We live in the friction-free era. Social media channels have created an arena of endless free expression around our own identity. Anyone with a smart-phone or a modest camera can, potentially, attract the attention of millions. Whether the object of attention is a sub-culture of voguing, unboxing technology products or obsessive compulsive vehicle detailing – anyone can project their identity across the world. Communities of affinity can form around the most banal of subjects – some groups are small while others can rival the viewer numbers of a television network – but without the inhibitions of cost or corporate hierarchy.
Personal identity issues have been undergoing a ‘big bang’ but it seems as though brands have been experiencing a kind of entropy – a seismic shift towards the centre. Many brands project the same or similar messages about themselves into the market. How they communicate through advertising and design reflects tropes and clichés – often beautifully crafted (thanks to the availability of graphic design and video production technology and vast numbers of both self-taught and educated designers – who learned from an internet echo chamber where certain styles and approaches have been up-voted to become norms). Think of how many ads show people transitioning through life stages but continue to be served by a brand that recognises their needs at different stages of life.
Identity is a crucial aspect of marketing. Like so many other marketing elements it is rooted in an inherent human truth. We want to recognise and be recognised, to fit in and stand apart. It’s fundamental.
In the current era Identity has been feted as one of the significant social trends.
In politics the issue of partisan identity has become a serious and counterproductive problem, aptly illustrated by the United States’ government being polarised and divided along party lines, like trench warfare - undermining the plural truth of the wider society.
Identity also informs the issue of diversity. People are clamouring to be reasonably represented and their voices heard, regardless of – or sometimes because of, their gender, ethnicity, age, ability, sexual orientation and other perspectives and traits.
Identity is one of the most important issues in today’s marketing canon.
If you look at the craft beer section of your supermarket you are going to see an astonishing line up of beautifully designed bottles and cans, each projecting a brand story that reflects two things.
First, you can’t try before you buy – there is an element of risk – if you like the graphics you might like the beer.
Second, the category is populated by hip people who want to be seen as more hip, or knowing the arcane truth about brewing and enjoying artisanal, crafted products better than anybody else – and that leads to a small set of norms. Initially they will be established by leaders, but then others will follow. What was initially like a sexual display becomes camouflage.
Identity is like that: the London punk scene began with a small cadre of young people – centred around the World’s End shop of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. By the end of the 80’s punk and its spin-offs, the new wave and new romantic movements were the staple diet of mainstream culture – Meanwhile the innovators had moved on to explore other ideas. Entropy is as inevitable in culture as it is in physics.
It’s important to distinguish between uniformity and conformity. Of course the craft beer brands are not uniformly alike - but they conform to the tropes of the category. The subtle variations that are understood like tribal scarification or Russian prison tattoos might be understood by the deep insiders or the cognoscenti but, to most people, they look the same. The phenomenon also applies to the actual taste differences between the brews themselves. Insiders often have a set of semantic codes they use as evidence of their connoisseurship. Being able to articulate with words the nuances of flavours is sometimes the main distinction between the expert and a person who simply knows what they like – though I am an ignorant peasant - in a blind taste test, I once scored a table top of Chardonnay wines exactly the same as a renowned oenophile. As he pointed out later – it simply meant we had a similar preference for buttery, rich flavours versus sharper flavours – which is why I don’t like Sauvignon Blanc (or cat’s pee, as I call it).
The Chaos Scenario.
The rise of a kind of web 3.0, where automation, machine learning and the application of data attempt to force not only interaction but also transaction has produced a kind of glorious advertising mess. Remarketing allows brands to follow people around shouting the same message that had previously been ignored (for good reason)…as though the machine knows nothing about human behaviour (which it doesn’t). Persistent irritation is rarely a positive motivation and has never been a successful advertising strategy.
Meanwhile television advertising attempts to mimic YouTube videos (just as music videos were the go-to for ad creatives in the 80’s – scenarios sponsored by brands).
Being overly transactional produces a constant search for novelty. It emphasis executional technique over consistency. The case can be made for relentlessly trying new things. Testing and refining makes sense as part of a process of discovery…hypothesis and experimentation are valid; but jack-rabbiting between cute executions simply creates confusion and, if it is one-off, builds no memory structure for the brand and it prospects and customers.
