It’s been 14 years since I lost my best friend, Clarkey. There’s not a week goes by when I don’t think of him, at least at some point. He was unique, challenging, unconventional, and someone who often saw the world differently from perhaps you or I. My Sister used to call us ‘The Odd Couple’ as, to the outside world at least, there was no logical reason how he and I could be friends – but we were, the best of friends. He also had, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying this, a rather unfashionable taste in music which was an immense source of fun for me and the rest of the boys. I still recall to this day (with a rather wide grin) the night he ‘discovered’ Supertramp.
When I was young it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical…
Let me set the scene. It’s 1989, so he’s already 10 years behind the world, and the rest of the boys, as we grow our hair long, wear baggy clothes and shuffle around town to the opiatic beats of the Roses and the Mondays. He puts on this record called ‘Breakfast in America’ and rather condescendingly announces, “Right whelks! Listen to this.” We sit back and prepare to be distinctly underwhelmed, particularly given the less than hypnotic, anti-trendy LP cover depicting a rather portly, middle-aged, American waitress dominating the Manhattan skyline. He’s taking no chances here, he skips straight to track 2 carefully guiding the needle to find it’s groove in the empty space between tracks, then…boom…the opening sequence of this amazing track kicks in and Roger Hodgson’s voice fills the room, piercing our senses with this joyful, bittersweet lament about the passage from childhood wonder and imagining, to adult conformity and servitude. And there was us, dressed in the uniform fashion of the time, on the cusp of becoming these sterile adolescents suddenly awakened from our hypnotic existence by two of the most unlikely heroes, Clarkey and Supertramp.
Watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical…
Although written sometime before appearing on the 1979 Grammy award-winning Breakfast in America, The Logical Song itself provides a thoughtful backdrop to the world we live in today and, perhaps, has even greater relevance now than it did then, particularly for those Enterprises who are out of touch with the new digital realities and behaviours of the growing number of Illogicals, like the ‘Screenagers’ I introduced in my previous article. In the song, Roger Hodgson recalls being sent to school as a kid and effectively being conditioned to conform to a world that seemed alien to his natural perceptions, a world that scorned those who ‘thought differently’, leading him to question the very nature of his (our) existence. Although the sentiment of a command and control world remains relevant today, the biggest change since then has been the democratization of information via the internet coupled with the adoption of social and mobile technologies leading to tech-savvy and better informed consumers (and citizens). It is actually incredibly ironic that over 30 years since Hodgson first sang those lyrics that it will likely be the ability to ‘think differently’ that will save many of those companies, the custodians of Machiavelli’s status quo, who still exhibit outmoded command and control techniques over customers (and employees).
Brian Solis, principal at Altimeter Group, and author of The End of Business as Usual puts the need for change in very simple terms when he introduces the concept of ‘Digital Darwinism’ which he describes as “the evolution of consumer behaviour when society & technology evolve faster than your ability to adapt”. He goes further in the book declaring that businesses simply need to adapt to this new reality (quickly) or die. In this interesting discussion featuring Martin Lindstrom, author of Brandwashed, he postulates that 85% of decisions we make are typically irrational/illogical and fuelled by emotion – logic is merely used to justify habitual behaviour to the conscious mind.
Please tell me who I am…
The song finishes with a kind of rambling verse that curiously contains the lyric, “I’m feeling so illogical, d-d-d-digital” which makes me wonder now whether Hodgson was predicting a digital future? Perhaps not, but the answer to the question ‘Please tell me whom I am’ is one which, for Brands, will be embedded in their ability to evolve and remain relevant to an increasingly, illogical world.
Brands, ask yourselves some questions, think from the ‘customer-in’ perspective. What will capture the attention of your audience? What’s relevant to them? What are their expectations of you, and how can you exceed them? Then look at your marketing approach, your KPIs, your processes – do they map directly to behaviours that place you at the centre of your customers’ world? Are your KPIs mapped to old world metrics, driving old world behaviours? Does ‘templated’ content enable you to make that 85% emotional connection that drives decisions? All of these questions should help you to think differently as you begin to discover who you are and what you mean to your market.
If Clarkey, and Roger for that matter, have ever taught me anything it’s this:
- Never judge a record by its cover 😀
- Challenge your own ‘logical’ thinking as well as that of the status quo
- Your best friends will always tell you how it is, even if you don’t like it
Clarkey was never ‘cool’, not in this world anyway. I’m not sure that Supertramp were ever cool either. But there’s something very, very current about the sentiment of that song that resonates as strongly (and fondly) in my memory as the guy who introduced me to it all those years ago.
For Ewan Clarke (1972-1998)