We had a little expedition to an exhibition yesterday: The Power of Making at the V&A. It’s small but perfectly formed and I urge you to go to see it while you can because it helps make you think about things in a slightly different way. The exhibition showcases objects that have been made in unique ways, often using unusual materials, or that you have to look closely at to appreciate what they are expressing. There was a brown bear that you assume has been taxidermied, but up-close you realise it’s actually been made by crochet. Or a sculpture of a shark made out of recycled car tyres. Or the Alexander McQueen shoes as seen on Lady Gaga, designed to look like ballerina’s en pointe shoes.
All these wonderful creations that make you reasses your initial beliefs about them. Created by innovators and artists who take something everyday (a chest of drawers, a bicycle, a carpet) and either build them using unlikely materials or in such a method as to make them stand out from the norm. They make you stop and think, and change your perception about that particular thing: its uses or potential uses, its appearance, its history, its provenance.
But we are media planners and buyers, we do not make tangible things. We don’t have materials at our disposal that we can use to manipulate peoploe’s perceptions of our clients’ brands. The greatest tool we have is our understanding of how people behave, and what motivates them to pick one brand over another. What makes someone choose to do their Christmas shopping in Sainsbury’s rather than Tesco? Why would families choose to watch Happy Feet 2 over Arthur Christmas? Obviously there are some things that you can’t affect (proximity to a store, love of penguins) but for the vast majority of brands, decisions are made in a very short space of time, influenced by people’s subconscious. Our understanding of people’s behaviour helps us get into their subconscious, and affect the way they behave.
And how are we going to do this, without tangible materials to manipulate? By acting in ways that people wouldn’t expect, by behaving in ways that a brand wouldn’t normally. Chips on the big screen. Creme Egg recreating classic movies. BHF making a night of risque but pertinent female comedy. None of these things are how their categories normally behave, so people pay attention and take note. Be brave.
By Juliet Du Vivier @julietduv