Friday, 15 July 2016

'Time present and time past ...

... are both perhaps present in time future'
                               T.S.Eliot, Burnt Norton

I have noticed two examples of brands that have made news this week by combining past and present to (maybe) create the future.

I'll start with the one not absolutely everyone has heard of, which is Polaroid Swing. I've often wondered how the Polaroid brand lives on, while the Kodak brand seems to have died, or at least retired and disappeared from view. This is one reason: a nifty little app that combines the heritage of Polaroid (for the name inspiration, see the groovy ad above) with bang up-to-date technology. In this case, moving photos. These are kind of like gifs, put different. 60 frames are captured in 1 second and the picture comes to life when you tap it or get swinging your iPhone. The world of Harry Potter has nothing on this!

The people from Polaroid and their collaborators at Swing have high hopes - could this be the visual version of Twitter? The insight is that we perceive the world as a series of (very short) moments. I'm not 100% convinced, but let's see.

The other new launch needs no introduction - Pokemon Go . You can't avoid having heard about it unless you're living under a stone (although that, too, is unlikely as you're probably sharing your under-a-stone space with a funny little yellow creature.) As well as combining old (well, 90s) with new to appeal to at least a couple of generations, much has been made of the combination of real and virtual worlds. Here is one of the better articles about the success factors.

So there you have it - for a successful brand extension, maybe we have to think like a bride and combine the old, the new, the borrowed (preferably via collaboration) and the blue - or yellow.

Monday, 11 July 2016

The brand who saved the world?

Funny how fashions in marketing often go full circle.

Take 'Purpose'. For most of this decade so far, Purpose has been the marketing buzzword. I think a lot of it started with the popularity of Simon Sinek's 2009 book and talks - Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to take Action. Purpose has even found its way to be included as the 5th, or 6th, or 101st 'P' of marketing.

And just last week, I received a trend report from Trendwatching, entitled 'Big Brand Redemption', all about how Big Brands can be the solution (not the problem) when it comes to a sustainable, ethical, brighter future for us all, citing examples such as Unilever's Lifebuoy.

But, but, but. To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, or whatever. For every brand with high falutin' ideas about saving the world, there's another who wants to come down to earth. One of the biggest brand repositioning stories in the last year is from Coke with the move from 'Open Happiness' to the more functional 'Taste the Feeling'. To quote Marco de Quinto, the Coke CMO: We are a simple pleasure, a product that refreshes. Not one that's going to save the world. If by refreshing, you save the world, fine. We are going back to this truth.

And then, in Millward Brown's BrandZ: Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands, this view is reflected:

pg 27: Brands may not need a purpose as high as saving humanity

Intro pg 5: Brands seem to be shifting from higher purpose (making the world better) to narrower purpose (making the customer's life better)


Brands do not need a higher purpose ... they need to be seen as improving the life of the consumer in some way

Hang on - isn't that what we used to call a benefit?

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Blame it on the ads?

As part of the general interminable Brexit post-mortem, the ad industry has been doing plenty of its own navel-gazing. Could the advertising campaign for the 'Remain' camp have been stronger, more effective? Did the advertising even contribute to the failure to swing votes?

By all accounts, the process and way of working for the (Britain) Stronger In (Europe) campaign sounded like a mess. Hardly surprising, given that 'the client' was a committee composed of representatives of various political hues. The strong leadership that was missing generally in the country was also missing here. And while the ad agencies blaming the client may sound like bad workmen blaming their tools (if you'll excuse the expression), they may well have had a point.

The lead agency, M&C Saatchi, have recently released a number of 'ads that got away', and these give a fascinating glimpse into the campaign development.

What's clear to me is that there seem to be a number of strategic directions here:

There's the classic 'fear' card - i.e. 'Weaker Out' rather than 'Stronger In' - Farage as Hitler, Hand Grenade, Johnson/Gove/Farage/Duncan-Smith as bogey-men generally.

There are a couple of interesting, more positive ideas, although these are a little weak in execution and don't 'go anywhere' - 'Don't leave it lead it' and 'The more you have to live for the more you want to live in Europe'

Finally, there's an 'old people are stupid and irresponsible' campaign - 'It's not their future, it's ours'

But the biggest mistake, going by this lot, is that the ad agency people who have developed these ideas are trapped in their own social media echo chamber.

