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Market to the human source code, not the trendy operating system

I wanted to expand on something I've been thinking about lately – the idea of marketing to the source code of humans, not just the ever-changing operating system.

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Let me break it down with an analogy (or is it a metaphor? I can never keep those straight). 

Think about old Microsoft Windows versions like 3.1, 95, 98, and Vista. They all had different looks and features on the surface – the start button, translucent or round designs, that kind of thing. 

But underneath, they were all built on the same core source code foundation (DOS).

Humans are kind of the same way. On the surface, we constantly have new "operating systems" installed through trends and pop culture. Right now, Taylor Swift dominates the charts, modern farmhouse designs are hot for houses, and skinny jeans are out (thank goodness). But those are just the latest skins and features.

Underneath all that is the fundamental human source code that doesn't change – our needs, wants, and core drivers. We all want to belong, find love, and live a life of meaning. We're all driven by the basic hierarchy of needs like food, shelter, clothing. That source code is evergreen.

And here's the thing – when you market towards whatever's trendy in the current "operating system," you're basically building your brand on shifting sands. As soon as a new set of trends and fads comes along (and it will), anything you create to chase the old trends becomes irrelevant. It's got a built-in expiration date.

But if you market towards the source code stuff that's hardwired into every human operating system, you're creating something built to last. 

Look at something like Monty Python and the Holy Grail—sure, the picture quality, hairstyles, and production values show their age. But the core humor that satirizes the essential struggles and truths of being human? That's why it's still quoted and beloved decades later.

On the other hand, many SNL sketches make fun of whatever was trendy in the current "operating system" of the time. While some of those landed and became iconic, many of them just feel dated now because they were so of the moment.

I'm not saying chasing trends is always wrong – maybe having some topical, zeitgeisty stuff is part of your strategy. But for me, I want my brand's core foundation and identity to be built on that source code level of fundamental human truths. That won't go out of style or become irrelevant when the next OS update rolls out.

So that's my philosophy – market to the source code, not the operating system. Focus on tapping into those core human needs, wants, and drivers that will never change, no matter what's currently trendy on the surface. It's a longer-term, more stable investment for a brand.





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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