Positivity comes with benefits if this article on the optimism bias is anything to go by. While, collectively, our view of the future can swing in synch with the news, the budget or the crime stats, a 2007 study found that 76% of respondents were optimistic about the future for their own family. According to the author, “Even if that better future is often an illusion, optimism has clear benefits in the present. Hope keeps our minds at ease, lowers stress and improves physical health.”
It gives rise to phenomenon like talk of ‘green shoots’ in the midst of terrible financial depression because, it seems, we are compelled to find them.
The take-out for brands is obvious. Clearly, there is merit in espousing a clear and positive view of the way forward. It’s not enough to just inform. Brands need to inspire, because that optimistic prognosis of what lies ahead holds real opportunities in terms of engaging and involving people. It humanises brands.
Optimism, I surmise, also aligns directly with our worldview. In other words, what we look forward to is a world that is most like the world we believe in and want to live in. Politicians of course understand this instinctively. So, it’s interesting isn’t it, that so many brands deal in the present, without building a clear bridge to that tomorrow. They do so because their commercial imperatives tell them such containment is realistic – but in point of fact, perhaps articulating an optimistic future is an underpinning opportunity to cementing long-term loyalty.
To strategise, you must first dream. You must be prepared to go where your logical mind says you can’t, and, once you have, where your heart begs to stay. You must identify a brighter, stronger, clearer, competitively different tomorrow, and you must be prepared to brave the cynics to state what people secretly want to hear.
To do that, you need to know where that tomorrow needs to be – even before they do.
As one of my favourite observations goes – imagine where history might have taken us if Martin Luther King had stood in front of all those people in Washington and announced “I have a Powerpoint”.