Gliding Along on Mixed Metaphors

Baileys Glide is Baileys Irish Cream with vanilla flavouring in a hotel minature bar sized bottle and aimed at the sophisticated alco pop drinker. Though I haven’t come across it prior to seeing some advertising posters, it has sold well over 4.3 million bottles (thats a lot of cholesterol and alcohol poisoning) through supermarkets, offlicences and convenience stores. Anyway I was standing in Covent Garden tube, waiting for a train when I noticed the advertising poster for this drink. It has the outline of a young woman holding a glass with feathers inside. The feathers make out the shape of her throat and stomach. The visual metaphor was to do with gliding like a feather fluttering down, however the ad got my attention because I confused the visual message with a tickly throat or ‘coughing up feathers’ (when someone has a persistent cough reminiscent of cats and fur-balls). This confusion in visual language was a classic example to me of appallingly bad visual communications that may be the work of BBH!

Great Stories

The other day I watched a DVD called Agitator. It is the story of politics and intrigue as one yakusa family seeks to gain leadership of two rival families. In addition to the plot, there is the back story of yakusa members who are changed by age and bitterness. The hero if there is one in the film is Kenzaka, a yakusa of unbending principles. The yakusa are perceived as outsiders, a family for the dispossessed, Kenzaka is a true outsider railing against the world. The IMDB review of this film undersells it. It is criticised as ‘slow’ in reality speeds up and slows down like Sergio Leone’s fistful of dollars trilogy to set moods, create tension and develop characters. The second story is an online graphic novel, the unholy lovechild of Apocalype Now and Willy Wonkers Chocolate Factory with a bit of food politics thrown in for good measure.

Moguls, Superman and Kryptonite

I have been working my way through Michael Wolff’s Autumn of the Moguls and found some of it very predictable. Its obsession with disfunctionality amongst business leaders including Eisner and Messier.One thing that did strike a chord with me was the way technology had moved from saving the record industry from itself to becoming the industry’s kryptonite. Around about 1984 or so, the music industry had hit paydirt as Joe Public moved from their analogue recordings on 8-tracks, cassettes and vinyl on to CDs. Artists of the 1960s and 1970s were the money spinners, reputedly there was one CD factory in Germany that did nothing but make copies of Pink Floyd’s Dark side of the Moon.

Then the internet came along and the record companies were slow to take advantage of this technology so the consumers did. Instead the industry created a huge knee jerk reaction blaming the customer for their own mistakes. From pages 283 and 284:

File sharing replaced radio as the engine of music culture.

It wasn’t just that it was free music – radio offered free music. But whatever you wanted was free, whenever you wanted it. The Internet is music consumerism run amok, resulting not only in billions of dollars in lost sales but in an endless bifurcation of taste. The universe fragmented into subuniverses, and then sub-subuniverses. The music industry, which depends on large numbers of people with similar interests for its profit margins, now had to deal with an ever-growing number of fans with increasingly diverse and eccentric interests.

Not a unique challenge, clothes manufacturers, car companies et cetera all have had to deal with the fragmentation of consumer interests. There is no longer any such thing as the teenager, when do people now get old? These are all similar challenges. The fear isn’t piracy, its the ability of these businesses to manage themselves and adjust to a post modern society.
My own take on this is that the music industry has failed:

  • Failed to give customers what they want, more eclectic artists and built a business model about more ‘customised’ sales. I read somewhere that a Volvo car model can have some 48,000 variants. Customers now have a more eclectic musical taste, artists and record companies should build for a business model of selling 40,000 rather than 400,000 of a given record
  • Failed to take advantage of their back catalogue of deleted recordings and putting them for sale online to make a better return on slowly decaying master tapes
  • Failed to innovate, during the time that record companies may or may not have sold less CDs, depending whose numbers you believe; they signed and supported less acts and off loaded talented but not huge selling artists
  • Failed to realise that a fast buck is not always the best buck. In prostituting their recordings for supermarket soundtracks, films and car advertisements the music industry turned music into musak
  • Failed to grab their own destiny and allowed their product to be dictated to them by the radio stations
  • Failed to recognise that a number of customers still wanted analogue recordings, thus allowing niche players to subvert a reasonable revenue stream. Much of the US and European requirement for vinyl is pressed in state-of-the-art factories based in the Czech Republic as the majors exited the market

The Hacienda must be built

The Hacienda (or Fac51) was one of the most famous and influential clubs of all time, together with London nights like Shoom, Spectrum and Solaris it catapulted house music (at the time, the sound of black and gay Chicago into worldwide exposure). The Hac influenced and was influenced by the Ibizan scene. Even prior to house, the club innovated; hosting the first UK performance by Madonna in the early 1980s. The club was a work of love by designer Peter Saville, Rob Gretton who managed New Order and Tony Wilson TV newsreader and founder of Factory Records. The name itself came from a passage in arty situationist manifesto by Ivan Chtcheglov that culminated in the passage:

And you, forgotten, your memories ravaged by all the consternations of two hemispheres, stranded in the Red Cellars of Pali-Kao, without music and without geography, no longer setting out for the Haçienda where the roots think of the child and where the wine is finished off with fables from an old alamanac. Now that’s finished. You’ll never see the Hacienda. It doesn’t exist. The Hacienda must be built.

Famous art galleries and authors houses get preserved and saved. However night clubs don’t get this reward: The Cavern where the Beatles played is a car park, The Warehouse in Chicago has disappeared, The Wigan Casino and Twisted Wheel hubs of the northern soul scene have been redeveloped, The Wag Club which hosted new music throughout the 1980s from the new romantics to Bomb the Bass is part of a tacky mock Irish pub chain on the edge of London’s Chinatown.

 The Hacienda was demolished in 1997 and auctioned off piece by piece, the site is now a block of overpriced yuppie apartments.Despite the desecration committed by property developers, its cultural mark still lives on.

This can be seen in the popular Steve Coogan film 24 Hour Party People, the ‘classics chart’ of Graeme Park hosted at Hard To Find Records online and London event promoters Get Loaded.

Technology Marketing moves away from its tech roots, editor Tony Hallett takes time out to look at BT’s new business marketing campaign, the article is a bit shallow on analysis all truth being told, but quite readable none the less. Technology visionary and ex BT Labs head honcho Peter Cochrane raise the possiblity of a new dark side to the future of marketing, holding out the possiblity of internet telephony spam calls: nice (not).