Finding Inspiration

Today I don’t feel like talking about marketing. Or customers. Or community. No pithy statements or meaningful insights to offer.

Motivation is a funny thing. Some people can will it to happen. Some people will spend their whole lives waiting for it to strike. Some people find it in a $ figure. Some people are driven by a smile.

When I was in grad school studying the brain, the Director of the center shared an observation with me that made a lasting impression. Parkinsons disease is a breakdown of the voluntary motor system. The result of the degeneration of a teeny tiny group of cells that produce our brain’s entire, precious supply of dopamine. By the time you see symptoms it’s too late to do stop the degeneration. Ask a Parkinsons patient to walk across the room and you’ll see evidence of their impaired ability to will the body to move.

I knew that part. But what I didn’t know that my advisor shared with me that day was that he’d seen movies of Parkinsons patients getting up and dancing smoothly with their wives, as if nothing was wrong. An old piece of beloved music from their youth is played, and the man stands up, takes his wife by the hand and glides her around the room.

In one situation the motivation is voluntary, and must be consciously willed. In the other it’s emotionally triggered, inspired by music and a memory. I will be the first to admit that I’m no expert on Parkinsons – and I do not know the research first hand. But I do believe that motivation comes from different places. And that being emotionally inspired is one of the most powerful motivators you can find. It’s what turns a campaign into a movement. A slogan into a battle cry. It’s what makes an online community bigger than the social media that connects them.

There are many places to find emotional inspiration. But nothing does it for me like stories. Stories of people who are driven by a passion and, who through that passion, overcome the impossible. Rise above their circumstances. Think Dick Hoyt. Susan Boyle. You can let the cynic in you pick them all apart, or you can just enjoy getting swept up in watching a comeback 37-year old Lance Armstrong attack on the steepest part of the climb and leave world-class, much younger riders behind as he bridges the gap to the lead. (as I write this I am eagerly awaiting the Time Trial today!)

For all those brands out there still stuck in marketing funnel think… trying to reach all those non-users, make them aware of you and drive them through the funnel…stop. What’s your story? What do you have to communicate that’s inspiring? Who is at the other end of your funnel, that can tell your story for you? With more passion and fire than could ever come out of your agency or corp comm department?

I said I wasn’t going to talk about Marketing, but in the end I did. Because – and this is the reason why a neuroscientist feels pretty at home in marketing despite never having taken a single business class – marketing is way more than a communications strategy. It’s a motivational strategy. And the most powerful motivators – the ones that will turn your customers into fans – aren’t coupons. Or the ability to be your friend in Facebook (goodness).

So ask yourself where you find inspiration? What makes your day more than a job. And whether ANY of that is visible to your customers.

  • Becky Allan

    Great Blog!!! Love anything motivational.

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  • Tracy

    Nice post. It makes me feel all gushy and like I want to hug a kitten or something. BTW–Lance rocks!

  • Promotional Products

    Great post, finding inspiration can be difficult times but sometimes the best motivation comes when you least expect it.

  • Patrick

    The “Kodak Carousel” segment on Mad Men, illustrated the powerful tool that is nostalgia, and
    music is one of the most powerful stimuli that can trigger that emotion.

    In the early eighties there was a TV ad for the perfume Chanel No. 5. It featured cutting edge (almost futuristic) visuals of a leer jet’s shadow flying across the Trans America building in San Francisco. The music used was a simple piano version of the depression era song “I Don’t Want to Set the World On Fire”, with the recorded imperfections remaining.

    I was in my late teens at the time the ad aired, and was mesmerized by the visual style, and the song managed to touch me, even though I’d never heard it, before.
    My father was in his mid-sixties, and immediately recognized the song, and was almost moved to tears, by the rush of memories it inspired.

    Twenty-three years later, I opened my first You-tube account. The Chanel No. 5 ad, was one of the vids I downloaded. As I watched the feed, the visuals, and the song, brought the experience of watching the ad for the first time, back to my consciousness, with a wave of positive emotion.

    There’s power in the ability to make people feel complex emotions, and couple those emotions with a product, or service, without seeming to pander. It’s a fine line, but I believe that the best advertising accomplishes this task.

  • Al

    Thank you, Justine. I needed a good dose of inspiration this morning and you gave it. I am appreciative.