Those who don’t think, aggregate

Concerto’s Craig Redmond wants adfolk to dig a little deeper, and turn off the RSS-fed ‘tsunami of sameness’.

Someone in the business recently boasted that he was a broad thinker, not a deep thinker. I snickered and asked, “What the hell does that mean?”
He went on to explain with an air of great import that he was not well versed in any particular subject but had a surface knowledge across a tremendous breadth of issues. Enough, he continued, to hold his own in any conversation. “So you’re shallow,” I smart-assed.
That aggregate knowledge, he bristled on, provided him with an instant foray into any strategic discussion, with any client, on any given brand. “My God,” I replied, feigning astonishment and concern, “all that aggregating must be so exhausting.” To the contrary, he gloated. RSS feeds streamed everything he could possibly care to know on any subject at any time.
“Oh,” I replied, with acerbic brilliance.
Truth is, I was so dumbstruck by this brazen admission of resigned superficiality that I felt like he had kicked me in the nuts with his steel-toed Ferragamos.
I was suddenly overcome by the vision of a massively obese, translucent carcass of an adman being fed ideas intravenously from the internet and regurgitating those ideas simultaneously into an ad-duplicating spittoon next to him. I thought about the sameness in advertising. I thought about the parity of products and price. I thought about the immediacy with which a crappy viral is generated, consumed and forgotten by millions in a heartbeat. I thought about “Ad Attention Deficit Disorder” and how it is lobotomizing our own industry people and the consumers they talk to every minute of every day. Then something shiny went by, and I lost my train of thought.
Where was I? Oh yeah.
Unlike the gentleman with the heavy-hoofed Ferragamos, I believe in thinking deeper rather than broader.
To me, ideas are a lot like people. You tend to remember those with an original personality and quickly forget the ones that come off as derivative and insincere. That’s why ideas that are born out of in-depth marketing research and strategic discovery tend to endure while ideas hastily aggregated and reconstituted as one’s own do not.
Just like people, ideas that are born out of listening tend to get heard in return.
We were once again reminded of this simple truth while conducting a study on behalf of Dell and Intel. The computer giant is transitioning from its traditional direct-to-consumer online sales model to the more competitive in-store retail environment and, along with Intel, wanted to better understand computer buyers and the psychology of their buying habits.
Our research team conducted the morphological study, interviewing intending purchasers right across the country. What we soon discovered was that buying a computer is not the rational, price-driven decision that most PC manufacturers would have assumed.
The research revealed that the entitled sense of “techno-emotional” attachment, normally associated with warm and fuzzy Mac users, was also a pervasive condition amongst PC customers. The computer, we found, was not a box full of microchips and diodes to these people, it was highly personal.
One well-adjusted and perfectly average intender admitted: “I have a close bond with my computer. It’s not my baby; it’s my best friend. It never hurts you like people do. It does what you tell it; there’s control.”
RSS feeds can’t deliver that kind of provocative, human insight now can they?
To the contrary, encountering deeply original and provocative insight is pretty rare these days as we numbingly troll our aggregated feeds, accumulating every tidbit, sound bite and paraphrased synopsis of the newest gossip, sports, business, jokes, porn, weather and current affairs and then forward the aggregate on to every Facebook friend, Twitter follower and LinkedIn connection we know, who in turn oblige to do the same to create a swelling tsunami of sameness engulfing humanity.     
Deep breath…that’s why original thinking stands out. That’s why smartly written sitcoms and dramas sing above the din of reality TV. That’s why Obama’s quiet, contemplative approach beams from the darkness of political platitudes. And that’s why marketers like Dell and Intel, who invest the time and money to talk with their customers, will prevail over those who simply choose to talk at their customers.
Put simply, those who don’t think may aggregate. But those who do think will segregate from the swarm.

Craig Redmond is VP creative director at Vancouver-based Concerto Marketing Group, where his remit includes deconstructing thought processes, in between penning Forum columns about brain-spatter tweets and llama spit.