Category: advertising

Needs

NPR’s TED Radio Hour is like Reader’s Digest for brainiacs. In one commute, you can wrap your head around a whole plethora of ideas about a variety of subjects. Endless fun.

The show on Maslow’s Human Needs, originally broadcast in April 2015 but re-aired recently, was the riffing-off point for this post.

As a reminder, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is (from bottom to top):

  • Physiological – Are basic needs of survival being met? Food, water, breathing, etc.
  • Safety – Health, resources, a good job, personal matters fulfilled
  • Love & Belonging – Friendship, family, intimacy
  • Esteem – Confidence, achievement, respect
  • Self-Actualization – Morality, creativity, fulfillment

This past year, I have been involved with re-thinking and implementing a new “playbook” for how my company go to market with new products. The previous version was found to be mostly useless because it required a fairly extensive knowledge of marketing in order to fill it out properly, and most of the managers who were tasked with this were woefully unqualified to do so.

So the Brand Manager took it upon herself to re-imagine this document and brought in a consultant to help out. There is some good thinking and fresh ideas in this new document & process they are rolling out, but after listening to this TED program, it got me to thinking.

Creative briefing documents, playbooks & marketing plans are all meant to help guide the strategy to most effectively reach new and existing customers. But with all this analysis, data, features & benefits, etc., how many of these briefs actually address basic human needs?

Worse yet, these documents are often filled with assumptions and the information we want you to know.

Shouldn’t one of the key ingredients be “How does ‘X’ solve my need? A lot of times, that information is there in the document/process, but rarely is it articulated into something very basic, touching a core value to the individual.

This is danged hard to do in a B2B environment, but not impossible.

I think Nike does this inherently as part of their branding and this is a key ingredient as to what they are so wildly successful. From the products all the way to the branding, Nike touches each of Maslow’s needs:

  • Physiological – I need shoes to protect my feet.
  • Safety – Because I have the shoes, my health will improve.
  • Love & Belonging – Because I run, I become part of a community of like-minded people.
  • Esteem – As I get healthier, I become a stronger, better person.
  • Self-Actualization – Just do it.

In contrast, I think Apple often times does a poor job of it. They are particularly good at telling you what you need. What they have been particularly adept at is guiding people down a path that eventually becomes a need. I never truly needed an iPhone, but now that I have one I find that I cannot live without it? Does that make Apple evil?

In a world that is becoming increasingly more digital,automated and with less of a human touch, addressing basic human needs should be at the very core of how we approach every piece of communication.

As Charles Eames said:

Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design.

This is a particularly bad idea


For the life of me, I cannot think who in the world thought that this was a good idea. I suppose the ad wizards are trying to say we’re all the same inside.

Maybe? But that sure isn’t how I see it, nor the rest of the world.

A word of advice to advertisers: Quit trying to be topical and/or political. Focus on the benefits of you brand and get them in front of potential customers in a compelling way. Washing yourself does not have to include social commentary.

Don’t try and make a statement. Did not work for Pepsi earlier this year, isn’t working for Dove now.

David v. Dave

I’ve stumbled on to Dave Trott’s blog and nowadays I read it several times a week. I’m too cheap to buy a subscription to Campaign Live, otherwise I’d be reading him just about every day.

Left: Ogilvy, Right: Trott. What do you suppose they’re looking at?

I remember picking up a copy of Dave’s “Creative Mischief” a number of years ago but quickly put it back on the shelf. Thumbing through the pages, it looked more like a book of poetry rather than a proper book on advertising. “I won’t get anything out of that” was my first thought. Big mistake.

To me, Dave’s take on subjects is the verbal equivalent to Alan Fletcher’s visual explorations. Little vignettes of oddities from anywhere. The only difference being Trott’s essays end with a valuable lesson for advertising creative folks.

Trott’s writing is good design. It follows the basic principle of design as laid out by Milton Glaser – “Design should inform & delight”. Dave’s essays do that in spades.

Then there’s David. Mr Ogilvy. I’m a big fan of his, too, but for other reasons. He’s all business. Practical. Informative. Earlier this year I reread “Confessions of an Advertising Man”. Although some of the chapters are quite dated, it is surprising how many of the principles are still relevant 50 years after the first run of the book.

So here I have David & Dave. Both I admire. Learned from both, yet in strikingly different ways. It got me to thinking about voice and tone.

Here’s a comparison not meant to offend, but drive the point home: David is like the Old Testament and Dave is like the New Testament. David gives you Commandments to follow, laws to obey, while Dave teaches in parables. Pay attention and you are likely to learn from both. And that’s where the metaphor ends. Although I do have thoughts on Paul’s letters to the Romans being the world’s first PR campaign. For other such interesting thoughts, check out another David’s blog.

Is one better than the other? Not a chance. After all, there would be no Dave without David.

Working on a new word that more accurately describes the stuff I do. I seem to fall somewhere between advertising and design. Designed, but not too designy or designerly. Idea driven, but not entirely verbal; you have to be able to describe it before you visualize it. The lines between the two have always been a bit blurry. Kind of like trying to explain the difference between and Art Director and a Designer to your mother.

Origin Story, Part 1

As a child of the 70s, there were many outside influences that had a tremendous impact on me that only until recently have I comet to realize to what depth.

When I was a kid I was quite sickly, suffering from allergies and asthma like no one’s business. Living in Houston, Texas did not help matters, as year-round pretty something from every season triggered problems. Needless to say, I missed a fair amount of school. I don’t remember much of first grade, or 2nd for that matter.

What I do remember most from that time is television and comic books, things that kept my mind busy and entertained since there was little else I could do. Laying on the sofa with big stacks of comics I would read and reread. Most of those books are permanently committed to memory, as demonstrated when I watch an Avengers or X-Men movie with my family and know the plot line before anyone else.

 

 

But television was the other constant companion. Captain Kangaroo when I was younger. Also Watergate, Viet Nam and Apollo missions. I dreamt about living in SkyLab, until it fell out of orbit and crashed in Australia.

But one of the shows I am convinced had a huge impact on my life was The Price is Right. I religiously watched it when I was home convalescing, and over summer breaks before heading out to the neighborhood pool for a swim. I know that part of the attraction was pretty girls parading around in bikinis while Bob Barker led contestants through ridiculous games.

 

 

Looking back the show, what amazes me is at its core, The Price is Right is some of the most brilliant advertising ever conceived. Consumer bloodsport. The contestants would come to blows if necessary to win a can of Turtle Wax. All their hopes and dreams were wrapped up in that new blender or matching set of luggage. Life or death hinged on the careful analysis of the price of an AMC Pacer.

I can remember more of The Price is Right than I can kindergarten. This explains a lot.