What our reaction to the Titan submersible event says about us.
January 11, 2024
September 8, 2023
Like much of the world, I was captivated the second I learned about the missing Titan submersible. Back in the 90’s, I saw Titanic EIGHT times in theaters (a fifth graders love for Leonardo DiCaprio knows no bounds), and even as an adult I’m a little embarrassed – especially now – to admit that one of my first post-lottery win purchases would’ve been a trip to see the ship myself. So naturally, I found this Titanic part 2 of sorts wildly gripping.
Yet as a now 36 year-old strategist, I quickly realized that what I was actually finding most compelling was how we all were reacting to what was happening. Within hours there were memes proliferating on the internet; memes so hilarious but in such horrifically poor taste it was morally uncomfortable. “None of us are seeing heaven” read a retweet of one.
Simultaneously, “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion reached 7.8 million streams on Spotify, and returned to The Billboard Top 100 at #12. Titanic (which, fun fact: came out in 1997, only 3 months before Netflix was founded) made the top 10 movies list on Netflix for the first time ever.
"Its not wether you get knocked down"
If you could be anyone you wanted to be, who would you be? How exciting is it to think that you could start a new chapter in your life in a whole new world? Without the limitations of the physical world and human constructs that have been created around you?
Well that’s where the Metaverse comes in. There are whole new worlds being created out there that will remove the physical limitations of life and allow you to chase your dreams and be who you want to be.
Sounds pretty exciting right? Let’s dig in a little more to understand what this might look like.
SO, WHAT IS THE METAVERSE?
Simply put, the Metaverse is the convergence of all the digital things you do online into one virtual experience.
In a sense, it already exists. We sit on Zoom calls, research on the web, talk on social media, buy things on Amazon, watch streaming events and online video, and play games. The Metaverse is already here.
But think of tying all of it together and removing some of the limitations that still exist in your physical life when you access the web.
But how is this all of the sudden now possible?
Clearly this event had captured the attention of much of the world, though it wasn’t because we were worried as much as we were soaking up the adrenaline of the situation — imagining the horror of being trapped in a floating bean lost deep in the abyss of the ocean was terrifying, yes, but most of us were completely lacking any kind of empathy; and in a perverse way, we were actually enjoying what was unfolding in front of our eyes. Basically, it was a reality show for us.
So what does this enthusiastic yet heartless response say about us as humans and where we’re at in society? Is there anything we can learn + use as marketers? I believe so, and I’m excited to share my POV with you.
1. We don’t just laugh at something and move on. When we’re truly engaged, it consumes us.
Marketing so what: When something truly catches our attention it permeates culture – from music to memes to movies. Sure, it may be short-lived, but for a brief moment in time the subject at hand will be at the forefront of our minds in all that we are consuming. That is what truly going viral in 2023 means, and brands should consider helping this process along by utilizing strategic partnerships in verticals outside of their own.
2. We’re numb and desensitized, and desperate for anywhere or anything that will allow us to escape.
Marketing so what: Escapism is showing up in almost all facets of entertainment, so it certainly stands to reason that if we want our marketing to be entertaining (and therefore memorable), we should consider ways we can offer our audiences an escape from their current reality. In order to do that effectively, however, we need to put in the work to understand what kind of escape our particular audience is looking for – an escape to an urban mom will likely look completely different than an escape to an early-20s college student.
3. We’re getting really sick of billionaires and their extreme tourism.
Marketing so what: The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of us are just trying to survive nowadays, so the over the top extracurriculars of billionaires and the like are not just out of touch but getting to be downright offensive. Rich people are now the villains of most cultural narratives, and brands need to be aware of this when evaluating how and if to message aspirationally.
4. Thanks to reality shows and social media, we’ve become way too comfortable taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others.
Marketing so what: If you’re using traditional methods of appealing to emotions, it probably won’t work the way it used to. In the same vein, generic / blanket appeals will no longer be as effective. Maybe we take pleasure in others’ pain because it makes us feel less alone in our own pain. Maybe it’s that life has gotten so overwhelming we just simply do not have the emotional bandwidth to care about others the way that we would hope others would care about us. Regardless, compassion for our fellow humans is not exactly overflowing right now, and brands need to dig far deeper if they want to genuinely reach consumers on an emotional level.
I’m a firm believer that the worst case scenario is not learning from an unfortunate situation, and I hope this sheds some light on the ways we can strive to learn more about our consumers + the general state of the cultural zeitgeist by paying attention to our responses, whether they’re morally uncomfortable or not.