Archives For philosophy

Every day we see some 247 pieces of advertising if we take the rough number of actual brand placement for the purpose of advertising and not just labels. When all of these labels and words are taken into account, some estimate between 3,000 and 20,000 pieces of advertising each day. While the 3,000+ might seem huge in comparison to 247, even that number is large. You can’t learn 200 words a day if you’re learning a new language, nor can you really remember that many songs at the end of the day.

Plutchik-wheel.svg

Plutchik’s wheel of emotions

Great advertising therefore needs to stick out from all of the muddled noise of simple “buy me” ads that do not convey any additional information about a product, nor inspire the potential customer to form some sort of bond with the product or brand. In that respect, advertising needs to be emotional and hit at least on one of the eight basic emotions: joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, surprise, or anticipation. The easiest way to do this is through storytelling, as narratives capture the audience’s attention and take them on a voyage that reaches a climax and is concluded. If the story is well formulated, a listener/viewer will want to experience the entire story, and feels unfulfilled if they do not receive it all.

Here are three ads that have done a brilliant job of telling stories and speaking to the audience’s emotions.

1. Johnnie Walker – The man who walked around the world

This ad for Johnnie Walker clearly works on the emotion of anticipation and its secondary emotion interest. The piper at the start catches our attention, but we are quickly told that this is not just a story of tradition, but rather of someone who stood out, as our narrator does. As he walks, like Johnnie Walker himself, small, yet telling props help relay the story. And like a story taking the listener on a journey, this video physically takes us on a journey through space and time. The motto “Keep Walking” is more than just an empty idea, it shows continual progress and adherence to ones path. “Keep Walking” means consistency, which is what Johnnie Walker is known for. This is a truly memorable commercial.

2. Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey

This commercial got some attention from Fast Company for its authenticity and being quintessentially Irish, though it was produced by an American Ad Agency. This ad plays on the emotions of sadness, surprise, and finally joy. With a sombre tune being sung by a group of young men in suits heading to a country chapel, the sudden rain seems to be pathetic fallacy at its best, aided by the symbolism of a falling hat. When the men sit on the wall by the church looking at the graveyard, one truly believes that someone has passed. Then with the toast that is quickly disrupted by the bride coming from the chapel, surprise leads to joy and the viewer understands that indeed someone has passed – passed a stage in their life and is entering a new one. The rain is not pathetic fallacy of the men begrudging the “loss” of their friend as he joins with his love, but rather, it is authentic Irish weather, and the singing and going through the rain a demonstration of the Irish view on their climate. Authenticity is the core value that Tullamore Dew aims to show in its brand, it’s where why they use the motto “Irish True.”

3. Guinness Basketball Commercial

As the last commercial shows, music is a very powerful conveyor of emotion. This is something, love him or hate him, that Richard Wagner also knew and is why his music is so testing to many people — it’s like an emotional rollercoaster. The music in this video is inspirational. The situation conveys the emotion of acceptance from the players’ point of view. They are in wheelchairs, but playing basketball with body and soul. And in this video we are again surprised to see that all of the players save one are able to walk, but are learning to play in wheelchairs. They too have accepted their friend’s status and do not show pity, but rather humility and put themselves in his position to play. In the end though, it doesn’t matter if you can walk or not, it’s about the dedication, loyalty, and friendship that everyone shows to each other that shows their true character. Character is the value that Guinness is aiming to show, and they have shown this in powerful and inspiring fashion. This is a great commercial.

Conclusion

When you’re coming up with an advertising campaign, you’ll need to tell a story, and your story better invoke emotion if you hope for it to succeed in conveying your brand’s core values and inspiring customers to buy your product or brand idea.

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This week a poll of the Swiss population found that 55% of people would favour a law that would limit the wages of top managers at firms to no more than twelve times that of the lowest earning employee – a 12:1 ration. And this week in the Swiss economics and finance magazine Bilanz, Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum in Davos, said that he believes that top managers shouldn’t make more than 20 times more than the empolyee earning the least. The 12:1 bill was proposed by the Juso, but fell on deaf ears in Bern with the government not wanting anything to do with it.

