is Kanye a god, a brand-builder, or just the most confident narcissist in celebtopia?

Take a listen to this interview:

https://soundcloud.com/bound1iscoming/zl-kw-bbcradio1-full

Speaking to Zane Lowe on Radio 1 this is
Kanye West's one man mission for world domination. It’s a mission to be a
leader and to be a god. It’s also sixty minutes of “lols gold”. In fact this isn’t
so much an interview as a manifesto for the man himself. It’s all about me
myself and I, and unapologetically so.  

West casts himself in the role of divine
power:

“When someone
comes up and says ‘I am a god’ everybody says ‘who does he think he is?’ I just
told you who I thought I was… A GOD.”

Self-confidence seems to fuel him, yet this
is a man that despite global stardom feels frustrated and restrained. What’s
the bee in his diamond studded bonnet? Mainly the fashion industry. 

Kanye1

Being a god seems to be about ownership and
objects. Kanye doesn’t describe himself as a musician but rather a producer,
and being a “producer” isn’t just about music. The interview is full of the word “product”.
It’s an obsession for him. He seems to want to make things, lots of things, and
not just music things.  Most of all he
wants to make clothes because: “being naked is illegal, listening to music
isn’t illegal.”

People listening to Kanye West’s music
isn’t enough, he wants people outwardly wearing his brand. He also wants commercial
influence: “I eventually want to be the anchor of the first trillion dollar
industry.”  I find his self-love slightly
horrifying (if incredibly funny), but it does seem odd that he feels fashion’s
doors are closing in his face: “I’ve got so much I wanna give. I’ve got ideas
on colour palettes, I’ve got ideas on silhouettes and I’ve got a million people
telling me why I can’t do it.” It’s about ideas and creativity but it’s also
about selling. This god is an innovator for sure, but he demands his riches and
his rewards. 

Kanye2

[one of his fashion
collaborations with Louis Vuitton]

Essentially Kanye feels shut off from other
industries outside of music. As a creative person, and as a driven person, he
wants to be a part of it of it all. Wherever creativity lives he wants to
participate in it and to profit from it. This raises an interesting question
for our own industry. We, after all, also make money from our creative produce.
Should ad agencies be so exclusively tied to the business of making ads? Should
we instead be more directly involved in making other things like music and
clothing?

The biggest paradox about Kanye’s own
objective is his motivation. His narcissistic brand plans are underpinned by an
apparent desire for democracy.  He loves
that he can make a record, and even though it might be expensive to make that
track, he can share it with everyone at a modest and accessible price. Not so
for fashion. You can’t do this with high-end, hand-made fabrics. I can’t work
out if he feels this is an example of capitalism’s deprivation of the poor or
whether he’s just annoyed he can’t make money from these people, because as
I’ve said making money is mentioned a lot.

Either way Kanye is no fool. Like any savvy
brand builder he knows he needs to participate in a culture, or to put it in
his own more lyrical words “speak with the textures of the time”.  It’s about him but it’s also about clothing
his old high school’s basketball team. He wants to look after people, to “help”,
but all via the rhetoric and street glamour of personal brand Kanye West.  It’s difficult to know where his real
intentions lie, but what can’t be denied is that he’s smoking hot at succeeding
and I don’t think the fashion industry will oust him for long.

[Thoughts from Planning newbie Alexa]

will Google grant us eternal life?

For
most of us there aren’t many things that Google and the internet can’t do. (Apart
from for my Granny who is still convinced she’s on the internet when playing
spider solitaire from the games tab of Windows ’98). Now, like an ancient Aztec
god, our online leader wants to find the secret to immortality. Ok, this might
be going a bit far, but Google’s latest initiative has high ambitions: to add
twenty years to the average human life span. Their philosopher’s stone? The
huge wealth of data Google holds combined with enhanced genomic information. In
a nutshell the aim is to take this genomic data, combine it with clinical data
and in turn produce personalised medical care. 

