Sunday, 16 December 2007

Branded Utility

One of the reasons why I like the folk at Anomaly in New York, Piers at PSFK and Zeus Jones in Minneapolis is because of their understanding of where our business is heading. Way too many advertising people are in a state of delusion when it comes to the overall efficacy of the marketing communications that we do. I'd argue that a lot of the wallpaper we paste up conveys a given amount of trust because there's an implicit cost factor when viewing paid up media space. Something along the lines of "If you can purchase that media space and come up with some reasonable production values, then you must be a reasonably reliable brand". That's it folks. We buy trust most of the time.

Most wallpaper is reassuring. If you're not convinced then live in a room stripped of it for a while.

So on Friday after a quintessentially self indulgent and non engaging advertising awards ceremony that almost defined how sclerotic our business has become, I came across a terrific quote on Dino's bookmarks for Robert Stephens, the founder of Geek Squad as saying

I'd be inclined to agree. However there is a momentum in the beginning of this third millennium for marketing as doing. The digital era seems to be ushering in a breed of young folk who have no time for crafted messaging and are intolerant of not getting the information they need in the quickest way possible. I've never seen anything like it before. It only takes a browser to crash a few times and the digital savvy young folk of today delete the free software as if its a cancerous tumour. What happens when Wikipedia or Google's new idea Knol start to do product evaluation? The kids who are mostly digital natives, only want the information and that is a trend that those of us who grew up in the propaganda age (frequency and penetration) of marketing communications need to think long and hard about. The middle path is marketing as doing and there are some great ideas that have been put forward by the folk I mentioned at the beginning, in posts over here, here and here. That doesn't mean I'm anti advertising. It means I'm against bad advertising and for good information delivered cleanly and with the minimum of fuss.

I got thinking about this because I just happened to pass a blood giving bus close to the Xidan shopping area above, and I thought how smart the location was and doing this with a mobile blood donor unit. Somewhere to lie down for 10 minutes and give blood without really interrupting the day, I wanted to donate myself but the nurses didn't speak English. Then I got thinking if Nokia was a brand that could get involved in branded utility activity like this, given that its not too far removed from the traveling roadshows around the rural and semi urban areas that are often done in the mobile phone category over here. You know, communicating a need and helping encourage trial and action.

Later on at Wangfujing I saw them once more. So I thought about it again. I mulled over the notion of 'Connecting People' and it occurred to me that there probably isn't any greater connection than the one being done in the bus above. Probably that's an idea that is too visceral for most people's taste but the notion that the way a brand speaks is the only thing that matters, is the gravy train thinking of 20th century marketing and it's coming to an end as we see people controlling the information they want and continued digital emancipation taking place. I'm guessing the half a billion or so people whose first internet experience will be via the mobile phone will be equally intolerant of dishonest attempts to be interesting as I find people like Sam, Charlie and Adam now are.

I'm sure this makes me seem like I'm taking myself way too seriously and I probably am, so in the interests of not disappearing up my own bottom, here's a couple of pics from last nights clubbing action. First off is Puff Charlie keeping it real for y'all in the White Rabbit China town Lucky Street hood. Stayin' tuff all through the night and standing ma ground outside.

I know Sam can do a much better Ali G than I can but he's not here so that will have to make do. It was looking well mean down in the basement of the club. White riot everywhere and even the bitches were packing heat.

I ask you what has clubbing come to? Seriously though it wasn't a bad night but a less hipper crowd than I was hoping for. The music was better than the previous Friday, and we even slipped out for some of those ace kebabs that the folk from the far Western provinces of China rustle up in the Sanlitun area. They are easily the tastiest meat things on a stick I've ever eaten. I also noticed some stuff about the affluent local Chinese that was worth hanging around for. The Beijing crowd are very much different from the Shanghai lot and I don't think it's reflected in the way advertising is created for them.
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