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Remembering Promises

DLB's second weekend wrap-up is about our recent work on promises.

We’ve been on a solid run of fairly substantive posts recently, breaking a little ground in a lot of directions. Today, I thought I’d take a moment to try and encapsulate the heart of our December work on the role of promises play in advertising and design.

Promise to Return by Edward Bielejec
Promise to Return by Edward Bielejec

This thread probably starts with our consequentialist account of design, which motivated our positions on telling the truth (and therefore being ethical — an observation which we couldn’t help but notice Seth Godin echoing recently). For those who may not recall our first slogan, it’s very simple: Be good. Because if you’re not, and you lie about it, people will find out.

From there, it was a matter of simply asking how we were on the hook for our choices. The answer to this question was easy: because our livelihood is based on securing the trust of the consumers and constituents to whom we tailor our clients’ products and services.

Now, the real work was ready to begin. Let’s review it:

  1. We get consumer trust by making promises, which we call advertisements.
  2. There’s no other way to get this trust, and this fact leads to all manner of advertising tricks. We covered promising almost nothing, merely insinuating something — however implausible, or promising something vague.
  3. All these tricks make consumers jaded. This exhausts many of the standard model advertisement options, a fact which leads advertisers to adopt an ironic stance toward the whole promising practice in general.
  4. This ironic stance, though, undermines trust in the brand, which was what advertising was supposed to secure in the first place.
  5. This all leads us to believe that it’s not enough to merely tell the truth, you have to make meaningful promises that you can keep.

In slogan form: Brands are built on trust, which is only sustainable when built on meaningful promises kept.

Combining our two slogans has interesting results, which we will continue to explore in February.

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PaulJan 30, 2009

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