Saturday, January 9, 2010

Once upon a time in India

[In this series of posts, Leader of the Flock Aimee Woodall recounts her two-week trip to India and the lessons she learned along the way.]

We drove for hours and saw nothing but sad little villages and scrawny dogs against a dreary, provincial landscape. It was worse than a Sarah McGloughlin commercial.

And then, out of nowhere, it appeared. The Taj Mahal. It’s so astounding to see the only word I can think to describe it is… Taj Mahalian. I guess it’s one of the eight wonders of the world for a reason, right? 
We didn’t use many guides on the trip because I’m not the touristy type, but I’m glad we decided to this time. The structure is one of the most beautiful, captivating and giant things I’ve ever seen.

But the story behind it is even better.

The Taj is actually a mausoleum built by several architects, but commissioned by a guy named Shah Jahan who was also an emperor during the 1600s. So Shah Jahan was married to his third wife and she gave birth to their fourteenth son, but things didn’t go well. Before dying she asked the emperor to make four promises: 1. Build the Taj, 2. Marry again, 3. Be kind to their children, and 4. Visit her tomb on the anniversary of her death annually. Our guide pointed out that he only did the first two.

So he builds the Taj, and it’s quite a strenuous affair… lots of death and corruption and all of that. But that’s beside the point because he was truly passionate about creating a site that matched his eternal, undying love for his wife. Throughout the tour our guide frequently noted special motifs and designs that symbolized this infatuation. Even the white marble, which changes colors in different lighting, is meant to represent the fluctuating moods of women throughout the day. Whatever that means.

Then, once that was built, the emperor wanted to build a matching one for himself (in BLACK! woot woot!) on the other side of the river so that they could always be facing each other, which is pretty sweet. What’s not sweet is that his son killed him before he could do it. Bummer.

If you take away the madness and murder, you get a lovely, romantic story that’s pretty inspiring.

But if you take away the story, it’s kind of just another building. It’s pretty, but it’s a building.
And that got me thinking. Something so great is just so much greater if it’s got a story behind it… something passionate and entertaining that gives it a real personality. And I think the same could be said for a great campaign.

For your next campaign, consider creating something that represents your company or service. A character or maybe several and the world they live in… a world that revolves around whatever it is you’re selling. It makes it memorable, fun and more than just another ad in a magazine.

Black Sheep has used this strategy for numerous clients… PFS Group has rapper Dr. Paid (and several fabricated magazine articles and albums), Gugliani’s has the Gugliani family, and The Drinkery has a group of “regulars” that we think might have set the wheels in motion for Jersey Shore. And some of the best national campaigns do it too – Jack in the Box, Geico and if you want to go vintage, RCA’s famous dog campaign. It’s all about connecting emotionally with your audience and creating memories.

And if that guide was making that story up, I don’t want to know, because to me the Taj Mahal is sort of a real life fairy tale. Minus the creepy ending.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the stories about my trip – and learned something too! Share your travels and adventures with Black Sheep… we’re always looking for a new place to explore.

Over and out,

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