Friday, October 26, 2007

The Big Chevrolet Kiss Off

I saw this image of people kissing a car a few weeks ago and to be honest, it passed me by. Endurance tests have a flavor of that classic movie They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and don’t do a lot for me. Now it occurs to me that this competition belongs back in the Attention Economy and needs some discussion. The thing I have always liked most about Lovemarks is that people get it. Professional communicators might get tripped up by the directness of the language, but most people understand that a Lovemark relationship means Loyalty Beyond Reason to something they are passionate about. And so on to this mall competition for Chevrolet. The idea was that the person who could hold the kiss for the longest won the right to buy the car for the equivalent of ten cents. This competition used a powerful symbol of Love: the kiss. What troubles me is that the only emotion possible in this kiss is grim determination. There is no empathy, no mystery and every sense must be shrieking in pain. This is a symbol being used in a way that devalues it. Symbols are always open to this and usually they bounce back. The American flag and the Union Jack, for instance, have been used and abused over the decades but through it all remain proud symbols for their people. The kiss too will surge through as the passionate, loving human expression it is. This competition reinforces to me that in the Attraction Economy you have to go for engagement, not interruption, intimate gestures, not big promises, and connect with people, not manipulate consumers. Good luck to the young woman who lasted more than 24 hours and won the competition, but for Chevrolet it was just a big kiss-off.