Tag 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?

some very exciting news

i have accepted a very exciting new position at this fabulous agency. i’ll be starting 1 July. onwards and upwards.

reflection

Pecha Kucha Nights Cape Town

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Something i’ve been dying to blog about for a while is that we’ll be running Pecha Kucha Nights in Cape Town, and the date for the first event is set at 17 June 2008. this is super exciting – sharing ideas, passion and inspiration is something we try to do as much as we can, and something we started doing with IG Assembly, which we held 2 months ago. we’re going to let that go gently and take over custodianship of an internationally successful platform – Pecha Kucha is growing all the time in cities all over the world.

we’ve got a few things to knuckle down, mainly the venue, as we need somewhere that’s not too big but not too small either, since we’ll need to have space to project the talks. for those of you who’d like to get involved, i’ve started a group on facebook which you can join to be kept updated. otherwise go to the the official site and drop us a mail. we’re still establishing speakers so you’re welcome to submit yourself if you want to show your work. just be sure to stick to the 20 slides at 20 seconds each guideline.

we’ll need to receive your presentation by the 16th of June as well so we can line up all the work.

so yay. for those of you who love design and creativity, this is something you’re not going to want to miss. best of all, it’s free. xx

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.

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bacini2

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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

brands being socially conscious

Cape Union Mart’s come out with a fleece made purely from recycled materials.

rubbishfleece

Visi magazine released a biodegradable shopping bag:

visibioshopper

these recycled notebooks are made by the Remarkable company, and you can get them at the Wellness Centres springing up around town:

remarkablenotebook

YDE has some recycled shoppers too:

YDErecycled

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Vida e caffe gets its green on:

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vidagreen2

free idea: the ‘I’ve lost my cellphone’ facebook app

what it does when you add it: trawls all your friends’ profiles who’ve listed them numbers and puts them in a list for you. sends those who have a little box that allows them to drop their number in.

no more joining silly groups and wondering, ‘does this person who has lost their cellphone again really WANT me to send their number since we are more friendly acquaintances than friends?’ .

MTN, Vodacom, Cell C, Virgin – this one’s for you.

cool things found on the internets

i spend so much time online, and the more time i spend online the more cool stuff i find, and the more cool stuff i find the more fragmented my time spent in any given place becomes. i’ve resolved to make a concerted effort to document more of the things that inspire me, for whatever reason. starting with this rad sofa box i found at swissmiss:

ffffound.com is an image bookmarking site i like to frequent for sheer viewing pleasure, or what i call a Brain Massage. some gems include:

and then i see that Courvoisier is kicking their latest branding efforts up a notch by collaborating with urban/skate / hip hop brand LRG this (USA) spring. some of the awesomeness includes these branded gadgets – iPhone and BlackBerry. mmm, me please.

thanks NotCot.

i also came across this article on a speech given by Bill Cosby on how to combat racism, and i find it pretty inspiring. as someone who lives in a racially charged country, it’s refreshing to hear someone speak from a rational place on the topic.

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:

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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

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soulsbbb

poetrybbb

paintingbbb

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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