Unique brand message challenges status quo

What would you do with 60 seconds of the world's time? Wolff Olins' Ije Nwokorie rethinks branding.

How would you fill 60 seconds of the world's attention? Would you charm with your 'elevator pitch', that carefully crafted sales tool that assumes people in elevators are there to buy things?

Would you show off what you've got, who you are, the mediated version of the pick-up line that says, 'Look how great I am, don't you want to come with me?' Or maybe you'd give people a taste of your goods, a little snippet of your delights, like a legalised drug leader, offering the first hit for free.

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In our time-starved, media-drenched world, 60 seconds is such a precious asset. The folks who sold this precious commodity at the Super Bowl earlier this year even put a price tag on it: $4.5m.

So when we get it, the temptation to make the most of it with a compelling pitch, an amazing demo and an addictive sample, is almost too powerful to resist. It's this unmissable chance to send our message, sell our products, push our brands.

Brand new thinking

Yet, maybe we can start thinking about our brands differently. Maybe we can start seeing them less as megaphones for our messages and seductive wrapping for our products. Maybe we can start seeing them from society's viewpoint – less about what we want to say, and more about what they want to do.

Maybe that will force us to think differently about the 60 seconds. Maybe we'd use them differently.

Let's give people something that matters to them. Something personal. Surprising. Rewarding. Like Barclays, a bank in Britain that used its 60 seconds to invite kids to learn code instead of going on about interest rates and joining bonuses.

Or Charity: Water, which chose to show us how something we all have once a year – a birthday – can become a universal tool to do something meaningful in the world.

Less brand noise

These organisations forgo opportunities to tout themselves and instead pivot the spotlight towards us in a life-affirming and useful way. They challenge the modern creed that everything a business does must have an immediate commercial return – eyeballs, upsell, revenue – and instead allows them to be part of society's bigger issues.

And it's worth fantasising about a world where more businesses think about the bigger things, the things that really matter. Maybe then 60 seconds would become so much less important – a blip – and maybe we'd have less noise from those millions of brands vying for our attention. Maybe instead, we'd spend more time making useful and wonderful things that make a difference. And give them away.

Then we could give everyone their 60 seconds back. To get a beer. To talk about the game. Take a leak. Or even better, just to sit in silence, reflect and take in the world around them. I think that'd be nice.

How would you fill your 60 seconds? Let us know in the Comments below. This article first appeared inside Computer Arts 238.

Words: Ije Nwokorie is global chief executive of Wolff Olins, having worked with the consultancy since 2006. He originally trained as an architect in Nigeria and the US.
Illustration: Żaneta Antosik

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