Memories of my recent visit to Karachi and Lahore, at the invitation of Pakistan Advertisers Society, to run my seminar “Brand Building in the digital age”

This piece has just been published in the latest issue of Market Leader and is reproduced with their kind permission. Article hereSaunders

Plus pics of “The welders”,”The landlord”, and the “Wrestler from Peshawar” – who feature in the piece

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was the big idea of this year’s Marketing Society conference. It proved an inspirational platform. A great conference theme- credit must go to new CEO Gemma Greaves and her team.

This being an individualistic culture (and age) stories were often told as personal triumphs over fear, especially in extreme sports (a big theme of the conference which I suspect made most of us feel distinctively queasy and meek.)

Bravery is enabled by encouragement

Yet , for me, a sub text kept surfacing: brave people (often) could not have acted without both support and encouragement. (Encouragement literally means being given courage by others)

Syl Saller refused to be drawn into the “I” word and insisted on “we”- on the collective corporate bravery that built by internal champions and consensus builders ( like her)  Extreme Surfer Garrett McNamarra said he could not have recovered from injury and found the monster wave that broke the record without his wife. Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi woman to scale Everest, was initially told “no” by her father, when she announced her climbing ambitions, yet received his blessing shortly after. Hassan Akkad, a refugee from war torn Syria, had bravery forced on him by circumstances and has subsequently received support from (amongst others) The BBC in telling his story. His bravery was the most humbling – causing me to reflect on how very fortunate and selfish we are. 

Bravery as solidarity

Francis O’Grady, general secretary of TUC, framed bravery as sticking up for others rather than individual triumph. TUC as a brand has been stuck with dated associations of the “big men” of trades unionism. They seemed to be in denial about the opportunities of a globalised, technologically driven, individualistic world. That’s why Thatcher set out to weaken them.  Yet that promise has turned sour. Economic growth did not “float all boats” but has resulted in gross inequality. So Francis’s call for solidarity, mutuality is timely. She even suggested that a union for the gig economy should be launched – now that would be “a big idea” and perhaps “a symbol re-evaluation” (in Adam Morgan’s phrase) for TUC      

There was another theme that kept surfacing. Not a new one. A  theme of many a conference of old. But always valuable to companies. It is the stuff that actually builds brands and businesses ( not chasing people round the internet with programmatic ads). It was:-

The power of big ideas.

To galvanise everyone, especially your own people

To make teams braver and more focussed

To inspire designers and agency creatives to do their best work

Here are my three favourites from the day:

NEW YORK TIMES. THE TRUTH IS HARD: a clarion call for investigative journalism in the face of mendacious attacks from Donald Trump.

BABYLON APP. Brilliant new AI powered app that enables more accurate self diagnosis of illness and triages people in the right direction. Sure to be a hit with hypochondriacs everywhere – and (hopefully) save time and labour

Pedigree’s insight that it is the innocence of dogs that breaks down barriers and brings people together. This inspired a great social experiment in getting Trump and Clinton supporters to be nice to be each other.

As for my act of bravery from the day:

I think I am off to join a union and buy a dog

 

 

Beats by Dre won a gold in the APG awards with what, I think, is a great piece of advertising thinking. The brand and the agency (R/GA) may be super hip, yet the thinking is classical.

The brand found a fresh, simple and easy to understand emotional promise and dramatised it brilliantly – the idea that music helps top performers (in sport) to come out on top because of “focus”.

Reason to believe – Top athletes use Beats by Dre noise cancelling headphones to cut out the noise/the distractions/the detractors so they can be in the right mental state to win

Like a lot of the best advertising thinking this is a revealed truth – top athletes attest that, at top level, winning is not about skill but mental strength and clarity in critical moments. This was brought to life in their film Hear what you want 

Planning tips.

What thought processes can we take from this case to apply to other projects?

Barriers ask yourself – what are the barriers to this brand succeeding/and or why will this fail? This forces you to avoid conventional approaches and to think about the competitive bear pit that the brand will find itself when it goes to market. Beats by Dre had a big obvious barrier: It couldn’t fight it out on technical specs/product innovation because competitors already more cred’ (Sennheiser/Sony/Bose ) and anyway Beats had historically been dissed as a posers brand. Not for people who really love music.

Benefit of the benefit of the benefit. This is creativity exercise that I was taught by the creative director at my first agency. Start with a product fact/innovation and see if you can convert it into a powerful (but credible) emotional promise through lateral thinking

Example: we are a big mortgage provider. so- we approve lots of mortgages. so- that means lots of couples get to buy the home they want. so- we help young couples create a family home. ( That is a NatWest ad that has been on air recently. The ad is a bit “John Lewis lite”. But the promise is good.)

Beats Example. Our new phones cut out noise so you can hear the music not the background- so- that means you will not be distracted by the world around you. so- that means you will be calm and focussed So- that means you will have the focus that is needed to perform at your very best.

Then of course Beats by Dre executed this  promise in a famous way using famous sports stars. And fame – as Binet and Field have shown in the IPA studies- makes for some of the most effective advertising.

Top news. The 2017 APG awards book is out.

Reading it is one of the best “strategy workouts” that a planner can do.

So, that’s what i am going to do – and i am going to use it illuminate what we mean by that much used word – “Insight”- and how it helps unlock great work.

First up The Grand prix for Barbie – which, i think,  has not one, but three great pieces of insight.

Founding vision of the brand’s creator. Billed as the “story of how a woman can re-ignite her power, her fierceness, her purpose by returning to who she is deep down inside”, the planners got right back into the original vision of the brands creator and found this ” My whole philosophy of Barbie was that, through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman had choices” ( Ruth Handler).

This had become obscured by the belief that Barbie play was just “make-believe” rather than a time when “girls try out possibilities.” . This insight was the inspiration behind the new film “Imagine the possibilities”

Insight tip: Uncover the history of a brand and its original idea. Good questions to ask are : who founded it,why, what did they want to change or challenge or do better? and why did its earliest buyers love it ?

Symbol of re-evaluation. Great brands are like supertankers- it is very difficult to change their direction. Barbie was stuck with the belief that it had visited impossible expectations on young girls through her unnatural body shape and super small waist. Communication alone won’t change this: you need to do something different and newsworthy. What Adam Morgan calls “a symbol of re-evaluation.” So Barbie launched three new shapes- tall, Curvy and Petite- to sit alongside the original shape.

Insight tip : ask- what are the barriers that stand in the way of this brand? What is limiting its potential or prejudicing potential buyers ? What do you have to do to challenge this and make it go away?

Surprise or new audience. In the case of Barbie, dads, and the truth that they have a big impact on their daughters confidence. Dads who play with Barbies featured real life stories of dads who take time out to play with their daughters.The great thing about a new audience is that it is provokes a brand to develop a new message in different media and be seen in a fresh light. (Think of Boddingtons, way back, and Nintendo Brain Training more recently)

Insight tip: Ask is there an underserved or ignored  or newly emerging audience that is in truth important. Remember that “demographic change alters the culture of a society” (JM Keynes) and that’s an opportunity to break fresh ground

 

 

Book review just published in the latest issue of Market Leader – reproduced courtesy of WARC.com.

“Everybody Lies” really is a very entertaining and insightful book about what is revealed by Data – with a focus on Google. Weakness is that the examples are mainly from USA

Here is the longer review in The Guardian 

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