A single butterfly is beautiful, but in a crowd, that beauty gets lost

Imagine a man walking through a familiar garden when he notices a monarch butterfly resting on a branch. He decides to pause and admire it. He appreciates the beauty of it and feels connected to it. Now imagine the same man walking through the same garden, but he is surrounded by 3,000 butterflies. They swarm around him, striking him in the face, getting in his hair, each one unique and beautiful in its own right but unidentifiable in the fog of swarming colors.

That’s what marketing has become.

At one time, not very long ago, there was less of it. People had time to react and take in a brand. It was not sandwiched between 50 competing campaigns. People would simply notice it and want to connect with it. They trusted that the thing they were seeing was legitimate. Now, consumers are actively avoiding the onslaught. They have to be given a reason to engage. It’s not enough to be unique. You must also be appropriate and strategic on your timing. You must have empathy for consumer consumption to be noticed.

It is as difficult to execute an effective launch of an idea as it is to develop a great idea. Realizing this helps when developing a marketing strategy. Unfortunately, it also requires a bit more time to grow a plan prior to launch as well as during the launch. This metaphor also works with saturating the market. If people decide to flood the garden with purple butterflies, after a while, that’s all people see or consider when they think of butterflies. The image of a butterfly is purple to them because of the saturation in the garden.

Now imagine being a yellow butterfly in that ocean of purple butterflies. Your initial thought is it would stand out. But that would only be if the man in the garden wasn’t actively swatting and waving away butterflies. And even if the man does notice the yellow butterfly, will he appreciate the yellow butterfly based on its own merits? Or is he likely to have his opinion of the yellow butterfly dictated by his agitation from the mass of 2,999 other butterflies? It’s the context of the experience. Where can one now appreciate the splendor of a single butterfly?

Finding new ways to connect with an audience is difficult. It requires an honest approach that really validates the interruption of a consumer. You can Trojan horse your butterfly by presenting it in a less saturated format via something your market actually wants to consume. Finding ways to infiltrate people via consumer consumption of entertainment, for example, is an effective way to do it, except when the butterfly is revealed out of context. There should be a real connection with the butterfly created within the context that feels natural. How can we find a connection that makes people want to engage with the butterfly?

Great ideas are important. Creativity is vital. But in the end, the only thing that matters is the pitch. You can’t make people want anything. You must show people that you have what they want and encourage them to engage. All within about 1.5 seconds, if you’re lucky.

Understanding the consistent values of a client and repeatedly sharing that value using methods that neither insult nor annoy the consumer is a good start. Connecting personally one-on-one and sharing that experience can also create a touch of oh-so-valuable empathy — empathy that can possibly buy you the 1.5 seconds necessary for engagement.

Alex Raffi serves as partner and creative director for Imagine Communications.