Blog - Ting! : the interview of the authors

09.09.2020 By Manon Clémençon
Ting! : the interview of the authors

 

On the occasion of the publication of the book Ting! How Marketing seduces the world (available in French and German) we met the authors, Cary Steinmann, Laura Simon and Elīna Brasliņa to ask them some questions.

The interview 

Why a children's book about marketing? 

Cary & Laura: Marketing seduces the world, always and everywhere. Marketing is not just "selling", marketing is a powerful motivation and manipulation machine that dominates us. Politics, media, culture, sports, education, leisure, tourism and many other areas: There’s marketing everywhere. Above all, the Internet is dominated by high-tech giants (Google, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon), which are nothing more than enormous marketing machines. Many adults are only vaguely aware of what is going on. Children hardly understand it or don’t understand it at all. 

Our approach therefore is: We want to show children and young people in a simple, playful and entertaining way what is already happening today and what they should be prepared for. Involve, not reject; understand, not just criticise.

Was there a specific trigger for writing this book?

Cary & Laura: Motivation came insidiously through the shift of commercial and media power fields, first through the Web and then on the Web. What began with the new freedom for all is moving more and more into total dependence on a few. Adults may handle this as they want, but our children need to be better accompanied, sensitized and informed. But in a way which is suitable for children: funny, colourful, positive with cheeky criticism. When we observed the young "generation head down" not only consuming the media but depending on it (and thus also on marketing), we said to ourself: Enlightenment would not be wrong, René Descartes greets. Media competence is on everyone's lips - marketing competence should also be part of it.

What fascinates you about marketing and what do you dislike?

Cary: The many opportunities to interest people in topics, projects, products and ideas, sometimes even to seduce them, is not a bad thing, on the contrary. Good marketing can move the world. A huge problem is the omnipresence of marketing, especially in the Orwellian Web. From the point where we know or feel that we are being watched, spied on without our consent and that data about us is being secretly collected in order to transform it into "customer-friendly" offers at full speed, from that point on it would actually be the end of fun. It would be, if you noticed.

Laura: The waste of resources associated with marketing is also a problem: everything always has to be new, better. Fast fashion or planned obsolence are just some of the excesses of this. The many goodies that are distributed to attract customers: Trading cards, toys, key rings, etc., are usually produced abroad at super cheap prices and under poor working conditions - and then at home the stuff lies around or ends up in the trash. As soon as something is available for free, many people grab it headlessly. This book wants to show these phenomena and, if possible, help people, and especially children, to pause for a moment and reflect: Do I really want to give my data? Or: Do I really need this product? Or: Could marketing be at work here?

What made you, Elina, participate as an illustrator in this project?

Elina: I guess it was precisely the fact that it was not a traditional picture book for children, and not entirely a textbook either. Something slightly unfamiliar, and beyond my comfort zone. I had a hunch I could experiment a bit with the illustrations, use flashier colours and more exaggerated shapes than usual. After sending in the first spread, I really hoped the authors and publishers would be on board (because I quickly understood this was the way I wanted to do it) – and luckily they were!

What was your main concern in the process? 

Elina: As an illustrator, the illustration process was the most interesting part. I was provided instructions on "what" to draw, which isn’t usually the case. But it was very useful in this instance, and the picture ideas were fun and clever. I just had to figure out the "how", and I had plenty of creative liberty with that! Some of my favourite spreads to illustrate included the ones about the "house of marketing", about supermarket layouts, about fashion trends in the 20th century, and so many others!

What is your favourite story in the book?

Cary: The distinction between push and pull - either a product is "pushed" into the market or the consumer "pulls it through the channel of distribution". Push, push, baaaah, is my favorite metaphor...

Laura: The caretaker's explanation in the book of what "Ting!" is: "The magical effect that really good marketing can have in people's minds or even hearts. It makes products so beautiful that you want them whether you need them or not.". It reminds me of the Thomy Mayonnaise commercials from my childhood or of Marie Kondos  „Does it spark joy?“.

Elina: I distinctly remember the story about the designer behind the Nike logo and how little she was paid for it at the time. This was not my favourite story for obvious reasons, but it stuck with me – maybe because I have such a hard time putting a price tag on my own work! Another one, more of a behind-the-scenes anecdote: Cary, it turns out, had named the two boys in the book after Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, and he asked me to include a couple of visual gags about this in the illustrations - let's see if you can spot them!

Do you have a specific advice on what parents should focus on when their children use social media?

Cary: They should discuss and set rules, manage privacy settings, make devices childproof, communicate openly and build trust - instead of controlling and spying on their kids.

Laura: And above all: They should explain the context! It can be great fun to examine together an Instagram account for marketing measures: how is the person staged, what image does he or she want to convey? Are there product placements? Are there cooperations? How does the person interact with the followers? This promotes critical thinking.

The authors

Laura Simon with the book Ting!  Cary Steinmann and the book Ting!

Laura Simon and Cary Steinmann

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