I came across this selection of bottled water in Paris. At five Euros a bottle this was packaging stretching value tooooo far . Just how good can water get? Me thinks there is a point when a product just becomes over packaged. When presentation goes beyond the believable it becomes undesirable.
The way we appear says things and we make judgements on what we see all the time. In marketing it is our job to dance on reality and give the audience make believe. It is our profession to embrace the illusion and bend perception in the mirror of our targets’ eyes.
Recently I had an elevator conversation in a hotel in Houston ”Hi, where are you’ all from” said the guy in the base ball cap, polo shirt buttoned to the neck, short sleeves emblazoned with car dealership logos tucked into blue pleat fronted chinos, held aloft by a brown leather belt like a coopers hoop around the barrel of his belly. Reading the signs you would not hesitate to stake $100 on him being Texan through and through.
“You from the UK…?” he continued, reading my Brit ‘tells’ – the middle distance gaze, aloof (maybe pompous…) demeanour which hid the inner terror of being talked to by a complete stranger in a confined space – it’s just not the done thing where I come from. “Yes” I replied, “where from?” he continued “Bristol” As we plummeted passed the 8th floor. “Hey, I am from Portsmouth … My mum moved to the states when I was four.” 30 years in the US had completely eroded any British reference points - his identity was completely assimilated and his genetic provenance superficially erased.
Ping. We reached the lobby -
“Have a nice day”
“You too,” I replied.
Who we are, business or individual is not a given. We have the power to choose. Our identity definitely does not have to be a factor of our origin. In identity terms we can be anything we choose. In the case of the man in the lift – his identity was far from his origin. The facts of his provenance where completely subsumed by a new fiction.
It maybe obvious but it is worth saying that what we are and what we appear to be are only loosely connected. We have choices – do we want to be the thing we are? Do we want to appear different; do we want to be the same?
It is not the facts that define us but it is the presentation – and truth is just a sideshow.
On many ideological, business and cultural fault lines nations and businesses compete whilst sharing the same origins – it is not the physical difference that fuels the competition it is the differences of presentation that define it. Something so intangible becomes so solid when projected into the desire to take market, territory and resources from neighbours who are in fact of the same family – we need to present the difference to win and justify our drive.
The US is the ultimate identity blender of our time but in the context of human history it is just another in a long line of successful nations who have projected their identity way beyond their borders and defined the identity of others – as the man in the lift unknowingly testified, it's what successful brands do.
Have you ever considered that the solution to a problem does not involve a study of the obvious?
I was at the Science Museum in London recently and they told me that solving the mystery of flight was delayed by five hundred years because engineers believed that flapping was the essential component of lift when it was infact the study of gliding that unlocked the secret.
When faced with an unsolvable problem - the answer is infront of you but go beyond the obvious to reveal it.