The identity of the brand must remain as the solid foundation that every expression is built upon. At the very least people have to recognise who is talking to them. Imagine returning home from work to your family having decided it would be cool to speak only Swedish (bear in mind your kids only speak English) because you have decided that everything cool comes from Scandinavia – this may be true – but the obvious consequence will be alienation and bewilderment…in marketing as in life.
Be The One & Only
Some years ago I developed a brand theory that relates to all of the above. Put simply: the purpose of branded communications is to eliminate ambiguity. Regardless of the task at hand – persuading, informing, reminding, guiding, convincing – the person receiving the brand’s message not only has to recognise and be able to identify and distinguish the brand from inevitable rivals – but it should do so in a way where the brand is represented utterly as its own self- in every dimension. As the distinguished cultural icon Gerry Garcia famously said – ‘Don’t be the best at what you do… be the only one that does it.’
Gerry operated in the distant past, as the front-man for the trippy hippy band The Grateful Dead, but his thoughts transcend his era and seem even more important today, where demands on the attention of most people have become more intense than at any other time in history.
When movies first appeared in a commercial form, people would line up to view sub-60 second black and white films of banal subjects like Arrival of a Train at a Station by the Lumiere brothers. They were wowed. People fainted. Today the summer release of fabulously executed blockbuster multimillion dollar CG epics are routine and yet they struggle to compete for audiences. Attracting and holding attention – or mitigating against the lack of attention - is our greatest challenge in marketing communications today.
In a time of media glut brands must be immediately recognisable. Complex messages in media will fail to gain recognition
Brands need not only to be themselves but also reflect the concerns of sufficient numbers of people to become profitably and sustainably purchased. Today and in the near future.
Reflection is a key word there. The identity of the brand must mirror the self-perceptions of a sufficiently large group. This means that we have to beware of the obscurantism of advertising planning and over-commitment to data (without qualifying sample size* or having clear hypothesis to test).
There are broad human truths that persist, regardless of the product or category. In the 90’s advertising account planning became more widely embraced. At its best it contextualised marketing research in human terms. At its worst it became an arcane, blurred pseudoscience which often offered a strange post rationalisation for weird, post-modern executions that lacked a strong central proposition real people could clearly understand. It’s not the consumer’s job to figure out what we are talking about – or who it is speaking to them. They just don’t have the time or motivation. If you are not clear - there are other brands people will happily fill the need.
Can you identify with that?
*In New Zealand we have to be careful not to automatically accept ideas based theories from markets where the population size is substantial – the ‘truism’ where there are niches there are riches doesn’t hold true in a market where the total to population size might equate to a viable niche in, say, North America, India or China. It’s always worth remembering that data can also present false impressions – for example the average human has one breast and one testicle.
As the year comes to its end we thought we’d reflect on 2018 and look ahead with our crystal ball for some of the trends that will affect us in the near future.
2018 saw the quiet launch of our new model for brands – Oxygen™. Time and again we heard marketers saying that they would love to be ‘always-on’ but that budgets just didn’t stretch like that. So we developed a model that is designed to be a platform for brands that is built on creating or reinforcing distinctive brand assets such as a characters, colours and sounds and using them as the basis for distinctive messages that always reinforce the brand – even if the message is largely tactical. Our first customer was George Weston Foods – for whom we developed the Tip Top Bread with the love baked in campaign – Sales and market share for the brand have been tracking upwards since launch – proving the concept in market.
Kellogg’s have also commissioned BrandWorld to apply the model to their brands – so we are getting traction with some serious marketers.
In addition to the Strategic Oxygen™ product we are reviving our Discover® brand and have launched Never A Dull Dinner on the platform – to help FMCG marketers motivate their customers to try something new (most families have only a limited repertoire of meals they cycle through week-in, week-out). Discover is the practical – get the job done product - from BrandWorld. It’s designed to make life easy for products and brands that don’t have the time or budget to go through lengthy and risky planning and production with a conventional agency.
Family Health Diary
It has been a busy year for Family Health Diary. We have gone from strength to strength and have continued to evolve FHD with a refresh of on-screen presentation and develop new ways of leveraging 20+ years of investment in the brand. Work for Tivicay a medicine for people living with HIV sensitively addressed the issue and initiated positive conversations about the topic. Planning a campaign that involved the Grinder app was certainly a first for us. We welcomed new brands and brands like GSK, with whom we have worked in the past. Work for Pfizer’s Viagra brand was another stage in our 20 year relationship.
