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Thursday, November 7, 2013
"A man of wisdom delights in water."
"The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it, too.
The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it."
~ Herman Hesse, Siddhartha
"Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over
to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you,
you will suddenly know everything there is to be known."
~ A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
Recently I've noticed that a lot of video content, especially TV commercials, are using computer generated liquid. Sinuous, mesmorizing, flowing liquid. Below is a montage of various recent ads (Apple Gold iPhone, Benjamin Moore, Fage yogurt, Frey chocolate, Renauge brandy, Valspar paint, Fonterra Whole water) showing how realistic CG liquid has become (or the combo of CG plus real stuff).
Now, computer generated water has been a big part of movies, from the living column of water in 1989's The Abyss to Ang Lee's combination of a 1.7 million gallon water tank and CGI water in 2012's The Life of Pi.
But the bigger driver is simply based on a human truth: there's something about nature, particularly water, that soothes us and connects us to the world. And it's that something that advertisers need to connect their brands to people.
Famed biologist E.O. Wilson theorized that our connectedness to nature has an evolutionary bent: we are “hard-wired” to seek out features and attributes of nature, like light and water, which are beneficial to survival.
Researchers Rachel Kaplan and Stephen Kaplan posit that there are four reasons why nature aids human functioning:
- In the natural world we have a sense of "being away" from the day-to-day stresses and strains of life.
- Being in nature helps us to put matters in perspective.
- The natural world "fascinates" us, stimulating our senses.
- Being in nature makes people feel that they are in a supportive and harmonious environment.
A 1984 study by Ulrich showed that hospital patients who could see a natural scene through their hospital window (as opposed to a brick wall) were discharged more quickly, needed less painkilling drugs and were generally deemed to be more cooperative. A 1991 study by the same researcher showed that when a person is under stress, recovery is faster and more complete after exposure to natural versus urban settings.
Water, in particular, has the ability to soothe the soul. It can be tranquil or raging, furious, calm, soothing, hard or soft. Full of wonder. Any emotion can be reflected or caused by water.
As Sarah Allen of Clarkson University (2002) puts it:
"There is something incredibly relaxing about the rhythmic yet not-rhythmic sound that falling water beats out in its chaos-driven path, falling down dips into itself, rolling and breaking over itself, swirling and spiraling with itself. In smaller, calmer trickles, the sounds are light and musical, reminiscent of flutes and small bells, or even of birdsong: high-pitched and twittering, wavering as the flows path….(T)he sound of quantities or water falling or great waves breaking has a pulse to it, as though some great heart beats out in the center of it all where no man sails, and drives the rhythm that the waves and falls beat out. The rhythm is just a little faster than the calmed human pulse, feeling as though every beat comes just a little sooner than it should, pressing the soul towards anticipation, inducing a sort of quiet excitement that is heady and seductive even as it soothes. Yes, even such drumbeats as the run-together beatings of a falls against its basin can be described as soothing, for there is always a cool connotation associated with the sound of water, be it white noise or woodwinds – possibly a link between the feel of it passing over the skin or the breeze coming off of it, bearing spray or just the coolness into our faces, onto our clothes and along our skin. This coolness and the tranquilizing rhythm with which it laps up against the extended hand, a submerged torso, in time with its music, lulls and massages both the mind and the body into a transcendental, philosophical, quiet state."Jim Thacker similarly describes the qualities of CGI water, writing in 3DWorld Magazine, "There’s something about digitally simulated water that always quickens the pulse. Perhaps it’s the way in which it moves: the sinuous underlying flow breaking up into a ballet of drips and splashes. Perhaps it’s the complexity of the mathematics that generate it: the Navier-Stokes equations that describe the motion of fluids, and the computational methods used to bring them to the screen – techniques with excitingly chunky names like smoothed particle hydrodynamics and PIC/FLIP simulation. Or perhaps it’s the sheer visceral thrill of seeing millions of tonnes of water crashing down around you. Whatever the reason – and whatever else you think of Roland Emmerich’s movies – the sight of vast tidal waves poised and ready to overwhelm the White House never fails to bring a tear to the eye (a digitally simulated tear, of course).
In one study on water (Thoma, 2013), researchers played either classical choral music, sounds of rippling water, or nothing at all for three groups of subjects before making them speak and do arithmetic in front of an audience. Those who listened to the water before performing stayed the calmest, producing the lowest amount of the stress hormone cortisol.
Thus, it's not surprising then that brands are using the newest technology to tap into one of our oldest needs: to connect to water.
The water understands
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
With a face of golden pleasure
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Arbor, A. (2008). "Going Outside Even in the Cold Improves Memory, Attention." University of Michigan News Service.
Berman, M., Jonides, J., and Kaplan, S. (2008). "The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature." Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207-1212.
Burmil, S., Daniel, T. C., and Hetherington, J. D. (1999). Human Values and Perceptions of Water in Arid Landscapes. Landscape and Urban Planning, 44(2), 99-109.
Burns, G. (2005). "Naturally Happy, Naturally Healthy: The Role of the Natural Environment in Well-being." in Huppert, F. A., Baylis, N., and Keverne, B., The Science of Well-being, Oxford University Press.
