I’ve always equated brands to people. According to Israeli historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari, as argued in his 2015 book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, brands (alongside other complexities of modern society) are figments of the human imagination. In reality, brands don’t exist, they are imaginary entities. Yet, people ask from them the same things than they ask from their fellow human beings. Brands must have personalities, a tone of voice, and they should speak through their communications and their actions.
Even if brands are simply figments of someone’s imagination, just a facade that companies use to sell us things, consumers are not going to part with their hard-earned dollars all that easily. As it happens when we interact with each other, before we give our love we need to be impressed, to be flattered, to be courted, to be “wowed.” And while people might be courted by one person at a time, or maybe a two or three people (if you’re lucky), we are courted by a gazillion brands every single second of our every waking hour.
And because brands make money from us, we ask from them so much more than we ask from people - to be a stand-up citizen, to be nice, to be a part of the community, to help others. When it comes to brands, though, it is not enough for a brand to be “nice” and do “the right thing;” brands need to do “the right thing” in an original way. They need to be ingenious, they need to be provocative and they need to let us know what they do, because what the eyes don’t see, the heart doesn’t love (and the wallet doesn’t buy). Fair.
These days, to get people to not just take notice but to engage and take action, brands need ideas that are disruptive, that are imaginative, that cut through the clutter and that can save the world at the same time. They need ideas that capture the imagination, that move the needle and that move people. Ideas that get people talking, and that get brands talked about. As I said before, doing the right thing just won’t cut it. These days, doing the right thing is just table stakes. These days are about doing the right thing, yes, but in a unique, provocative, culture-shattering way. Because, going back to our analogy, is not enough to capture your audience’s brains; you must also capture their hearts. And hearts are not easily conquered. So, brands, you better show up, and you better stand out. Like Gabe’s character in the 2005 comedy Little Manhattan says: “Love is about grand gestures. Love is about airplanes pulling banners over stadiums, proposals on jumbotrons, giant words in sky writing. Love is about going that extra mile even if it hurts, letting it all hang out there.”
So, brands, long story short: Purpose is not enough. Make that purpose disruptive, and make sure that you’re not only disrupting the industry, or the media, but people’s lives, in a good way, and for good. Let’s make sure that you put ideas into the world that help people out in a meaningful, life-changing way. Life throws all of us everything but the kitchen sink, and then even the kitchen sink. Brands that understand that and that are always there for their consumers, helping them through life’s hurdles, are the ones that will ultimately conquer their hearts.
And remember: When you do that, make sure that those grand gestures don’t go unnoticed. That those grand gestures are seen around the world, by everyone. Because it always helps if someone else puts in a good word. Make sure those grand gestures are read in the newspapers, seen on social media, watched on TV, every hour, every minute and every second. Like when you ask your-friend-that-happens-to-be-her-best friend to talk you up, make sure that your brand and your ideas have a friend talking you up. OR a gazillion friends for that matter.
Fede Garcia is Global Chief Creative Officer at BCW.