27/10/14

The implications of implication

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There are two ways that information is disseminated. Well, OK, probably more than two, but two for the purposes of my argument here anyway.

The first is when something is just directly said. “This whiskey is for manly men”, for instance. It doesn’t matter whether someone says this to you, you read it, or whatever. If this sentence – or a variation of it – reaches you directly, you take it on board, judge it, and decide to keep or discard.

The second is when something is implied. Taking the “whiskey for manly men” example, an obvious way this would be implied is if you saw Burt Reynolds drinking it – his being the ultimate paragon of masculinity, toupee and all.  If that’s a bit too predictable for you, there are loads of others. Perhaps you find out that the majority of people dislike it for being too strong. Perhaps you see a truck of this whiskey being delivered to a nearby prison. Perhaps it’s even subtly communicated by the contours of the bottle. It doesn’t really matter, the point is that there are manifold ways of achieving this belief without anyone needing to say it to you.

The key difference between these two methods of communication is belief.  If something is implied to you, and you pick up on it, you’ll basically think you figured it out for yourself, and that is foundation of belief.

If, on the other hand, it’s communicated to you directly (and it’s a question of opinion and not just objective fact, like “this whiskey is liquid”), then you’re going to consider it and evaluate it based on what else you know about it – in other words the implications you’ve picked up. If the implications don’t match the claim, the claim won’t stick.

So what’s the upshot of this? Directly communicated claims are, effectively, pointless! If it’s going to stick, that means there’s going to be evidence to support it, in which case why say it in the first place?

This has pretty clear implications in advertising. In short, if you feel the need to “say” what you want to get across in any even remotely direct way (again, unless it’s just objective fact, which in a world of homogenous products it rarely is), then the creative isn’t doing its job.  This is particularly true in experiential, because since your campaign is taking a real life “action”, you are operating in a territory that is ripe for communicating implications.

The ability to speak without speaking is the key for both interesting and effective creative.

27/10/14

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