Tuesday, 30 July 2013

About Snobs: What is a Snob? Are we good Snobs?

The word Snob stems from the abbreviation S. Nob

Which stood for Sin Nobilidad, or 'Without Nobility'.

For what can one write on the name plate of someone who does not have any title? 

There you are, you have prepared your dinner table for all your important guests, the golden sign at each plate says 'The Duke of...', 'The Countess of...' and, what the heck, you've got a guest without any such title.

So someone came up with the beautiful Latin expression of Sin Nobilidad.

That happened in the 19th century, when, damn, industrialists could become so rich they could not be ignored at the soirĂ©es of the aristocracy. Or their money or political pull came in handy. 

So today the word 'Snob' stands for someone who wants to hang out with a higher circle then he or she actually belongs to. Or simply wants to transmit belonging to a higher class. That comes with its pitfalls. An aristocrat would rather drop dead than to be caught in a Ferrari. The motto is: silk in the house, jeans outside.

All that a typical over-the-top Snob achieves, when wrapping himself from head to toe in Versace, decorated in so much gold you can hear him approaching from 1 mile... is that he is seen as a gypsie. Or, worse, a nouvelle riche. In any case, the very last person to be ever invited by those who are born into privilege. 

They will invite an artist, support a struggling writer, be fascinated by a refugee or develop a friendship with a jazz musician... but a nouvelle riche, quel horreur!

One can ask the question: is it so wrong to be a snob?
We all aspire a better life, we are all longing for a better song, and we all know how difficult that is. So surrounding ourselves with role models is a great big help. 

And do not the philosophers keep reminding us: we are the average of the people we spend time with?  Doesn't that mean we should be cultural snobs, education snobs, sports snobs?

Even just a shirt of Versace or a golden watch is a signal to our brain reminding us we want to climb the ladder, or we have left behind poverty or a very humble background. They are motivational tools.

Sure, they are purely materialistic tools. Being attracted to bling bling puts you at the same level as a magpie. Name dropping is not much better. But what's wrong with trying out an affected accent? It can make a person feel better and a constant reminder of his or her aspirations.

At the end of the day it all depends on who your role model is. Do you name your child after a saint, or after Sue-Ellen of Dallas?  Do you drop names of intellectuals - or of B-celebrities from a soap? Are you Hyacinth Bucket, Blanche of 'A Tramway named desire' or Rita of 'Educating Rita'?

In other words, are you hilarious, tragic or very nobly longing for a better song?

Are you a vulgar snob, or a stylish one? 

There's nothing wrong with taking on the role of a Snob, just as there is nothing wrong with being a cowboy... it ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it.


Monday, 29 July 2013

About The Future

Let's picture an era of Smart Phones and stupid people.
Google Glasses will be launched, so publicity can be burned onto our eyeballs.
Over the past years it was already sitting in our back pocket; now it's just a matter of time before it can be injected straight away into our veins, preferably pre-birth.

At a city trip, we will be told what landmark we will need to see, how many minutes it will take getting there, and why we need to find a painting beautiful. Reducing us to sheer helplessness.
In the west, the void left behind by religions, will be filled by Brands and their lifestyle or belief system.
Billions are being poured into the cloning of the dinosaur, so that trillions can be made by exposing it like a circus animal.
The wildebeests better prepare for that web of motorways crisscrossing Africa, the continent of the 21st century, leading us on the way to the next buck of mass tourism or delving of resources.  
In the decades to come, the world population will once again quadruple, but the number of Alphas won't: they will just have more gammas that will work for them while also consummating their products.
In short: this can be an exciting era.
There will be more helplessness on one side, and more power on the other.
One can say that a war of the future might be between the Haves and the Have-nots. Those who do not have the money for food getting frustrated by those who fly over them in their flying car.
One can also say society will be divided into those who are creative, are relentless in their dream of inventing or improving... and those who sit back and are being told what they have to consummate.
Whatever the future will look like, marketing and its manipulative foundation will reach new heights. This will be the era of the marketers.
And as any weapon, you can use it to wound or save. Marketing in itself is amoral. It is nothing but a tool.  
And one I would advise anyone to learn very much about. If only because it's fascinating: it's anthropology, sociology and psychology alike. It is Judo and shadow boxing. It is an old fashioned craft and it can be pure art.
And it will forever become more important.


