Companies like to stay “on message,” repeating the same kinds of things over and over. They like to look the same wherever you find them. They avoid incongruence and disagreeableness. Redundancy is lauded as an exercise in brand building.
Interesting people, quite obviously, are the opposite of all these things.
As I’ve said before, this is probably a function of both nurture and nature for most companies. Decades of training from marketing types expert in the art of the big idea and a natural leaning to avoid risk rather than embrace it.
Secondarily, we know our rational brains are actually pretty irrational. Often our decisions are a product of emotions rationally explained in the aftermath rather than a step by step pre-purchase process.
Wine tastes better when it costs more. We may buy a t-shirt on sale today, but disrespect the company who sold it the next because of some perceived lack of worth. Blind taste tests provide better information for psychologists to ponder than an indication of what products will eventually sell.
Any brand is an amalgamation of every ad, every product experience, every passing mention, every in-life product placement. It’s everything a person has thought, consciously or not, right or wrong. And now there are more opportunities for people to stumble across you than you towards them.
So while big campaign ideas are still relevant for some objectives, a much more persuasive brand is such because of a series of smaller interactions, a brand formed by the sum of all the good feelings from a series of experiences, complemented by interesting narratives, not existing because of them.
This is our landscape. One in which word-of-mouth is the ultimate driver of purchase in a marketplace full of more inputs than have ever existed. One in which reasons for purchase are anything but rational, and most of the subconscious data has more room for disruption from our pre-packaged persuasions.
We can’t build influence in this space by yelling louder. We must be good listeners, engaging in reciprocal relationships and mindful of the needs of others. And to be talked about, we should do all these in ways that people find worthwhile enough to share. Yes, the sorts of things likable, interesting people might do.
In describing advertising today, Mark Crispin Miller said, “The most obvious metaphor is a room full of people, all screaming to be heard. What this really means, finally, is that advertising is asphyxiating itself.”
So instead of choking ourselves to death, the brands who simply choose to breathe will be the ones who win.
(photo via vw-busman)