Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Pseudo Choice

I'm reading a dystopian/speculative/sci-fi whatever-it's-called-these-days novel at the moment: Future Perfect by Katrina Mountfort. 150 years into the future, the human race live in CitiDomes rather reminiscent of Center Parcs, subscribe to a set of MindValues that wouldn't be out of place on a boardroom wall and have given up worshipping anything remotely spiritual. Instead, the idols are those that have BodyPerfect status and are the media darlings of the non-stop diet of reality shows. Needless to say, the BodyPerfect guys and girls look as if they have swooshed out of advertising stock photos.

It's fiction but it doesn't feel so far from the truth that we're seeing now. Chris Anderson's book The Long Tail is now 8 years old and while it's true that we do have endless choice, not only does Google make it difficult for us to find the end of the tail (or even the beginning of the end of the tail) - did you mean X? Show results for etc. etc. etc - but when it comes to it, most people are more comfortable not having to bother. Who goes beyond the first page of search engine results on a regular basis?

I wrote about conformity in my last post and I sometimes wonder in branding and advertising if we are seeing a mass-homogenisation, a group tending towards the mean. Although globalisation does have its benefits, it does mean that everyone is using those same corporate values, chasing the same perfect customer experience, latching onto the same cultural insights while believing they're creating something unique. It's not just the stock shots that we're all dipping into, but the strategic part, too.

I read a brilliant article in the New Yorker a couple of weeks ago, which mentioned Theodor Adorno and the Frankfurt School regarding "Pop Culture as an instrument of economic and political control, enforcing conformity behind a permissive screen."

Are we offering genuine choice with our brands and communication? Or, to quote Adorno, "Freedom to choose what is always the same?"

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