Let’s assume for a moment that the Mayan calendar is accurate in its prediction that the world is going to end December 21. That means mankind has gone as far as it is ever going to and the marketing world has reached its apex.
That being the case, if we were to make an advertising time capsule of what was the highest evolution of our marketing techniques before the lights went out, what would need to be in it?
Things like the Gangnam Style video and a DVD of “The Social Network” might help reveal the impact of YouTube and Facebook, while a picture of the Fail Whale with a 140-character description might give future civilizations a nice little hieroglyphic puzzle to interpret about Twitter. But what about a few of the less obvious choices? Here are five that would likely tell future explorers a thing or to about our lost civilization.
1. A flash mob
In a thousand years, when someone opens the time capsule, it would be great if people in street clothes jumped out and danced to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and then disappeared into the crowd. The popularity of the flash mob appeared almost as quickly as its name would imply, and it hasn’t gone away. Maybe it’s because the flash mob is a natural offline evolution grown from our online participatory nature. Maybe it’s because exposure is gained on the subsequent video, or maybe it’s because taking part in a flash mob is just plain fun. But there’s no question of the prevalence of flash mobs in marketing. Here’s one of the best ones ever done by a brand, by TNT.
2. A skydiving space suit
Stunt marketing works. Specifically, whenever you can combine an energy drink with a daredevil—you should. Stunts, no matter how sensational, work. Hot Wheels has done some great stunts, but Red Bull does it best. Red Bull gave us what is arguably the most successful stunt marketing campaign of all time: Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Space Freefall.
3. A Rube Goldberg machine
What was once a series of fun drawings by cartoonist Rube Goldberg became a real-life marketing machine. OK GO made a great video using one. Honda made a splash with its Rube Goldberg commercial a few years back, composed only with parts found in a Honda. And Red Bull (yes, on the list again) made one using real Red Bull athletes. Making a good series of cartoons can grab a lot of attention for your brand, but be sure to do it all in one shot. Otherwise, it’s cheating.
4. An old-looking new picture
Even those most digitally plugged in can become a bit nostalgic. Hence, Instagram. It went from hipster to mainstream in just over a year. As marketers, we told our stories here. It wasn’t just “Buy this.” Rather, it became about storytelling and connecting people to the product through beautifully filtered photos. And, as it turns out, you can put a price on nostalgia.
5. A fully produced, FREE Super Bowl TV commercial
It may be that extraterrestrial anthropologists could one day discover our remains and consider the crowning achievement of marketing the day when brands figured out how to get others to make award-winning commercials for free. Crowdsourcing has become a big deal for a lot of brands, most notably Doritos, which sponsors an annual Super Bowl commercial contest. The company receives thousands of submissions every year and pays a measly $1 million to the winner, out of the kindness of the company’s heart. Thankfully, the world is going to end just before crowdsourcing makes ad agencies obsolete.
So there it is: the apex of human marketing. If that asteroid doesn’t collide with Earth on December 21, we have even more ground to cover in 2013, and in bringing humanly relevant content to our consumers.