The Indy500’s Bump Day is a day often filled with tears and cheers. Over the past week, fantastic storylines have surrounded the event. Ed Carpenter, who is the first team owner/driver to win the coveted pole position since 1975, created a David and Goliath-like story as he charged to the top. Katherine Legge not only got a last minute phone call to drive the No. 81 Honda-powered car of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, she also survived Bump Day. Our very own, Josef Newgarden, after a stellar qualifying run last year, also found himself fighting it out on Bump Day.
The true story of the week, however, was Michel Jourdain Jr. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team struggled to dial speed into the car. The team switched engines and copied setups from teammates Graham Rahal and James Jakes to help figure out what was wrong. Nothing worked. For well over an hour, we all watched in anticipation.
Late Sunday, team co-owner, Bobby Rahal, withdrew the No.17 knowing full well that the car simply didn’t have the speed to be competitive. The look of pure disappointment which fall on Michel’s face was hard to miss. It was a moment where many of us tuned out everything that had happened throughout the week leading up to that point. Connor Daly’s crash during practice, NBC’s completely botched programming, driver interviews, commercials, and even to some extent , Ed Carpenter’s Goliath-slaying pole run, were all subsided in lieu of Michel’s hardship.
It had been a roller coaster of tears and cheers. From all of that we find our way back to three human emotions: Fear, hope and love. It is the three emotions that compel us to take action and every successful marketer, politicians especially, takes advantage of at least one of these basic needs. The TSA, for example, utilizes fear. When they get you down to your shoes, they are using fear in order to get you to take action. Chanel is in the business of hope. That hope doesn’t have to sell a $5,000 gallon of perfume though. It can be something as trivial as convenience.
Love, on the other hand, is the most powerful and very few brands can be successful without it. Love gets you to support a team, driver or player even when he or she screws up. Love incites you to protest when your favorite pizza parlor changes their tomato sauce. Some sense of love is what we all felt as Michel walked away from his Dallara Sunday afternoon. From that point on, every single person within the IndyCar community became a supporter of Michel. We had inadvertently fallen in love with the story and watched intensely to see if the fairy tale ending we hoped for would come to fruition.
Throughout this whole ordeal resides the unsung hero; Office Depot. A brand, up until this point, I often overlook despite the countless times their logo had crossed my path. This time, though, was very different. I wasn’t looking at Office Depot as a supply retailer anymore. Instead, they had become the brand who was supporting the driver who , at this point, found ourselves rooting for. The emotional rollercoaster of the situation had completely changed my awareness and perception of the brand. Obviously Office Depot couldn’t have predicted the situation, nor is that the point. The data we gather from a brand’s exposure can not establish the wider context. Was the brand noticed? Can the viewer even recall the brand? Was the brand portrayed in a positive or negative light? Will the consumer or viewer actually purchase the brand’s product or service as a result? Measuring seconds of brand exposure gives no insight into the impact the brand has on the consumer. So, what likely started off as a casual partnership in an effort to gain a few seconds of media exposure had now attached itself to the second most powerful emotion of the three; hope. The hope of Michel and the Office Depot team making in into the show will leave a lasting impression on me and many others. Not their TV commercials, magazine ads or screentime. Those are all forgettable. Too often, data and numbers create a mindset fixated on developing a greater total number of seconds, and not on rights that can drive real business value and effect bottom line results. The easiest way to build brand awareness is to count seconds. The best way, though, may be to deliver on hope while aiming for love.