Brands will rarely mean the same thing to everybody - Wavemaker’s Erge Güçlü argues for understanding their role as that of a blank sheet enjoyable to all with potential to absorb individual perspectives.
Did you ever think about why white bed sheets are chosen for hotel rooms? They bring a positive vibe, are easy to clean; you can feel the luxury, you can enjoy the freshness.
They also leave no trace of anyone else’s preference. If you come to my house right now, you will find objects according to my taste: my favorite color pillow, objects from the countries I have travelled to, paintings reflecting my style, my favourite wine, my library, armchairs, plates and cutlery. All of which I have chosen.
But hotel rooms are different. These rooms are a blank slate. Each visitor creates his or her own experience, and lives his or her own story. Each brand has its own archetype, persona, identity or personality; they are not inanimate objects but at the same time they should be white paper for each consumer.
Every consumer has their own experience with the brand just like the individual experience of each visitor with a white sheet. No one wants to have someone else's experience, and no one wants negative experiences. Nevertheless, we like to feel unique. Brands should create a playground for them. The Barnum Effect comes to mind. For those who don’t know what it means, Wikipedia explains it thus:
The Barnum effect, also called the Forer effect or, less commonly, the Barnum–Forer effect, is a common psychological phenomenon whereby individuals give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically to them, yet which are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. This effect can provide a partial explanation for the widespread acceptance of some paranormal beliefs and practices, such as astrology, fortune telling, aura reading, and some types of personality tests.
We can create playgrounds that are both generic and unique at the same time. It is possible, Barnum proved it to us.
The Barnum Effect works best for statements that are positive. People are much less likely to believe that a statement applies to them when it is negative. It’s a centuries-old marketing cliche but, yes, people need good vibes. Happiness sells: the “Joyconomy” is on the rise, as recent trend research from Wunderman Thompson found. The “Joyconomy” is on the rise in these difficult times.
Are only happy and joyful statements included in the Barnum Effect? Common knowledge is generic and common knowledge is the opposite of an insight, but both are met with the same reaction and are accepted, internalized by the majority. The brand that finds the right insight gives a white sheet to the consumer and the consumer creates a unique experience through the brand that has seen this insight.
That's enough theory, let's talk about an example.
This year Dove won the Grand Prix in the Media category at Cannes Lions with its "Turn Your Back" campaign. A new beauty trend, the bold glamour filter, was going viral on Tik Tok. The campaign’s insight was “This filter impacts young girls confidence and no filter should tell you how to look”
Dove saw this and kickstarted a social movement. They invited women to fight the filter the only way possible: by turning away from the camera and not giving up their faces to the trend. This led to the main creative idea: “ #turnyourback on bold glamour.“ The brand provided its audience with a white sheet, through which each viewer could become an activist.
That’s why I now prefer to say “white sheet”, rather than playground. Marketing specialists, I invite you to introduce this word / term into marketing terminology.
White sheets can be created by smart consumer insights. So you must aim to understand your consumer like their therapist, like their best friend, like their mom or partner. While chatting with your friends in a pub, one of them may talk about really true consumer behavior. You may come across a sentence that you can blend and turn into insight while watching a movie or reading a book. A lingering thought in your mind might rise from the inspiration you felt at a festival, and this in turn may turn to insight.
You are not in front of the computer while this is happening, but your phone is always with you. Please use the "notes" function of the phone for this. Trust me, you're going to get an incredibly powerful library of insights.
I haven't met the strategist that came up with the insight of Dove’s white sheet, but it's very likely that she or he thought of it one day while browsing Tiktok in a pub or somewhere else after work hours. Hello Dove's Strategist, I'm Erge from Istanbul; If you could confirm this thesis, this article can become even more meaningful.
Strategists are not 9-6; we are on 24/7 because the thinking rarely stops.
The notes I took in my social life have inspired many of my presentations and many notes are waiting to be slides in potential pitches. Turn the notes of your phone into a piggy bank. When the relevant brief arrives, break that piggy bank.
Insights are acrobatic observations; they wait to be put together in a mind like lego bricks and generally they are found in our free time not in our work hours. Don’t miss them in order to create your own white sheet strategy.
Now you know the secret and it's time to sleep comfortably in those white sheets. Goodnight.