Inspiring belief. Making myths. For precious few brands it’s a Godsend.
November 11, 2008
I recently guest lectured at Depaul University about myth making in advertising. I’ve been captivated by the topic for years, ever since I experienced, first hand, a “curiously strong” myth of my own. With the Altoids campaign, we created a brand story far more powerful than any rational messaging ever could. After that, mere copywriting was no longer enough. Trying to find the “curious strength” for every client became my job. It’s difficult but that was the mandate.
People are no longer moved by a product’s “unique selling proposition” or USP. And they haven’t been for years. Facts alone don’t move products like they used to. Probably because facts don’t move people like they used to. We’ve wizened up to the come-ons and bullet points. We’re either bored by them or cynical. And the more saturated the marketplace the more indifferent we become. If people want facts about something they Google it.
In my view, to be truly great, advertising must inspire belief. More than just get people to buy something, advertising must get people to buy into something: a belief about the goods or services that transcend its practical use.
This is hardly a new theory. Most of my peers have been extolling similar notions for years. Remember when ad folk tossed around the word “branding?” A bad word now (sort of like “awareness”), agencies used to flaunt their amazing ability to build brands. They weren’t wrong. Unfortunately, it was and is easier said than done. Especially when clients are impatient for results.
Still, it’s amazing how few advertisers get it right. Apple. Nike. Name five others. At my agency Potbelly Sandwich Works has a cult-like following, albeit mostly regional. And if we’re lucky and wise, Effen Vodka could get there. They have magic in their DNA. I’ve gone on about Canadian Club’s marvelous print campaign from Energy BBDO. Can their “Damn right” myth grab a hold of America’s men? The Minicooper campaign was on its way, though lately it seems to have driven off course. Regardless, these are tiny, tiny examples. And highly debatable.
Where are the Zeus-like creations of modern marketing? Not just the big ones. The mythic!