Eternal life 1

Google
have christened the new health programme “Calico”. I’m pretty sure this is a
fabric used for backing curtains and the like, but TIME
magazine
claim it refers to a breed of cat. Cats have nine lives and Calico
attempts to extend life itself. The concept of “digital health” has been
growing for a while. A couple of months ago I did a little dig around the
wearable tech sector for one of our clients in relation to sport. I found loads
of things that were pushing tech far beyond simple fitness tracking. There was
a wealth of new gadgets to track our emotions, and indeed our physical health.
It turns out one of these “23andMe” is
actually owned by Google already. Their mission statement is to be: “the world's
trusted source of personal genetic information”. Basically they provide super
fast genetic testing via a small kit that could forewarn you of potential
problems.

23andme

[a 23andMe kit, not a Shewee]

Calico
takes this further. It wants to prolong our lives. According to this article:
“the new project will leverage Google’s massive cloud and data centres to help
facilitate research on disease and aging by mining its trove of data for
insight into their origins”. Sounds great doesn’t it? This could be used for
everything from type II diabetes to fighting cancer. But the author also makes
a good point in relation to the Google CEO: “Larry Page is brilliant, but his
message also seems to imply that diseases (and their cures) are reducible- that
all the world’s problems could be cured if we just had snappier algorithms.” I see
what he means. Tech can help us so much, but then we are not in the end always
fixable machines. You can’t just pop in a new battery. If only. I’m all for
anything that can improve people’s lives and reduce suffering, but new problems
are likely to rise from the ashes of this immortal phoenix.

Do
we even have the resources to cope with a population living twenty years longer? It
could get so overcrowded, especially on our own little island, that people will
be possessed by an ancient tribalism where they murder each other for the new
iPhone, let alone food: brother, get between me the till and that last packet
of hula hoops and I’ll taser you. Seventy year olds will be bench-pressing
200. Let’s face it a lot of Google’s wackier schemes are flashes in the dream
pan, but it will be interesting to see how this one develops.

[Thoughts
from Planning newbie Alexa]

shaping our world: how shapes inform our lives

Recently
I’ve been reading a lot about cognitive psychology and the way we can be primed
to make decisions based on certain cues. One of these is colour. In an
experiment people were asked to fill out a survey with either an orange or
green pen. They were then asked to pick an object from a large selection laid
out on a table. Some of these were orange. Some of these were green. But there
were a lot of other colours too. Low and behold those who’d used the green pen
picked a green object and the same happened for orange [Berger, J. &
Fitzsimons, G  2008]. Scary stuff. I
started to think about whether the same thing could be said for shapes.

Shape1

We
learn to recognise shapes at an early age. You’re probably familiar with the
wooden box game where a toddler has to fit the cube through the square hole and
the cylinder through the circular hole and so on. I remember it was pretty satisfying
when you got it right. In this experiment it turns out young kids
actually find circles and squares much easier than triangles and rectangles.
Points are confusing. It doesn’t really say why a rectangle is harder than a
square, maybe it’s something to do with proportions and symmetry. In any case shape
recognition stabilises at around 6 years old but we’re still fascinated by them
as we get older. For instance studies have shown that men prefer women with a
waist to hip ratio of 0.7 (Waist Measurement ÷ Hip Measurement = Ratio), and women prefer men
with broad shoulders and a skinny waist that creates a V shaped torso. So this
is why superheroes have ridiculously tiny waists the diameter of my right
thigh. 

SHAPE2

Shape
can also help the way we live, and not just by making things ergonomic. It’s a
way of categorising stuff. Take this innovative design by student Amanda
Savitzky. Her brother has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This condition makes
a hectic space like the kitchen a crazed sensory minefield.  He couldn’t cook for himself and was missing
out on the pleasure the rest of the family got from creating meals. So what’s
big sister done? She took the concept of some fancy French way of cooking
called ‘mise en place’ (which is a way of organising all your ingredients
before starting to cook) and used shape to make cooking steps accessible. Each
of the different shaped pans below is actually a measuring cup.  She then took lots of common recipes and
broke them down into cups. A red pentagon is one cup. A yellow square is half a
cup. Again colour is working with shape to help create a code. The recipes are
available on a specially designed app so her
brother could follow a guide step by step. It’s really snazzy. 