Frumkin, H., (2001) "Beyond Toxicity: Human Health and the Natural Environment." American Journal of Preventive Medicine 20.3: 234-240.
Greenway, R. (1995). "The Wilderness Effect and Ecopsychology." in Roszak et al, Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind, Sierra Club Books, 122-135.
Hartig, T., Mang, M., and Evans, G. (1991). "Restorative Effects of Natural Environment Experiences." Environment and Behavior 23(1): 3-26.
Herzog, T., et al. (1997). "Reflection and Attentional Recovery as Distinctive Benefits of Restorative Environments." Journal of Environmental Psychology 17: 165-170.
Herzog, T., Chen, H., and Primeau, J. (2002). "Perception of the Restorative Potential of Natural and Other Settings." Journal of Environmental Psychology 22: 295-306.
Howell, A., Dopko, R., Passmore, H., and Buro, K. (2011). "Nature Connectedness: Associations with Well-being and Mindfulness." Personality and Individual Differences, 51(2), 166-171.
Kaplan, S. (1995). "The Restorative Benefits of Nature: Toward an Integrative Framework." Journal of Environmental Psychology 15: 169-182.
Kaplan, S. (2001). "Meditation, Restoration, and the Management of Mental Fatigue." Environment and Behavior 33(4): 480-506.
Kellert, S. R., and Wilson, E. O. (Eds.). (1995). The Biophilia Hypothesis. Island Press.
Kellert, S. R., Heerwagen, J., and Mador, M. (2011). Biophilic Design: the Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life. John Wiley & Sons.
Kuo, F., and Sullivan, W. (2001). "Environment and Crime in the Inner City Does Vegetation Reduce Crime?" Environment and Behavior, 33(3), 343-367.
Laumann, K., Garling, T., and Stormark, K. (2001). "Rating Scale Measures of Restorative Components of Environments." Journal of Environmental Psychology 21: 31-44.
Lidwell, W., Holden, K., and Butler, J. (2010). Universal Principles of Design: Baby-Face Bias, Biophilia Effect, Cathedral Effect and Chunking, Rockport Publishers.
Mayer, F,, Frantz, C., Bruehlman-Senecal, E., and Dolliver, K. (2009). "Why is Nature Beneficial? The Role of Connectedness to Nature." Environment and Behavior, 41(5), 607-643.
Mitchell, R., and Popham, F. (2008). "Effect of Exposure to Natural Environment on Health Inequalities: An Observational Population Study." The Lancet, 372(9650), 1655-1660.
Nisbet, E., Zelenski, J., and Murphy, S. (2011) "Happiness is in our Nature: Exploring Nature Relatedness as a Contributor to Subjective Well-being." Journal of Happiness Studies 12, 303-22.
Nisbet, E., Zelenski, J., and Murphy, S. (2009) "The Nature Relatedness Scale: Linking individuals’ Connection with Nature to Environmental Concern and Behavior." Environment and Behavior, 41, 715-740.
Pradhan, P. (2012). The Role of Water as a Restorative Component in Small Urban Spaces," Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Taylor, A., Wiley, A., Kuo, F., and Sullivan, W. (1998). "Growing Up in the Inner City: Green Spaces as Places to Grow." Environment and Behavior, 30(1), 3-27.
Thoma, M., et al. (2013) "The Effect of Music on the Human Stress Response." PLoS ONE 8(8): e70156.
Ulrich, R., Simons, R., Losito, B,, Fiorito, E., Miles, M., and Zelson, M. (1991). "Stress Recovery During Exposure to Natural and Urban Environments." Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11(3), 201-230.
Ulrich, R. (1984). "View Through a Window May Influence Recovery From Surgery." Science, 224(4647), 420-421.
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013
"Macintosh was leading a revolution...taking the power away from big business and big government and putting it in the hands of people. You've got to understand that was the rallying cry in the hallways of Apple. Computing had been held by a close-knit elite, and we were going to bust up the cabal and give the power to the people." Steve Hayden, 1994
In many ways the introduction of the Apple Macintosh computer wasn't just a revolution. It represented an enormous change of mindset, as consumers were transformed into revolutionaries and ultimately into masters of technology. The beginnings of this transformation predate the introduction of the first Apple computer on April 11, 1976, and didn't end when the Macintosh was released on January 24, 1984.
Like many revolutions, the conflict was secondary to what followed.
Modern computers date from World War II, but in the post war years, only governmental agencies and large companies could afford the huge machines. For example, the world's first mass-produced computer, the IBM 650, cost a half a million dollars when it was introduced in 1953 (that's about $4.3M today).
Because of this expense, this exclusivity, the computer at this time came under attack as a symbol of large, centralized, bureaucratic institutions.
The computer technologies that we take for granted today actually owe their shape to the following decade, an unruly period which was defined by protest, experimentation with drugs, counter-cultural community, and a general sense of anarchic idealism. In fact, as Stewart Brand has argued in his essay We Owe It All to the Hippies, the 1960's "counterculture's scorn for centralized authority provided the philosophical foundations of not only the leaderless Internet but also the entire personal-computer revolution." (Stewart is more widely known as the founder of the Whole Earth Catalog.)