They are talking to themselves.

This is the danger of spending too much time on Twitter and Facebook. You are lulled into a false sense of security about 'how people think'.

I've got friends who voted in, and friends who voted out. Interestingly, those who voted out tend to be less active on social media. After the result, I deliberately went out of the comfort of my newsfeed, which was full of links to angry (and increasingly dull) blog articles of the 'no, I won't calm down' variety. I looked at the Brexit page, I looked at articles from the 'Leave' camp - and I learned a lot.

I have also probably inadvertently got myself down as a right-wing loony extremist, as far as Facebook is concerned, going by some of the page suggestions I now have.

But the moral is - products or politics - step 1, before any of the creative fun starts - get into the minds of the people you're communicating with.

How do they tick?

Friday, 1 July 2016

Partners in Crime

Two ads have come to my attention this week that use criminals/offenders/call them what you will to draw attention to and sell products. And while one of these certainly stole my attention, the other is a crime against advertising, as far as I'm concerned.

I'll start with the ad above - Free the Kids: Dirt is Good  from Persil. This film on an epic scale has been dreamed up by Unilever in conjunction with education advocate Sir Ken Robinson. No expense was spared in getting a top notch director and filming in Wabash Maximum Security Prison, Indiana. The idea, or insight, is that even these top security prisoners get more time outside than 'our' children - two hours instead of one.

I really don't like this ad at all. And not because it's controversial, or edgy, or anything like that. It's not. The faux documentary style is becoming a yawn these days, with all that slow motion, depressing music and that awful worthy and sanctimonious tonality.

Then there's the contrived link to Persil and 'dirt is good'. What on earth are they trying to do here? Finger-point at mums, saying 'you are treating your children worse than high security prisoners just because you don't want their clothes to get muddy, you selfish cow?'

And finally, this may make me unpopular but I really don't like the link between high security prisoners and children. These guys are not inside for stealing a packet of bubblegum or forgetting to pay a parking fine. I wonder how their victims feel about them being glamorised in a glossy ad campaign? And as for 'I'd love to take my kid to the park', my heart bleeds for him. Should have thought about that before committing whatever serious crime he did.

And now for the second ad - Shoplifters from Harvey Nichols. This is from adam&eveDDB and uses real security camera footage to promote the store's Loyalty Reward App.

This one has just won the Film Grand Prix at Cannes and, OK, it's directed at a completely different audience to the Persil ad but I think it's a great piece of film.

It's the opposite of yawn. I've never seen or heard anything quite like it before - it's quirky, funny, entertaining, clever. No big names, no heavy moralising, just a simple message about 'legal shopping highs.'

In this case, maybe crime does pay when it comes to advertising.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Goodbye to all that

A few years ago, my mother was asked to take part in some market research. It was what used to be called a Hall Test, and maybe still is. It involved tasting samples of orange juice. My mother enjoyed the experience, and being asked her opinion.

However, at the end of the interview, the market researcher asked my mother her age and explained that she was 'terribly sorry, but they wouldn't be able to use her interview as she was past the cut-off point.' Needless to say, my mother was not too amused to be declared 'past the cut-off point,' as if her opinions didn't count.

When I did my stint as an interviewer, the 'cut-off point' was absurdly young - 65 or even 60. This was explained to me (if I remember correctly) that 'older people' were difficult to interview/find and all the rest. Some couldn't hear well, some couldn't see well, some couldn't manage the steps going up to the room where the research was taking place. I have noticed on surveys I have done that it has crept upwards, but I expect there is still a bias against say, the over 75s.

Orange juice is one thing, but decisions about the political and economic future are another. When I woke up to the news this morning that was so different from the last poll I'd heard last night, my second thought was my mother and orange juice.

It's only a theory, but I expect that the polls underestimated the 75+ vote. From the demographic breakdowns I saw before the referendum, there was a clear age effect, with the 60+ group strongly more pro-Brexit compared to the average. My suspicion is that 75+ would be even more so.

