What A Doughboy Knows That We Don’t

It’s the beginning of a new semester.

And Bob is at it again.

Each semester, Bob shows a video to his international students.

It’s this one.

Behold the Doughboy effect

“Does this make you hungry?” he asks them.

They laugh nervously and answer, “No.”

“Does this make you think of family or getting together with loved ones during a holiday?”

This time they laugh even harder. And again, they answer, “No.”

What’s the point?

The reason Bob runs this little experiment is to make a simple point.

Even the most carefully crafted brand messaging is completely meaningless without experience.

Even the beloved Pillsbury Doughboy communicates nothing. Unless, of course, mom used to make Pillsbury crescent rolls for Thanksgiving dinner.

The trouble is

We’ve lost sight of this fact. We still treat messages as the beginning of our tribe’s journey.

We think clever ads or brilliant posts or fancy eBooks grab attention and create desire. Somehow, they magically start a cascading series of events that leads people to act.

In reality, the purpose of tools like these is to reinforce and build on an existing experience.

The idea of leading with messaging ignores a crucial step in the branding process. Making connections. Developing personal, sharable experiences that nurture and grow lasting affection for the cause.

Emotional connections are what count

As comedian and filmmaker Mike Birbiglia likes to say about Hollywood. “Cleverness is overrated and heart is underrated.”

The same can be said for the way we look at connecting.

Instead of building relationships based on the heart, we turn to messages. Messages that are quickly forgotten. That’s because messages don’t work anymore.

Meaningless engagement

It’s like we’re all living in a Tinder state of mind. We want to “swipe right.” Get a moment of glee. And then move on to the next conquest.

But without creating a lasting human connection it’s nothing more than a notch on the old belt. A form of a meaningless engagement.

The scary part

The most troubling thing about all this is that adding heart to an organization isn’t that hard.

For example. You’re at the airport. Your airline just let you know that your flight has been delayed three hours.

Bummer, right?

Or maybe an opportunity

What if your carrier rolled in a giant TV? And said, “We know this sucks but maybe watching Ghostbusters might make it a little better.”

Would experiences like that make you feel differently about that brand? If it would, it’s because of the experience. Not because of a Fly The Friendly Skies commercial.

Experiences are opportunities

Experiences like that might even get people flying other airlines to wish they had chosen this more proactive carrier.

When we add something for people to see, hear, taste, and do we are creating a positive memory. A memory that is much more powerful than a message.

It becomes a moment in time that people remember. And importantly, talk about. It becomes a heart-felt connection to your tribe.

Experiences connect

These tribe connections are communicated through stories.

Real stories are powerful. They connect with something deep within us.

They help us make sense of the world and our place in it.

The kinds of stories that motivate tribes and ignite movements define the cause. They illuminate our ideas and actions and make them memorable.

Stories are the language of connection

When done well, they transcend mere messaging.

They engage the tribe’s emotions and senses. Powerful stories reflect their hopes, dreams, and desires.

They take them on a journey of discovery and self-reflection.

Give it a try

If you doubt this put your brand in the hands of a bunch of international students. Like Bob does. You’ll get a lethal dose of perspective.

You may find that your ubiquitous baking empire brings little more than a smile. And the cultural icon that represents it, little more a dismissive laugh.

At least until you feed them a cinnamon roll.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s your take?