Willfull Wandering

Quick Read: A world fleeting by giga bytes per every nano second lends itself to the emergence of a paced down, nuanced and a deeper notion of travel as an experience  – of the body or the mind or the soul. 

Google ‘wandering’ and it says the following:

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-2-38-34-pm

What if there were to be an aim for wandering?

Speaking of which, what if a sign post says ‘Please Trespass’.

That’s literally one of the unique joys of living in Sweden.

Called allemansrätten, or the Right of Public Access, it means as long as the land is not cultivated, and as long as no damage is caused, most of Sweden’s nature is yours to explore. This right of public access allows anyone to roam freely in the countryside, swim and travel by boat in someone else’s waters or even to camp or park a motor home on another person’s land.

Because it has existed for generations, allemansrätten is a part of the national identity of Sweden. School groups explore the forests from an early age and families often fish, pick berries or go for walks in the woods together.

No wonder, many people in Sweden can identify a surprising number of birds, fish and trees by name. (source)

What if we could all go to the woods to live deliberately. 

What if we willfully subject ourselves to the challenge of stillness and get away from the tyranny of the screens to appreciate solitude and seek inspiration from the nature?

Walden, a Game‘ is an upcoming video game that challenges the player with this very question. See its trailer here.

Inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s classic Walden, Tracy J. Fullerton, the director of the Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, came up with this idea of a video game as a way to reinforce our connection to the natural world and to challenge our hurried culture.

A game that has apparently been in development for nearly a decade, ‘Walden..” takes takes six hours to play. It starts in the summer and ends a year later — offering players tasks like building a cabin, planting beans or chatting  with Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Should you not leave sufficient time for contemplation, or work too hard, the game cautions: “Your inspiration has become low, but can be regained by reading, attending to sounds of life in the distance, enjoying solitude and interacting with visitors, animal and human.” (source)

Costing $19.99, the game is billed  as the world’s most improbable video game for obvious reasons. Nevertheless it signals the mainstream arrival of the phenomenon of people seeking a sense of calm, a modicum of mindfulness and a pinch of presence amidst a world fleeting by giga bytes per every nano second.

So let the world wait 

Perhaps as a reflection of such times that we live in today, we also have brands that have positioned themselves around this emerging need of the individual to seek these moments of peace and calm.

In its recent set of commercials, Black Dog encourages one to pause to unwind and relax. It asks one to take the time to savor all the things that truly matter – “because life is in the pause”.

In his recent annual book of ideas and insights titled Non Obvious-2017 edition, Rohit Bhargava references some interesting trends in this space (of ‘willful wandering’ and its adjacencies) to watch out for in 2017. He calls them “desperate detox”, “deep diving” and “mainstream mindfulness”. (check out his insightful commentary around these trends and much more in his must read book)

Putting it all together, the industry that is rife with disruption due to this trend is obviously travel. And an emerging category of travelers in this space is called the ‘Post Tourist’.

The Post Tourist

The term ‘post-tourist’ is commonly used to refer to a new breed of travellers, those who eschew common tourist hotspots and opt for a more unconventional experience, immersing themselves in local culture for an extended period of time.

No wonder,  Airbnb tells us “Don’t go there, live there”

As Rohit says in his book..

“In a world filled with quick burst experiences, the future of travel seems to be something more meaningful, far deeper, and involving much more willful wandering.” 

Given this, what’s my insight?

If travel is nothing but a state of mind, I have a feeling we are just fastening our seat belts before the category takes off.

A category called, willful wandering – of the body or the mind or the soul.

(Featured Image: From Walden, a Game)

Is The Classic Purchase Funnel Flawed?

Quick Read: With most products in any given category tending to have total functional parity, the only way to drive trial could possibly be through a singular route – curioisty.

Often times I am curious why “curiosity” doesn’t even figure in the classic purchase funnel.

In fact I tend to believe that without inciting a threshold level of curiosity in a consumer, awareness and consideration could end up proving to be moot pursuits.

Let’s take Kaviar. (or Smörgåskaviar to be specific)

Kaviar is a Scandinavian spread – a paste consisting mainly of lightly smoked cod roe that has a salty/sweet/fishy taste and a gooey pink/orange colour. Packed full of omega-3 goodness, kaviar can be eaten at anytime and practically spread on anything edible – breads, eggs, meat, cheese etc. (source)

Mills Kaviar

(Source: Mills Kaviar)

No wonder the Scandivaians swear by them, with the category that is sufficiently crowded with brands like MillsStabburet, Kalles, Kavli etc battling out for market share by commanding fierce loyalties.

However kaviar supposedly has one catch – it is an acquired taste and a first timer might find the taste disgusting

Now that’s where the Kalles Campaign proves to be a genius. (Kalles is a Swedish Kaviar brand)

The campaign holds a mirror to other nationalities’ incomprehension and their reaction at having something that tastes – let’s just say – strong and funny.

