Miami, with its sunshine and beaches, is one of America’s famous resort cities. I was there recently to participate in the Forbes Annual Global meet of Chief Marketing Officers. This was an invaluable opportunity to interact with senior marketers from many global companies. Equally interesting were some of my learnings from the city itself.
As soon as I stepped into Miami, the city’s colourful murals caught my attention. I could see huge graffiti style art on the walls of several buildings. That evening, I travelled to a section of the city called Wywood. Here, an outdoor space called Wynwood Walls brings together amazing graffiti from some of the world’s best street artists. This was such an amazing blend of themes, colours and designs. The street art I saw here was powerful and provoking. A giant mural featured a young woman holding a rose, next to a boy whose palms were outstretched, both to give and receive. Created by the artist El Mac, this mural celebrates regular people who define our communities. On another wall, powerful women in blue and red looked out boldly. This was a tribute to the idea of women having a greater voice, rendered stunningly by Triston Eaton. Close by, environmental pollution came through life through another tangled graffiti design.
This is art that resonates with people on the street, a counterpoint to highbrow modern art. In addition, great graffiti is visually very striking. For these reasons, graffiti-inspired art can also work very well as an advertising format. Indeed, some American brands such as Netflix, McDonalds and Coca Cola have used graffiti impactfully in their print and outdoor advertising. This is an interesting format that Indian brands may also wish to explore.
Even as I was reflecting on graffiti, I came across a very different space on a nearby road. This was a large retail store branded “Solana”. A poster at the entrance declared that visitors could earn $10 worth of cryptocurrencies by completing six tutorials that would introduce them to Web3 and crypto wallets. Never before had I seen a physical store dedicated to cryptocurrency.
Intrigued, I stepped in. An articulate staff member explained that this was a space where I could experience every key aspect of crypto and blockchain. I could also buy various crypto-themed products at a 50 per cent discount using a cryptocurrency called “Solana Pay”. I could check out Solana’s Web3 mobile phone, Solana Saga, or browse a physical display of the brand’s impressive NFT collection, or even mint an NFT myself.
The staff member responded knowledgeably to my questions. I must admit I came out better educated about all things crypto.While I do not know how commercially successful this store will eventually turn out to be, the insight behind its creation is interesting. It is an inviting physical space that is designed to demystify digital concepts such as Solana’s cryptocurrency and NFTs. Many consumers feel uncertain about these concepts, or are generally skeptical about activities such as minting NFTs. This store seeks to dispel such doubts through hands-on initiation in a familiar physical environment.
My next encounter in Miami was in more familiar territory – drinking water. At two grocery stores in the city, I came across a remarkable brand called “Liquid Death”. Just a day earlier, I had read that this was the fastest growing brand of water in the US. I was curious and picked up a pack. It was a tall black can, in the style of cans generally used for beers and caffeinated drinks. In contrast to other water brands which depict mountain springs or glaciers, this can was painted with a dripping skull. True to its brand name, the can also proclaimed that the water it contained would murder my thirst.
Here is a brand which has brought the exciting appeal of heavy metal to plain old drinking water. The can contains water, but its entire look and feel evokes energy drinks and lager. Liquid Death’s advertising reflects its punk music inspiration. All this has suddenly made water an exciting category. I was fascinated to see how sharp insight and great creativity can disrupt even the most basic of product categories.
That’s a slice of Miami city. Beaches and sun, but also lessons from graffiti, water and web3.
Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views.