A garden of pure ideology

The holidays are over.

In the next few days I have more to do than I care to think about. Starting with writing a couple of book reviews for Idealog magazine. Sisomo by Kevin Roberts CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi's sequel to Lovemarks and All Marketers Are Liarsby Seth Godin - the bald guy who made us aware of permission marketing.

I wanted to like the Roberts book. It has a nice feel to it. Design director Derek Lockwood and his team have made a go of padding the presentation into a book. Unfortunately the result, to borrow from Samuel Johnson leaves me with 'much to admire and little to enjoy. The thesis is sketchy: That the screen has become the predominant for of communication (in all its myriad forms - from TV to telephone). Hard to argue with that. My friend Steve Garton conducted a major research project in Asia that showed youth in Asia consume a marginal amount of media - single digit percents -from the printed page (can't confirm the stat at this point, but I'll find out). So, nothing particularly insightful there. Where it gets weird is the point when the author attempts to shoehorn the proliferation of screens in our lives into the theory that this induces intimacy, mystery and sensuality. Hmmm, I struggle with that perspective. Just as I struggled with the idea that brands are dead just because Roberts coined the term Lovemarks.

It is ironic, then that Godin's book follows a similar tack - that we want to hear stories that conform to or confirm our view of the world - or worldview as he puts it. So far, so good. Who can argue with that? The author makes the very good point, using the example of John Kerry's defeat in the 2004 US presidential race, that no matter what 'facts we are presented with, we tend to behave in ways that reinforce our view of the world. Kerry baffled the voting public with facts and reason, assuming that there wqas some sort of 'truth'. George Dubyya went into the election with the lowest approval ratings of any president in a very long time. He can barely string a cogent sentence together. And yet, who got the job? As Bill Bernbach, my favourite old time advertising guy, once said - "The facts are not enough".

Where I think Godin diverges from Roberts and conforms to my worldview in the process is that the stories we tell have to make sense at every point of contact with the consumer - not just in the presentation on-screen. While Roberts proposes that on-screen is intimate and sensual, I am going to have to say that I think that is a stretch. On a couple of counts: firstly a projected, one way message ain't very intimate. very few people are fooled into thinking that they are the only recipient of the message any more than most people who have their pictures taken don't have any concern for their souls being captured.

Likewise sensuality. There isn't too much that I would regard as sensual about a monitor of any kind. Mr Roberts conveniently ignoures touch and smell because they don't fit his thesis - in the same way that the Vatican reset the calendar when it was obvious the seasons were getting later and later (much easier than rethinking the idea of the Earth at the centre of the Universe).

Godin, rightly, points to complete experiences with the brand - the way we feel is subject to how authentic we believe the complete message to be. Roberts talks about his favourite ad - one for Telecom as an example of the power of screen images to move the individual. While the ad in question may trigger emotional responses, so does the price of calling in New Zealand. The storytelling bubble bursts very quickly. Which reminds m e of another advertising adage: Nothing kills a bad product quicker than a good ad.

I'm running out of time here, so I'll wind up with a random association with the Sisomo book (which I really did want to like):
Remember the ad for the launch of the apple mac in 1983 -





Final thought: Why is Sisomo a book and a not a screen based presentation?

Read All marketers are liars it is worthwhile.
Read Sisomo and make up your own mind. I thought it was so-so.

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