In this milieu, Stephen Wozniak and Steve Jobs designed their first computer as a technology to share with other members of the Homebrew Computer Club, a computer hobbyist group in Silicon Valley (first meeting, March 1975). As Wozniak puts it, the Apple I was "meant to bring down to the club and put on the table during the random access period and demonstrate: Look at this, it uses very few chips....There was a lot of showing off to other members of the club. Schematics of the Apple I were passed around freely, and I'd even go over to people's houses and help them build their own."
Later, Jobs convinced Wozniak that they could sell the computer and found a willing partner in Paul Terrell who owned the nearby Byte Shop in Menlo Park. Terrell ordered 50 of the computers, though the "computer" sold would be unrecognizable to us today. For $666.66 (roughly $2800 in 2013 dollars), buyers received just a blank printed circuit board, parts kit, and 16-page assembly manual. No power supply, keyboard, mouse, monitor or hard drive.
The company was officially incorporated on January 3, 1977. Mike Markkula, an early investor, wrote the company's first principles in a one-page paper called “The Apple Marketing Philosophy.”
¡Viva la Revolución!
Apple continued to release new computers, including the more complete Apple II in 1977 and Lisa in 1983, the first commercial computer with a graphical user interface (GUI). But it wasn't until January 22, 1984 that the revolution begun in 1976 really took flight.
On that day, the Washington Redskins beat the Los Angeles Raiders to win Super Bowl XVIII by the score of 38-9. But during the third quarter of the game, Apple ran its infamous "1984" TV commercial and we saw why 1984 would not be like "1984."
The :60 spot was created by Steve Hayden, Lee Clow and Brent Thomas of Chiat/Day in LA and directed by Ridley Scott (of Blade Runner fame), with credit to Gary Gussick and Mike Moser in the San Francisco office who wrote an earlier print concept for the Apple II with the headline, “Why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”
The subsequent newspaper and magazine ads focused on how the Macintosh was a computer, "For the rest of us"; as opposed to those large institutional computers as well as the IBM PC which had been introduced on August 12, 1981.
"It was the Macintosh," Steve Wozniak wrote, "that became our flagship machine and spoke to the masses. It carried a message that you didn't have to think linearly and you didn't have to keep computer gibberish in your head. The Mac was the first personal computer with a mouse and menus and windows, not to mention networking and LaserWriters. Files could even be named as humans would name them. We revived the dream of people mastering technology."
In 1985, after a power struggle with the board of directors Jobs left Apple. But in 1996, he returned to the company and asked a number of agencies for new advertising ideas. Lee Clow and Chiat/Day, the Macintosh crew, was one of them. According to Ken Segall, one of the creatives who worked on the pitch, their big idea came "when we stepped back and realized that the spark driving Apple existed long before Apple. In fact, it existed long before electricity. The ability to think creatively is one of the great catalysts of civilization. So the logic seemed natural: why not show what kind of company Apple is by celebrating the people Apple admires? Let’s acknowledge the most remarkable people – past and present – who “change things” and “push the human race forward.”
On August 3, 1997, Clow presented a new slogan (writen by Craig Tanimoto) and aesthetic for Apple’s ads: Think Different (a reference to IBM’s famous “THINK” slogan). Later, Creative Director Rob Siltanen, with tweaks from Segall, created the famous "Crazy Ones" spot with the lines:
Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Steve Jobs explained the idea this way to his employees: "What we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done, although we do that well. We do that better than almost anybody, in some cases. But Apple is about something more than that. Apple at the core…is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. That’s what we believe".
Later, in 2006, Apple tweaked Microsoft with a humorous series of “Get a Mac” ads that featured actor Justin Long as a hip, easygoing Mac showing up a fussy, formal PC played by John Hodgman. The 66-ad campaign ran from May 2006 to October 2009.
In "How David Beats Goliath," Malcolm Gladwell discusses an undersized, under-talented girl’s basketball team of twelve year olds. The coach, a complete novice of the game, had to develop a strategy that could give his underdogs the best chance of winning. Like the story of David and Goliath, the coach decided that the only way the team could win was through an unconventional attack: a full court press that didn’t play by Goliath’s rules
And once David held the advantage, he pressed. "That's what Davids do when they want to beat Goliaths," Gladwell writes. "This is the second half of the insurgent's creed. Insurgents work harder than Goliath. But their other advantage is that they will do what is "socially horrifying"—they will challenge the conventions about how battles are supposed to be fought." Using this strategy, the underdog girls basketball team had remarkable success.
Turns out, we love underdogs; the crazy ones.
A series of studies conducted at the University of South Florida, titled "The Appeal of the Underdog," suggests a number of possible reasons. First is because of a natural human "aversion to inequality." We see underdogs as being in a disadvantaged position, and we throw our support behind them as a way of rebalancing equality and fairness.
Second, we attribute greater effort to underdogs. In the face of terrible odds, they persevere. Seeing the underdog, we empathize with their plight and their effort. Their chance to win becomes our chance to win.