Shape 3

So
shape can make something useful. It helps us make the best use of a product. It
can also just make a product stand out. Take Toblerone. You could remove all
the text and branded colours on the bar below and you’d still be able to guess
what the object was. You’d know it was a Toberlone and not any other chocolate
bar. 

Shape4

Shapes
are the perfect signals. Sexy shapes, solid shapes, see-through shapes, they
all help guide us, both as conscious tools and subconscious frames of
reference.

[Thoughts
from Planning newbie Alexa]
 

looking for luxe

The
arrival of London fashion week has got me thinking about the market for luxury.
However I’m not so much interested in our own appetite for fine things, but
what’s going on over in China. 

Lux1

The
financial press is currently buzzing with China’s luxury brand boom. It’s all
about cars and clothes. Before I started at W+K I took a short break between
jobs and travelled all across the country. Even in Beijing, sometimes
considered Shanghai’s dowdier older sister, it feels like 8 in every 10 cars is
either a BMW or an Audi.  The cars are
big, with black-glossed paintwork and blacked-out windows. The shopping malls
are big too. However unlike our Bluewater or Milton Keynes, they are blatantly
luxury. They are meccas to Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton and Chanel. It’s a harsh
juxtaposition against the more impoverished architectural landscape.

Whereas
in the UK we’d like to think we’re still being quite conservative with our
recession-bound pounds, in China those who can flaunt it do flaunt it. So much
so that the government has banned OOH, radio and television luxury advertising
in China, fearful of the political implications of an incredibly wealthy upper
class. They have stepped in on how people spend their money. The Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce demanded brands
remove loaded aspirational words, like "luxury", "royal",
"supreme" and "high class" from their billboard
advertising. It seems extreme, and so is the wealth gap. Those working in
cities earn on average three times as much as those in the country. 

Lux2

[A
prediction chart for China’s growth]

However
the restrictions do not seem to have hindered advertising’s overall
opportunity. In fact the first installment of the ban, OOH in 2011, was one of
luxury’s most successful years. Interestingly print is still powerful in China.
Where it may be slipping into decline in the US and Europe, Elle magazine tends
to be three times thicker in China and stuffed with luxury ads. Print caters to
the older cheque book generation, but brands are also increasingly innovative
on digital media. This article
perfectly demonstrates the younger generations consumption of luxury on mobile.
This young audience is not to be underestimated. A recent
survey
 by the World
Luxury Association
 found that China’s luxury good buyers are 25 years
younger than their U.S. counterparts, with an average age of 25 to 28.  Money is handed down in families: “Many Chinese white-collar workers in
recent generations did not get the chance to enjoy life during the hard work of
establishing their careers in a growing country. After they became successful,
they made up for lost time with their children, offering them the best material
life.”

A booming economy has also bolstered these twenty-somethings
with careers that can bring them wealth and a better education on how to invest
it. Brands
have in turn recognised how to talk to the rich kids and are taking full
advantage of online video, photographic and social content.

It’s
working. The brands are growing. This year Burberry has apparently experienced “double-digit
growth in the three months to June in Asia Pacific”
and is set to open two new stores. In his article "Riding the Tiger of
Luxury"
Cartier’s CEO Bernard Fornas sums up
China’s future: ‘the potential in China is so important…the tank is so big.
There are so many cities where we have not scratched the potential yet’. Essentially
it’s not just a big three scenario: Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. China has
lots of big commercial cities with vast populations waking up to the desire for
luxury. On my own China trip I was struck by just how glamorous commuters were
on the subway and even when out of town, women were wearing metallic platforms
to climb a hill up to the Leshan Buddha. 

Lux3

Luxury
is becoming an ingrained part of culture. Brands are also piggy backing and
directly influencing trends.  The facial
expression emoticon below is thought to be linked to Celine’s iconic handbag. 

Lux4

So
long as the high-income top end of the population can continue to afford it,
the desire for
luxury shows no signs of slowing up. You have to work hard for your wealth in
China and those that get there wear their rewards with pride. The government’s
attempts at intervention seem to be largely inconsequential. It has only forced
advertisers to be more innovative and tightly targeted with their
communications. 

