Sunday, 15 July 2018

A load of hot air?

The Trump Baby balloon is a timely reminder of the power of outdoor advertising and the potential of the biggest medium in (or around) the world - the sky.

Another aerial campaign that kicked off this month is from Hunter as part of the strategy to be recognised as a classic British export.

The 120-foot inflatable welly was launched in Scotland, and will appear at festivals, sporting and other events in the UK and Europe before crossing the Atlantic for some US appearances in the brand's biggest export market.

This is, I think, what's known as a "Big Idea."

I am sure there are some who would have loved to see the Flying Welly boot the Trump Baby up the backside!

Thursday, 12 July 2018

SPAM's people

Over the years in this blog, I've dug up enough evidence to show there's not much new under the branding sun whatever fancy new terminology and buzzwords are introduced. For example, my Christmassy piece of branded content, or some useful branded guides to baking and motoring.

I came across a fascinating article by consumer behavioural researcher Ayalla A. Ruvio this week, entitled How Spam became one of the most Iconic American brands of all time. Definitely worth reading in full, it shows how a not terribly exciting product became an iconic brand through involvement and emotional connection with people, employing all manner of ingenious "brand experience" ideas decades before the term was coined.

The article is brimming with historical examples of collaboration, co-creation, tapping into culture and generally being informative, useful and entertaining.

Yes, entertaining. The Spam story that caught my imagination the most was that of the Hormel Girls, a musical troupe of female WW2 veterans. So there's even female empowerment in there too!



But maybe the biggest example of Spam's iconic status is the passing of the brand name into everyday vocabulary. Of course, the brand could have kicked up a huge fuss and not wanted their name sullied with connotations of junk mail.

But I am sure that would have done more harm than good.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Her Royal Brandness

There's a rather good series of articles running at Marketing Week to celebrate the publication's 40th anniversary. I remember Marketing Week if not 40 years ago, then - ahem - certainly 30 years ago. Of the "trade publications" we received, it was my second favourite after Campaign, and certainly infinitely more readable than The Grocer, which seemed to smell vaguely of brown paper.

The articles are written by industry luminaries, and I was pleased to see my old boss from my Saatchi days elevated to branding royalty with this excellent article . Rita Clifton reflects on brands and branding over the last few decades and concludes that for success, strong brands must remain the anchor point, organising principle, heart, call it what you will, of a business.

One thing that hasn't changed in my decades of marketing and advertising is the continual dichotomy: (long-term) building the brand and (short-term) sales - today characterised as "taps, clicks and bricks." I expect our arguments in the last century weren't helped by so much mumbo-jumbo surrounding the idea of a brand. The whole idea seemed vague and airy-fairy, with the continual reference to 'brand image', as well as the contrived and frankly up-their-owm-backside ways that various practitioners conjured-up an enigmatic 'brand essence.'

Images and essences aside, it's interesting that today's most powerful brands are what we used to call single-shot or mono-brands in terms of brand architecture. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Instagram, Pinterest and Co. don't lurk in the depths of mysterious 'brand temples' - more mumbo-jumbo - these are completely clear and upfront in their presentation.

One more reflection on the article: back in the last century, brands were dominated by what we used to call FMCG - Fast Moving Consumer Goods. Groceries in plain language.

It's ironic that the biggest changes that have impacted on branding in the last couple of decades are to do with speed and scale.

When those 20th century marketeers talked about Fast-Moving, they didn't know the half of it!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Three Lions

In much of the coverage of the concept of Purpose in the marketing press, there's often confusion between two separate, yet connected ideas:

1. Brands - or indeed - businesses as a force for good in society and the world as a whole
2. Brand Purpose - the reason a brand exists, which defines its uniqueness and differentiates it from everything else.

This post is more about the first of these ideas - that brands and businesses have the scale, reach and wherewithal generally to do some good in the world. And that people are expecting this more and more as trust in traditional institutions declines. It's worth pointing out (as anti-capitalists tend to forget this) that most businesses have always done good in terms of providing employment, developing the skills their of people and contributing to the local communities as well as the economy. But this is often overshadowed by the negative effects on people and planet that irresponsibly-run businesses can have.

The first lion in this post is the recently-concluded Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. It was at this forum that the second lion was premiered.

The second lion is an initiative created by Mars and The United Nations Development Fund, along with creative partners BBDO and Finch. The initiative is called The Lion's Share Fund and here it is introduced by the wonderful Sir David Attenborough:



It's refreshing to see a different theme picked by advertisers to the usual suspects amongst the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and Conservation is particularly apt, seeing as 20% of advertising uses images of animals. Many of the animals featured in ads are endangered species - think of all those tigers, pandas and gorillas. 0.5% of a company's media spend for ads featuring animals won't make a huge dent in profits, but it'll certainly add up to giving something worthwhile back - an appearance fee, if you like.

