gapingvoid is interested in start-up culture, because changing business for the better is what we’re about; that’s what Social Object Factory is about. We live and breathe it; we help everyone from lone entrepreneurs, to mid-sizers, to Fortune 500’s do the same. Check out our work here.
We create art that helps companies kick ass, end of story.
When I attended Ted Global last summer in Edinburgh, one of the people I ejoyed meeting the most was this English-Pakistani guy called Maajid. He did a really good TED talk on how to fight religious extremism, based on his own experience as a reformed member of radical Islamist groups, himself (How radical? Radical enough to have spent time in Egyptian prison for it…).
Fast forward to the present, the other day he emails me out of the blue. Terrific! He wanted to commission a Valentine’s Day gift for his sweetheart. Nice!
So I went with something fun and colorful to brighten up a dark, English February, taking my inspiration, on his suggestion, from Pakistani bus art, which is crazy-amazing stuff.
He’s a lovely, gracious guy, Maajid, and was a pleasure to work with. Go check out the extremism-fighting organisation, Quilliam that he’s head of– interesting stuff.
[One of the Dewars drawings I did while attending TED Global etc.]
[Today’s guest post is by Jason Korman, my business partner since 2005, and CEO of gapingvoid]
“The Market For a Scotch to believe in is Infinite”
There are millions of cases at stake for the guys who get the messaging right.
We’ve had Scotch on the brain lately. We’ve done wine, we’ve done suits and we’ve done tech, but Scotch has its own particular set of challenges.
What makes any bottle of scotch different? And, does anyone care, anyway? There are, what Hugh’s dad used to call, the “whiskey bores” who drone on and on about all things whisky, but I’m told there aren’t that many of them left. So, what matters to everyone else?
There is the realm of the single malts and high end scotches. But they seem to need to be marketed more like Congac or Champagne, a bit of bling, sexy packaging, and hyped up associations.
For more broad market Scotch, the opportunities are much greater and the challenge much more complex. Scotch is a distinctly masculine product. It is strong, it is interesting, is implies thought and intelligence. It s a product that wants to have meaning.
Given that, what we see mostly in Scotch marketing is a reliance on ‘authenticity’, with everyone trying to have the most authentic conversation grounded in centuries of history. The question is really: is this relevant? Once a consumer knows your Scotch is ‘for real’, do they care enough to want to know the details? I’d guess, probably not.
With alcoholic beverages, what you do have is a desire from the market to want to know: Why? What do you stand for? Why do you exist? And does your brand represent something that I believe in — does it share my world view.
J&B says, “Let’s Start a Party”. I know that they are trying to make an old brand younger and relevant. But, OMG, does it seem disingenuous. It comes across as a little inconsistent with what the product is about. It’s not tequila, its not vodka, it’s really NOT a party drink. It feels like granny dancing on the table at your cousin’s wedding – kinda cringeworthy and creepy. Oh, and in an acknowledgement that even they don’t buy into the party thing, they also tell the story about Mr. Justerini traveling from Bologna to London in 1749. Not sure what they’re thinking, but stream of consciousness brings me to paraphrase the Artist Formerly Known as Prince… “Let’s party like its 1749″.
Chivas goes with “Live with Chivalry”, and tells “The Story Behind the Legend”. It’s place centric, it’s a nice story about a Scotsman traveling to NY a hundred years ago. But, it sounds a lot like things we’ve heard before. More importantly, they seem unconcerned with relevance in 2011. Their ultra-produced videos are like Public Service Announcements, urging people to be nice. Yawn.
As with both of the above, Dewars goes with the place centric, authentic Scottish thing, so they cover that base. But it feels like a brand that wants more. Their messaging is really very ‘of the moment’ and involves people who are actually alive today — It focuses on the top bit of Maslow’s hierarchy. They want to find people and facilitate people being self– actualized. The message is, as beings we are happier doing things that we believe in.
A bright spark at Dewars had the idea of aligning with the TED conferences. After all, Ted’s speakers do, by definition, embody the qualities that Dewars represents.
Enter Hugh. They also hired Hugh to draw at TED Edinburgh and distill the speakers ideas into his style of illustration. Hugh likes to say that his goal is to draw a cartoon that rips your face off the first time you see it, and is still doing it and the tenth time.
One of those is posted above.
We ask ourselves: Is Hugh’s style too edgy, too disruptive, not art directed enough, to be used in main stream media? How can a brand like Dewars better communicate what it stands for than through one of Hugh’s cartoons?
In today’s world, where everyone is saying advertising is dead, what they are really saying that advertising the way it used to be done is dead. Giving people something they believe in, in a way that they can’t help but notice, is where the action really is. Getting noticed. Doing stuff that gets noticed, doing it smart, and in a way that your audience will think is cool, is where its at. Have beliefs that are strong enough to build a movement, not just a brand.
