We are all Big Brother

And we are all Winston Smith.

Those, of course (or maybe not of course if you have not read the book), are aspects of one of the great novels of all time – 1984. Published in 1948 (hence where the title comes from) and written by George Orwell.

I have read it a couple of times – the first being in High School. The second after college – which I appreciated more than the first read. Not sure if it was because I was older – or because it was my choice and not part of a course curriculum. I was fascinated by the hyped idea of predictions. I was sadly disappointed when there were no outright predictions during the first read. Again, it wasn’t until the second read that I saw the predictions for what they were – amazingly insightful narratives put forth by Mr. Orwell.

I think to a lot of people the power aspect was Room 101, Big Brother and the spin used in selecting words for description – Ministry of Love (read torture), DoubleSpeak, etc. Yes, those three main aspects were controlling and all powerful – in an omnipotent kind of way.

In looking back on the novel and seeing where we are (30 years past the time the novel took place) 66 years after it was first published I see some other more disturbing predictions. Here are a couple:

UnPersons

The premise in the book to ‘erase’ someone from history. No evidence, no existence. Orwell based this aspect on a Stalin practice – where photos were re-touched to remove people that had fallen out of favour (read killed). For the longest time this was in the hands of experts. People that could do this with skill. Not today – anybody with PhotoShop or any online Raster-based image-editing software can have access to a massive erase button. And it’s not limited to still images. Video is vast becoming the next realm of adding and deleting for content.

Thought-crimes

Winston Smith’s neighbour (Parsons) was turned into the authorities for having thoughts against the state (while he was sleeping no less)  – by his own daughter. He admits to Winston that he is relieved to have been caught and his thoughts corrected. We don’t need people we know to do this anymore. It can, and is anyone. We have smartphones and CCTV feeds that allow any of us to collect data (ideas and photos) and distribute them without any inkling of understanding to the situation they’re reporting. Some make their way to group-judgement websites. Now, I’m not defending or condemning these site – these are just examples.

You park like an asshole.

People of Walmart.

Clients from hell.

We are all in the same boat – we are all Big Brother by judging and being a voyeur (and recorder) to the lives and apparent missteps of others (guilty-pleasure confession – I love the sites listed). And we are a text or photo away from being Winston Smith – unaware of that telescreen behind the painting.

I think it’s time to read 1984 again.

What’s your biggest social media (big brother) fear?

 

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Where does your brand start?

Or, more importantly, where does your brand stop?

Years ago buying products meant going to a store (physically) or at least opening up a catalogue (sorry America, that’s how it’s spelled). Side note: it’s weird how when I was a kid the notion of shopping from home seemed either rural, or something that you didn’t want to admit. And now, with this Internet and World Wide Web — it’s almost a trend!

Today, brands are reaching out in so many different ways – both to sell and to create awareness (which eventually creates sales, so I’m told). Whether it be traditional advertising, social/digital marketing, websites or in-store. And in some case, stores. For example, Apple – you may have heard of them. They make a few consumer products. They had a great leader – but he’s dead now. Yeah, that Apple.

Hard to believe that the First one opened in 2001, or that there are 421 (as of this date) worldwide. Apple wanted to have their own experience when showcasing the products. Ultimately they wanted control over that experience – hence the reference to the dead leader, Steve Jobs. I think he understood more than anyone the importance of owning your brand – not just physically, as in the products. But almost spiritually – how the store allowed you to move, how you interacted with the products and overall be in the mindset of Apple.

Above and beyond that Apple has moved to taking that control further. Basically having mini stores in other retailers. It’s not uncommon to find an Apple display in a Best Buy or a  WalMart. It’s part and parcel of having that power – the sales weight combined with an unflinching attitude. But, that approach is slowly seeping into other brands. Now you can be standing in front of a branded sales area for Beats (by Dr Dre) or Bose, or a few more. And the real estate that they take up varies. Depending of course on product depth and how much they’re willing to pay for that space.

It is quite a natural progression for brands that are setting their own tone – through product development, unique product offerings and stand-out company personalities. It’s really just another place to harness and expose a brands wherewithal.

Where will the next level of brand-takeover be?