I started working there in 1998 which—coincidentally, I hope—seems to be the point where the strong, simple and consistent brand identity visible in the first two images started to erode, replaced by more individualistic oddities like the bottom image.
This resonated strongly with me—I’ve worked in several offices where people really wanted the social channels to talk in Innocent-ese or jump on the back of whatever the John Lewis ad was that year or surprise followers with “random acts of kindness” (which of course were neither random nor kind).
It’s a bit gross, horribly transparent once you start to notice it, and of course it works. So it will continue forever.
Social media has made it easier than ever for companies to connect with people. These new, personal bonds between companies and customers feel uncanny—the brands are not real human friends, exactly, but neither are they faceless corporations anymore. Isn’t that the point, though? Branding’s purpose is to get under your skin, to make you remember an otherwise forgettable company or product. When the surprise wanes, that feels a lot less delightful.
Google is not optimized to be the best search engine in the world; it is optimized to be the best tool for transforming the currency of intention into shareholder value. This means that its search capabilities only have to be good enough to keep you coming back to Google for search. Considering that Google’s only real competition is Bing, the bar is not very high.
This does leave Google in a unique position. It can subjugate search to advertising efficacy. In other words, Google can optimize for maximum revenue – which is exactly what it does.
Search results on Google are fast, but are they really what you are looking for? If Google revenue was derived directly from search, it would be the best search engine on earth. But Google doesn’t make money from search; it makes money by getting you to click on ads (which you would never need to see if search results gave you exactly what you were searching for). Oh, and if Google were optimized for search (as opposed to advertising revenue), it would go out of business (or have to charge a subscription fee).
Said differently, search is just the best clickbait Google can produce.
Imagine it is a summer’s day long in the past and you think you will watch some Wimbledon or cricket on a Tuesday afternoon, so you switch on the TV, but there are no sportspersons in sight. Instead there is a black and white film halfway through. It is obvious that rain must have halted play, so the BBC is showing a film instead – but infuriatingly, there is no way to know what film it is if you don’t recognize it. This is maddening, an unscratched itch. We are talking the 1970s, 80s and most of the 90s here: you can’t just hit an info button on your remote control, you can’t go on Twitter and ask your mates, you can’t look at a BBC website and see if they are explaining what is happening.
Many years ago I had an idea for an iPhone app that enabled you to put in the names of two actors and it would query IMDb to return any films they appeared in together. You would also do the reverse: input two films and get the name of any actor that appeared in both.
Shortly afterwards an app, Double Feature, was released that did exactly this. Naturally I concluded my thoughts were being monitored and I was extremely annoyed that my life-changing idea, which I’d since done precisely nothing to advance, had been stolen from me.
I bought the app. By the second time I thought to use it, it had stopped working and was subsequently abandoned by its creator. I suppose the moral of the story is to never have ideas?
London’s unique, lickety-split digital version of rap was built by teenagers with little-to-no formal musical training, taking whatever cheap (or free, illegally “cracked” and downloaded) software they had to hand, creating strange, glowing, sci-fi sounds from whatever tools they could find.
Grime’s early-2000s pioneers like JME, Skepta, Wiley, and So Solid Crew broke the mold with none of the synths, samplers, and drum machines that had been vital to hip-hop production, instead doing much of their world-building on basic PC software like FruityLoops Studio. Inevitably, the sound was determined by the technology itself.
One of grime’s only consistent formal attributes is that, like its sibling genre dubstep, it runs at around 140 beats per minute — the consistency is important for DJs to be able to mix records seamlessly. Producer Plastician is not the only one to have observed that FruityLoops’ default tempo is set to 140bpm, which “may have a lot to answer for.”
Everybody wants to know what’s inside, but we checked with heritage resources and the local museum and neither of those people seem to be interested in it.
Who are these incurious people?!