Aim at a moving target and you’ll miss. It’s better to anticipate, aim just ahead of it. Ask hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. He changed hockey because he would “skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”
So it goes with advertising. Aiming at the market now puts you behind the game. Gretzky leveraged experience of the game. We have something better: historic cycles that predict what’s coming.
Deja Vu now in print
In their new book, Pendulum: How Past Generations Shape Our Present and Predict Our Future, Roy H Williams and Michael R. Drew detail society’s swing between Idealist (me) and Civic (we) cycles.
“We become an entirely different people every 40 years,” says Williams. “We think of these as the ‘me generation’ and the ‘we generation.'”
Skate to where customers are going
If customers seem to be ever-changing targets, now you know why. While success once ranked high in a Me/Idealist cycle, significance is more important in our present We/Civic cycle.
“Things like social responsibility and duties and obligations for the greater good are held in very high regard by the general public,” Williams told me in the video below. “In a We Cycle… talk is cheap, what are you actually doing? Are you making a difference?”
Riding the Pendulum forward
Leveraging the upswing of a We Cycle in three steps:
- Find something you believe in and take a stand for it openly.
“Choose something to support,” Williams advises.
- Admit a downside to give your upside benefit credibility.
“No one is willing to believe there is no downside,” he adds.
- Articulate those things you exclude.
“Differentiation is about what parts you leave out,” Williams says.
Me Cycle Messaging: Big dreams and aspirations
Be real to be believed
The days of bold, brash ad claims are behind us. Consumers will no longer be pushed into action or inspired by soaring rhetoric such as wishing to buy the world a Coke—without having to actually do it. Drawing them toward you is a matter of being open and authentic.
Consider the contrast between the Coke ad of the ME cycle and the Beyonce video of the present WE cycle: I believe this, I did that. Authentic, specific claims trump the bold promises of yesteryear.
We Cycle Messaging: Concrete action that makes a difference
“Whenever you admit your limitations, people go, ‘alright, okay, I’m on board, as long as you’re willing to admit your limitations, I’ll listen to the upside you promise,'” Williams warns. “In a ‘WE,’ we just won’t get on board with all that positive happy talk… it’s about working together for the common good.”
Predicting the future is an inexact science. However, by understanding history’s swing between Idealist/Me and Civic/We cycles you can reliably skate to where the market’s going, not where it’s been.