What’s Your Version of Hell?

We all know some kind of Hell. For most people it’s a feeling of relentless discomfort…or more so, down right pain that has no end. The reason we can’t really say it’s true hell, is that somehow, tragic situations do have endings even if they are bad ones. They do end.

Yesterday, I was trapped on a plane in the desert for 4 hours yesterday waiting on the tarmac. We baked in the hot sun. Little air flow. I expected people to get angry. Sitting next to me was an ex-Marine. We struck up a conversation about things we’ve done in our lives that were really difficult. Others joined in around us. Things got competitive as people offered their toppers.

Eventually, the plane took off. Things got back to normal. And we all avoided that horrible after burn of negative emotion that can fill the cabin like second-hand smoke.

My definition of hell is not being trapped on a plane going nowhere. It’s being trapped in a situation where everyone panics. Anxiety is contagious. And in this economy I continue to be impressed with brands that take the high road and seek to uplift people rather than scare the hell out of them. Old Spice, Geico and Virgin come to mind.

Fear-based branding is dead. And with it a whole system of selling to people that made the work of marketing more like war than art. Ironically, it took a confident young ex-Marine to drive that home to me.