In this video, a follow-up to the “Interview from the Future,” Damon Ragusa shows how The Good Group, our fictional company from the last Future of Marketing microconference, should invest their marketing dollars for the 2012 Chain of Good campaign. And even though he’s running a mock test for a fictional program, the insights he shares contain insights for all B2C marketers.
I’m inspired. Actually, floored. Stoked, even. Why?
Because I just read The New York Times’ coverage of The Creators Project, a new integrated media initiative from two seemingly divergent companies: Vice, an unabashedly hipster media outfit, and Intel, a—well, you know Intel.
It made the front page of Thursday’s Business Day section, but for us marketing and advertising types, I consider it A-section news. I’d even go so far as to call it a watershed moment (okay, Steve called it that, not me, but I’m writing the blog, so I get to steal it from him).
The reason is simple, but not insignificant: The Creators Project is a wholly culturally relevant, non-kitschy, leading-edge content venture that features videos about up-and-coming artists, as well as parties in 5 major cities.
In other words, it’s not an Intel venture, per se. It’s not a shallow attempt by a tech behemoth to “get jiggy with it.” It’s not derived from a group of disconnected executives trying to reach “the youths” through a contrived series of media buys.
Rather, Intel, through its fueling of Vice’s creative autonomy to actually do something real, has become a patron of the arts. Yes, one could technically call it a marketing campaign. But it’s far more than that. It’s a signal, I believe, of what’s to come: the integration of traditionally separate, segregated, and splintered dimensions of what it means to be a human being.
I’m calling these five human dimensions Consciousness, Culture, Creativity, Content, and Commerce. I’ll be fleshing them out more over the coming months, but here’s a quick treatment:
Consciousness. Admittedly, this is a tricky subject. When some refer to “consciousness,” they simply mean the state of physical awareness produced by the brain. But in this context, I’m referring to, shall we say, the energy or aliveness we feel in our most inspired moments—whether that’s experiencing a transcendent moment during your favorite song or getting lit up with a vision for what’s possible.
More consciousness, then, means more awakeness, aliveness, sense of positivity and potential. Campaigns that express that sentiment—that bring us closer to our own source of creativity and push us to think in new or bigger ways—are far more powerful (and, I’d claim, beneficial) than their less, well, conscious counterparts.
Culture. Marketing does not simply reflect culture; it creates, and is, culture. The Old Spice guy becomes part of our cultural lexicon. Creating artificial boundaries between the selling of something and the culture in which that thing exists is part of what creates the feeling of disconnect so often found in marketing campaigns. Isaiah Mustafa and his writers were on the inside; they were one with their cultural milieu.
Making “the people,” “the product,” and “the marketers” one and the same authentically—not as outsiders looking in, but truly from the inside-out—is, I’d argue, the foundation for truly integrated marketing.
Creativity. Uncreative marketing is about as uninspired as it gets. Of course, I’m not calling for a dismissal or rejection of good direct marketing principles—namely, that you shouldn’t let creativity get in the way of a sale. A sales letter should be a sales letter. Indeed, direct marketers are often right to laugh at abstract and avant-garde ad campaigns that fail miserably at selling a specific product.
But ads like Geico’s, and campaigns like The Creators Project, demonstrate that creativity plays an integral role in advertising contexts that go beyond the simple “call to action.” And true creativity, as studies are beginning to find, is necessary for solving real-world problems—like increasing sales—and not just an isolated playground for too-cool-for-school artists.
Content. “With something as scarce as good and quality content, the price has upward pressure on it,” said Ian Schafer, a chief executive of the ad agency Deep Focus, in the Times article. “It’s what prevents all of advertising from a race to the bottom.” The movement of companies beginning to focus on content over simply pushing sales messages lines up with what many of our speakers conveyed for The Influencer Project.
Great content inspires, informs, educates. And that’s far more valuable than “brand exposure.” In fact, it’s what creates the more prized possession of marketing: brand equity.
Commerce. Romantic hopefuls who see the demise of capitalism as humanity’s ultimate saving grace would do well to consider that their capacity to perceive structural flaws in a marketplace-driven society arises primarily from their unprecedented levels of wealth and education. That’s a long-winded way of saying that commerce and money matter, and if companies aren’t making any returns from their outreach efforts, modern culture and comfort as we know it evaporates.
That being said, the brash unwillingness to take risks and support emerging cultural movements—like the Medicis did in the Renaissance—for the more insular sake of immediate financial gains never moved our world forward much, either.
So there’s a balance, or perhaps a higher integration, to be struck between pushing culture’s edge for the sake of manifesting that which is good, true, and beautiful, and ensuring a profitable return-on-investment for ad dollars spent. Ideally, these two will begin to become synonymous. What a world that would be!
To tell you the truth, I’ve never been more excited or inspired by what the future of marketing can hold. And I don’t believe my enthusiasm is a Pollyannish sentiment. Yes, questions of ROI, reputation management, and “this whole social media thing” all remain. Yes, evolution is a messy process.
But campaigns like The Creators Project point to a potential for creativity and inventiveness in our field that’s at the very leading edge of where culture is. And the more we can bring Consciousness, Culture, Creativity, Content, and Commerce together, the more integrated, whole, and evolutionary of a world we’ll have.
So, what do you think? Am I being a starry-eyed idealist, or do initiatives like The Creators Project actually represent a new direction forward for our profession, and even for culture itself? Why or why not?
(cross-posted on http://thoughtlead.com)