Category Archives: instant grass

Q&A Tuesday: What is liberal? What is cool?

Occasionally my readers write in with some seriously existential questions that make me look long and hard at myself in the mirror that is my blog. Such an exchange occurred today when I received an email from Jabu, who wanted to know what the trendwatching company I used to work for measured its scouts against in order for them to be “cool enough”. The following exchange ensued, and I feel its educational worth transcends my inbox:


On 9/16/08 11:46 AM, “Jabulani” wrote:

Hey, how’s it going Alexandra? I trust life is going alright that side of the world and stuff. Just a quick question I wanted to ask you… What was the mechanism and criteria you used when recruiting trendscouts? I mean, how did you decide who was cooler then whom?


From: Alex [mybrandedlife@gmail.com]
Sent: 16 September 2008 12:08 PM
To: Jabulani
Subject: Re: Heita hola

Because it’s market research, it’s a question of covering all demographic / genre bases. Often we’d meet amazing people but we’d already know similar people, and it would be a question of – we have so MANY young interesting black peeps who dig Manga from Langa, we need more Black peeps who drink whisky from Soweto – or – we have tons of Tiger Tiger chicks and we need more Melrose Arch preppies. That’s all. Eventually everyone gets their turn, you know? Just a question of timing and keeping a fairly balanced spread of different types of young people from around the country.

When it comes to the individual, ‘cool’ was largely determined by who our clients are at the time, and whether that person would feed in relevant info on a regular proactive schedule.

Lastly, apart from the word ‘liberal’, ‘cool’ is the most misunderstood and misused descriptor out there – ESPECIALLY by trendwatching companies and their clients.
What they mean is something more like ‘early adopters’.
There is no such thing as ‘cool’, nor criteria for such.
‘Cool’ kids look the same in every part of the world.

It’s just another life phase, to be remembered by most as ‘That time I convinced myself that skinny jeans are actually “cool”. Shame.’

Hope it answers your question,

A

does it really exist? Trick question. One mans Converse is another mans Buffalos.

Cool: does it really exist? Trick question. One man's Converse is another man's Buffalos.

On 9/16/08 12:47 PM, “Jabulani” wrote:

Thanks, that helps quite a bit.

So… how is the word “liberal” misunderstood and misused? What is a liberal exactly? Would you consider yourself a liberal? Am I a liberal – or am I counter-revolutionary?


From: Alex [mybrandedlife@gmail.com]
Sent: 16 September 2008 12:08 PM
To: Jabulani
Subject: Re: Heita hola


Ways people misinterpret and misuse the word ‘liberal’:

1. Describe yourself as having a ‘liberal nature’ when the truth is that you just have a drinking problem
2. Put your ‘liberal nature’ down to your parents being ‘liberals’, who were really only people with drinking problems
3. Describe yourself as a ‘liberal’ to excuse your sexually promiscuous behaviour with most of your friends (and pretty much anyone, since you have a drinking problem)
4. Describing your political point of view as being ‘liberal’ because you believe in equality (reality check: being liberal means believing in communism, in not having to work for what you get, in endless government handouts and in being okay with other people taking your stuff).

If I were to pick a side I’d probably say that I am conservative, that I am educated and believe in educated leaders, that I value intellect over popularity, that I will support someone DOING good as opposed to someone who’s DONE good, that I will fucking kill you if you touch my Merc, that if you want a Merc, you should work as hard as me to get it and not expect it to fall into your lap. Okay, I drive a Yaris, but it will be a Merc one day, since I believe in work. Do you think it’s some sort of a coincidence that Merc rhymes with work?

You, however, strike me as being a bit of a fence-sitter, which is probably a smart place for a young emerging market Dark Carbon Allotrope (c) (BlAcK DiAmOnD) like yourself.
Aligning your personal brand with the ANC at this point isn’t very sexy, since they keep kicking each other in the bum like battery chickens.
You could be described as a “Revolutionary Counter”, because it’s a smart twist on your question without being too blatant a dodge of the issue.

