Treasure your own memories
and past experiences.
Stokesia laevis, commonly known as Stokes' aster or, as it is called in Japan, Rurigiku, is an herbaceous perennial that features beautiful violet-blue flowers when it blooms from June to September. In the West, the colors blue and purple are associated with sadness, which could be the reason why this flower symbolizes “reminiscence” and “recollection.” These words, especially “reminiscence,” describe the enjoyable act of recollecting past experiences or events. Things that have happened to us in the past may have caused us great hardships, sadness, or, hopefully, happiness. Sometimes we only remember a brief moment of an event or the way we felt at the time. Somehow, we sometimes even remember things differently later on. In other words, we all remember things differently and in our own way, which is why our memories are often simply unreliable. There is even data to suggest that humans don't remember 90% of what happened the previous week. The memories we recall by some kind of trigger, however, are intense, and we face them again as something that's accompanied by imagination mixed with our own thoughts. Looking at relationships between people, some get back together as soon as they break up. This could be not only because they could not find anyone better but also because they conveniently remember what they experienced together.
Meanwhile, there has been remarkable research done on how to use digital data and AI to get in touch with past memories. Replika is a mobile app created by Luka. The idea came from Eugenia Kuyda, an AI developer and co-founder of Luka, after she lost a close friend in a car accident. She created an AI chatbot that analyzed the text data from thousands of emails and text messages that she had with her best friend, Roman Mazurenko, making it seem as if she were talking to him. While her best friend's replica can talk about memories, it can't talk about new things that were going on. By uploading digital data, these AI-powered “immortal avatars” enable people to talk to loved ones who have passed as if they were still with them. The more data there is to use, the more accurately the AI can replicate how a person would talk to you. This technology will surely be used in other areas in the future. AI avatars may, however, bring with them complex issues regarding our existence as human beings and ethics. While there have been debates and opinions over this from many different perspectives, it is true that the majority of them are negative. Digitizing the memory of the past and reproducing it in detail is attracting attention in terms of what it takes to do something like that, but how many people truly want this? There are people who would rather be happier to have remembered things in a good way through “reminiscing” or “recollection.”
Something that also interests me is why people refuse to give up their own memories despite their ambiguity. It goes without saying that every event that has happened in the past has only one truth. When we look at people talking about the same event, however, everyone remembers it differently. “That turned out this way, and this is what happened to that!” says one, while another says, “Wait, was that what happened?” This is how people's recollections of events slowly go toward the actual truth of the event. Now that the rules of the past are being weeded out and replaced by the new normal, the assumptions of each person from the past are repurposed every time there is a chance and we even see the common beliefs and perceptions of society being overturned. This may be close to that process. The opinions of each person in the world collide, mingle, and blend together to become one. Consensus building in PR represents exactly these steps. However, if the closed recollections of individuals are repeated, assumptions become stronger, and people will only try to understand things the way they want, making it often impossible to convince them otherwise. And in a sense, this may be close to the state of filter bubbles and echo chambers that have become problems in modern society. You are exposed to the same information over and over again, and you are locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. Sometimes you need to take those recollections outside and compare them with others' to have a broader idea and a truer version of what really happened. The human memory is truly difficult to understand.
Let's talk more about AI, which the world of marketing currently has high hopes for. Have you heard? Trained on a massive amount of text data from a variety of sources, OpenAI's ChatGPT and Google's LaMDA have taken the communications industry and the world by storm. Aside from how accurate they are, there is no doubt that affiliate and banner advertising will change significantly in the future, and that AI will bring about changes in the way we are exposed to information and the way we behave when we buy things. However, amid the progress of digitalization, there are ways of communication in which people are enticed to recollect and reminisce, their dormant memories being brought up. Let's now take a look at a few examples. First, let's look at a brand that proved to the world how powerful its images in our memories are: “Heinz Draw Ketchup.”
