Ready for The Real Thing?

Brands Can Inspire AND Lead the World to Real Things

Was 2017 1971…again?

With collective psychic certainty we’ve hit bottom only to recognize we haven’t, today looks an awful lot like 46 years ago: 1] government distrust, 2] civil rights broken promises 3] threat of war or war 4] sexual harassment in the workplace 5] relentless consumption buzz sufficiently distracting us from all of THAT.

Spying an old roadside Coke sign on an upstate drive recently ignited this analogy, flooding my ear with the jingle of the company’s iconic ‘Hilltop’ broadcast spot debuting in July of that year:

‘I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I’d like to buy the world a Coke & keep it company. That’s The Real Thing. What we’re hoping to find. That’s The Real Thing…what the World Wants Today…that’s The Real Thing.’

The single most epic and unprecedented ad production of its day, not only peeled back the entire industry’s lid, but successfully ushered in ‘deep state’ branding to forge aspirational and transformative mindshare around a benign caramel color carbonated beverage for at least one entire generation [mine] like NEVER BEFORE and probably for the rest of the planet as well.

Its claim: love, harmony and supportive [diverse] friendships will lead us [in a wistful way] out of our self-imposed cultural darkness into a new BEGINNING and we’ll be inspired and catalyzed toward creating this shift by simply sharing a Coke together –AND that would be ALL of US.

Now in 2017, maybe its partial legacy is that ‘…90% of global consumers would switch brands to one that is associated with a good cause, given similar price or quality. This inclination to shop with an eye toward greater good has remained strong since 2011.’

Awesome! Sort of.

Brands certainly have come a long way since 1971 but it would seem our World has not. Why?

From our singular acceptance of 50’s MadMen arrogance, through distrust of brands in general, we’ve now turned a corner in which brands occupy a very influential space in our culture –again-- and in a different way than in the past. More and more, we see the private sector stepping in to remedy 21st century challenges our lethargic institutions can seemingly not, and there’s growing consumer expectation around this trend.

‘Two-thirds [64%] of consumers say they only pay attention to company Corporate Social Responsibility efforts if an organization is going above and beyond what other companies are doing. Meanwhile, half [52%] will assume a company is not acting responsibly until they hear information otherwise.’

So how far can brands go to bring forth The Real Thing or The Real Change We All Want in the World Today?

In the decades following Coke’s 60 second spot, we’re nowhere close to authentically achieving any of its idyllic provocations for humanity which are still about the same for today. So how to assess and act differently to achieve different results than in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s?

1] Look Around. As scary as awe-inspiring, these ‘exciting’ times can lead to a half-full perspective based on hard evidence of current brand industry wins.

Like Yahoo’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) focused on NeuroDiversity, spearheaded by Margaux Joffe, Yahoo’s Head of Production, Global Marketing Department toward creating an inclusive workplace for minds of all kinds, including those with dyslexia, ADHD and on the autism spectrum.

Like L’Oreal’s Sharing Beauty with All resulting in ‘84% reduced carbon emissions in absolute terms [from a 2005 baseline], the completion of 15 solar and wind installations across the U.S and the re-engineering of their entire value chain in producing the RAW Biolage line of products achieving a Cradle to Cradle Platinum Certification Level.’

Like Patagonia’s banner level invitation to consumers to support public lands, ‘…a critical part of our national heritage [which] belong not just to us, but to future generations.’

2] Reflect Back. Although positive societal impact wasn’t a priority in the 70’s, brands did achieve what WAS their priority –huge profits plus huge strides in building a longterm loyalty base. In Coca Cola’s case amassing an epic following since1892, begs the question what might it accomplish beyond profits in the next 125 years other than taking perfunctory steps toward sustainability and providing X number of jobs?

3] Take Aim. The time for achieving The Real Thing is now. Selling love, harmony and friendship FIRST, beverages second. We’re not summiting the Italian hilltop with hands clasped this time, we’re looking directly into our neighbors’ eyes across the stateside Grand Canyon divide. We all want The Truth, The Real Thing, but WE CANNOT HANDLE the process to get there. And given we’ll never all agree on the same version –how to pursue this desire as a collective where we actually benefit and thrive during the inevitably messy journey together?

What if 2050 finds us all a full level up on Maslow’s Hierarchy because we’re in a new headspace benefiting from 33 years of The Coca Cola Company’s Across the Aisle Conversation Series or it’s Cross Cultural Celebration Institute –both vibrant culture cultivators that walk the talk of that ‘serendipitous’ break out in 1971 song moment, sparkly with late afternoon sunlight, high on a grassy hilltop faraway.

How else can any brand or collection of brands help us actually test WHAT WE’RE CAPABLE OF? Versus idly reflecting our urgent desire to belong to something bigger than ourselves?

Because it’s imperative we reflect back on the full historical breadth of our Values-Context that has played out from 50’s Technicolor to 2010’s Encryption in order to understand and embody the present potential we actually possess. In order to gain enlightened traction within the next commerce cycles’ future shaping capacity, we must. 

So The Real Question is, if we could buy The Real Thing or the iPhone X, which would we spend our $1,000 on tomorrow? Depending on how we answer, being content with the sound of Alexa’s voice for eternity could be all we’re left with.

#culturalimpact #culturalinnovation #culturalimpact #cultureinnovation #socialimpact #socialinnovation #whyitmatters #whydoesitmatter

I am a UX, Brand & Cultural Consultant anchored in leading multi-discipline business stakeholders or agency teams in creating commercial success through the adoption of big ideas supported by compelling experiences that spark discovery, connection & deeper relationships between people.



Ann O