[Thoughts from Planning newbie Alexa]

 

 

 

band as brand: the cult of One Direction

This
time last week we spotted One Direction filming their new video right outside
the W+K office. Here are the boys kicking
a ball about behind Hanbury Street. 

1d1

With
the launch of their own movie and the recent Channel 4 documentary “Crazy about
One Direction”, these guys are one of the biggest brands in the country. The
idolatry surrounding the following is obsessive, even parasitic.

But
how have they done it? In short: access.

The
boys were set up with individual Twitter accounts way back during the final
rounds of The X Factor. Today each has over ten million followers. Most of
these are the self-christened “Directioners”. Twitter is their temple and they
are willing to make sacrifices for their worship, spending all their savings on
concert tickets and waiting hours outside a hotel just in the hope of a five second
glimpse of the 1D demi-gods. This is no exaggeration. These girls openly use
religious terms to articulate their adoration. To quote one dedicated
“Directioner”: “Twitter is like a prayer place. When you go to a prayer place
you feel connected to God. On Twitter you feel connected to 1D.” 

1d2

This
is their way of getting behind the blacked out windows of the tour van. The
narratives of 1D's lives are recorded for the immediate gratification of the
following. The girls wake up, find out what Harry Styles is having for breakfast,
and get an instant fix. As another Directioner admits: “Twitter feeds your
addiction constantly…it just means they know you exist.” The second part of
this statement is the most revealing. Can Niall really remember @jodie97?
Probably not. Unless she’s yelled in his face at the front of every concert,
but then even a full arm tattoo probably wouldn’t be enough to stand out. Lots
of the Directioners have 1D tattoos. 
Nonetheless, Twitter makes them feel acknowledged by the band, and this
in turn is a marketing triumph for the brand.

For
now at least there doesn’t seem to be an end point. They have their own dolls,
their own make-up line. Make-up and boy bands? Another clever example of
catering to the audience. Boys may not be into make-up but the Directioners
sure are, and any merchandise is another gift from heaven. 

1d3

Interestingly
it’s more creative and interactive than just buying the products and tweeting
text. Fans create both artwork and vocabulary around the cult. Looking at the
documentary I learned a new word: “Shipping”. According to Urban Dictionary shipping
is:  a term used to describe fan fictions
that take previously created characters and put them as a pair. It usually
refers to romantic relationships, but it can refer platonic ones as well. (Just
think of "shipping" as short for "relationSHIP"). Some
Directioners are ‘shipping’ Louis and Harry into a gay item: Larry Stylinson. They
draw intimate pictures of the boys as a couple and post them on the 1D Tumblr
page. They even write erotic narratives à la E.L James to caption
artwork. Fifty years ago this would have been illegal. It’s maybe a nice
example of the acceptance of homosexuality, even if these girls only want them
to be gay to lessen the pain of the boys getting real life girlfriends.  

1d4

I
suppose the brand success of One Direction might actually be down to doing
simple stuff well, really well. Letting the fans in, creating genuine stories
to increase involvement and never fully shutting the gate behind them. It’s a
huge contrast to the old days where stars were governed by strict PR control
and wouldn’t give an interview without a script. Maybe the sentiment behind it
is the same as Beatlemania, but it is so much more intense due to Twitter’s
opportunity for transparency.

[Thoughts
from Planning newbie Alexa]

new kid on the Hanbury Street block – focus groups.

The
words ‘focus groups’ used to conjure an image for me of a group of women
gathered here today to whinge about washing powder: lots of people in a cold
laboratory-style room being pushed for answers on a product. This week I learnt
that this doesn’t have to be the case. I saw the real insights that can come
from focus groups and just talking to people about their behaviour and brands. 

