Wrangler spot via Charles Frith
Wrangler spot via Charles Frith
We know that we are fundamentally dichotomous. Rational decision makers with an engine fueled mostly by our instinctual, emotional motivations. So when we’re making advertisy marketing things, which buttons are we usually trying to push?
IBM created a supercomputer meant only to play chess. They called it Deep Blue. In 1997, after years of failure in the quest to defeat World chess champion Garry Kasparov, it finally won.
But even after the historic win, they had largely still failed at doing what they set out to do.
“The AI crowd, too, was pleased with the result and the attention, but dismayed by the fact that Deep Blue was hardly what their predecessors had imagined decades earlier when they dreamed of creating a machine to defeat the world chess champion. Instead of a computer that thought and played chess like a human, with human creativity and intuition, they got one that played like a machine, systematically evaluating 200 million possible moves on the chess board per second and winning with brute number-crunching force.”
Yes, the computer won. But only because of a superior memory, a natural progression of computing, not the re-creation of the human brain they had originally sought to make.
But perhaps something more interesting is now stirring. Computers are not just built to hold data in a vacuum. They hold and filter our own information. And as the tools to access that stored data becomes more accessible and ubiquitous, are brains are left to accomplish other things. We are quite literally becoming part human and part machine.
“A whole lot of my cognitive activities and my brain functions have now been uploaded into my iPhone. It stores a whole lot of my beliefs, phone numbers, addresses, whatever. It acts as my memory for these things. It's always there when I need it."
All this means is that those rational decisions will more and more often be ceded to computations, algorithms, and the like. It’ll weigh hundreds of options and combinations, guiding you to the most rational choice. Our brain power will be reserved for the things those algorithms have more trouble solving for. Which is all very interesting when you start to consider the power there is in that.
What this means is that we’ll be consistently playing in much more unstable places, finding relevancy not in a single usp, but in a brand’s ability to find motivations that run much deeper than most of our branding models are capable of accomplishing today.
This means resolving problems far less solvable within a few words on a brief. It means creating things more meaningful and lasting than campaigns. It means not only ceding brand ownership to the audience in the rhetorical, but in the literal. It means not only activating audiences, but providing the space for disparate groups to find commonality.
And it means not only affecting messages, but radicalizing products and services in ways that disrupt simple comparisons. Which is all to say that we’ll look less to slogans and more for purpose.
But I assure you this, this environment will be far more interesting, fulfilling and important than we as an industry have experienced before. Just as soon as we get on with it already.
1. It's better to smile. 2. You shouldn't take your picture with your phone or webcam. 3. Guys should keep their shirts on. 4. Make sure your face is showing.
In this fantastic portrait of the James Patterson blockbuster publishing machine, more evidence that the death of the hit may have been a bit overstated,
"Like movie studios, publishing houses have long built their businesses on top of blockbusters. But never in the history of publishing has the blockbuster been so big. Thirty years ago, the industry defined a “hit” novel as a book that sold a couple of hundred thousand copies in hardcover. Today a book isn’t considered a blockbuster unless it sells at least one million copies.""The story of the blockbuster’s explosion is, paradoxically, bound up with that of publishing’s recent troubles. They each began with the wave of consolidation that swept through the industry in the 1980s. Unsatisfied with publishing’s small margins, the new conglomerates that now owned the various publishing houses pressed for bigger best sellers and larger profits. Mass-market fiction had historically been a paperback business, but publishers now put more energy and resources into selling these same books as hardcovers, with their vastly more favorable profit margins. At the same time, large stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders were elbowing out independent booksellers. Their growing dominance of the market gave them the leverage to demand wholesale discounts and charge hefty sums for favorable store placement, forcing publishers to sell still more books. Big-box stores like Costco accelerated the trend by stocking large quantities of books by a small group of authors and offering steep discounts on them. Under pressure from both their parent companies and booksellers, publishers became less and less willing to gamble on undiscovered talent and more inclined to hoard their resources for their most bankable authors. The effect was self-fulfilling. The few books that publishers invested heavily in sold; most of the rest didn’t. And the blockbuster became even bigger."
