Next Thursday will see us joined by the good folk from Redbull, Lego and Future Laboratory as we delve into this season’s penultimate topic – Culture Tracking. Our expert panel will be considering why brands increasingly favour emotive communications that tap into the cultural zeitgeist over more traditional (and snooze-inducing) product focused comms. To whet your appetite, this blog offers a whistle-stop tour of the simple psychology that’s informed the shift away from rational messaging, while also picking out some notable examples of brand’s who’ve nailed being ‘totes emosh’……read on, dear reader.
Daniel Khaneman, in his ground-breaking work Thinking, Fast and Slow, boils all our decision making down to two distinct approaches – System 1 and System 2. In its simplest form, System 1 decision making is all about intuition and instinct whereas System 2 refers to our more rational and analytic thought process. Through scientific experiment Khaneman was able to consistently demonstrate that we disproportionately live our lives using System 1, with many of us actively suppressing the more taxing and time consuming requirements of booting up our System 2 mindset. This simple assertion flew in the face of conventional economic logic which hitherto had assumed rational decision making as the fundamental basis for all human behaviour.
While Khaneman earned a Nobel prize for his efforts, his work simply articulated something that advertisers had suspected for decades – that emotional storytelling plays better to the default human condition than rationally grounded persuasion tactics. One can chart the evolution of this strategic shift by exploring the extensive back catalogue of Coca Cola’s advertising slogans down the years. For example, in the late 19th century the focus was on highlighting to potential customers the ‘delicious and refreshing’ attributes of Coca Cola’s product.
Image Credit: Coca Cola
As we move through the 20th and 21st century we can observe a distinct step change to a more human focused and aspirational positioning – spawning creative platforms that offered a rich and fertile ground for the hugely successful ‘Coke Side of Life‘, ‘Open Happiness‘ and latterly ‘Taste the Feeling‘ brand campaigns. Each of these platforms has sought to mirror or riff off the different cultural context in which they’ve been conceived.
Image Credit: Coca Cola
Of course, not all brands have been as prolific as Coke in constantly reimagining and finessing their creative platform. Being inextricably linked with youth culture necessitates a certain imperative for them to continually refresh their relevance. By contrast, the De Beers Diamond company have retained their iconic strapline since its inception way back in 1947. Prior to this, diamonds had largely been regarded as an extravagance reserved only for the wealthy. However, one clever copywriter managed to overcome this mental block by conjuring demand with four simple words – A diamond is forever. A legendary tagline that would go on to populate culture through both the advent of a new tradition (diamond engagement rings) and a slew of artistic mediums – perhaps most famously in Ian Fleming’s 1971 Bond film ‘Diamonds Are Forever’.
Image Credit: United Artists
This masterstroke of emotive copywriting successfully solidified the link between eternal love and the indestructibility of a sparkling diamond – a simple sentiment that makes our default System 1 thought process hum. Its somewhat unsurprising then that Advertising Age elected it the ‘Slogan of the 20th Century’. Clearly, once you find a winning formula, consistency can also pay huge dividends in building an iconic brand. In an industry as changeable and fickle as advertising, its heartening to see that there are still some creative gems that can retain their appeal – perhaps even….forever.
Image Credit: De Beers
Keen to learn more? Join us in reception on Thursday 21st June to hear how some of the world’s most iconic brands engage in the dark arts of culture tracking. Until then, stay curious!