I almost forgot that today was the anniversary of the Normandy landing of 1944. I didn’t remember until about 11:00pm. That’s kind of sad. I went about my day today, completing task after task without givng it one little bit of thought… and I feel kind of bad about it… because I’m French, and a whole lot of good men, many of them boys, died to kick the Nazi forces out of my country. Truth be told, had the Allied invasion not succeeded, I might not have been born at all… and I certainly wouldn’t be living in the US today. Without getting too deep into this, let’s just say that I am very aware of the immense sacrifice that was made back in 1944, and it has played a big role in shaping my perception of the world… so I make a point of remembering anniversaries like this one. It’s the least I can do.
What does this have to do with Marketing and Branding?
People are driven by emotions. By needs. By fear and courage. By love and hatred. By hope and despair. By a need to change things, or belong to something greater than themselves. At their core, drive and motivation come from the same inner place, whether you’re a G.I. storming a beach under a hail of bullets and mortar fire, an entrepreneur, a designer, an athlete, an artist, an emergency worker, or whatever it is you happen to be in your mind when you are considering certain types of purchases.
Many of things we do, we are driven to do because they define us as human beings. They help us articulate our identity: Soldier. Photographer. Designer. Triathlete. Chief Marketing Officer. Soccer mom. Surfer. Intellectual. Devout believer.
I’ve watched people drop $7,000 on a bicycle. $65,000 on a camera. $160,000 on a car. Their lives in exchange for one moment of glory or terror or pleasure.
At its core, the trigger that makes a soldier or fireman run into danger isn’t so different from what makes us buy things that we are so passionate about that we can’t do without them. However unimportant… like a pink iPod, or a Birkin bag, or a vintage Jaguar. It isn’t so different from what leads some people to invest all of their life savings into an idea. It isn’t so different from what drives people to never compromise, to never cut corners, to never take the easy way out.
There’s this thing called courage, which is one of humanity’s greatest gifts. I’ve seen it in the military. I’ve seen it in sport. I’ve seen it during elections. I’ve seen it in art and design studios. And believe it or not, I’ve seen a whole lot more of it in the business world than you would think. That makes me feel good.
Courage didn’t die with “The Great Generation.” Courage is alive and well in this somewhat bloated, disjointed, self-centered and dysfunctional little society we live in. Courage is all over the front page of your newspaper. It’s in the gay marriage ban debate. In the Iraq war debate. In the war on global warming. In the fight against AIDS, disease and famine. It is alive and well in every word spoken against domestic violence, child abuse, prejudice, and corporate fraud. To a much lesser extent, at least seemingly, it is also alive and well in the worlds of marketing, product design, advertising and business in general.
Sure, there’s a whole lot of noise out there. A whole lot of boring, “also-in,” vanilla stuff. But the heroes, the innovators, the enlightened souls on a mission, the courageous renegades, they’re out there as well. I seem to keep meeting them. (I’m lucky as hell for it too.) Seek them out. Make them part of your lives. Make their brands and products part of your purchasing habits. Support them. Protect them. Encourage them. Endorse them.
Make a choice to support something great, whether it’s a cause, a product, a design or even something as vague as an idea.
Align yourself with the fearless visionaries whose work will make your world better. Cleaner. More interesting. More beautiful. More enjoyable. Their circumstances aren’t the same as those of those thousands of guys who charged German positions on June 6th, 1944, but they share a similar spirit. Honor it. Cherish it. Embrace it. Make it your own.
I swear to you that you won’t be sorry.
Army troops brought to the beach by a Coast Guard manned LCVP wade ashore on “Omaha” Beach during the “D-Day” landings, 6 June 1944.
Photograph from the U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives.