Thursday, May 19, 2016

Marketing Lies That Need to Die No.3: You Love Our Brand

You. Love. Brand. You Love Brand. You Love Brand.
 You Love. You Love Brand. Oh You Love Brand.
You Love. You Love Brand. You Love.
Sometimes the natural ebb and flow of the English language irritates me. From how the words Chav and Hipster have gone from specific descriptors to generic class insults, and how musical genres like emo and goth get messed with until they end up being no accurate guide whatsoever to the music you are listening to - it happens a lot.

In the world of advertising and marketing, indeed most writing and opinion in general, the word 'love' has become one of those words that has such a wide ranging and mixed use, that it should almost be banned from use in any context outside personal relationships...

Two things reminded me of this. Firstly a conversation with my partner yesterday, where she described how she dislikes the way the word is overused by people - usually for regular completely silly overstatements: "I love this skirt! I love this coffee!"

Secondly, a discussion on twitter between @tomkelshaw and @mariusdonnestad about the word, and a study which showed only 4% of Aussie men 'love' their beer brand. The study, from the excellent (but hard to spell) Ehrenberg-Bass Institute comes to the correct conclusion that expecting a customer to love a brand is way way too optimistic. Frankly it's a naive way of thinking that completely forgets how ordinary people interact with brands, and a key reason for that is the huge variation of what the word love can actually mean.

I think it's time we replaced the word love with two or three more descriptive words that better describe what is being talked about. For example: I cannot abide the use of the meaningless word 'consumer', and always try to replace it with a more human word - even just 'customer/non-customer' is far better.

For a start, if a marketer talks about 'loving a brand' as if it were some kind of deep human connection, like a sweet sweet romance in bloom... they are probably in the middle of talking utter bollocks, and you should walk out of the room immediately. People simply do NOT associate with brands in this way., and even brands that people really really like will find that their relationship with the customer is far more changeable and polygamous than accurately befits the term love.

I think people CAN feel something towards this for individual products, but even then, that is extremely rare. Probably still only a relationship that promotes loyalty, and as Byron Sharp of Ehrenberg Bass has also stated, even loyal customers only buy you around 50% of the time. 

After all, it's BEER. Sure men do like beer a whole lot more than most other categories, but (despite
Brewdog may be my favourite beer brand,
but that doesn't stop me drinking other beers.
However that also doesn't mean I won't
recommend you try one.
mostly being owned by 2 conglomerates) there are some many thousands of beer brands out there, most of which taste exactly the same (and in some cases ARE exactly the same) it's highly unlikely that anyone would 'love' one. It might be your favourite. You might post-rationally argue that it's the BEST beer, that it tastes better than all the others. You might even use the word 'love' as an expression, much to my partner's disdain... But do you really truly LOVE it?

If I bought you a different beer would you turn it down, and forsake all other beers in absolute loyalty? No. If you went to the shop and another similar beer was half price, would you turn your nose up and pay twice the price for it? No.

I much prefer a word like 'Treasured', which suggests a decent attachment, and a positive feeling towards the product, but avoids the unnecessary connotations of the word love. That said, even that word may be too strong for what we really feel towards brands.

I suppose you could certainly be a 'fan' of a brand. Recommending it to others, and maintaining at least a notional loyalty where other factors are equal. I would definitely say I'm a fan of some brands. Pukka Pies, Sennheiser, M-Audio, Brewdog, Nintendo, Apple, Innocent. But see what I did there. I (without meaning to) mentioned two directly competing brands in the same category. Just like bands, I can be a fan of one, but it doesn't mean I don't listen to others, go to their gigs or buy their t-shirts.

Indeed there are some brands that I am a fan of whilst rarely actually purchasing their products. Like Carlton Draught, which I only buy at stadiums where I have no other choice (Because I prefer ale like beer, not because it's a terrible product) - I still like the brand, and talk in positive terms about them because of their brand tone and creative works that build a positive connection. Rather like Innocent, which I am a big fan of, despite rarely drinking fruit juice or smoothies, not to mention that I am 10,000 miles away from a shop that sells it. Coke has over 100 years of American history behind it, yet I doubt many Americans actually love it or would turn down a Pepsi in your home - and those who did would do so out of emotional connection to the associations rather a love of the brand anyway...

Sorry Air Wick. You might be a
perfectly decent and pleasant
smelling air freshener brand -
but I will never love you, nor any
of your competitors.
As the survey points out. If guys can't love a beer brand, a social staple and regularly consumed product - how on earth is it likely that they will love your air freshener, toilet roll, or insurance comparison service brand?

