Bee still my beating heart

17th June 2013

You will begin to see bees everywhere – in our culture, in our media, in our brands, in our marketing practices. Here’s the reason why…

Bees are going mainstream. Have you noticed?

I want to talk a little about how the marketing ‘conversation’ evolves over time.

In order to capture the attention of people, themes emerge which are picked up in the media, and act as a means to capture the essence of where we stand.

We were oil-obsessed in the 1970’s, ozone-obsessed in the 1980’s, fat-obsessed in the 1990’s, carbs and global-warming obsessed in the 2000’s.

I find it remarkable how one can be swept away in the conversation, with little effort on behalf of commentators or brands to bring balance or perspective to the issues.

I still feel disappointed that the ozone layer seems to have been magically solved and no one thought to tell me. The conversation had moved on.

It is the job of marketing not to invent or subvert such global conversations, but rather to predict and channel them.

Bees are having their moment.

They are the perfect intersection of two critical global concerns: the state of our environment and the state of our diet.

Whole Foods, a business I admire very much, recently released a powerful photo of their fruit displays with and without ‘pollinators’. It tells an eloquent story.

Our global bee populations are in decline and we have failed to fully understand why.

The bee – romantic, ethereal, tiny, fastidious – becomes a touchstone for our conscience. What have we unwittingly done to disturb its beauteous work? Will our shameful arrogance lead to an unknown butterfly effect of the lapis variety?

Unlike much of the sophisticated science which surrounds the issues of Eco balance and nutrition, the ailing bee is a metaphor we can deeply understand.

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 09.00.43Sitting at breakfast in a hotel this morning, I notice Bonne Maman has chosen to break the code of its jam packaging, opting not to use the honeycomb as a symbol for its honey, but rather the worker that enabled the amber nectar in the first place.

Look around you. The bee, never so rare in reality, has never been so ubiquitous in our world. You may also want to observe bee mania play out – as honey and honey-maker show up in flavours, design concepts, cinema, music, fashion ramps….

This is how we operate as a culture and how marketing operates as well. We find our Lydian stone to characterise the world’s current passions and concerns. This is our way of focusing.

The approach has its failings and strengths. I remain optimistic. That ozone layer is, after all, an seemingly intractable problem that we actually solved. And in doing so, a culture and marketplace became just a little more sensitive to the consequences of its actions, even if no one bothered to inform me.

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