When I first started reading Brandscaping by Andrew Davis (in preparation for this week's episode of Marketing Smarts), my initial reaction was, "Oh, come on!"
Why was I so incredulous? Because, at first, I thought Davis was proposing something preposterous.
In Chapter One of Brandscaping, Andrew points out that the movie Finding Nemo generated an unprecedented demand for pet clownfish—a demand that actually led to a precipitous decline in the population of said species. In fact, Andrew continues, that film raised demand for a whole host of pet products (aquariums, gravel, pumps, fish food, etc.) and even other types of fish.
Davis then asks the question, "What if all the companies affected by the success of Finding Nemo—the aquarium manufacturer, the fish food company, the clownfish farmer, the gravel supplier, and the pet store—pooled their resources and created a weekly television show designed specifically to endear children to a specific set of characters like Nemo?" Characters, he adds, that would "map directly to the kind of pets and pet products these stores want to sell."
In other words, he suggests, if Disney could boost "an entire industry with the release of one film," why couldn't an industry turn around and, on a more modest scale, do the same?
My Small Mind
My skepticism towards this idea ("The American Association of Pet Store Owners is never going to make the next Nemo!"), I must now admit, has more to do with my own small-mindedness than it does with any inherent flaws in the idea itself. Sure, it may be difficult for a group of business-owners to band together and produce content that would rival that conceived and produced by one of the leading entertainment companies on Earth, but is that any reason why they shouldn't try (or at least consider the possibility)?
The answer to that questions, of course, is "no."
"The biggest shortfall of marketers today," Andrew told me, "is simply not asking the bigger question, having a bigger vision for where they're going with their quote unquote campaign."
I fear that he may have a point. While companies spend plenty of time trying to figure out where to put their ad dollars and fretting over how they will effectively measure whether they moved the needle, very few take the time to look at something like the unanticipated commercial consequences of a children's movie and then ask themselves, "How could we do something like that?"
The way to do something like that is to think bigger.
Consider this: What has more staying power, a commercial or a sitcom? A sitcom, naturally.
And why is that? Because a sitcom is rich, entertaining content that bears repeated viewings.
Commercials, on the other hand, are utilitarian content whose "consumption value" is vanishingly small. While some few commercials break through and attract viewers in their own right, the overwhelming majority vanish as soon as they are aired.
Given this obvious distinction between sitcoms and commercials, then, why do companies focus on producing the latter instead of the former.
To Davis's mind, the problem stems from the failure to ask "what if" questions: What if we produced a television show? What if we made a movie? What if we had a magazine? What if we underwrote cool work that supports our brand instead of advertising on shows that aren't related to anything we do?
"Those 'what if' questions," Andrew told me, "lead to bigger marketing successes, longer-term relationships with your audience and content that's an asset instead of an expense."
So here's your homework question: What if you asked more 'what if' questions about the marketing that you are doing?
If you would like to hear my entire conversation with Andrew Davis, you may listen here or download the mp3 and listen at your leisure. You can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!