We’ll fill you in on the Band Together saga in the new year – it’s been quite a mission – but we were excited to release the new work for our litter campaign on behalf of Be A Tidy Kiwi and the Packaging Forum – following on the heels of ‘It’s just how we do things round here’. We created a song to infiltrate the consciousness of Kiwis and encourage them to pledge to be a tidy kiwi. We wrangled the help of celebrities ranging from Silver Fern netballers to members of parliament from across the political spectrum – and, at the 11th hour managed to capture the prime minister’s support – literally hours before the despatch deadline. The TV campaign has a supporting website and significant digital and social activity. Even radio - setting aside our controversial views of the medium. … Have a look at the BandTogether website and make the pledge to Be A Tidy Kiwi!
Things we’ve noticed:
Outdoor/out of home advertising is growing so fast, driven by digital enablement. It has low reach but seems popular with creatives as a new large electronic palate.
There is some doubt is being raised for a second year by clients around the effectiveness of digital – we’re interested in how we can take some of the risk out of digital by applying BrandWorld’s systematic approach – and our methods for simplifying the complex.
Video continues to grow in popularity with consumers and clients.
Social appears to be suffering from the intrusion of brands that has proven annoying to users as well as anxiety about intrusions on privacy.
Netflix has ballooned – we predict an ad subsidised model on top of subscriptions – just like SKY did. Their dominance in streaming video in the US is being challenged - Disney are about to launch their own platform and remove their content from Netflix (whose share-price has plummeted in advance).
‘Acts not Ads’ some serious brands are committing to Customer Experiences (CX ) – the risk is that experiences can become non-events. Virality is a fickle thing and, without significant reach can become a wasteful exercise – consuming resources but delivering few returns.
At BrandWorld we believe that brands must find ways to become a relevant part of consumers lives. Not every product or brand can expect to be embraced by consumers in deep and meaningful ways – some brands will have higher utility than others. Some brand simply need to remind people that they are still there to be in the consideration set -and anything more would be an intrusion.
We've had a great year. New projects, new products, new clients and new staff - as well as ongoing projects with Family Health Diary and long standing clients.
We'd just like to thank you for your contribution to our success. We couldn't do it without you.
Enjoy the holiday season safely with colleagues, friends and family. We look forward to working with you in the new year.
It's our tradition to make a donation on your behalf. This year we are supporting WhiteRibbon campaign to end violence towards women in New Zealand - rather than to send individual gifts to clients and suppliers.
BrandWorld has created campaigns for an impressive range of food clients over the years – hundreds of campaigns for brands big and small. We've never lost our appetite for creating campaigns that make the tills ring and satisfying clients who are hungry for results. Along the way we've learned a thing or two about what works and what to avoid…
You have to make people want to eat it
When you are creating advertising for food, remember that it has to have appetite appeal. The slightly awkward term ‘food porn’ comes to mind. When a person sees your ad it should trigger the same kind of brain response having a delicious meal placed in front of them would generate. Great chefs know that people eat first with their eyes.
Make sure the product packaging is clearly shown.
Obviously we are not in the business of stimulating cravings for any kind of food – our clients pay us good money to give them an unfair advantage at the supermarket. Show the product clearly – not as an afterthought. The pack will trigger your customers memory when they are doing their grocery shopping. Sounds obvious – but it is often a source of frustration for marketers.
So your food looks delicious – great. But don’t go too far with the presentation. Your customers need to be able to identify with the product and be able to project themselves into the scene. Making an everyday meal look like it was prepared in a fine dining restaurant or having elements that distract from the main event on the plate can have a negative effect.
Hire the best food stylist and photographer you can find.
Some photographers and stylists are great at fashion or cars or underwater images. No matter how impressive their portfolio or show-reel is; if they haven’t spent time perfecting their craft with food – you don’t want to be the guinea pig they experiment on – it could leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.
Contact us for our menu of options.
In 1999 American brewing giant Anheuser-Busch launched a campaign for its iconic Budweiser brand that made the leap from advertising to the popular culture.
