Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Are deep psychological understanding important for strategic planners to find? Or are they over complicating things...?

“If we don’t make you cry, we fail,” says Lorraine Twohill, Google’s vice president for global marketing, when asked by New York Times about her view on advertising for the giant. “It’s about emotion, which is bizarre for a tech company.”

No. It´s not bizarre. Laugh, cry, scream or fear - whatever reaction, your ad needs to evoke at least one. 

We see a lot of happy young beautiful people in the TV ads in Australia at the moment. They are surfing, hanging out in big groups on stunning beaches and they wear clothes from Target, drink XXXX beer or whatever the ad producer is marketing. The ads play with our aspirations; we all wish to be sexy, young again and have a bunch of friends who love us. Advertising often try to tell us that we will get all those happy emotions the people in the ads are experiencing if we purchase their drinks, clothes or razors. It´s not about the things. It´s about the feelings.

But can strategic planners stop with that, by saying: "The target audience wishes to have fun in the sun so let´s show them that drinking Coke will make them laugh". 

I´m not sure, people are sometimes bottomless: you can keep on giving but they can´t receive or keep it. It pours out and they want MORE.

Looking at myself, I´m lucky enough to live on one of these gorgeous beaches and my crew of friends are care-free and fun. I look ok for being 38. I´m healthy and love my job. Can´t surf for a second - look more like an elephant than a wave dancer - but I have all these things. Tick, tick, tick. Still I complain about life. I wish I had more of this and that, was even happier, got more love or success. A better job and sell more books. More, more, more. 

Life is like that. Humans are hungry. We live in a culture that never stops craving, or offering all the craving ones new choices. Travel to far-away places and buy new shoes. Kiss an even hotter man or win a pitch. Get stronger nails or learn to sing. More, more, more. 

A materialistic world focused on consumption and happiness through ownership has driven the western world into a massive trap. We bought and bought, ate and drank like there was no tomorrow and now we own China a lot of money, ehum...   


I think it can very well be enough to keep selling façades and fun in the sun. To keep tricking people into believing. Who will break the pattern and start teaching consumers spirituality and how to be confident from within? Who will give people what we really need, as long as amplifying our belief that stuff makes us smile still works and helps us sell? When planners discover the depth of the pursuit of happiness, I know we must shut our eyes and ears and keep selling Dreams. The other Freudian thinking is not as lucrative... People really wish to be loved, but say they want a new car. What do we offer?

I don´t have the answer. I know emotions sell, and that no ad can be simply rational. The practical benefits are only covering up an emotional decision, and unless you grab the heart you could as well spend your money elsewhere, but what kind of emotion? The real one or the fake one? I hope I can be the kind of strategist who finds ways to do both. To help people and brands meet in a meaningful win-win way that makes them both long-term happy, in-depth happy. But it is easier said than done. At least I´m thinking about it... 

Some people think emotional branding and considering psychological insights is a little hippie, making you a "good person" rather than a business minded person, but in fact, it only makes you smarter, more efficient in manipulating, pulling the strings, pushing the buttons. Goodness is a bonus.

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