Monday, 28 July 2014
This stuff was all very well up to a point, as long as those bright young marketing people remembered it was just an analogy. But it often got out of hand, with those oh-so-keen execs wittering on about what their brand "wanted" or "needed" or being obsessed with consistency, such that the sophisticated, witty and inspiring personality was apparent at every possible touchpoint - and any signs of imperfection or irrationality were clouted promptly with a large Corporate Design manual.
The point is, it is a mistake to attribute human emotions to something non-human - or worse still - inanimate. You are welcome to love a brand but it is not going to repay your love. Your loyalty, perhaps, but not your love, because it can't.
The tables have now turned with the rise of social media and we hear less about brands as people, and more about people as brands. An entire industry of writers, coaches, courses and programmes is devoted to Personal Branding. 27m plus Google results popped up on the subject. There are thousands of books on the subject on amazon.
Some people have set out to be brands - it's their personal ambition, which is OK if you too want to be "as famous as Persil." But for others, I'd be very wary of being treated (or treating yourself) like a packet of soap powder (or a luxury car if the soap powder stuff makes you squeamish!).
Self-promotion is not the same as self-expression. Self-promotion is about self-packaging - defining everything from your appearance, your online presence and which areas of your skills or knowledge are going to pushed - and what is going to be hidden. And someone - you or your publicist - will be making a decision about which of those factors will be associated with success.
If you are going to blow your own trumpet, it's a good idea to learn to play it first.
Tuesday, 22 July 2014
For all the trivial jingles and frivolous apps that we get involved in creating in the ad business, it's always gratifying to see strategic and creative communication skills used for good. I don't just mean those brands that decide to leap on to whatever is the latest "issue" band wagon with some tenuous connection to their product, but agencies who get together with NGOs and grass roots organisations and combine their skills and knowledge.
One such partnership is that between Ogilvy and Mather, India and Breakthrough, a global human rights organisation that uses culture to change culture. Working together on a campaign to stop domestic violence, they created the Bell Bajao (Hindi for "ring the bell") campaign.
The challenges for tackling such a complex issue were many. But a simple and elegant solution was found - through the insight that a simple action from a bystander can break the momentum of violence and maybe deter it in future. In the film above, for example, the main character uses "can I use your phone?" as his excuse to ring the bell, even though it's clear he has a working mobile with him. Other spurious excuses included asking for the time or collecting a lost ball.
The campaign employed a mix of mass media such as the film above as well as community outreach. Its success is apparent in that the campaign idea is now being rolled out across the globe.
Sometimes the most effective ideas are the simplest ones.
Friday, 11 July 2014
Success in any field - sport, business or personal life - depends on your definition of success, and how you approach reaching it. Jeff Bezos of amazon is quoted as saying:
"We are stubborn on vision, we are flexible on details."
As a small aside, you might comment that details such as dodgy tax practices, less than ideal conditions for employees and monopolistic bully behaviour may display too great a degree of flexibility. But as a general principle, he's right.
All too often, brands - or the people who manage them - are stubborn where they don't need to be: on details. They compile an exhaustive corporate identity rulebook. They set unrealistic goals on irrelevant parameters, just because these can be measured. They insist on documents being rewritten and rewritten again to reflect the brand tone of voice. And all the time, forgetting their vision.
In the end, you remember who won, but you don't necessarily remember in what formation they played.
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Take the shop above - a quirky place if ever there was one - Gewürz-und Teehaus Schnorr - in Frankfurt, established in the immediate post-War years. It comes into the niche retail category of "Spice and Tea House" but the product range doesn't stop there. There are teas, yes, from distant shores, from Sri Lanka to Japan, as well as Fortnum & Mason. And every spice known to man and woman, mysterious and beckoning.
But in addition, there are shelves of jams and preserves and chutneys and lemon curds, stacks of shortbread. Nougat, nuts and honey. Joss sticks, china and tea accessories. Even ornaments, small items of furniture and fans.
It's an emporium of the exotic.