Focus g

The
way we did the focus groups was not based on the lab model. We didn’t hold them
in the office. “Your place or mine?” The answer to this is ideally yours. The
interviews I listened to were done in the consumer’s home. Somewhere they were
hopefully at ease, and somewhere they are more likely to relax and give genuine
answers. This obviously works well for individuals. But what about when you
want to gather a group? Well then we take them somewhere relevant to the topic.
In this case Old Trafford for a group of young football hopefuls. This was a
place where they were excited to go. It’s also a bit like being told you could
have a lesson outside in the summer at primary school. It’s somewhere
comfortable. 

Outdoor learning

As
these guys warmed up it was more like listening to a conversation than Q and A.
I suppose we were lucky in that they were talking about something they really
loved, something they go nuts crazy for. This made them less self-conscious. I
was amazed by how much you can learn just from a couple of hours talking about
football. We discovered loads about their dreams, their fears and who they look
up to. They were forthcoming and opinionated on the nature of the game and its
industry.

They
were also particularly aware of brands. A lot of the books I’ve been reading
recently suggest brands aren’t something people spend a lot of time thinking
about. Byron Sharp’s “How Brand’s Grow” puts forward a very convincing argument
about how brands are rarely differentiated, and how consumers don’t think of
one as particularly standing out from another. But it seems in the context of
sport, on and off pitch, brands are a priority. These kids are in the know.  For them brands are more than just lifestyle;
although what the in-crowd is wearing is undeniably ‘a thing’. They know which
brands are worn on field, which are worn out with their mates, which have the
lightest fabrics and which are crafted from the most durable materials. It
really mattered.  

How brands grow

Traditionally
the industry doesn’t always have a lot of love for focus groups. There's a lot
of talk of 'testing to destruction' and using research to 'paint by
numbers'. However, our groups seemed very fruitful as a way of getting to know
the people that use our brands. You can make a lot of assumptions about a
particular group, but often only find good insights through talking to them. As
a planner it’s unlikely that your target audience is going to be a demographic
match to you. This is when we have to shape-shift and adopt a different
mindset. They were also far less contrived than I thought they’d be. Maybe this
is down to the way we held the groups, but people weren’t giving opinions for
the sake of it. They said what they believed in.

[Thoughts
from Planning newbie Alexa]

new kid on the Hanbury Street block – thinking, fast and slow

This
week I’ve been given some time to do some proper reading. There’s no
opportunity to skim here; it is fascinating and dense psychological stuff. My
tome? ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman. This book will form part of
a much bigger project about how we hold brands in our memory, but for now,
while I pace through part 1, I’m going to pick out one particular theory.

Thinking2

It’s
not the most shiny, sparkly new theory, but an old one that often gets
forgotten: The Halo Effect. In short The Halo Effect is our tendency to like or
dislike someone or something as a whole. If you’re impressed by one part of a
person’s character you’re likely to assign other positive attributes to them
even if you have no factual evidence for these.

Kahneman
uses the example of meeting a lass called Joan at a party. You chat and get on
well. Joan’s name comes up as someone who might be needed to contribute to a
charity. You’re then asked: “What do you know about Joan’s generosity?” The
real answer is absolutely nothing. You didn’t speak about her charitable
pursuits. You don’t know that she took 5 bags of clothes to Oxfam last week.
However, because you liked Joan you retrieve this positive feeling in your
mind. Generosity is something you admire. You also admire Joan. So you are then
perfectly set up to hold a belief that Joan is a generous person.

Halo

This
is actually a fiction, or at least far from a fact. It could be true but you
have no real evidence. So The Halo Effect produces a simple bias. Another
example is: “If you like the president’s politics, you probably like his voice
and appearance as well”.

The
Halo Effect can be pretty useful to brands. Especially in trying to combat the negative
schema mentioned in my post last week. If we can get consumers to like one
distinctive thing about a brand, they may well then be less cynical and more
receptive to finding out about other facets of the business. Most importantly
this will happen subconsciously without any brash instructions. Our brains
induce a halo effect without us knowing it’s there. This makes for an
interesting way to deliver a message without it being overtly sold to or pushed
at the consumer.   

