Building a Trade Identity 2 – The Dream Factory

The epithet is customarily used as a descriptor for Hollywood and the US movie industry as a whole.  Hollywood is I guess the most apposite location and industry to be know by this label. However, inbetween the movie shows on TV and at the cinema are slotted the advertising shorts, which are money-spinners for the companies who broadcast or show movies.

The ads are little movies in miniature.  They can become narrative like movies are when a theme catches the public delight and the ad guys exploit it to the full. In the UK there have been narrative streams lasting over several years in Nescafe coffee ads, and another in Cadbury’s chocolate ads as well as several more to my memory.

Building a Trade Identity is a bit like building an advertising campaign, and as such, for it to be successful it has to carry the kernel of a dream inside it.  It has to be a dream which its target audiences buy into. It has to be a dream which has a nuance which no-one else in the industry sector has already been successful with.

For an ad campaign to take the public by storm with a narrative dream represents a campaign which perhaps the touchstone for success in the industry; likewise it takes a global superdream which becomes internalised emotionally by their consumers everywhere to carry an Apple or a Google corporation to colossal and continued hyper success.

The dream is always inseparable from the company and the company’s products.

A revealing way to look at this phenomenon is through the lense of one’s memories of being a child.  Of all stages of life, childhood is the most impressionable. In the first five years of life humans learn more than they do over the next seven or eight decades. We are like blotting paper absorbing learning almost magically at speeds which usually astonish first time parents.

One of the first tasks we seem to succeed in learning pretty well is that the world is our home and  our home is the house, the household, and the family. Almost like young geese we come very close to taking in psychological imprints that are so strong that they are almost indelibly set in our minds.  Nearly everyone is able to remember childhood, with some of its idyllic moments; almost like pagan Peter Pan and Wendy stuff.

The ad guys are aware of this near imprinting capacity on human young; and like the Jesuits they aim often to get the child early so as to be able to present to the world the adult person suitably adjusted. In this way household brands in particular, like those beef stock cubes mother always used to use; or the car manufacturer daddy favoured buying from, and so on, remain in the memory, one might say they form a part of the vestigial memory of a person.

Childhood then shows the powerful example of the potency of advertising on people; and Company Identity is able to work in many ways just like advertising works, and captivates one’s mind so as to build a nascent and almost irremovable impression of deep subliminal familial connectivity.

Such are the deepest strata of our unconscious tendencies; such is consumer loyalty. The message of the dream must be straightforward,not sophisticated; it must appeal to the child yet within us. Thus ads as well as the accompanying mythos of the Company Identity and its brands work together always to address consumers as if they were children. (Listen to the ads on TV next time you’re viewing; and note the tone of voice being used to speak to you; and the music used too is often another giveaway).

The dream’s appeal is to the self, is personal, and usually attempts to make you feel special – if you buy the product.  Likewise the accompanying Company Identity ambience will often appear to have a paternal aspect; it will provide for you, so it says, and has selected you out of all the possible persons it might have selected.  The products and services a company offers for sale are supported by carefully crafted claims which give the (often rather loose) impression that the company does not do second rate; (so you are second rate to ignore this fact), nor do its products disappoint.  It has no chinks in it armour; and is able to wheel out abundant accolades from thousands of super satisfied customers.

The specialness of the Company’s dream image will often be in the straplines and short catches it uses about itself. ‘Do no harm’ and ‘Making Motoring Magic’ and the like. There is a strong element of a childish ‘all in the garden is rosy’ which is showing the world through tinted glass, so that your life, one is inclined to believe, will go much more delightfully with this Company’s goods  and services: so buy.  This is the ‘feelgood’ factor promoting itself.

There are parodies on this approach to identifying your Company; a very old one from before World War 1 was:

‘I used your soap two years ago; and since then I have used no other’ (from a vagrant) – and

‘Nothing acts faster than Annadin’ (a headache remedy)

But nonetheless the amazing persuasive efficacy of the methodology, simple though it is, even obvious, remains; and effectively sways even the most smart and perspicacious among us. Like LIncoln’s adage:  ‘You can fool all of the people some of the time.’

