Connecting the dots.

As humans, connecting the dots is a survival mechanism. We each look for patterns in life that bring order to the randomness of existence. What we have seen in the past helps us predict what we will see in the future. Connecting the dots protects us from harm and chaos.

Exhibit A

  • #1. A campfire.
  • #2. My foot.
  • #3. My foot in the campfire.
  • #4. Excruciating pain.
  • #5. An urgent trip to urgent care.
  • #5. I won’t do that again.

Exhibit B

  • #1. I buy a book case from Ikea.
  • #2. I take it home.
  • #3. I open the assembly instructions.
  • #4. I call a company that assembles Ikea bookcases.

Creative thinking goes totally against human nature. Creative thinking encourages us to connect the dots in a whole new way. And because the end picture is something we never expected to see, the idea grabs us by the collar, It tilts our world slightly on its axis, and suddenly we see the world and maybe even ourselves differently.

It’s 1960. The advertising agency is Doyle, Dane, Bernbach in New York. DDB has a new brand of car to sell in America, and it goes against every dot-connecting instinct red-blooded American drivers have. The car looks like this.

In a world of big sheet metal, big chrome, and even bigger tail fins, the VW Beetle couldn’t look more alien if it had been beamed down from a flying saucer. Obviously, DDB has its work cut out for it. And that’s where creative thinking–finding new ways to connect the dots–went into overdrive.

DDB’s first ad for VW, “Think small.” firmly planted the brand’s flag on America’s highways. It was the dot that eventually changed the way we think about cars, driving, fuel economy, and driving status.

This was one of DDB’s next ads.

Exhibit C

  • #1. The car looks weird.
  • #2. The engine is in the trunk.
  • #3. Where’s all the chrome and sheet metal?
  • #4. It’s not from Detroit.
  • #5. I bet it breaks down a lot.

Dot #6.

Wait a minute. VW is calling their own car a lemon? This last dot defies all human and advertising logic. It seems to confirm every prospective buyer’s worst nightmare about buying a VW Beetle. But as with all creative thinkers, there is method to DDB’s madness.

The ad is really about quality control. The fact was, all car companies put their cars though rigid quality control tests. VW was just the first one to talk about it–and present it in a way that felt like a human being was talking to you instead of a marketing executive.

Yes, this particular Beetle is a lemon because one of the dozens of quality control inspectors at VW found a tiny blemish on the glove box. Conclusion. VW weeds out the lemons so people who buy VW’s never have to.

Brilliant thinking. Brilliant execution. I have never done, nor will I do, an ad that even comes close.

Published by bassetts49

50 years in advertising, 20 years as the creative lead on Geico. A life in creative thinking.

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