So to sum up this ramble. Whilst people may sometimes say they 'love' a brand, that doesn't mean we should ever suggest to clients or ourselves that they truly love it. They are just a fan, or maybe they treasure the product. Whichever it is, we need better and more accurate words, because if we can't be clear about what relationship customers have with brands, how can brands be expected to trust us to develop that relationship?

Note: (for all those Saatchi folks out there) This isn't intended to be a condemnation of Lovemarks. For me, that is more a positioning than scientific behavioural theory anyway - and whilst I think some of the ideas in it are flawed, I don't dislike the idea of trying to connect and build positive relationships with brands in a stronger way than most marketers do, particularly as we know that, according to stats at least, 'loyalty beyond reason' doesn't really exist - it just mixes the idea of loyalty with the idea of emotional and irrational behaviour. Besides which. It certainly hasn't stopped Saatchi agencies producing some great planning ideas and creative work... :)

Additional Note: That said... I did see Byron Sharp give a talk where Kevin Roberts admitted he made Lovemarks up over a glass of wine. :)

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Blighty Ad Review - Part 1 - Carling, Cadburys, Go Compare

One of the many advantages of having a Proxy connection, is that it allows me to see what's going on in the world of British advertising without having to read a million industry articles.

So here are some reviews of British ads I've come across recently:

Carling - Bird Chase

Almost a lovely TV spot. A chase with a bird, featuring some silly stunts and a bit of humour. Apparently it's over a year old, but I hadn't been exposed to it til now...

The problem is the end line. "It's good, but it's not quite Carling."
Yay! They changed the tagline back...
That calls for a Carl... oh bugger.
Firstly, just like Carlsberg when they shifted their tagline to 'That calls for a Carlsberg', it's trying way too hard to be some kind of catchy line that makes the product sound great in popular culture. Thankfully Carlsberg saw the error and have changed back to the old tag line, just replacing 'lager' for 'beer' to match current trends.

Secondly. Carling, as popular and reasonable a beer it may be for the price - everybody knows that it isn't the greatest beer in the world. Unless things have massively changed in the last 3 years - Carling has spent a long time as the ubiquitous cheap beer. Go into a pub and most of the time it will be the cheapest lager on tap, so that's what people drink. Go to a shop, and Carling will be among the cheapest branded beers, so that's what people buy. Just like Carlton Draught and VB over here in Australia, the former of which has maintained funny and memorable ads for some time now.

To me it doesn't shift perception of quality, and using it in that way damages the other good elements of the work. Even a slight shift to something like (and of course I'm not a copywriter..!) 'Not quite a Carling moment' would keep the humour and concept, but lose some of the contrived feel.

Cadbury's - Tastes like this feels

Again, another piece of work that is so very nearly spot on. The idea of using funny or cute internet video clips representing the joy or pleasurable feelings of eating the chocolate carries on the joyful idea first seen in Gorilla.

The problem here is that unlike Gorilla and other highly engaging Cadbury's work recently - this one fails to give the audience anything to work out. It just jumps straight in and tells you the perception you are meant to take out from it before showing you anything to interest you. Now I know Cadbury's has some credibility in interesting content, so people may be more tolerant of remaining attentive... but it just switched me off immediately.

I get that the client wants the brand to be visible at the outset, but they did that with Gorilla without spoiling the content.

Go Compare - That fucking Opera singer

Fuck off. Just fuck off. Seriously now, fuck right off.

Get over to the corner and don't come back again. Jump out of a plane without a parachute whilst carrying lead weights. Taste test some cyanide pills. Have some risky throat surgery from Dr Nick Riviera. Go swimming in the Rio Olympic Swimming waters. Operate heavy machinery whilst very drunk. Set fire to your hair. Poke a stick at a grizzly bear. Eat medicine that's out of date. Use your private parts as piranha bait. (Hang on, that's turned into dumb ways to die...) But really, honestly, just fuck off and never ever return.

A terrible campaign, that whilst not as bad as it has previously been (Excluding the work by Dare
where they actually used his irritating value to good creative effect) - is still so bloody bloody awful that were I a billionaire I would (Remington style) buy the company just to stop them being aired. "I hated it so much, I bought the company."

Please Gio, shave extra close.
EXTRA close.
Preferably with a rusty razor blade.

"Go Away.
Go Away.
This fucking ad's still fucking bad.
So Go Away.

Go Away.

Go Away.
You only work from media buys.
So Go Away.