The good news is that if it can work for others it can work for your company.  You will not have the huge resources which a large corporation has and pumps into its dream-image for consumers. You won’t have teams of employees seeking out and obviating negative feedback; or placing strategic good feedback; or else thinking up new ways to place and promote the basic message of the Company dream image.

Humans are an animals who like things simple. We like definitive solution answers.  Look at how most of us view our nations’ history.  Salem witch trials and McCarthy are clinically interesting items now distanced by time into objects of a cool curiosity.  Custer is almost a National Hero; as is John Wilkes Booth. The Spanish Armada was a great victory; Dunkirk was an almost Divine Providential rescue; King Charles I was a Royal Martyr. The truth is not so romantic, nor so easily categorised or communicable. So much easier is what we prefer to believe; we are myth making animals and that is what Company Identity is – a series of commercial urban mythology.

A great Anglo-American poet wrote, perhaps half-despondently, and half- pityingly;

‘Humankind cannot bear very much reality’

A great Anglo-Irish poet wrote:

‘Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light;

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’

BUILDING A TRADE IDENTITY: 1 – Trade Identity and Trade Dress Outlined

This is an area in which all us small guys can take an object lesson from the Corporations.  The Corporations take TRADE IDENTITY to levels of a fine art form. Any one of them taken at random – go to a website now – and you will not see one hair out of place. Down to the last comma and final question-mark; all will be hunkydory.  And if not, should you spot a blip or a smutch, let them know and heads will roll in their Web  Marketing Teams.

For the likes of us and for the Big Boys the game is the same; pay minute attention to the fine detail so that in the aggregate the monolithic whole is a homogenous but organic presentation of the Company image, (involving and including its logos, stated mission and corporate vision).

Danny Devito as Maras Wilson’s father in the movie of Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’ (a movie by the way which surpasses the novel it is based on) sells secondhand cars and is an out and out crook.  But he makes good money at it – and he explains why he does:

I say appearance is 9/10 of the law. People don’t buy a car, they buy me – which is why personally I take such pride in my appearance. Well-oiled hair, clean shave, snappy suit.’

It is a commonplace in advertising circles to affirm that consumers often are not buying a product or a service so much as buying the ‘dream’ or the ‘lifestyle’ which the advertising of the product trades in and conjures in a typical buyer’s imagination.

Corporations carry this ‘dream factory’ image-making to the nth degree. They call it creating and nurturing a CORPORATE IDENTITY.  A CORPORATE IDENTITY done properly works inside the organisation every bit as effectively as it does outside it; on TVs and billboard hoardings and in showrooms.  The Company ‘line’ is sold to its employees as hard as it is promoted in the marketplace; although it may well be nuanced differently so as to incentivise and energise its workforce.

However, in this initial article on TRADE IDENTITY I want to trace quickly and on the surface the concepts of BRANDING and TRADE DRESS. These concepts are related to TRADE IDENTITY – they are two of its key components.

BRANDING is the Company logo usually incorporating a TRADE MARK or MARKS, which are able to be registered at government offices in most nations and trading blocs, so as to allow it monopoly protection in law against theft and unfair duplications of it.  BRANDING is considered by many BigWigs in industry and commerce to comprise the Chief Capital Asset of a Company or a Corporation.

Here below are the TOP TWELVE Brands for 2014 with their estimated $US billions valuations:

Each of the twelve logos is instantly recognisable to us; as if we were indoctrinated in their habit. And this is where the money is made from – by them being kept repeatedly in our minds like an imprint.

The grey apple with the bite out of it does not stand alone – behind it is a whole composite universe. Likewise for the Google mark and the Coke mark, and the others.  A major part of this composite universe is that the apple and the golden arches and the four-coloured square each signify very precisely what is being marketed by their companies. They are each, in the terms Trademark people use to describe Brand logos, Badges of Origin. They stand for a consistency of quality, and of technical specification, of functionality and appearance; and as a guarantee of aftersales and other as standard service packages.

The monolithic Trade Identities of the Companies (Corporations) behind these logos, and supporting the products and services they head-up, act as context and background in the same way as, say, a novel’s main narrative and plot subsists upon a fully built-up-with-detail world-picture sufficient to present to us, when read, as if a ‘real life’ experience.

The essence of Branding, of Trade Identity, and of Trade Dress, is consistency, self-consistency, so that everything which is capable of being duplicated exactly when placing the advertising, the marketing, the website and the paper goods, leaflets, hoardings, in whichever and every place they appear on public display – does never deviate nor contradict itself and is utterly word-perfect and conforms with itself.

The overarching aim in all this is to give an impression of perfection to their publics; leading on to an implicit assumption in our minds being suggested that these organisations do not make mistakes.

One might scoff and knowingly say – ah! of course they mess up, who are they kidding – but the power that resides in this meticulous, gigantic and even tyrannical effort to maintain a squeaky clean Trade Identity is not lost on the guys who demand this image of pristine purity from their huge marketing teams. They know well how we humans work – that we are suggestible and able to be awed and wowed and dazzled by so much conscious and deliberate intricate care and attention to detail

Our unconscious minds respond almost against our conscious wills in the ways the Boardrooms of the Corporations want them to.  We are very often prostrate before such an outright and demonstrative expression of power.  It is akin to standing at the foot of the Flatiron Building or in London The Shard, and being unable to help ourselves feeling their statements of ‘We are the Champions!’

Just a word about Trade Dress before this first article comes to a close.  When one buys a well-known popular Branded product there comes with it packaging. Often the packaging is elaborate and it is obvious that much time and some considerable effort and money has gone into presenting the product for sale in this way. There will be a colour scheme, an arrangement of designs and fonts and logos, shapes and angles, and endorsements and quality markers and star ratings and so on; all consistently identical on the whole Brand product run – it is the monolith in little.   Much of the Trade Dress – for this is what this rigmarole is – will tap into the general Trade Identity of the Company and its Brand(s) and reverberate against these, sending reminders and prompts to our passive receptive neurons, for synapses of association to occur to us.

Thus the power of the whole organisational entity is fed into and able to be released by each individual item of product.  Thus the importance of self-consistency in Trade Dress.

Like The Shard and the Flatiron Building, Corporate Identity and its monolithic homogeneity right down to the very finest last detail; are emblems of tyranny. They state openly and brashly where the money is; who the powerful are; what the strong are capable of.  We are like straw before them and we acquiesce as if to a Dagon or a Baal when the thunders and lightnings shake the firmament and we run to our caves for shelter.

That is how it is. Well, it is half the story, and the lesser half.  There is hope elsewhere.

The Importance of Vision

Vision is a conceptual grasp of the whole. More, it has a visual element; or rather, an ‘in the mind’s eye’ visual element.

Aristotle, in his treatise De Anima, puts forward an idea which says that all human thought carries at least some vestigial image – he calls this phenomenon, the imago anime,  ‘the picture conjured in the soul’; and further , he claims that strong images thus visualised show as if the objects of thought were present to the senses.

Now this claim, that ‘strong images thus visualised show as if the object of thought was present to the senses’, is not necessarily hyperbole or exaggeration.  Many recorded instances, especially amongst artists (musicians, poets, painters,) of them, as it were, being able to ‘hallucinate at will’ are reliably documented.

Ben Jonson, a dramatist and a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, writes of how he fell asleep at nights watching and enjoying at his feet noblemen with swords duelling together in animated combat, because his imagination worked on his senses so powerfully.

So it is not uncommon for people to ‘see’ in a way that in some sense is analogous to literal and actual vision; see items of their thought when set before their imaginations.