But is it? There are some familiar brands here for me - Walker's Shortbread, and sauces from Stokes and Lea & Perrins. And somehow, the value of these increases when bought from such a shop. In comparison to an English Tescos, you feel as if the products have earned their right to these exclusive shelves via a gourmet tasting, rather than some buyer's deal.
It's worth remembering that the company your brand keeps has an influence on how it is perceived as well as what it says or does.
And on that note, I'll leave you with my discovery from Schnorr. This is absolutely delicious!
Thursday, 3 July 2014
What do I mean by heart? Well, to me, it's not usually enough to say that we're a product used by women so we'll have a big brand message that's all about empowering girls. No, the best ideas go back to the heart of the brand which I think is the product, not some vague philosophical "essence".
What is your product? What can it do? And what can it do to make the world a better place? A great example is the Let's Colour project from Dulux, which aims to colour 1 million people's lives by 2020 since its start in 2011. Communities have already been brightened up from London to Rio de Janeiro, from Paris to Jodhpur.
Cif in Romania. The brand has launched an app which gives people an easy way to report racist or otherwise offensive graffiti. A cleaning team in a Cif-branded van turn up to remove the stupid scribbles.
Not only do such initiatives do communities good, they do the brand good. Because if you link to what's at the brand's heart, what the product can do, that's the best kind of branding of all.
Monday, 30 June 2014
I started work in the 80s, the Thatcherite, loadsamoney, yuppy era when success was very clearly defined. It was primarily about money and, after that, power. When the decade changed, however, I clearly remember believing that the 90s would be different. We talking about the "caring, sharing 90s" at the ad agency, and, although "sustainability" didn't have quite the omnipresence that it has today, "green" was definitely on the agenda. I believed all this because I'd already seen colleagues in their 20s suffering from stomach ulcers, breakdowns and other stress-related illnesses.
In the 90s, I made a career move that wasn't incredibly clever in terms of money and power. I moved to a country where I could order beer but was otherwise clueless about the language, where Strategic or Account Planning was in its infancy in the ad agency world and where being a mother and having a career sat uneasily together.
But I gained so much more personally. This was followed by my decision to go freelance twelve years ago. I have found my own way and success on my own terms.
It's sad that not much has changed in thirty years in the way that Western culture measures success. And that there seem to be even more people suffering from burn-out and stress-related illnesses. Part of it, I am sure, is that many people have become slaves to technology - that double-edged sword that both simplifies and complicates our lives.
The latest book on the subject is from Arianna Huffington - Thrive. In it, she talks about the "money and power" definition of success as being like a two-legged stool. At some point you fall off. And that the 3rd leg of success is about Well-being, Wisdom, Wonder and Giving.
You may not be able to stop the world and get off, but you can certainly switch off the virtual world every evening.
Wednesday, 25 June 2014
A new book has been published this week, by Adam Ferrier of cummins&partners, called The Advertising Effect. In the blurb for the book, Adam asks those in advertising to do something that some may consider radical: forget rational messaging and creating an emotional brand connection and focus on affecting action and behavioural change.
And furthermore, he asks us to "get over and accept" a simple premise: we are in the behaviour change business.
This is all fine stuff, but I confess that I'm a little surprised. This is precisely what I have always understood advertising to be about. Early on in my career, we always had a part of the brief which was titled something like "what would we like people to think, feel and do as a result of this campaign"? And although these were laid out in this order, I don't think it was ever implied that the thinking resulted in the feeling which resulted in the doing.
In the end, advertising works in many weird and wonderful ways. The same campaign can have different effects on different people. One TV spot, say, can give one person a nice warm fuzzy feeling about the brand that's so strong that it's still around a year later when she's in the market for one of those. And for the next person, it may simply act as a catalyst for buying one of those (that he needs) tomorrow, and the ad is forgotten the next day.
What's important to me is that advertising is about change. Whether it's an emotional connection that leads to a change in behaviour or behavioural change that triggers a perceptual change isn't the point.
And it's a permanent change in how someone thinks, feels or behaves regarding that brand, not just change for change's sake.