Heinz is known as an iconic ketchup brand around the world. The company was concerned, however, that consumers would become less familiar with their brand as new competitors entered the market, making their brand seem a little old. They wanted people to think of Heinz whenever they thought about ketchup, and they wanted it to be the same for the next generation.
So the company decided to have the “Draw Ketchup” campaign for people from 18 different countries. Although the quality might vary, the pictures that were drawn showed that most people think of Heinz's glass bottle when they hear the word ketchup. There were drawings of bright red bottles and the Heinz logo; some even had the number 57 drawn on the label. This proved that many people around the world remembered Heinz when they thought about ketchup and that there was an instinctive and intuitive connection between ketchup and the brand. These drawings of what people thought was “ketchup” have been used in global campaigns, including advertisements for the brand. These drawings were used for the labels for custom bottles and given to their creators. The ones that were particularly nice were auctioned on digital art sites, which was a hot topic. The campaign was covered by media around the world, generating 127 times more publicity than the initial investment and 1,496% more social engagement. By also successfully proving that their brand was the symbol of ketchup, the company's sales grew by an impressive 10%. Consumers' familiarity with the brand, which the company was initially concerned about, improved, garnering more love and loyalty for their brand and effectively restoring its iconic status.
The things we do day to day are imprinted in our memories over many years. Waking up in the morning, washing your face, brushing your teeth, making and enjoying a cup of coffee, toasting and eating a slice of bread, ordering a hamburger for lunch, picking up the bottle of ketchup for the side of fries—this is how daily activities are imprinted in our memories. This happens especially from our childhood; casually grabbing, feeling, and seeing random things over and over again then are the things that are engrained in our memories without us even knowing it. What the company did in its campaign was remind consumers that not just them but everyone around the world associated ketchup with Heinz, creating a sense of camaraderie among them and reassuring everyone that they were choosing right by continuing to choose Heinz. Even as more competitors join the market going forward, the special love and loyalty that consumers have from their engrained “memories” of choosing Heinz's ketchup for years will remain unwavering. The next generation of young people will respect the brand for the way the company communicated with them, and as a result, Heinz will be in a stable position for many years to come. This was a great example; there were both fans that had fond “memories” of the brand as well as new fans that were acquired through the campaign.
The company was successful in focusing on the “memories of our day to day.” Now, I would like to share some examples that focus on the “memories of people.”
Long Live the Prince
The Long Live the Prince for Kiyan Prince Foundation, a campaign from EA Sports and Engine Creative, won the Titanium Lion Grand Prix at Cannes Lions 2022 last year.
Kiyan Prince was a 15-year-old who was on the youth team of professional club Queens Park Rangers, which is based in London. He was fatally stabbed outside the London Academy in Edgware, London, in 2006, while trying to stop the bullying of another boy. He was a pro soccer hopeful for England's team, and his tragic death was covered by many media outlets. People remember his death as an almost symbolic incident among many juvenile crimes. Spurred by his son's tragedy, Prince's father, founded the Kiyan Prince Foundation. The not-for-profit organization is committed to using Kiyan's legacy to protect vulnerable youths from knife crime and other forms of youth violence. It, however, was not well-known and struggled to raise funds due to its small scale. More importantly, the young people at the time did not trust traditional anti-knife crime campaigns and thought it was somebody else's problem, so they had to approach them in a new way.
