Reality is cheap - The value of consumer imagination

Nick Gadsby
United Kingdom


We don’t really talk about imagination a great deal in the marketing, research and advertising industries. We tend to think of imagination as something that is only of value for those who work in the creative industries and that for everyone else it is little more than banal escapism. In this paper I’m going to show that all people are not just naturally imaginative, but that they spend a huge amount of their time not just using their imaginations but living in counterfactual and fantasy worlds and that these alternatives to reality are actually often more important than reality itself because they are as close to the realisation of ideals and dreams as many consumers expect to get. It’s often assumed that the imagination is a very subjective thing, that each individual’s imagination is highly unique and idiosyncratic, but this is not the case, consumer’s imaginations are culturally shaped – the things they imagine, desire and think about are shared with other people in the same culture. Given the increasing growth of value from intangible sources we should look to imagination as a means through which we can generate better insights and create stronger brands.