[Thoughts from Planning
newbie Alexa]

pants and advertising

Tomorrow
a friend of one of our planners is coming in to show us some super luxe, silky
soft underpants over lunch. Check out burtonwode.com
for a teaser. In days gone by it was commonplace for shirt-sellers and tailors
alike to visit London’s offices and measure up gentleman for bespoke
clothing.  This tradition has died with
all things ‘click and collect', but for tomorrow it’s back on.

It’s
also got me thinking about the evolution of underwear, and the evolution of
underwear advertising. There’s an incredible shift from underwear as something
practical and restrictive, to something provocative and subversive. 

This
was underwear in the 1860s:

Undies1

Yes,
you could wear the rigging of The Eden Project around your waist. Here was
underwear designed to hide your legs if enhance your waist. But by the turn of
the century under garments were rapidly changing for less bulk and greater
mobility. 

The
changing styles are incredible culture markers of the time.  During the 1920s when women were beginning to
push back against their all-things-feminine-and-floaty stereotypes underwear in
turn became boxy and androgynous.

Undies 2

This evolution was never stagnant. By the late 1940s advertising underwear was
really taking off. Interestingly, it was as much about the day’s celebrity pin-ups as in modern times. Marilyn Monroe started her career as an underwear
model. Then advertising imitated her when they couldn’t have her for
themselves. 

Undies 3

Movie
stars put underwear firmly on the sexy map. Bras were no longer ‘over the
shoulder bolder holders’ but something seductive. No more was the evolution of
underwear something restricted to women’s clothing. Marlon Brando and James
Dean would make the white t-shirt, formerly something very much an undergarment
and unglamorous, into an outerwear torso teaser. 

Undies 4

Unsurprisingly
it wasn’t long before underwear advertising became something controversial.
Wonderbra is a famous example of this. The huge OOH ads of Eva Herzigova bearing
her cleavage were blamed for stopping traffic and causing road accidents in
1994. You’d think things were pretty liberal by the 1990s but this was
considered a step too far. Likewise Kylie Minogue’s campaign for
Agent Provocateur
was banned in 2001. [It shows her romping around on a
bucking bronco in nothing but Agent’s skimpy minis]. The public deemed it porn. 

Undies5

Yet
in 2009 Agent Provocateur got away with it with their Valentine’s campaign: ‘Love me tender…or else’,
even in raunchy viral video format. Why? Because this time the lace-clad
protagonist was empowered. Yes, she was still something to be looked at,
admired and everything else in this context…but she was the heroine not the
victim of the story.  It was again
legitimised by the use of celebrity and maybe the fact that Agent’s at the top
of the premium scale. Miss Huntington- Whiteley takes her prisoner and she gets
her revenge. 

Today
it’s a power game. Underwear adverts are aimed at women who want to feel more
confident in their products and to give men a taste of what they want but won’t
necessarily get…unless they buy it for their girlfriend.

[Thoughts from Planning
newbie Alexa]

 

 

 

 

 

pets on the net

Store_banner_bg_Pug

Our
new pug Pay As You Go campaign for Three has got me
thinking about pets on the net and how they’re used.  People are proud of their pets, sure, but the
growing diversity in how they are being presented online is surprising. 

It
seems to be more than just a ‘cute’ thing, although the cult of ‘cuteness’ in
itself is not something to be scoffed at. The Japanese have their very own term
for ‘cute’. All things cuddly and sweet are called ‘kuwaii’. Kuwaii is a
massive part of culture there and has been for decades. Hello Kitty for example
is typical of kuwaii. It’s all things with chubby cheeks and over-sized doughy
eyes. 

Hellokitty

There
seems to be an immediate positive enjoyment in seeing a cute image. But studies
have also found it to be more than this. Research suggests that ‘because cute
things produce positive feelings, their influence may extend to other aspects
of behaviour’.  This study suggests that not only
do we feel good when we see a cute animal; we are also more attentive
afterwards. Participants given a simple motor task (the children’s game
Operation) consistently performed better after having seen images of animals.
What’s more those who saw baby animals outperformed those who were shown less
adorable adult animals.

This
might be going a bit far, but as different sharing platforms develop and
diversify over the web, pets and kuwaii are becoming something mainstream on a
global level. 

