Tuesday, April 1, 2008

“The Short Trip with Long Memories”

David Wells gets this wrong. It’s easy (and I have to admit, fun!) to take potshots at marketers while they’re putting together a new campaign, but this is a cheap shot. Sure, right now it could mean anything, but the tagline alone isn’t supposed to mean anything. It never will mean anything until the campaign behind it plays out and the whole idea is given some context. Virginia is for Lovers or What Happens in Vegas … only have meaning once they’re supported by …

… wait for it …

… a narrative.

Fifteen years ago I marketed this game. It’s a trivia game in which players are provided with a tagline. To advance they have to know – or guess – the brand or product advertised. We promoted it with a teaser edition that included 10 or 12 sample questions sent to drive-time radio talent. Among them this one:

Whitens teeth. Freshens breath.

Nobody got that one.

Google makes it easy now, but out of context that line is meaningless. In the context of a narrative that tagline carried weight for many years.

A narrative gives a message context. A dominant narrative creates an idea in many people’s minds that shapes any and all new information. They can’t shake it.

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