It belongs to a young model called Kaia Gerber. Kaia, who is the daughter of Cindy Crawford, is a 17 year old girl with a ‘smouldering stare’ who models clothing lines aimed at women twice her age.
Kaia has already featured in shows for Chanel, Fendi, Chloé, Prada, Versace, Valentino and many more. These brands believe she’s ideally suited to showcase their products. But does this juxtaposition actually work? Are they selling a designer lifestyle or eternal youth? Do brands believe their beautiful garments will make their customers look 16? Do they expect us to lap up this fantasy? Or simply feel cheated?
Faith in everything - God, Government and our institutions is waning. In this new, challenging landscape, how should companies look and behave? We all have an appetite for perfection but it’s making us sick. Thinspo (imagery of the beautiful but implausibly thin) is pushing young girls to become anorexic. Images of the rich and lucky are driving a crisis of mental illness among the less fortunate. It seems the traditional skill of marketing - creating desirable images that might exaggerate the truth - are under fire.
For more than a century, we’ve cooked up, named and packaged goods - fashioning fabulously memorable taglines and adverts to promote them. We have devised the lipstick of brand marketing and daubed it liberally on both pigs and angels. But social media has grown into an unwelcome, forensic detective of truth. Our dreams are undone. Spin gets unspun.
People now believe their peers much more than advertising - no matter how glossy the execution. We buy what our friends buy. And if not our friends, we buy from people or brands that we think of as friends - those that have earned our trust. Which spells the end for the lipstick metaphor. Anyone can easily discover if a brand is a pig. So don’t lie about it. Today, the art is to explain the benefits of organic, sustainable pig rearing and let people smell the bacon.
If truth is the miracle ingredient of modern marketing, the future looks bleak for ‘fake news’. We are already seeing growth in subscriptions to quality newspapers like the Economist and The New York Times as we hanker for honest journalism. But our collective thirst for truth is growing. We’re searching for signposts and guardians of honesty and we’re rewarding truth tellers no matter how much their frankness runs counter to glossiness.
Several decades ago, Jeremy Bullmore eloquently explained that we build images of brands as birds build their nests - from sticks and twigs that we chance upon. This is still so. But with an explosion in media, we ‘chance on’ less and less. And as our species evolves, we are witnessing a paucity of attention. There is a massive rise in Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.). Goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds. Today Homo Sapiens can typically only focus for 8.
For brands to stay modern, to be seen as vibrant and to remain relevant, they must feature in contemporary discussions. It’s no longer effective to craft a beautiful logo, shoot some masterly adverts and flash them from time to time when nobody’s looking. These companies must inject their story, their purpose and the desirability of their products into the live steam of life. They need to be reacting to the world in real time.
When TV advertising started, it used to take an average of six weeks to make a commercial. Today it takes about the same. The process requires strategy, creative, legal, production, post and all the wrangling in between. For a brand to chime into the news of the day, it needs to respond in minutes not months. And it can. Agile Marketing technology from Adgistics, can analyse what’s happening in newsfeeds and social and then surfaces relevant content from terabytes of brand stories, case histories, testimonials and manufacturing insights. Brands can prove their credentials, demonstrate their passion, dazzle us with their dedication.
I started out highlighting the dissonance between a fresh faced young model and her audience. But who IS her audience? Models used to play an incidental role as a human clothes horse for the fashion industry. That’s no longer the case. Kaia’s story is already bigger than many of the labels that employ her. Her Instagram account and another one that details the contents of her wardrobe offer a window on her world. It’s easy to discover what she really likes and what she’s wearing off the runway. As a result, Kaia comes across as relevant, authentic and responsive - precisely how brands need to behave if they want to succeed in the cluttered, fake and noisy world marketers are learning to cope with.
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