In 2014, a company called Surrey Nanosytems patented a high-tech coating that they developed, known as Vantablack. Vantablack is a colour that is, blacker than black. Yes, I know you feel like you have seen the colour black before, and you feel the versions of black that you have seen are the darkest a colour can be. The thing is, this black is so black, that your senses cannot even comprehend it. It is so black that the eye sees it as a void. Again, yes, I know you might be a little confused. How is it that my eyes opt to see “nothing” when I know there is something? The answer lies in the uniqueness of Vantablack. What makes this color so special, is the fact that it absorbs about 99.9% of light. As if what was achieved in 2014 was not amazing enough, in 2016 Surrey Nanosystems managed to improve the original Vantablack, meaning this new version absorbs even more light. This little piece of innovation has a variety of applications from straight light suppression to aesthetic applications in design to cinematography optics and the list goes on.
The reason why it has managed to garner popularity is owing to its ability to absorb and dissipate light. One can play with optics to create illusions, and influence what we perceive to see. After reading more on Vantablack, and its application potential, I was inspired to see how I can feed off this innovation.
As marketers, we are always looking for new ways to improve our communication. One of the main reasons is because business has become more competitive, and more business means more marketing, there more exposure to advertising for individuals. This proliferation is what demands us marketers to be more effective with our message. I started to wonder more about Vantablack, about how the eye in essence does not see it, because of how well it absorbs the light. What could the marketing version of Vantablack be, if our light is marketing material? What piece of communication can we do so good that the marketing message is delivered, but it does not even look like commercial communication? After giving it some thought, I came to the realization that, we have had our 2014 version of Vantablack this whole time, branded content. Branded content is when a brand funds the production of content that has been created to help promote the brand. Branded content manages to create a slight perception that the content is not marketing material. Two notable campaigns from 2016 that delivered branded content well were, Nike with #MambaDay and Knoor with #LoveAtFirstTaste.
We now face a challenge where individuals are becoming smarter and smarter, they are able to spot marketing material from a mile away. So unfortunately, this means that our “Vantablack 2014” cannot achieve the percentages of 99.9% of no recognition. What is encouraging to know is that there is room for improvement. Now we know humans are becoming more and more complex, this had led to business demanding more from marketing. This calls for methods of communication that start to seamlessly and effortlessly deliver the message, by filtering the business objectives that restrain one from being interested. So what this actually calls for is our own “Vantablack 2016”. What we need to develop as marketers is material that consumers are willing to engage with but still delivers on objectives. In my humble opinion, I feel the answer lies within the brand narratives that we hold. Complexities will always be there but what does not change is appealing to human nature of enjoying a good story. This can be targeted well by making the narrative unique.
Now as beautiful as Vantablack is it has its drawbacks, one of the biggest dangers is that people will not see it and it may present a danger, as they can walk into it or bump into it. This means it may cause harm to an individual. If we apply the same principles in developing “Vantablack 2016” we need to be aware of the effects. In this case the effects for us would be that the brand totally disappears and all our efforts are wasted. So I present to you a challenge as opposed to a conclusion, what next after branded content?