Spock was nothing without Kirk: Emotion matters in more than just pitches

Jeff Rosenblum is the founding partner of Questus, a San Francisco-based digital agency

In creative and tech departments around the world, geeks and wannabes are lamenting the loss of our favorite Vulcan actor, Leonard Nimoy, who passed away late last month. For almost 50 years, Spock graced the screen and inspired us to daydream about unknown worlds.

Everybody loves Spock. But let’s be clear: Spock wasn’t shit without Captain Kirk. That is a key lesson for those of us in advertising trying to do breakthrough work.

Spock was the logical backbone of the USS Enterprise. He kept the ship on course and the mission on target. In the advertising world, that’s the great strategy. But, their greatest missions weren’t feasible without Captain Kirk. He was the emotional leader. The man who had sex with green aliens and inspired his team to take unprecedented risks.

In the advertising world, that has now become everybody’s job. It doesn’t just fall on one leader. Kirk isn’t going to swoop in with a skin-tight polyester shirt and a phaser gun. It’ll take more than agency heads and CMO’s to lead us through the advertising revolution. It’ll take more than logic alone to live long and prosper.

Everyone must learn to sell-in new ideas and approaches. Change is hard. Emotions must be mastered. From the most junior to the most senior, we must learn to sell our ideas. Junior art directors must sell-in why a new interaction model creates easier usability when speaking to the creative director. Mid-level technologists must sell-in why a new code base creates efficiencies while speaking to a tech lead. Vp’s of Digital must sell-in why content marketing is more effective than TV while speaking to the CMO.

As an example of a failed opportunity, our agency took a Spock-like approach to a pitch a few years ago. It was incredibly logical and data filled. Every page demonstrated how smart we were and how we fully understood the client’s business. We had page after page and table after table of amazing statistics and research findings. We filled a full hour with data before we even showed any creative. At one point, I heard one of the prospect’s lean over to a colleague and whisper, “this is the genius presentation.” He didn’t mean it as a compliment. He meant he was bored out of his mind and lost all interest before we showed our breakthrough idea. Not surprisingly, we didn’t win the gig. We were done the moment we emotionally disengaged the audience.

In the advertising community, we know we need to build emotional connections when creating campaigns. But, we lose sight of it with internal communication. It’s not just the new business pitch process. On both the agency and brand side, our decks, pitches and meetings often suffer from logic-overload. Think of it this way: How many amazing ideas have you seen hit the cutting room floor because they simply didn’t get internal buy-in?

Advertising is at a crossroads. The antiquated approaches of yesteryear are rapidly being replaced by Spock-like tools that are largely driven by data and logic. But, we can’t rely on logic alone.

Creating emotional connections isn’t about simply being a great orator or one of the “cool kids.” There are business processes that can be applied to it, such as applying three-act structures to presentations, recognizing key drop-off points in attention spans, controlling information overload through design and financially investing in relationship building.

We apply process to almost everything in the business world, but rarely do we apply it to creating emotional connections. Meaning, we have processes to be like Spock but not to be like Captain Kirk. Learning to make an emotional connection is life-long journey. It’s not about reading on article and mastering the art. The point of this piece is to stress the importance of simply investing resources in building processes.

This is not to say that we all should be act like William Shatner telling our colleagues we “have a plan.” It’s about creating a balance. We can’t get by on emotion alone. In the business world, we should be focused much more heavily on logic than emotion. Because let’s face it, without Spock, Captain Kirk would have had his ass shot off on his very first mission.

Image courtesy of Dan Holm / Shutterstock.com


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