One of our team brought up postmodernism in marketing yesterday, and I began looking for some references. When I was doing my thesis, the European Journal of Marketing had a special on postmodernism, and one of my lecturers prior to that, David Stewart, was quite in to the postmodern concept about 10 years ago.
I always had my doubts about whether postmodernism, in marketing at least, was a real concept. In design, modernism brought order; postmodernism, at least expressed in graphics, tended to be “slightly messier”, from a layperson’s point of view. Postmodern automotive design was typiﬁed by the Coupé Fiat, Alfa 147 and Ford Scorpio, or so thought Stephen Bayley in Car in the mid-’90s. Ten years on, these vehicles look dated, as much as vehicles designed during what could be termed the modern era. They hardly look daring as we became accustomed to them; and the shapes just seem like modernism with embellishments. (If the Coupé Fiat is postmodern, then surely so was the Triumph TR7.)
Postmodern graphics just reminded me of futurism, and some of the chaotic work just prior to that. We are talking mid-1900s. David Carson, Beach Culture, et al did not suggest anything that novel to me—sure, they were clever and I admired them, albeit with a slight aloofness brought by snobbery—but it was not a movement beyond modernism that was unprecedented in history. I also had my doubts at law school that critical legal studies were postmodern, when there were functioning models like Confucianism that could be, at least to me, a resulting, efﬁcient model for law and society remedying a period of chaos. (Or, for that matter, many Paciﬁc island models that are still practised among numerous Polynesians, which seem superior to many occidental ones.)
When researching the topic as relating to marketing to answer our team member’s question, postmodernism is thought of as the consumer empowerment movement—where individuals determine brands’ meanings, not organizations. It is perhaps a more obvious representation of an existing concept being put on to its head: that organizations no longer owned brands, but consumers controlled them through emails, tattoos, and blogs. Individualism, freedom of choice and new social movements are cited as some of postmodernism’s hallmarks in marketing and branding—but is this that new?
The romantic notions of individualism have been with us for some time, and whatever is happening in branding, such as in Stefan Engeseth’s book One, seems to be a logical extension of that. Freedom of choice was the promise of consumerism in the modernist era. As to new social movements: while I am no sociologist, the movements are the same as they ever were, only we are forming more useful groups across planets thanks to electronic communication. Again an extension of what has gone before.
For some reason, I think postmodernism will simply be seen as an extension of modernism by the historian of the mid-21st century. Until our institutions actually change, or our behaviours become far more responsible, and we begin treating the planet’s inhabitants as one, I don’t believe we have a new movement. The next great movement is either a highly pessimistic one (where we destroy ourselves through carelessness in environmental policy and in military strategy), or a highly optimistic one (where, through the planetary emergency we ﬁnd ourselves in, we consciously make a shift to a more caring society where neighbourhoods are globally and virtually structured).
If the blogosphere can grow strongly and quickly enough, then the latter is more likely, as people band together and share their thoughts. Misunderstandings—particularly between states—evaporate into the past. The next generation of politicians, brought up with the internet, seek real relationships via the internet separate from irrelevant and detached institutions. The internet could be the best BS ﬁlter for a generation that can instinctively detect marketing-speak, spin and political gobbledegook. And then we can talk about postmodernism.
Del.icio.us tags: postmodernism | globalization | globalism | global | consumer movement | modernism | marketing | branding | brands | environment | history | internet | blogosphere | design | cycles | policy | Confucianism | politics | romantic | individualism Posted by Jack Yan, 06:51
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