12 March 2009

soft fascination

I never really believed that thing about how you're exposed to 5,000 different brand messages every day. Well, it's not that I disbelieved it exactly, I probably just hadn't thought about it properly. But I've just come back from a short break packed with views like this. And as I unpacked my toothbrush when I got back, I opened my bathroom cabinet and saw this. Then it was time for a late lunch. And when I opened the kitchen cupboard, I saw this. Crikey. I know it's a bit weird to show you my bathroom and kitchen cupboards, but that's a lot of brand messages. Ubiquitous ones. And very mundane ones. I don't know any rock salt superbrands, for example. But you get what I mean. And these are just the ones you see on packaging before you leave the house. Which got me on to thinking about hard and soft fascination. Which are the psychological terms used for environments which on the one hand leave no room for reflective thoughts, and on the other create opportunities to reflect. And 5,000 brand messages a day started to feel a lot like hard fascination. When you're dashing back and forth between home and work, paying bills, buying stuff and grabbing free newspapers you don't get time to properly contemplate things. There's all this clutter of messages going on. It's not like you're not thinking, but it does stop you thinking properly about yourself. Who you are and what you want and that kind of thing. And that made me think, we all use brands to say various things about ourselves. But what kind of a great brand could give you a sort of holiday from messages...an opportunity for soft fascination that restores or resets your relationship with yourself? I've no clue what kind of product or service it would be. But I guess it comes back to the point that you have to invest properly in the experience before you shout about it. But...the cupboard-opening exercise also made me think how rubbish most of this packaging is at delivering brand messages. So many words! So much stuff to read about things you don't really care about at all. Even a lot of big brands seem obsessed with covering their bottles, packets and cartons with words. So there must be some science to that, but it feels really counterintuitive. So I've decided to do a bit of a thing with that. I'm going to count all the words on the packaging of various things, and keep score of it somehow. I'll let you know more when I've figured it out.

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At 3/12/2009 04:06:00 pm , Blogger LFLondon said...

The debate on whether our environments are imposed or created is complex, but largely I think we're selective enough to opt-in or out? To listen or not listen. Given, lots of mundane purchases are habit and paradox of choice is a whole other text book. However, for the bigger stuff, it is about your point on investment in better ideas, but that's also got to be about only concentrating on the hard core few - the listeners who care about being the start of the adoption curve. Better ideas informed by better understanding of social 'value' systems.

At 3/15/2009 02:52:00 pm , Blogger james said...

thanks em! always food for thought.

you're right of course that we're selective enough to opt in or out. and, going further than that, if there's a choice between paying a premium for a service/product/piece of content and getting it for free if it's supported by advertising, i'll always go for the latter.

i guess what i mean is that, even when you factor in the ability to tune in or out, you're still expending some kind of effort, however minimal, in doing so.

given what we do, it might be bonkers (not to mention hypocritical) to talk in idealistic terms about taking a break from all these messages. but it really did me good to get some time, however brief, in an environment where i didn't have to choose whether or not to pay attention. kind of thing.


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