Ads are like people…

12 Feb Ads are like people…

I was researching about the power and emotions of advertising, feeling a little down about how we as consumers are tricked by the smoke and mirrors of a good ad… and then I came across an awesome article that restored my faith a little bit. It described what it is we expect and from advertising and businesses in the social-media era. It’s all about the why – the human relevance, says Cristoph Becker in AdWeek.

He talks very intuitively about how the term business itself has come to have negative connotations because of its associations with greed and a self-centred culture which brushes past real consumer needs. Businesses should be aspirational, exciting and magnetic, he says and it is because they are easily founded today, there are thousands of ideas floating about – some are revolutionary, but many of them fail. So what is the quality that sets apart the two ends of the spectrum – failing/succeeding? Crowdfunding can be a good measurement of their future success, because it allows entrepreneurs to bypass the complicated investment processes and bridges the gap between a startup and its potential customers before the product is even out in the market. No matter how revolutionary and empowering crowdfunding is, it is absolutely useless if the baby company does not come with a story or empathy. If the customers cannot feel the human desire behind the brand, they will not help you achieve your dream. And if a “fake dream” is manufactured just to find a shortcut to a client, they will detect it and figure out that the brand is dishonest. A way to communicate effectively is through empathy, transparency and storytelling, knowing what the potential customer needs and whether his demand hasn’t been catered for yet. When there is a genuine dream to fulfil, not just a financially driven one, people will happily make that dream happen.

And how can one achieve that level of empathy which people respond to? On what basis should ads be built? Definitely not on the “features and benefits, and all that brand-to-brand fighting [because that is not what’s] humanly relevant. Tell me what your business was born to change. Who are the people?”

Imagine you meet person Z at a party and he clings to you in mindless chatter, which you can’t be bothered to participate in, but are stuck there because you were getting a drink near them. And then you notice person X in the corner, who looks like someone you could connect to and have loads in common with, yet you can’t figure out why just yet. Ads function in a similar manner and I always try to imagine the brand behind the ad, and what kind of person that would be if I met them at a party. Someone promising an intriguing conversation, maybe a new riend that will add value to my life – or someone whom I don’t care to exchange numbers with?

I would urge brands to stop finding pretexts of getting customers to pay attention, because if they are really interested, they will make the steps to discover who you are. And for that you need to have a story prepared, a culture and a lifestyle that you know are relevant to the target you want to attract. It has to be emotional the way movies are emotional. Be part of a lifestyle, a mindset, a philosophy.

A bond based on such deep (and truthful) values will not break if the product does, or if a better ad comes along from the competition. And in order to create that image, the brand needs to be fully aware of the lifestyle that the product is adhering to. Think about how you can create a platform for the emotions that you want to create in people.

To end on an aspirational note, Becker would want us to, I will leave you with a pertinent advice suitable for both brands and the people behind them – and an illustrious example of constructing a brand image on a way of life not just a desperate call for attention.

The best way to get approval is not to need it. This is equally true in art and business. And love. And sex. And just about everything else worth having.”

Hugh MacLeod