Sitting here in my oversized fuzzy socks and Wonder Woman skivvies, hunched over a Yeti full of hot Trader Joe’s Ginger/Tumeric Tea like a Hyena protecting a carcass on the Serengeti, I’m reminded yet again, for the ninth year in a row since moving here from Phoenix of the that haunting philosophical question:
“Why is March so F***ing cold in the Midwest?”
And as I sit here imagining the visceral horror of my energy bill for March, there’s an even ickier question plaguing me: “When did so many marketers all turn into Nigerian Princes, trying to game the system?”
I’m certainly not the Dalai Lama of advertising, but I have been in the aforementioned industry for 32 years and I’ve seen a lot of “cool kid” shit come and go, succeed and crash and burn. And in the glitter-dusted carnage that has been my career, there has always been a single truth to success in this industry – influence behavior. That means it’s the message, stupid.
Tech can be deliciously hot and seductive. Right now, I’m considering a very unnatural relationship with the iPhone X and that little tease is going to set me back over a grand. That admission being said, successful advertising is far less about any specific piece of hardware, system or platform than you think.
Technology lives in our world. It serves us. And until I realize my fantasy of becoming Trinity from the Matrix – I mean come on people, Skin. Tight. Black. Latex. – by having this sac of organic matter digitized, we are firmly living in a world fully realized of, by and for humans.
I’m not suggesting that tech doesn’t play a significant role in influencing behavior and brand engagement. Tech is vital in the age of moment marketing and advertising. And platform analytics helps to understand how the message is working. But it’s just the delivery system and you have to get over it. Be less in awe of your systems, platforms, pixels and analytics and be more in awe of what you have to say. How you say it. And how it lives and deepens a brand’s truth. It’s believability. Over the long term. Moments must be sticky.
So, tell me, just what do you plan on measuring with all of your beautiful algorithms and analytics? I’m going to be straight with you here, firm, but loving, you really only have two choices – Success. Or crap. The difference between success and crap is, yep, the message. A story you say? Stories have become the tired buzz-wordy trap of banal strategists, creatives and writers. You cannot not communicate, so you cannot not tell a story. Duh. A brand must become mythology. Big, juicy mythology.
Look, we humans are nothing but pack animals. We are hardwired to want to trust. It’s in our DNA. Mythology reinforces a brand’s position, builds a brand’s self-identity and appeals to key human desire.
But humans are also fickle as f**k, whether we like it or not. And as much as they need a brand to be and stand for something, they are constantly looking for what is new. Remain constant and evolve – that’s the rub, the trick.
Positioning is the not-so-random gamma ray burst that ignites the mutation of a brand’s DNA into differentiation and deflects competition. It’s a superpower. It must lived. It must stand for something. It must become mythology.
But at the same time, go and tear down your sacred idols and search for what is new. Because that’s what your customers are doing. And that’s what they expect. If you don’t your marketing and advertising efforts will be as useless as low-sodium soy sauce.