Friday 26 June 2009

The Rebuilding of the German Man

It's an oft-discussed topic at the Elternbeirat - the lack of male staff as role models for boys in Germany's schools and Kindergartens. And this, in turn, leads to a debate much in the media in Germany generally these days - the crisis of German men. Of course, the Germans love having a crisis and beating themselves up about something and, since this one covers 50% of the population, it can run and run.
In the latest newsletter from Sturm und Drang, there's another article about the crisis. And it's pointed out that 98% of Kindergarten personnel are female, along with 87% of primary school teachers. This is one factor, it is believed, in the lack of orientation experienced by many men in Germany. The old role models have been toppled, but nothing positive has filled their place. This dilemma was summed up in Die Welt: "Machos are out. Softies aren't in."
While the feminisation of German culture and commerce has been long overdue, one does wonder where the male role models are. While internationally top-of-their class females are everywhere, from Angela Merkel to Heidi Klum, where are the men? Of course, there are good German sportsmen and there always will be, but otherwise, who is there? The Pope, of course. But these days, Boris Becker is more famous for his serial marriages than his tennis skills.
Where are the great artists, musicians, statesmen and captains of industry? In the world of advertising, it's also not much better. Most of the characters in TV ads here fall either into the category of hapless fools or Superstar-winner clones. Or maybe they are the real thing. Who could tell the difference, anyway?

Friday 19 June 2009

Brand Story

Various metaphors seem to come in and out of vogue in the world of brands. Now Storytelling is up there again. At Cannes this year, the Wildfire Seminar will be on the subject of the ultimate brand story, to be unveiled on Wednesday 24th June at 4pm.
There's a website with a bit of background to this, plus the opportunity to nominate examples. Some of the examples given include "Coca Cola - The American Dream in a bottle" or "Apple - prodigal son returns, steers company to design immortality". What I find interesting here is the difference between these two: Coca Cola is about the brand, Apple is about the company. And I believe that this little game only really works well when the brand and the company are one and the same - one integral whole.
This latest incarnation of the storytelling story seems to have emerged from the book "The Seven Basic Plots" by Christopher Booker. Now, for those that feel that this is a bit limited when searching around for their Brand Story, I will draw your attention to Georges Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations. Here is the perfect framework for really getting up your own bottom with your brand. How about "Slaying of kin unrecognised"? Or the ultimate aim for all marketeers, surely, "Conflict with a God."

Monday 15 June 2009

What was the year?

I used to be terribly good, to the point of nerdishness, at telling you in which year a particular song came out. In fact, in my teenage years and early twenties, I could probably specify the month, too.
This ability has faded with the years, mainly because there are more of them (years and songs), although I'm still pretty good at anything between 1976 and 1981.
I was amused to see this little game from About Time, which tests this (useless but charming) ability on brands and ad campaigns. It's worth a go. I managed to notch up more than 300 points which wasn't too bad for an old crock. Or is that clock?

Monday 8 June 2009

Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit

Trendbüro have recently developed a "Value Index" to look at which values seem to be particularly pertinent to Germans today. Rather than the usual practice of constructing a questionnaire and interviewing, Trendbüro have analysed 150,000 German-speaking blogs, forums and communities. This method strikes me as one of the great new things you can do now with data in Web 2.0 - analyse real behaviour in terms of conversations, rather than confronting people with an artificial interview situation and words out of context.
Anyway, the results are as follows - the Top 11 German values:
1. Freedom
2. Success
3. Family
4. =Health and Safety (these two always seem to pop up together!)
6. Nature
7. Simplicity
8. Recognition
9. Justice
10. Authenticity
11. Self-realisation
Trendbüro seem to be rather surprised at the results, not because punctuality and efficiency are nowhere to be seen, but because those marketing darlings Authenticity and Self-realisation are on the lowest rungs. I'm not that surprised. Authenticity has always seemed a bit of a phoney thing to me. I know I'm authentic, if the value is being ascribed to me. And if a brand has to bang on about its authenticity, well, then I think it protests too much. Passion falls into the same camp.
In fact, it's just as well that the German National Anthem doesn't start off with "Authentizität und Selbstverwirklichung und Leidenschaft" as this would sound like a musical Mission Statement.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

The next big Bing?

Microsoft are launching Bing in the U.S today. Bing (still in beta here in Europe) is Microsoft's challenge to Google. Interestingly, they are insisting that it's a "discovery" engine and not a "search engine", in order to suggest the next generation, I suppose. Although to suggest the next generation, I might have tackled the word "engine", which brings to mind steam fairs and the Rev. Awdry and gone for something like "rocket" or "missile".
And the ad agency don't seem to be letting this insistence get in the way of a good slogan: "The Sound of Found". I would have thought that "found" has a lot more to do with "search" than "discovery". But it's a lovely slogan, even if oldies like me still think that Bing is actually "the Sound of White Christmas".
Trying the thing out today, I did the usual narcissistic thing of typing in my name and finding images. Totally spookily, when I put "Susan Imgrund" in, a picture of my old boss, Rita Clifton, popped out! Nice to know she's still watching over me after all these years, anyway.
Has anyone else tried it? Is it really the next big Bing?