Furthermore, from my experience working with persons whose employment has required them to put into practice certain complex and detailed procedures accurately and methodically, it has been my observation that there is always a select few amongst them who are able to read and digest amendments and revisions of procedure so as to understand them and act upon them, purely from the written documents.

The remaining majority of employees got by because of these select few, whose duty of care it fell out to be to ‘translate’ these written word instructions into verbal communications able to be digested aurally and applied in their work by the others.

Taking these two qualities together: the strong pictorial imagination and the high competence in comprehension and application of complex written instruction; one might observe from experience that there is always in most walks of life, just a minority of participants whose capabilities allow them to perform at such high levels.

The profession of web designer of course benefits exponentially from having attached to it persons of strong visual imagination – this much is more or less self evident.

That developers perhaps might benefit from owning these characteristic, is perhaps a little less obvious to us?

But indeed, the best developers are most likely to be those whose minds and experience have melded over time so as to enable them to grasp as a whole the conceptual range of a complex and intricate task. And to be able to grasp such a range from the written word only also.  They will also be likely to be able to visualise in some depth of foreknowledge and in the abstract and in the round, written specified requirements expected of them.

Matthew Arnold, a Victorian cultural critic and poet famously wrote:

But be his
My special thanks, whose even-balanced soul,
From first youth tested up to extreme old age,
Business could not make dull, nor passion wild;
Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole

these words about the Athenian tragic dramatist Sophocles.

The seeing of discrete tasks and their corollaries and implications ‘steadily and as a whole’ is also what is best required in a developer one would choose. For a developer to have come so far in the course of her life experience so as to be so proficient will have been the fruit of her having employed and practiced her gift for imaginative vision and visualisation; and having joined it to the nurture and improvement of her reading and writing skills (her vocabulary, sentence structure, syntax, grammar, clarity and precision) in both natural language and in her software scripting.

These qualities when embodied together in her will make her a formidable developer; one who is a rare find and a treasure to be cultivated.

The signs that any developer one has in mind for doing a task has such gifts and accomplishments ought to be looked for right from the time one begins preliminary negotiations and discussion with her (or him).

The $64K question remains: what are these telltale signs?

Well, we have some written up here already – like command of natural language. A person whose head is clear and whose mind considers sequentially, a step at a time (and this is not incompatible with imaginative vision – indeed it enables, enhances it) will express herself eloquently in natural language as well as in script.  She will have a care to syntax and vocabulary, punctuation and grammar, so as to be understood rather than to be strictly observant of artificially imposed rules.

There is also temperament. Matthew Arnold compliments Sophocles on being an ‘even-balanced soul’ (see above). The dramatist Ben Jonson (also mentioned above) held a maxim about people generally. He said:

‘Words make a man: speak let me see thee.’

And it is true that a person’s disposition, whether wild or staid, or rash or impulsive, considered and measured; is all illuminated and can be seen because it is revealed, given away, in the way they use speech and handle language.  And so one should study the way in which a developer you are considering speaks, writes, negotiates; is she polite; is she considerate, does she appear to have some ‘depth’; does she interrupt you a lot; is she overbearing; is she confident yet not pushy; is she sensitive to others; does she broach tricky matters with tact?

Has she discretion, integrity, common sense, aptitude, does she talk well about her subject disciplines; does she try to baffle you with science; does she dismiss you because you know little about technical things; is she patient?

This long list of character traits may seem to have little bearing on her developer skills and experience; but you would be much mistaken to believe so. Good qualities in a person carry over into their works and into what they make and produce. Likewise bad qualities act in the exact same way.  Attention to detail for instance: can anyone doubt that attention to detail is an important thing for any developer you’d want to hire?  A general negligent, idle air – would anyone hire a developer who seemed to be wholly uninterested in the project of yours in hand?

