For 10 weeks, every Thursday we stood on our doorsteps clapping as loudly as possible with our families, housemates and neighbours, me specifically for my brother (consultant surgeon), sister-in-law (A&E doctor), as well as various uncles, aunts and cousins, all engaged in this ‘war’ against Covid-19.
The entire country has been participating in a mass sonic demonstration of humanity; a coordinated appreciation of the NHS and other key workers on the frontline.
This hugely powerful, emotional, shared human experience is rooted in a key stage in human evolution - the birth of language, when sophisticated combinations of animal calls became detailed phonetic information conveying thoughts and ideas alongside our emotions.
The emergence of language allowed us to develop trust in others beyond family bonds, encouraging coordination and specialism on a scale that accelerated us as a species far beyond all others. This period is classified as ‘The Cognitive Revolution’ in Yuval Noah Harari’s best-selling book ‘Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind’. Harari argues that language, in tandem with imagination, helped foster belief systems such as gods, society, nations, money and rights. It is these ideas that ultimately led to the extraordinary organisation, the National Health Service is.
How the social becomes personal
Whilst we clap for all key workers, at the forefront of our mind is likely to be a personal connection involved in the fight against COVID-19; a brother or sister, a friend, or even our doctor or delivery driver who we’ve come to know. That is the crux of humanity - a personal perspective on common qualities and values such as love and compassion.
These things which are fundamental to our culture are currently being denied to us by isolation and social distancing. Concerts, festivals, restaurants, cinema, pubs, travel and football matches are both social and personal experiences. They become part of the story of our lives, how we identify who we are, what tribe we belong to.
Fellow Liverpool FC fans will know the strong feelings elicited by spontaneous chants of “You’ll never walk alone”, which pulls on the same emotional levers as our celebration of key workers. Whether it’s clapping, banging, whistling, shouting or singing, the essence of the communication is clear: gratitude and togetherness.
What does this mean for brands and advertising?
This need for personal connections translates into our view of advertising. According to Adobe's CMO report, personalisation is key for brands who are trying to break through the noise, with 67% of respondents saying it’s important for brands to adjust content based on their current context and 42% getting annoyed when ad content is not personalized.
So what does this mean for brands and how can they achieve it?
Brands are part of our culture. Effective advertising is effective communication that taps into our emotions to become part of our story and identity.
I grew up buying the music tracks of Levis 501 ads in the 80s and 90s and I was impressed how the early John Lewis Christmas ads reworked songs from the years when their target housewives were in their late teens.
However, emotion is not mutually exclusive to broadcast ads where the argument for cultural imprinting - where everyone knows everyone experienced the same values - is used as a case against personalisation.
Any element of branding, be it the musical hook in McDonald's ads or Compare the Market’s iconic characters of Aleks and Sergei, can also be used in a contextual or personally relevant dynamic creative. One of the most important values for any brand now is to be reassuring and helpful. As bizarre as it might sound, it’s reassuring to hear a familiar meerkat tell us the great deals on meals that can be delivered to whichever borough we’re currently self-isolating in. That's the power of the dynamic personalisation we deliver for our clients at A Million Ads.
The ritualised clapping for key workers should have the attention of every advertiser. Now more than ever brands should tap into this need for shared experiences by leveraging the power of creative storytelling and dynamic personalisation to create trust and connections with their audiences.
About A Million Ads
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