Findings, Inside Voice, Nerdery

A model for creating great advertising: inheritance, product, pretending

A model for understanding the key ingredients of great advertising: inheritance, product, pretending.

Have I’ve spoken to you about this before?

If so, now I’m following up with some early-stage draft ideas. If not, here’s the background.

I’m working on a bit of a model for creating great advertising.

My idea is that great advertising emerges from 3 things: an inheritance, a product and pretending. The image above presents a conceptual model.

The idea rose from reading this post by Russell Davies on pretending.

When adverting can hit the middle of this model, it succeeds. Big time.

The trouble is: everyone has their own version of the above model in their head. That’s what makes good advertising so tough to do.

Everyone has their own frame of reference (inheritance), usage patterns (product) and imagination (pretending). So everyone’s experience of the advertising is different.

Okay, that’s assumed. But can this model help us understand the ingredients needed to get beyond that unique experience and to a common experience?

That’s what I’d like you to help me with.

I’m trying to work out some clever, salient things to say that make sense of this idea and this model. I’d love to hear what you think about the model overall and about how useful it is.


(and comments way below too!)


2 thoughts on “A model for creating great advertising: inheritance, product, pretending

  1. Firstly, this was easier when talking about it over coffee and scribbles on napkins.

    Secondly, I remain entrapped in the same paradox of believing the world is too complex for a single model to “crack” great advertising while believing deeply in integrative principles that unite all mediums and communications founded on human traits paired with the hubris of wanting to create a unifying model.

    However, principles are good to put some form around this valuable thing called marketing. I like the the key buckets of product, inheritance and pretending. However, prescribing things like comedy or imaginary fall down depending on the brand or even a specific challenge at a moment of time for a brand. EA’s Tiger Woods game wouldn’t do too hot with humour right now.

    What is interesting is that different brands live more broadly and deeply to different degrees in each particular frame of product, inheritance and pretending. They are not together a frame but each their own.

    A brand like Coke has a very small product frame as it’s simply sugary water but pretending is tremendous, increasingly so over time as it builds off it’s inheritance. Pretending is massive – its platform of happiness is entirely based on pretending. That is what Coke is.

    Microsoft is very slender on the pretending, struggles with its inheritance but is strong in the product frame (yes, they are if we put away our Apple blinders on for a moment.) Its ads are playing to this and out performing per dollar spent Apple multiple fold.

    Lululemon is big and deep on product though slim on pretending – you buy into a bit of imagining it will lead to a more slender you but primarily product drives it still and in fact the lack of advertising further builds its inheritance over time.

    Don’t know if these make any sense but I’ll follow up with a note to you of a different visualization to allow a more dynamic representation of the interplay of the entire framework between frames. A Venn diagram is a little to simplistic and static for the complexity you’re trying to simplify. But what I really love is the incorporation of imagination/pretending – it’s interesting right now seeing an influence of behavioral economics and hard science proving the messaging model and left brand MBAism in marketing are not the most effective approach. It is flippant to say they are not effective or broken but relative to the payoff of imagination they are inferior.

    Watch you email for some poorly designed graphic thoughts.

  2. I like the pretending post but–seen through an advertising lens–it mostly feels like he’s reframing a well-established idea in marketing: the power of aspiration. That is, so much of what we buy, whether a video game or a watch or a cup of coffee, is driven by its aspirational quality. The products and services we consume partly reflect who we are, what values we have, etc., but they often also reflect who we wish to be. Is that the role that pretending plays in your model above?

    I’m not sure I follow the inheritance component properly. Is that a reference to cumulative experience? If you can say a little more about that and the inheritance-product commodity overlap, I’ll have a stab at further ruminations.

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