Do you remember the 80′s monster/horror-in-space film “Alien”? It’s a seminal work of sci-fi/horror from creative genius Ridley Scott, one of my all-time favorite film-makers. Check it out if you haven’t yet. Amazing movie. What’s particularly brilliant about the film — the story-telling technique that hooks the audience and doesn’t let go until the credits roll — is the teasingly delayed reveal of the monster (the alien). We know it’s a scary alien movie, but we only get parts of the aliens story, quick images of things in brief flashes, which never SHOW us the alien — until almost the very end. The technique at work in this movie — the delayed monster reveal — demonstrates Scott’s horror film-making genius, as these teasing flashes do a really great job of keeping us guessing throughout the film. Which is to say, Scott withholds the thing we want most to see up on the screen, and in doing so FORCES US TO IMAGINE WHAT HE REFUSES TO SHOW US: the scary alien we are all afraid of.
Scott is a brilliant storyteller, and he knows that by refusing to show us the monster our brains will naturally fill in the blanks. That’s just how our brains work. We all fear the dark to some degree, right? But it’s not the dark we fear, it’s the not seeing, not knowing what’s there in the dark, that opens up the space in our mind TO FILL IN THE BLANK WITH MONSTERS. Or whatever. Your imagination is a hugely powerful force inside your brain. What it makes is always more powerful than what can be seen. That’s why the book is ALWAYS better than the film.
In “Alien,” Scott engages our imagination and sets the stage for us to draw the monster in our own minds. Much, much more powerful than anything Scott could put on film. Ever see “The Blair Witch Project”? Most profitable film of all time (based on investment cost vs. earnings). Same thing. Tease us with parts and pieces of the horror, but never show us the witch — leaving us to fill in the blanks. Scary!! I dare you to watch it alone at night…
Would you believe me if I said that successful advertising works in much of the same way? Because I am saying it. Right here.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting your brand advertising should resemble a horror film. Nor am I suggesting you withhold information or delay your selling points . But what I am saying is idea-driving brand advertising will out-perform image-based advertising always. Always.
Remember, the average American comes into contact with 3,000 ad images each day. Think about that. Think. About that. How many ads can you recall from yesterday? How many from today?! Not too many, right? Ad images come and go. But ideas… Ideas stick in the brain. Think about the last meaningful job-related conversation you had. Or political argument. Idea-driven conversation, right? You thought about that idea before the conversation and likely have thought about that idea many times since. An idea is like a virus. (And if I just stole that line from The Matrix, I apologize to the Wachowski brothers.) But ideas really ARE like viruses. They burrow into our brains and they lodge themselves there. It’s hard to get rid of an idea once it takes hold. That’s just how our brain works.
Now think about what we ask of our advertising. We want our ads to go out into the market and stick in people’s brains — catch their attention, and then stay in brains, making them think about us. Stick and stay — like a virus. Good advertising campaigns, if they want to stick, must therefor start with an idea. Think about your favorite ads. It’s not the color of the logo that makes you remember that ad right now. It’s the brand idea stuck in your brain.
This is good news for you. Really, good news. Look around you, look at your competing casinos. Most casinos ad campaigns are are image-based. Lots of pretty pictures of the gaming floor and pretty people and money and wide-eyes and open mouths. No ideas. Just pictures of the obvious: it’s a casino, here are the games. A brochure of items for sale, as it were. Do you think this sort of ad is the sort of ad your audience will remember tomorrow — or will it be forgotten? What are the chances this ad will stick in their brains?
Close to zero. And that’s your opportunity. If you make one change in your marketing for next year, change from image-based brand advertising to idea-driven brand advertising. Make advertising messaging that that’s memorable, that makes people notice, that gives them something to think about. Engage their brain, hook them with your brand idea. Be an advertising brand virus. Be the alien space monster that no one can stop thinking about.
This entry was posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2012 at 4:25 pm and is filed under advertising, marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.