Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Rise of National-ism

'Quality'-The drive and thirst for it underlies a movement that has been in the works for a number of years now, a movement that remains a niche (like everything these days), but is an influential and economically important one nonetheless. I'm terming this movement 'National-ism' after the band (video above) as I believe they (or perhaps more exactly their fans) represent and typify what I'm trying to convey.

Who's part of this movement? People who are able or otherwise willing to spend money on products, services, restaurants, and bands etc. that they perceive as possessing a sense of Quality about them. These objects of desire and consumption tend to fall under a classic Differentiation Strategy (as taught and discussed in my class at Harris) which means they've set themselves apart from the pack and usually come at a higher price. Apple is the current poster-company for Differentiation, selling all of its products at a substantial premium over competitors thanks to superior and desirable image combined with crafty marketing, R&D, oh,...and the unimpeachable oracle-like aura of Steve Jobs. Many National-ists undoubtedly own a Macbook and an iphone, with many having at least considered an ipad if they haven't picked one up already.

It's not just the Apples of the world selling to National-ists however, as they have an inherent sense of Independent Value-they generally prefer to avoid chain restaurants, and instead go to places like Union in Toronto (pictured above) with its exposed-brick environs and locavore-centric menu and wine list. National-ists are not often vegetarians, but many might have been at some point in their lives, and now prefer to indulge of a balanced diet of preferably fresh, never frozen, products.

I would guess that the core of National-ists could also be defined as Gen-Xers (defined on wikipedia as 29 to 49 year-olds-have we finally settled that?) with the tails of the bell curve trailing into progressive boomers on one end and savvy Gen-Ys on the other. It's possible in the late 90's and early 00's that National-ists resisted most forms of branding and corporate culture, they might very well have read No Logo and Adbusters at the time and also avoided Nike and Starbucks as much as possible-but not forever. They generally became more aware of brands and the effects of marketing on consumers during this time, but instead of becoming lifelong anti-capitalists, most just became savvier consumers. They pick their battles (ie. boycotts) carefully against corporations if they pick them at all.

Some National-ists are entrepreneurs themselves, and chow.com's Obsessives series introduced a number of them, from Absinthe to Sake to knives to Terroni-esque real Italian pizza, an entire authentic, no-preservative, and above all things-Quality-lifestyle has emerged. A disposable income is generally a prerequisite, but wealth is by no means necessary.

National-ists are unique as a group, but within it not all the same. Some of them may in fact yes, stop by La Bettola di Terroni prior to The National's show at Massey Hall (definitely a venue that fits the mold with its established history, excellent acoustics, and selection of local organic beers available at intermission), followed by some drinks after the show at the Dakota, where the National themselves may show up (as Spoon, Wilco, and other National-ist bands have done, acting on tips from National-ist locals). But they may do none of this things, as this relatively expansive group prides itself in possessing particular tastes.

Why The National? To me they represent a sort of consistency above all else in their music and personalities (via interviews etc.) that their fans love. Over their collected work fans know what to expect, and that the band will continue for the foreseeable future to mature and evolve their sound-albeit slightly-and continue to put on enjoyable live shows. Eyes will not be batted at a fancy suit spread with the band in GQ, as National-ists see not a lot wrong with the high quality tailored suits the guys are wearing, and GQ itself likely arrives in the mailbox monthly for more than a couple of them.

So what does this mean? And what's the point? A number of smart entrepreneurs and corporations have already been selling to this group for some time, perhaps using terms or ideas but the foundation has been there for some time. Gen Xers that are now parents want to attempt to at least stay on top of things (unlike many of their Boomer parents), while Ys finish their post secondary education and enter the workforce looking to carve out a slightly more mature-but still unique-idea of themselves. National-ism isn't a trend-it's been here a while and does not appear to be going away anytime in the near future.

If anyone feels like discussing this idea over some Arctic char ceviche and a glass of Creemore count me in.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


The Big Reboot Continues!

After approx. 5 or 6 years and somewhere between 50-75,000 texts, my somewhat
reliable Samsung phone has been retired in favour of a shiny new iphone 4. It's a little
weird having a phone that can send AND receive calls! Not that I use it for that ever, and
the app thing is taking some getting used to, but the free Airhorn one is a major early
favourite. Technology!

I also got some new glasses, also the first in YEARS.

Who knows what's next?