Finding and distributing meaning

Was thinking last night…

When done right, advertising is really about the discovery and innovative distribution of meaning that already exists. Products, services, things and activities in the world have meaning attached to them. And it’s up to us, as marketing people, to find that meaning (especially if it hasn’t been noticed en masse) and come up with an engaging way to tell people about it.

The worst ads aim to create meaning. (I’ll forgive those ads that just gloss over meaning entirely for humor/shock’s sake). I just don’t think it’s possible to create meaning out of thin air. I guess that’s where research comes in. But for me, the best research finds the stories associated with whatever I’m trying to sell.

That’s why this Wieden Starbucks stuff is so good. People that love going to coffee shops will find these stains beautiful, and perhaps associate them with a memory.

Wieden+Kennedy Studio: Starbucks

I can certainly relate.

And please note, when I say advertising, I’m not talking just about traditional stuff. I’m talking generally about communications, in all formats/media.

From here on out, I am going to focus on what sounds like a much simpler task than I had previously imagined it:

Find some interesting meaning or story. Create an interesting way to tell people about it.


7 Comments so far. Comments are closed.
  1. “People that love going to coffee shops will find these stains beautiful, and perhaps associate them with a memory.” – you’re so right, Clay. There was one of these stains on a paper at my desk the other day, and my fellow coffee shop lover walked by and said excitedly, “Is that REAL?” I loved it.

  2. Hey Clay, glad to see you´re back. I´m rather fascinated with all this storytelling thing, it`s has so much power, it`s sound so simple but yet so hard to achieve. I really think that this piece works extraordinarily, even if you´re not an Starbucks or coffee fan. Thanks for sharing it!!!

  3. I’m glad to be back, too. Looks like Meme Huffer was out, too, for a while but now returned. Sometimes I guess you just need a break.

    And regarding storytelling, it’s so, so difficult, I agree. But a hard-won victory, to be sure, once you figure out how to do it. Not to say that I have.

    PS, Johanna: sometimes I try to make those stains intentionally on papers, just to make them look cool… and it never works out. You have to have the chaos factor built in.

    Thanks for sticking with me, to both of you!

  4. Oakie -

    Can you explain more? Sounds interesting.

    - Clay

  5. It’s kind of cultural difference. Most people here will grab their coffee cup and tissue paper. Esp. female first jobbers here are worried about coffee stains on their lips which is already made up with nice lipstick (you name it, red, brown, pink) It sounds weird but it’s true.

  6. Hi Clay, how’s it going? Wondering I can ask you to do me a favour and remove my first name from your kind reference to me on this page, where you state my blog address and name? Just clearing my google footprint…. :)

    Hope all is well…