Friday, January 26, 2007

Sammy Jankis knows good marketing

The tattoos covering Leonard's body create a bizarre visual, but are a necessity. They are part of his 'system' of reminders. Reminders of information long-lost due to a freak injury, all various lifelines that secure him to a point in time when his memory didn't dictate that his life must restart every 5 minutes.

But for now, he is in a hotel room. He doesn't know where he was 5 minutes ago, and 5 minutes from now he won't remember being here, but for now, he is in a hotel room.

The phone rings and Leonard immediately grabs the receiver.

"Who is this?" he asks.

We then see Leonard explaining to the unknown caller the events of his life that led up to his injury. An injury that occurred during a robbery at his home. An injury that took Leonard's short term memory, that occurred during a robbery that would end up taking his wife's life. Leonard explains all this to an unknown caller.

As Leonard is having his discussion with the unknown caller, he continues to scratch and pick at a bandage on his arm. Eventually, the tape begins to give way, and Leonard notices something black on his arm under the bandage, and quickly removes it to reveal a tattoo:

Never Answer The Phone

A shocked Leonard stops talking in mid-sentence, holds the receiver for a second then asks "Who is this?"

The unknown caller immediately hangs up.

Leonard's confused look tells us that he's thinking the same thing we are; "What the hell just happened?"

If you watch the movie Memento, that's a question you'll ask yourself early and often. It's one of my favorite movies, I've probably watched it 50 times, and I still can't tell you what happens. Neither can the lead character, Lenny.

And that's what makes Memento such a brilliant film; we see the movie as if it's coming from Leonard's eyes. We have to start over every 5 minutes (you'll have to watch it to understand), we don't know who is telling us the truth, and who is lying. We struggle to make sense of the world we are seeing, 5 minutes at a time.

Good marketing is a lot like Memento. Just as Memento lets us see the world from the lead character's point of view, good marketing rests in seeing the world from the customer's point of view. In realizing that the customer's point of view probably involves wants and needs completely different from our own.

But that can begin to change if we start to see the world through their eyes. If like the audience watching Lenny, we begin to relate to the lead character, the customer.

So give it, and Memento, a shot. If nothing else, you'll have seen a great movie, even if you have no idea what just happened.

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Burbanked said...

It's a great analogy, and if you'll permit me I'd even extend it to a terrific little scene in the movie (and forgive the paraphrasing; I haven't watched the movie 50 times even though I do love it):

It's where Leonard "wakes" to find himself running down an alleyway and he notices a guy running parallel to him a little ways off.

"Hm." Leonard says to himself. "I seem to be chasing this guy. I wonder what's - "

And then the guy shoots at him.

"Oh, I guess he must be chasing me."

Now isn't that like a good, provocative marketing message? It intrigues us, draws us in and makes us contemplate it and then suddenly BOOM we realize that we're the prey and that the marketer's had us in their sights all along!

Mack Collier said...

LOL Great analogy Burbanked, and I love that scene as well.

Anonymous said...

I do love this film, particularly that the first time you watch it is an experience that you can't replicate, yet each time you do watch it you pick up something new.
To further extend your metaphor for outtakes for brands of this structure is that you can't plan out a consumer's experience of your campaign in a linear narrative structure (consumer x will first see the TVC, then a banner will prompt a web visit etc). You just can't predict how people will first come across your story or how many tactical elements they will see (let alone recall).