Belief and big ideas. Preparing for my workshop at Cannes.

June 17, 2008

Alert! I wrote this for Adweek’s Cannes blogger series (Thank you, Adweek!) and now I’d like to share it with readers here.

Met with Gary Smith, editor of the Cannes Daily (the festival’s newspaper) to discuss my workshop at the Palais on Friday. The workshop is entitled “Inspiring Belief: turning consumers into believers.” The central idea is that advertisers need to go beyond communicating a strategic framework if they hope to engender a passionate following for their brands. We’ll look at how religion makes this happen for their “brands” and what implications this has on the future of marketing.

Think about the creative mythology behind Christianity. Among his many miracles, Jesus Christ was able to walk on water. His disciples were compelled to “do unto others…” Is it blasphemous to suggest modern day advertisers need to model their messaging the same way? Nike would have us believe not. With a pair of shoes, Michael Jordan could walk on air. And by donning a pair of Air Jordans, so can we –A miracle! “Just do it” has become the clarion call for an entire nation. We are devoted to sports like never before and Nike is the reason. Michael Jordan was our “messiah.” More recent communications ask us not to merely watch LeBron James play basketball but to “bear witness.”

I continue to be fascinated by creative propaganda and the parallels it has with cults, movements and religion. These themes are central to my blog, Godsofadvertising as well as in my upcoming novel, The Happy Soul Industry. I believe the overlap is unavoidable in our business. Nor should it be.

Besides Nike, we have seen this phenomenon working with other brands (Apple, Harley Davidson, Altoids). Can you name some more? Starbucks managed to become a church for its customers without advertising much at all. But now they are losing share. What will there approach be now that they need advertising.?

Hard as it is reaching such branding nirvana, I believe advertisers must aspire to do so in order to compete in a crowded and noisy marketplace. Chasing Gold Lions is but pagan ritual compared to this loftiest of goals. Yet, the best ideas on earth will be the ones that do so. Amen!

One Response to “Belief and big ideas. Preparing for my workshop at Cannes.”

  1. Bill Flynn said

    I am intrigued by your aspirational goal and the linkage with religion. Just read a book by another old ad buddy, Dennis Altman, titled The First Liberal–Jesus. Unfortunately, he uses this premise as a hook to tell the standard liberal story. Recently attended a Columbia lecture on the Koran and the Bible in which the professor remarked that Matthew might have been the greatest marketer of all time… I haven’t investigated this further.
    You give Nike too much credit for today’s sports mania. Participants, I would bet, trail spectators by a huge margin. I’d give more credit to Bud–and maybe Just Watch it! Also Nike built its brand originally by giving shoes away to college basketball team and making each coach whose team wore the shoes an “adviser”. All the advisers and their spouses or girlfriends got a free trip to Hawaii each year with All expenses paid. This was a huge perk in the early 70s when coaches were paid peanuts.
    Enough of my ramble.

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