerful little touches is the hand written note that is is included. Fantastic.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Standing in the Post Office the other day I noticed the poster on the wall from earlier this year announcing a Royal Mail collection of stamps featuring iconic British music album covers from the last 40 years.
In a bizzare moment of syncronicity, I was listening to some old Public Enemy tunes while hanging about.
In 'Fight the Power' Chuck D asserts;
'most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps'.
In the Royal mail's collection, of course, none of the featured albums are by black British artists, or even bands with any non-white members.
Surely there could have been a place for a Soul 2 Soul, Specials or even the super iconic first UB40 album?
The mind-numbingly mild Coldplay could make way, for starters.
'Good evening, i'm from Essex, in case you couldn't tell.
My given name is Dickie, I come from Billericay and I'm doing very well'
Jamie Oliver's opening line from his TED Prize acceptance talk - 'I'm Jamie from Essex, I'm a chef' - echoing Essex's other favourite son, Ian Dury (un-selfconciously or not) but the embodiement of the base of contemporary successful branding.
In Chris Rojek's book on Cultural Studies he describes capitalism as having shifted into a new stage of 'cultural development in which branding, advertising and marketing link consumption with popular empowerment'.
We are witnessing this every day now, powered by the emergence of social technologies. There's plenty said about that elsewhere, so i'll leave that alone for a bit.
What I did find useful is what Rojek describes as the six key features of what he calls 'neat capitalism'. Comparing the approach of successful contemporary branding vs traditional capitalist 'corporations', of which the rise of Jamie's star (and others) is a case in point.
'I'm Jamie from Essex, I'm a chef'.
Jamie doesn't wear a suit, doesn't even describe himself as a 'business' person.
In fact he clearly distances himself from that world, in the same manner as Branson, Jobs st al before him.
For another example, just look at the current election lead-up and David Cameron, with his metaphorical and literal sleeves-rolled-up and Nick Clegg with the relaxed demeanour and open-neck shirt. Compared to that Gordon Brown's looking decidedly old-school.
2. Social Conscience
Conventional, traditional business and corporations are widely acknowledged as being at the root of many of the abuses of human rights, exploitation of labour and environmental damage amongst other things.
New branding challenges this and actively seeks to 'make a difference'.
Jamie's crusade to save lives through healthy diet is ,in effect, his 'enterprise'. The Food Revolution.
When Guy Kawasaki talks about 'make meaning first, the money will follow', this is what he is describing.
We mentioned Branson earlier. Virgin being the poster child of innovation.
Their approach being to look for sectors dominated by jaded, inflexible 'business cultures' and wading in in with game changing approaches. Air Travel, Mobile, TV have all been shaken up by Virgin's disruptive methods.
Jamie, similarly, being almost transmedia personified. No touchpoint being left 'untouched'.
4. Listening to (and partnership with) consumers.
Transparency, value, service are the cornerstones. The biggest mistake traditional business is making is paying far too much attention to it's own processes and needs ergo failing to connect with their customers.
We've talked about the new customer buying journey and passive/active loyalty in this space before. Being present when consumers are 'reaching out' for information and responding.
5. Being Flexible.
Again, listening to the market and looking for branding opportunities.
If Jamie ridgedly stuck in 'product' mode he'd still be in the kitchen in his dad's pub. In 'brand' mode he is not confined by narrow product category definitions and, like Branson, can happily apply the brand to any sphere. Restaurants, books, accessories, TV, even wine.
6. Entertaining (or Fun)
Doing good, making a difference (and making money) can be an enjoyable thing to do.
Albeit within a 'market' context (so let's not kid ourselves that it's somehow 'revolutionary'). But never mind the business logic, a smile (as in a yawn) is infectious. Po-faced is not a good look.
Note: As a mere advertising douchebag, this is my simplistic interpretation, if you are after the concise socio-poitical lowdown, I suggest reading Rojek's book ;)
See what I did there? Informality.
Friday, April 16, 2010
In an age where we distrust financial institutions more than ever before, this bit of branding by Montana Credit Union has a refreshing honesty about it.
The intro copy on the boring is sexy website reads:
“When it comes to your money, too much excitement is the last thing you need, Montana 1st Credit Union has been prudently boring the socks off Missoula for more than 78 years.
Just ask your Grandpa. Since 1931, we’ve been quietly doing what’s right for our members without any high-roller excitement. No corporate jets, no million-dollar salaries. Just great rates and outstanding member service, year after year after boring year.”
