The following post will analyze why Christopher Nolan’s Inception is a 148-minute marketing manual. But first of all, let’s take a moment to frame the topic.


What the movie Inception is about

Inception is a 2010 thriller film with a sci-fi core written and directed by Christopher Nolan. The protagonist, an expert in extracting secrets from the mind from the depths of people’s subconscious while they sleep, is engaged in one final challenge: to try the reverse process. Therefore, do not extract an idea but implant an idea. The film won numerous international awards and is considered among the best films of the last 20 years. Among the curiosities, without spoiling the movie for anyone who has not seen it yet, we can report that Nolan has stated in several interviews that the idea of structuring the architectures of dreams is taken from the works of Maurits Cornelis Escher. For the definition of the plot, he feels a debt toward Jorge Luis Borges.


But why does Inception talk about marketing?

As anticipated, the film tells of the process of implanting an idea. Isn’t this perhaps the highest aspiration of those involved in marketing? There are many definitions of marketing and its role within companies in the literature. Remaining among the more formal ones, the AMA, American Marketing Association in 2017 defined marketing as: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” In Vehnta, on the other hand, we prefer the definition of Russell Stuart Winer, NYU Stern, the business school of New York University, which defines marketing as the set of activities that aim to influence a consumer’s choice. And what is more profound than an influence like an implanted idea? However, it is not so easy to implant an idea.




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Implant an idea: a marketing Inception

Therefore, starting from the film’s plot, it is possible to map a path to implant an idea: always making sure not to spoil the movie too much! There are four steps and four explanations, which we invite you to read.


Explanation 1: An idea must be one’s own

In order to give birth to an idea in a person, making sure that he recognizes it as his own and does not perceive it as interference from outside and, therefore, rejects it, it is necessary to work in-depth following an ordered process capable of involving the conscious part and the unconscious part.


Explanation 2: We start from an emotion

By developing correlations between his unconscious and conscious parts, a specific emotion will have to be used as a trigger to plant an idea and wait for the idea to emerge autonomously in the person involved.


Explanation 3: Emotion as a vehicle

However, despite being able to speak the language of the unconscious, an emotion alone is unable to develop an idea. The emotion must be the vehicle of the idea: it must contain an idea that can then develop within the person. In fact, to ensure that this can begin to develop and grow independently, a combination of elements is required, acting in concert with the emotion, which can give substance, knowledge, and details to the idea. These components respond to structure and style names.


Explanation 4: What are structure and style?

In order to facilitate the visualization by the person, it will therefore be necessary to help the person: help the person materialize the emotion with habits, experiences, shapes, and colours that she or he already knows. This step, as previously mentioned, has structure and style as its main elements. By structure, we mean the set of behaviour, relationship, and aggregation models between people, in a personal and business context, which can be traced back to an abstract form. Tracing experiences to an abstract form means unpacking an experience into different simpler modules, which, in turn, can be unpacked down to minimal units of actions. These minimal units of actions are the smallest part of a movement or thought known to the person that it is possible and useful to define. It is, therefore, now a question of reassembling the minimum units of action, reduced to abstract concepts, deriving, however, from the person’s past experiences to structure a new emotion which, in its creation, will be facilitated by past experiences that are easily found in the person’s memory. By style, on the other hand, we mean the set of details that can populate and make a structure more concrete. These are elements that characterize this structure, which can act on several levels to give shape and colour to a structure.


Conclusion: AKA, so what?

The first conclusion is that watch the film Inception for those who have not yet done so. For those who have already done it, repeat, repeat, repeat. In summary, however, we can say that the concept of implanting an idea is a concept that, at the same time, is both extraordinary and frightening. What do you think about it?


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