A tale of humility and indifference

The IPA kindly invited me to speak at their 44 Club last night. The argument I shared was a simple one:

"The limits of my language" opined the philosopher Wittgenstein "are the limits of my world". The rhetoric and metaphor of modern marketing - ‘community’, ‘relationships’, ‘fans’, ‘loyalty’, ‘love’, etc. - fundamentally misunderstands how people really feel and behave towards brands. Facing up to people's general indifference to what we make, putting aside our egos and letting go of our personal need to feel significant is creativity's best chance.

This was a slightly reworked version of a theme I've banged on about before - this time with additional data illustrating the gulf that exists between marketing's bouts of hubris and the consumer's reality.

It is worth noting that this is not an argument for dispensing with the metaphor of human relationships altogether. Remembering what makes for good communication between humans beings is probably one of the best bulwarks against producing stuff that merely bores or shouts at people. But that is something very different from conflating habits, preferences and satisfactions with what makes for a human relationship.

Nor is this an argument in favour of some kind of brutal, soulless utilitarianism. After all, most human decision making is intuitive, instinctive, judgmental, emotional and works just below the level of consciousness. And most people aren’t ‘maximizers’, conducting elaborate cost-benefit analyses in the supermarket aisles and seeking the very best their money can get them.The relative insignificance of brands in people’s lives, does not diminish the necessity of building and sustaining rich, enduring, vivid, emotionally-packed and easily-accessed memory structures in people’s minds.

One last caveat, since some more sensitive souls have taken this  presentation to be some kind of act of heresy. I have used the nature of digital interactions simply as supporting evidence of how people really think and feel about brands. My beef is not with 'digital', but overestimating how much people really care.

Anyway, the slides are here if anyone is interested:

[slideshare id=16647530&doc=howtofail-ipa-130220073029-phpapp02]

And here's the one piece of work I shared:


My thanks to the IPA for the invitation and for being such generous and lovely hosts.  And of course thank you to everybody who came along.