How TS Eliot’s The Wasteland influenced the global perfume market, and other strange tales from ENGINE Eff Week, Day 3

Speakers: Greg Rowland and Dan Flynn


1. Culture is a “huge amorphous thing to get to grips with”, but understanding it can be financially beneficial to your brand

When was the last time you discussed the Freudian perversion of love, melancholy and the works of TS Eliot and Samuel Beckett or the beauty in complexity in a strategy presentation or creative review? But all of these things have helped brands, from Pot Noodle to the Institute of Physics, better communicate with their target audiences.

In fact, TS Eliot’s The Waste Land was a reference point for Calvin Klein’s number one selling perfume Euphoria – perfectly capturing the melancholic feeling of the early 20th century modernists which had become an important “code” for Calvin Klein that their launches in the late 90s were failing to capitalise on.



2. When was the last time you said what you really meant?

Understanding semiotics can give you different ways to unlock creative thinking about your brand and capture a deeper meaning. Humans, after all, are complex creatures – we all know that what people say in a focus group shouldn’t always be taken at face value, but we need to scratch beneath the surface to understand why.

When the Institute of Physics wanted to turn around the decline in applications to study physics, they heard people telling them it was difficult and wanted to show the physics is easier than you think – everyone likes things that are simple right?

But semiotic analysis showed that not only would it be disingenuous to suggest physics was easy (speaking as a former English student, physics is 🤯), but the young students they were trying to attract were perfectly comfortable with complexity in gaming and TV shows. What they needed to do was make the complexity of physics engaging and get people to see it in a different light. 



3. We’re creatures of habit (again)

This year’s new IPA Touchpoints survey launched in September, and the wealth of information it shows about our daily lives and media interaction falls into two helpful sections, pre- and post-lockdown. All those people meditating (14% increase in adults meditating once per week), baking, sleeping (we got up on average 30 minutes later) and glued to the telly at home, you were in good company.

But our behaviour in general has reverted closer to the “norm” perhaps more quickly than you might have thought – with many behaviours not continuing once lockdown restrictions started to ease, according to the latest BARB data. Enforced changes to behaviour are still on the cards for some time to come, but it will be interesting to see in the next few years’ surveys whether any of the changes have permanently stuck.

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The purpose of inclusive design is clear-cut: “to make sure everyone who needs to access your service can use it”1. And while lockdown meant slowdown for most sectors, it massively accelerated demand for online services.


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