Apple's revolution was the underdog's revolution. In the seventies, the battle was against faceless, powerful bureaucratic institutions. In the eighties, the dark controlling force was IBM, while in the nineties it became Microsoft and Bill Gates.
In 1975, less than 50,000 personal computers were sold in the US. Technology analyst group Forrester estimates that there will be more than two billion personal computers in use by 2015. About 65% of US households have a PC.
Social movements, like Apple's, are difficult to maintain. The historical record shows that they either fail or disappear. In fact, once a movement succeeds, there is really no longer a need for that movement.
So, now that Apple has succeeded, what does it do?
What Apple has chosen to do is to launch a new brand campaign around the line, "Designed By Apple in California.” The copy reads:
"This is it. This is what matters. The experience of a product. How it makes someone feel. When you start by imagining. What that might be like, You step back. You think. Who will this help? Will it make life better? Does this deserve to exist? If you are busy making everything, How can you perfect anything? We don't believe in coincidence. Or dumb luck. There are thousands "no's" For every "yes." We spend a lot of time on a few great things. Until every idea we touch enhances each life it touches. We're engineers and artists. Craftsmen and inventors. We sign our work. You may rarely look at it. But you'll always feel it. This is our signature. And it means everything. Designed by Apple in
In reviewing the ad, Adweek says: "The visuals are quietly grand yet intimate. But the copy feels disjointed. The word "product," which I don't recall Apple ever having used in a commercial before, is deflating—almost a faux pas. The line "Does it deserve to exist?" is odd, too—a needlessly complex thought in what's supposed to be a simpler meditation. And as for the line "You may rarely look at it, but you'll always feel it"—isn't it more true that we stare at these products relentlessly, often without feeling anything at all? Then there's the tagline, asserting that this global company is still somehow local. It comes out of nowhere, and is jarring against the rest of the copy, which is about being universal. "Words mean a great deal to us," Tim Cook said on Monday. Here, though, they fail to do the trick. It's clear what Apple wanted to "craft around its intention" with these ads. But you don't really feel it. They aim for poetry in the classic Apple style. But maybe it really isn't the same company after all."
"Maybe it really isn't the same company after all."
In a large sense, Apple isn't the same company. It's now mature, not scrappy. Mainstream, not cult-like. Its guiding founder, Steve Jobs, no longer at the helm. Instead we have Tim Cook.
The difference between the two, DailyTech writes, is that "Jobs was temperamental, and wasn't afraid to jump down someone's throat and scream if they did something wrong. He was passionate and very involved in the creation of each product. This passion and drive led Apple to have a cult following, where Apple fans would wait outside of retail stores waiting for a new iPhone to be released. Cook, on the other hand, is quiet and laid back. He delegates orders, and is known to sit quietly in meetings with his hands folded in front of him."
"Here's to the warm and cuddly ones," states CNET.
In Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!, copywriter Luke Sullivan asserts that "Steven Jobs and Apple have been telling the same great story ever since they aired their famous “1984” Super Bowl spot; a story first told in a line of copy from one of their early print ads: “Instead of teaching people more about computers, we taught computers more about people.” Mac’s are designed around the way we work, not the way manufactures of PC’s work. Mac’s are the “computer for the rest of us.”
However, with these new "Designed by Apple" ads, Ken Segall (of "Think Different" fame) points out a glaring departure from Apple’s past story: "Never in Apple’s history has it suggested that you should buy a product because “everyone’s doing it.” Apple has always demonstrated concrete benefits: simplicity, design, elegance and just plain lustworthiness. You should buy a Mac because it’s better. How things change. Apple is now a world-leading mass marketer, and ubiquity is a positive selling point—even if in the past it was an indicator of mediocrity."
Perhaps this story change will prove the right path for Apple. Or perhaps Apple is now Goliath.
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
~ Steve Jobs (Feb. 24, 1955 - Oct. 5, 2011)
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Thursday, July 18, 2013
"There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages." - Mark TwainLike many businesses, advertising constantly remixes, rearranges, reworks, reuses and recycles things. Sometimes this amounts to taking ideas created but rejected by one client and directly applying it to another client. Sometimes this means taking bits and pieces from many different projects, our own or other's, and tweaking it for a second client. It's a little bit like jazz improv or rap sampling.
It's not about copying or stealing other's ideas. Great advertisers, like great improvisers, consider the rules, the conventions, then figure out ways to use them to a brand's advantage. They take risks and can often be disruptive.
We often use the history of an idea to sell a new ad: "It's a combo of Apple's 1984 plus Wendy's Where's the Beef," we cleverly explain. Or, it's "Budweiser's Frogs meets Coke's Mean Joe Greene "Hey Kid, Catch."
So, often when we see new ads we like to play the Evolution Game. Which is sort of a Rorschach test where we try and interpret the influences and origins of ads.
Recently, I've been playing this game for Mullen's new Acura campaign, "Made for Mankind."
As Adweek describes it:
Over sparse piano notes and a series of slow-motion images, a female voice talks slowly about how "man is a determined creature" who has an "inherent calling to seek ... push ... improve ... transcend." The images include a man climbing a fir tree, a woman dancing and an astronaut floating in space.
