Why is it that when we feel sad, we listen to sad music?
This week’s castaway on Desert Island Discs was Malcolm Gladwell (Of SCA reading list fame). When asked about his criteria for picking his tracks he said, “They’re all profoundly depressing. To my mind, music is at its finest when it explores the melancholic side of human nature. I’m not a morose person I just like morose music.”
This made me think about the last time I felt depressed. Yesterday. After a quick scroll through the latest posts on AdWeek.
I’ve spent all summer reading the wise words and sound principles of history’s greatest advertisers, psychologists and behavioural scientists. And yet, in Adland, it’s animal gags, puns and cheap pranks (actually, probably incredibly expensive pranks). Each one leaving me with little more than a smile in the mind; informed of nothing, persuaded of very little.
Meanwhile, on his desert island, Gladwell may have offended a few of these would-be comedians when he said, “The achievement of bringing someone to tears is infinitely greater than the achievement of bringing them to laughter. We laugh all the time, and easily. I’ve laughed probably 15 times today and will laugh another 20 times and yet we continue to reward people who bring us to laughter as if it’s some great feat. It’s not. I can make you laugh, but I will not make you cry. I’m simply not good enough. So I think people who can bring us to the brink of tears are geniuses.”
That’s all very well, for music. But in our world of hawking goods, is there much of a market for misery? Well, perhaps. Today I discovered a brand revels in the most miserable weather: the rain.
Scandi Raincoat manufacturer, Stutterheim, have positioned themselves with the brilliant line ‘Swedish melancholy at its driest’. And this isn’t just the idea for their a/w 14 campaign. Melancholy is the kernel right at the very heart of the company. They’re dedicated to it. They say, “Melancholy is an active state. When we’re melancholic, we feel uneasy with the way things are, the status quo, the conventions of our society.” “Feeling blue inspires creativity.” “Welcome to embracing the demons lurking outside and those hiding within.”
The tone is so refreshing, honest and deviant. They’ve abandoned cheer-up-guys’ superficial gags in favour of a deeper emotional connection, that lends their very expensive coats a story, a mood and a meaning. Their dedication to the cause even extends to an annual award: The Most Melancholic Person of The Year.
So never mind what’s hot right now on the blogs. I’d rather stand on the shoulders of giants – the ones on our reading list – and produce work that sells and endures, harnessing those unexpected ideas that really resonate with people.
P.S – This summer, Marc challenged me to come up with a joke as a writing exercise. But after this, I think I’ll have a go at reducing him to tears instead. Tears of despair don’t count.