Sagmeister is a well known graphic designer - maybe best known for his work designing material for the music industry. It is quite possible that he may, ultimately, be remembered for this interview in which he responds to the craze for people in marketing to describe themselves as 'storytellers'.
“Recently, I read an interview with someone who designs roller coasters, and he refers to himself as a storyteller. No, f—head, you are not a storyteller, you are a roller coaster designer, and that is fantastic!”
It's an interesting point. We do tell stories in marketing, but it is marketing, not storytelling. Some years ago my partners in a venture and I registered BrandStory as a trademark. I think it lapsed, but that was nearly 20 years ago. Industry luminaries like Mike Hutcheson from Image Centre has riffed on the theme for years too - Mike is an epic storyteller in person and in print.
With the emergence of content marketing the storytelling trope has been reanimated. It's a bit like being a hipster though. If you have to tell people you're a hipster…you get my drift, I'm sure.
Hear more from Stefan Sagmeister in his TED Talk
They noted the passing of Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela and now, Robin Williams with a memorial on their home page.
He had voiced a commercial for their iPad Air - which is all the more poignant now, after his death.
We don't read and write poetry because it's cute.
We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.
And the human race is filled with passion.
And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.
But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?"
Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
The track is a speech written for William's character in Dead Poet's Society.
You might question the relevance of Apples tribute. But it is true to their brand and the idea (though they have moved on from expressing it literally) of 'Think Different.'
Here's to the crazy ones…
Much as it disappoints me, few clients approach me with 30 million dollars and a brief to change their name and identity.
Actually, in the words of that famous English comedian "I'm not bovvered." Imagine the stress. And how many Rolls Royce Silver Wraith Shadowfaxes does one man need?
Often I get asked to 'come up with a few ideas'. I recently did just that for a chap who had got it into his head that New Zealand needed a new fast food concept. My feeling was that New Zealand needs another fast food chain like it needs a dose of type 2 diabetes. But the family must be fed and I only refuse work when I have enough data or an interchangeably zealous belief that the thing is rubbish or fatal. I once worked for an ad agency that had given me a sumptuous office, the grand title of Creative Director and a license to do anything to win tacky advertising trophies - but when I couldn't be coerced to make clever ads for a cigarette company (or even attend meetings with them) they returned my contract to me flamboyantly torn in half and tossed me into the street with nothing more than the clothes i stood up in and a big cheque to buy my silence (I think the statute of limitations has run out).
So, ideas for little things - like a series to promote a share gifting programme that had been faltering because their banner ads weren't connecting - no one seemed to understand their message. Or a presentation to a medical symposium to describe the difficulty that nurses in neo-natal intensive care units experience in juggling hi-tech medicine, ethics, people and their own compassion. Not complex projects - just little things that mean a lot to the the clients. My job is to make you the star, at least for a moment.
I sometimes read the advertising trade press' reprints of marketers press releases about their latest campaigns and wonder what planet they came from. Advertising is a simple thing- it's not the second coming. Advertising attracts attention. It conveys a message that (hopefully) promises a benefit or a useful connection and it tells you what to do next. It's not complicated - or rather, it shouldn't be.
So I am promoting 'Down & DIrty' for August and September. Tell me what you need and we'll knock it off for you pronto.
We'll do our best and I promise you won't need a masters degree in Russian Literature to figure it out.
…all, as we like to say around here Good. Fast and Cheap - pick any three.
The services menu is at the top of the page.
"Warren Buffet said that (but not when he was in Margaritaville).
Here's your Friday Frolic.
Mashable have a great little series of explanatory videos that, well, explain socio-cultural aspects of the phenomenon we call being alive in 2014. Worth watching and considering.
Key points for me:
Is there a takeout?
Maybe it is better to reach deeper into the cultural past for advertising and marketing themes and cues. Trying to be trendy, or viral or ahead of the curve will mean you just get swept away in the media tsunami.
If you want to overcome paralysis of choice get people to subscribe to your messages - and fill them with value - so the opportunity cost of missing an 'episode' is greater than the time spent with it - or the moment not spent with Antiques Roadshow. I guess the other core message is to be yourself - make it so that the only place they can find anything like your offer - is with you - The One & Only (insert your name here).