Evidence
can be found in the sheer volume of YouTube hits for pet-related content: Fenton 9.3 million views of a
dog chasing deer, 3.7 for a cat playing with a toaster. Maybe pets have become
the great leveler that football used to be before it got excessively expensive
and political. People can relate to animals. Despite the pampered pooches of
the likes of Paris Hilton they also remain slightly classless.

Fenton

They
are certainly useful in this way to brands. Take Chanel. Chanel is a brand
that’s pretty inaccessible to a lot of people. It’s at the summit of high end.
Even those passionate about fashion can sometimes only aspire to its style
rather than being able to afford the real deal. Karl Lagerfeld is likewise a slightly aloof
figure. What did he do? He put his cat in charge of the Chanel Twitter channel.
Genius. Suddenly the brand has a bit of the humour it maybe lacked before. This
gentle charm has made it accessible.

Choupette

Mark
Zuckerberg’s done it with his dog Beast. Though this feels less about the
Facebook brand and more about softening his own public profile.  According to The Telegraph one in ten pets
has a social media profile. I wonder if it’s not a nice way to talk online
about something without it being so overtly personal as one’s own social media
profile. You can have fun with it, because you’re pretending to be cat or dog.

Kuwaii and pets on the net seem to be good
barrier breakers. They have a mass appeal that can make both brands and
personalities more accessible.

[Thoughts
from Planning newbie Alexa]

new kid on the Hanbury Street block – schema

This
week I’ve been looking at how brands exist outside advertising.  We absorb so much of advertising
subconsciously, and it’s so irrevocably tied to culture, that this is actually
quite a tricky mission. The core question is what would someone think of our
clients if they hadn’t seen any ads? What might they pick up from culture at
large? This could be references in books or magazines, how people talk about
them in their tweets, how people manipulate them in memes etc.  What is the brand’s impact on society? Do
people joke about them? Do they respect or chastise them?

One
concept I was invited to explore was the ‘Schema’. This is a psychological idea
I’d actually read about years ago and completely forgotten. Yet it’s a huge
part of how we sculpt our opinions and form memories. 

Schema

[An
abstracted diagram of schemata in our consciousness]

Here’s
a cut down definition from Wikipedia:

"In
psychology and cognitive science, a schema (plural schemata or schemas), describes a mental structure of preconceived ideas, a framework
representing some aspect of the world, or a system of organizing and perceiving
new information. Schemats influence attention and the absorption of new
knowledge: people are more likely to notice things that fit into their schema,
while re-interpreting contradictions to the schema as exceptions or distorting them
to fit.”

The
“Schematas influence attention and the absorption of new knowledge” bit is
really crucial to brands. You can say something new about a brand, but often
people will have a preconceived idea about the product or company, and so they
will only take the message on board if it sits comfortably within their frame
of reference. If it fits it sticks. Schemata give our brains a framework in
which to relate things. Stereotypes are a kind of schema. 

Brain

[the
brain naturally makes networks and associations – these can be hard to break]

Schemata
also have a frightening ability to manipulate ideas. I remember when I first
learnt about them I was shown the opening scene from a film with a motorbike
accident. I think it may have been Lawrence of Arabia. Anyway, after we watched
this five-minute clip we were asked several questions. The key one was: “Did
you see broken glass?” The majority of us answered affirmative: Yes. However,
winding back the film there was no glass at all. Our brains had filled in the
gaps with ideas based on expectation. Bike crash- carnage- glass.  We’d taken new information (film of the crash)
and manipulated it to meet our preconceived expectations (broken glass). 

Bike

[Lawrence’s
bike]

So
schema can be both a help and hindrance to advertisers. Positive schema are
useful, and negative a hurdle. However it’s not even that simplistic. Your
brand might be surrounded by positive schema, but these might not sit perfectly
in line with the direction in which you want to take the brand. Learning to
unlock the psychology and culture behind what people think of your brand is an
invaluable lesson. It helps you nurture your brand, and ultimately to change it
for the better.   

[Thoughts
from Planning newbie Alexa]