What's The Emerging Global Soul Anyway?

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by: Scott Goodson

Just back to New York from a recent trip to our Amsterdam agency, via a stop over for din din with a female friend in Berlin. Not that this is anything odd. Except for the fact my friend in Berlin is part Brazilian, part German, part Swedish and a tad Dutch.

Imagine this scenario. She and I have dinner and discuss advertising. Me, a Canadian, who has worked and lived in Asia, Sweden, Holland and now New York. She who has led major advertising brands across the globe. She speaks English, Portuguese, German and Swedish – fluently. I speak English, French and Swedish fluently. What do we have in common? What separates us?

What we have in common are a set of values.

Brian Elliott the Co-founder of StrawberryFrog put it this way: “Back when we were envisioning what StrawberryFrog could be, we recognised the emergence of a Global Soul – a universal mindset, an electromagnetic current of people and ideas circling the globe. We saw how people in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia are influenced by ideas from miles away. Different cultural backgrounds collaborating can capture that common core.”

What do marketers need to know about this global soul? It is about opportunity, but also a greater sense of peril. Universal insight into human values increasing joins more and more of us around the world. But not in the form of one top down advertising campaign. Rather, technology, tools, understanding of our new world can help marketeers attract a unified mosaic of diversity.

Pico Iyer describes these values in his book The Global Soul. Born to Indian parents, raised back and forth between England and the United States, and living now in Japan when he’s not visiting some far-flung corner of the earth, Pico Iyer calls himself “a mongrel,” part of a fast-growing population of global souls who exist in many cultures all at once “and so fall in the cracks between them.”

Another way of understanding this, is by looking at trends in the cultural conversation.

1. “The Active Mosaic”
How yesterday’s melting pot or salad bowl is becoming a continuous amalgamation of random cultural influences

2. “Riding the Oceans”
How the blue parts of our planet can tell you more about cultural movements than the continents

3. “The BRICs of the Future, Being Laid Today”
How the emerging economic power of Brazil, Russia, India, and China is already being felt socially and culturally

4. “Where Tomorrow Meets Yesterday”
How individuals embrace cultural paradox — traditional and modern, local and global, individual and social

5. “Polish DJs, Flyover Cool, and Leapfrog Adopters”
– Global Soul in Action: debunking some of the myths of ’emerging’ markets in Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia

Let’s look at the first. From Mono- to Multi- to Transculturalism. First, it takes the form of exposure to another culture. Then, a ‘tossed salad.’ From there, multiculturalism evolves. From a Canadian who lived during the melting pot era of politics in that country, the Melting pot assumes too much. ‘Mosaic’ is a better metaphor, but a snapshot in time — and this led to the Benetton cliché. Ultimately, assimilated transculture. An ‘active mosaic’ — where the exisiting culture and the emerging culture exchange and mutate characteristics. An ever evolving mosaic of global organic living culture. Some examples of this are Remixes and hybrids: design, arts, media, social. Musical genre-blending. Film allusion and homage. TV remakes and exports. Food and drink fusions.

James Brown’s influence on Hip Hop was huge.

But in turn Hip Hop’s influence on different music genres has been enormous.

James Brown and Hip Hop’s influence are also seen in sport.

It gets increasing interesting to look at the active mosaic in the drinks world. There are two dynamics:
The engineer approach, looking in product able to replace an ingredient in the product and balance a proposition E.g. revival of absinthe, use of guarana, and the increasing use of Sake in mixed drinks replacing Vodka or Tequila. The second is the marketer approach, looking for the product able to create a story behind the product, generating appeal E.g Green Tea Saketini, Sakeriniha (sake + kiwi & grapes). When we pitched Don Julio we came up with the idea of Dom Pom, Tequila on rocks with a splash of POM pomegranate juice and a frozen tequila-infused salted lime. The next big thing should be Shochu, a barley beverage, which is the drink of choice for Japanese youth. It has low alcohol content, a pleasant aftertaste and usually comes mixed with fruit juice.

The active mosaic in food is rampant across the world. “Chicken Tikka Massala is now a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences. Chicken Tikka is an Indian dish. The Massala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy” Rt. Hon. Robin Cook.