In ultra boring Courier too (for typography geeks).
Check out, some of their products:
- Plain Vanilla Auto Loans
- Mild-Mannered Mortgages
- Dull Home Equity Loans
- Safe & Stodgy Savings
Even the billboards mention nothing about the product, just the url.
They give away 'sensible' free ice-cream in the branches and even the strapline is disruptive: 'Boring since 1931.'
Informality, entertaining, innovative.
Take note Gordon Brown. You can still win this thing, mate.
Many thanks to thefinancialbrand blog.
Friday, April 09, 2010
Regular visitors to these pages will know that Malcolm was a big hero of mine.
Just last week I posted about lessons on creating a movement, inspired by Malcolm, Bernie Rhodes and Jake Riviera.
One of my favourite Malcolm nuggets is from a clip in The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle. Malcolm is facing the press who are outraged that a member of the Sex Pistols had reputededly thrown up in a bin at Heathrow Airport, to the horror of passers-by.
'People are sick all the time.
In fact people in this country are sick and tired of constantly being told what to do'.
It's poignant that Malcolm should pass away the day after the Commons passed the Digital Economy bill.
Well, we are still sick and tired of being told what to do.
A bill spun as 'protecting the creative industries' by creating legislation that would prohibit digital sharing of copyrighted material, films and music principally.
One clause allows the government to order the blocking of 'locations on the internet which the court is satisfied has been, is being or is likely to be used for or in connection with an activity that infringes copyright'.
'Is likely' being the key phrase. Many people are convinced that this refers to sites such as wikileaks, thus the anti-piracy spin is in effect a smokescreen for another, more disturbing agenda around free speech.
Malcolm would have had something to say about both issues.
Subversive ideas being his stock in trade, and Piracy as a business model was a key theme of his way back in 1980 with his post-Pistols protege's Bow Wow Wow.
C30 C60 C90 Go! being the pre-ipod, walkman generation's riposte to the 'home taping is killing music' bleat from the music business establishment.
It didn't kill music, and neither will digital file sharing.
Goodbye Malcolm, thanks for everything.
Pic from timesonline
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Bootmaker of choice, Dr. Martens celebrate their 50th anniversary by referencing its roots in British youth subculture - principly those with a musical soundtrack - via a mostly online campaign '50 years of Dr Martens'.
Contemporary popsters cover classic tunes from each of the five decades of Doc’s history, the tracks and videos available to download at drmartens.com.
Among the bands/songs featured are The Noisettes doing Buzzcocks (no 'the', please) 'Ever Fallen in Love' and this spooky take on Sham's 'If The Kids are United' by psyche-soul combo The Duke Spirit.
Tom Philips, creative director at Exposure New York who developed the campaign says...
“It’s a brand that people have tended to adopt from different subcultures throughout its history. What we’re seeing today is a whole new generation of kids picking up on the brand and giving their own slant on what it means and how it can be worn.”
So much for that, but, in all honesty, the big questions are;
Where are Kasabian doing original bootboys Slade?
Or howabout Miko doing Elton's Pinball Wizard out of Tommy?
There's also a conspicuous lack of any nod to the two-tone movement (the most Doc clad of any of the subcultures. Brogues and smoothes too, remember?).
And I dunno who, but someone should really have done the Slaughter & the Dogs anthem 'Where have all the Bootboys Gone?'
A potentially very cool idea that falls a bit short by playing it too safe. 6/10
thanks to psfk.
Post-punk, neo-marxist-situationist, critical-theorist funksters Gang Of Four have taken a leaf out of Nine Inch Nails book for the launch of their new collection ‘Content’, due in the summer.
Through a deal with Pledge Music, the band are looking to involve fans in the process of recording and releasing the album by offering unique product packages and experiences, available via ‘pledges’.
These include include a limited edition, cassette walkman, hand decorated by the band, featuring the first ever GO4 live performance on one side of the tape and the new album on the other – available for a £175 pledge.
Or if you prefer, for £950 you can fly by helicopter with the band for their performance at the Glastonbury Festival in the summer.
There’s a number of other pledges including one-offs (a signed ‘damaged goods’ guitar), and other musicians can have Andy Gill do a GO4 remix of their own track for a snip at £1500.
