What’s In The Box? I Hope It’s An Invitation

As you know, I’ve been decompressing from the weight of much too much information. So pardon the self-referential nature of things. I’ll look outward again. Before I do, I want to point to new research from Harvard University that indicates as much as 40% of our speech is devoted to telling others about what we feel or think.

Well, that sure explains Tweetbook.

Apparently, bragging stimulates the brain’s meso-limbic dopamine system, and provides the same sensations of pleasure found in food, sex and money. “Self-disclosure is extra rewarding,” said Diana Tamir, who conducted the experiments with Harvard colleague Jason Mitchell. “People were even willing to forgo money in order to talk about themselves,” Ms. Tamir said.

Martin Lindstrom, writing in Fast Company wonders what this pleasure of self-disclosure might mean for the future of brands. “It’s likely corporate brands will offer consumers a ‘soap-box’ from which individuals can pimp their own identity,” he reasons.

In other words, the new mass marketing is one-to-one marketing.

Make your message for me, or don’t bother bothering me. These are the field conditions. Are you ready to adjust your gear, and your style of play? Because I am not the only one suffering from info inundation. Not by a long shot. Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project sometimes feels “like a lab rat, mindlessly pushing levers in search of the next source of instant but fleeting gratification.” He also reminds that in 1970, Nobel Prize winning economist Herbert Simon said: “What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Despite the crushing odds against us, corporate communicators continue to show up at work each morning armed with new possibilities — ideas that may, if perfectly executed, help clients break through the all noise and connect with people, however fleeting that connection might be. Sadly, fleeting connections is all a brand can hope for, when working from the interruption model, which continues to permeate almost everything we think, and do, in Adlandia.

Advertising that lacks an experiential opportunity is dead on arrival.

The question today is not, “What do we put inside the square frame, a.k.a. box, where ads used to dwell?”

No, the question is, “What can we put inside the box to move people to connect with each other and with the brand in real life?” Unfortunately, few ad people have experience in experiential. My suggestion is it’s time to get some, and time to think way outside whatever boxes we might find ourselves encamped in at this time.

Let me put it another way. The creative team that makes Apple ads is partly responsible for how the brand is perceived. But perception is so very thin when put up against the real life experiences happening everyday in Apple Stores. Great advertising doesn’t do much for you, when your iPhone isn’t working.

I don’t want to go into customer service, or become a circus clown to win the favor of my clients’ best prospects. I want to continue to weave narrative threads into brand tapestries. The thing that’s changed for me is I am pushing for the brand story to play live. There has to be a certain taste to it, a smell. Bottom line, people need to feel the brand, in order to care about it, remember it and share it.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.