As a former market researcher I thought I’d do a quick straw poll to see what people want to hear about on my Twitter feed. I don’t expect many of you to respond (or even to have gone to this site!) but those who do can help me by ranking the following categories of tweet.
They aren’t put into order of importance so perhaps let me know your top 3 (hope it’s a rehearsal for the AV system to be ratified in May)
- Observations from the semiotic perspective on developments in branding
- Retweets of good posts made by people in the industry
- Initiating conversations on key issues, semi-rhetorical questions
- Tiny urls to fresh, original, personally authored content
- Updates on day to day running of the business, ups and downs
- Asking questions, canvassing opinion and reporting back
- Rankings, predictions, top 10s and other miscellaneous lists
- Links to debates happening on the Linked In Semiotic Thinking Group
- Short primers, exposés and opinion on aspects of the craft
- Thought provoking quotations on semiotics / symbolism
By the way, I need to give credit to Katy Howell from Immediate Future for this short primer on Twitter: http://www.immediatefuture.co.uk/resources/cat/twitter/
Time to revive the blog for 2011. This year I plan to be less timorous and more prolific. As the Behance network put it, the key to creative output is to ‘keep shipping content’.
So, first post of the year is on premiumness and luxury. How you account for premium semiotically? What are the signifiers of premium versus signifiers of luxury? I recently completed a project on premium chocolate codes. The project was complex because a whole host of factors have conspired to problematize the concept of premium and make it difficult to circumscribe its realm and define exactly what qualifies. The seminal book “Trading Up: The New American Luxury” in 2003 started to show how premium masstige products became attainable and by filling the gap between mid market and super premium. The one lacuna was not really covering how it was that products signified this premiumness in a way that supported the price point. It is a question that has been puzzling me.
You could argue that, certainly in the UK, the growth of mass affluence class (now in 2011 the mass indebted!) as well as heightened interest in the back story to products has swelled the ranks of potential buyers who are prepared to stretch to a slightly higher price point. I think that in the UK Waitrose for instance does a great job of signifying quality through bold no nonsense typography.
One of the better definitions of premiumness I have heard is that a premium project tends to involve a slight stretch in price but is also undergirded by a proportionate increase in quality. Buying premium in this definition involves investing in something robust and durable. I guess that in kitchenware a Le Creuset pot or Sabatier knives would qualify here or even a Good Grips spatula. The signifiers would include moulded affordances (to use the technical product design term), solidness of material, heft of handles and such like. Luxury on the other hand would be a significant jump in price such that the quality derived is based on some intangible craving for the kudos of ownership - perhaps through rare materials or a chef endorsement. Of course it may be that a Rolls Rocye or Bentley is perhaps likely to be packed with a spec that well exceeds that of a Lexus but the increase in build quality is unlikely to be proportionate to the jump in price.
In chocolate I noticed, the traditional symbolic gulf between luxury brands such as the Belgian chocolatier Marcolini and premium competitors has been narrowed significantly. A whole raft of new brands - e.g. Prestat, Dolfin, Melt, Cocomaya, Montezuma’s, Venezuelan Black, Valrhona, Amadei, Vosges seem to be claiming attention away from the Thornton’s, Godiva and other brands.
At the same time, premium chocolate brands seems to be wrestling attention away from luxury brands by use of more playful codes which pastiche the stuffy uniform rectilinearity of Lindt and other brands. Hyperbolic slender typography, unusual colour palettes, clever use of transparency and a footloose melange of codes and styles are turning a sedate category into a graphic design showcase. These premium brands transmit more energy and character and luxury is repositioned as staid, complacent and regressive in comparison. I am not sure where else this is happening but would be willing to bet that it is happening elsewhere outside chocolate. Any thoughts on this anyone?