Yesterday, I was staying at a boutique hotel in Washington, The Topaz. The hotel supplied two dressing gowns. This is pretty standard. What is less standard: the dressing gowns were leopard "skin" and zebra "skin," respectively. There’s nothing subtle about the designs. They are bold, unmistakable, and deeply weird.
Apparently, what happens at the Topaz stays at the Topaz. This little hotel is engaged in "experience marketing" and encouraging visitors to make an ordinary stay more "adventurous" and "exotic."
There’s a theatrical scenario built in to this clothing. Leopards chase, attack and kill Zebras. So you’d want to be careful which dressing gown you put on, I guess. But for those with the courage to wear the gown, there is a little drama waiting to happen, and some couples will find this an inducement for interactions that might not otherwise have occurred to them.
Self discovery is a long standing promise of the creative fields. It has only recently entered the commercial sector in any serious way. (Um, maybe this is wrong.) What is new, surely, is the number of commercial players who offer "identity exploration" is one of their deliverables. Who are the best players here? What is the state of the art? To what extent could this be one of the futures of marketing?
For my money, there has been no better historical example of maximizing the value — and reaped profits — of “identity exploration” than rock’n’roll as a commercial enterprise. (Personally, I have no idea who I’d be today if not for that first time I heard “Anarchy in the U.K.” or “Visions of Johanna.”) Ironically, at the *current* historical moment, when as Grant says there are so many commercial players delivering “identity exploration” as a deliverable, the recording industry has allowed recent technological advances (i.e., file sharing) to render itself impotent in terms of finding new ways to deliver the deliverable. Rock (and popular/youth music) fans used to be grateful to the labels that gave them access to their favorite artists and music. The RIAA’s recent and repeated insistences that none of the rights we’re used to enjoying when it comes to sharing music with friends hold anymore, in a post-Napster world, have transformed the greatest industrial deliverer of “identity exploration” from a state of transparent taken-for-granted-ness to an over-controlling step-parent intentionally interfering with its most willing consumers’ enjoyment of its product — which has always been MUCH more than just music.
To add to John’s comments: For the last 100 years or so, we’ve seen successive generations define themselves through their adoption of popular music which was disapproved by their parents’ generations — jazz in the 20s, swing in the 30s & 40s, rock in the 50s and 60s, punk in the 70s & 80s, hip-hop and rap in the 90s. For perhaps the first time now, we also see a new generation define itself through adoption of a technology, as well as by the music delivered by that technology. Like the music, the new technology is disapproved of by the “parents” who run the recording industry.
This is bound to have long-term social repercussions, just as the music has.
John, illuminating and well said. I makes you wonder when marketings will come to understand that the brand is a band or nothing at all. Rock groups were printing identities as surely as they were concert t-shirts. And sometimes this was eerie. I remember being in Toronto during a David Bowie concert, and suddenly the streets filled with DB ghosts everywhere. And yes to control music with DRM (especially Sonyish models thereof) is to put commerce in the way of culture at the moment that the fan is prefered to act as an agent of diffusion. Thanks! Grant
Peter, Wow, splendid point, a real eye opener, this is a difference that will make a difference. For instance, music has often has that avant garde edge to it, but lots of tech (despite the efforts of Gibson and the other cyperpunk novelists) does not usually carry that same subversive charge. Thanks, Grant
Yes, the new generation arrived.
New styles, new music and new technology.
What is the costant?