The U.S. military employed this tactic.
When the number of recruits dropped, the military started conversations among potential recruits by creating a video game. Named “Future Force Company Commander,” or F2C2, portrays the nation’s futuristic military as an invulnerable high-tech organization, giving its consumers (teenage boys) a carefully controlled glimpse of battle. Even if you don’t agree with the use of F2C2, you can’t ignore how this outreach effort got so many potential recruits talking, and connecting, around the brand.
Gold Hallmark #5:Forces competitors to realign around it
These companies don’t chase or mirror trends, but rather, establish new standards for the category. They think, act, and behave unlike any other. Often, they inspire imitators, look-alikes, and me-toos. Examples: Trader Joe’s. Axe Body Spray. Wal-Mart. Swiffer. Microsoft, then Apple, then Microsoft again.
Ask your team:
- How could you communicate so distinctively that your innovations turn into your consumers’ expectations?
- How could you become irreplaceable for the audience, impossible to exactly replace or duplicate?
- Could people describe themselves by comparing you to your competition (“Are you a Mac, or a PC?”)
Gold Hallmark #6:Taps Into (or Even Causes) Social Revolutions
When people become fascinated, they merge with larger groups of people fascinated by the same message. These groups dramatically accelerate your marketing, inciting others to join a bigger cultural movement.
Social revolutions aren’t once-in-a-decade events. They’re happening constantly, every single day, when we shift our decision-making. Zappos.com changed online shopping. Red Bull changed cocktail culture. Dove changed the conversation around female body image. Netflix changed media consumption. Viagra changed the perception of impotence to “erectile dysfunction.” Even if you don’t trigger social revolutions, you can make your budget go farther by tapping into cultural changes.
Ask your team:
- How can our message take advantage of emerging changes in behavior?
- What groups, communities, and tribes could our message excite and activate, so that they champion our message as part of their own?
- Could we tie our message into what people are already doing and saying around a specific cause or effort?
This measure of fascination lives not in your own communication to the world, but in how the world communicates about you. For instance, on your Web site— it’s not about the number of links in your site, but about how many sites, and the quality of the sites, that link to you. On Facebook, the status updates that last in the news feed are the ones that generate the most commentary. On Twitter, it’s just not about what you say, but how many followers re-tweet your message to their followers.
Fascination has little to do with what you say, and everything to do with what you inspire others to say and do (and buy).
The Wizard of Oz said, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” The same is now true for brands. Marketing is no longer about creating messages—it’s about getting the market to participate, and to create fascinating messages about you and with you.
As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, the truth is, consumers don’t want to connect with brands. They want to connect with each other. Fascinating companies create more opportunities for people to connect with eachother, through the brand.
Why do certain messages captivate, while seemingly equally deserving ones never get adoration (or even recognition)? Most marketers aspire to create messages that offend the fewest people. They’re playing not to lose. By evaluating our communication according to these six Gold Hallmarks, we can begin to make any type of message more fascinating: a sales presentation, a book, or anything else that must influence behavior in order to succeed.
In a competitive environment, the most fascinating option wins. Fascinating brands win more consumers, more PR, bigger budgets, more time, better talent, greater admiration, deeper trust. Brands that fail to fascinate will, increasingly, lose the battle.
It’s that simple.