Friday, 26 July 2013

About Tribal Confirmation

In the previous post I talked about tribes.

The Internet is taking tribalism to new heights: 

We can now connect with any tribe we want to. 

This comes with its dangers. 

For humans no longer are corrected or steered by a multitude of voices and temperaments around them - they can instantly search for and connect with a tribe that will forever reconfirm them in their thoughts. 

Just an example: young village boy is drawn towards Nazi sympathies. Before the existence of the Internet, such a boy would be corrected from all sides: the society around him exists of an array of opinions, thoughts, temperaments... he will soon be molded into someone far more middle of the road or learn that 'the truth is somewhere in the middle'. 

That is no longer the case. 

Such a boy can now instantly connect with hundreds of like minded people, without ever hearing or experiencing a counter-argument. and thus be forever re-confirmed, motivated and be taken to a more extreme level. 

Instead of learning about the world, the Internet can result in closing eyes. 
 Creating all sorts of new tribes that are no longer determined by background, education, culture or geography. 

Depending on the belief system of that particular online tribe, the peer pressure and peer influence will achieve new heights... or lows.


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

About Tribes

We live in tribes.

Do not try not to live in one; as human creature we are wired and programmed to settle into a tribe.

If you think you do not, then you might be what Dian Fossey calls a 'peripheral gorilla', which is a gorilla who lives alone... in a bush right next to one specific tribe.

For hundred thousand years, we roamed the earth in groups of some 120 individuals (and this is still the average number of friends we have on Facebook).

Sure, in the 21st century we can belong to more tribes, at the same time.

At college, we might belong to the Jocks, the Cheerleaders or the Goths. In a village we might associate us with Money, Class, the Sporties, the Intellectuals; just to name 4 very strong and influential 'brands'.
Any marketing plan starts with identifying the 'target market', or the tribe. Which tribe are you going to plug into, tap into or create? 

You will have to, for humans do not buy a product, but what it tells about themselves or the image it will project towards the outside world.

Come hell or high water, every product or concept craves the support of a tribe; it is the conditio sine qua non of its success. For a tribe is immensily powerful. It is much more than the sum of the individuals and a tool of pressure unlike any else. 

(Just ask any doorman at a disco whether he'd accept a group of 12 guys arriving together and coming from the same village). 
Hence why big brands are never after selling a product. They are selling a complete lifestyle, a package of norms and principles as complete as that of any religion or philosophy.

It's for this reason that I am interested in brands such as Apple or Herbalife; they do not sell products, they sell the very comfortable and reassuring feel of belonging to a tribe.

Studying any successful brand, is a lesson in anthropology.



Monday, 8 July 2013

About Thinkers

"Don't make me think".
This is the title of a book about Web Usability. 
And a perfect conclusion for this small series of articles about how we humans very much prefer to not think.
We like to think that we think, but we don't. Hardly ever. We rely on thought patterns that others - or society or our cultural background - have developed for us.

There's a reason why melancholics, the thinkers of our species, from Mark Zuckerberg to Nelson Mandela, are so skinny: thinking consumes an incredible amount of energy, far more than any sport.

Which is the reason why we, in general, do everything we can to avoid it. At the great buffet of thoughts, we go for those that are within arm's length, ready made, and easiest to digest.
The future will only bring more of that. This will be the era of Smart Phones and Stupid People.
By the end of this year Google will launch the Google glasses, so that publicity can now be burned straight away onto our eyeballs.
And we will not even have to collect two brain cells together when we want to know what subway to take or what monument we will have to admire and why we should think a painting to be beautiful.
For sure technological evolution will not stop there. The human desire for instant gratification and the relentless drive to simply never have to organize one single thought again, is too big.  
Cultural pessimism? Doom and gloom? Not at all!
It has never been different. Our whole cultural evolution has been one that was based on the thinking of a few.
Once or twice every century a truly great man stands up. A few times every decade a few single individuals invent or create - and by doing so change the lives of millions.
You as webmaster will want to make your web project such that the consumer does not have to think. That by your brilliant navigation, he or she is taken by the hand, and his or her life is made forever more easy. 
That means that your own motto, online marketer, will have to be: make me think.

You will have to think, for that others won't have to.