Our blog takes a leaf out of Orwell and turns Japanese in defence of a book retailer.
No, the exclamations in the title aren’t new Boy Scout badges inspired by the Orwellian antics of President Trump. They were applied to a local bookshop in Rye.
Yes, last week Waterstones was outed for opening a small bookshop that had a “local look and feel”. And despite the fact that Waterstones advertised their ownership of the store, albeit in a demure fashion, in wasn’t enough to head off a slew of criticism. But what was it that made so many people quite so cross?
These days, high street bookshops are disappearing faster than ‘Vote Leave’ window stickers, so perhaps to quibble about the issue of ownership of such an endangered species is something of a luxury. And surely in the pantheon of publishing pariah’s Waterstones is a speck in the galaxy compared to the Death Star that is Amazon. Then again when it comes to books we recognise the power of NIMBYism – in one of our many book publishing projects we identified a target audience, ‘Community Activists’, who whilst indifferent to world events were highly sensitised to the merest suggestion of an additional speed bump in their immediate locale (you can read how that project led to the author reaching number one in the book charts here).
But back to Waterstones. Is the insight simply that some sectors are expected to operate to higher standards than others? Whilst Tesco fell foul of the coffee loving community with their venture fronted by Harris & Hoole, Pret have gone from strength to strength since the investment of MacDonalds (since sold). Ben & Jerry’s is flourishing under the ownership of Unilever. And one can only picture angry of Rye, ensconced at the wheel of his ‘Jag’, inured, indifferent or entirely ignorant of that fact that it is owned by Tata Motors.
In that case perhaps the real insight is that in a world of ‘created narratives’ and ‘alternative facts’ brand truth is becoming a more highly valued commodity. Phileas Fogg certainly didn’t shy away from their ‘Medomsley Road, Consett’ roots. Walkers has made the City of Leicester a central part of their brand platform. And even Superdry, whilst hilariously lampooned by the Daily Mash for their ubiquitous user-imagery have never denied their Cheltenham origins.
It is a fact that over recent decades trust in political, religious and military institutions has declined whilst trust in brands has increased. And if brands overall rather than specific sectors are held to higher standards it will not only further elevate their status but perhaps also ensure that their truths are preserved at a premium. So much like Waterstones, telling it like it is, irrespective of the consequences, may point the way forward.
Or to borrow from the very same Orwell in our introduction, “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act”.
To find out more about Muse visit www.musestrategy.com