For three years, from 1999, the brand promoted the connection of the brand with phatic social interactions – (language used for general purposes of social interaction, rather than to convey information).
Simply put, the commercials featured guys interacting with one another with the catch phrase – Wassup? Phone rings – ‘one guy says what you doing?’; “Nothing – watching the game, havin a Bud.’ Flat mate enters with the now legendary ‘Wassuuuuup?!’ and a series of interactions follows – via telephone extensions (if you are under 30, ask an adult)…the result was an oddball phenomenon that not only won a Cannes Grand Prix but also became part of the vernacular – a meme before the internet discovered cats – angry or otherwise. It was huge.
Fast forward, nearly 20 years. According to AdWeek, Burger King are bringing ‘Wassup!’ back in a campaign to coincide with the American Independence celebration on the fourth of July. BK have created a ‘brewhouse’ burger flavour – so it makes perfect sense in the world of brand dating to hook up with Budweiser and their iconic meme.
Here at BrandWorld we’re fascinated. Not only by the resurrection of an icon but also by the use of a dormant fluent device. We’ve discussed the phenomenon of triggering an heuristic response from consumers with fluency (things injected with meaning but effortlessly accessed – kind of like remembering that summer when you first kissed someone special for the first time every time you hear Wham’s Last Summer). ‘Wassup!?' will trigger the memories of a chunk of the population and create new interest for a new cohort (now equipped with the accelerating super-power of social media).
Our new product Oxygen™ also harnesses the potential of fluent devices – creating simple built-in triggers on a platform that also enables flexible creative development. For a presentation of how Oxygen can propel your brand in to the pantheon of high growth, remembered-forever legends – get in touch.
Do you remember S.P.O.T, the dog from the old Telecom commercials? Can you hum the Ches ‘N’ Dale song – or even sing it? Do you know what comes after, “Ahhhh Novus.” What about “You know I can’t grab your ghost-chips”?
If you answered 'yes' to any of those, you have experienced the power of fluent devices. They are the type of ads that can be recognised and remembered by a whole nation for years, even decades. They can also become a part of the glue that holds together our unique and familiar collective national identity.
But why? What’s so special about Wattie’s tomato sauce compared to other tomato sauces? Why do pineapple lumps and an image of the Four Square man suddenly act as a form of comfort when living overseas? Even the word “bugger” has the power to pull up some nostalgia, a laugh and an image of a ute.
To answer the why, we need to look at neuroscience and the concept of “the fluent device”. The goal of a fluent device (a tune, a slogan, catch phrase or character) is to become a tenant in your subconscious mind. Familiarity is the golden-goose that increases awareness and profitability for a brand – sometimes it’s called mental availability. When people are more familiar with a product, they are more likely to have a positive reaction to that product.
Behavioural science also shows that we humans aren’t as rational as we might like to think we are. We tend to make choices based on our instinct, intuition and past experiences. The science behind fluent devices is to connect with those “decision-making drivers” in order to create a favourable emotion or “gut-feeling” towards the advertised product.
Family Health Diary has successfully acted as a proxy fluent device for kiwi brands for more than two decades. The familiar intro tune and well known presenters and formats mean that the products showcased quickly earn trust and recognition by association - a halo effect. This helps influence viewers preference for products and their purchase decisions.
Fluent devices such as jingles and catch phrases may be perceived to be old-fashioned because they have been used for decades, but they persist because they work.
According to the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising in the UK), brands that use fluent devices are more liked, create more awareness and are more profitable. Seems silly not to use them, right?
At BrandWorld we take pride in delivering results and return on marketing investment. If research and data shows that fluent devices generate increased awareness, higher market share and profit gains – then, well, the proof is in the pudding.
We recently completed production of a new commercial for Viagra. Working with Pfizer's agency, who scripted the ad, we refined the idea, cast the talent (a delicate matter - not every guy is prepared to represent an erectile dysfunction product…) and found the perfect location.
The look and feel of the shoot is contemporary and a break from the typical stereotypes and styles often used to promote medical products targeted at older consumers.
Producing under the Family Health Diary® banner also offers another level of credibility to the message.
The Beginner’s Mind
When it comes to creativity – the key to success is never to get experienced.
Feeling stupid? Good. Stay that way.