With Brexit, it seems as if the 'Silent Generation' have found the voice the pollsters didn't want to hear - and used it.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Post-modern Positioning

I blogged last year about the Japan Post's Watch Over Service whereby friendly local postmen and women keep a watchful eye on the elderly.

Now here's another great example of the re-positioning of the postman, this time from Finland's Posti. They are offering a weekly lawn-mowing service, on Tuesdays, the least demanding day of normal post delivery. The postman/woman will turn up and mow your lawn for you if you book up. It's a win-win situation, filling a gap in a less busy day for the postman, and getting your lawn done on a regular basis by someone you trust for the customer.

Posti are also already in involved in meal delivery, and may partner up with care services and providers as an extension of this idea.

It's a great example of re-positioning away from product (physical post) and more towards qualities and values - local, friendly, daily, trust and so on. The lesson for brands is one of adaptation - are you too tied to your product? Imagine if Kodak had been less tied to physical film and cameras and positioned more towards sharing memories - they might have invented Instagram!

Maybe milkmen are due for a renaissance in another guise. And, incidentally, when I first came to Germany, I was interested to hear that 'eggmen' were more commonplace than milkmen!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The story of the emperor's new clothes

The expression 'story-telling' is one that has crept into branding and business over the last few years (usually referred to as 'Story' in the singular with a BIG Capital Letter by those who think they are in the know). I've nothing against it - I have been known to tell a story or two myself. I think it's a lot to do with the massive change in the way people use media, and the vast choice of media available.

Brand communication has moved from (more of) a message/receiver model - although tell me people never used to discuss ads in the pub - to something more akin to a multi-media network. This was all brilliantly illustrated by The Guardian a few years back.

I say 'more of', because I think story-telling has always been an element of brand communication. Creative people in agencies have an instinct for story-telling: look how many of them become novelists and film directors. Back when I started in advertising, long-copy ads were still in vogue. I was involved in the development of some super ads for The London Philharmonic - the kind of posters that would fill up a dull minute or two waiting for a train. They were about the lengths the musicians went to to perfect their art - for example, the trombonist refraining from kissing his wife a few days before a performance in case of damage to the embouchure.

Stories are fine. Where I do object, however, is how some practitioners create their own (trademarked) tools and models, and sell these to the unsuspecting marketing community, like a dodgy lamp in the bazaar. These tools and models are invariably backed up with a reference to an academic, in all likelihood Joseph Campbell, along with numerous examples from the world of Disney, fantasy and Sci-Fi (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter being particular favourites). Suddenly 'Story' becomes a problem-solving tool for business.

I'd love to know how many of these tool-and-model-touters, the people who go on their seminars and the Corporate Storytellers (yes, really - Procter & Gamble have one) have actually read Joseph Campbell.

I've read The Hero with a Thousand Faces and found it fascinating. But it's certainly not a quick skim-through, at around 400 pages. I have studied psychology and read a lot of Jung, and I did not find Campbell's book an easy read. But it contains many, many beautifully-written and thought-provoking passages. Like this:

The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors and deluding images up into the mind – whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves. There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. And they may remain unsuspected or, on the other hand, some chance word, the smell of a landscape, the taste of a cup of tea, or the glance of an eye may touch a magic spring, and then dangerous messengers begin to appear in the brain. They are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating too, for they carry keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of the self. Destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live, and of ourselves within it; but then a wonderful reconstruction, of the bolder, cleaner, more spacious, and fully human life – that is the lure, the promise and terror, of these disturbing night visitants from the mythological realm that we carry within.

Now, compare that description of the unconscious with a 'framework' that I have seen presented on the internet as a simplification of Campbell. This 'storytelling framework' will (purportedly) help you to develop advertising:

A hero overcomes an obstacle in pursuit of a treasure, aided by a mentor.

Now then, just substitute the following words and phrases in the sentence above:

'Consumer' for 'hero'
'Problem' for 'obstacle'
'Benefit' for 'treasure'
'Brand - probably from Procter & Gamble' for 'mentor'

Sound familiar?