Eric Phu | February 24, 2012
Let’s try a little experiment.
Let’s say that my objective is to make you scratch yourself, right this very instant.
I could command you to do so right now, but you’re unlikely to be in the mood to. I could try and convince you of the rational benefits and create a clever tagline and visual, or tell you how good scratching is for you.
But I suspect that my success rate will be about with banner click-through rates; perhaps one out of every thousand people reading this will humor me.
What if instead, I had a different approach? Rather than banging you over the head with the same message to scratch, what if I didn’t mention that at all?
Instead, as you sit there, reading this article on the screen, I made you aware of the sensations all over your skin. The way the fabric of your clothes brushes against the hairs on your arms and legs. The variations in temperature at different parts of your body, and how that starts to make your skin itch.
And the more you try to ignore the itching, the worse it gets. The more irresistible the temptation becomes to give in and rub it. Go on, you know you want to.
I’m willing to bet that most of you now have that deep desire to scratch that didn’t exist just a mere 10 seconds ago.
So how exactly did that happen?
The answer lies in a story that had a profound impact on my childhood, and one I believe is more relevant today in advertising than ever before.
It is the tale of when the sun and the wind were arguing over who was more powerful. Spying a man walking by, they decided to settle the bet by seeing who could remove the hat from his head.
The Wind started first, and blew with all its might. However, this only resulted in the man clutching his hat harder and tighter to his head. The more the wind blew, the less successful he became.
When it was the Sun’s turn, rather than following the same tactic, he simply and gradually increased the warmth until the man voluntarily took his hat off to soak in the beautiful weather.
It’s not always the most direct approach that wins.
And so it is with our industry; advertising has always been about influence and enticing our audience to elicit a desired response.
But with our hyper-competitive and ultra-saturated media landscape, we’ve become as blustering as the Wind, shouting ever louder and pumping ever more media pollution to the point consumers actively rebel against it. It’s a vicious downward cycle that just creates more and more noise that becomes background static.
Where advertising has been used as a hammer to whack consumers on the head, it should instead be a feather that tips the scales.
So going into the new year, here are a couple of thoughts for 2012.
Firstly, rather than continuing with 360 campaigns with a checklist of media to surround our consumers with the same message, we should be looking for opportunities to engage in meaningful dialogues that give us the space to influence behaviors.
And while social media is fraught with plenty of hype, harnessed properly, it also gives us the medium to have these conversations with our audience. It’s not about the number of likes or followers, but the quality of the engagements. Ask your social media partner for metrics that aren’t just about quantity.
Secondly, the great irony of advertising is that the outside perception of industry is one of powerful, scientific, and insidious psychology to exploit consumer minds. We all know that the reality is much closer to a bunch of people that just want to create some cool stuff for their paycheck.
We assume that people only have a six second attention span, and attempt to cram as many “single minded” messages into that space. And then cram those messages into as many media spots as possible.
So why don’t we try starting with the assumption that consumers want to talk about your brand? After all, they are most likely already doing it in forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. The question you should really be starting with is how you can join in and have truly interesting conversations together with them.
Now aren’t those two itches that are worth scratching?