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5 Awareness Campaigns That Got The Art of War Right


Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” is chock-full of brilliant insights. (So much so, I feel like it should be a required read for every marketer, entrepreneur and business person.) And while we, thankfully, don’t have to stand on the frontline of an actual war each day, we are immersed in a form of war. We fight for attention. We fight to be remembered. We fight to break through the noise. We fight to not only make people give a damn, but to give enough of a damn they take action and do something.

A tidbit of wisdom from The Art of War…

“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” 

A couple days ago, I clicked a video that popped into my Facebook feed. With the flurry of pre-Super Bowl ads floating around, I assumed it was another pre-release for SB XLIX. (I was wrong.) Upon hitting play, the spot led me down a familiar path. Then along came the thunderbolt.

Not only did this PSA get the fight right, they even followed another of Tzu’s tenets:

“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”

Some of Us called PepsiCo to the floor, leading them right to the only open escape hatch. They’ve been called out. Now if they want a way out, they’ll have to change their ways. 

Here are a few other examples of PSAs that got the thunderbolt right…

(Warning: Trigger alerts.) 

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Message Matters: Shocking a Conversation to Life

“All stories have a curious and even dangerous power. They are manifestations of truth — yours and mine. And truth is all at once the most wonderful yet terrifying thing in the world, which makes it nearly impossible to handle. It is such a great responsibility that it’s best not to tell a story at all unless you know you can do it right. You must be very careful, or without knowing it you can change the world.” -Vera Nazarian As a writer, it will come as no surprise to anyone that I fully subscribe to the theory that words have the power to change the world. I also believe that changing the world begins with opening eyes and changing minds.

Every once in awhile I stumble across something that reiterates that point in such a quiet, powerful way that it stops me in my tracks and there’s nothing else to say but WOW. The Pilion Trust, a London charity which helps some of the poorest and most vulnerable, has conducted a social experiment on the people of London to see if they really do care about the less fortunate.” The project has created plenty of shock and controversy, but upon watching it, the message they’re trying to send is clear as day. Pilion Trust knows what injustice they’re fighting, and they won’t be ignored.

I  love this video for so many reasons. Brands are always looking for a way to carry their message out into the world. You cannot craft a powerful message until you know what you’re working with and what you’re fighting against. In this case, apathy.

The takeaway? You don’t need a lot of words to make a powerful statement. By finding the right words, however, it becomes possible to unlock the passion that people keep locked away in their hearts. That’s a mighty powerful thing.

(WARNING: This video may be difficult to watch for some. It also contains strong language. Put on your headphones before you hit play! Also, be sure to watch all the way to the end for the payoff.)