At least the Meerkat's

Not a complete twat
So please pack your gear
and go fly to North Korea..."

Monday, May 02, 2016

Behavioural Studies in Democracy

A classic and often too under appreciated comedy.
Also one of the most true to life, especially now.
It's my personal belief right now that the single most interesting event for those of us with an interest in human behaviour and social interactions is NOT the continuing misadventures of Donald Drumpf. (Also pretty sure that would make a great Nickelodeon series)

Sure in a few months time that one is going to get crazy. But right now there is something going on that is full of the kinds of behavioural actions, emotional responses, and cognitive dissonance that makes a good marketing book.

I'm talking about the British EU Referendum. Or 'Brexit', as someone with a terrible taste in words thought up.

This referendum campaign has been one of scaremongering, misleading facts, racism, nationalism, outrageous assumptions and forecasting. Some of those from both sides of the debate, but largely from the Pro-Leaving campaign,

For example - The leave campaign, (which ironically is headed by an immigrant who arrived due to EU laws) repeatedly and knowingly describes the cost of  being in the EU as 350m pounds a week. Despite the fact that a chunk of that is rebated, and much of it goes back to the UK to support industries such as farming, not to mention that it secures access to 44% of the UK's current trade.

You then see this misinformation repeated by those ordinary people who back leaving.

Now I am very much pro staying in the EU. For all its flaws, it has achieved many great things*1, and leaving would not only be a disaster for the economy of Britain*2, not to mention ending Britain as we know it*3, but it would encourage growth and tolerance of extreme nationalism in the rest of Europe*4.

Classic Kent Brockman. Pretty accurate,
although sadly we haven't yet found a better way.
I did try to have reasonable debates with people of the opposite opinion, but so far all I have found is misinformation, repeated newspaper headlines from the 1990's, wild ideas that somehow your biggest trading partner will give you a great new deal after you dump them, etc etc. Not only that, I've discovered what seems to be the most stubborn and fact resistant cognitive dissonance I've seen since working on a pitch for healthy eating and exercise. (By the end of the strategy process I was literally wanting to shout "Just fucking DO IT!"... but obviously that wouldn't have been a great strategy.)

I've had people respond to my attempt to show them facts and respected opinions on the aftermath with insults and claims that I somehow don't love Britain because I live in Australia. Frankly I felt it showed I love it more, as despite being 10,000 miles away, I still knew more about it than them. Oh, and the fact that by voting their way, Britain would soon cease to exist...*3

My other favourite is when they say "The USA would never enter some kind of union with Mexico or Argentina." without even thinking about the fact that USA stands for 'United States of America'... or that they have previously used "United States of Europe" as an attack line against the EU.

Anyway. This has turned into much more of a rant than I planned. Largely because trying to engage reasonable debate on this topic is like trying to convince Trump supporters that his facts are wrong. Even though they are, it just isn't going to happen - and you are going to feel like you are banging your head on a brick wall the whole time. In the end I was commenting more for my own social studies than in any real attempt to change the opinion of people who are so emotionally dug-in on the outdated concept of a lone Britain 'RULE BRITANNIA!' able to dominate the world of the 1950's.

"Not another Scottish referendum"...
... I hear two people say.
That doesn't however, change the fact that watching the debates and social commentary on this issue is absolutely fascinating from a planning and strategy perspective. Working on the Pro-Remaining campaign must have been one of the toughest, but hopefully most rewarding strategy jobs of the last decade. At 41% pro-remain and 40% pro-leaving on current polls though - it may (as most Pro-Remain supporters are younger and therefore less likely to vote) turn out to be a futile attempt to save both the 'Great' in Great Britain, and the 'United' in United Kingdom.

*1 - Mandatory overtime after working certain numbers of hours. More peaceful relations between states. Free movement between countries - meaning no holiday visa fees and the ability to work anywhere you like. Improved consumer protection laws. Cross-country co-ordination against crime and terrorism. The Human Rights Act. Etc.

*2 - '44.6% of British trade comes from the EU'. 'The CBI estimates that the net benefit of EU membership is worth 4-5% of GDP to the UK, or £62bn-£78bn per year.' 'the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows the overall contribution to our economy from exports to the EU was £187 billion last year, and that it could rise by almost half again to £277 billion a year by 2030.' (Independent)

*3 - Scotland would wish to leave Britain if it left the EU. After the close vote last time, the damage of being outside the EU would almost certainly mean any new vote would result in a separate Scotland (they poll more in favour of the EU than England, enough to sway a fair number of voters) - and the end of Britain as we know it: 

*4 -