Friday, 25 September 2015

Getting sentimental over you

I read an interesting article from The Book of Life recently, entitled Sentimentality in Art - and Business.  In it, the author makes the observation that sentimentality has moved from the art arena to the business arena. I assume it's meant that sentimentality hasn't completely decamped from the art arena, as I see it as alive and kicking, especially when it comes to popular art and entertainment - from the moody photos of hunky man holding vulnerable baby to the paintings of Thomas Kinkade - and a large percentage of what's shared on Facebook, if you can class that as art.

The article includes Oscar Wilde's definition of sentimentality from De Profundis: 'the desire to feed off an emotion without paying for it' - so all of the positive elements with none of the shadow side.

I would contest whether the move into the business arena is a new thing. Advertising has always been  escapist, larger than life, a utopia, escapism - right back to the impossibly cute Pears children and before. But, by and large, advertising plays by rules that people accept as part and parcel. No one is so naive as to believe that this is a representation of reality. Even if, these days, so many brands are trying to populate the same utopia - see Vignette Roulette for a cruel but amusing illustration of just how interchangeable these various brand worlds are.

But these days, as we know, the borders between brand and corporate, employee and customer, business and private are blurring in a social media fog that's actually far from transparent. Sentimental language and behaviour has crept into the boardroom - 'Lovemarks', 'embracing' this and that, 'reaching out' to all and sundry, 'passionate' about anything from loo rolls to insurance.

This has spawned all manner of sentimental company manifestos and employee brand statements about a better planet, about mother love, about future generations.

No longer confined to external advertising, the sentimentality is flowing through companies in a syrupy tide and no-one is looking at the shadow side.

And this is where it gets tricky, because no-one wants to pay.

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