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The corportate gentrification of Britomart and the working man’s beer.

28 Sep

New Zealand is experiencing a rebirth. So far it has been concentrated here in Auckland, where the Britomart development seems to be spreading like the Early Roman Empire. It’s a distinctive style – a look and feel born of design agency, Shine. A look and feel that has been emulated by everybody since.

For the most part, it’s good. Auckland is looking better than ever. You’re never far from a half-decent cafe with a funky fit-out. The new retail spaces are quirky, but slick. Pop-up spaces are popping up, and interesting things are popping into them.

I remember the first time I visited Shaky Isles in Kingsland – the first of Shine’s interior projects. It felt great, special, like nowhere else in town. I remember wishing that more spaces in Auckland looked like that cafe. And now they do. All of them. Even the High Street fashion designers – Karen Walker, World, Kate Sylvester – have upped and moved, adopting the Britomart style in the process. The ubiquitous ‘slick and quirky’. The look and feel of New Auckland.

Premium design? I call it corporate gentrification.

And recently it’s reached the threshold where instead of making Auckland a nicer place to be, it’s making it feel conformist, devoid of spirit, actively shittier.

I feel the same way about New Zealand beer. As the craft community has risen from obscurity, mainstream brands have been attempting to take on the small guys by positioning their faux-craft beer in the premium space. The packaging? Slick and quirky premium design. All the while, the very same brands have been driving their generic lagers into the premium space to compete with Heinekin. The premium space is occupied. It’s full. There is no more room here for new entrants.

After a decade of breweries harping on about ‘premium mass-produced lager’ (as if that even exists), they’ve succeeded only in creating for themselves a competitive gridlock. A Mexican standoff. And no one is willing to back down.

My incredibly stylish cool-hunting brand genius pal Laura Ford and I have been discussing this conundrum, and what New Zealand beer brands ought to do about it. The solution is part comms, part design restoration job. It involves bringing heritage brands back to life – harking back to simpler days, when beer was cheap but hard-earned.

The working man’s beer. A lost cultural artifact in the over-gentrified Auckland City.

Here’s an American brand that is doing it well.






And as far as Auckland cafes go – I’ll stick to the usual, thanks. Mmm. Dank.

Whose job is it to name things anyway?

4 Sep

Kid builds arcade. Cuteness ensues.

12 Apr

One of my (myriad) pet peeves is blanket inspirational statements about the nature of creativity in business meetings. We’ve all let them slip sometimes, but I can promise you this: I will never expect you to push the envelope, think outside of the box or embrace a childlike imagination. That kind of talk is strictly the domain of those who have never pushed the envelope in their life. They’ve never even doodled on an envelope. In fact, why do we even let these people into meetings?

But hypothetically speaking, if I did tell you to think outside of the box and embrace a childlike imagination, I would expect you to come up with something as cool as this.

Image

This nine-year-old boy took over the front of his (very sweet) father’s auto-part shop and fitted it out with a fully functional arcade parlour made from cardboard boxes. Naturally, cuteness ensues.

It’s weird to think that a child could be filled with such lofty ambitions, but it’s totally adorable that the problem was solved in such a tactile, resourceful way. Forget paying adults to think like children – maybe we should be paying children to think like adults.

Caine’s first (and, for a while, only) customer just so happened to be filmmaker Nirvan Mullick, who decided to arrange a special surprise for the kid. Here’s the video:


That’s right, he’s nine and he has his own DIY arcade. How’s your novel coming along?

The anti-creativity checklist.

28 Oct

Seth on motivation.

26 Jun

I found this piece by brainiac supreme Seth Godin very interesting. My generation has been identified by employers as inherently selfish or lazy or misaligned with the values of the workplace. Perhaps it’s simply that external motivation, or a sense of duty, doesn’t inspire us the way it does them. Maybe when it’s Generation Y holding the purse strings, our allegiance to our internal motivations will make us more effective leaders and entrepreneurs.

Just tell us the truth.

23 May

If you watch The Gruen Transfer, you’ll be familiar with Rowan Dean. He’s written a fantastic opinion piece about Government threats to remove branding from cigarette packaging, which draws a much more important conclusion than most literature on the subject. He shows us that, having finally run a campaign that tells the truth, Big Tobacco wins this round.

Does the word you made up make sense.

4 Apr

The entire works of Shakespeare incorporate over 17,000 words. Of those, 10% were first used by Shakespeare. I’m not going to imply that  this gives anyone the right to extend the English language as they see fit. But what it does suggest is that, upon hearing a new word for the first time, it’s safe to assume an audience will gather its meaning. Context has a powerful role in communication.

A new TVC from Mercedes in which the word ‘infoxication’ is invented.

Infoxication. The overwhelming sensation that comes with being subjected to a flood of information, to the extent that choice becomes complex. Apparently Mercedes is the remedy for this modern ‘infoxication’.

Mercedes, please stick this ad up your bum. It is championing the exact opposite of what makes your product desirable.

I expect my $150,000 car to be extremely complicated. And I expect $150,000 to afford me a certain level of choice and customisation. I expect to decide what fuel my car runs on, what breed of cow comprises my leather interior, how many speakers my music spews from. I want to ponder the benefits of silver over gun-metal grey, to dictate the amount of torque I generate, the number of spokes on my mags. I expect total control over all of these things because I am spending $150,000 on a car.

When I buy this car, I will have all the information at my fingertips. That’s because I will be choosing between six other cars of equal pedigree, most of them far more impressive than a Mercedes.

So please don’t brush over the details. Don’t make my luxury purchase feel generic. This is advanced motoring, and ‘infoxication’ sounds great to me. I want to know every specification detail that makes my car one of a kind. I might not know what 500Nm means, but I want to be able to tell people I have it in my engine. Because being rich lets me have a unique car, and having a unique car makes me special.

N.B. For the record, I am neither rich or special.

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