Your Audience’s Imagination Is As Important As Your Brand Creativity
Self-persuasion is the most powerful form of rhetoric.
Today, new devices (e.g. smartphones) and strategies (e.g. programmatic advertising) make it possible for brands to always better know and target their audiences. This transformation is still in its infancy: It will become irresistible with the advent of connected objects and sensors.
This evolution is prejudicial to a major driver of perception: Imagination.
The micro-targeting and ultra-personalization made possible by new digital technologies and practices are leading brands to produce marketing content corresponding to increasingly specific customer journeys, usage patterns, and buyer personas.
In doing so, they sometimes lose sight of the power of imagination: It can be more effective to suggest than to show, because the audience’s brain is more engaged in actively processing the concerned content.
The difference between reading a book and watching a movie attests to this phenomenon. In the first case, the reader imagines in their own mind a large part of the story they are reading: How the characters look, the settings in which they live, and the events they go through. When they watch the movie version of the same book, all that work has been done for them by the film crew.
In fact, the nature of the audience’s immersion in the story is not the same: It is more active when reading a book than when watching a movie. For this reason, it is also more individual. Each reader creates what the book leaves to the imagination, whereas all movie viewers experience more or less the same events. Obviously, a marketing campaign is much more effective if people are actively and individually involved in its experience.
One of the most famous works in world literature illustrates this mental mechanism. In “1984,” Room 101 is the place where people’s worst nightmares become reality. But the torturers do not describe what happens in this room: They just ask the prisoners to think about “the worst thing in the world.” They know that the different scenarios imagined by every inmate will persuade them more powerfully than if they told them about specific tortures.
In marketing, we must invert the logic of George Orwell’s Room 101: Give clients and prospects the opportunity to imagine not the worst but the best possible scenarios. Incidentally, this approach works even better when it comes to talking about a brand’s purpose or values than its products or services.
In truth, it is the ultimate form of empathy for a brand to let its audiences interpret its content and make it their own.