Is collateral dead?
“Play Cricket” (fully endorsed by the Milo corporation) came to my son’s school yesterday. Here is a photo of our kitchen bin this morning. It contains a sheaf of stickers and coloured flyers.
I asked what happened. Our 8 year old said “There was these people who came to our school and gave us Milo.” I had to explain to our boy that “4.5 stars” doesn’t mean that Milo is “healthy food that’s low in sugar”. (Milo is actually 46% sugar).
And there’s more. If we were to sign up our son to Milo-endorsed cricket he’d get a “Bonus Player Pack” with logo-emblazoned backpack, bat, ball, hat, T-shirt, water bottle and sachet of Milo.
Not really. It would all end up in the bin too. Along with the Surf Groms backpack, water bottle etc, with their Weet-Bix and Quicksilver logos. Along with the local rugby league’s child-labour produced footballs and sheets of KFC-logo’d stickers. It’s all going in the bin.
Here’s the thing. We parents are in an anti-corporate resistance. Our job is to put this stuff in the bin and de-program our kids when they get home.
Cricket, surfing and football, of course, are all good things in themselves. However, if our son wanted to sign up, it would because he was genuinely excited about cricket: Either a) he knew someone who loved cricket; b) it was a memorable experience when “Play Cricket” came to his school; or c) the “Play Cricket” ambassador had a magnetic personality our son wanted to be like.
In other words it would be because of experiences and relationships.
It would not be because of branded collateral: stuff with messages and logos. Maybe in the 20th century, when this idea was original, branded stuff might have meant something.
But in the 21st century almost everyone has enough backpacks, bottles, and hats. The corporate versions are just more clutter in already over-cluttered lives. They ONLY belong in the bin. A colleague who works for a very large and well-known NSW government agency told me: “Years ago we used to have to lock up the promotional gear otherwise our work colleagues would steal it. Nowadays we can’t give it away.”
I expect PR operatives (whose worldview is obsessed with brands and messages) to delude themselves branded stuff makes a difference. What is interesting is how often our public good projects do it too. I know. I used to be the brochure king. I used to design clever, die-cut brochures for all kinds of public good efforts. I was wrong. This stuff makes no difference to human behaviours. Experiences and relationships are what do the work.
Oh yes, there one other vital factor: unpredictability. It’s the unpredictable that “cuts through” and makes us notice things, buzz about them, and come closer to find out more. Collateral therefore has another fatal flaw: predictability. There is nothing memorable or buzzworthy about yet another plastic water bottle, colouring-in page, key ring, mouse pad, or set of stickers. People are going to forget about them the minute they look away.
I look at the boxes of branded water bottles, pens and stickers in the offices of government, council and NGO project managers, and wonder: Maybe if we invested less on stuff maybe we could invest more on experiences?
The secret life of the bell curve
Revelations about the Bell Curve always seem to score well on the “yes I can still remember that the next day” scale in the Changeology workshop.
Graduates might recall our discussion about how knowing (or guessing) just one vital statistic – the current rate of adoption in your target audience – provides such valuable guidance for project design and the crafting of communications.
I’ve finally got round to properly illustrating this idea. Here’s a one pager that summarises it. I hope you find it useful. Click here to download a PDF version.
Upcoming CHANGEOLOGY and FACILITATION SKILLS workshops, Sydney and Melbourne
The workshops are on again in October. This time Changeology is looking more and more like a hybrid design workshop and a creativity camp. There’s still a grounding social psychology and step-by-step process, but the more I deliver it, the more I find I’m emphasising processes which push the imaginations of project designers into seekingly wacky places. As Albert Camus said: “All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning.”