Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Having a moment

 


There’s one High Street slogan that’s been around since before the late Queen was born, but like Her Majesty, has recently become history.  Never Knowingly Undersold was not originally intended as a customer-facing slogan, but became so in 1925, when it was first used by the Peter Jones store in Sloane Square.

Although this slogan is not exactly slick (it’s a bit of a mouthful), it is unusual not just because of its longevity, but also because it’s a firm promise to the customer, rather than an imperative of how the customer should live their life, in the style of something like Just Do It, or a statement of attitude or belief as in Life is for Sharing.

The point about a customer promise is that, even if few customers go to the bother of asking John Lewis to refund the difference on an item bought more cheaply elsewhere, it builds trust in the brand and demonstrates serious commitment to its users.

Of course, shopping has changed beyond recognition since 1995, let alone 1925, and in these days of online retail giants and price comparison platforms, the slogan itself could not sensibly survive. John Lewis have undertaken an 18 month brand positioning process to find a replacement - something that will attract new and younger customers to the retailer.

With my nerdy branding hat on, I must say that it was fascinating for me to see the fruits of this year-and-a-half of branding labour. Some of the positioning statements/slogans (the source articles don’t make it completely clear whether these are strategic/internal or executional/customer-facing) that were considered were these:

  • John Lewis: Life is beautiful
  • John Lewis: Life well loved
  • John Lewis: For every moment
  • John Lewis: For the love of life
  • For the joy of life: John Lewis
  • Life & happiness: John Lewis
  • For every beat: John Lewis
  • Life made beautiful
And the final slogan is John Lewis: For all life’s moments.

I can’t be the only planner who has also played the “moments”, “life”, “happiness”, “joy” permutations and combinations game at some time in the quest for the ultimate positioning statement. I remember back in the 90s, there was a brand (it could have been chocolates) that advertised with the song Magic Moments, which would be hummed whenever an unsuspecting planner or account person strayed too close to generic “moment” territory.

But moments seem to be having a moment in marketing, if you’ll excuse the trite expression. I keep hearing conversations about targetting moments and have seen some rather contrived but frightening “moments universes” from research agencies to help in this task.

My concern is that the new slogan is terribly generic. IKEA could use it, but they don’t in the UK as they have something infinitely better - a slogan and campaign idea that’s a statement of attitude and a promise in one - The Wonderful Everyday

There’s nothing wrong with the new slogan, but there’s not a lot right with it either. It’s not a promise, it’s not a challenge, it’s not an attitude or philosophy. It has no edge, rather like “We’re there for you.

The new ad to introduce the slogan is similar - sweet enough, hummable music, but ultimately rather beige and wallpapery.

Some new slogans grow on you over time, but I fear this one will simply go in one ear and out the other. 


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