We’ve got Scotch on the brain, and we’re liking it. A category ripe for disruption.
“Possibility”. A riff on the great Charles Schultz line, “I carry the burden of a great potential”.
I didn’t think too much about it at the time. But as the days progressed, the cartoon started to haunt me.
The burden of a great potential. Anyone with half a brain (or half a soul) will be able to relate.
Knowing that it might never happen. And knowing that even if you do manage to make a decent go of it, it will never be enough.
That there’s still something else you still haven’t done, that there’s still one more piece of Creation remaining, that you haven’t managed to download. AND THIS WILL NEVER CHANGE. Welcome to being alive. Welcome to the human condition. That’s what TED is REALLY about, at the end of the day.
[The Dewar’s cartoon I did for Maajid’s talk etc.]
[View from my drawing tablet: Downstairs in the chill-out room.]
[I’m still in Edinburgh, and like everybody else, still recovering from a very intense week at TED Global. Here are some notes from an incredible event, in no particular order:]
1. “An idea is not something you HAVE, an idea is something you DO.”
I attended TED on behalf my client, Dewar’s Scotch. The idea was to create cartoons that gave justice to the Dewar’s idea, “Some things are just worth doing”.
Which ties in with the TED idea, “Ideas worth spreading.”
Which ties in with one of the great themes in my work these days, “The Unification of Work and Love”.
I’m currently running with the thought that, an idea is not something you HAVE, an idea is something you DO.
i.e. Ideas are all very well, but without some sort of action to follow, they’re not much use. Ideas don’t exist in a vacuum.
Nobody reading this, including me, want to spend their whole life, sitting on their ass, thinking big thoughts but actually doing nothing.
2. You’ve heard of live-blogging, yes? Well, I was “live-tooning”. Drawing cartoons on the spot, trying to capture all the ideas that were flying at me at 200 mph. Over four days, I drew dozens of them. The cartoon above was one I did for Maajid Nawaz. He gave a great talk on how to fight extremism on a global level:
Why do transnational extremist organizations succeed where democratic movements have a harder time taking hold? Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist extremist, asks for new grassroots stories and global social activism to spread democracy in the face of nationalism and xenophobia.
One of the points Maajid made was how movements require four elements in order to be viable: Ideas, narratives, symbols and leaders. So I ran with that. Click on the link and watch the video to hear more.
At the event, I gave Maajid a hand-drawn copy of the work above, poster-sized. He was a very gracious man, I thought.
[Maajid’s TED video…]
3. Then there were the “Conversation Pieces”.
While talking to the polar explorer, Ben Saunders, I had the idea to make a drawing WHILE talking to him. A real-time conversational doodle. as it were. A “Coversation Piece”, as it were. Above is a picture of him holding the final result.
It’s a question that never gets old: Here you are, surrounded by all these amazing people and ideas, now how do you use what you do (in my case, my cartoons) in order to interface with them? Meaningful interaction with other people– THAT’S what makes work interesting, NOT the money.
4. Ow. I’ve got a TED-ache.
A TED-ache is what they call it: When your brain is so stuffed with all the ideas and stimuation and conversation flying around for four days nonstop, your brain can no longer keep up with it, your brain kinda wants to explode.
I came away with enough material to fill MONTHS of blogging, MONTHS of catooning. Like everybody else at TED, I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed yet supercharged.
It was an amazing experience: Hundreds of insanely bright and creative people, doing insanely interesting things. Quite a contrast to the usual mass-elevator-pitch that most conferences have become.
And now, somehow, I’ve got to do the event justice, both on behalf of myself and Dewars’. Like everybody else who attends, it’s not the event that matters, it’s what you take away and apply to your own life in a meaningful way that matters. I would be lying if I said I didn’t find it daunting.
I’ve said it before many times before on this blog: We are incredible beings living in incredible times, and as long as there is still one person alive on this planet who doesn’t believe this, then there’s still work to be done. TED re-affirmed this for me, in spades.
It’s four in the morning and I can’t sleep because of this. Thanks to TED for making this happen, thanks to Dewar’s for being such an awesome client.
5. This is only the beginning. You have my word. Rock on.
2. This is my message from TED Global: “ALL ART IS SMALL ART”. Big, important stuff is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS preceded by small moments of genius. Watch all the TED videos if you don’t believe me. All the world’s great human-caused tragedies (not to mention, all failed expensive marketing campaigns) were caused when the people in charge tried to bypass the small stuff and go straight for the big stuff. Five Year Plan, Comrade? Great Leap Forward, Comrade?
3. And this is also my message fro Dewar’s: “ALL ART IS SMALL ART”. All great marketing starts that way. And more importantly, stays that way.