Again, it doesn't seem to be the hits that are suffering and the long tail remains rather vibrant, but it's in that murky middle where the waters seem to get choppy.
What percentage of the things we see or hear during the day are all that interesting, really?
Yes, yes, we have some sort information overload. And yes, yes our default position is skepticism and avoidance.
But no matter how busy any of us are, we like to do cool stuff. We watch things that are interesting. It’s just that usually when we’re dealing with anything to do with marketing, our inclination is to assume it’s not worth our time. We’ve been proven right so often, it’s generally a safe bet.
And then when industry types start making these advertisy things, we assume that people are these disinterested beings. We assume that we can’t expect anything. We take the default position as the only possible position.
And just like that, we’ve argued ourselves into treating the audience in a way that reinforces a posture that doesn’t help us and bores the hell out of them.
It’s a rather destructive cycle, no?
But there are so many times in my day where something cool is so unlikely to happen. Standing in line at the store, the rare television commercial I actually see, sitting in dead stop traffic. And these are extreme examples. I can go days without anything all that cool actually happening, which is either sad or normal, not sure which.
So instead of assuming that the audience is overwhelmed and unlikely to take a few steps towards you, maybe we can fill up all that monotony with a wholelotta cool. Because cool will only be unlikely as long as we let it stay that way.photo via the fantastic yyellowbird
Between all the obligatory prognosticative posts roaming around, it's easy to forget the predictions that are really important. First - now that we've torn him down - it's about time we build Tiger back up. Like Kobe, Britney Spears and a thousand other celebrities, the only thing we like better than the fall is the rise up the other side. This seems to remain true for everyone except for child actors and stars of vh1 shows.
Second, I'll make my first million dollars, mostly by blackmailing Sean for something. Not sure what just yet.
Third, I'm a big fan of Darren Herman, but proclaiming the death of the branding campaign within the next decade is probably a bit premature even assuming a much better measurement environment. It would require an amazing amount of invasive monitoring that traditional media has been incapable to create (or adopt) and a massive shift in privacy concerns already perked by the passive, anonymous monitoring in web-based media. And last, it assumes that we'll ever fully understand the human brain enough to know why one thing worked and another doesn't. We're pretty damn good at it in the short-term, but measuring long-term shifts haven't been the strong suit of agencies or many clients. So I guess I would say my prediction is that the opposite will happen. Our attention will shift away from causing a specific, momentary response to better understanding whether or not we're succeeding in the often arduous task of shifting behavior and attitudes.
Either way, Darren is a pretty smart guy, so we'll see how it all plays out.
Fourth, we've spent the last decade (or two) striving for personalization, including more and more specific levels of targeting, me-based content, etc., but we've yet to see just the kind of pay off that the industry sold. Mostly because while our targeting has changed, value propositions for the most part have not. It's mostly a relic of the 360 degree brand sell that we've only personalized on the edges without actually concerning ourselves with the wants and needs of real people. Mostly because that's really fucking hard to do. Okay, that wasn't really a prediction...
But - what the backlash against algorithmic personalization will do is further the trend towards both the tangible and the authentically personalized. Emails are less meaningful than a handwritten note. Websites aren't generally as memorable as interestingness in real life. Experiences matter more. Expect to see something like the Slow Movement happening to digital things. As the amount of things I can't hold becomes more ubiquitous and easily delivered, I value stuff I can touch or things that we're clearly made for me. And, as per usual, these things will be collected and shared in digital forms. An index of my life, so to speak.
In other words, I'll value the things that are an expression of your time spent, not necessarily mine.
So there you go - that's not really a 2010 prediction, but more just a couple things that'll probably happen some day.
photo via katarina 2353
Number one is my favorite, too.
"If you have to choose between buying something or spending the money on a memorable experience, go with the experience. According to a study conducted at San Francisco State University, the things you own can’t make you as happy as the things you do. One reason is adaptation: we adapt to all things material in our lives in a matter of weeks, no matter how infatuated we were with the coveted possession the day we got it. Another reason is that experience, unlike possession, generally involves other people, and fosters or strengthens relationships that are more edifying over time than owning something."
photo via yulia