What can a Viking raid tell us about human nature?

Content to spark conversation.


Thrilled you’re joining me for this week’s newsletter which covers: advertising as a tool to motivate social change, Vermont students going to school at Macy’s, the link between Viking graffiti and 19th century romance, and the Abilene paradox.


Today we pour one out for Jessica Walter, the acerbic matriarch who appeared in the inaugural Tornado newsletter as Lucille Bluth only 8 short weeks ago. Were we ever that young? Jessica, we’ll miss your side eye and perfect delivery of cutting remarks.

Enjoy the bounty!

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Marketing Minute

Historians and archaeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful daily reflections any society ever made of its whole range of activities” — Marshall McLuhan

Shots fired

In the summer of 2020, gun sales reached a 20-year high in America. Everyday in the US, 8 kids are shot by a misused or unlocked gun.

Check out this PSA from a non-profit seeking to improve gun safety with this awareness campaign. I’ll meet you on the other side:

Did your pulse quicken as the music faded? Mine sure did.

That’s the power of marketing.

What’s in the box?

I love how it’s designed to be a typical unboxing video — an innocent genre we’re all familiar with, courtesy of Apple products. Even I was a teenager when unboxing videos became a thing. That’s maybe the scariest part of this ad.

Do the right thing

Coupled with the jaunty, upbeat music and a fictional 8-year old influencer? This ad astutely sits at the intersection of a few relevant cultural forces — and thanks to clever storytelling — it delivers an effective punch.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that director Kevin Wilson Jr. studied under Spike Lee.

Considering 75% of children know where their grownups keep guns in the home (!!), this ad delivers an urgent, life-saving message about proper firearm safety and storage.

Marketing matters

Advertising isn’t just about selling the latest and greatest. It can be a vehicle to educate and spread awareness to motivate the behaviors we want to see — like adults properly locking up firearms so 4.6M kids don’t have access to them anymore.

In this case, marketing can save a kid’s life and prevent avoidable mistakes by giving them the tools for how to react, should they ever find a firearm at home or visiting someone else’s. That’s a marketing message we can all get behind.

Tornado Watch 🌪️

I’m secretly jealous of this Vermont high school’s setup.

Ok, well fine.

Not the discovery of airborne cancer-causing chemicals at a Burlington school that forced students to alternative learning spaces for a few years.

In a class by themselves

I’m digging that these students are the recipients of a pretty cool experiment: attending high school in an empty Macy’s at the mall.

Check it out

The kids were in business after only a 10-week, $3.5M renovation.

Lessons on genes and jeans

This is such a creative solution for a few immediate community needs in one swoop. Plus, learning next to the Levi’s display seems like a more interesting way to spend 3+ years of high school.

Get schooled

This educational setup is great for social distancing, can be used temporally, and the kids are loving it because it gets them out of the house. Especially in a pandemic, it’s comforting to know we can count on the consistency of teenage behaviour.

Making malls into schools in Vermont is a continuation of the trend of using empty office space for schools in the Bay area:

Frankly, these designs look fantastic — and way better than the portables I used in elementary school for a few years.

Everything old is new again

These new ways to maximize space for what’s needed in the community is brilliant to see and has likely inspired more cities to look at their spaces with fresh eyes to figure out how they can better fit into a brave, new post-pandemic world.

The next decade is shaping up to be an interesting one, design-wise. From adversity stems innovation, and these schools are excellent examples of what awaits when we are forced to get creative and adapt. Can’t wait to see what spaces intrepid designers develop next.

Enjoy With Enthusiasm

I can often be heard declaring that human behavior is consumer behavior. This is another such occasion.


I’ve included photos that delight me (a huge improvement over just describing them)

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Notice how human relationships haven’t changed in nearly 150 years? This is pretty much Twitter during the 19th century.

LOLOLOL poor chap. We can practically hear the record scratch on this one.

Trading spaces

This cave writing in modern day Istanbul, is from a Viking raid in the 9th century. It’s in the Hagia Sophia, built 1500 years ago as a cathedral, before becoming a museum then a mosque.

The Viking script etched on the marble says “Halvdan was here”

Great name, btw.

Centuries later humans are still carving their names onto surfaces to commemorate the fact they were there.

No one is immune

The immortality of human nature is what makes consumer behavior one of my favorite parts of marketing. People can be counted on to act predictably when certain conditions are met, they experience the same feeling or are motivated towards the same goal.

Take comfort in normalcy

Consumers are human. We convince ourselves we’re logical, but we aren’t at all. As you can see, we’ve been acting the same since the dawn of civilization. Thanks to the internet, we can now collectively compare and laugh at our ridiculous behavior.

Turns out, we’re more alike than we ever thought.

Kirsten Explains Things

The Abilene paradox

Humans love conforming to social norms because we have a natural aversion to going against the grain.

We generally abhor confrontation or appearing disloyal, which is why we’ll nod along with what we think will keep the group happy. Especially in workplaces, being loyal can be prized over telling the uncomfortable truth.

(But wait, isn’t that groupthink?)

Close, but no cigar.

Managing agreement

The root of the Abilene paradox is that each group member secretly thinks they’re the only one who doesn’t want to play that board game, for example, so they don’t suggest another.

Instead, they avoid rocking the boat and play the game anyways. Later on, the truth is revealed and everyone wonders why they played when no one actually wanted to. Cue resentment.

Oink oink

The distinction with regards to groupthink, is that everyone feels great about the decision because they seek harmony and don’t bother to question or seek alternative ideas. Just ask JFK and his Bay of Pigs.

Spotify Song of the Week

The vibe this week is “Westbound Train” by Flowering Inferno, Quantic

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Requests or recommendations? Business inquiries? Lavish praise? Send them to kirsten@thecampbellagency.ca

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