Imagine a photo of a fire-lit cave wall with a stick figure drawn on it.
This probably makes you think of cave drawings. Maybe neanderthals. Or the origins of community and the evolution of communication.
Or maybe it makes you think of a Smithsonian exhibit. Displays of early humans, hunting and gathering. Whatever memory or feeling you associate with a cave drawing, the image is bound to strike a personal connection far more complex than a poorly drawn stick figure on a rock wall.
Humans are hardwired to tell stories, so any commonly understood image could spark multiple avenues of emotionally and intelligently rich thought.
Great marketers depend on culture to communicate brand messages. They use familiar stories, concepts and creative executions as shortcuts to address complex topics, recombining them in unique and unexpected ways.
For creative marketers, immersing ourselves in a wide variety of culture is a big part of what we do. Think of culture, in all its forms, as an emotional vocabulary that you can draw on and recombine into new ideas. You never know what’ll spark your next great idea.
The advertisers who thought up the Dos Equis commercials probably never thought that reading Hemingway’s biography or watching Jacque Cousteau films would inspire the creation of a brand character that would single-handedly boost sales for a back-of-the-shelf beer.
Similarly, the creators of the “Dumb Ways to Die” PSA probably never guessed that having Schoolhouse Rock cartoons and their lesson-oriented songs stuck in their sub-conscious would inspire a multi-faceted marketing piece promoting adult safety.
Immersing yourself in a variety of creative expressions can also have a surprising effect on your own work. Everything from a stage design to a podcast could inspire your brand’s next marketing tactic, even if it’s in a totally different medium. In some cases, you can even parody well-known creative productions for a comedic effect, as in the case of the Hamburger Helper mixtape or the KFC novela.
As difficult as it can be to keep up with our constantly changing and growing and (at times) unrelatable world of high and pop culture, the benefits of doing so are obvious.
Challenge yourself to soak-in as much as you can, as widely as you can — from a museum exhibit to an indie YouTuber to a book on neanderthals. This is the language we all speak, and it’s where that next the great story will spring from.