‘Eat me’, ‘shake me’, ‘hello, I am made of lovely juicy good stuff’, ‘ooooh I am sweet and funny’, ‘put me in the recycling please, as I’m just a little harmless product’.
Yep we’ve all heard it, we’ve all smiled inside at the innovative and engaging ways brands are talking to us now, happy to be a part of the new world consumer order. Low impact? High enjoyment? We’re all friends together, you and me. Me the fab cool greenish product, you the smart moneyed consumer.
But something is sticking in my throat today… something not quite feeling right. When I read those words on the websites, on the products, on the hidden surface of the thing I’ve just bought, telling me how much they ‘loved’ making this thing something feels wrong. What that thing is I’m going to try and set out here because for me the end of the nicey nicey brand is looming large on the horizon. I have been wrong about a lot of future trends (the coolness of comic sans being one) but I think this one is only a matter of time.
There has been a massive increase in this general niceness on the part of brands for the last 5 years, with probably Ben and Jerrys being the ancient precedent for this current vogue of all copy written like a cosy exchange between two happy people. Would you like a nice cuppa? Oh go on then you harmless git.
The happy friendly copy was a breath of fresh air for me especially in a world where we are cowed and swayed by names and corporations barking their messages in the manner of machismo, professionalism and science. The nicey nicey was a bit of light relief in the everyday, conversational and warm, making me feel a little bit closer to the lost past of local shops and local produce that I don’t think I ever really knew.
I liked the charm, and the idea that the people who made the product were all thoroughly decent people who care about me.
But now as the clouds of recession loom on the UK horizon and as we wish that Kirstie Alsop had been a doctor instead of a fffffing presenter we begin to understand that property is not property but in fact peoples HOMES, we begin to understand that credit is not credit but in fact DEBT, and we begin to understand that the climate is not warming up our summers a bit but generally wreaking havoc worldwide. Ahhhh when I was a wee lass we actually had discernible seasons, when it was cold in Winter and hot in Summer instead of perma-April.
So in my current headspace if someone is going to tell me they made something with love, that something better not be a soft drink or a disposable razor or a 2.zero web offering for better networking – what it better be is something a little bit more important.
But brands have never really been the answer to environmental and financial disaster but when the UK populace is edgy, nervous and skint it annoys to have this cloying familiar chat from brands who are without a doubt part of the problem. When the reality bites I can’t abide those who continue to harp on about ‘loveliness’ when I know only too well that I only believed in their loveliness when my life too was lovely. Now I find it all a bit tired, irrelevant to my life, like reaching adolescence while your parents still pat your head as you think “Don’t they know the shit I’m dealing with, why can’t they see what the world is like”.
I’m not advocating branding like Death cigarettes here, but if brands are to have any resonance with the people their message cannot be one of unending niceness and childish talk. If I see one more ‘ooooooh hello’ on a bit of packaging I will light the bonfire.
We all need good companies to make stuff that is worthwhile but don’t lay it on too thick folks because we know you still live or die by your bottom line and this time our bottom line is really at the bottom.
For me and my current work on tone, brand messaging and communications in general I’m going to reign back from the baby talk and remember no-one likes a Polly Anna, if you want to come over as out of touch and oblivious keep on speaking to your customers like they are two, if you don’t then straighten up and fly right as Bob Fossil might say.