Monday, September 12, 2022

When the Hurly Burly's Done.

I read something not long ago from the Pulitzer-Prize winning historian, Barbara Tuchman.

Great historians do more than retell the events of humankind. They do more than recite dates and tectonic movements of peoples and recreate the ins-and-outs of the gruesome battles that mark our species' time on this dying planet.


Great historians are like giant brains.


And giant brains, like giant super-computers and giant AI systems aren't magic. They're pattern-matching machines.


They can see something that happens. Something strange, unusual and never-before and they can say, "That reminds me of..."


They can explain why it reminds them of something else. And explain the comparison in such a way that you, too, understand something you might not have understood before.


[BTW, good advertising people and good designers can do this too. They can look at a new technology and say, that reminds me of what DDB did for Orbach's, who faced a similar issue. Finding patterns is how humanity thinks, learns and--if you agree we are progressing--progresses.]


Back to Barbara Tuchman, not long ago, I read a single sentence by her. It came to my mind as I read about Queen Elizabeth dying.


The sentence is: "The persistence of the normal is strong."


This might be blasphemous to those who believe in things like the royal family, but the Queen, like all the Princes, Earls, Lords, Dukes and other purple foofaraw is an anachronism.


Whatever human need initially formed "royalty," that need is answered by other institutions and other beliefs today.


But millions, maybe billions of people will mourn the Queen's death. Because the persistence of the normal is strong. And the Queen and royalty has been normal for all of our lifetimes and for literally thousands of years.


A lot of our world today forgets about the persistence of the normal.


We forget how enduring enduring is.


Those of us in advertising often babble on about the importance of the word "new." Put "new" in a headline and readership goes up. Put "new" on a bottle of furniture polish and sales improve. Add new colors to an old house, and 'poof,' a refresh.


New is news.


But old is stable.


For most of the Queen's lifetime, the world has been in the thrall of new. In fact, I was born in 1957 and I'm older than 110 of the world's 192 recognized countries.


That's a lot of new.


And it shakes people.


That's what's going on in America right now.


The newness, the lack of persistence of "normal" is scaring the crap out of people.


Again, in my lifetime, Black people got the right to vote, America lost its economic and military hegemony, gender became fluid, schools became integrated, gasoline became expensive, news came from thousands of sources. The very climate of our planet has changed. And on and on.


Like I said, that's a lot of new.


It scares the crap out of people.


People who often prefer the persistence of the normal, whether that normal is good or bad.


That's why England had a Queen.


She didn't do much.


But she was the normal.


She was like a tide.


She was always there.


We need to think about the feelings so many have of having the rug pulled out from under us.


The great advertising person Carl Ally used to say, "Advertising should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted."


I think "new" afflicts the comfortable. It makes you reject the past, the status quo.

That's why we want the new iPhone before the old iPhone is hardly out of the box. 

That's FOMO.

But more scary is FOTA. Fear of taking away.


I think now, there are a lot of afflicted who need comforting. They don't know what's next or why or where it's coming from or if it's good or bad, what it will cost, how long it will last or if it will hurt. They don't know if it's fair.

When the persistence of the normal becomes abnormal, that's MacBethian.

Fair is foul and foul is fair. The world is topsy turvy. And the hurly burly is never done.


I think maybe people, and brands, should think about that.


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