Accountants. Doctors. College Professors. College Kids. Yuppies. Hippies. They were all there. They all looked exactly the same. So much for differentiation, right? Actually, the consistency of similarities was the key differentiator. From all walks of life and philosophical bents, people interacted. They interacted freely without prejudice and without expectation. They only goal was to connect and share.
This seems to be a hard concept for some people to wrap their minds around—even harder for brand gurus. At Burning Man the focus was outside of self and within self at the same time. Now, you gotta stick with me on this point. The reward came in connecting with everything…more than just people. In fact, the people were kinda annoying sometimes. Yeah, I said it. But the point was not to necessarily connect person-to-person. The point, as I saw it, was to simply connect. Connect with the art. Connect with the elements. Connect with the stress. Connect with the isolation. Even connect with the vastness of nothing. To accomplish this, the ego had to be checked at the front gate…
…sidebar: Within 30 seconds of driving through the front gate, I witnessed male and female nudity…This is why the connection must exist beyond people. You cannot attend thinking it’s “Girls Gone Wild: Black Rock City Edition.”
Brands need to check egos as well. Sometimes a brand is developed by one of the aforementioned gurus with a certain value or connector in mind. Marketing dollars are poured in and results only trickle out. Where is the connection? Like Burning Man, the connection needs to come from multiple points. Avoid the obvious. The obvious touch point (like the nudity at Burning Man) is usually less compelling.
Gurus need not apply, and here is why: Gurus like to make it about them. Look at the awards on my wall. Look at the profits in my company. Look at the fancy office with a lot of glass and metal. Gurus want you to connect with them and not them with you. If I had that attitude at Burning Man, then I would have missed out on all the cool art. I would have only looked for things that I knew would appeal to me. I wanted the similar differences that surrounded me to make me think. When I was able to enjoy that connection, it no longer was about me or you or them. It was about the freedom of the connection. Hey, money people, don’t you want the market to have a strong connection to your brand? Then stop making it about you. It’s very freeing.