What a unique time to be a human on this planet – it’s a bit scary! But like riding on a dodgy rollercoaster at a rundown amusement park, thrill and fear do often go hand in hand. I think the Michael Jackson Eating Popcorn GIF has captured the feeling of being spectators to a horror show well. One thing is clear, we’ve got some problems.
In the creative industry, it's our job to make problems go away – we see them as a challenge. I get the greatest satisfaction from taking on challenges for our clients and creating solutions that have great effect and impact.
Whether that’s a commercial challenge to sell a service or product, a fundraising or promotional challenge, or a social and cultural challenge, the basic fundamentals for success are often the same. It usually relies on cut through (being seen and noticed), followed by impact, influence and action. What got your attention (and where), why do you remember it and did it cause you to take action? Simple, yes? Take some marketing 101 with a pinch of behavioural science and a dash of creativity and voilà – success! Actually, not so simple. Getting noticed and then causing someone to act is often less of a standard formula and more like a dark art.
Over the past year, we’ve assisted clients communicating COVID-19 awareness and promoting safe behaviour and practices. We’ve learnt first hand that even when dealing with subject matter that’s potentially life threatening, actually causing people to change their behaviour is still one of the hardest things to achieve.
Physical distancing posters designed by Thirst Creative for Eastern Health.
Ultimately, influencing people and their actions is at the heart of commercial success as much as it’s at the heart of solving some of our world's biggest problems. This has inspired me to open up the tool box and look at some of the ways we do this in the creative industry.
Humour and laughter is like a wonder drug. It increases the endorphins released by your brain and has a number of other health benefits too (including effective pain relief). Humour also socially connects and unites us – it’s no wonder we all love to laugh so much.
Humour is also a powerful tool to communicate a message and trigger memory and action. One of my favourite examples of this is a campaign created for the charity Donate Life in the US. The objective of the campaign was to appeal to the younger audience (particularly males) and encourage them to sign up for organ donation. The creative is gutsy and deliberately provocative to help reach the target audience and tells the surprising story of ‘Coleman Sweeney, The World's Biggest Asshole’. It’s hilariously crude and extremely clever.
The campaign was a huge success and caused a massive increase in Donate Life registrants and also doubled the percentage of registrants from the target audience.
Over the recent lengthy lockdown in Melbourne, I found myself turning to nostalgia. I think because the familiarity and emotional attachment provides a feeling of comfort and security. Nostalgia is so impactful in marketing that it has its own title - Nostalgia Marketing! Nostalgia marketing uses the associated emotion as a hook. It’s often surprising and stands out from the noise which gets our attention and then stimulates any number of emotional responses. It triggers our sentiment to a time or memory, or to a person or thing which often makes us smile and be more open to the message.One fun and effective example of this that stood out to me recently was the VB and Dunlop Volley team up for the ultimate Aussie sneaker of the summer. Both these brands are iconic and have legendary retro cred. This surprisingly perfect collaboration created a fashion collectable and helped sell a lot of beer (and shoes) to a younger and trendier audience.
A mnemonic, or memory device, is any learning technique that aids information retention and memory retrieval. Mnemonics can make use of tools such as imagery and visualisation, acronyms and rhymes, as well as audio and songs – or a combination of these. We see memory devices everywhere in advertising and marketing, from jingles to slogans to the creation or adoption of new words, sounds and even the style of delivery.
It’s remarkable the amount of useless information my brain has unwittingly retained over the years due to this mighty and memorable marketing technique. I could rattle off hundreds of good and bad examples. Unfortunately, our brains aren’t particularly discerning with the content of a mnemonic (think Frank Walker from National Tiles) because if it’s effective, we will soak it up all the same.
One example that still stands strong today and carries a message just as important as when it was created in the 1980’s is the sun protection campaign prominent in Australia and New Zealand, Slip-Slop-Slap. From the song, to the use of alliteration, to the brain game for us to want to know what Slip Slop and Slap are referring to – it’s beautifully simple yet complex at the same time. Even the unique seagull character with a lisp that delivers the song and message aids information retention.
We’re all so different and our values, beliefs and preferences are not always shared. I think our differences should be celebrated but so often they are the cause of devision, segregation and oppression in society. So it’s especially bold and brave when social injustices or bigotry are challenged by brands, businesses or groups in a commercial space and through the mainstream media.
For brands, it usually comes from the core of their purpose and is driven by absolute conviction in their values – which equates to authenticity. It can be challenging and even confronting and that’s the point. This form of communication is very powerful because it’s in your face and makes you think and question yourself.
An exceptional example of this is the recent “You Love Me” campaign by Beats by Dre.
I hope we see a lot more brands standing up in a similar way to challenging stale, conservative and closed minded views and methodologies.
There are a number of other influential communication methods we could unpack – from appealing to the heart and human compassion, to education, to good old fashioned reward (win a free iPad). There are many effective ways to make an impact and influence actions.
Whether it’s solving problems for our clients or all of us effectively repairing any number of our small world’s big issues, we fundamentally need to influence human behaviour. We’re going to need the full kit and use those tools more creatively than ever before.
And, I think that’s pretty exciting!