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A New Flow for A Thousand Words
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A New Flow for A Thousand Words



11.12.12 presentation at Ithaca College on a working outline for "A Thousand Words," scheduled for publication in 2013.

11.12.12 presentation at Ithaca College on a working outline for "A Thousand Words," scheduled for publication in 2013.



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  • - Talk about role of verbal communication in not only communicating but conceiving brands - Content from book I’m currently researching and writing - First time discussed publicly, so please be forgiving
  • - Also thesis for book - Counter intuitive, or at least in contrast to Conventional Wisdom - We’re supposed to want and rely on imagery - To explore this thesis, we need to start at the beginning...
  • -...the REAL beginning - 17,000 years old in France - Images were the earliest form of communication - Don’t know their spoken language, but it wasn’t likely complex - Words, or sounds, were associated with images or emotional responses. Good, fear, etc. - This severely limited their ability to transmit information to one another, or across generations
  • - The earliest writing isn’t used to express poetry or religious belief, but to conduct commerce - We have more lists of transactions and possessions than we do ancient literature - Enabled specificity and externalized communications experience - Words are “read” and understood -- they’re a code - Images are “felt” and embraced -- they’re immersive - Two different ways of engaging with the world
  • - Important to understand how this offered an alternative to visual communication - It changed everything
  • - Visual communication has traditionally been the tool of control - Images transmit a moment, a visceral experience - Images can’t be avoided - They’re imprecise on detail but perfect for big emotions - Just like cave wall: Fear, awe, joy. - Saw it in churches and the pomp & circumstance of aristocratic life (large estates, ornate carriages) - That’s why kings and cardinals had such funny outfits
  • - Written communication restricted to the initiated - Still looked very visual - Secret code was reserved - Verbal communication was limited to spoken conversation - It’s how people learned of things, vetted ideas, shared info with one another
  • - Medieval, Renaissance, and even early Enlightenment commerce was verbal, not visual - What did this sign mean? Cutting geometry tools? More common signs of a shoe or loaf of bread. - More like cave paintings, only not so scary - Spoken words were the basis of social experience. - Their commerce and lives were social - Words are a social media
  • - Then Gutenberg upped the ante - Printing press, and more importantly movable type, unleash words as a communications medium - Literacy increases in keeping with availability of books - Words can be captured and modified, shared, saved
  • - Enabled info to be shared across distances - It drove knowledge and, more importantly, individual empowerment - Nobody could own words or control how they were used/interpreted - Interestingly, there were text ads in the earliest newspapers
  • - Words were the counterpoint to the imagery of power and authority - Martin Luther’s 95 theses were the model of social change - For something to matter -- to literally “make sense” -- it was written down
  • - Revolutions weren’t the images of people in the streets or violence - They were detailed arguments, printed for all to see - No surprise that those in power tried to curtail literacy once the genie was out of the bottle - That’s why slaves in early America weren’t allowed to read - It’s why the primary tool for teaching reading was the Bible - to try to control HOW and WHAT people would read
  • - The earliest ads were classifieds (all text) - Perfect medium for communicating the innovations in technology - Visuals used but in a supporting role - It’s the ideas that are compelling - The words are expository
  • - People remain visually oriented, too, of course - The technology for propagating visual communication advances also - These advances come about just as brands are casting about for ways to sell - The ‘needs’ based selling of outright improvements has run its course - Post-war American economy needs to figure out how to sell ‘wants’ in order to keep industrial capacity going
  • - Even though we know that verbal is the more effective and reliable medium - It’s also how people share and internalize socially - (AD FROM DAVID OGILVY) - makes the rational case for buying the differences that make for a Rolls Royce...
  • - ...It’s much easier to rely on a visual to sell laundry detergent that’s arguably identical to every other brand - How liberating it must have been to no longer have to EXPLAIN anything to anybody! - Or be accountable for promises made implicitly in images - No two people have the EXACT same response (or interpretation, or application) of the same image
  • - Visual communication is the worst thing that ever happened to our culture, not to mention commerce - By abandoning all the qualities of verbal communication and relying on the quick connection of visual communication, - Consumers get ever-harder to reach and convince - Messages have to get funnier, sexier, or otherwise something-else-er in order to stand out - Customers UNDERSTAND LESS -- even as they’re convinced they KNOW more -- and are therefore less loyal/more fickle What does this tell you about 7-UP?
  • - The ‘creative revolution’ in advertising in the 1960s changed the conversation back to the way it was conducted hundreds of years ago
  • - And we’ve continued it to this day, populating the mechanics of social conversation with visual content instead of verbal
  • - Relying on visual communications in marketing let brands slice and dice the truth
  • - Today’s new media let us do it still
  • - Visual communication could embellish moments, this in-flight meal no different than a tapestry hanging on the wall of a medieval church promising salvation
  • - And we’re still doing it today.
  • - Only there’s a pushback happening. - The emergence of resistance - Today’s consumers have rendered their verdict on the renewed reliance on visual communication
  • Corporate reputations are WORSE now than ever before
  • - So this begs a question, fundamental to my book: - Is the language of social communication verbal or visual? - I know it’s both, but what’s the driver, the primary tool? - I say it’s words -- verbal -- now, just like it was when Gutenberg gave us moveable type - We are social now in many ways like people were social 500 years ago
  • - Imagine the near-future of mobile - Outsourced awareness to just-in-time tools - No need to carry brand associations around with us - It’s a content overlay to real-life - We know when we need to know - We carry our community with us everywhere and every time
  • - We don’t rely on visual anything, but rather the specificity of correlated data - Who said what - How things were rated - Data on the past, present, and future - Marketers need to feed content into this medium - Visual entertainment is a momentary distraction - Because it can be interpreted in any number of ways...
  • - ...Whereas for words, we have this thing called a DICTIONARY - Common language - Enables digital networks to function somewhat like older social networks in real space and time
  • - A little bit of what got me to this conclusion - Did a research project over the past two years to understand what make marketing succeed or fail - Was it channel selection or engagement model or entertainment value (or whatever) - It was truth, in that the better brands communicated what they were selling to people... - ...the more likely those people would buy, buy more often, and pay more for it (and be loyal)
  • - Truth is hinted, suggested, and touched upon by visual communication - But it is only expressed clearly and eternally by verbal communication - This means I’d suggest you consider this concept as you pursue your studies and build your careers - Can and should you be an advocate for verbal as the go-to tool for understanding - And for truth as its substance?
  • - Talk about role of verbal communication in not only communicating but conceiving brands - Content from book I’m currently researching and writing - First time discussed publicly, so please be forgiving

A New Flow for A Thousand Words A New Flow for A Thousand Words Presentation Transcript

  • StrategicCommunication:VerbalVerbalVerbalJonathan Salem BaskinNovember 12, 2012
  • Today’s ThesisThe future of successful marketingcommunications will be written orspoken in words, not expressed invideo or static imagery.
  • Visual VerbalFast SlowIntuitive LearnedHolistic LinearTelegraph meaning Compile meaningReal-time Pauses timeShared experience Solitary experienceEmotional RationalOne-way Two-way
  • The future of successful marketingcommunications will be written orspoken in words, not expressed invideo or static imagery.
  • StrategicCommunication:VerbalVerbalVerbalJonathan Salem BaskinNovember 12, 2012