February 24, 2004

"the kinetic quality": the future of advertising

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"The Kinetic Quality": All products are information. The molecules are secondary.

(UPDATE: For more info go here: "The Hughtrain Manifesto.")

The future of brands is interaction, not commodity. It's not something you buy, but something you paticipate in.

i.e. a brand is not a thing, but a place.

Here's an example: My former agency was pitching Gerber ( the US baby food company) a few years ago. During the pitch I told them "you don't know a lot about babies because you make great products. You make great products because you know a lot about babies."

Think about it. The average 22-year-old new mom doesn't go into a Kentucky Wal-Mart looking for baby food. She goes into Wal-Mart looking for information. She wants any information she can get about how to be a better mother, and she's willing to spend money to get it.

After she has the information, then she wants products that are credible extensions of the information. A good baby-food brand is merely an extension of good paediatric nutrition.... i.e. put the information first, and the products and sales will follow.

So what we pitched was turning their Wal-Mart shelf space into miniature "information centers". We'd sell the products, obviously, but there would be other things as well- books, leaflets, CD-Roms etc etc. Basically, a young mother would leave Wal-Mart a lot more informed about babies than when she entered... and her shopping bags full of Gerber products. This is what I mean about "the kinetic quality" of a brand. A good brand offers immediate and obvious transformation.

If Mom doesn't leave Wal-Mart a better informed mom than when she entered, then somewhere along the line Gerber isn't doing its job.

Of course a good Gerber website/blog would enhance this process. The TV and magazine campaigns would be more informative than 'selling'. All under the umbrella concept of "Healthy Happiness Hints". Giving little parcels of managable information, communicated as "hints".

My point is: the kinetic quality applies as much to package goods (baby food) as it does to media brands (The Economist, The Wall Street Journal etc). A good marketer understands this, and tries to tap into it.

In the old days, the three most important words in advertising were "Unique Selling Proposition". To me, the three most important words are "By Interacting With..."

-By interacting with Gerber, she becomes a better-informed mom.

-By interacting with The Wall Street Journal, she becomes more tuned into the world of capitalism.

-By interacting with Apple, she brings her entrepreneurial dreams closer to reality.

-By interacting with McDonald's, her busy schedule is made slightly easier by avoiding a lot of fuss over lunch.

-By interacting with Ralston Purina, she becomes more attached to her canine friend.

-By interacting with your brand, she becomes...?

A good brand is a two-way conversation.

What we bloggers know about the nature of information (a great deal) can be applied far beyond our usual diet of media, politics and journalism. Because all products are information. The molecules are secondary.

Which is why I believe this is a very exciting time for all of us.

[UPDATE:]

Jeff Jarvis (at Buzzmachine.com) has started blogging about the very same subject and mentioned this very post. Thanks, Jeff :)

btw: I left the following thought in his comment section:

"My advice to clients vis-a-vis the internet is: the infrastructure is not here yet, but it's coming. In the meantime, just start the conversation and keep it going. Make your mistakes and push yourself up the learning curve as fast as you can while the baby is still in its infancy. Believe me, when the next big wave begins (1-4 years?) you'll be glad you did."

Posted by hugh macleod at February 24, 2004 3:07 PM
Comments

Great stuff, Hugh! As a fellow copywriter (and blogger) here in Germany I hope Your Cluetrain-inspired (?) Kinetic Quality idea of how communications/advertising/branding should and will work in the near future has a chance to drip into the brains of the marketing guys industry-wide.

Posted by: Roland Mueller at March 31, 2004 10:34 AM

I think it will, Roland, though I think it will take a while. Too much money to be made pretending things haven't changed.

Posted by: hugh macleod at April 2, 2004 12:15 PM

Hugh

Great lunch yesterday.

We have an interesting and wealthy future coming right up.

Talk to you soon.

Hugh

Posted by: Hugh Cheswright at April 8, 2004 8:10 AM

i only read a few entries, but i must say your thoughts are very much "borderline brilliant."

thanks.

i'll be back

steve
cross channel technologies

Posted by: steve tobin at July 1, 2004 12:40 AM

I never thought of going into the advertising business, i never had the previledge of going to a formal school to learn this stuff, i learned by listening and being aware of my environment, more of a gut feel, and that is how i base my design and approach potential client, i am from the Philippines and frankly the field here is still played the traditional way, it works though direct approach more to the heart of the buying public, you should see the ads for Mcdonalds, i'm still dreaming but i wish i could follow the footsteps of David Ogilvy, for me he is one of the most brilliant person in this field, i wish i could also get to meet and talk to people like you who has a different view on this, need to know more, if not i'll just go back to repairing busted TV's and stereo's

Posted by: Manny at July 12, 2004 6:28 AM

I never thought of going into the advertising business, i never had the previledge of going to a formal school to learn this stuff, i learned by listening and being aware of my environment, more of a gut feel, and that is how i base my design and approach potential client, i am from the Philippines and frankly the field here is still played the traditional way, it works though direct approach more to the heart of the buying public, you should see the ads for Mcdonalds, i'm still dreaming but i wish i could follow the footsteps of David Ogilvy, for me he is one of the most brilliant person in this field, i wish i could also get to meet and talk to people like you who has a different view on this, need to know more, if not i'll just go back to repairing busted TV's and stereo's

Posted by: Manny at July 12, 2004 6:28 AM

No borderline about it Steve, just absafuckinglutely brilliant...!

Posted by: Rich...! at July 18, 2004 7:33 PM

This is brilliant! I read it over and over again and find it just brilliant...

Posted by: N/. at July 21, 2004 6:50 PM

If you guys keep stroking his ego it is going to squirt you in the face, you better watch out!

Posted by: John Fuller at August 16, 2004 4:24 AM

I've been having these kind of conversations with clients since day one - the only difference is, not being American, I don't build a website, blow my own trumpet and go on about how great I am. I knew I was doing something wrong.

Chris. Copywriter/CD

Posted by: Chris at August 23, 2004 4:45 PM

yeah, modest Chris doesn't overdo it or anything...

Posted by: A Hunny at August 28, 2004 9:52 PM

u uberrocker! me copyrocker!:)

Posted by: jai tasty at January 3, 2005 11:44 AM

...oddest sensation Hugh, to hear my hidden voice through you.

Feeling a sincere admiration for your ability to transcend and include all the levels/world views of your personal and not seperable professioanl path ( sex/cash).

I've re-remembered my Everest..and am geering up for the assent.

A deep, heart-felt thank you.

Posted by: Sandra Banister at January 4, 2005 10:28 AM