Just think about how many mistakes and errors are made in development work by developers whose hearts and minds and selves are not in their works?   The Romans had a saying:

Laborare est orare’ (‘Work is prayer’)

The mediaeval masons working on the great Gothic cathedrals carving beautiful intricate stone-works and statuary wholly in the service of God; with stupendous skill – their names are unknown to us and they were not considered in their time to be celebrities – crafted exquisite traceries and ornament even in the roof arches of their buildings; in those places which never saw the light of day and are hidden absolutely from human view.

The first human eyes since the masons’ own to look upon their hidden works have been the modern day church roof restorers; yet the masons made as much effort, took every bit as much care, in these as they had taken in crafting the parts sculpted for human eyes and approbation.  Thus: ‘work is prayer’

The good developer works likewise. Those parts of her task which will never be inspected by her client; the backend, the coding, the scripts, will be tasks carried out in due honour to his profession and in the service, at the very least, to excellence; and as such they will possess a holiness of sorts about them also, for as long as they remain extant.

You can also find this article at our steemit blog: https://steemit.com/developers/@matthew.raymer/the-importance-of-vision

The Project Takeover Blues 6 – Buying and Selling

‘I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul’ – Bob Dylan

In the field of Classical Economics whenever mechanisms which bear naturally upon an open market are being discussed there is more or less always a presumption foregoing that ‘scarcity’ is a vitally essential concept.

The laws of Supply and Demand are largely governed by scarcity and by scarcity value in this field.  There are two expressions – i. A Buyer’s Market, and; ii. A Seller’s Market; which arise out of discussions about scarcity in such a marketplace.

All goods and services, and all the different kinds of goods and services, which a Political Economy is able to supply to its marketplace, will carry levels of scarcity.

For instance it is more or less self-evident to us that Gold Bullion is far more scarce than Bread or Rice in most parts of the world.  It is self-evident also that because of this relative scarcity Gold is of a greater value than Bread or Rice generally speaking.

Economists say: Gold has greater scarcity value than that of Bread or Rice.

This reasoning leads us on to looking at supply and demand. It makes sense that a scarce commodity like Gold is in short supply when its supply levels are compared to those of Bread or Rice.  And because of this there are generally more buyers looking to buy it than there are there is Gold available for sale. Otherwise the high scarcity value of Gold could not be sustained and its price consequently would fall. This Gold market place then is a Seller’s Market simply because it is the Sellers who are able to call the shots on Gold transactions being made.

(Please bear in mind that this is theory economics I am talking about, and that  in practice there and many, many variables and factors which are able to intervene and make their effect on this ‘pure’ marketplace and so on the scarcity value of Gold or of Bread or Rice)

In those parts of the world where Bread and Rice are plentiful, when compared to Gold, then their scarcity value is much lower than that of Gold and so the prices at which they are offered for sale are also much lower than Gold is being offered for.  Thus a Buyer’s Market is created wherein a surplus Bread and Rice supply means lower prices and the Buyers are thus calling the shots on transaction details. Sellers will settle more readily for what they can make

Now when one applies this reasoning to a typical relationship between a Developer and a Client; perhaps nine times out of every ten Projects, maybe more, the Client assumes (for some reason?) that the marketplace he is in is a Buyer’s Market.  And so likewise he assumes that he is able to call the shots; to set the price; to lay out the technical requirement; to nominate the tools; to direct the operations; to manage the Developer and his team or company.  In short, the most oppressive of Clients believe that they have bought the complete attention and the complete resource, and the complete management at the Developer’s place of business – at the least for the duration of the building and handover of the project to him.

It’s about control. It’s about risk. It’s about fear. It’s about a Client psychologically having to manage these bogies in his mind; and these lead him on in his bid for hegemony over his Developer until he is satisfied that his project is AOK and in place working and making him money.  The pressures are large for him, and often he is not technical enough to be able to be sure of the Developer and place a technologically reasoned confidence in him. If he were; if he could; he would not have needed to engage a Developer but probably could/would have done the development work himself.

