I grew up reading Ray Bradbury: R is for Rocket, S is for Space, the Martian Chronicles. Later, in my 20s, I discovered his fantasy: The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Bradbury, who died in 2012 at the age of 91, was a master story-teller; a legend. He had an incredible ability to evoke entire worlds in the mind, to actually trigger the five senses with words.
In his 1957 novel Dandelion Wine, Bradbury wrote about Douglas Spaulding, a 12-year-old boy in a small town in the summer of 1928. While walking down the street, Douglas is trying to convince his dad to buy him a pair of brand-new Cream Sponge Para Litefoot Shoes that they saw in a shop window. His father asks to be convinced; Douglas muses to himself:
It was because they felt the way it feels every summer when you take off your shoes for the first time and run in the grass. They felt like it feels sticking your feet out of the hot covers in wintertime to let the cold wind from the open window blow on them suddenly and you let them stay out a long time until you pull them back in under the covers again to feel them, like packed snow. The tennis shoes felt like it always feels the first time every year wading in the slow waters of the creek and seeing your feet below, half an inch further downstream, with refraction, than the real part of you above water.
“Dad,” said Douglas, “it’s hard to explain.”
Somehow the people who made tennis shoes knew what boys needed and wanted. They put marshmallows and coiled springs in the soles and they wove the rest out of grasses bleached and fired in the wilderness. Somewhere deep in the soft loam of the shoes the thin hard sinews of the buck deer were hidden. The people that made the shoes must have watched a lot of winds blow the trees and a lot of rivers going down to the lakes. Whatever it was, it was in the shoes, and it was summer.
Stick that in your pipe and smoke it! Can you smell that new sneaker smell? Can you feel the springiness, the jiggly bounciness when you first put them on? Did you tingle from the small jolt of adrenaline urging you to jump off a hill, to climb a tree, to get moving AS SOON AS POSSIBLE?!! Of course you did! You’re twelve years old! It’s summer! Vacation! Hope! Dreams!
In marketing we put all of our effort and all of our creativity into conveying the value proposition to our customer. While a new pair of sneakers may have better arch support, fancier colors, and an advanced tread, the real value might be in how the sneakers resonate with the twelve year old inside. This is much harder to convey, but old Ray shows us that it can be done, and how to go about the doing of it.