Admitting you don’t have all the answers in life is the first step towards enlightenment.
‘The beginner’s mind’ or approaching any task, every time you perform it as if it is the first time, connects with a Zen Buddhist concept. Even if you’re a master - clear your head, stay in the moment and ‘walk in stupid’. It’s essential for creating marketing with impact.
It’s an idea we pinched from Dan Wieden – founder of Nike’s ad agency Wieden + Kennedy.
(Thanks Dan – quoting Picasso – ‘talent imitates but genius steals’.)
While the idea might seem back to front, a paradox, even illogical – if you chew over it for a bit longer it’ll make sense. It’s tempting to assume authority or experience means you know the answer before anyone has asked the question.
‘Experts’ hover and circle, offering up preconceived and biased ideas about how to solve your problems, dragging dogma, fantasy and stuff found on the internet along for the ride – often unsupported by specific evidence (ironically, even when discussing the importance of data). In other words, self-proclaimed expertise and perceived experience can lead to close-mindedness.
We think better questions lead to better answers – ‘What is the most cost-effective way of building a brand?’ is a far better starting point than ‘How much TV or digital marketing do you want?’. Better questions also lead to even better questions (it’s how science works too).
Let’s use an example, as they make everything easier to understand – especially when walking in stupid. About 20 years ago we were presented with a stable of small, unsexy medical products that needed better recognition in the market. We knew we had our work cut out for us. While we weren’t experts in health promotion at the time, walking in stupid allowed us to table an unconventional idea: how about aggregating the products?
Creating the Family Health Diary® platform gave the products credibility and helped New Zealanders wrap their minds around the fact that, yes, remedies for misbehaving bodily functions could be discussed on national television.
We wouldn’t have experienced the success or even the creation of the Family Health Diary without approaching this with ‘the beginner’s mind’. Using a repetitive approach, or taking the usual route of a bespoke ad campaign would have exploded the budget and turned our products into plain wallflowers, forgotten within seconds.
We surprised the competition with a platform that communicated the right information, in the least amount of time, for a wide range of products, all within a limited budget.
The formula? We were open to any and all ideas from our experienced team, we listened to our clients’ thoughts, and we encouraged diverse opinion. Outsider thinking, with a pinch of the alternative, saved the day. If we had simply assigned conventional wisdom – we would have truly walked in stupid and walked out empty handed.
BrandWorld has launched Positive Stories for GSK’s Tivicay, a digital campaign to encourage conversation about the new medicine between people living with HIV and specialists.
The agency’s experience in healthcare simplified navigating medicine advertising regulations. The digital campaign hyper-targets just 2,800 people to switch to the government-funded breakthrough medicine.
Careful casting and naturalistic shooting underscores the campaign’s authentic feel.
Visit the client website
Superbowl excites a media frenzy every year in the United States. Gridiron is a sport made for TV - in more than two hours of coverage the oval pigskin ball is in play for about 11 minutes but it is surrounded by as much hype as humans can compress into the remaining time.
In recent years marketers haven't been content to rely on viewer numbers on the day. Commericals are promoted as media events in themselves and the ads are in a kind of public playoff of creativity.
Of the pre-view ads we've seen this one for Pepsi brands Doritos and Mountain Dew Ice strikes us as most interesting. Of course there is the casting: Peter Dinklage has travelled from being a station agent in indie films to become a towering figure in pop culture via his enigmatic part in Game of Thrones. In this spot he has a demonic rap battle with Morgan Freeman - the voice of God, (spoiler alert) but the voice of God…actually watch it and listen. It's a brilliant, provocative fusion of popular culture mashing the meme of good versus evil with a surprising music mix. It's also a cunning mash of brands to leverage the massive cost of media and production.
Much as we love blockbuster ads, here at BrandWorld we believe that marketing is a 365 day a year gig if you are going to grow your brand. The time-worn model of intensive planning, laboured (sometimes lavish) production and concentrated campaign launch comes from a time when the media landscape looked very different than how it is today.
We've developed Oxygen™ a system for marketers to develop an always-on strategy to maintain your brand's mental availability. Oxygen™ leverages the unique creative, production and media systems and efficiencies BrandWorld has developed over 20 years managing and growing our owned platforms like Discover® and Family Health Diary®.
Arrange a confidential presentation.