This week marks the 50th anniversary of what many people consider the finest speech in post-war American history, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream”. Though it is unlikely that anyone reading this post hasn’t heard – or at least read – it in some form, here it is as a reminder.
It would be obscene for me to draw parallels between Dr. King’s efforts for racial equality and the efforts of everyday marketers hawking products. However, like him, we need to use persuasion as a critical tool to achieve our aims.
However, I do believe there are deep lessons to be learnt in terms of motivating, inspiring and catalyzing our audiences. If, as marketers, we are unable to do that, then we have failed miserably.
And, for those familiar with Simon Sinek’s great work “Start with Why”, you’ll understand why he quips that MLK wrote the “I have a dream, not the “I have a plan” speech. MLK was a master of persuasion.
Here’s the lessons I take away….
Be Powerful. Have an ambition for your brand, your message, your product. People are drawn to those with a point of view. Have one.
In spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
Be Inspirational. Paint a picture of a better future. A place your customer wants to be part of.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, and rough places will be made plains, and the crooked places will be made straight
Open up and be emotional. Your brand should have an emotional core. Yes, even if its dishwashing liquid. Find it. Bring it forward honestly.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Be comprehensible. Your customers shouldn’t have to wade through acronyms and cold data to get your point.
I have a dream
Be inclusive. Talk to your customer. Bring them into the fold. Highlight why your brand is akin to them.
When we let freedom ring…we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing
Be catalytic. Offer them a way to participate. To take your message forward. To own it themselves. To be part of making it come true.
And if America is to be a great nation this must come true
Here are a few brands that know how to do this well
A legion of great spots marks Guinness as one of the best storytelling brands of all time. This classic treats you with respect by letting your mind fill in the associations between the exhilaration of catching the perfect wave and the joy of the perfect pint. Pure poetry.
I’ve always had a soft spot for my former agency Ogilvy and client IBM. This was a favourite highlighting the introduction of Linux. At the time the notion of staid old IBM embracing something as revolutionary as open-source was considered heresy but Ogilvy found a way to do it with charm.
I’ve been disappointed with recent efforts by Apple. Earlier marks of genius, like this classic launch of “Think Different”, mark Apple at its storytelling best.
Again, another no brainer. These guys have done brilliant work for years. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, there’s no need to explain this particular gem
A sneaky – and personal – example from those halcyon pre-bust world when Enron defined the attitude of a new breed of company. I was lucky enough to work on the business at Ogilvy New York and this gem comes from there.
For added amusement, read the comments below the clip.
Again, my intent is not to equate the noble goals of MLK with the daily toil of us marketers.
It is to suggest that, if you want to leave a legacy on your brand, there’s a tremendous amount you can learn from his incredible “I have a dream” speech.
Here’s to that dream becoming a reality!!
As a footnote, anyone wanting a scholarly review of Dr King’s incredible speech should read this great article.