Okonomiyaki-ka serving popular pancake/pizza dish with mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce (evolution of the Worcestershire sauce). The Indian Bhel Puri with variations such as Chinese Bhel (similar in taste than American chopSuey) or Mexican sev puri (baked bean-cheese combination). Eating routines also evolved. The eating times and nature of the main meals evolve. For instance, in Europe, French and German lunch are slowly shrinking in time and number of dishes German dinner gets more hearty. Traditional family Estonian dinner goes separate during the week Spain banned the traditional lunch siesta. Serbian 2 traditional meals became 3.

So what do marketeers need to remember when navigating the growing mosaic? Staying above or navigating across the mosaic cannot be done with a bland culture that is, global, ultimately relevant to no one. One must own a piece of the mosaic — it must be true, authenticity rules. Aiming for the universal insight can link common values globally, but with the opportunity for local flavor and bottom up engagement.

Second, riding the oceans. The ever growing online gaming experience is a phenomena that is in its infancy. At the most, communities are continental, but most of the time global. Players are playing and chatting for hours with the same people. In this give and take, you get to know them and their real as well as their virtual world. In the latter, those persistent worlds evolve round the clock, hence the status of your character may have changed while sleeping. You make appointment with the other members of your guild to go for a specific objective. This generates numerous side economic effects: YouTube, Veho.com, Ebay, publishing…

I am personally engaged in the WORLD SUDOKU LEAGUE. It’s website states: Welcome to the World Sudoku League! Every day at midnight GMT a new Daily Sudoku board is uploaded to World Sudoku League and can be accessed both from the World Sudoku League website and via the Sudoku Master 3 mobile game. The scores from each Daily Sudoku board can be found at the Scoreboard page. You can browse older scoreboards through the calendar at the same page. All scores acquired count towards your World Sudoku League ranking.

All this contagious globalism for a small price.

Or if you want it for free you can also go to NetBabyWorld.

Furthermore, Aficionados develop their network hoping from contact to contact, meeting in forums. They know the events happening in their own country as well as any other on the planet. If not physically travelling there, they know all about it via internet.

Social networking inspires people across the globe to seek out friends in Mongolia, South Africa, and Quebec. These same worldwide networks develed through email, through casual friends, through work. People then become a “connection.” A network to find local connections everywhere in the world.

In this world of old assimilations and new migrations, we are perhaps at the moment very lucky to be at the stage where ethnic identity is not yet blurred and the world is in an exciting state of mixing and mingling and transferring of tastes. It may not last.

Let’s also look at the social currents of the Atlantic Rim and the Pacific Rim. Time zone benefit from the friendly tradewinds of technology and trade. Asian and in particular Chinese investment in Australian and Western Canadian resources is one example. With trade comes contact, and dependence, and interdependency and new forms of culturalism. What signifiers of the Pacific Rim are noteworthy? Social role playing. The extension of the core/extended family, changing individuality (just look at the youth in China and their explosion onto the internet. Also, Pan-Pacific Cuisine, Nobu, saketinis, green tea everything, Westernized Martial Arts/Asianized Westerns, Kill Bill and 2046, electronically mediated life
gaming, 3G mobile telephony, the Anime aesthetic (something we’ve tried to capture always in our work for Asic’s Onitsuka Tiger branded sneakers and sportswear.

Now let’s look at how people are moving around our planet differently today than every before. Who’s migrating where? Diasporas: India, China, Turkey Africa to Europe. North Africa to Western Europe. Former colonies to their former colonizers, been to Brussels lately? Intra-EU (East to West), Intra-Latin America, and South-South, “The Polish Plumber” is the new “Turk Grocer,” New immigrants into Japan and Finland (finally), New Asian/Latin American communities in North America, Hmong in Wisconsin
Salvadorans in NY, LA, Carribeans in Toronto, Brazilians in Quebec city (not your average French immigrant, American exiles with second passports – ie ‘escape hatches’.

Cheap tickets = TV. When I travelled thoroughly backpack on back through Asia, it was like living the world that few had ever seen from my home city, except on National Geographic. Post the backpackers day, it’s culinary curiosity. Until recently, being conversant with foreign food was a privilege of those who could afford to travel, but now the knowledge has been democratized by cheap travel and television.

Signifiers of the Indian and Atlantic Rims?

Indian Rim — post-Tsunami is a different region. Multiple diasporas: Indian(s), Chinese(s), Islamic. Post-post colonialism: Aussies and Afrikaners blending. The Travel Impact, for example Teutonic Thailand: package holidays go intercontinental. Bollywoodization, DIY pan-spirituality,

In the Atlantic Rim — Quieter Signs of cultural exchange. More about the mighty dollar.
Big market to big market. EU and NAFTA, NATO as Culture. The ‘Latin’ world: from Italy to Chile. Reverse immigration: EU passport-hunters, colonial re-attachment: Brazil, Mexico, Canada. Culture: Music, fashion, entertainment. NY music with Euro platform: Interpol, Strokes, Scissor Sisters. Fashion Axis: Paris, London, NY, Milan. Common mass entertainment platform with local influences.