However, the people could push it through as a People’s Initiative and pass this proposal into law. Such a shot would be like Wilhelm Tell totally missing the mark and shooting his son square in the head. A limiting of manager wages by the state would cause a mass exodus of work from the country and increase corporate fraud.

Let there be no mistake, the initiative has its virtues and does address a very major problem, which is the growing gap between the rich and the poor. In many countries it is a gap that most are too ignorant to acknowledge. Look at Governor Mitt Romney in the USA claiming to be middle class and Swiss billionaire chemical tycoon Christoph Blocher saying he represents the average Swiss person. Meanwhile the working poor are too busy working to feed off the scraps and empty promises thrown to them by the top earners to understand how the system is not in their favour. All that said, we in Switzerland still have it better than in many other countries. But rest assured that if some have their way with the Euro crisis, Europe — Switzerland included — will start to head further down the North American road to anti-prosperity.

Now let’s look at the idea of legally forcing companies to limit what they pay their managers. As I stated above this idea has a rational basis, but has not been correctly thought out. First off, it could mean that companies move to places where such laws do not exist. In today’s world people and capital can travel freely — that’s why Switzerland is still doing relatively well. Because the USA and many European countries supposedly tax too high. If companies don’t leave then they’ll look for other ways of getting the money to the top managers in bonuses, allowances and other dubious means, which surely will also escape taxation. So this is not a good idea. However, the argument being put forth by many business experts that there are no qualified people that would do the job for less is blatantly absurd.

If anything a company that would make it its own policy to not pay their top manager more that 12 or 20 times that of the lowest paid worker would probably have a better management than it would with managers being paid at the extreme ends. At 600,000 francs a year the manager is still not earning peanuts. And he would feel more responsible to his company to ensure that it does well in the future.

Lord Acton once wrote in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The same goes for money. Money is an invention that allows us to turn things and skills into common tradable units. Most often it is related to time, the one thing all humans are given. As soon as ones wealth is in a vast disproportion to the number of hours they have to work or even live, there is the potential for that person to believe in a sort of immortality — power and be corrupted. The same is true on the other end of the scale as well. People who do not have enough money and no way of trading their skills or products for other items can also be corrupted.

When a manager does his or her work for the money alone, they are doing it for the wrong reason and will harm the company they are working for in the long run. This is a reason why respectable companies need to individually limit their managers and employees. Better yet would be managers and employees who can limit themselves.

For those interested business, management and economic theory Fixing the Game by Roger L. Martin (ISBN: 1422171647) gives some very interesting insights into how in the longterm shareholder value maximization has actually produced less returns than the pre-1976 business theory.

If there is one thing that I’ve had to learn this year it’s the importance or managing expectations. Now I know this is a very trendy phrase in business and many people won’t pay it much attention, but I believe it is important because it means that you try to control or forecast the emotions and based on that alone, the irrational.

I’ll use one example to highlight this: Swiss International Airlines had an incidence this past week of failing to manage their employees expectations. I really respect Swiss as a company for their innovative use of social media and for their attention to detail and realizing the value of giving customers a full package deal without all the extra costs involved when flying discount airlines, which often end up being more expensive than a major carrier. However, when I read the newspaper article this week about how the airline decided to not pay out Christmas bonuses to their employees despite record profits, I was a little taken aback.

Why would Swiss not pay their employees a bonus, when they’ve made more money than in the past? Many employees were evidently very upset, and when one reads many of the newspapers one can understand why. But the papers failed to paint a clear picture for the sake of a David and Goliath story.

