xrematon

October 18, 2017

Domestic time travel

Filed under: Consumer Trends,Marketing,Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 9:05 am
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I work from home and thus tend to think rather a lot about domestic spaces. So perhaps it’s no surprise that my latest blog post here will relate my experience of going to a museum which is all about homes through the ages.

A couple of months ago, I finally had the chance to visit the Geffrye Museum. It’s in achingly cool Shoreditch, which in reality means tramping along very busy and grimy roads as the public transport connections are rather limited. The museum itself is situated in restored and refashioned almhouses and an oasis of calm and greenery in the midst of the urban bustle.

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Unlike many museums and exhibitions, which seem to eschew putting things forward in chronological sequence in favour of following themes, the Geffyre Museum solidly set out its rooms in historical order. We travel from the 1600s up to the twentieth century, going through halls, parlours, living rooms and kitchen-dining rooms.  Below are a selection of images from these different eras.

 

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As I walked through the rooms, admiring how our tastes in wood, flooring material, upholstery and other such delights have changed over time, a number of observations struck me.

In reality, I doubt whether many houses would have looked as laid out in the museum at the period specified. Furniture tends to hang around for a long time. Speaking from personal experience, I know that I have a table and chairs that belonged to my husband’s grandmother, as well as items that have only appeared within the last year or two. The reality of homes is that they are less aesthetically coherent with a mish mash of items from many different eras.

The impact of changing patterns in work have fed through into how spaces are used and owned within the house. Over the past century or two, as the idea of going to a factory or office for employment (rather than running one’s business or trade from home) has become more common, it means that living rooms have become more ‘feminised’. They became more clearly places where women and children spent most of the time with room for games and instruments, and more ‘cosy’.

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There is lots of discussion about the growing importance of China on the world stage today – think not just of its economic might as the second largest global economy, but also its growing political leadership, for example in committing to the Paris climate change Accord whilst America has not. It was interesting to see evidence of when China was also influential earlier. However, it was seen more as an exotic place full of interesting and beautiful art, culture and history. In the early eighteenth century, drinking tea from China was a novelty and also a luxury. You would not find the big clunky mugs from which we slurp our ‘builders’, but instead tiny porcelain bowls and saucers to make the precious drink go further. Cupboards were inspired with intricate ‘Oriental’ designs made to look like Japanese lacquer (but actually made in Europe).

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Perhaps what was most distinctive about the museum was the fact its focus was on middle class households. When we admire rooms and furniture from the past, it tends to be within the setting of big posh stately homes and thus reflecting the lifestyles of the very rich and very privileged. Instead, the Geffyre Museum lets us see what those in the middle experienced. Though you don’t get the sumptuous décor and extraordinary attention to personal comforts, as for instance found at Eltham, looking round is more engaging as it is more accessible.

I wonder what ‘my era’ will look like when it is put up to visit?!

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October 16, 2016

Story telling – part II

Filed under: Business,Consumer Trends,Marketing,Uncategorized — by xrematon @ 8:25 pm
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This is the second and final post thinking about story telling, something which the marketing world is rather keen on at the moment. In my first post, I explored the different levels at which stories can be used. In this post, I am sharing learnings from having looked through Christopher Booker’s “The Seven Basic Plots”.

In this work, Booker describes the seven basic stories which seem to act as archetypes and recur in great tales from across time and across cultures. To be fair, with all this increased interest in stories, the marketing world has cottoned to these seven basic plots as a source of reference and inspiration.

However, there are perhaps more interesting elements to Booker’s analysis of stories that have been overlooked. In the last section, he explores how, in the past 200 years, many of these archetypes have been subverted and inverted. “They have become detached from their underlying archetypal purpose. Instead of being fully integrated with the objective values embodied in the archetypal structure, such stories have taken on a fragmented, subjective character, becoming more like personal dreams or fantasies.” Booker goes on to explore how this shift explains and reflects the shift in individual human consciousness that has occurred in recent history.

I don’t want to go that ‘deep’, but it made me wonder whether the idea of playing around with archetypes has or could be a source of creative inspiration. Here are some initial reflections.

  • It might appear that advertising is creating its own archetypes which can then be distorted. Parody is the clearest example of this – and the Aldi version of Man on the Moon comes to mind here.
  • In addition to the archetypal plots, Booker also identifies archetypal roles that individuals in the seven basic plots might play. These include the Mother, Father, Child and animus/amina (the character that embodies the qualities of the opposite gender to the hero/heroine). In a world where it is increasingly accepted and perhaps expected that men take on child care and domestic duties and that gender identity is not fixed, one might argue that rethinking these archetypes is necessary in order to have relevance today. Fashion is certainly getting interested, but this is likely to be more style than substance.
  • Part of the reason that the archetypes begin to distort is due to the arrival of an author and their personality. What we are seeing in marketing is a different change in the centre of gravity within narratives. Brands can now be less about story telling and more about story making; and it is the customer who in fact ‘has’ the story or, at the very least, is actively involved in it.  Think about the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign where the brand sets the stage and provides a prop, but it is the customer who is the protagonist.

Whichever way these trends and shifts play out, it is worth ending on the fundamental reason why stories have so much to offer in marketing. Stories add to the humanity of brands. Without that narrative, everything is dominated by features, data and discounts and that sounds a bit boring to me.

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