The New BritPop? It’s made in Toronto Canada.

And finally, let’s look at one of my favorite places the Southern World and how this region is coming into its own. What is significant here? The magazine Wallpaper claimed recently that the “Most Beautiful Flight in the World” is Aerolineas Argentinas/Qantas Sydney-Buenos Aires. There is also an emotional appeal through characters who stand up for independence and their own ideas. Populist political heroes like Chavez, Lula, Mandela. There is a sign of economic populism driving political power in this region. Cultural democratization: Brazilian, Mexican, Australian and Kiwi film. For those looking for the economical nose job or breast implant, Souther hemisphere medical tourism is on the rise in Brazil, South Africa, Thailand. There is also a new sense of self-sufficiency: the Brazilian space program, aeroplane manufacturing, AIDS research, global warming, Peter Jackson. There is South to South migration: SA – Australia.

What do marketers need to know about Riding the Oceans? Where you’re from does matter — global does not mean ‘neutral’. Careful here…don’t expect deep appreciation of source culture; it’s there to reassure authenticity of story. But a North American or Western Europe provenance is no longer a guarantee of cachet. Just the opposite, as it can expose a brand out of touch with a much more culturally ‘equal’ world. Most important is your brand’s ability to navigate those same cultural oceans as people are. By positioning as an essential constant.

Third, the new frontier…the BRIC-Laying the Cultural Future. Or, the future is a BRIC.
By 2009, the move will already be underway. Tomorrow Meets Yesterday: The Fun of Paradox
What kinds of paradox? Personal compartmentalisation — ‘family’ self, ‘work’ self’, ‘social’ self, ‘secret’ self. Culture remixing — especially ‘Goodbye Lenin’ style nostalgia for traditional cues with modern twists, east meets west, ironic borrowing. Lo fi meets high tech — analogue with digital, old PCs with new mobiles, bad infrastructure with cutting edge personal tools, or vice versa. Anti-materialist materialism — especially Russia and India, but any extreme high-low culture mixing. Nativism in the global village — more cultural than political. Gender Fluidity. Blending: The Cross-Persona Life. On the horizon, young people turn their roles into entire personas where they choose who they want to be at that time
Unlike yesterday’s ‘juggling’, this ‘blending’ is seen as positive and creative. Retromania and regression are two themes. Regionalism and self-Production, a new sense of hyper-Reality, the Fun of Paradox.

What marketers need to know? When everything around you is in flux, it’s important to be anchored and consistent. The brands that matter are those that are the quintessential definition of their category.
Essentialist brands define the ‘premium’ for the category.

The Global Soul in Action: Polish DJs, Flyover Cool, and Leapfrog Adopters. Big Grid/Small Grid
The Historical Adoption Model. A New Adoption Model: connects subcultures with mass market
Values of ‘Cool’.

“Complexity is innate to all modern media. Using naturalistic field experimental procedures, Pokot tribespeople have a very well developed ability to comprehend a story presented on television, even when a message makes use of extensive editing which fragments time and space, including close-ups, flashbacks, and parallel editing techniques. It appears that film and television are easy to decode because they call upon pre-existing visual and cognitive skills. Learning to understand images does not require the lengthy period of initiation characteristic of language learning, and permeability of cultural boundaries is much greater for images than it is for language.” Dr. Renee Hobbs, Associate Professor of Communication, Babson College, Wellesley, MA

An increasingly common theme across the globe is that the Good Life Is Now The Big Life. Doing more, going further, connecting to others. He who collects the most experiences wins.

Experience acquisition. Global Soul in Action: What marketers need to know. Everyone’s worried about the Polish Plumber taking western European jobs. The Polish artist taking Western European accolades is more interesting. The rejection by Middle America of urban, multicultural and global phenomena doesn’t make them stupid — just the marketers who don’t ‘get it’. Cultural adoption is undergoing a similar ‘leapfrog’ model to technology adoption. No need to ‘train’ on earlier models when the new ones are already here (gaming, entertainment).

Original Post: http://scottgoodson.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/01/the_emerging_gl.html