Normally (like many others, no doubt) I take my precious TV watching hours and use them to divest myself of any need to think-I watch, unashamedly, the Kardashians. And I love them, mainly because they allow me to indulge in my more superficial joys-Celine sunglasses, Birkin bags and oh, so much, drama.
But, as a person who thrives on intellectual stimuli-yet who falls asleep whenever I attempt to read anything worthwhile these days-I wondered, what would happen if I replaced my weekly dose of reality TV with documentaries on incredible women?
At the risk of sounding like I’ve just participated in a 12-week transformation program, the results have been life changing (or, at least, mind changing).
Here’s what happened after a (near) daily dose of documentaries.
In the last few weeks I have managed to ingest documentaries on Annie Leibowitz, Maya Angelou, Lady Gaga, Joan Rivers, Nina Simone, Joan Didion, and many more.
While strikingly different in their life stories, each of these women endured incredible challenges due to their gender (sometimes compounded by racism or abuse or struggles with their mental health), and yet they have struggled and overcome.
This different dose of ‘reality TV’ has naturally lead me to espouse tremendous admiration and amazement at their perseverance. There seems to be an undeniable strength to these women in general, apparent to all, that ought to be given greater focus.
A wonderful side effect of this experiment has been the dusting off of old books and the purchasing of some new editions to give them another reading. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Joan Didion’s remarkable collections of essays, and Annie Leibowitz’s most recent decade of photos, offer the most profound insights into the human condition, and demand their consumer to think harder, use their time wiser, and elevate their very purpose. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.
Observing the observers-what we can all learn from the insights of others.
The wonder of Netflix and other great streaming services is that documentaries are available in abundance. Through them, we can observe some of the great observers of life.
Each of the women mentioned above has been able to see the world through a singular lens. They can capture a mood, articulate the complexities of race, politics, oppression and expression, with sublime poise. They welcome you into their insights, and through poetic prose or extraordinary composition are able to explain so much, using such sparsity of their medium.
And, how does this relate to branding?
If branding is the effective positioning of a product, service or personality within the context of today, insightful observation of culture, moods and politics is essential. One only needs to be reminded of Pepsi’s recent ad controversy featuring an (almost) Kardashian, Kendell Jenner, to see the consequence of when brands are not being effective social observers.
Today, more than ever, there’s so much to consider when developing or promoting a brand. Cultural appropriation, insensitivity to issues of equality or social justice, growing concerns over inequality and the ethics of consumerism, are just a few of the minefields businesses need to carefully navigate.
Some may see this as a burden, but following on from my KRT experiment, I couldn’t be more inspired to push my own discipline and aspire to the lofty heights set by these incredible women.