“When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”
–Leo Burnett (October 21, 1891 – June 7, 1971), advertising executive
Leo Burnett’s quote speaks to me as a parent of children who will grow up in the 21st century. My children will not be expected to memorize facts, because facts are just a click away on the Internet. Rote learning is not in their future, as education veers towards teaching children to think critically, work collaboratively and problem solve. Their future depends on their ability to innovate, create, invent, and be flexible. Their world will be one of constant change on a global scale.
Leo Burnett was clearly a creative thinker. He was famous for creating such icons as the Jolly Green Giant, the Marlboro Man, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Tony the Tiger. He had a sense of what people liked, what spoke to their minds and bodies, and how people might attach to an idea or a visual. Even though most advertising of his time was “copy-heavy” with lengthy product descriptions and selling arguments, he created the simple icons that would speak to people about product benefits in a way that was easily understood by many.
In the age of Twitter and Tumblr, when saying something in bits and pieces or with one single visual image matters, Leo Burnett would have been successful and would have prospered. His skills for communicating, understanding loyalty to brands and icons, figuring out how to operate on someone’s emotional attachment to a product, and using sensory information (e.g., color, size, shape, sound, movement) in advertisements to attract buyers and keep them, even “for life,” would have led directly to his success in the 21st century.
Leo Burnett is an example to me of what I want my children to become. If my children can understand how to communicate an idea, share it comfortably and successfully with others, be in tune with others’ emotions, as well as make sense of and integrate sensory information to make an amazing “whole,” I believe my children will be successful and prosper in this ever-changing world, no matter which path they end up choosing.