The Idea of YOU.
If you were to spend just a single day paying attention to all that you consume, be it physically, visually, or sonically, you’ll start to notice a pattern.
Hopefully, you’ve already caught on…
Caught on to the fact that all day long you are being sold ideas.
The companies that market to you are selling you the idea of the type of life you could have if you purchase and ultimately use their products. Live a wrinkle-free, blemish-free life with this skincare product. Enter a permanent vacation of sunny days and no tan lines with this sunscreen. Run a marathon or shred twice as hard at the gym with this supplement. Live a healthy lifestyle by signing up for this prepped meal service.
Let’s not even get started on fashion ads–wouldn’t you look great in our dress frolicking in a field of wildflowers, or enjoying the cool ocean breeze on a Sunday yacht date? Or perfume ads, wear our perfume and enjoy a passionate love affair in a foreign land. Drink this tequila and watch your night go from tame to #turntup after one shot.
The glossies were the epitome of selling you ideas page after page, issue after issue. Now our phones are where much of our fantasy life lives. Endless scrolling of IG and TikTok influencers that all recreate the same photos and trends one after the other and all start to look the same, giving the impression that the carefree fantasy life is within reach.
Fantasies-on-demand! Because reality on demand may work for the voyeur side of human nature, but it’s not what’s on their Pinterest boards. And even if they prefer real people selling them items in a non-ad ad, it’s still an enhanced and curated version of reality. As the mundane or gritty details of day-to-day are exactly what they’re trying to escape.
Sure, we may clue you into the #bts of a campaign via well-edited videos and shots, but you still don’t get the reality of what really happened behind-the-scenes like perhaps when the photographer or AD blew a fuse or when a literal fuse blew or what a hot mess the model, actor, or influencer showed up as and how hair and make-up really earned their pay that day. Or the fact that the influencer or model who looks so carefree in Paris, just got evicted from their NYC apartment or are in major credit card debt. You don't necessarily need to know those stories, those that hire them sometimes get to hear them all, but those are the stories that end up in films not in ad campaigns. Not yet, anyhow.
Ads, images, and campaigns must remain surface-level and innocuous enough in order to leave enough room for you. While the product or lifestyle needs to be presented in a way that is appealing to you. Even more than wanting the product, it needs to make you visualize your own potential with this product even more. You being your best carefree version or yourself with this product.
All of these ads need to allow you to insert yourself and the people in the ads and photos need to feel interesting enough, but generic enough that you could replace that person with yourself or to be able to add yourself.
As a marketer, much of my job throughout my career has been to trigger your #FOMO. To make you need to participate in something or to make it a “not-to-be-missed” moment that you’d clear your Thursday night or an hour of your week (possibly more for a binge sesh) for.
It has also been to get you to envision yourself engaging with what I’m marketing before you leave the ad or before the promo is done playing, or these days, before your scrolling continues. I need to make you stop and then I need to keep you there and lastly I need to convert you to actually make a purchase, watch something, or to follow an account.
For the indecisive, I am making the decision for you. You need this. Your life will be that much better for having this or for having watched this. End of discussion. I have 2-5 seconds to hook you, and a max of 10-15 seconds to close you. Wall Street and Real Estate professionals at least get to court you, potentially date you, and then enter a relationship. All we get is at best a quick meeting of the eyes and if we’re lucky a speed date session and then boom! #truelove or bust.
Much like relationships, the early stages are all about the idea of someone until you actually get to know them and determine if #irl is better than the idea of them that you had in your head or not what you envisioned at all (which can be either good or bad).
I was mindlessly watching a silly Hallmark Channel style movie yesterday while I multi-tasked and the main characters were tasked with creating an ad campaign for an all-inclusive resort. The winning formula was the tagline “Just add you!” which spawned a series of creative where all that was missing in the scenes set was you
That’s pretty much the basis of every single campaign ever created, if you’re a good marketer that’s your creed, “give them enough to know what you’re selling or enough to peak their interest, but leave enough room for their imagination to join in the fun.”
Films and TV are different animals than standard digital, print, and out-of-home (OOH) marketing, but also play out in a similar way. Ultimately, a filmmaker wants to tell a story that is going to resonate with somebody (hopefully many “somebodys”) in the world. Outside of self-centered egomaniacs or NSFW leaks, most anyone who makes a film definitely wants their content to be consumed.
The truth is that yes, a cute outfit might make you feel better, that foundation might make your face look flawless, that energy drink really might give you more energy for a few hours, that perfume may smell delicious to your senses and those of others, but none of those products are going to magically solve all of your problems nor transport you on a whimsical trip to a tropical island with white sand beaches. That part is up to you. The product may help with your confidence, but ultimately there is no genie in a bottle ready to grant your three wishes.
You can absolutely take those products with you on your trip to that island though, and anytime you use them or smell them or even anytime you think of the brand, etc. you may be forever reminded of the amazing time that you had there. Exactly what the product wants.
Everything in life is an experience, good or bad. Most experiences are first based on the idea of something. Even your trip to the drive-thru of a fast food chain required you thinking about what you felt like eating and to a certain degree envisioning that meal or menu.
In the end, most of us are creatures of habit and typically will stick to products that we are familiar with or that we know work, so it really does take a good ad or a lot of buzz and word-of-mouth to get us to try something.
Just like the saying goes, “If you can see it, you can be it.”
So if you can see yourself using a product or engaging with it and more importantly when you envision it it adds something to your life or solves a problem for you, then you will more often than not take that final step to actually buy it.
In the end, what every product is selling you is your potential. Your potential to lead a better life. A more exciting life. A healthier life. A memorable life. Whatever it is that you’re seeking and it turns out that you don’t really need any of those products nor the fantasy and escape that they or the influencers who spent hours doing their hair and make-up provide.
All that you need to fulfill your ultimate fantasy is YOU.
What we market to you is just a bonus enhancing what you already have within you.