Movies, Marketing and the Evolution of Man

evolution

What do movies and marketing have in common? Turns out, quite a bit. While my background is in fiction film and postproduction, after four years making videos in the marketing industry, I’ve realized that movies and marketing share an important common goal: emotions. The goal of marketing or branding is to emotionally connect with people, something that movies have done from the start.

Emotional connection is how innovative brands like Apple or Nike create cult followers. It’s also how films — and all forms of storytelling, really — develop followers, too. That’s certainly how I became such a big follower, fan and, eventually, maker of films.

Never was this made clearer to me than when I recently took a class on branding by Dan Formosa, an award-winning designer and design research consultant. In the class, Formosa talked about branding in the context of the evolution of the species. Just how long has branding been with us?

That depends a bit on how you define branding. One definition of branding focuses purely on the logo or mark that represents a product. By that definition scholars might put the beginning of branding at 1777 with the creation of the Bass beer red triangle. But if we think of branding as any packaged product available for public consumption, we might look back to 1100 BC, with an Indian herbal paste called Chyawanprash. Still, even then, that’s only 3,115 years ago. If modern man has been around for 200,000 years, that means we’ve been building brands for a mere 1.5% of our existence as a species.

In other words, evolutionarily speaking, we’re not built for branding. We did not evolve to love products, companies or brands.

We did, however, evolve to love people. We’re built for connection.

And this is why people gravitate so intensely to stories, because they express the complexities of human relationships. The brands that understand this are the most successful brands out there.

A brand doesn’t win people over by explaining how great its product or service is; it wins people by building human relationships with them and, in turn, humanizing the brand itself. What’s interesting is now, thanks to the omnipresence of social media, brands can engage with consumers in entirely new ways — ways that can truly focus on two-way emotional connection. Marketing can be about building relationships, telling stories and inspiring emotions in both consumers and in brands. Yup, in this new world, brands can have feelings, too.

Imagine if marketers began to think of themselves less as marketers and more as relationship coaches between clients and their consumers; imagine if we spent less time “grabbing attention” and more time nurturing it. What an emotional evolution that might be.

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