Car as coping mechanism

This may have secured a few customers for Nissan, but it didn't demonstrate any care for customers who are insecure. The copy reads: "Envy. Terrible to feel. Wonderful to provoke."

Questions to ponder:

1. According to this ad, eliciting envy from others is a way to gain social worth. Are there customers who would buy the car for this reason?

2. Does humor make the copy less mean toward those in whom envy is provoked?

3. Is it OK to play on a customer's need for acceptance if it's done in a light-hearted way?

4. Is it possible for a car company to foster genuine self-esteem in their customers? If so, how might you do it?


Lovemarks: Part 2

"What if forming long-term emotional relationships could be more than a catchphrase?
What if brands could grow and evolve with richer and deeper connections in the same way that people can in their lives?
What if the emotion that could make this transformation was Love?"
-Kevin Roberts, Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands

One of my reactive questions to Roberts' questions is this: If hunger - the spiritual type - is necessary in order for me to remember what I most long for as a human being, how do I benefit from adding satiation value (Lovemark value) to products?

Jesus said to deny ourselves but he didn't command asceticism, so it's OK to have (and design/make/market!) pleasurable and even wonder-filled products. His command wasn't a call to give up my Moleskine day-timer. But if Moleskine day-timers "become for us an idol and begin to fulfill a spiritual role" (Barger, Eve's Revenge), then we need to give them up. Not build "long-term emotional relationships" with them.

You know the oft-quoted saying from C.S. Lewis' in "Weight of Glory":

"...Our Lord finds our desire, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition [and Lovemarks?] when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

I hope I don't sound like a pleasure-thief. But there's a fine line between loving my Moleskine because it is practically or aesthetically valuable to me and loving it because it helps me to fit in or elicits compliments from others. A friend even said that having a Moleskine makes him feel smarter simply for owning one, and I realized that I felt the same. Certainly I don't feel smarter because of the paper or binding, though it probably has something to do with the quality and attention to detail by gifted designers and manufacturers. However, I think it has most to do with the opening line of the insert:

"Moleskine is the legendary [a key word here] notebook used by European artists and thinkers [a bunch of key words] for the past two centuries [a key amount of time], from Van Gogh to Picasso, from Ernest Hemingway to Bruce Chatwin [I haven't a clue who this guy is, but the company he's listed with makes him significant, just as I am now significant for using this very same legendary notebook]...."

When a product "begins to fulfill a spiritual role," we are in danger of losing our hunger for what will most satisfy.

I know nothing about Roberts' convictions regarding spiritual matters, but I wonder why he finds it so important to wed love with products.



"When I first suggested that Love was the way to transform business, grown CEOs blushed and slid down behind their annual accounts. But I kept at them. I knew it was Love that was missing. I knew that Love was the only way to ante up the emotional temperature and create the new kinds of relationships brands needed."
- Kevin Roberts, Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands

Roberts, CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi, is married to the idea that love brings brands to life. By Love, he isn't referring to a sentence-filler that indicates preference, such as, "I love my i-Pod," or "I love my Sketchers." Rather, he means Love as something more like, "I love my daughter." That's the type of relationship he's interested in building between a customer and a product. (Read more about Lovemarks here.)

No doubt there are products you wouldn't do without. I started using pocket-sized Moleskine journals and day-timers a few years ago and wonder how I could ever switch back. In a sense, I'm committed to this brand and I love it in the same way I love my 17 year old Toyota RN.

But more importantly, I am awed by love, like when it forgives Jean Valjean in Les Miserables for stealing silver and then gives him a valuable gift. This love changes Valjean's life. Or when love awakens and pushes a stubborn man to initiate counseling for his dying marriage. Or when a professor enters her classroom for four decades, each morning recommitting her vocation to the service of the Kingdom of God and dedicating every insight and intellectual effort to the growth of her students.

Love is profoundly transformational, and not to be seen as an additive to the perishable items we consume.

Interestingly, Roberts does refer to love as transformational. He isn't interested in using love merely as a reference to liking something. But while he wants the depth and breadth of love, he employs it only as a helper in moving peoples' hearts toward falling in love with Stuff.

Whether it's natural for humans to develop emotional connections with certain products or not, this manipulative approach to love makes me feel queasy.


Advanced Parking Guidance System

I just returned from leading a spring break trip for college students. We spent seven days observing and discussing the myriad ways people search for elements of what Christians call Heaven. Of course, the fullness of our Utopian vision isn't available yet, but that doesn't stop us from searching for bits and pieces of it in the here and now.

The effective allure of advertising confirms this search, and while so many popular campaigns make promises they can't fulfill, many also offer products that bring ease into our daily routines. This print ad for the Lexus LS 460 L with the Advanced Parking Guidance System is a great example.

The text jumping back and forth across the car reads: " ...requires...doing...this."

Questions I wonder how you would answer:
1. Do you know someone who could genuinely benefit from having a car that can parallel park itself? (I can name several.)

2. Does the LS 460 L base price of $62,000 cause you to see this feature as a utility benefit or a bragging right? What if the car had a base price of $16,000?

3. Do features like this affect our ability to wait for Heaven, or are they to be celebrated as justifiable comforts along the way?



In my last post, I mentioned that Quentin Schultze will be talking about "redemptive advertising" at Redeemer Pres this month. I imagine the conversation that evening will include more than just ads for non-profits and social causes, but here is an example of one of those where creativity was put to good use by a church in Denver. Read more about it here.

And then a few weeks later...

And then a few weeks later...

And yep, those are all photos of the actual people needing a place to live.


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