Few outside of the advertising industry appreciate just how cerebral and wonky this world can be. There are big ideas and mission statements that embody the hopes and dreams of society. Practical brands seek to become enablers of meaning, bigger brands take on larger-than-life mission statements and positioning-based brands seek to become greater than the cola they are selling.
In this world, a mother's choice of fabric softener is not just one of practicality, but a statement of each mother's love for her family. The soft clothes and towels are a cuddly hug to her children, the softness and scents reflect her own desired attributed as a mother, and the product becomes an enabler of warm moments. Pepsi becomes the Change Project, Ford becomes a technology company and Microsoft seeks to be viewed as the fantastical.Have big brands advanced enough to play the role of sponsoring the advancement of our society?
In an increasingly media-aware and media-oversaturated world, big brands seek to stand apart by standing apart. And in taking risks, some will fail.
Facebook Is Like A Chair
Facebook embraced the abstract, taking concepts that sound great in a creative brief or brainstorm and transposing them into an ad that made little sense to much of the general public.
This ad was brilliant in it's concept, but should have focused on translating the concept rather than transposing it into a public-facing message.
Red Bull Is Adrenaline
Red Bull on the other hand, has a far more tangible brand positioning. Red Bull is adrenaline. Where Facebook's ad asked one to take a step back as if in a museum, to ponder the art and understand it's greater meaning, Red Bull's brand is simpler and therefor easier to comprehend.
Brands Are Not Like Government
Our culture and our society are shaped by the leading visionaries among us. Whether it's in science or in the arts, the advancement of our collective culture is the responsibility of all who participate in this culture. This is why the government has long funded scientific discovery and the advancement of the arts. While I applaud the rise of private industry enabling the advancement of our society, we should not become reliant on brands or the private market to pave our road to the future.
Arthur Miller was sponsored by a Federal program when he wrote Death of a Salesman. In other words, the free market alone did not yet recognize the value this project would bring to society.
While P&G brought us soap operas and brand-integrated programming, both of which provided real social and economic value, NASA's early space voyages brought society countless, arguably greater social economic advances. While Red Bull may be funding stunts with potential scientific value and Google could theoretically sponsor a robotic mission to Mars, there are areas of societal advancement that demand our collective (governmental investment) beyond the market's current interests.
It is about time the private market got into space exploration. And I'm glad that the government paved the way, creating the demand for this lucrative sector. But don't we owe it to ourselves to be greater than the brand we sell?
I hope and pray that our future will be driven by the best we minds we can bring to the table, rather than brands competing for a place on our shelves.