As seen in Kiyan's father's message on the official channel of the foundation (I recommend you watch it yourself because it is very touching), though not a lot of time is devoted to the scene in the entry video, Kiyan's father thought that showing Kiyan's other life full of potential would bring the world a little closer to a society free of knife violence and other violence among young people. After 15 years since the tragic event, he asked Kiyan's former teammates and friends about his physique, height, muscle tone, and playing style and signed a virtual contract with his former team, the Queen's Park Rangers, bringing Kiyan Prince to FIFA 21, a game made in partnership with FIFA. This was all done in order to help end knife crime. Using games, a usual pastime for young people, as a platform was received remarkably well. This was only the start of it; various companies involved in soccer approved of this campaign and helped where they could. With the support of Adidas, Kiyan wore the 20/21 Adidas COPA boot in FIFA 21, and he became the character in a trading card game like the other players. He also appeared in advertisements for JD Sports Fashion, where many people were able to see a 30-year-old version of himself. Within 24 hours of the campaign's inception, the Kiyan Prince Foundation received donations that would help them in their campaigns for the next three years, and more people were googling his name than they did at the time of his tragic death. The Kiyan Prince Foundation became more well-known than ever and got a lot of support, with major English media outlets covering the campaign and over 1,000 online posts seen on media sites. A survey of 500 young people found that 60% of them knew the name of Kiyan Prince, and 74% said they would recommend the Kiyan Prince Foundation if they had a friend that needed any help. The money raised from the donation is used to fund the campaigns of the Kiyan Prince Foundation against knife crime and violence among young people.
The memory of Kiyan Prince was stopped by a tragedy that happened 15 years ago. However, the passion his father showed in making this as an opportunity to spread awareness of knife crime and other forms of youth violence brought various companies together and created a new story—Kiyan Prince's untold story. Like I mentioned earlier, using the latest technology, it is possible to access past memories. However, the future cannot be created just like this. The 30-year-old Kiyan in this new story may have reminded some of their past memories, while others may have created new ones. Instead of focusing only on the tragic crime that took away a young person's bright future, it showed the possibilities of life, making young people who are in danger of committing knife crime and violence realize that a bright future awaits them too and giving them a chance to hold back and rethink their crimes. Using the memory of someone who has passed to move us in a certain direction really is a wonderful way to communicate.
Finally, I would like to talk about “Sound of Honda / Ayrton Senna 1989” (Honda Motor Co., Ltd.), which was created by Dentsu Inc.'s genius with few parallels in history, Kaoru Sugano.
Sound of Honda / Ayrton Senna 1989
Ayrton Senna set a record F1 lap (at the time) for the Suzuka Circuit in 1989. At that time, the popularity of F1 and Ayrton was something special. The F1 racer was adored in Japan, where he was called “the sound speed prince.” His uncompromising spirit in pursuit of speed fascinated the world. Ayrton won the Formula One World Drivers' Championship in 1988, 1990, and 1991. In 1994, he was killed at the young age of 34 after his car crashed into a concrete barrier while he was leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Italy, a year after Honda left F1. This shocking news filled the world with sadness.
“Sound of Honda / Ayrton Senna 1989” was a project that tried to recreate Ayrton's legendary record-breaking F1 lap. After analyzing Ayrton's data from that 1989 lap, such as the accelerator opening, engine rotation, and vehicle speed, engine sounds were recreated, as was the driving trajectory using 3DCG technology. The end product was remarkable. Light is often associated with the deceased in Asia, and it really was like seeing Ayrton's spirit beaming along with the string of lights laid out on the track. The video was uploaded to the InterNavi website and Honda's YouTube channel and announced on Honda's social media. Nothing was done to promote the video, but within a few hours, the video was covered by media all over the world, with fans posting moving comments about Honda and Ayrton Senna.
It was Honda's technology that supported Ayrton on the racing track. When Ayrton set a record lap in 1989, Honda used a telemetry system that was introduced in 1981. This system recorded and analyzed engine rpm and accelerator conditions using sensors while the car was on the track. This is how Honda had the telemetry data for Ayrton's record lap. Based on the data, a recording device was placed on a McLaren Honda MP4/5 of the same model that Ayrton drove at the time and they raced the car around the circuit, uploading the recorded sounds into a library. The 5.8-kilometer-long Suzuka Circuit was lined with hundreds of speakers and LEDs. When it finally became dark, the sound and light were emitted according to the driving data, and “Ayrton’s drive on that day” was reproduced. This communication was to promote the car navigation system “InterNavi”, which is based on the technology of the “telemetry system” that collected Ayrton's driving data and optimized various information and transmitted it to the driver, and to make people recognize Honda's technology and show what it is all about. However, this was also a moving story that created a great response only from one source of data by making people recall the memories everyone had of Ayrton through the movie that made people think as if Ayrton were running the machine through sound and light. Like “Long Live the Prince,” it is something that was made with data and technology, but it still has the power to move people's hearts and give them chills. Honda's CONNECTING LIFELINES and DOTS, other projects by Sugano, are also on the same line from the perspective of using data to tell stories about people's activities.
