Posh dos. God, they’re a pain aren’t they? Particularly if you don’t like wearing a suit. Especially if you don’t even own a suit! I do own a suit, but reluctantly. It clashes with my style, which has been described as ‘too casual for my own good.’ I’m also going through a bobble-hat phase. Bobble-hats and suits don’t mix. Not at all.
But, I sucked it up, and donned the old whistle. And looked quite dapper, I must say. Uncomfortable, but dapper. I blended in; I didn’t look like my usual self. When I got to the party I was glad I’d suited up. Firstly people came and spoke to me, which was nice. People listened to what I said, which was also nice. People EVEN laughed at my jokes, which was brilliant. “I am a hit at this party”, I remember thinking. “I’m glad I am this bloody uncomfortable”. (On a side note, there were people dressed more smartly than me, but I have since learnt there is always one idiot in a cravat).
The ability to change my guises and ‘blend in’, to make sure those who are used to the suited and booted look aren’t put off and will actually talk to me – it’s a good skill to have.
I can adjust my image, with relative success, to communicate appropriately to different audiences. So why can’t brands?
Well, first off, it’s not very wise. You can’t be Harley Davidson and say you’re going eco just to appeal to the green army. You also can’t say you’re one thing when they say you’re something else. But you can say you are one thing and then say nothing at all.
Consider this… You are Starbucks. Coffee now is huge, but in London people are edging away from mainstream coffee houses, like Starbucks and Costa, to go to cooler places, where baristas have facial hair and ombréd backcombing and serve flat whites in old school glasses not cups. Where the coffee isn’t branded by big multinationals and the man!!
I went to one of these places in a library in Dalston at the weekend. Rakish taches, check. Dip-dyed hairdos, check. Cool coffee concoctions, check. Cool cliental, check. Good coffee, double check. No branding, check! So imagine my surprise when I did some digging and found out.
You can guess where this is going… Yep. Starbucks. Peel back the green, the generic seasonal messaging and this is the result. A cool coffee shop. A non-branded franchise. With moustaches and hipster hair. But how did I feel about it? Well, I felt divided. Just like I am able to put on a suit and schmooze people who aren’t my usual crowd, should a company (and a brand) have the same tricks? Well, no, but was it a good coffee? Yeah.
Most people don’t like dishonesty. Let’s take Tesco’s undercover coffee house, Harris & Hoole. Now they have been spectacularly outed in The Guardian, they’ve come under fire for cheating people into a false sense of coolness! “Now I find out this is Tesco. It looks like a small indie. It is disingenuous. It makes me upset. I feel duped.” Carol Levine, 50, a Crouch End physiotherapist, no longer enjoying her lunch break in Harris & Hoole.
The coffee may be great, but it’s left a bitter aftertaste. You can’t blame them for trying though, afterall ‘Every Little Helps’.
Written by Jamie Campbell