Topic stack # 4

Another topic stack.  Please make of these what you will.   Feel free to borrow, steal, repackage, republish, illuminate and otherwise add value. 

1) narrative perfume

Thanks to a friend at Saatchi, Mary Mills, I am informed that someone in Paris is making narrative perfume.  The idea is not to smell good.  The idea is not even to evoke any of the traditional meanings invested in perfume: wonder, mystery, romance, the sublime, voluptuousness, abandon, etc.  No, the idea in the case of a company called Etat Libre D’Orange is to tell stories.  A perfume called "murder" smells of metal and blood, eloge du traitre’ tells the story of a traitor.  This really does open up the expressive range of a consumer good that for a very long time had its semiotic range well capped. 

2) managing scarce resources

I was on the train last week, coming back on the Acela from Philadelphia.  The great thing about the train is that it is easy to eavesdrop.  It’s as if someone is doing your anthropology for you.  All you have to do is sit there wide awake, or as Melville says in Moby Dick, "broad awake," and the data comes to you.  In this case, I was listening to a manager managing.  I only had access to half the phone conversation, but it was pretty easy to piece things together.  I was listening to a senior manager managing a junior manager.  It was clear that Senior was having to indulge Junior.  Junior was telling Senior much more than Senior needed to hear.  And you could hear the calculation running in Senior’s head.  This kid is talented.  This kid’s a keeper.  So I let him run…and run…and run.  Clearly, there was a clock ticking in Senior’s head.  How much time could he give to this employee?  How much time should be given as an investment?  Now much to sustain the relationship?  And how much was too much.  Because management is always about choice.  As long as there is more to do than humanly possible to do, you have to choose.  On really hectic days, you are hoping you have done "just enough," exactly as much as is called for and not a jot more.  You could hear this manager trying to make his "just enough" decision. 

3) Beauty on the train. 

Sometimes on the train, you don’t just listen in, you also participate…in that odd way we participate in urban life.  Speaking of broad awake, sitting across from me was a women, a well appointed, somewhat angular blonde, the kind who sends a little thrill through you (well, ok, me) top to bottom, burning slow but true, not a vast, reckless explosion of the kind you get from some women, but something else. 

And then, darn it, she sees me seeing her, and flush with this triumph, she communicates something new to the guy she’s sitting with, a CEO type, her husband, by the looks of things.

And now they go from not talking to one another at all to vibrating for one another, little eddies of gaze, conversation, phatic murmurs running back and forth.  They are chuckling and enjoying one another.  They are what Goffman would call more emphatically a "with."

So here’s how it goes in the pin ball game that is urban life.  She picks up my (very quiet) admiration.  (Honest.)  And she feels differently about herself.  And her husband picks up her new self admiration.  And this converts to his renewed admiration for her. And she plays this back as a renewed admiration for him.

Anthropologists.  We do what we can.

4) Boutique banks

There was a little protest here in Connecticut as small town merchants began to protest the intrusion of lots of new banks.  And sure enough a town like Darien has an intrusion of banks.  And this is odd, and I wondered if we are now a kind of micro brewery trend in banking.  Or is there such a thing as artisanal banking?  Has small come to the ultimate big?  And how will we feel about banking and bank branding once we recover from the present difficult? 

5) Branding

I found wondering whether brands may have moved from oration to aeration. 

6) I have the name of a sensationally good Moscow contact for anyone who is doing research there.  Let me know.  Happy to share this order of talent. 

4 thoughts on “Topic stack # 4”

  1. “She picks up my (very quiet) admiration. (Honest.) And she feels differently about herself. And her husband picks up her new self admiration. And this converts to his renewed admiration for her. And she plays this back as a renewed admiration for him.”

    Or, perhaps you were dragging a length of toilet paper on the bottom of your shoe.

  2. I checked dictionary.com for “aeration” here are my faves:

    –Exposure to the free action of the air; airing;
    –(Physiol.) A change produced in the blood by exposure to the air in respiration; oxygenation of the blood in respiration; arterialization.
    –The act of charging a liquid with a gas making it effervescent.

    What is going in and what is going and what is the relationship between the two, is my question. it seems like there used to be a reverse engineering to brand and culture. the application of culture to ‘orated’ branding efforts to sweeten the pill. culture is beginning, in matrix slo-mo, to flip over backwards to the drivers position. perhaps we’re caught now (thanks to many issues) caught in that slo-mo . . . . what will be the relationship that brand offers culture and vice versa?

  3. Love the one about the woman on the train. Not only because it involves a flirtatious encounter, of which I am always a fan, but because it is a great everyday illustration of a systemic and recursive relationship, and how the introduction of new information (in this case your “admiration”) can change the entire structure of the system, at least for a while.

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