Summer always seems to be a time for catching up with reading, and I've noticed a flurry of articles on two opposing (or are they?) themes.
There are articles heralding doom and gloom for advertising and brands because, after all, in the very near future, we'll be delegating absolutely everything to our AI assistants and there ain't no room for good old advertising, or, if there is, a robot will be "creating" it.
And on the other hand - no! Intelligent humans - real intelligence - are going offline and experiencing JOMO - Joy of Missing Out. Enough is enough with Smart this and Smart that.
Or maybe the two aren't mutually exclusive - delegate everything that doesn't bring you joy and fulfilment to your AI assistant, leaving you more time for that that does.
But how to judge what does and what doesn't? Something else for the too-difficult pile.
A lot of this can be summed up in an excellent article from The Book of Life which lists 8 ills of modern life:
Perfectibility Optimism Individualism Exceptionalism Meritocracy Anthrocentrism Romanticism Novelty
And 8 "consolations" for these:
Brokenness Melancholia Universalis Dependence Ordinary Life Tragedy Transcendence Good enough Recurrence
OK, until an AI assistant can "understand" the subtlety of why the top list are labelled "ills" and the bottom "consolations", I'm off for a bit of JOMO!
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!
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.
There's a rather good series of articles running at Marketing Weekto 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!
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.
When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I got off to a good start, studying Psychology at Trinity College, Cambridge but somehow got side-tracked into the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.
My children's books: