I’m an atheist.
It’s really easy for atheists to take potshots at religion.
But religion gets some things right. Religion understands (cliché alert) “storytelling.” Religion understands the power of big ideas, and ideas with longevity at that. And religion has a very sophisticated understanding of the all-encompassing nature of brand. This understanding includes the vital importance of powerful logos and iconography, of tone of voice, and of the steady, successive embracing of the latest technology.
That’s one hell of a claim to fame, if you’ll excuse the pun.
But the lesson I really want to draw from religion is the acute understanding (in most religions, at least) of the need for human beings to “commune.”
By commune, I mean the verb, not the noun. By definition, commune means “sharing one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with someone or something, especially when the exchange is on a spiritual level.”
The Killers’ Brandon Flowers knows about communing, too. Back in June, he got 90,000 of us singing, together, at the tops of our voices, in Wembley Stadium http://www.thefa.com/News/2013/jun/killers-wembley-tribute.aspx. It was huge. I had – even if only fleetingly – what felt like a profoundly deep connection with people with whom I had no other ostensible connection. Let’s call it “the thrill of warm confusion; that space-cadet glow,” to quote a different band.
And I realized how long it had been since I last felt like this. In a world of individualistic secularism, the more disconnected we are from each other, the more we need to come together.
Technology enables us to commune like never before. And that’s due in no small part to the fact that technology has long been dominated by the geeks. Geeks want to fit in, belong, commune. The platforms that they have built enable them, and all of us, to do just that: Facebook, Twitter, etc. Each is about coming together – to discuss politics, TV, music; anything and everything.
Yet, as marketers and advertisers, we don’t capitalize on communing.
Most brands are still pushing the agenda of the individual – appealing to his or her supposed instincts to be different and special. Like so many other aspects of advertising today (including the obsession with youth), this may well have been appropriate in the ‘50s and ‘60s. As baby boomers came of age, they wanted to mark themselves as distinct and smash out of the pre-ordained lifestyles of their parents.
But that battle has long since been won. So much so, that the truth today is that the bigger individual instinct is an instinct to belong; to be part of something bigger than themselves; to experience what Aldous Huxley called “transcendental unity.”
Because, in a digitally fragmented and socially mobile world, the desire to belong, to fit in, has never been so great. If we do not embrace this concept as marketers, we will never truly connect intimately with our customers (albeit en masse).
Nick Jefferson is the managing director at gyro London.
Follow Nick @NickJefferson