I hope this answers your question, young D.C.A.

P.S. I’m blogging this, FYI

P.P.S. Props for the K.D. reference, though I know you think I missed it. Peace.

******************************************************************************

This is all very deep for a Tuesday.

What you find when you dig deep. Stay shallow, stay cool.

What you find when you dig deep. Stay shallow, stay cool.

if you’re young, make some noise

while there are a lot of companies out there hoping to capitalise on youth opinion, i was recently introduced to a company that manages to facilitate not only hearing opinions and dreams but making them into a reality, too. Youth Noise describes itself on their website thus:

“YN is a social networking site for people under the age of 27 who like to connect based on deeper interests than Paris Hilton’s wardrobe and want to get engaged within a cause. Find a cause, search for friends, and get involved. Want to free Tibet? Passionate about human rights?Whatever your cause, network it here.”

Under their causes tab is listed anything from Animal Rights to Arts and Media, to Economy to Business to Government to Poverty to  Religion, to name but a few. You can also join existing youth projects, create a personalised profile, connect to government and gain access to registries of companies and sponsors who can help with your cause or dream. i think it’s an awesome idea, and wish there was a company like that in South Africa whose disillusioned youth so desperately need a voice.

South Africa presents a unique challenge, however, because mass market youth don’t have the kind of internet access something like Youth Noise. a mobile version of the site would be a prerequisite here. i can only imagine that everything that is wrong with South Africa - crime, unemployment, poverty – will only be compounded as upcoming generations realise that as much as the word democracy gets thrown around here, they really don’t have a voice. what do you say, Youth Noise? are you ready for a challenge?

birthdays and dinners

so we had a IG writer’s dinner to welcome some new grasses and get to know some of our current grassing superstars. we made a lot of noise and annoyed our waitress at Bacini thoroughly. Amu, our regional manager if Jozi and the new producer on Sbu’s morning show on YFM, managed to make it down to spend some time with us, too.

bacini1

bacini2

bacini3

it was also Jacky’s birthday. Jacky helps us out all the time. we’re not sure why, but it must be out of the goodness of her heart. so we threw her a little party at the office with some fantastic carrot cake from Limnos, and we gave her this T-shirt. we know she’s been waiting for it all her life.

permshirt

and then this is just a rad hoody i found on Ricky Lee’s back. Ricky runs a super cool company called Word of Art, as well as a clothing label you might have heard of called Muthaland. he also has a company called writeonafrica, which does commission based graffiti.

cartoonhoody

african fashion blog of the month: Bella Naija

bellanaija

i’ve been doing some work on fashion trends in Nigeria and Ghana over the past month and Bella Naija has been one of my favourite blogs to hit. always on the look out for fellow African bloggers – this is my shout out to her.

yes please: camera glasses – never get escorted out of a shopping mall ever again

this is a must-have for our grasses, who are forever telling us about how security in malls and branded parties are asking them to delete their photos. pity about how the glasses actually look, but maybe Spitfire can get in this asap.

cameraglasses

find more about them here.

via thinkgeek.

customised cigarette boxes

we have a whole bunch of unbranded cigarettes, though we can’t say why just yet. but we’ve had loads of fun getting our smoker grasses to customise them. here are some of the results:

blank1

blank2

blank3

blank4

blank5

blank6

blank7

blank8

IG Assembly 01

so we held our first round of experimental ‘idea altruism’ talks – a lot of fancy words to describe an informal get-together where inspiring young people share their work, ideas, dreams and opinions in an environment that is non-judgemental. we held it at the office, and our first speakers were Brad Armitage – he of Vida e Caffe fame, Guiseppe Russo – owner and founder of One Small Seed magazine and Khaya Nongalaza – manager and part owner of Maphindi’s hotspot in Nyanga township. to say the least, it was inspiring, and although we weren’t sure what we were doing with the evening, it turned out really well.

