Thursday, 8 November 2012

Trust me, I'm a brand

Tomorrow, John Lewis will launch its Christmas ad for 2012 via social media, just a few days after winning the Grand Prix in the IPA Effectiveness Awards for the "re-energising" campaign of the last couple of years.

Amid all the speculation, it's interesting to have a look at the case history and the thinking that's contributed to the success of the campaign so far. Commentators are making much of how John Lewis has tapped into a cultural trend - the need for constancy in a changeable world. There's a lot of talk about how people are "re-evaluating life choices" to focus on what's really important. I can interpret that as follows: it's not enough to know what makes human beings tick - it's vital to know what makes them tick right now, in the current context.

Of course that's some of it. But there are plenty of ads that communicate constancy and "as good as we've always been" and "always there" without having the emotional pull and commercial success of John Lewis.

I think the key is in a phrase used in the paper: John Lewis is described as a "beacon of stability." Now, think about that - it's a paradox. What could be less stable than something that's burning, flickering, in continual change? It's a bit like the "cuddly colossus" that we sought for British Airways. Again, from this apparent paradox, the brand derives its energy. Yes, it's always there, but at the same time it's always inspiring, enlightening, dynamic. It's a million miles from a security blanket.

As an aside, it always amuses me to see what short memories people in advertising have. Yes, the John Lewis "Always a woman" is a great ad - and part of a great campaign. But I wouldn't describe it as ground-breaking: surely it comes from the same school technically and emotionally as the 2008 Hovis ad, if not the same agency?

Right - I'm off to re-evaulate some life choices if that's what we're all meant to be up to these days!

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