When my schedule stops my reading, it seems like Maria Popova’s blog, “Brain Pickings,” is always the whistle that makes me run back. This week she summarizes some of the great ideas and language captured in a 1971 CalTech panel convened on the eve of NASA’s Mariner 9 mission to Mars – and the book that captured this heady exchange: Mars and the Mind of Man: Carl Sagan, Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke in Conversation, 1971. I haven’t read the book, but have gone dreamy over a passage she quotes from Ray Bradbury:
I think it’s part of the nature of man to start with romance and build to a reality. There’s hardly a scientist or an astronaut I’ve met who wasn’t beholden to some romantic before him who led him to doing something in life.
I think it’s so important to be excited about life. In order to get the facts we have to be excited to go out and get them, and there’s only one way to do that — through romance. We need this thing which makes us sit bolt upright when we are nine or ten and say, ‘I want to go out and devour the world, I want to do these things.’ The only way you start like that is with this kind of thing we are talking about today. We may reject it later, we may give it up, but we move on to other romances then. We find, we push the edge of science forward, and I think we romance on beyond that into the universe ever beyond. We’re talking not about Alpha Centauri. We’re talking of light-years. We have sitting here on the stage a person who has made the film with the greatest metaphor for the coming billion years. That film is going to romance generations to come and will excite the people to do the work so that we can live forever. That’s what it’s all about. So we start with the small romances that turn out to be of no use. We put these tools aside to get another romantic tool. We want to love life, to be excited by the challenge, to life at the top of our enthusiasm. The process enables us to gather more information. Darwin was the kind of romantic who could stand in the middle of a meadow like a statue for eight hours on end and let the bees buzz in and out of his ear. A fantastic statue standing there in the middle of nature, and all the foxes wandering by and wondering what the hell he was doing there, and they sort of looked at each other and examined the wisdom in each other’s eyes. But this is a romantic man — when you think of any scientist in history, he was a romancer of reality.
It’s brazen to compare it to Mars exploration or great literature, but good marketing understands this power of romance too, doesn’t it? Are there fans of your product or service – folks who think you’ve changed the world? Fans who believe that your cause is their cause? Evangelists whose relationship with your organization represents their effort to get to “life at the top of our enthusiasm?” Think of the meticulous inventories and observations of Charles Darwin that Bradbury could’ve referenced above – indeed, are probably the mental picture of Darwin we all carry around in our heads. Does your marketing evoke the idea of cold, objective scientific data enumeration? How different it is to picture him “standing there in the middle of nature, and all the foxes wandering by…” Do you help your fans fall in love with the human, emotional, thrill of your work? Can you see it yourself? Does your marketing express an excitement for life? Think Nike and Patagonia. Think John Muir. Think Barbara Jordan.
How are you helping your best customers talk about the romance they have with you – and the new reality they think they can grasp, thanks to you?