To play the Evolution Game you first look at those directly involved in making the ad: the director, ad creatives, editors, etc. In this case, you can see the hand of Director Martin De Thurah. After the Circle, an online magazine, says that De Thurah, "has a very identifiable video-style, involving in a clean and simple Scandinavian look but yet with a strong mysterious almost mystical side." "The abstract space I had in paintings," De Thurah says, "is something I try to bring along to describe an emotional space (in my films)." Here's De Thurah's work for Thomson Holidays:Not until 37 seconds into the 60-second ad does a car appear, although it then remains on screen until the end, when the voiceover veers into more typical car fare: "If your quest is to build the world's smartest luxury SUV for mankind, you must hold yourself to the standard of mankind." The only screen copy appears in the final seconds: "The extremely new 2014 MDX. Made for mankind."
You can definitely see De Thurah's "strong mysterious" point of view in the Acura work.
Next, Mullen CCO Mark Wenneker's 2003 Saturn ad, "Sheet Metal," which also doesn't show a car until the very end. Instead, the ad features people doing driving-type actions, but without vehicles. These scenes are accompanied by a simple voice over that softly explains that, at Saturn, “When we design our cars, we don’t see sheet metal. We see the people who may one day drive them.”
(Yeah, when I squint, I can also see pieces of ECD Tim Vaccarino's VW "Milky Way" ad and perhaps some of his Hummer work at Modernista!—the beauty of the Evolution Game is that you can add and delete references as you see them.)
While there's nothing specific I can point to, American Honda's CMO, Mike Accavitti, certainly helped drive the new ads. "We want to drive more emotion into our advertising," he said. And as the director of Dodge racing in the early 2000's, he certainly knows a thing or two about how NASCAR created such a strong emotional bond with its fans.
So, the lineage of the new Acura campaign looks pretty clear from the past work of those directly involved. For the next part of the Evolution Game, you look for indirect influences, start matching other ads that remind you of this one, either through similar imagery, tonality or messaging. Here I see three influences.
- Hill Holliday's 1989 Infiniti work. Don Easdon and Bill Heater's infamous "Rock and Trees" work for Infiniti is the car campaign everyone thinks of when it comes to not showing the product. The campaign sought to present Infiniti as the result of Japan's unique culture and sensibility in the same way that VW uses "German engineering."
- Chiat/Day's 1987 Nissan work. Their first work for Nissan ended with the tag, "Built for the Human Race." ECD Rob Schwartz said that is showed that "a Japanese product can be emotional. Toyota was relentlessly selling on quality. Honda was selling on smart features. What parking space is open for Nissan? A more human approach." (Automotive News, 5/19/08)
- DraftFCB's 2006 Dow campaign. Dominated by images of people, Dow's ads describe what it called a crucial but overlooked "human element" of chemistry—an interconnection of chemicals, nature, and the human spirit. It says nothing about Dow itself, other than to display the company's red diamond logo at the very end. The voice over by Creative Director John Claxton fits perfectly.
Of course, “user experience design” (UX) and “user-centered design” (UCD) are all about making things fit mankind, not forcing mankind to fit to the design. And other brands have tried to own that space, e.g., Samsung Galaxy claims to be "Inspired by Nature. Designed for Humans." Thus, there are a lot of cues out there that remind us of the importance of starting with the way people actually interact and use their products.
That's the Evolution Game. But does the fact that you can picture antecedents of the Acura campaign diminish the emotional impact of the work in any way?
It turns out that the answer is "no." In fact, research has shown that feeling as if "I've seen that before" makes us more predisposed to like that thing.
- Mere-Exposure. In a series of studies in the 1960s, Robert Zajonc flashed random images in front of his subjects—Chinese characters, faces and geometric figures. When asked which images they liked the most, the subjects picked the ones they saw the most. He coined this as the mere exposure effect: the more exposure we have to a stimulus, the more we are apt to like it. The effect results from exposure to a stimulus, even without conscious deliberation of that stimulus.
- The Gestalt Principle of Similarity states "all else being equal, perception lends itself to seeing stimuli that physically resemble each other as part of the same object, and stimuli that are different as part of a different object." So objects that share visual characteristics such as size, shape, texture, color, and orientation are perceived as a group or belonging together. And if we like one part of the object, we tend to like the entire object.
- The Representativeness Heuristic is a rule of thumb we use to estimate the likelihood of an event by comparing it to a prototype that already exists in our minds. Our prototype is what we think is the most relevant or typical example of a particular event or object. The representativeness heuristic was first described by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman during the 1970s. Like other heuristics, making judgments based upon representativeness is intended to work as a type of mental shortcut, allowing us to make decisions quickly. If we like the representative prototype, we typically like other examples of it.
- Brand Familiarity automatically produces more favorable evaluations of a brand (Janiszewski; Holden). It has been shown that familiar ideas are perceived as more important and relevant, which makes you more likely to spend more effort processing an idea with a familiar theme and, hence, any related messages. Furthermore, the familiar requires less effort to process than the unfamiliar increasing the likelihood even more that consumers will process the brand-related message.