We have entered an era in which the data we kept recording, hoping that it would one day be useful, is finally showing a new form that meets that expectation. It is said that COVID-19 is what caused technology to advance as remarkably as it has recently; research and development that should have taken several years was done in a very short span of time. It is truly an exciting time as we have more opportunities that provide us with new experiences; recorded and archived data is brought to life before our very eyes thanks to the latest technology, and with fast-evolving AI technology, we are seeing more campaigns and projects that look into the future based on existing data. The ChatGPT, which we touched on earlier, is a shortcut to the right answer we are looking for. Why then, I wonder, doesn't it feel quite right that the goal to reach is always the same? “Reminiscence” and “recollection” are influenced by human emotions, and even those of the same event differ from person to person depending on their emotional attachment to them. These uncertain things' existence may lead to creativity. If we only talk about data or the digital world, we can't help but feel that the answers will be standardized and diversity will fade away.
With so much expectation from technology, it may be difficult for change to happen just by following the imagination of the past if we only adopt the ways of communication base on technology. The things I have seen and heard in the world of movies and novels that I thought were just fantasies as a child, such as space travel, flying cars, and self-aware AI, are slowly but surely becoming a reality. These were all fantasies from a long time ago and differ from what we fantasize about now; it may even be fair to say that the fantasy itself is changing. Indeed, the glittering future I once thought about when I was a child is now uncomfortable, bleak and empty. I do, however, feel that there are more people who are moving away from the perspective of pursuing only the future and toward the perspective of thinking about the past. Rather than fantasizing about a dangerous future, we could also try to look at the past to see what waits for us in the future; as the saying goes, history repeats itself. Being tired of trying hard to keep up with future events, we feel nostalgia, looking back a little bit and looking inside ourselves, and think that we want to enjoy the slow flow of time as it used to be. These may be called reactions.
Let's go over the examples I mentioned one more time. While being aware that we all have different images of things in our minds, The Kraft Heinz Company was still confident in their brand and was able to create an analog but sympathetic experience. It certainly felt like a modern consideration that respected people's diversity, not a solid, logical way of thinking that tried to cut something in half with a single stroke. The word “diversity” has come to be used frequently in recent years, but rather than compensating for differences, it is more common to see people focus on the fact that small differences in how we see things exist naturally and rather enjoy those differences. Instead of trying to do away with things we may find negative, the attitude now is to accept it as a matter of course. This is similar to the stance of expressing one’s own sensibility through something mediated, discovering and interacting with each other, as if people were looking at art from their own eyes. “Reminiscence” and “recollection,” which I mentioned at the beginning, can be a guide to the criteria by which one has evaluated and remembered the various things one has experienced. They are close to sensibility. While thinking of some event you and the people around you share in common, it would be a new and valuable encounter indeed if you could find common ground with them through an experience that brings back each other's memories. And if we can share stories that touch our hearts like the examples we have looked at, it will overwrite what people “reminisce” and “recollect” about as unforgettable memories. There used to be a TV program called “Hito ni rekishi ari,” which means every person has a history, but I believe companies also have a history, and this is undoubtedly because they have lived with us in society and have made a place in our memories. It would be a good idea to first revisit the types of memories that previous possessions, products, and services have left in people and then reflect on the paths that the company must have taken along with them. This will give us an opportunity to know why we exist in our society.
Be genuine in interacting
with each and every user.