Hello. I’m a big fan of Inception and spotted that Amir and Björn were having a bit of a tiff about the film. They have a blog and Amir wrote the following text [German version here]. Obviously I like the text because I have translated it for you. I’ve done my best with the translation and I think I’ve done the original justice. Old readers and long term followers will recognise some of the thinking and its pretty obvious why agree with most of what Amir is saying.
Amir is the chief creative officer for the DDB group here in Germany. He also owes me a beer. Enjoy.
Why Inception isn’t a film and what that’s got to do with marketing.
We’ve been discussing Film and the Golden Globe winners today and during the course of our discussion I came up with an argument that intended to show how incompetent the jury was when judging Christopher Nolan’s film „Inception”. For me, and I’m serious about this; and the longer I think about this the more convinced of it I am, “Inception” is more than just a film.
Looking at “Inception” from a purely cinematic point of view, it’s clearly exceptional; the idea , the script, the camera work and the direction are, each on their own, the best thing that has come out of Hollywood for a very long time. It takes a brave man to take such a complex idea and pour it into a script that becomes so multi-dimensional and takes the viewer on a cinematic rollercoaster ride through their entire range of emotions. As a film it leaves you feeling dizzy, even hours after watching it.
Inception, however, is so much more than just “a film”. The traditional “cinema format” just doesn’t do the underlying idea and the overall concept justice and would force the disruptive and progressive nature of the story to bow down to traditional, linear forms of storytelling. That doesn’t make the film inferior. The concept behind Inception is bigger, more resounding and has more impact than the traditional storytelling format of film would ever allow. As far as I’m concerned it is a piece of conceptual art; it both hits you in the gut and takes your mind on a journey. It questions the very notion of being, with all the smoke and mirrors, the value systems, consciousness and sub consciousness and it does this without being uber-intellectual or acting like an overzealous school teacher. Just look at the four dream levels running at the same time.
The glorious thing is that, when the film is over; when we see the closing scene and the credits start to roll, it’s not really over at all. A discourse occurs between the story and the different layers and levels. It carries on in the discussions, interpretations and the discoveries of hidden elements that bubble up on social networks and are only really noticed over the course of time and after serious consideration. This is, for me anyway, why I think that Inception, apart from being a concept and a film, is an excellent example of contemporary brand and marketing communication.
A brand has to be multilayered and multidimensional. A brand isn’t something that you lead or guide, it’s something that “becomes” and that’s a process that only happens based on people’s experiences with that brand. Regardless of what most traditional ad and communication experts try to do or tell us, brands don’t have linear stories. You have to develop the layers of a brand and its touch points because in this, our interconnected and networked world, the different narrative strands and dimensions of a brand inform and mutually affect each other and this, in turn influences and offers a different perspective of the brand’s story. The brand develops, it evolves but not in the stiff, traditional sense of brand positioning but in a dynamic, interesting and surprising way.
Inception, literally translated means the beginning. It’s not necessary to finish developing a brand. Not in the 21st century. The brand is the seed, the starting point, something that should be dealt with as if it were an epic script and something that we allow to have many possible touch points. The brand’s story lives on, it develops. It becomes human and open to interpretation, both positive and negative and that’s the difference between successful brand communications of today and that of the past. The brand becomes true. You don’t always receive praise from the industry, nor the self proclaimed gurus for following this approach but the people that really matter will thank you by engaging with the most valuable thing they posses – their imagination.