Inception – Plant an Idea


So I will not talk much about the movie. Those who have seen Inception would know that the movie cannot be captured in words… it needs to be felt and needs to be internalized. Those who have not see it yet…  you know what to do.

With every movie that Christopher Nolan makes, he will be raising the bar and in times to come would be known as probably the best director Hollywood ever had. Mr Nolan take a bow. I hope you sweep away all the possible Oscars. Absolutely loved The Dark Knight and have to lay my hands on Prestige and Memento.

But this blog is not about Inception the movie or Christopher Nolan.

This blog is about planting an idea in our brains as consumers.

In 1957, Mr Vance Packard wrote a seminal book “The Hidden Persuaders”. To quote Wikipedia –  Packard explores the use of consumer motivational research and other psychological techniques, including depth psychology and subliminal tactics, by advertisers to manipulate expectations and induce desire for products. It also explores the manipulative techniques of promoting politicians to the electorate. The book questions the morality of using these techniques.

Sounds familiar? It probably is the foundation of Inception. Of course Inception is about dreams but Mr Packard talked about planting ideas deep in the sub conscious of people who are wide awake.

Look around and you would realize that every piece of advertising is attempting to do that. Of course nowadays the subtlety is out of the window. Backed by huge media spends, the brands want to drum an idea into our heads. Case in point is the new Saif Ali Khan commercial for Airtel Digital TV. The day it was launched and couple of days after that… I must have seen that commercial at least 50 times in couple of days. It got to a point where I felt like throwing up everytime the commercial came on air. Media Planners wake up!

Anyways, the point is that what we buy today… what we consume and what we recommend, very little is actually what we believe ourselves. Everything is what the brand has taught us to say. Quick.. tell me why do you use Colgate… or Pepsodent or Close Up?? Or to move away from mundane… why Gucci, Prada, Tommy Hilfiger? Why an iPhone, iPad, Nokia… Why facebook? Why wordpress?

There are many people who would sit up and say “but Samir it is about the experienential aspect of the brand!” Right! Did you ever stop to think that the experience that you seeked and the experience that the brand fulfilled… were driven by the brand!

Politicians do it all the time. Media does it all the time. Read this morning that there are 89,000 vacancies to be filled up in Indian Railways. Media prompted by politicians is highlighting this fact as if it is Mamta Banerjee’s fault that the vacancies are not filled up. 89,000 vacancies!!! Surely there were other Ministers before her who could have ensured that they were filled up. Now I am no fan of Mamta Banerjee but give me a break!

Wonder how many of you would have seen this movie “New Delhi Times” starring Shashi Kapoor as the editor of the newspaper and how he gets manipulated by Manohar Singh as the politician. Same premise… the world would believe when they read it in newspaper (why also all the B2B businesses believe that PR is the way to go for building a brand).

In Swordfish – John Travolta tells Hugh Jackman that we believe what our eyes see and then towards the climax of the movie, he manipulates what Hugh Jackman sees. That’s another must watch movie by the way.

Brands over a period of time have learnt the art of manipulating us by constantly working on our herd mentality. I have always wondered about what is the difference in the detergent for top loading washing machine vs front loading!! But everytime I faithfully buy top loading detergent because I have a top loading washing machine. Now when I am writing this blog.. I am ready to burst out with laughter for getting conned like this.

Then of course there are subliminal ways to entice. Wonder how many of you would have noticed that when you walk into a movie hall… its only when there is a fair crowd waiting, the pop corn machine is started and the fragrance of pop corn permeates through the lobby and attacks our senses. And the urge to buy pop corn grows.

53 years down the line (after The Hidden Persuaders) Mr Nolan has again planted an idea in our brain and I am just wondering how many marketeers are thinking of ways to make the brand stronger by using such techniques. Fret not.. you would have read the book in college and thrown it away. If you still got it in your collection, dust the cover and start reading it again. Or go buy it.

As for me… It is Inception time again… have to watch it few times more….

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3 thoughts on “Inception – Plant an Idea

  1. Hi Samir… Another one of your rude-but-to-the-point advertising basher blog… completely afree on the saif ali khan – kareena kapoor ad… couple of days .. and it felt like it was being shoved in the throat . and if a 100 reruns a day weren’t bad enough, the whole thing was repeated twice even in the ad May be the client got so overcome with the HD idea , that he just had to get rid of the hard on about it . ( i even wonder if the woman and the beach episode happened to him in the real, with his wife hovering around)

    But then i believe that the its not just in inception.. its about execution and expression. Dictionary defines inception as “An event that is a beginning; a first part or stage of subsequent events” …. I still remember the Tanishq ad with Arundhati nag that was doing the rounds a month or so back… and it ran in every commercial break only on sony pix every night during prime time . And i remember watching it every night for atleast fifteen days at a go… even waiting for it. It was oh so beautifully executed and had hit just the right stop.. for me and for every indian woman i guess. The ad was talk to the town then.. and it still makes you smile if you watch it.

    So i guess thats the power of advertising. It can ex halt and it can disgust, And to repeat myself again, its not just inception… its also in the expression

    Btw you should catch the ad here..

    1. precisely my point. The tanishq connected deep with your sub conscious and evoked a desire. In our desire to break the ad clutter, we seem to have forgotten the art of subtle. Give me a minute long ad just once a day so that I look forward to it rather than 30 seconds or oops 20 seconds (media planners and channels love the short duration) commercials which lead to stomach upheaval. More so the case with brands that have big budgets. Airtel is a case in point. nice ads with Sharman but overboard with their media spend. And you are right about the meaning of Inception… However the point is… every scene in the movie… every dialogue can lead to a blog… I chose one which connected with The Hidden Persuaders.

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