Beauty+Logic: I Share Therefore I Am Not
by Elliott Chaffer, Executive Creative Director
To be clear: I am not talking about the false value that people and brands place on the amount of shares they get or “friends” they have on social media. Nor am I talking about file sharing, timeshares, ride shares, re-shares, shareholders or company shares. And frankly, I couldn’t care less about selfies, hashtags, cat pics, or pictures of what you ate last night. Share a real meal with someone instead and find out something new.
What I am talking about is authentic face-to-face, human sharing that creates real social connections. Because when we tell our stories authentically, we achieve real, lasting human relationships and open ourselves up to new worlds of possibilities and opportunities.
If sharing is caring, how come no one really cares what you share on social media? Seriously. We’re always on to the next distraction seconds after liking something. But back on Planet Earth, why do we find it so hard to make eye contact in the elevator, and instead pull out our phones and look at Instagram? How deadly is the silence on a subway train during the morning commute? People who are “not us” are just people like us, so who or what are we so afraid of?
Think about the homeless people who get on the train and share their vulnerability with us, their “story.” What do we do? We instantly pull out our phones and look at Instagram. But when the “WHAT TIME IS IT? SHOWTIME!” guys come on, then maybe we snap a picture and share it on Instagram. And hashtag it.
We share what makes us “look good” because we don’t want to share things that make us “look bad.” In this multi-touch screen world we inhabit, we’re losing touch with ourselves and others, all while thinking that we’re staying in touch by ‘liking’ others’ posts. But when we reach out and touch someone with our story, values, aspirations, hopes, fears, and dreams, we experience the transformative power of what it means to have and share humanity.
A photographer friend of mine recently told me that she finds aspects of her job soul-crushing. As a photographer, she likes to tap into her subject’s vulnerability to capture their essence. But when it comes to working with models for social media campaigns, there is literally nothing there. And then the inauthentic work she does gets shared by the brand and re-shared by their followers. And somehow this is all supposed to have some sort of quantifiable meaning attributed to likes and shares. There’s nothing new, and it is not her fault.
It comes down to what is the brand trying to say—or the fact that it has nothing to say. It stands for nothing, and the experience is empty and meaningless. It is estimated that 50% of purchases are driven by emotional decisions, yet in a Forrester research survey, 89% of people felt they had no connection to the brands they buy.
The leading global outdoor apparel brand, Patagonia, shares 1% of all its profits with the environment because they love nature and value sustainable living over corporate greed. They even created an organization, 1% for the Planet, to bring other brands on board, and have raised over $150M. Furthermore, Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, famously encourages his staff to stop work and share waves if the surf is up. He stands by his word so much he even wrote a book about it called, Let My People Go Surfing. In his own words, “Profits happen when you do everything else right.”
The net result of Patagonia’s shared vision and mission is that the majority of their business actually comes from loyal customers who believe in their message and story. They grow with their customers instead of bombarding them with meaningless marketing campaigns. Some of the shareable content they create revolves around stories of customers who have kept the same pair of shorts for 20 years. This story is old news, but that’s what’s great about it; it lasts. Now that’s the kind of brand I want to work for, and the kind of brand you should aspire to be.
In the ever expanding universe of brands, is yours getting lonely? That’s okay; solitude is important. It creates space to think, to assess the brandscape, and to tune your voice. Don’t feel like you have to fill the void by sharing something vapid and meaningless. Drill down and get to the core of what makes you unique and make a personal connection.
As a brand, when you tell your story, your identity is strong. When you stop telling your story, your identity weakens. So, what do you want to talk about? Who do you want to listen to you? What do you stand for? What keeps you up at night? What is your brand actually sharing, and how? Is your bottom line driven by likes, shares, friends, followers—or is it founded on actual shared values that you want shared with the world? How does that translate into the briefs you write and the types of companies you choose to help tell your story?
At Trollbäck+Company, we believe in the mantra, “Discard everything that means nothing.” We love connecting and collaborating with brands and organizations with whom we have shared beliefs, and have communicated a global set of shared values about sustainability and social engagement for the world’s 7 billion people. It’s been so well received that we even set up a new agency, The New Division, to cope with the ongoing demand for this kind of work.
So what’s your story? We’re here to listen. Come and share it with us and let us help you share it with the world.
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