Thursday, 3 May 2007


For years, people have been trying to capture the essence of their personalities through scrapbooking. We are after all little more than a sum of our experiences, associations and memorabilia. What we store and how we organise what we've stored is a strikingly effective way of discerning our personalities. In Blink for example Malcolm Gladwell draws our attention to an experiment in which it was found that college students who spent 15 minutes in another, unknown student's dorm room could give more accurate personality ratings than that student's close friends. Just by looking at the objects, scraps and ‘stuff’ collected by a student and how they had been organised, strangers were able to discern personalities.

Scrapbooks work in the same way - the associations we choose and how we embed and link them (either physically or through narrative) are what defines us. Give someone a scrapbook and they will no doubt get ‘a sense' of the person who produced it. In the same way looking through an attic full of trinkets or a room full of clutter gives us an overwhelming, subconscious ‘sense’ of a person. What we choose to keep, what we mark as ours and how we organise all this, reveals our personality. The places we go, the things we do, the scraps we keep. Indeed management icebreakers are never “tell us what type of person you are;” rather they’re ‘tell us your favourite film,’ your first memory, the first CD you ever bought etc. etc. Cringing - but they have a point none the less. Somehow we seem to be able to tell an awful lot about a person simply by ‘collating’ scraps about them - something brands are beginning to understand as well. Faris and Diginative have recently been talking about the multiplicity of online brand personalities, Diginative citing Innocent and Absolut as examples of what he calls 'brand portals' aggregating content for users. But these sites are also both perhaps examples of what we could call an emerging form of 'scrapbranding' where brands collate all the things they want to be associated with, all the things that create a collective memory or essence of the brand. Absolut for example gives us its favourite street, its ideal burger and its favourite city to name but a few. In some ways these sites are extensions of the kind of eclectic scrapbook style designs we’ve seen brands use online before – such as Southern Comfort’s eclectic mix of associations and styles.

Scrapbooking is essentially just another form of storytelling and brands as we know, tell stories about themselves. The notion of ‘Scrapbranding’ also goes back to Russell Davies theory that brands are in fact webs of associations that we link and embed together:

“We take one idea; a company or a product, we link it to some other ideas; perhaps some attitudes, some aesthetics, a bundle of associations and we embed some other ideas within it; a colour, a logo, a piece of music, a smell.”

This, as Russell also points out is something that the digital world can only encourage: we can easily embed and link, as brands such as Innocent and Absolut are doing. Cut, paste, copy, crop and edit, the common language of the scrapbooker is also of course now the standard language of the digital world as well. And like a real scrapbook that is made up of page after page of events and memories, built up as the person experiences more things and new events, the digital world allows content to be updated and added to on a regular basis – an ever evolving Scrapbranding process.

"People build brands" Jeremy Bullmore once said "as birds build nests, from the scraps and straws they find." It seems the reverse is true too. Brands are building themselves from the scraps and straws they find.

1 comment:

Faris said...

Loving this. Again very post modern ;) in the sense that meaning is constructed using existing cultural referrents...