When a major marketing campaign is built around only a few words at a time, you can bet good money that those words were chosen with care.
The social human mind is full of fault lines, conceptual interfaces that represent the meeting of important forces. Successful marketers today work hard to find those pressure points and exploit them. There’s nothing necessarily manipulative in that – it’s just how effective communication works, and that’s the business that we are in. A single word matters.
One of the more interesting fault lines is where the value of time meets the value of money. Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase “time is money”. Psychological studies of recent years, however, suggest that this isn’t exactly true. We tend to value money and time very differently, and presenting value statements based on either money or time will produce different results.
So in my travels this morning, I crossed paths with this article over at Indiewire about a professional conflict between Steven Spielberg and special effects master Rick Baker back in the early 1980s. It is an interesting story about never-before-seen photos of intricate alien creature sculptures that Baker designed for a dark Spielberg sci-fi film that never ended up being made. The long, weaving tale casts some light on Hollywood business dealings, professional mistrust and the various legal maneuvers behind some of the biggest films of that decade.
The part I found most fascinating, however, was the light it shed on the messy aspects of the creative process.
Ambiguity is at the root of most marketing – and business – problems. In casual speech, we often use various words interchangeably when they mean very different things, and in the process we diminish the effectiveness and sharpness of what we’re trying to say. The subtle nuances get lost, and with them our ability to coherently craft complex arguments.
In a world of noise, the signal vanishes into dead air. And ambiguity is to blame.
The typical case study story structure is pretty basic. It is simple Aristotle, a three act play of crisis, complication and resolution. Beginning, middle and end, a narrative built out of interview questions that are also pretty basic.
Most of our clients, in some way, are engineers. They make things: electronics, bridges, heavy industrial components, nanoceramic polymers, telecommunications equipment. To a one, these people are highly intelligent and educated, and they know their businesses and fields very, very, very well.
They know them so well, in fact, that they’ve virtually lost the ability to communicate their expertise in a way that can be quickly grasped by someone relatively new to the subject.
You’ve probably seen it before. Probably, this week. It happens a lot.