The Tyler Durden effect

How advertising is changing

Allow me to start with a confession; I’m passionate about all things Palahniuk, and it was Fight Club that first introduced me to the stunningly dark worlds that exist within the pages of a Chuck Palahniuk novel. That, along with countless other reasons, is why it’s my favourite book.

However, here’s where it gets a little bit awkward. When I tell people that Fight Club is my favourite book, the wry smirk that greets my answer is an all too familiar sight. And I'll be honest, I, more than anyone else, can recognise the seemingly hypocritical nature of my answer. Let’s face it, when you work in an industry that thrives on consumerism, Tyler Durden seems like an unlikely hero. But it’s all about perspective.

It doesn’t sit well with me to distort the anti-consumerism voice of my favourite character in the hope of writing a blog that can teach readers about everything that he stands so defiantly against. Instead, I want to focus on why Tyler Durden is right about advertising to an extent. It’s a slightly controversial topic for a marketing blog but stick with me.

Let’s be clear, marketing isn’t the issue at hand. Bad marketing is the problem. The digital world has brought with it an abundance of advertising opportunities, and whilst that’s great news for businesses, it also means that we’re having adverts thrown at us from all angles. The change in the way that we consume ads has altered the way in which we create ads. This sadly means that the quality has slipped.

“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”

Perhaps one of the most famous quotes from Fight Club, it shows the way in which consumers have grown wise to traditional marketing tactics. Consumers don’t want a hard sell nowadays; they don’t buy into the motives behind an expensive ad that focuses on nothing but beautiful people telling them why they need a certain product. We don’t want these consumer-driven messages shoved down our throats.

As such, it’s time that we transform the way that we think about marketing.

Where did all the good advertising go?

“Everything’s a copy of a copy of a copy” 

Somewhere along the lines, the marketing world seems to have lost its spark and that sense of originality has sadly fallen by the wayside. Think about that Banksy poster from 2013; the days of advertising as we know it were numbered since then. The thing is this needn’t be terrifying; it’s a good thing. It’s forced businesses to think more carefully about their advertising from an audiences’ perspective.

How do we break the cycle of bad advertising?  

“Maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves.”

We need to revolutionise the ways in which we think about advertising. Collectively, we’re a generation obsessed with quantity and going one step bigger than our competition. Of course, it’s good business sense to know what your competitors are doing, but it doesn’t mean that the limits they impose on themselves should hold you back. Break the rules. Push the boundaries. Focus on your own brand identity first and foremost. Consider your own message. We have to be creative in what we do, not release a regurgitated version of the material that our competitors have already released.

What constitutes good advertising?

Good advertising will never feel forced. Going back to Fight Club, if you’ve seen the film or read the book, consider the way in which Tyler himself is marketed to the narrator. Tyler is essentially a product; he’s everything the narrator wants to be himself. More so, Tyler Durden himself is the very logo of the brand Fight Club. And the narrator has no clue. That’s what makes it so powerful.

My point is that if an advert is truly great, we don’t even realise that we’re being sold to. Think about Tyler’s fight clubs; they’re well-marketed in a non-traditional sense. The tagline “you do not talk about Fight Club” promotes a sense of exclusivity, which resonates with its audience to drive it into a frenzy. This is clever marketing at its best. And clever marketing will generate its own PR in the same way that the underground fight clubs generate their own interest and members. Fight Club perpetuates its own hype.

Tyler essentially fills a gap in the narrator’s life; he’s something that the narrator craves. As such, the lesson remains that rather than focusing on creating a generic ad that could potentially appeal to a mass audience, create something that appeals explicitly and resonates on a deeper level with your niche market. Remember, quality over quantity.

Of course, the intention of advertising will always be to sell something. But many brands neglect to find a perspective to do this, instead relying on the aesthetics of a campaign. Your message needs to be strong. You need something that will resonate with your audience; be it an argument, a mission or even just a reason for them to care. Without these things, your audience becomes numb and your advertising becomes nothing more than white noise in an already overcrowded industry. The grotty basement in which Tyler’s Fight Club is born isn’t particularly pretty, but the message of the club is strong; it makes you feel something. Which is precisely what your marketing should aim to do.

Creative disruption – breaking the mould

Essentially, Fight Club teaches us what marketing should be. Admittedly, it’s probably best that you don’t push your customers to the point of anarchy, but there’s something undeniably powerful and different to Tyler’s approach. It’s fresh and it disrupts the normal flow of consumerism. Granted, I’m not in a rush to experience somebody punching me in the face but admit it, Tyler’s message makes you feel something more powerful than just that one initial rush of adrenaline. It gives people a sense of purpose, it makes them feel alive. He adds fuel to the fire and ignites a powerful brand message. It’s not about budgets, it’s about creating a brand and an experience that’s too powerful to resist.

The inspiration behind our company name even stems from this very same notion. Our MD, Gareth, has spoken in more detail about our brand name in the past, but in a nutshell, it came from a song by Muse called Uprising. Even from its earliest conception, our brand has been about “being different and rebelling against the norm.” In the marketing world, there’s a type of marketing called Creative Disruption, and we’re proud to champion that. Creative disruption, by definition, signifies a break from the ordinary; it disrupts (obviously) the mediocrity that’s sadly becoming more and more prevalent in advertising. It’s what Tyler does with his fight clubs, and it’s what we do for our clients.

In short, it’s time to be more creative, more thoughtful and more inspirational. Don’t blindly market your product to the masses. Strip everything back. Start from scratch if you really have to. Find your own identity, work on your brand message and everything will fall into place. After all, “it’s only after we lose everything that we’re free to do anything.” I’ll leave you with that nugget of wisdom from the hero of this revolution.

If your marketing strategy could do with a little more fight, get in touch.



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