NEED project was originally my MA -thesis for the Department of Photography in University of Art and Design. The year was 1996. It was the time of the newly born internet, in the dawn of the doctom brands. There was not much self irony or viral tactics with the big brands. Adbusters was available but Naomi Kleins “No Logo” was yet to be written. Many artists grasped this zeitgeist opportunity to use brands or consumerism as a context of their artwork. NEED project grew out from being a thesis to series of installations, campaigns and websites and extended over five years in time. The text below describes the project in year 2000.
NEED – no product, just the image
NEED is an artificial brand. It is a laboratory project for exploring how marketing and brand building raises and cultivates artificial needs within us. Need is presented as a life-quality product – “especially for you”. Customers are being seduced into the world of Need by promising them unique experiences, undefined “more”, memberships and free prizes. Only thing missing is the product.
Need operates like a brand. It imitates and remixes common marketing strategies.Marketing a non-existent product is possible if the image of the product is powerful enough. The customer is lured to focus on the (visual) surface by feeding new material constantly for the his/her hungry eyes. The graphical imagery begins to refer to nothing but itself. The customer needs to get more of it. This need becomes the product.
The project consists of three parts: the campaign, the website (Needweb) and the exhibition (Need Fair). As the most accessible part, the Needweb website is the core of the project. The campaigns and the Need Fairs are happenings in specific time and place.
The campaign runs for 2-3 weeks prior to the Need fair. The basis of it is flyer and poster distribution to selected locations in a city the exhibition travels to. It can also include small announcements infiltrated in to classified ads or small web banner campaign. The main objective of the campaign is to promote the website and “launch” the Need-brand for new customers. Registered members will get special invitation to the Need fair exhibitions. The speciality of the year 2000 are the flyers in form of collectible trading cards. Set of different cards are distributed in all exhibition cities and customers are encouraged to collect the full series in order to have special VIP-services in the Needweb.
The main objectives of the Needweb are collecting information, simulating the online shopping experience and visualizing the mechanisms behind these processes. The Needweb is also the main marketing medium for the project and can be considered as an independent module of it. People who are unable to visit the Need Fair still have access to all the main features of the project via internet. Access to Needweb requires registration. A small open area with provocative Need promotion is available instantly but a membership application has to be filled to gain access to the main content.
Access to the main website is granted to the customer once they have first given out some personal information. A user profile file of each member is generated in the database. This data forms a basis for customer profiling, which will take place by tracking all activity the customer is doing while logged in. However, unlike in normal commercial online services this profiling is made visible for the customer. Still, profiling is primarily part of imitating the existing marketing strategies than moralizing whether it is acceptable or not.
The main content in the Needweb, apart from the omnipresent marketing hype, is the online ordering simulation. Needweb offers pseudo products with “sampled and remixed” sales arguments and slogans from various product categories. Participating in the surveys and in the ordering process of these products gains the customer more status and access to new areas in the website.
NEED was produced by Mindworks Ltd, Finland. It was supported by AVEK,The Promotion Center for Audiovisual Culture in Finland and Westlux Ltd, Finland. NEED programming was done by Tom Niemi and my warmest thanks are due for Heidi Tikka, Minna Tarkka, Yves Bernard, Juulia Kauste, Marko Tandefelt, Seppo Tammenpää and Jaakko Toijanniemi for all their help.