So, well done to Mars. I do wonder if their arch-rival, Nestle, who make Lion Bar, will join up.

And as for the third lion, well, after last night, I hope you'll forgive me my little indulgence at the top of this post.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Driving traffic to the stores

I'm still not a huge fan of McDonald's burgers, but I do find I'm liking (if not lovin') McDonald's as a brand more and more. Despite having been in the world of advertising for decades now, my heart still misses a beat (well, half - it's only advertising) when I see an idea I instinctively know is right. And damned bloody good.

Here's one:



"Follow the Arches" by McDonald's Canada, from their agency Cossette, has just won the Outdoor Grand Prix at Cannes.

There's no heavy philosophy or high and mighty purpose here, but instead there's first of all an ingenious and brilliant use of the medium. Plus a nod to popular culture - all those "guess the logo" games. Human insight, too - who doesn't identify with tiring car journeys with hungry kiddies, driving round and round a strange city? And then, positive use of brand consistency, values, global presence. Stunningly simple.

Best of all, it's useful and helpful, which means it'll work.

It puts the ghastly phrase "driving traffic to the stores" in a whole new light!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Rebel bands and brands

I went to an open-air rock concert at the weekend, something I hadn't done for some time. One aspect of the experience that intrigued me was that they seemed to be giving away ear plugs at the bar. Rather weird, if you ask me. I asked the girl behind the bar what that was all about and she didn't really seem to know but commented that "maybe some people are sensitive."

A strange remark, I thought, but there seemed to be a streak of concern for the sensitive running throughout the show. At the entrance was a security sign telling you what was allowed and not allowed in terms of bringing stuff into the show. All very well. But then there was an extra section listing what is not liked at the venue: racism, sexism, homophobia and so on, but also stuff like overstepping personal boundaries, coming on to people inappropriately and that sort of thing. Look, I don't like that stuff either - but does it really need to be spelled out to adults?

It reminded me of the sort of sign you get at swimming pools: no running, no jumping, no diving and all the rest. And even though I've left my adolescence behind long ago, those sort of signs always make me want to do exactly the opposite.

The band's singer gave us some cod philosophy about "the rules are there to be broken", but I felt pretty sure that no-one would look kindly on anyone breaking those rules of desirable behaviour that the venue has laid down. I wondered vaguely if the venue's management go through the back-catalogue of lyrics with a red pen each time some rock dinosaurs come to strut their stuff.

Hate is only acceptable when it's channeled in approved directions.

Perhaps the conversation Johnny has in The Wild Ones would go like this today:

- Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?
- What's on the approved list?

This is important for brands, as I sense an increasing homogeneity: brand values are interchangeable, and even "rebel" brands seem to be more and more conformist. I am not a great fan of those "12 Brand Archetypes" tools, for a number of reasons. Not only is there rather too much over-simplification involved, but the whole thing seems to be about fitting in rather than standing out. ("Which Disney Princess is your brand?" to which a real rebel brand should really answer "None of 'em!").

Are the "usual suspects" who get held up as Outlaws or Rebels really so? Harley Davidson, Virgin, Diesel et al? Or are they merely the establishment's idea of an acceptable rebel?

I'm on the lookout for brands that do something genuinely rebellious. Existing only in the Internot, for example.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Not-so-smart addiction

Yesterday, I nearly got into a fight, or at least a slanging match. A man crossed the path of my car (yes, I was on the road), glued to his SmartPhone, not looking, oblivious. If I'd been paying as little attention to my surroundings as he was, he'd be dead or seriously injured. Yet, he seemed to think I was in the wrong.

The news (which most people probably read on their SmartPhone) is cram-full of articles about SmartPhone addiction (or is it social media addiction, or internet addiction? And does it matter?) and as long ago as 2014, the McCarthy Group's Trust and Attention Survey found that, for millennials, access to the internet is more important than access to their best friend. The word Nomophobia has been coined to mean "the fear of being without your phone."

We're not just heading for the dystopia depicted in this cartoon (inspired by The Fleischer Bros.' Bimbo's Initiation), we're active - or passive - participants already.




The Googles, Facebooks, Instagrams and YouTubes of this world are responding by a focus on "Digital Wellbeing", building take-a-break features into their services, amongst other measures. This move towards "responsible devicing" feels familiar - rather like the booze companies encouraging responsible drinking. A little bit "nanny knows best?"

The man on my local street aside, it's difficult to say how much of this is real and how much is media hype. And I wonder if just as much anxiety and mental distress comes from well-meaning and "look at my perfect world" posts as it does from hate speech and the like.

One thing is for sure: the (social) media companies dealing with the problem head-on isn't new.

One famously-long TV program title from my youth was Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go Out and Do Something Less Boring Instead?