The Ritualization of Buying

Really great soundbite from Design Anthropologist, Dori Tunrstall taken from the book Brand Thinking.  The book is a sort of compilation of interviews with leading thinkers across a wide variety of fields about their thoughts on branding and design.  Dori’s comments on the ritualization of buying were of most interest to me:

We almost always used “things” as a way to identify ourselves and to identify others. Let’s start with the human body. In traditional cultures, the art of tattooing was about social coding. A certain number of tattoos meant you’ve been married. Another number of tattoos meant that you’ve had children. This many tattoos meant that you’ve killed a lion.

Nowadays, we have a tremendous emphasis on dress and makeup and in our rituals of buying. I use the word “rituals” very specifically. But our rituals of consumption are no longer as satisfactory to us … because they are empty of human relationships.

There was recently a wonderful study done on garage sales. When people go to a garage sale to buy something, they actually feel very satisfied about the interaction. Most of the time, it’s because the object they buy comes with a story—a very real, personal story about where the object fit into someone’s life.

Whether it’s real or not, you connect with that person through the object. So when you take the object, your purchase of it is more satisfactory. Whereas right now, when you go now to a store, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on branding that tells authentic stories in order to … sell more stuff.

Dori’s last part about the derivation of meaning through purchases is supported by Rob Walker’s Significant Objects experiment performed a few years back.  In it, he purchased a number of thrift store trinkets for an average of $1.25 each.

Those objects were then listed on eBay, but in place of the item description he included a short fictional story about the object written by one of numerous professional writers. Some of the stories described the objects role in a crime or historical event, others about their role in rituals or as good luck charms, etc.

In the end, the objects sold for a total of over $8,000, signifying the importance of story and, by extension, meaning, in the purchase experience.

[via Brainpickings]

Denver Egotist: We Are All Egotists

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From the book ‘How to Assert Power Over People’ from the 1950s.

[via The Denver Egotist]

Weekend Wisdom

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[via It's Hard To Find A Friend Tumblr]

Breakbot: Baby I’m Yours (feat. Irfane)


 
Amazing music video found on The Fox is Black.

Denver Comic Con

I had the opportunity to attend Denver Comic Con this weekend and wanted to share a few choice photos courtesy of the Denver Post.  Amazing community of people at these events.

Denver Comic Con

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Denver Comic Con

Denver Comic Con at the Colorado Convention Center

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Denver Comic Con  Denver Comic Con

Denver Comic Con

Denver Comic Con at the Colorado Convention Center

Sarah Sze’s Triple Point at the Venice Biennial


 
Lots of amazing artwork to be seen from the Venice Biennial this week.  The video above features Sarah Sze discussing her improvisation installation, Triple Point.

“The spontaneous is always where it’s the most interesting for the artist and for the viewer…Improvisation is crucial. I want the work to to have this feeling that it was improvised; that you can see decisions happening on site the way you see a live sports event—the way you hear jazz.”

Read more on Artsy.

The Manhattan Projects

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The Manhattan Projects is a pretty rad little comic that’s been out for about a year now.  It asks, what if the actual Manhattan Project was really just a front for a number of other highly unusual science experiments carried out by a super-team of scientists including Einstein, Oppenheimer, Fermi and others?  It’s sci-fi with an extra dose of science.  Aside from it being a great comic, I wanted to post it here because of how big of a departure the modern minimalistic cover artwork (show above) is from what you’d normally see in this realm.  Really stunning, in my opinion.

Levi’s Acts As If…

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You may be familiar with the Levi’s Archives.  If not, I’ll give you a quick run down.  Essentially, it’s a meticulously maintained collection of artifacts from Levi’s 150 year history.  The collection was built from the ground up by Lynn Downey a historian and apparent icon among denim fans, and now contains a significant array of garments, posters, photos and more.