These two things: risk, and fear, urge on his desire for control; all three things together are exacerbated by him, as it were, going into the venture ‘blind’; that is; him being without technical knowledge.  It’s a little like being under the knife of a surgeon and unconscious; you have to weigh up the quality of the surgeon beforehand and you will know nothing about surgery.  You are left with hope, trust and a prayer as you lose consciousness counting backwards.

You might look up on the net beforehand your ailment and run through a lot of time and pages reading about similar conditions and the surgery that is recommended for them. Like a hypochondriac you might delve quite deeply trying to match your apprehensions with an adequate garner of reassurance to be had, one hopes, from one’s reading. Like hypochondriacs, when the operation is serious, maybe life and death, you are likely to get drawn in and begin to grow neuroses and anxieties which do not help you at all to manage and are counterproductive.  You don’t want a surgeon who is anxious and neurotic do you?  Your reading has the opposite effects you want it to have on you.

‘A little learning is a dangerous thing;

Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.

Likewise your Client, by him assuming control over his Developer, he is likely to do more harm than good to himself.  Like when having a risky operation, one having zero knowledge of surgery is a far better resource for peace of mind than going delving and frantically gleaning off the web a host of half-digested partial-truths about it at the last minute.  The Client who is like this is usually the one who ‘cannot let go’; of his worries, of his apprehensions; and his fears; his urge in response is to call the shots and lay down the law; and generally to harass his Developer and ultimately make his and his own life truly miserable.

This type of Client is strictly-speaking assuming control. He is like a chimpanzee let loose in the Space Shuttle coming in to land.  He has no real idea what is required technically; whether it is feasible; or possible, or impossible or impracticable or easily added or doable or not.  His efforts show in a fit visual image:

‘Like a madman shakes a dead geranium’

Clients like these are those most liable to run through Developers one by one like diarrhea.  They appear never to learn the basic lessons of their business and of their business transactions.  We have all gone up to our wives and husbands who have been struggling so irritatingly to us with a screwdriver and a faulty appliance and at last we have let rip with; ‘Give it here! Let me do that!’  And soon thereafter with a humble, perhaps grovelling apology admitting defeat similarly to one’s spouse.

In this then we can all feel sympathy for the nervous edgy guy who just cannot help but want to control his baby, his project, who cannot help himself, who cannot control even his own desperate urges to dominate; there is so much at stake for him – he envisages.

But is it not all ego? Is it not all the blind inherent assurance in the self that everything will be alright if only I can take over and control and manage the tasks and the issues at stake.  Not many, not even among the worst of egoists, will be likely to feel or believe that they can do better than that surgeon they are entrusting, are having to entrust, their body and innards to for a few hours. And that will be that.  No argument. Besides, they will be unconscious and could not do it if they even thought they might be able to!

But the Developer is fair game – thus the presumption of there being a Buyer’s Market is ever the case with many Clients, anxious about their development project, its negotiation and delivery. Such a Client will nearly always do his best to ‘lean on’ and so ‘steer’ his Developers as much as he is able to usurp.

To finish up; consider this: What do you look for when choosing a good surgeon? Short answer: Character. Longer answer: clean tidy shoes and apparel, suitable to a man or woman of eminence and distinction in his/her profession.  He or she exudes a confidence which is not idle, proprietary or overweening; and seems to be fluent on her/his specialist knowledge; observant, patient, engaged personally and considerate; a good bedside manner; polite and with a lively mind: someone who has the look and feel of a person to whom you could just about trust your health.

Bottom line: isn’t it pretty much the same when choosing a Developer? A less desperately critical issue than choosing a surgeon maybe, but even so, doesn’t this very lesser level of concern in fact mean that one should be more at ease and not jack oneself to be over pressured – after all, few Developers have messed up so badly that they have put their Client in a wheelchair or dug them an early grave.