Here’s a beautifully simple idea to promote Philips blenders in Brazil. Rather than trying to persuade people that Philips blenders spin faster or chop finer, Ogilvy went back to the old cliche that it’s what you do with it that counts.
They decided to show that fruit tastes better when it’s blended together – by creating real hybrid fruits.
Clients are often wary of ‘selling the category’, preferring to talk about incremental product improvements or meaningless proprietary technologies that only the product managers understand.
Not really sure if this is just a one-off awards stunt or part of a bigger campaign, but well done to Philips for realising the potential of a great category idea. And extra kudos to the agency for getting a guy playing the spoons in there.
I finished reading Douglas Holt and Douglas Cameron’s ‘Cultural Strategy’ on the MTR this morning. Thanks to Maria for putting me onto it while we were working together in Sydney. I have to admit I was intrigued but a little sceptical at the time so I’m probably a little late on this. Here’s the blurb:
“How do we explain the breakthrough market success of businesses like Nike, Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, and Jack Daniel’s? Conventional models of strategy and innovation simply don’t work. The most influential ideas on innovation are shaped by the worldview of engineers and economists – build a better mousetrap and the world will take notice. Holt and Cameron challenge this conventional wisdom and take an entirely different approach: champion a better ideology and the world will take notice as well.”
I wrongly assumed it was going to be one of those tedious ‘old model is dead’ books about how all brands need to start a movement and turn their customers into crazy evangelical brand zealots.
In fact, the authors recognise that the success of brands like Starbucks and Patagonia happened when they stopped preaching to the choir and found a way to appeal to the silent majority.
Innovation is overrated
What really resonated with me was their central point that brand success has much more to do with perception than product innovation (what they call ‘better mousetraps’) or redefining the category you play in (so-called ‘blue ocean strategy’). Similarly the role of advertising is not to communicate a literal message or stake out ownership of a abstract emotional territory, rather it’s about context and associations. This aspect fits nicely with Paul Feldwick’s excellent paper ‘Exploding The Message Myth’, which refutes the idea that creative is simply a wrapper to help communicate a literal message.
Implications for planners
While ‘Cultural Strategy’ isn’t terribly complimentary about the contribution of planners in some of the featured case studies, it does raise some good points about the strategic process. Namely that if the executional expression of a strategy has such a big impact on effectiveness then our job can’t just be about defining an abstract strategy statement or single-minded proposition. Rather, we need to foster a more nuanced consensus among the team around the cultural context in which our brand operates and think more about tone and nuance. And this means a less linear process – get the creatives involved before you write the brief, and be there to ensure that the all-important cultural nuance doesn’t get completely watered down by the time the work hits the market. There’s quite a lot of blog chat about this type of thing at the moment, Northern Planner suggests that perhaps our role is as shapers rather than planners.
A good example of this approach (not included in the book) is the way W+K articulated the original brand strategy for Honda. Rather than take the reductionist approach of a brand onion or pyramid, they instead created a visual manifesto that conveyed the idiosyncrasies of tone that would have otherwise been lost. Check out Russell Davies’ APG Entry for more on this.
The other aspect of ‘Cultural Strategy’ that I really liked was the emphasis the authors put on seeking to understand the category orthodoxy and use this as a competitive advantage. Regardless of whether you buy into the cultural strategy approach as a whole, knowing the category cliches is essential and can often a fertile source of ideas – sometimes it’s easier to start by defining what you aren’t than what you are.
You knew there’d be some criticisms
Where I don’t necessarily agree with Holt and Cameron (and their thinking departs from Feldwick’s) is in their assertion that a cultural approach based on ideology is always the ‘right’ way to build a successful brand or advertising. Evidence for the prosecution includes Cadbury’s Gorilla or Sony Bravia’s Balls, unsurprisingly neither of which are referenced in the book. From my understanding their effectiveness was not the result of a cultural ideology so much as a simple rejection of crap messaging in favour of a beautifully executed, emotive piece of advertising.
In addition, it sometimes feels like the authors have retrospectively applied a rather tenuous cultural explanation when the reality was a lot more complex. In most cases they fail to properly acknowledge the role of other factors, particularly luck, which as we know from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, is often a much bigger factor than we like to admit.
Despite these reservations, in general the book helps to move the conversation about brands along in the right direction. A cultural approach may not be right for every brief but it’s certainly worth a read.
If you’ve ever struggled to convince a client on the benefits of allowing negative comments about their products, here’s one for you. A piece in Harvard Business Review (thanks @euanwilcox) reveals that getting bad reviews early on can actually be good in the long run.
The findings come from a study of 51,854 reviews contributed to Amazon, covering 858 books from 2000 to early 2004. Researchers Ye Hu and Xinxin Li found that recent user comments often focus more on addressing the previous reviews than evaluating the book itself. Meaning that books that initially received negative reviews often ended up with broadly positive reviews at the top, and vice versa.
Why? The authors cite two main reasons: expectations and self-selection:
Your friend’s assertion that “The Tree of Life” is the greatest movie you’ll ever see is pretty much a guarantee that you’ll be scratching your head afterward…An expectation disconnect is one of the factors that prompt readers to post reviews…
Self-selection refers to readers’ motives for taking the time to write. Some contribute reviews in order to correct what they see as misperceptions; others do so just because they like to be contrary in order to stand out. Either way, the result tends to be disagreement with the initial wave of reviews.
This follows previous research into Amazon reviews suggesting that the specificity of a review can be as telling as whether the overall sentiment is positive or negative.
The APG held a Cannes Highlights evening last night at the Verona, themed around ‘Unexpected Thinking’. As well as the usual suspects (Nike ‘Write the Future’, Walkers ‘Sandwich’, TippEx ‘Hunter Shoots A Bear’ etc) here are a few examples that hopefully haven’t been blogged to death…
I had an all-agency session today where our client shared their new consumer segmentation. Whenever this subject comes up, I can’t help thinking back to an absolutely cracking segmentation from UK mobile retailer Phones4U. And yes, there is such a thing…
What I love about Phones4U’s segmentation is the recognition that if you’re going to create memorable advertising, you need to start with a memorable insight about your audience. On closer inspection maybe it’s more about knowing who not to target. In fact, it doesn’t matter, the point is that Phones4U’s segment profiles are a good deal more entertaining than most you’ll see.
A particular favourite of mine is the Flashing Blades segment, whose behavioural profile includes “taking risks, drugs & the odd street fight.”
Another key audience is iPod Babes. They watch Hollyoaks, Footballers Wives and Big Brother, shop at Lush and Starbucks, and most importantly, are into “Fuck Buddy Sex”. Although not necessarily in that order.
Read more from about Flashing Blades, iPod Babes and more at The Register
With everyone banging on about ‘being part of the conversation’ it’s easy to forget about the humble banner ad…and let’s face it, a lot of the time banners sit somewhere between pretty forgettable and downright irritating.
Well, here’s a great example of why banners don’t have to boring – it’s an IKEA ad by Hamburg’s Grabarz & Partner that made the finals of the LIAs a while ago.
Briefed with promoting IKEA’s spring sale, the Germs could have banged out some Harvey Norman-style price screamers. Instead they managed to create something that cheekily encapsulates the IKEA philosophy – “assemble it yourself and save money”.