It starts with Los Angeles where obviously the Californians don’t hold back their feelings upon tasting something weird.

As it moves to Switzerland, the taste test yields more hand and eyebrow gestures than actual verbal responses.

“It tastes … ” a serious looking man in a tie says. “It tastes … ”

“Fantastic?” the Swede asks.

“No,” the Swiss man replies, with a resolute firmness.

In Budapest, the reaction is icier. A woman takes a bite, exchanges cold glances and upon being asked if she likes it, she smiles, and says “yes,” with a look that clearly says no.

The Costa Ricans laugh and gesticulate.

And the Japanese are very polite even as they appear to be gagging at the taste.

 The Kalles commercials began in 2012 and were made by the Swedish ad firm Forsman & Bodenfors.

As this NYTimes article says, if nothing else these ads are a whimsical cultural excursion into manners.

Now, can anyone get me a Kalles Kaviar please?

I want to try my own gag reflex.

I am really curious!

Now, where am I in the purchase funnel?

(Featured Image Source: My Guilty Pleasures)

Is Sweden a Low Context Culture?

Quick Read: Differences between high context and low context cultures in branding could just be theoretical. All it takes is some brilliant marketing to blur the lines in between.

High-context culture and low-context culture are terms coined by the anthropologist Edward Hall.

Theoretically this categorisation between culutures has implications on branding and communications associated to them.

For example, according to this recent article, in a high cultural context, inherent cultural cues (e.g, symbols and emotions) add a lot of meaning to asociated marketing communications. Think of ads that reference cultures like Indian, Latin American or Middle Eastern for example and you get the picture. 

(A great ad that references Indian culture)

Low cultural contexts, by contrast, are those where there is little influence of emotions, gestures and cultural cues over the associated marketing communications.

For example – the article goes on to state – Sweden has a low cultural context. In other words, Swedish cues and metaphors are believed to contribute little meaning to any branding/communication.

But is it? 

While differences between these cultural contexts might help us to justify to ourselves the relative decibel levels of ‘cultural noise’ that gets thrown into their respective communications (e.g., narratives in films, ads etc), communications that reflect a culture are more complex and do not necesarily confine themselves to these siloed definitions.

Let’s take Sweden for example. Why is there a stereotype that Swedish metaphors add little meaning to any associated branding or advertising?

This cultural guide to Sweden encaplsulates it well when it says “Despite the generally contented natures of the Swedes, there is an underlying melancholy most often attributed to the long, dark and cold winters.” In other words, theoretically there is nothing much beyond a brooding sense of gloom to add as ‘cultural cues’ when it comes to referencing anything Swedish.

But lately, marketers seem to have used this very subdued under tone of melancholy and turned it into a state of mind (and soul) to be celebrated as uniquely Swedish!

Now that’s not exactly how a low context culture is meant to work. Right?

Volvo ‘Vintersaga’ – Embrace the Swedish melancholy

With a montage that celebrates the miserable weather conditions of Sweden aided by some spectacular photography and echoey music, Volvo recently paid a “tribute to Sweden at it’s worst” through its Vintersaga (Winter’s tale) campaign.

By capturing the country’s bleakest weather, Volvo goes on to explain that without the harsh Swedish winters it would not have become what it is today, or make the cars that it does.

Stutterheim Raincoats – ‘Swedish melancholy at its driest’

Being melancholic is an essential part of being a human being. 

…so says the philosophy page of Stutterheim’s rain coats. What for Mr. Stutterheim was initially an art project, has transformed – with a stroke of marketing genius coupled with a sharp positioning – into a line up of raincoats that are now shipped worldwide, with a price tag between $370 –  $1,400.

Stutterheim

(Source: Stutterheim’s philosophy on Melancholy and Creativity)

Apparently Swedish gloom seems to have a tremendous market demand with the brand today seeing strong growth in Europe and the U.S., with sales estimated to reach $4.8 million in 2015, up from $180,000 in 2011. (source)

After all as its philosophy goes on to say …

Through our melancholy we come up with new ways of seeing the world and new ways of being in the world. Let’s embrace Swedish melancholy. Embracing rain is a good start.

Now that’s some smart marketing that has converted something as monochromatic as Swedish melancholy into a unique (and dare I say sufficiently loud) motif of the Swedish culture.

Bonus Links: Check out this Volvo campaign that celebrates Swedish wilderness and this recent one by Grey London that celebrates Swedish….. (hold your breath & drum rolls)…. air!

Now, do you still believe Sweden is a low context culture?

Any classifications exists only as long as marketers allow it to.

Isn’t it?

(Featutured Image: Sutterheim – Swedish Melancholy At It’s Driest)