Among some of the noteworthy elements in the collection, as mentioned by Levi’s, are:

  • The XX, the oldest pair of 501 jeans in the world, dating back to 1879
  • Denim jackets redesigned and decorated by Elton John, Queen Latifah, Yves St. Laurent, Elizabeth Taylor and more
  • A jacket and pair of jeans signed by The Rolling Stones
  • Letters to Levi’s from Cary Grant, Henry Kissinger, Clint Eastwood, Lady Bird Johnson and silent-movie cowboy William S. Hart

I love that Levi’s invests in preserving it’s own history.  The act serves to solify the brand’s place in our historical and popular culture. But, even more than that, I am reminded of the old catchphrase “act as if”, which encourages us to carry ourselves as if we have already achieved the thing we are pursuing and that orientation alone will help to get us there.

Although, Levi’s is already the most iconic denim company in the world, they’re treating their products as treasures worthy of preservation, a sort of record of the evolution of fashion, as it pertains to jeans.  This simple act elevates their product to new levels in the eyes of their fans. Where most brands are merely purveyors, Levi’s has evolved to become collectors and even protectors of their specialty. Well done.

Selectivism recently received a look at some of the collectibles.  Check it out here.

[Image via Selectivism]

This Is Water: DFW’s 2005 Commencement Speech Re-visited

 

A short film adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s famous 2005 commencement speech to the graduates of Kenyon College.

Simply put, DFW’s speech is about the mere fact that we have the ability to decide how we experience each moment of our lives, especially the mundane and aggravating ones. Our education is not about arming us with vast amounts of knowledge, it’s about instilling the awareness necessary to choose between a conscious and unconscious existence, what moments have meaning, and when we’re able to experience the infinite connectedness of life.

It’s an incredibly important message for all of us, especially those moving bit by bit into adulthood and the more permanent cognitive frameworks that accompany it.

An interview with The Glossary, the creators of this film, can be found on AdWeek.

The New American Superstar

Gone are the days of trying to Be Like Mike.  The connectivity brought forth by the digital age has removed the protective veil that once insulated and propped up the athletes of old to super-human status. But, with or without new media technologies the perceived level to which we vaulted athletes in our mind, was doomed to collapse.

And bit by bit, it did.  For years, we’ve witnessed downfall after downfall, from Ron Artest climbing into the stands to attack fans to Elin Nordgren chasing Tiger down with his own golf club, hilarity and irony so extreme they borderline on the poetic.  Over the years we’ve seen too many lapses in character that media and brands can no longer use sponsorships and commercial spots to sell us the primped, primed and overly-engineered identity of yesterday’s athlete.  It’s not new and it’s not believable anymore.

This progression reached an inflection point in 2010, when LeBron James announced that he was going to play for the Miami Heat on a live television special.  The event was so significant it is now known only as The Decision.  Nearly three years later, James is still working to regain his credibility among sports fans.

And, while I used to think the root of fan frustrations came from the fact that LeBron renounced the humble, hard-working city of Cleveland for the tan skinned, botox-injected fakeness of Miami, a dynamic that now occurs regularly in sports, I now realize it boiled down to something else.  What we hated was the seriousness and over-inflated air of importance that this event conveyed about LeBron.  So, important you need a TV special to tell the world who you’re going to play for next year?! Fans went berserk and everyone overlooked the fact that the ad dollars from the :30 minute program raised over $2 million for Boys and Girls Clubs.

Today’s athlete must be willing to explore another approach if he or she wants to reach the mountain top of endorsement dollars.  I’ll elaborate.  Thanks to the creative minds of Madison Avenue and the wild success of campaigns like Old Spice’s Man Your Man Could Smell Like, advertisers are heading in a new direction with their use of celebrity talent.  Instead of the super-serious, “you want to be like me” commercial spots of old, they’ve taken the athlete’s already over-inflated ego and boosted it further to the point of comedy.
 

 
Simply put, today’s athlete makes his fame through commercial spots that enhance or underscore his peculiarities and insecurities.  No one likes a person who takes themselves too seriously.  LeBron learned this the hard way. 
 

 
But, we do like people, and especially athletes, who have no problem laughing at themselves.  Remarkable commercial spots are now achieving this with some regularity.  Some going so far as to become popular culture in and of themselves as evidenced by the Cliff Paul Statefarm spots (below).
 

 
All of these commercials are fantastic. I light up each time a new one comes out that progresses the narrative forward. But, on the flip side, it’s also somewhat sad to think about the fact that athletes have fallen to a more human level in our lives. Once immortalized as hero’s, they’re now just entertainers.

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