here’s the flyer:

igassemblyflyer

we had a few issues – such as not having a neutral timer to keep speeches short (the idea is that everyone has 6 minutes in which to speak but we all ran hopelessly overtime). and we didn’t order enough pizza since we had a bigger turnout than we initially thought, but it was really great to see people who are so different at first appearance connect through a shared mindset, which is totally our objective. we’re hoping to have IG Assembly once a month, alternating in Joburg and Cape Town, so we’re busy planning Jozi as i write this. some pics from the evening:

grant

grant from B-Boy group Ill Rock taught us about the history of b-boys, break beats and how it’s not just dancing, but high-performance athleticism.

uno

Uno took us through his ‘My Documents’ folder – amazingly voyeuristic interest here, thoroughly enjoyed it.

guiseppe

Guiseppe Russo told us about his vision for One Small Seed in South Africa, and about how we need to set a standard and not settle for second best, just because we’re in South Africa.

brad

Brad Armitage told us how he and his partner set up coffee legend Vida e Caffe, with a dream and ever-zealous perfectionism. we can all be grateful to him for Meia de Leits. he also spoke about his new premium beer projects he’s been working on, packaged in champagne bottles. awesome.  you can buy them at Vida.

crowd

the crowd, listening.

dancing

some pre-talk dance moves went down.

paul

Paul van der Spuy spoke about some of his past projects, as well as his new venture – Speed Way Cafe, which draws inspiration from the Ace Cafe biker bar in england.

crowd2

more of the audience.

steps

chilling on the steps during a break.

CHUMI

and Chumi simply told us who she is and what inspires here.

consumer collaboration tours (Colab)

we do some fantastic work with brands that want consumer input right from New Product Development stage through to marketing, and our latest project took Priscilla and I to Joburg, Pretoria and Durban. I love working on projects like these because it means getting to meet all the crazy cool people in our grass network, and actually spend time with them while still getting creative on some very forward thinking brands.

here’s one of our grasses at our Cape Town session:

orange top

and this is at Bean Bag Bohemia in Durban

beanbagbohemia

bbb

soulsbbb

poetrybbb

paintingbbb

bbb2

i don’t have very many other photos because i was running the sessions but i’ll be getting more from our photographer.

snapshots from the field: back to school

been out and about talking to a lot of high school kids lately. here are some snaps from Trafalgar High in Cape Town who kindly hosted us last week. brought back so many memories of being at school.

tuckshop

evidence of the mxit generation, these girls swop songs on their cellphones.

cellgirls

hallways, kids moving between classes.

hallway

window with some Tip-ex graffiti .

window

and a totally neat poster on packaging found in a classroom.

packagingposter

and this old nestle recall poster:

nestlerecall

and the setting – very pretty.

blueskies

new IG Jozi office

and it’s this beautiful old house at 52 Bompas Street, Rosebank, near to Fournos bakery. we share it with an ad agency and a production company. very cool since it’s central but still has that working from home feeling, plus a big old oak tree and a pool.

igjozi

igjhb

notes from my googlereader

i’ve only just got into google reader. and if i was completely honest i’d name this post ‘notes from my delicious’ but where googlereader wins is that i actually check it whereas i’m not great at checking my delicious network. we’re busy developing and changes our IT structures at work, and are in the process of building a social networking type system as a brief submission alternative to email for our grasses – very exciting but i won’t say too much just yet as we’re just about to test it. we’re also exploring getting our office onto a google server and synchronising our calendars etc etc so i’ve been playing around with google, and i’m pleasantly surprised.

anyhow googlereader pulls all your RSS feeds from your favourite sites into an email type format, which you can open while you’re logged into your email, so it’s a lot easier than trying to check all those sites again or even remember what they are. here’s what googlereader brought me this week:

oh the irony: a short article about beijing’s fakes market developing its own ‘Silk Street’ brand.

silicon valley insider talks about how perhaps people don’t value music enough to pay for it in any format, on an article on the slowing of digital music sales.

i’ve been talking to a lot of our clients about personal branding lately, and this company that you can hire to get photographers to follow you around as if you are famous is a great example of this trend manifested.