- The meta-cognitive experience of the ease or difficulty with which new information is processed, referred to as Processing Fluency, has been shown to influence a wide range of human judgments including judgments of truth and preference (Cho; Lee). According to this model, increasing exposure to something enhances the ease with which consumers recognize and process it. In turn, this increased perceptual fluency leads to consumers having more favorable attitudes toward that thing.
"We know there is huge power in a brand, and we need a stronger brand to be able to sell more vehicles," says Gary Robinson, manager of Acura's national advertising and brand. "It's a critical element that we are focused on. It's our goal to make MDX part of the conversation." By taking a somewhat familiar idea and riffing on it, Mullen and Acura have done just that.
"Maybe in order to understand mankind we have to look at that word itself. MANKIND. Basically, it's made up of two separate words "mank" and "ind." What do these words mean? It's a mystery and that's why so is mankind."
- Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013
"The laughter and the tears
The shadows of misty yesteryears
The good times and the bad you've seen
And all the others in between
Remember, do you remember
The times of your life." Paul Anka
When we went on our honeymoon in 1992, my wife and I went overboard and took a dozen or so rolls of 35 mm film. At 36 exposures a roll, we felt comfortable that we'd capture all our "Kodak moments." After we finished each roll, we carefully hid them in our suitcase, worrying that we'd somehow misplace them along the way. We got back home, carefully placed each in a separate envelope at our photography store, checked off our desired options (2 copies, 3x5, glossy finish, no borders) labelled them with our names and address and waited the week for them to be developed. Going through the developed photos was such a powerful rush of anticipation. Was there a great photo in the bunch? A keeper? Something that captured what Cartier-Bresson called "the decisive moment"; that André Bazin said "embalms time": photos that so captured the moment as to act as a permanent placeholder of our memories?
Years later, I listened to Jeff Goodby as he voiced-over a brand video for Nikon:
"A photograph isn't good merely because of its lighting or composition, but because of its emotion. The best photographs are pieces of frozen time. They preserve a single, unrecoverable moment. They record a world in which youth is forever, life is eternal, emotions are never changing, and smiles are sustained beyond the power of human endurance."
So, I really enjoyed the new Apple iPhone 5 ad, "Photos Every Day." With a quiet piano playing, the 60-second ad shows scene after scene of people using their iPhones to take photos—of their friends, of their family, of nature, of themselves. It reminds me of the early iPod and iPhone ads that filled our emotional wells with simple movement and music.
We really like taking pictures. It’s estimated that since the earliest known surviving photograph was created in 1825 by Nicéphore Niépce, mankind has taken 3.8 trillion photos.
On average more than 350 million photos were uploaded every day to Facebook between October and December 2012; 240 billion have been uploaded in total.
That's a lot of photos.
But how many of those photos do we actually look at? Or at least look twice at?
My honeymoon photo album contains only 75 of the 450+ photos we took. We look through them about once a year. My kids have looked at them. Maybe my mother-in-law. We've probably shown them to friends a few times over the years. But no one else.
Who else would really enjoy them as we have?
And yet 58 photos are uploaded to Instragram every second of the day. Are they cherished? Looked back upon? How many capture that decisive moment?
Louie CK joked about this in a recent HBO special.
Damon Brown (2013) worries that we are entering an age where capturing the highlights of our lives has taken precedence over actually enjoying those very same moments.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Daniel Gulati explains that the reason we're so obsessed with saving moments today instead of savoring them is, in part, because we're wired to hoard: "We like to count our victories, and most of all, we love saying that we've 'been there, done that.' Social media platforms create hooks such as follower counts and virtual photo albums that make our experiences seem more tangible, giving us a false feeling of accumulation. It's as if our most important experiences are now collectible."
Reminds me of George Carlin's 1981 riff on stuff.
Camera phones are so ubiquitous and easy to use that we're moved to document and collect every moment of our lives. "Whereas parents and/or children used to sit on the couch together flipping through photo albums," says Van Dijck (2008), "most teenagers consider their pictures to be temporary reminders rather than permanent keepsakes. Cameraphone photography gives rise to a cultural form reminiscent of the old-fashioned postcard: snapshots with a few words attached that are mostly valued as ritual signs of (re)connection. Like postcards, cameraphone pictures are meant to be thrown away after they are received."
(Snapchat, a mobile phone app, actually lets users take photos or short videos and then decide how long they will be visible to the recipient. After a maximum of 10 seconds, the images disappear forever.)
