Note III from an interview with David Altschul, CEO of Character.
Yesterday, we noted the “middle space strategy engaged by David as a way of addressing the problem of cultural wear out.
Today, we will take up the larger issue here: an imbalance of trade between culture and commerce. I am on the road, so this will have to be brief.
Commerce has, made substantial contributions to contemporary culture. Coca-cola shaped our notion of Santa Claus and Christmas in the 19th century. Nike helped define and drive the fitness trend of the 1990s. Starbucks, with its contribution of the notion of a ‘third space between home and work, has helped change the way North Americans think about the possibility of social life in the public sphere. (See the notes on “clams in this blog for a more extended argument of a fourth case in point.) There isnt the time here to make these arguments in any detailed way. I do wish to note, contra Naomi Klein and many others, that commerce has had something more than an appropriating, exploitative relationship to North American culture.
But for all of these contributions, commerce has been a “net importer of cultural meanings, which is to say, it takes more than it gives.
And this is, I think, one of the interesting implications of Davids contribution of a ‘third space. As more and more marketers are obliged to engage in third space marketing, they become, necessarily, the makers of culture, not merely the users of it. As we noted yesterday, David engages in third space marketing for a strategic reason, to give the client more control and greater depth. But it is clear that what marketers may do for strategic purposes has important implications for the relationship between culture and commerce.
To put the matter too summarily (and more on this on my return), marketers engaged in third space marketing could help to make commerce a “net exporter of meanings or at least to diminish the asymmetry that now exists between culture and commerce.