In an interview you once said about social media: “People become a bit obsessed with self-promotion. I think we should see social media more as a tool of self-expression rather than self-promotion.”
How or where would you define that boundary?
Doesn’t this boundary also follow a somewhat unbreakable generational line: a Gen-Xer (ie. tutor) would probably define a twerking Gen-Zer (ie. student) as “self-promoting for likes”, whereas the teen understands it as a profoundly felt self-expression of his or her body, energy, sexuality et cetera? How can we understand each other, aren’t we lost in translation?
I think that – whatever the content – what we should post on social media channels should be done with self-expression in mind, rather than self-promotion.
The difference being:
I can twerk for myself, to express my body and such, and be happy if I get good feedback (i.e. likes), or I can do it just for the likes, promoting myself in order to become the next …. (put here any celeb/influencer’s name).
There are dynamics on TikTok that tell me that people do it just for self-promotion: you surf on something that is trending, because you are looking for validation, and, ultimately, for self-promotion.
Self-expression can’t really exist within the constraints of the medium, because it’s paradoxical to think that the Self (a unique and unmatched element) can be expressed by replicating what other billions Selves express. But maybe I’m just overthinking.
if your ultimate goal is to express your Self, and you don’t mind the likes that come with it, it’s a healthy exercise, if you adapt your Self to the rules of the platform and the trending narratives to get more visibility and likes, then I think you should revisit your strategy.
You have written a marvelous book, B.A.D. the (Anti)manual for Punk/Dada/Post-whatever Marketing. Your presence on Instagram, as well as on LinkedIn is radical and different. You seem to perfectly practice and own the aforementioned argument of self-expression.
How can we make sure the younger generation, students, entrepreneurs and especially academics, will take this radical path to profoundly challenge the status quo not just visually or as a “marketing gag”? The price to pay to really “go” against an obsolete system still seems too high, doesn’t it?
Thanks for the kind words! I guess I’d use “marvelous” just for Samuel Beckett’s opus, but I appreciate the choice of the word.
I found a way of expressing myself with certain peculiar signs/elements: language, handwriting style, irony, and so forth. But it has been a long trip. And it wasn’t easy, at times.
Often, a client wants to play it safe and do whatever is trending and/or their competitors are doing. This happens with lots of academics, too – they don’t see the magic of zigging when others are zagging, and teach their students to create things and elaborate ideas that can work in real life. Which makes sense, up to a certain point:
if we create things that “work” now, we will never create immortal things, or things that stand the test of time. Moreover, if you train your students to think this way, they will never strive for greatness, and will never try to do anything new and disruptive.
To sum this up: in a fashion landscape in which brands make gazillions by selling hoodies with a logo, if we keep doing that we will kill couture, and, ultimately, taste.
The price to pay if you want to change the system is quite high, but it feels good to create a unique narrative.
You can make it if you create mainstream things, as well as you create weird, unusual, peculiar things. The world needs Adam Sandler as much as it needs David Lynch.
Do whatever you want, but, for the sake of evolution, don’t settle for mediocre things/ideas.
Rather than giving students the truth, the solution or the recipe, you seem to prefer guiding them through active self-reflection or “self-experiencing”. This may take you in “unplanned” places and spaces. That is more than often not how the academic system works, as it is in need of clear guidelines, defined outcomes and assessment strategies. First, how do you, as a tutor, manage these possible discrepancies? Second, how do you make sure students understand this approach? They very often unconsciously need to follow fixed and stiff rules to feel safe.
The secret, to me, is to get rid of the safe approach first, then concentrate on the creative / crazy / unexpected idea. In my experience, working as a digital strategies director for a London-based agency for many years, we were always approaching a client with two ideas: the safe one and the crazy one.
This way, you are sure you covered what you have to (whether it’s a task, or a project, or an assessment) and then you can really express your inner Twombly.
I train my students to do the same: this way, they feel safe but they also know they can go on a space trip, when working on projects and ideas. Many people and brands don’t realise how easy it is to follow this type of recipe. The ones who do, they change the game.
It’s the same as keeping the campaign on the magazine safe, then going crazy on TikTok – both the fashion purist/older customer and the next wave of aficionados will be happy.
It is a known fact that Higher Education (as everything else) would surely look completely different today, would it not have been built on hundreds of years of history, but on the real needs and trends of the times.
How would your contemporary version of education in this post-whatever times look like?
I think the real needs and trends of the time are great guidelines, yet, as I said before, we need to think of creating something immortal – and that has to be built on history and past experiences. My vision for the post-whatever education is based on these two things – being extremely current without forgetting or ignoring what came before – and a certain fragmentation of the curriculum:
one size doesn’t fit all, and the traditional itinerary is becoming ancient, therefore I think we should experiment with micro-courses and micro-experiences. One year courses on a major subject, then two/three-month intensive courses, based on the aforementioned real needs and trends of the time, as well as on the student’s talents and inclinations.
When it comes to marketing and branding, it is paramount to study sociology and philosophy and psychology, in my opinion.
A theatre course could also help, think public speaking and content creation. The post-whatever professional (at least when it comes to fashion) knows about the product, the business dynamics, branding and marketing. And they can also sing and dance!
Please name your current favourite book?
My current favourite book is Ecology, community and lifestyle by Arne Næss.
He elaborates on nature and human, how we can grow without destroying the planet, and on thinking like a mountain.
A true genius. A Norwegian sweet philosopher, who based part of his opus on Gandhian nonviolence applied to the cause of saving the planet:
‘You win conclusively when you turn your opponent into a believer and supporter of your case.’ I see lots of his theories and thoughts in Greta’s approach.
Yet, as someone smarter than me said, we need to make the message sexy, otherwise people won’t listen. In order to ‘turn your opponent into a believer and supporter of your case’, then, we need to use marketing – if we educate consumers with wonderful narratives and fascinating messages, they will care more about a greener way to consume and live life.
If we help brands with said narratives and messages, they will understand that there is money (and lots of it) to be made by becoming greener, and they will turn greenwashing into proper greener strategies.
It ain’t easy, but we must try harder. And fail better. Until we get it right.
Daniele, thank you for your time and your thoughts.
The questions were exchanged via a google doc in May 2021.