However, a whole host of researchers, (Vitualno, 2011; Murray, 2008; Van Dijck, 2008; Kindleberg, 2008; and Van House, 2005, 2006) see the reasons for taking photos shifting with the explosion of smartphones and tablets. While we still take photos as a way of recording, collecting and sharing experiences, and to express a personal aesthetic, we also take pictures for other reasons, key amongst them:
Creating and Maintaining Social Relationships
Photos have become very important in social relationships. Emailing or posting photos to social networks is a way of keeping up on one another’s lives. Online photo sharing supplements in-person interactions, accruing social capital and clout to those who post pictures that are liked by others in a group. The content of photos can show who is also part of the group. Instagram has given teenagers "something to talk about amongst themselves, providing them with yet one more mechanism for sharing their emotional experience and exchanging objects of personal significance." (Harper et al, 2003)
Self-presentation is about influencing others’ view of oneself; for example, through sharing specific self-portraits, pictures of one’s friends, possessions, personal space, and so on. Users can manage the impressions others form of them more easily through this medium than in face-to-face interactions. "We're no longer taking photos to remember," says USA Today's Katrina Trinko, "but to refashion public perception. Photos, after all, can be used to manipulate, and to tell the story we want told about our lives, one stylish shot at a time." Easy to use photo editing mobile phone apps (e.g., Photoshop Express, Phototreats, ColorSplash, moreBeaute) allow users to tweak phones purely on image quality factors (such as blurriness, exposure and color balance), to crop parts of a photo or add special effects.
According to Van Dijck, "Digital photography is part of a larger transformation in which the self becomes the center of a virtual universe made up of informational and spatial flows; individuals articulate their identity as social beings not only by taking and storing photographs to document their lives, but by participating in communal photographic exchanges that mark their identity as interactive producers and consumers of culture."
This transformation represents a shift from sharing memories to a sharing of experiences. We are no longer interested in the special/rarefied/decisive moment but instead have moved to a sense of a
fleeting immediacy that the camera phone simply records. Because of their abundance, we've gone from moments to momentary.
The magic of the Kodak moment has become the banality of the iPhone memento.
- Barthes, R., Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Hill and Wang, New York, 1981.
- Bazin, A., What Is Cinema?, trans. Hugh Gray. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.
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Online," TED Books, 2013.
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- Cartier-Bresson, H., The Decisive Moment, Simon and Schuster, 1952.
- Davies, J., "Display, identity and the everyday: self-presentation through online image sharing. Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, 28:4, 549-564, 2007.
- Freeman-Greene, S., "So busy taking pictures for posterity, we miss the magic of the moment," Sydney Morning Herald, March 23, 2010.
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Thursday, May 2, 2013
The first rule I learned in advertising was that people follow a typical decision process when they buy products: if you make them aware of a product they need, then they will eventually buy it (i.e., the "purchase funnel.")
The best way to generate that awareness was through TV.
The more you shouted, over the voices of others, the more likely you'd get purchase. (We were confident that this meant media plans with at least 75% reach, 5+ frequency.)
Of course, you couldn't just shout anything. The message had to be clear, unique, relevant and likable. And consistent. Above all, consistent.
Then it turned out that people hated ads. They didn't trust them. Skipped them if possible (90% of those surveyed back in 2005 said they "skipped all or most commercials when they watched a show played back on DVR").
We said, don't shove things and yell at people, you need to create things that draw them in. Things that make them want to come learn/see/engage more. Listen. Invite. Give. Participate. Experience. Converse.
So, we updated and created new models of purchasing, like David Edelman's Consumer Decision Journey (“Branding in the Digital Age – You’re Spending Your Money in the Wrong Places
The Brand Innovation Manifesto, 2006) proposal that we visualize brands as “clusters of strategic cultural ideas.” Like atoms, these ideas combine to form molecular structures to which new ideas can be added and old ideas can be removed—all in order to keep pace with cultural change.
Integrated Planning: Standing Out in the Cloud," 2011) suggesting that the world is far more complex than a mere loop. Instead it might be better to think of our potential and current customers existing in a cloud of turbulent and sometimes conflicting influences. Instead of targeting people at specific points on the path to purchase – be it funnel or loop – we need to plan for “meaningful coincidences.” The objective of each coincidence is to help create a center of gravity around a brand based on people’s impressions accumulated over time.
The rationale behind these new models is that power has shifted from advertiser to consumer According to Assumsen:
"(E)mpowered by the internet, consumers and other stakeholders have now become potentially more active (co-)authors, agenda setters and access providers when it comes to brand manifestations. They are therefore able to contribute to the co-creation of brand meaning at a previously unreachable level since the internet, and related technologies, provide them with an unprecedented availability of resources to access, produce and/or distribute brand manifestations themselves; thus supporting the contention that consumers – and other stakeholders – have “moved out of the audience and onto the stage.” Beyond traditional word-of-mouth, they now have access to a broad variety of user-generated content platforms such as blogs and microblogs, social networking sites, wikis, and product review or video sharing sites. All these platforms potentially allow their users not only to enrich their own experience of a brand but also, for example, to express an opinion about it and therefore create a manifestation of the brand that can be experienced by others."And what happened to "consistency"?
Dead said the experts.
According to Gareth Kay (2007) "The day of the all powerful single idea is gone. Culture expects stories to be told with depth, richness and nuance. Doing the same thing at every point of contact will bore people. And success does not come through being boring. Our focus on doing one thing makes marketing communication more often than not one of the most boring forms of culture there is today."
survey among marketers in 2011 found that a 73% majority believe that “the days of strategic consistency are over; it’s all about inspiration and engagement.”
