It is that time of year again, when the big names create their Christmas Adverts. John Lewis over the last few years has created fabulous stories – the one from two year’s ago with the animated bear is ingrained in my children’s memories (especially since it came with its own ipad app). Last year’s penguins had us all saying “Awww”.
This year, the story is about reaching out to those who are lonely or a long way away.
But instead of just watching it and thinking “that was amazing”, let’s look at it in detail to discover what you can learn from it about being Unforgettable..
Within the first twenty seconds of the advert, we see something extraordinary. The girl looks surprised and then zeroes in on a house in a crater on the moon. A truly “attention grabbing” moment for those watching. You want to know what happens, who this person is. The film made me curious and spellbound and unable to click away until I find out what happens next.
Keep It Simple
There are only two characters in this film – the man and the girl. The more characters or details you have in a story, the more your audience have to concentrate to keep track (think Tom Clancy novel). This one is as simple as it can be. Two strong, clear, contrasting characters that your audience can relate to.
Make it Vivid
The expression on the man’s face as he looks up is so filled with loneliness, you can’t help but feel moved by him. This contrasts brilliantly with the excitement of the girl waving. Just 35 seconds in and there is this beautiful tension in the story – between the happy girl and the sad man. They bring those emotions to life using vivid visuals – what more perfect expression of loneliness is a man sat on a bench on a planet all on his own? Then the lyrics of the song echo the feelings “my body is young, but my mind is very old” as the camera zooms into the man’s eyes.
Break the Spell
If your audience feels too sad, there’s a risk that they might turn off to break the spell. Instead, John Lewis does this for us. We have been touched by the old man’s plight, so the video moves into humour, to break the tension. The cleverly shot ladder to the moon gets us all thinking “there’s an idea…” and its followed by the girl’s creative attempts to make contact. Because this video is not about sending a letter as such, but about creating a connection with someone.
And we wonder just how this problem might be solved, as the lyrics make it seem impossible by reminding us “you are half the world away.”
Happily Ever After
There is the girl’s delighted face as she opens something we cannot see (what can it be? we wonder) and then hugs her mum. The man looks even more dejected with his head bowed. Just as we begin to lose faith, the balloon-fuelled parcel arrives – a gloriously colourful package that breaks through the monotone grey of the moon. The audience now whoops and hollers – the problem is solved, their tension is released and we have a happily ever after. The man knows he is loved – how wonderful.
This is when I started crying my eyes out. And because it has touched me that deeply, I know that this story will last for years in my mind, body and soul.
Not only that, but the first morning it was on Facebook, it was spreading like wildfire. Because we all love a happily ever after story. And this one made us feel good.
John Lewis have tapped into something within all of us. Something simple and powerful: our desire to feel special, to feel loved.
The next time you want to create something that is truly Unforgettable, try taking a leaf out of the John Lewis’ playbook.
Have you ever stood bathed in the floodlight of the fridge, unable to find anything in the slightly chaotic mess within, however long you stand and stare? You eventually close the fridge, with an exaggerated sigh of disappointment, because this time you really, really hoped that the fridge had the answer.
Nothing within has tempted you, because the truth is that you might feel a hunger within, but it is not a hunger for food.
Fridges keeps food cold. End of. Yet despite having a PhD in science coupled with decades of evidence to the contrary, I still search within that haloed light when I want to find the answer to anything that is out of kilter in my life.
My fridge has never claimed to have these powers. The instruction booklet did not say “open the fridge whenever you feel life isn’t going the way you want it to go” – well it might’ve done, but whoever reads the instructions for a fridge? Plug it in, put food in, put these somewhere safe and read them only if your fridge starts acting strangely (like having the answer to life’s deeper mysteries such as ‘Why the heck am I feeling like this?’)
I need is a neon light in my fridge that says “I don’t know why you’re feeling weird, but step away from the cheese”.
Feeling Weird Is So Well….
I find emotions hard to explain (my default term is “icky” which gives my husband zero clues on what he might be able to suggest to make me not-icky) but sometimes I find that feeling them is difficult too.
So instead of leaning into them, saying hello and listening to what pearls of wisdom they might have to add to my life, I have developed an unhelpful trait (and I believe I am not alone in this) of distracting myself with wine, ebay, shoes, craft, reading and more. All this despite decades of evidence proving that none of these things have ever, ever, made me feel anything more than lardy, hungover and broke.
The fridge cannot help, because I wasn’t searching for a sandwich. I was hungry for meaning, for joy, for purpose in my life. My mojo had left and being hungover wasn’t going to lure it back to join the pity party.
