Before the advent of the notion of truth within advertising in the late 60s, the main tool anyone had at their disposal was ‘mythology’; the myth that consumers were sold was of an idealised existence, that they could attain if only they possessed the right products. And so to sell nylons? You sell love, the nylons just happen to be the only visible and therefore attainable aspect of the story. Really what this all boils down to is desire and seduction.
I often liken this to a first date with someone. On paper, there can be lots of yesses next to your perceived criteria for success in a relationship. The trouble is, human beings are universally terrible at determining the difference between what they need (the bit on paper), and what they want. Sitting in front of a prospective partner with a piece of paper telling you this should be the person of your dreams, quite frankly often means diddly squat to most people. How many times have you ever heard someone say ‘there was just no spark, no chemistry’.
Unfortunately, research has often been very much like that rational tick-list. When asked why they choose a particular brand, consumers often reach for the list – you know the one that tells you to buy a brand because it has x or y benefits. And when they tell you about the benefits, they believe it, they are not intentionally lying or misinforming you, they are trying to give you an honest answer. After all, you might sound a little nuts if you tried to explain the chemistry you had with the brand, or the spark you felt as you reached for those biscuits – much easier to tell me that they had 25% extra chocolate instead.
This is a problem though, because it means in marketing all too often the research debrief you are sat in is selling you a load of hokum. The things you think make your audience tick, are actually those little rational white lies, the ones designed to deflect attention away from what you really want which is an emotional connection, a spark, a little bit of magic.
So how do you get beyond the rational stuff? Well speaking to consumers in a more intimate environment, and at different points in their lives helps. I have never sat behind a piece of two way glass in a dark room, listening to a group of strangers awkwardly discussing their lives, and ever felt very satisfied with what I’ve heard. Sure it can add to a picture, but this seems like a fragment of a much larger picture. Instead you need to get cleverer with your audience, to find out how they behave and what they think, building up the picture piece by piece until you are able to create a more substantial 3D render of them.
Combine this with a long hard look at your brand’s assets, and your competitive landscape and you can turn simple observation and truism into insight – the thing that will give your brand a competitive edge and ultimately the single most important asset that will allow you to sell more stuff.
Fundamentally for Don Draper to be the successful advertising protagonist that he is, relies on his understanding of insight, or breakthrough insights as we like to call them here. If love was created to sell more nylons, then the breakthrough insight will tell you that it was love in the first place that would do it, and the specific brand of love that would do it best.