Grant says we can drop consistency completely as long as the brand’s point of view is coherent across media. Mullen's Edward Boches proclaims that in a world where media space is infinite, when everyone’s a creator and broadcaster, "I’m not sure consistency – at least in terms of messages and a look – even matters anymore. It’s more important to be present, visible, searchable and useful."
Of course, the truth is that in a world where 4 out of 5 multitask while watching TV, brands need a certain level of consistency now more than ever.
One brand that has been incredibly consistent is Cisco Systems. Cisco started like a Shakespearean romance: a couple separated by external forces figure out a way to connect. In this case, Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner connected two detached computer networks located in two different buildings on Stanford's campus using router technology. That was back in 1984. Since then, the brand message has continued to focus on one thing: Connections (via the Internet).
The "Cisco Brand Roadmap," written for Cisco's first TV campaign, reads:
1998: "The Internet will change how people live, work, play and learn. The Industrial Revolution brought together people with machines in factories, and the Internet revolution will bring together people with knowledge and information in virtual companies. And it will have every bit as much impact on society as the Industrial Revolution. It will promote globalization at an incredible pace. But instead of happening over 100 years, like the Industrial Revolution, it will happen over 7 years.''
2012: "A decade ago, when Cisco helped connect millions of devices to the Internet, we proclaimed we were in the midst of an “Internet Revolution.” We were wrong. What we witnessed at the onset of the 21st Century, as remarkable as it was, was merely a prelude. While still in the distance, we are now seeing what the internet is delivering: an age of information and freedom that we could never fathom just 10 short years ago. We are rapidly heading into a new era that will not be measured by the number of users, devices, or connections. What is changing the world, profoundly, is the value those connections make possible. When we connected the first 500 million devices to the internet, it seemed to reshape our lives. But now we are on the cusp of a transformation that connects everything to the internet. Highways, buildings, farms, satellites, solar panels, cars, milk cartons, cows…everything."Since the beginning, there have been three advertising agencies that have created brand campaigns for Cisco: GMO (the ex-Chiat/Day San Francisco office, later morphing into Hill Holliday) until 2002; Ogilvy West, 2002-2012; Goodby, Silverstein Partners, 2012 - present. The three anthem ads that each agency produced all communicate the idea of connections.
"Empowering the Internet Generation" (1998)
"The Human Network" (2004)
"Tomorrow Starts Here" (2012)
Of course, one of the big differences between the original campaign and the more recent one is the world's familiarity with Cisco. Back in the mid 1990's, beyond a small circle of IT professionals, no one even knew Cisco existed. To expand the audience, GMO had to demystify the technology, communicating the power of the Internet and Cisco as the Internet leader. They needed to cement a simple equation in people’s minds: Internet = Cisco. Cisco = Internet.
To do that, they challenged customers: “Are you ready?”
If you were, Cisco would take you to a new world, dramatically changing the way we all live, work, play and learn. Everyone was invited to come along. Millions of people around the world did just that.
As Mike Massaro, who led Cisco's account told me, unlike later campaigns, the original was able to use a velvet hammer approach: combining a honest, responsive, confident, and human brand personality with a bit of fear and urgency.
While the brand message that Cisco has promised has remained constant, the width and depth of the connections that Cisco is using to drive its brand has changed dramatically. Though Cisco is a B2B brand, marketing takes advantage of all the tools normally executed by a B2C brand.
Witness these media additions:
2004: Cisco's mobile showcase, Network on Wheels (NOW) van program began roaming the world in four 25-foot-long, high-tech buses
2005: launched the first external blog.
2006: opened private islands in the virtual realm Second Life.
2007: started using video for press releases and blogs.
2007: opened a YouTube channel.
2008: initiated a Twitter account.
2008: gamified, launching Cisco Edge Quest, an online game to introduce its new ASR 1000 Series routers.
2009: opened a Facebook page.
Flickr, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other tools that allow Cisco to connect have also been added. And, of course, all of these marketing tactics have been tied together with partner and developer marketing.
LaSandra Brill, the head of Cisco's social media efforts, describes the additions as allowing Cisco to move from short-term campaigns that fulfill immediate, functional needs to building meaningful relationships that create life-long allegiances.
Looking across these various programs, you can observe that there isn't a single, monotone execution of the brand. Rather, there are recognizable patterns and stories told. There is a recognition that the consumer is an active part of the brand, but it's a consistent brand focused around the idea of connecting everything, anywhere and everywhere, and thus empowering people in ways we never imagined.
That first Cisco Brand Roadmap said: "The world is changing by the moment and we believe our role is to impact those changes positively. Every piece of communication should leave people feeling energized and empowered. Every piece of communication should feel like we’re bringing the world closer together. Anything less is unacceptable."
And it is here that we see the mistake that the consistency killers made. Consistency was never about creating generic clones. It was never about over-simplification. It was never about executing an idea in single, uniform fashion. It was always about the beauty of an idea. One that was authentic to the product. An idea that was allowed to unfold and evolve over time.
Back in 1995, the ad below asked, "Ever wonder who actually connects the core of the Internet together? The answer is Cisco Systems."
It was then. It still is today. That's the beauty of a consistent idea.
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