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.
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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®.
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I Just popped a Mars mini Snickers into my mouth (probably the first time I have had Snickers in years) and this commercial ran in my head - (it hasn't run for years.)
Memory - That's how advertising works. It creates a memorable impression which is activated or stimulated later - maybe triggered by packaging when choosing at the supermarket - or by direct product use. The more salient the message (Betty White being crunched by a grid-iron player…with a catchy 'you're not you when you're hungry'! line), the more likely your mind is to stash it away for later.
One of the ways BrandWorld has used the phenomenon of memory and association is to ensure that Family Health Diary® consistently uses the signature theme tune, recognisable visual systems and clear brand pillars to build trust and empathy (essential in health advertising). Advertisers who use our masthead enjoy the positive association of 20 years investment with consumers.
There's a bakery in the US that will soon begin making and selling baked goods to relieve the menstrual symptoms. It's part of the trend towards breaking down the barriers and taboos regarding gender and the empowerment of women. Trendwatching.com call it (F)empowered and it's a trend that is being addressed by startups and entrepreneurs. It's also part of the trend towards functional foods.
Moon Cycle Bakery offers a subscription service that sends customers packages of sweets to coincide with their menstrual cycle. The products include matcha coconut bites and sweet potato brownies. Amongst the ingredients are Chinese herbs that relieve cramps.
Not serving a need = money not being made
It's novel and innovative but it is also brave. According to Trenwatching 'The taboos surrounding menstruation (even just talking about it) have not been wiped out. But a growing number of consumers – including this bakery’s Kickstarter backers – clearly want them to be.
Don’t let rigid, traditional norms or a need to be ‘proper’ confine your brand – especially if doing so means you aren’t serving a core consumer need. Not serving a need = money not being made. Plus, consumers lavish praise upon bold brands."
We also note the rise of functional foods that have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition. Proponents of functional foods say they promote optimal health and help reduce the risk of disease. These are making the leap into the mainstream and appeal to consumers who want to optimise their wellbeing by choice and to compensate for perceived gaps in their nutrition. Some foods are simply a little better (nutritionally) than alternatives (check out our work for Tasti). Here at BrandWorld we have worked with many brands over the years share functional food stories on our Eating Well and Eat Wise and Exercise and, of course, Family Health Diary platforms.
From the TV's not dead files:
Buzzfeed is an outlier in the digital arena. In this clip they talk about the future with television as a hot new thing because it is "…Content people intentionally view and have some attachment to."
They make the distinction between traditional TV channels developing shows that are "High Risk but Low Iteration." and their low cost-low risk model. During the TV renaissance massively expensive shows like Game of Thrones or Mad Men cost tens of millions but might only have eight to 12 episodes in a season.
buzzfeed describe trends in video viewership as 'non-intentional' (the kind of clip you might encounter while scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feeds) typically durations of <1 minute - and 'intentional' viewings of >8 minutes.
Buzzfeed intend to use Broadcast TV in a different way that is more iterative and less risky, 'passively testing' shows' performance. Why? 'Because TV is a conversation'.
It's a similar model to BrandWorld's new direction for our Discover® product. Show ideas like Bellissimo™ for European style food and meal ideas, Never A Dull Dinner™ for time-poor cooks and Chill Out Meals™ showcasing innovation and ideas from the freezer and chiller cabinets. Lower production costs and an 'always-on' media strategy, linked to digital feedback loops, work to help marketers discover what works and what doesn't with lower investment and lower risk.