A cursory understanding of behavioural economics and you’ll understand the ‘framing’ of the main ‘product’ – the £100 'Ultimate Can'. Inside the can is a copy of the new album, a book of artworks by Jon King and Andy Gill illustrating and analysing the last 40 years of world history, ticket to a private view of an exhibition of said artworks plus a phial of authentic GO4 blood. No sweat and tears included, unfortunately.
This is the one fans will gravitate towards, methinks.
It gets more interesting when we learn that there is also to be a ‘Pledgers Only’ website rewarding those who have contributed with exclusive videos, live recordings, demos, and previously unreleased songs from the GO4 archives.
And as we would expect, the band are putting your money where their mouth is by donating a share of any profits from pledges to human rights campaigners Amnesty International and Plan International who campaign for child rights and the end of child poverty.
GO4 are now another band who have realised that it’s possible to make art, make a living and make meaning in the new economy – with integrity, without compromising, by connecting directly with fans, offering unique co-creation opportunities, access and experiences, and connecting fans with each other. This is how ideas spread.
No.6: “What are we all looking for?”
Professor's Wife: “Well, let's see. That gentleman over there. What do you think he's doing?”
No.6: “Tearing up a book.”
Professor's Wife: “He's creating a fresh concept. Construction arises out of the ashes of destruction. And that woman?”
No.6: “Standing on her head.”
Professor's Wife: “She's developing a new perspective.”
The Prisoner 'The General'
Thursday, April 01, 2010
This video, 'Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop' was created by Keitchi Matsuda a designer and film-maker student, from UCL in London.
A near future vision of the 'internet of things' thing.
'The latter half of the 20th century saw the built environment merged with media space, and architecture taking on new roles related to branding, image and consumerism. Augmented reality may recontextualise the functions of consumerism and architecture, and change in the way in which we operate within it.'
More Keitchi Matsuda at his website and vimeo.
Finders fee Contagious.
Following on from yesterday's musings on intelligence/talent being a process that constantly evoves rather than a hardwired 'thing', as I'm ploughing through Shenk's book 'the genius is all of us' there seems to be a nugget on every page.
This is double surprising to me as it's a book principally about biology, genetics and cognitive science, yet somehow feeding the left brain with factual stuff seems to fire off triggers in the right brain, therefore helping me figure stuff out for work.
As if reading my mind the following snippet from Friedrich Nietzche then flowed off the page...
'Artists have a vested interest in our believing in the flash of revelation, the so-called inspiration...shining down from the heavens as a ray of grace.
In reality, the imagination of the good artist or thinker produces continuously good, mediocre and bad things, but his judgement, trained and sharpened to a fine point, rejects, selects, connects...All great artists and thinkers are great workers, indefatigable not only in inventing, but also in rejecting, sifting, transforming and ordering.'
Someone once said to me that process of beginning to understand about the actual nature of reality and how 'things' are, is more akin to a 'remembering' of stuff that's been parked in the corners of the mind than a 'learning' of new things.
This week I've stumbled across a few bits and bobs talking about epigenetics.
'the study of how the environment modifies the way genes are expressed.'
Epigenetics challenges the conventional view that DNA carries all our 'heritable information' and is not subject to influence of external effects or those effects being passed on to further generations.
In essence, a scientific explanation of an element of the buddhist concept of esho funi - oneness of self and the environment.
This extract from the NY Times review of David Shenk's book 'The genius in all of us' tickled me enough to get the book.
Shenk is an advocate of the epigenitics thinking.
'...we’ve tended to see genes as a set of straightforward instructions, a blueprint for constructing a person. Over the last 20 years, however, some scientists have begun to complicate that picture.
“It turns out that the genetic instructions themselves are influenced by other inputs,” Shenk writes. “Genes are constantly activated and deactivated by environmental stimuli, nutrition, hormones, nerve impulses and other genes.”
That means there can be no guaranteed genetic windfalls, or fixed genetic limits, bestowed at the moment of conception. Instead there is a continually unfolding interaction between our heredity and our world, a process that may be in some measure under our control.'
In other words, 'intelligence' is not a fixed thing, it's a process.
The first page of Shenk's book features the longer version of the William James nugget in the pic above.
'Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damp, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources...stating the thing broadlt, the human individual lives far within his limits'.
Having said that, James reputedly claimed that it was only when he was under the influence of nitrous oxide that he was able to understand Hegel.
HT to Notes in Samsara