Further research into the matter showed that Swiss had only offered Christmas bonuses in the years 2008, 2009, and 2010. The airline has been in operation since 2002. This fact was left out of the papers. What was mentioned was that the bonus is not part of the employees’ general contract. The questions as to how Swiss dealt with the situation here will draw up critics on both sides. Many felt sorry for the employees and bought up the capitalist taking advantage of the working class story. Others sided fully with the company and said that it is typical that employees are never happy with their employers and always feel owed more.

Noting that hindsight is 20/20, what could Swiss have done better? Being as the airline stated that certain goals were not achieved that would have allowed them to pay out the bonuses, we see that there were economic underpinnings for the decision. The operating costs of airlines are huge and as the airline crisis after September 11, 2001 show airlines can quickly fall into bankruptcy — that is after all what happened to Swiss Air. With economic growth expected to be slow in 2012, airlines need to maintain capital to make it through future rough spots. In that respect, many employees may well be happy next year when the financial reserves could mean that no one loses a job. But what could the airline have done differently?

The optimal solution would have been after the last bonus was given to make all employees aware of the new targets that the company was setting for the coming year and the need for those targets to be met and surpassed for a payment of a bonus in the following year. During the year the company could have kept employees informed on how they were doing in achieving their goals.

This would have had two positive effects. It would have managed the expectations of employees by letting them know that a bonus is not guaranteed just because they got one the past three years. Second, having a company goal would have given employees an incentive to try and reach the target together and possibly have bettered service, customer satisfaction, and increased ridership.

Letting employees know in an e-mail a week before they expected their bonuses that they would not be getting one was a mistake in managing expectations, that I’m sure the company won’t make again. For the rest of us it is an excellent example of the importance of being upfront with people and making sure that both parties understand what is expected from each other.

The current state of American and Canadian politics reminds me a great deal of Plato’s parable of the cave. To be clear, I think that both the United States and Canada have a great deal in common that goes beyond their language and being located in North America. They are almost one in the same, though most Canadians will fight this argument with everything they have, for they are brought up to believe themselves superior to Americans. Yet this is in itself a manifestation of Canadian insecurities regarding their relationship to the United States. To lessen the bitterness of this fact, it is true amongst many countries where one is more dominant than the other, but linguistically or culturally they bare some similarity.

But getting away from that what I have observed is the following. Both Canadians and Americans are in general hardworking, good, honest people. They want the same as most anyone. But they are slaves in a system. The Occupy movements in many cities have not found quite the resonance with the average person that they should have. Why is that? Is it because they are Republicans or Conservatives? No. It’s because they are exactly the people I just described — hardworking, good, honest folk. They all believe that if you work hard that you will get ahead. But few understand that the cards are stacked against them. As they go to work day in and day out their pay continually lowers in real terms. However, institutions are willing to lend them money to make ends meet or invest in the new tool or toy that will give them a chance to break the cycle or at least step out of the routine for a while.

This fact brings us to Plato. In the parable of the cave, Plato describes a scenario where people are chained up in a cave and only see scary shadows on the walls. If one person were to be freed and see the real world, Plato postulates, he would want to return to the cave and tell his friends about the real world he has seen:

“Wouldn’t he remember his first home, what passed for wisdom there, and his fellow prisoners, and consider himself happy and them pitiable? And wouldn’t he disdain whatever honors, praises, and prizes were awarded there to the ones who guessed best which shadows followed which? Moreover, were he to return there, wouldn’t he be rather bad at their game, no longer being accustomed to the darkness? Wouldn’t it be said of him that he went up and came back with his eyes corrupted, and that it’s not even worth trying to go up? And if they were somehow able to get their hands on and kill the man who attempts to release and lead them up, wouldn’t they kill him?” (517a)

Many liberals and Occupy movement members are essentially the person who has escaped from the cave and returned trying to help their friends. Perhaps they went on a trip to Europe or they simply realize that the current numbers prove that the harder you work does not necessarily result in better earnings for yourself. However, those who still believe that, feel threatened by someone coming and disrupting their reality.

In my opinion, this is exactly the obstacle that the occupy members need to help their fellow citizens get passed.