Inspired by: Brands that Capture the Basic Human Condition
‘Tis the season for mass consumerism, but it’s also the season where some brands take stock of what it means to be human and how their brand fits into those basic human conditions. I’ve always defined brands this way — the product is what a person buys, the brand is what a person buys into. And this time of year delivers some of the most powerful advertising that you can buy into for the years to come.
[Some of my favorites are found at the end of this article]
Finding Basic Human Inspiration
Coincidentally, 2017 marked the 40th anniversary of the Voyager spacecraft launches. Following that effort, Carl Sagan wrote a book called Murmurs of Earth that describes how he and his team went about planning which content to include on the gold-plated records placed in each of the two spacecrafts in the event either met extraterrestrial life.
I use this book occasionally as reference material because Sagan’s team was forced to reduce what life on Earth is like into 118 photographs and 90 minutes of audio. They literally had to select the most profound parts of what it means to be human. This is the kind of rigorous thinking that a strategic planner gravitates toward when guiding work intended to give brands a bigger sense of purpose and meaning. Of course, the gold records contain references to love and relationships, to war and peace, and to the diverse nature of our cultures. They speak to the desire for human achievement, exploration, and competitive sport. And then sometimes, especially in the audio selections of music, the records refer to the basic conditions of joy and pain that we all feel throughout our lives. Murmurs of Earth is just one trick I use to step away from the daily email flurry and gain a bigger perspective on life. There are many other ways, and obviously, the human condition ever-present when your mind is ready to pause and perceive it.
Anytime I see advertising that genuinely moves me, it makes me appreciate all that our industry brings to culture that isn’t simply about selling more things to more people. When done well, advertising can make us reflect on our place in the world and how we can find solace in each other’s stories.
The basic human condition: empathy and belonging
The basic human condition: seeking knowledge and understanding
The basic human condition: family ties
The basic human condition: imagination and spirituality
The basic human condition: imagination and creativity
The basic human condition: self-preservation 😉
The basic human condition: Sam Smith