Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Throughout history, the fork has had a bad rap. I'm not talking specifically about the eating utensil, which has got off relatively lightly. I refer to the serpent's forked toungue, which heralded the fall of mankind, the chicanery of two-faced politicians, the crossroads where the devil lies in wait. I refer, effectively, to the fork as a metaphor for choice, change - and trickery.
People are deeply suspicious when it comes to choice and change. We say we embrace both, but when it comes to the crunch, most would rather never reach that fork in the road (except for a brief period in adolescence, when any alternative seems more exciting than a family night in). The fork is temptation and risk. It's scary and dangerous. Best to plod along on the same path.
Anyone who markets to people, or, for that matter, anyone who has any dealings with people at all, needs to bear in mind how little they like change. People are naturally risk averse and need help at the crossroads. They need guidance to feel comfortable with the choices they make, be it brand choices, life choices or whatever. Brands can be these guides, but only with the right authority and empathy. Otherwise they risk raising suspicion. At the crossroads, it's easy to be mistaken for the devil!
Sunday, September 21, 2008
As Trinity whispered urgently to Neo in The Matrix, "It's the question that drives us." It's generally accepted amongst free thinkers that it's a good thing to ask questions. And thank Morpheus, your lucky stars, or whichever celestial body takes your fancy. Even so, I wish that people would put a bit more thought into the questions they ask.
Questions are important. Questions warrant consideration. The better the question, the more informative the answer. The more open the question, often, the more surprising the answer.
While promoting their Grindhouse films, Tarantino and Rodriguez participated in a Q&A session, included as an extra DVD feature on Rodriguez's Planet Terror. A film student asked how the directors felt about the changing competitive landscape in film, with the proliferation of directors and productions, and whether that made it more difficult to succeed today.
Tarantino, as ever, fraught with nerdy excitement, jumped in. Yes, there's more competition, he said, but if you create something brilliant, your Reservoir Dogs, then the competition is entirely irrelevant.
Now, that's some answer. One that's equally applicable to businesses and brands as films. Instead of constantly benchmarking against the competition, focus on doing something great yourself and render the competition irrelevant. It's the basic premise behind Kim and Mauborgne's book Blue Ocean Strategy.
Ask away, by all means. Try to ask the right questions of the right people and get some answers that you haven't anticipated.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Forget Sex In The City. Tarantino makes the best chick flicks. Hands down.
When Sex In The City's Carrie Bradshaw was totally incapable of using an iPhone, even to avert a major relationship crisis, I inwardly groaned. I sunk further in my seat when women around me chortled on cue, relating to her technophobia. Come of chicks, get with the programme!
Now, Tarantino. Dude is like a lady - in a good way. As if Kill Bill wasn't enough, he directed Death Proof, which has kick ass, hot, car mad girls meting out punishment to a Kurt Russell's psycho stunt man. I watched it again the other day and it always makes me smile.
Tarantino's chicks are the modern ideal of womanhood for many teens (and me, although I'll have to chalk that one up to immaturity!) Some might say he contributes to the much talked about 'pornification of girlhood', whereby girls and women are made into sex objects by the media, making pornography part of popular culture. This, in turn, is said to contribute to low self esteem and eating disorders. What's more, women actively objectify themselves in the way they dress and dance etc.
Clearly this is an area for debate. And there's clearly some truth in it. The Dove campaign for Real Beauty wouldn't have hit such a clear home run if this weren't such a contentious issue.
But, far from demeaning women, I think Tarantino's films have the opposite effect. They're joyous and empowering. They're full of crap. They're funny and gross (take the car crash scene with the wobbly dismembered limb in Death Proof). They collude with young women, who want to be sassy and sexy and smart and tough. And, of course, there's a cracking soundtrack. Yes, we have it all. With nobs on.