Danny Trejo plays Marcia Brady and how awesome is that?

Superbowl is coming up and while I don’t want to be that dick who only-watch-it-for-the-ads, this  is a narrative marketing site, not a sports site so ads away. But if you do know what a forward pass is and why XLIX is going to be exciting then Go Seahawks Go! So here’s a preview for Snicker’s ad for the Superbowl by Ad Agency, BBDO New York.

Now a good commercial will be able to fit a great narrative in a couple minutes, maybe even a minute, but a 22 second runtime is equivalent to a paragraph in a story. However, this teaser to a 30-second commercial has already racked more than half a million views. Do you know why?Because Danny rode-a-motorcycle-minigun Trejo is a member of the Brady Brunch. Bang that’s why. It’s kickass premise.

In stories or narratives, a premise is what it’s about in succinct terms i.e. Inception is A heist movie in a dream or “Hobo with a Shotgun” is about a Hobo with a Shotgun. And premises should be exciting for the potential entertainment gained from seeing it fleshed out. In the Snicker’s ad, it’s the hilarity of why and what could happen. There is so much we want to know, why does Carol Brandy think Danny Trejo a middle-aged Mexican tough guy is her teenage white little girl? Why does Danny Trejo think he’s a teenage white little girl? How is Snickers going to play it?

Danny Trejo + Marcia Brady

The premise of real-life badass Danny Trejo clashing against classic family sitcom from the 70s could be a guest star episode in itself (I’m imagining Danny “Machete” Trejo having lost his mind and only a Snickers bar can remind him who he is before he mows down the rest of the Brady Bunch with a machine gun for making him think he was a little girl).

This is why the Snicker’s ad got so many views, it succeeded in capturing the entirety of an amazing premise into something we would immediately watch. Any writer can tell you that capturing the entirety of a story in only a couple of words to be the headline/title for a narrative can be one of the hardest parts of writing. In marketing especially advertising, there is only so much time you can have before the reader loses interest (we only have an 8-second attention span, less than a goldfish). This is why headlines in articles and blogs have to be click-baity.

And with Superbowl ads being a thing more than just an ad and having such wide coverage (with a $4.5 million price tag) being able to capture people’s attention in a sea of other undoubtedly amazing ads is crucial. However, Snickers may be getting the prize now, for holding us with the thought of Danny fretting over a high school crush.

Hero Feature Image

Why the Modern Hero wears Turtlenecks and not Medals

General Petraeus & Scandal

Underneath the radar of the Charles Hebdo Unit Rally and the warming of U.S. Cuban ties of the potential downfall of General Petraeus, the hero who saved US’ dignity to leave the Iraq war, and former CIA director is being charged for sharing secret intel with his mistress. There has been a tendency for military leaders to suffer downfalls (his predecessor in Afghanistan, Stanley McCrystal was forced to resign just for criticizing Joe Biden) and Petraeus’s downfall has been quieter than most. And it’s highlighting a trend in our society to no longer look at our soldiers or military commanders as our heroes but instead look up to the ‘Entrepreneur’ hero.

Steve Jobs Outfit

Our real-life heroes have always been those that we aspire to be and represent the dominant narratives of our society. And in our society, it has been the rise in information technology, the techie entrepreneurs who are riding it. For example, Steve Jobs, arguably the most successful modern entrepreneur is also our real-life hero of our generation. His hero attributes is defined by his trademark black turtleneck outfit, his personal philosophy for the Mac Brand, but more importantly Steve Jobs life narrative in relation to Apple. Steve Jobs starts Apple in a garage. Steve Jobs is kicked out of his own company. The fortunes of Apple plummet and Microsoft dominate. Steve Jobs returns to Apple sparking a revolution in user-friendly communication tech that we can all admire. His narrative has conflict, a plot arc and represents the unconventional ‘startup’ thinking that we find popular. Which is why we have a Steve Jobs biopic (okay with Ashton Kutcher but still) and another one on the way.