an article about how much of your positioning is in your price tag, especially if you sell wine.

a thought-provoking argument from the guardian about how facebook’s on a mission to take over the world. i mean, how much do we know about the company anyway? (not dissing, just saying)

and then on the topic, this speaks about the popularity of virtual or ‘concept’ products, and how consumers are as much into buying stories as they are things.

it’s been a big one

the end of a mad year. this last week has been so hectic at the office, wrapping up last minute work for clients and organising (and recovering from) a mid-week rodeo-themed christmas party. for once i decided NOT to take any photos, since i tend to concentrate too much on getting cool shots more than just having fun. so i have nothing to show you, although i will find everyone else’s pics, maybe early next year.

i will say that i can barely walk as my inner thighs are stiff from being a little over-zealous on a mechanical bull, and i have a graze on my knee, and it took me 2 hours to get the rhinestones off the top i wore, which i spent a good 3 hours rhinestoning in the first place. it was also kind of a farewell party for Daniel Beatty, our MD, who will be moving to Tokyo to run our Japan office (very sad for us) so it was a bit crazy. crazy good.

i just have one more thing left to do before i can chill, namely the grass newsletter, just to let everyone know what’s been happening. our office and business has changed so much in one year, it’s hard to keep everyone up to speed with what’s happening. we’ll be opening some new premises in jozi early next year, and we’ll also be opening in dubai and brazil next year. we’ll also be appointing a new MD as Dan has made himself a Super Valuable Human. but i may leave that til next year since i would rather have everyone’s input.

but it’s been quite crazy – i for one, have moved cross country twice in one year, and residential addresses 7 times throughout the same year. we’ve had massive growth in business through both new and existing clients, and instant seed as a business has really taken off and done some pioneering stuff in this country when it comes to word of mouth marketing. and the russian business has grown and is now a bit bigger. and we’ve had an insane amount of fun throughout it all.

i plan to turn my computer off for at least a week. my camera’s had a bit of an episode – the first since i’ve had it which is remarkable considering what it’s been through (it’s a Canon Ixus i, old school one, and a best friend) so i’ve taken that as a sign to do a bit of information detoxing. instead i’ll be filling my head with number9dream by david mitchell, the wind up bird chronicle by haruki murakami, and proof reading my friend lauren beukes’s novel Branded due for publishing early next year. that will be peppered with Heroes season 2 – which i have not had time to watch yet, shocking – and chilling with friends who have flown home from their perches around the globe / country. but what i’m most looking forward to is lying in the sun by the pool. not so much the beachdue to the trauma surrounding getting to and from it, but just being outside in the sunshine. hooray for summer.

hope everyone has a great christmas. i’ve got a bit obsessed with wrapping paper and am fully kitted out this year. i love christmas. happy holidays and rest well, see you next year.

oh and thanks to sarah johnson for showing me this, which got me laughing much, and got the peoples’ choice award for Best User Generated video (take note those interested in New Media):

love jones and pirate bones

ended up at kirstenbosch gardens for Emily’s birthday which coincided with the love jones concert. who’d have thought these guys could draw this kind of crowd? though the idyllic setting may have something to do with it.

lovejonesconcert

and some scenes from office putt putt in mouille point:

chumi

nickjuggles

dan

puttputt

balls

late night server stumbles: grass pics

the way our company works is we have a bunch of trendspotters – we call them ‘grasses’ – who we give cameras to so that they can go take photos of their lives. here are some cool pics i’ve found while doing a bit of work this evening:

skaters

nightgirlstarsgirlwigs

twitter users, as defined by Jeremiah Owyang

“Twitter is for the highly engaged, early-adopter, pro-technology user. This is the ‘influence’ community, meaning they will shape the direction of others in each of their respective lives. It’s highly likely that these users participate in other forms of online publishing and communication like blogging, Facebook, or use mobile activity. In short, it’s the ‘coolkids’ of the webspace, and yes, that includes John Edwards.”

as you may be able to tell, i’m spending a lot of time on Jeremiah’s site. for the full article, click here.