Monday, September 26, 2011

Versus marketing

Rebecca Black is probably not a bad person. However if you are familiar with that name, you dislike and disrespect her. Heck her song is not nails-on-chalkboard material either. But I have just gotten judged negatively for saying that. And somewhere, someone is making a lot of money out of this situation.

The fundamental thing about contemporary marketing has become a drive to achieve the highest profit with the least possible effort. While that does not sound like a bad thing at all, a rabid pursuit of this ideal is something I find very undesirable. The problem with this concept is where it fixes the threshold of effort required. While it tries to minimize the effort involved by either the use of technology or some other iterative process the desired threshold for effort required is disrespected and that is where you end up with an inferior quality product that still manages to achieve the desired profit. The world is rank with such output and there is more being pumped out by the day. The marketers are happy, the makers are happy and somehow the public is happy and therefore the concept is here to stay. But there is a problem.

A strong link exists between effort taken and fun generated. Not too much focus is put on the matter but many think about it in some form or the other. Why are we such big fans of the old school way of doing things? Ideally we should have improved on old school methods and ended up with superior grade products that have the positive elements from the old school ways with newer additions thus making it some sort of super product. Somehow that does not seem the case in pretty much everything around us. The current generation of television cartoons is a computer-generated pile of colorful tripe with toilet humor and painfully stretchy formulaic situations that really need to be used in some kind of torture chamber. To my horror, all my nieces delightfully lap up hours of that treatment with their proud parents buying into all of it. The old-school merry melodies and silly symphonies that I grew up with were not just cartoons, they were productions. There was beautiful hand-drawn artwork and perfectly orchestrated music to go with it. The music was in fact a celebration and the cartoon characters came to life to etch out the music in all that they did. I am not alone in stating that these classics are a better watch any day over the current computer monsters. Then why does the industry not cater to this market?

I have really put a lot of effort into understanding the current class of industrial music with its autotune and repeat sound effects but I have failed. There was a time when music too was a production, every hit song - an original string of great synchrony and every album - a story that spoke many volumes. Why is there not a single great band of the likes of the beatles in current existence? Some grey old remains of the rock bands of yore still remain but they have over lasted their shelf life.

Indeed it is a difficult thing to create something and that is why Ilayaraja does not make the kind of music that he used to in his prime. However, just because there are easier ways to make money, a pursuit of aesthetic value in everything that we do should not be abandoned! There, that is my problem.

So there is a system that comes into existence. Someone likes something. Someone else creates it. We define it, study it and become scholars on the subject. And then we try to apply it and that is where we fail. Trying to define a winning formula is like trying to define love; it is impossible and most every one of us fails. But everyone sees a winning formula and tries to duplicate it to succeed. While they may or may not achieve their ends, here is where the dreaded marketing gurus come in and unleash their devastation on the system. It is hard for me to say this but I have to admit that current generation marketers are amazing at what they do. They know exactly how to make you crave for something, whether you appreciate its true value or not. That is why everyone of us has a google+ ID even though we do not know what to do with it. A sinister marketing drive tells you that you must have this because everyone has it and the social police will ensure your embarrassment if you don't. While we may laugh off this stupidity in all our badass right, the effect of the need to remain fitted into society is very powerful and while it should ideally never be subscribed to, it needs to be respected because most of us are subscribers.

So the marketers come up with a model. "Do a, b and c - all that are obvious parts of the winning formula that someone else put the effort to come up with and you will have a concoction that looks the part. For our bid, we will create an idea and influence minds to tell them that you are the drug that they need to be doing right now." Yeah, inception. The marketers are happy to make money out of it, the creator is happy to finish it off with least effort and the hypnotized public is told that happiness lies in following the shiny red dot.

But behind all of this madness, there is lost the aesthetic value of the product. The fun generated because there was an effort put into the product to just make it nice is lost. That is why google and apple products create such a controversy. It is not like they don't have flaws or they don't have formulaic marketing strategies. But in a broader strategy, a product like Macintosh is aesthetically done with the need to make it something elegant and not the need to implement something profitable with the least work.

So where are we getting? Whatever you do, do it because it is beautiful! It will be hard but it will be fun! Don't study for a degree. Don't learn the guitar to pick up groupies. Don't talk in pig latin because that is what gets you drinking beer with the jocks. Create something because it is fun. Put the effort because it deserves that and more. The market is like a little guy with horns on your shoulder telling you things that should not interfere with your drive to chase excellence. Don't become his zombie bitch.


firstmonsoon said...

I completely understand the spirit of what you're saying, but just to pick a leetle bone with your words, I give you the computer-generated and utterly classic Dreamland Chronicles

Bala Venkatakrishnan said...

Of course I do not define my agenda against all computer generated material. I still watch every pixar movie at least a half dozen times! But for every Dreamland Chronicles and Wall-E there is two of these