Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Melancholia in Post-Modern Marketing

I recently read this New York Times article (fave pub) looking at depression through the lens of evolutionary psychology, speculating that depression is the result of "ruminating" aka pondering/introspecting/analyzing...basically thinking

I think, therefore I am...sad.

Thinking people are more likely to be depressed. Great. Tell me something I don't see in my own life.

The article goes on and on in an exhausting academic debate about the evolutionary benefits of having so many depressed people in our species.

What stuck out to me was this argument that there is an evolutionary/biological foundation for rumination/introspection/deep thinking. This is something people want and need in their lives.

There are some smarties/creative types out there that think they have the corner market on higher thinking, but if late night Boy Scout camping conversations taught me anything it's that people from every walk of life in our society share times of deep reflection and share the same concerns and conclusions.

Because I am in this cursed field of advertising, I am going to draw back conclusions to branding and marketing which is--why aren't we we creating things that speak to this obviously deep desire of people?

We make ads that speak to the desire to make love, to be loved, to be victorious, we encourage companies to be social to address people's need for community, and yet where is the brand/campaign/website that encourages users to engage in deliberative reflection?

There is a reason that Eat, Pray, Love was on the bestseller's list for over two years, and why the Oprah Book Club was such a big hit, in general. People want to think about these things. They feel better for having had these thoughts, for having a scaffold on which to hang these yearn-filled threads, for knowing there are others with the same wonderings and private struggles of internal reconciliation without feeling like a complete lunatic.

This all reminds me of the once beautiful meaning of the word 'melancholia,' which did not mean sadness, but meant deep, quiet, extended thinking about a question or problem.

Durer captured it best in his work entitled, Melancholia:

In the meantime, I am going to be on the look out, for campaigns/brands that offer this, and for opportunities in which such could exist.


GS said...

Great post. I think there may be some opportunities here. I assume we see so little of this angle since brands don't want to be associated with introspection and definitely not depression. I can't recall even one such campaign, but will let you know if I come across any.

John Quintana said...

It is interesting to have such a reticence. People are willing to shell out cash for deep stuff. That's why Focus Features has blossomed as a film company, and why, for some reason, Titanic broke box office records as tear-jerker.

Online communities encourage reflection on their own through forums and blogs, but these are generally independent.

I would worry MBAs would just take this to the excess of pathos, which is not what Melancholia was about.