Nothing says "I've Arrived" as a public company more than a good old-fashioned brand spot. The process is usually straightforward. The company hires an ad agency for their talent and culture, as exhibited here. I especially like Ed Hanson's ability to get to the core customer insights.
However, when you're a public company with 1 billion users, unbelievable pressure from the street to perform in a, oh, what's the word... SHIT economy and a legacy that will fall short if it literally doesn't change the world well, then, the establishment of your brand carries a bit more weight.
Enter Facebook's first commercial titled "The Things That Connect Us," with a core message built in large part on the simile that chairs are like Facebook.
In many ways, brands succeed when they create an emotional connection to consumers. It lets those of us in advertising take the metaphors (Facebook chose a simile) we have spent years feeding people and turn them into much more direct statements. Just Do It. I'm Loving It. The Best or Nothing. Weiden and Kennedy is the agency Facebook chose and they have done great work, including Nike. They are known for being one of the best at identifying the key insights and turning them into core messages that have emotional appeal.
The problem is that we haven't seen a brand like Facebook before because it is literally built on emotion. Every action their users take is driven by some emotion. It might as well be their only brand pillar. So the tricky thing about this first spot is they had to nail the right ones and focus. The spot has a lot of stuff. Focus isn't one of them.
Sure, they tackle the core insights. Connections? Check. Sharing? Check. Doorbells? Stretch metaphor but ok. I pretty much gave up when it got to Great Nations? Let's be honest. Do the political posts you see right now harken images of a great nation or are they funny Photoshop images of Romney's hair on Obama that would make the Founding Fathers puke?
The piece ignores two key insights. They're the most honest, the ones that drive the business and the two that all users share whether they admit it or not. The first is vanity. Facebook makes it socially acceptable for us to talk about ourselves. People were once shunned for constantly pulling pictures of their kids out at parties. Posting pictures of your kid's first day of school every year? A prerequisite. Look how cute they are. Look at this great picture I took today. Look at the awesome seats I had at the show. Here I am with that guy that used to play for the Bears! Hey, look at me!!! I'm in Vegas and I'm crazy!!!!! When this post goes live I will shamelessly plug it on my timeline. That's what the timeline, and by default, Facebook, is: a never-ending 15 minutes of fame.
Towards the end of the spot the universe is presented as "vast and dark and it makes us wonder if we are alone." I half expected to see Nimoy. But don't worry -- Facebook is here to show you're not alone. See, that's my problem with the message. Facebook isn't here to show us we're not alone, Facebook is here to make it easier to BE alone.
Wherever you are -- in a Starbucks halfway around the world, 32,000 feet up in the air or on your own toilet for crying out loud -- you can follow it all. While you're alone. You can be with everyone while you're alone. Loneliness is the second trait, brought on and maintained by infinite laziness.
When you think about it, it's this idea of loneliness combined with virtual togetherness that is the true genius of the invention. It's shared loneliness. One billion people sharing their lives and building friendships without having to get off their asses because Facebook makes being a friend a lot less work.
This can't be overstated because, whether you are willing to admit it or not, we like that and, to a certain extent, need it. We all believe we're too damned busy so we need the ability to be lazy AND be a good friend. You always know their birthdays, if they got a new job, if they lost a loved one or if the baby slept through the night. You'll know where they are tonight or where they were last night and you most likely weren't there nor have you talked to them. As long as you comment or like, you did your job. Doesn't mean you don't care, it might just means you don't care enough.
Chairs are like Facebook but not because we want a break, as the spot says. It's because we want to sit around, talk about ourselves and watch the world go by without getting up. And you need a good chair to do that.