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Inspiration – It’s bigger than me

Back in 1962, when JFK said we would go to the moon by the end of the decade, it was an audacious claim that inspired a generation — and spawned rivers of sweat and endless toil among scientists and engineers.

Kennedy’s “Moon Speech”

Yet without President Kennedy’s spark of imagination, no one would have ever uttered, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Here on earth, think about the time as a kid when you first saw the Empire State Building. Did you first see it from afar, towering above the New York City skyline? Did you look at it from street level and gaze straight up? You wondered: How did they do it? You had to go to the top, of course, but what was it that compelled you? Simply put, you had been inspired, because inspiration is a desire for something greater than yourself. It’s bigger than us as we are — it’s what we want to become. It’s what we want to achieve that compels us, and so we keep climbing.

Ultimately, it’s the human condition: to look up and wonder, and in turn to look inward for the strength to get up, climb, reach and, finally, grasp.

We as marketers have tapped into that same deep emotional core and occasionally elicited goose bumps—but it’s rare. However, when it does happen, it’s palpable.

Two recent examples come to mind. While comedy is typically king among Super Bowl ads, a few steer a different path. They zag while all the others zig. In so doing, they break through and strike a unique chord.

During 2013’s big game, Ram Trucks used the sharp, penetrating narration of the late Paul Harvey to evoke a deep sense of America with an ad simply called “Farmer”; it compelled viewers to stop in their beer-imbibing, snack-crunching tracks and pay attention. And you didn’t have to be a farmer to appreciate it.

Farmer ad

Just this year, during Super Bowl 50, another commercial did something similar. Called “Portraits,” it connected the iconic Jeep brand with the faces of ordinary people, as well as soldiers and celebrities, all of whom have or had a connection to the car. The format was simple: stark black-and-white photos, and a voice-over

Jeep ad

In both instances, there was something previously unheard amid the usual cacophony of ads; it beckoned us to pause, watch, feel.

Yes, advertising can inspire. It does this by making the product or service the hero. In my next post, I’ll talk more about what that involves and how these messages succeed.