Overwhelming clutter has made traditional advertising nearly worthless for your business. We live in a world that has become ad rich but idea poor. Your customers don’t want to be bombarded with ads—they want to be inspired by ideas that will change their lives. Ads may create transactions, but great ideas create transformations. Ads reflect our culture, ideas imagine our future.
One of the biggest problems with traditional advertising is that it mainly engages the “lizard brain.” Whether you know it or not, we all have what Seth Godin refers to as a lizard brain. He says, “The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump called the amygdala near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive.”
“The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny.”
“The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe.”
[T]he lizard brain is the resistance. The resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer’s block and putting jitters and every project that ever shipped late because people couldn’t stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door. The resistance grows in strength as we get closer to shipping, as we get closer to an insight, as we get closer to the truth of what we really want. That’s because the lizard hates change and achievement and risk.
Clotaire Rapaille also talks about the lizard or reptilian brain, according to a New York Times article:
CLOTAIRE RAPAILLE, a French-born medical anthropologist and psychiatrist, is paid top dollar by American corporations to tell them what consumers want from their coffee, toilet paper, artificial sweetener, luggage, cheese and political candidates…. Consumers make decisions from the gut, not the brain, Dr. Rapaille maintains, based on the earliest memories of home and happiness.
And as Dr. Rapaille said in a Frontline interview:
My theory is very simple: The reptilian always wins. I don’t care what you’re going to tell me intellectually. I don’t care. Give me the reptilian. Why? Because the reptilian always wins.
One famous example of Dr. Rapaille’s work is the Philip Morris’s Archetype Project. Rapaille’s report recommended to PM’s marketing department the following findings:
- Stress that smoking is for adults only
- Make it difficult for minors to obtain cigarettes
- Continue having smoking perceived as a legitimate, albeit morally ambiguous adult activity. Smoking should occupy the middle ground between activities that everyone can partake in vs. activities that only the fringe of society embraces.
- Stress that smoking is dangerous. Smoking is for people who like to take risks, who are not afraid of taboos, who take life as an adventure to prove themselves.
- Emphasize the ritualistic elements of smoking, particularly fire and smoke.
- Emphasize the individualism/conformity dichotomy Stress the popularity of a brand, that choosing it will reinforce your identity AND your integration into the group.
Rapaille’s recommendations explain why PM supports—and advertises widely that it supports—restricting sales cigarette sales to minors and moving cigarettes out of reach of kids.
According to Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding, billions of dollars of market research is being wasted because asking consumers what they want, or why they do what they do, is like asking the political affiliation of a tuna fish sandwich. We humans make the vast majority of our decisions unconsciously.
Does the reptilian always win? In contrast, Emile Durkheim described human beings as “Homo duplex,” or “two-level man.” The lower level is the level of the profane—the level of ordinary consciousness and self-interested pursuits. The higher level is the level of the sacred at which we lose our petty selves and become simply a part of a larger whole.
As Jonathan Haidt author of The Righteous Mind wrote:
I mean that we evolved to see sacredness all around us and to join with others into teams that circle around sacred objects, people and ideas. This is why politics is so tribal. Politics is partly profane, it’s partly about self-interest. But politics is also about sacredness. It’s about joining with others to pursue moral ideals. It’s about the eternal struggle between good and evil, and we all believe we’re on the side of the good.
This perspective also helps explains the persistent undercurrent of dissatisfaction in modern life. Ever since the Enlightenment, modern secular society has emphasized liberty and self-expression. We exult in our freedom, but sometimes we wonder: Is this all there is? What should I do with my life? What’s missing? What’s missing is that we are homo duplex, but only our first-floor, profane longings are being satisfied.
The old model of advertising and branding was to improve public perceptions, and mainly focuses on our “profane longings.” The new model demands that your company improve public life. To survive, your company must start nurturing ideas, not just pushing products and services.
Knowledgeable marketers understand that what worked in the past is not working (or not working well) now. A new approach is needed. As A. G. Lafley, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble and author of The Game Changer, told his executives, “We need to reinvent the way we market to consumers. We need a new model.”
The proliferation of new media, escalating competitive pressures, and the emergence of alternate marketing disciplines has transformed advertising. If you wish to survive in this uncertain future, you better anticipate the upcoming challenges and find ways to overcome them. Increasingly, there are only two kinds of companies: brave and dead. We at StartUpTown would like to help your company be in the first category.
At StartUpTown we are willing to take the time to understand your brand goals and be strategic partners. What we do is strategic integration, which means starting right at the beginning of a project by determining the needs of a client and then planning how to meet those needs by whatever functions are necessary. Effective marketing starts with a better understanding of the media plan that ties to consumer touch points more than it does to the creative idea. Effective marketing that results in greater profits is problem solving, it isn’t movie making.
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