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Janet Bewell

Janet Bewell

Akendi Alumnus

Who Is Your Market?

I was recently on a business trip to Qatar for the first time.  I had never been to Qatar, nor did I know anything about its history.  A quick ‘Trip Advisor’ search told me I needed to go to one of the many Souqs (markets) in the area and I was instantly excited.  I feel I have been to markets around the world from food markets in Florianopolis to the grand bizarre in Istanbul, to Ontario farmers’ markets to the flower market in East London.

I think it is the whole experience of the age-old market tradition – ‘age-proof’ products, quality craftsmanship, local sellers, and feeling so good when you get a better deal than your friends.

So, after a long day, I ask my colleagues if they wanted to run to the Souq for a quick bite to eat, as a restaurant requires too much effort and time.  I didn’t notice their expressions at the time – which will foreshadow what I will say next…

So we “roll-up” to the Souq (I wish in a Land Rover but alas), and (in the market sense) it is pristine!  So, to all of you reading this that know about Qatar, and certainly my colleagues, you are giving me the facial expression of…ummm…Janet, the country gained independence just over 40 years ago.  What did you expect?!  Okay!  I guess I thought ancient market?  Street food?  Good deals? The mysteries of the Middle-East? Not nice restaurants and clean sidewalks.  And certainly not so many birds!  (not part of this blog but please Google it!).

Expectations and Experiences

So, this got me thinking about expectations and experiences and I almost do a full circle reference back to a much earlier blog post in which I wrote about the film Certified Copy.  Where does fake become o.k.?  Most of us know that the Mona Lisa in the Louvre is not the original.  Yet, we line up for ages?  We certainly know that Las Vegas does not actually house Venice, Paris, Rome, etc., but we certainly love it for its extravagance.  The difference between the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and Las Vegas is that the Mona Lisa does not “play up” the fakeness; whereas, Las Vegas clearly welcomes the “less is bore” principles of POMO (post-modernism).

I clearly am the consumer who appreciates full-disclosure and over-extravagance to point out the fakeness.  Las Vegas owns it.  But the Louvre might first require me to read a book in order to understand the difference between a ‘certified copy’ and a ‘copy’…and then perhaps I might get an explanation of why I will never see the original, even though it is physically below me?  (Pardonne-moi).

So for me, seeing a market that is meant to look old annoyed me.  Clearly, no one is fooled.  But was that their intention?  Perhaps it is because I come from Canada; a country whose independence is also still so recent that I often play a game with my friends in the UK called “What’s older than Canada?”  That log?  That staircase?  That lamp-post?  Your hand-me-down sweater (jumper)?  But I might also argue you can do the same with Qatar.  So is it really who we (as countries) are allowed to reference in the end?  Canada is full of “British pubs”; Qatar is full of “old-looking Souqs”.  Why am I complaining?  I should feel more at home.

Maybe it is because I never thought that a “Canadian British pub” would ever be mistaken for a real British pub, and maybe the same is for locals in Qatar with souqs?  (Side note: now I kind of wish I could create an over-exaggerated British pub in Toronto).

Is it better to over-exaggerate differences or be subtle?  Each have their value.

For all of those that have eaten at a Canadian British pub, or frequented a souq in Qatar – or have a similar experience abroad – please include your experience in the comments below.  Who knows, we might create a new bizarre experience (whether that is a market or something strange but intriguing).

Janet Bewell

Janet Bewell

Akendi Alumnus


This is a very interesting discussion of the relationship between the authentic and the fake in contemporary society. One starts off thinking that “copies” are bad and “real things” is good, and then you think about it more and it gets more and more complicated.

There is a new museum which is in a building that sits on top of a hill in southern France. It is a life-like replica of a cave filled with beautiful prehistoric cave-paintings which none of us will ever see because the cave has been closed to the public. The French government spent 55 million Euros to build a museum that gives the illusion of your being in the cave. Does it matter? If you are there to study the paintings, probably not. However, if you want to stand in the same place where some ancient people once stood, with your feet actually touching the same ground upon which they stood, maybe you will skip this exhibit. The museum isn’t even in the same place as the cave.

I am not sure that I believe in ghosts, but I know that I get the feeling of their presence when I am in places where history can almost be felt. A copy just can’t communicate that kind of thing.

This concept of old and new really spoke to me when I visited Japan last year. Almost all of the castles, samurai houses, and villages, etc were destroyed by WW2, earthquakes, or other disasters. Yet, every heritage landmark we visited had been re built with amazing accuracy. So it wasn’t the ‘real’ old building, but it was built to feel exactly like the ‘real’ old building, and it did. Even though plaques on every structure told visitors of the date of the destruction of the original. Personally, I didn’t really care that the structure wasn’t original. They got away with making it just as amazing, and it still had that feeling of history-I guess it helped that the new structure was built in the same spot.

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Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.