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  • Writer's pictureJames Pelz

A Timely Metaphor

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Image from Wes Andersen's Asteroid City (go see it)

There is an early scene in Wes Anderson’s current movie Asteroid City where the shop mechanic, Hank played by Matt Dillon, is explaining what could be wrong with [one of] the main cast’s car. He explains he has only seen this problem twice: once it was fixed very quickly and easily with a very cheap part and the other time it required a very laborious and complete tear down of the engine.

“Which is it?” Augie asks.

“We're about to find out” replies Hank. He then takes the most superficial part out of the smallest possible box and so very carefully, attaches it to the car in a way that can only be described as decorative.

It works…for a second, no charge for labor, just the part. The car immediately implodes in the most deliberative way possible.

And that, my friends, is what I can only deem the most illustrative metaphor for our industry today (though, I don’t believe the irreproachable Mr. Anderson intended this scene to apply to my metaphor). “Hey there brand, I see you are having trouble. I also can see you need this handy, very-specific solution I just happen to have right here in the shop.”

Pick your poison—that solution you need could be the Growth-hacking gizmo, the Artificial-Intelligence widget, or the CRO-, Astroturfing-, Micro-influencing-, Programmatic-, Micro-moment-solving whirlygig, etc, etc, etc… Whatever it is, in the moment, they are all promised to be that singularly magic-bullet, the missing element that will fix your brand engine.

In the movie, there isn’t time to run a diagnostic or evaluate all the possible causes. The impression given is the expert in the room, Hank, “just knows” by looking. ET VIOLA! We arrive at the perfect metaphor. Without further investigation, the answer can only be seen by the expert. The expert in turn leads you to believe the solution is simple, and easy, and cheap. Lures you in, shows a little success and the car blows up immediately after.

Of all the cars…strike that…the brands out there, likely, there is maybe, one or two that just need that one last piece to hold it all together—but it will not come in a mass-produced box.

In the movie, it turns out the problem is one Hank has never seen before—

and my money is your challenges are the same. Unlike Hank’s car-shaped patient that once rolled of a production line, if your brand is any good, it is one of a kind. Which makes your truth this: every challenge you face is unique to you.

And while some solutions may fit your challenge you really don’t know until you take a good look. In the end, the part doesn’t need be expensive, or even a rebuild…it just need to be right, and expertly identified and installed.

I’m not saying that parts are unnecessary, metaphorical or market-phorical. I’m not even saying the experts aren’t necessary, mechanically or brand oriented. What I am saying is there is no one-fix-all solution. Hoods need be opened. Questions need be asked. Hands need get dirty and above all else…

Brand owners, stop looking for magic parts.

Brand mechanics, stop selling them.

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