Marcus Luttrell & Mark WahlbergNow I’m not saying that military leaders or soldiers who have performed heroic deeds don’t inspire people, they do, and they do have movies made about them. We are seeing a splurge in modern war films like “Act of Valor”, “Lone Survivor” or the recent Academy-nominated biopic “American Sniper” starring Bradley Cooper. Now can you name the guy that Bradley Cooper was playing, or what he even looks like? If yes, then yeah you watched the movie. Now how about the guy from the Lone Survivor” the one Marky Mark made millions acting as? Point is you could get a peach fuzz, put on some glasses and a black turtleneck walk down the street and everyone will tell you that it isn’t Halloween yet. These guys could walk around in their military uniform and their medals and sure they’ll get a couple salutes, perhaps free drink if they walked into a pub, but you wouldn’t know who they were and what they did. It’s a far cry from when War Heroes starred in their own films.

Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook Profile

While Mark Zuckerberg certainly didn’t star in “The Social Network”, though (Jesse Eisenberg was an awesome replacement) his biopic and Steve’s is part of the “Entrepreneur biopic”. Sure he may have been portrayed as a bit of a loner asshole (yet still cool and successful) but that asshole genius is a character we admire (see House or Sherlock as two great examples) the nerds that lack social skills because their genius leads them to do amazing things we all admire, whether incredible deductive skills or creating the next online startup instead of that war-weary veteran fighting a war we can’t even find on a map. 

Heroes over history

Throughout history, we have always had our heroes who are the face of our society and change it in the way we admire. For example, the Nine Worthies were nine of the greatest heroes that exemplified the Chivalric standard of duty and adorned churches during the Medieval Age. Likewise during the Age of Enlightenment with the collapse of Divine Rule, there was Napoleon a Corsican who through his own personal merit and military genius defined his time. And now Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, whose narrative defines our age of entrepreneurs.

Inherent Vice Marketing Narrative Feature Image

Why Inherent Vice is a Narrative in Marketing

Both film and marketing need narratives to be effective, but with Paul Thomas Anderson’s newest film “Inherent Vice” it’s a narrative in marketing. Specifically niche marketing

For background, “Inherent Vice” is a mystery film set in 1970 California, where private eye Larry “Doc” Sportello (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is given a case by his ex-girlfriend which splurges into a utter jumble of more cases, a parade of eccentric characters piling onto the story, and getting high on everything he can get his hands on. Suffice to say it’s not family-friendly film to have an easy watch on the first date.

Now marketing was not Paul Thomas Anderson’s thought in making this movie (just confusing the hell out of everyone) however it has enough elements to be taken of a marketing narrative.

A Large Cast of Customers

Inherent Vice Cast Characters

“Inherent Vice” has a kudzu plot, as Doc is introduced to a wide array of different characters (including having two side kicks and four love interests) and trying to tie down their roles and their relationships requires a flowchart (Doc himself has to draw one to try and keep track). However, an interpretation of the movie is that you aren’t supposed to comprehend who all the characters are, and instead like Doc get lost in the moment of trying to make sense of everything.

In marketing while you may try to attain broad appeal, such as blockbusters or traditional marketing, to use such spray and pray method over a diversity of customers with different interests means that a lot of the effort will be wasted.

Drugged Up Persona

Inherent Vice Drugged Up Doc

Besides an overabundance of characters “Inherent Vice” also has a overabundance of genres, being a mashup of neo-noir/stoner film or the “stoner noir” and it’s all seen through the drug-spazzed eyes of Doc, whose own viewpoint should be seriously questioned. However, it’s the only viewpoint we have to try to understand Doc (Although I wouldn’t mind seeing the movie through Martin Short’s character for being a one-scene wonder). 

And through Doc’s eyes we try to understand what he wants: solving mysteries and helping his clients or his LAPD nemesis, Bigfoot wants: to be a famous actor. Every character has their own agenda and all try to achieve it. While most consumers are not drug-addled hippies (unless you own a marijuana grow-op) how each individual consumer sees the world and what they want from it is important when knowing who to target your marketing to.