My Mojo Has Been Ignored
I have spent a great part of my life ignoring the more uncomfortable emotions, whilst constantly searching for those transient highs. They talked to me whilst I clasped my hands firmly over my ears and shouted “blah blah blah” at the top of my voice to drown them out. No wonder my mojo is in a bit of a frump. It’s not that I don’t feel them, in fact my emotional dial is tuned to “highly sensitive”, which may explain the apocalyptic hoarding of Frazzles around my house.
After decades of running from my emotions, I fear that I lack the expertise required to understand, interpret and accurately respond to them. How on earth will I learn this (surely complex) stuff when I am so far behind already?
Part of me is now considering researching psychology courses to help me understand myself better. Now that is what I call true commitment to distraction – three years of exams simply to avoid tuning into my emotions without reaching for a bottle of wine at the same time.
Put the Corkscrew Down
It’s time Emma. It’s time to find ways to make space and time for my emotions rather than shutting them out. To embrace the ones that make me feel icky. To find more words than icky to describe how I am feeling. To walk past the fridge without searching for the answers inside.
It’s time to discover what I am really hungry for.
The next time you find yourself staring into the fridge for the answers, why not try shutting the door, finding a place by yourself and simply breathing. You never know what you might discover.
When I first started in business, I made a HUGE mistake. More than once, in fact. Over and over again, I looked to what other people had done to build their business and copied them. I didn’t do anything as wise as looking around me for people I admired and copying them, oh no. I read books, I read ebooks and I copied people who had almost nothing in common with me. And I ended up with… a business I didn’t recognise, that felt wrong and made me wonder where I was going wrong.
The Slipper Police
My daughter loves rules. She loves being rewarded for being good, and she loves telling me when her brother is doing something he shouldn’t be doing. And sometimes that comes in handy: “Mummy, he’s eating conkers” was a time when her tell-tale nature really came into its own. She was shocked last year when she noticed a Christmas tree still up in the middle of January – “you can’t do that” she cried indignantly. I reminded her gently (through my giggles) that there are no Christmas Tree Police.
This morning she was at it again – everyone had their slippers on, except her brother. “Put them on!” she ordered, as the self-appointed first ever member of The Slipper Police!
And as my smile died on my face, I couldn’t help but ponder just how many times I have listened to advice and added it to a long exhaustive list of THOU SHALT OBEYs that impact every single aspect of running my business.
Most authors want to tell you how to do things. All the books and ebooks I read when I started my business told me everything I needed to do – without a shred of doubt or wiggle room.
Thou Shalt Have a Website!
and yet I believe that businesses have thrived perfectly well for thousands of years before the internet was invented. People are equally evangelistic about all the other online forums for building connections, be it Instagram, DoodleFugYourCat or the next new thing to leech your time away from actually getting to know people in your own street.
Yet if we all read the same books and take the same steps, all we create are cookie-cutter businesses that are just slightly different versions of each other. And then we wonder why no-one notices us. Why should they, when we all look and sound the same?
What if you want to create a Quirky Business, a Pink Haired Business?
Rules Squish Your Pink Hair
Let’s take a simple example: most business books agree that you need a business card. Maybe you do, and maybe you don’t.
Even if you decide it is a good idea to have a business card (there are no rules), the very phrase business card will limit your interpretation of what yours could look/ feel/ taste/ smell/ sound like. I love the idea of a card that smells like a brand new car (if you are a car showroom) or play like a miniature guitar (if you are a guitar shop or teacher) or sound like waves lapping on pebbles if you are beach-side B&B. Just writing “what your card sounds like” brought a burst of inspiration to this post.
Break out of prison by starting OUTSIDE the walls.
Give yourself a blank piece of paper and put a word in the centre. Definitely not “business card” (and not just because that is two words) as that has too many limiting (predictable) associations with it. Use “thing” if you want it to be a physical something you can hand over. Put “feel” if you want it to be an experience people don’t forget, and keep only in their memories. Put “Floogy” if you don’t want to give it any boundaries at all.
What you want that Floogy to create? What experience do you want people to have when you Floogy them? When you hand over your thing, what do you want people to feel? What do you want people to do with it?
I decided that business cards are all too easily filed into a desk drawer and then chucked into the recycling twice a year when you have forgotten who the person was. So I decided I wanted something that made people feel good about themselves, so that they would want to keep it. Now I give out glass diamonds and say “you are special, this is to remind you to bright like a diamond”.
And it does exactly what I set out to do.
A few years ago, a lady came up to me with this plea: “Can I have another Diamond please? My daughter was sad and having a bad day, so I told her how special she was, and gave her my Diamond to cheer her up and keep it with her.”
Has anyone ever done that to your business card?
Think Pink Hair and remind yourself “The Business Card Police Do Not Exist”