John Oliver has a a news and satire show Last Week Tonight on HBO that follows on from his popular segments on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. In this piece he asks some interesting questions and makes some valid points about 'native advertising' - ads that are camouflaged as editorial content. It is a practice that is becoming more common. Partly because people don't want to pay for their content (any more than they every did). So news gathering and reporting outlets are having to compromise to pay the bills and compete with newcomers like BuzzFeed that have no tradition of journalistic integrity or independence to preserve.
Oliver is unflinching. As he points out he can afford to be. HBO is a subscriber funded channel - so brands who want to reach their audience have to do it in other ways (like product placement in their shows - which isn't discussed in this item).
The point that is most important is whether consumers will, ultimately, backlash against this kind of subversion. Oliver's barb that 'deer aren't stupid' is a reference to this. Nothing spoils trust more than the realisation that you have been cheated or played for a fool.
I make my living from advertising but I realise it is a lot like fishing. If you treat your resource with disrespect then the catch will collapse. I've always felt that it is important that there is balance in the transaction between brand and consumer. If an ad has hyperbole to make an extravagant point then it should obviously be hypebole - not just some crazy claim. pretending to be a fact. When 'native' ads or content marketing are used to promote products where the facts are either sketchy or 'repurposed bovine waste' then nobody wins. Consumers will not only turn their backs on the advertiser and the media brand that provided cover and violated the trust that they have earned with the consumer - via a reputation for quality news and information - but they will also turn to social media (their own channels) to spread the word.
There has to be genuine value offered and received by brands who want to enter this space. Done well and transparently then everyone will be happy. Covert, creepy invasion is never a good way to start or maintain a relationship.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Last Week Tonight Website
Here's a video that you might enjoy if, like me, you had a time when Jack Kerouac and Herman Hesse and teenage angst all got together, had a few beers, told a few lies and contemplated the universe.
No, I haven't gone all wa-wa, this is a brief story about content marketing. Watch the film. It's nicely shot. Some of Kerouac's more obscure ramblings about life and death, with some trippy Buddhist ideas have ben blended with footage of hipsters doing curiously hipsterish things like riding motorcycles and onesie bikes, glimpses of teasing lover and hints of ambiguity. Shot with Tumbleresque filters and some Johnny Cash and Pink Floyd thrown in for good measure. It's hard not to sound sarcastic. But I rather enjoyed it. I guess my state of mind affects that - I'm feeling contemplative at the moment - my aperture of receptivity is wide open for sentiment (something an ad planner could never plan for but maybe Facebook could 'sense'?).
Here's the kicker. It is all paid for by Lacoste.
Which raises the question - can brands benefit from content marketing if the material they create has no overt branding?
If placed in context, of a publication owned by the brand or a channel or web site, then I suppose the context carries the day.
In the wider sense it also suggests that novelty has a new meaning. The presentation should be novel to the brand, fresh and new - but a continuation of their brand's project. Abercrombie and Fitch did this over the years (before their fall from favor). Their advertising and catalogs expressed a curiously nonsensical vision of WASP American youth laid bare by star photographer Bruce Weber. It was content marketing before the term was commonplace.
The aspect of content marketing that I haven't seen discussed much is the relationship between strategy and tactics. In the 1980s I worked on the Singapore Airlines ad account. Batey ads in SIngapore had created a sensation with the Singapore Girl, gliding through the skies elegantly with 'a certain way about' her. It was beautiful, evocative and brilliantly separated the promised brand experience from other carriers' offerings - admittedly at the tail end of an era before timetable and cost became the wind beneath the wings of the entire industry. In tandem with this luscious material the airline ran punchy mono ads in the newspapers 40x7 and full broadsheet pages promoting the latest fares - or even their cargo division - the Singapore Girl still looked out invitingly from the bottom of the page but this was the call to action stuff - the tactical, behavior changing material - less 'love you long time' and more 'no money no honey'.
This is something that marketers need to keep in mind when they are being charmed by the snake oil salesmen. The till still has to ring. Crafting beautiful films is a fine endeavor but you'll be sunk without the sale.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.