Cult film

Inherent Vice Content Marketing

Paul Thomas Anderson is an auteur director whose distinctive style doesn’t make for blockbuster appeal, but can be appreciated by a solid core of fans. Not enough fans to smash the box office but enough that he continuously gets funding to make more movies. Suffice to say it’s a cult film.

With troubling signs of Hollywood’s upcoming implosion and with no guarantee that profitable genres like the superhero genre are guaranteed success. It’s because Major blockbuster films can only survive if the majority of movie-goers watch it. Similarly, traditional marketing is costly and needs to see a high level of profit. Cult or auteur films will never see widespread appeal but target a specific demographic of movie watchers are seeing a stronger bet (for example see the rising popularity of VOD). Same way, choosing to use other marketing methods like inbound or interactive marketing to target a selected and more interested audience is a more assured way to success. You may not understand “Inherent Vice” when you first watch it, just understand that you aren’t supposed to, and take your own enjoyment from it. 

Missing Flight

Why the Malaysia Airline Crashes has Redemption Narratives

It has been an utterly awful year for Malaysian Airlines, with three airplanes tragedies all due to stupendously bad luck. And while hundreds of deaths is no laughing matter, what’s peculiar is how many narratives have been in the news of those who weren’t on the planes but almost were. From the dutch cyclist who missed two Malaysia flights to the former beauty queen who just missed the AirAsia flight, they have received a lot more attention than the number of deaths per plane.

Dutch Cyclist Malaysia Flights

However, it’s not just missing an airplane flight. We have always been fascinated by people who have escaped death because of fate or luck. And it’s because near-death experiences are narratives in our own character development. 

Protagonists Survive

A pastor once complained that we tend to single out those who survived while many died. And notice that “Dutch Cyclist” and “Former Beauty Queen” is more characterization than a list of nationals that died.

Former Beauty Queen AirAsia Flight

What’s amazing is that if none of those airplanes crashed from the cyclist to the beauty queen would have just been one of the many unlucky folks that missed their flight for which I don’t think there is a statistic for. However as I’ve pointed out before, we sympathize with their narratives because they are a face, not a statistic, and serve a positive narrative that in the face of such tragedies they “survived”.

A “Moment of Destiny” or Moment of Self-Development

It’s almost a cliche for characters to change in some way when nearly dying. For example when Jules, Samuel Jackson’s character, from “Pulp Fiction” is not even grazed when a criminal unloads a entire clip at point blank range, he undergoes one of the strongest character developments of recent film history. It’s why when Hitler nearly got killed in 44 he believed he had a “moment of destiny” to not give up a hopeless war (not that I’m comparing you to Hitler, everyone’s Hitler if your on the internet anyway).

Hitler Plot 1944

It’s because we want to believe that our lives our bigger, that we want to feel a sense of enormity behind our lives, that we upraise those who missed a flight or who were late for work little inconsequential missteps that allows them to survive. Their narratives validating our own that we can also survive and that our survival means something.

Redemption

From the passengers who missed the AirAsia flight there is a sense of fate. While I don’t know how their lives will change after, in pop culture there is character redemption. Again pointing at “Pulp Fiction” Jules decides to lead a more spiritual life even sparing the man who was going tor rob him (his partner, Vince, chooses not to and is not as lucky). Hitler, instead of thinking maybe he needed to rethink his life instead wiped out any last internal resistance in his shrinking empire and even commissioned a special medal for the survivors (said decision also also did not work out for him).

Pulp Fiction Jules Quote

While almost dying doesn’t necessarily mean we will change, but significant life events can be attached to our own development in our narratives. In marketing, whiles not smart to put customers life in danger, it’s inserting a product or a service that provides a need or opportunity to change their life, and them being a customer is how they find redemption. See Al Pacino’s great “You Rent It” monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross as a great example. That’s why we love these narratives, you don’t have to nearly meet death (though it’s a great motivation) rather they allow us reflect our own life, and how improving it is worth it.