Challenger thinking

So many useful business books and so little time – was the thought that occurred to me as I was teaching this week. Here are my top tips for students in extracting the useful knowledge in these books with minimum cost and maximum ease.

(Publishers should avert their eyes at this point)

Google- “title of book PDF”.  For the really successful business books, someone has often made a summary of the key ideas and saved it as a PDF. So if you are working on a challenger brand you will want to get Adam Morgan’s ideas, Google “Eating the Big fish PDF” and and you get this

Or if you want one of the the foundation texts of marketing effectiveness try googling “how brands grow PDF” – and you get this

Google “title of book PP.” And the chances are you will end up on slideshare where someone has made a PowerPoint of the Key ideas. Take, for example, Daniel Kahnemann’s great book “Thinking Fast and Slow” which is a must read for all people in communications but , let’s be honest,  hard work to get through. Well there are two PowerPoints covering the key ideas on slideshare

Slideshare and Amazon are useful search engines in their own right so it can be useful to go straight too them and have a browse

30 minute summaries. You have to pay for these but they can be worth the money if you want to know a bit more. Go to Amazon and search “title of book 30 minute summary” . There is a good one of Kahnemann’s book 

Youtube it – Youtube is also a search engine in its own right.Writers of the really good books (and even the not so good) go in the speaking circuit and their talks often get videoed and shared. For example the most powerful brands of our day sit as apps on our smartphones- they are in the business of habit forming. Nir Eyal in his book “Hooked” has insightful explanations as to how they do this. Here he is doing a TED talk 

Simon Jacks, BBC business correspondent, said, on the 10 O’Clock news, that Sir Martin was thought off more as “a money man than an adman”, thus repeating some of the snooty and hoary old remarks that were said against him by the likes of David Ogilvy years back .

Jacks seems to me to have missed something important about the man

Sir Martin was certainly creative about business and, less well known, is his delight in winning new business pitches. This is as vital to the health of a creative agency as the creative department. In fact without the wins you have nothing for creative people to get their teeth into.

Here is my Sir Martin story.

In 1998 I took over as Chief Executive of red cell advertising ( a WPP company)  and immediately found myself a re-pitch for my largest client – Bank of Scotland’s direct banking arm- up against BBH and McCann. Not good news. I knew BBH would field Sir John Hegarty and McCann had big resources and, at that time, offices throughout the UK. red cell was an agency of some 40 people with some decent clients – Singapore airlines, Alfa Romeo, Wales Tourism board amongst others- but I was heavily outgunned.

My calculation was the BoS would be more likely to know who Martin was ( he was not Sir Martin then) than Sir John Hegarty

I pick up the phone to Martin and said I would aim to keep the business  by proposing a WPP team in partnership with Ogilvy One. Would he come to the pitch? He seemed delighted to be asked  and said he did not just want to “be decorative and to give him an active role”. He wanted to present the offer to the board of Bank of Scotland as part of the team. I also commissioned a radio program about the future of finance – ie a piece of content marketing- to show our creative credentials and so as not to look like our whole pitch rested on Martin.

Well it probably did. We won. I well remember the squeek of delight Martin let out when I called to let him know. red cell was an agency dedicated to challenger brands and challenger thinking. In other words we stood with the underdogs. Although Martin went on to head a huge company, I think he never lost his passion for winning against the odds and seeing off staid and established competitors. That is why i think he responded so full heartedly to my call.

So Jacks I think missed something essential about the man – his creativity in business and the sheer visceral pleasure he takes in competing to win. In this respect he is an adman to his finger tips

Getty sell their images to agencies who are designing campaigns and so what buyers search for reveals something of the zeitgeist.Agency creative teams have well developed instincts for what is fresh and current. Forget the focus groups, analyse Getty search tends.

“Stand out from the crowd”,”rebellious” and “bold choices” have spiked in search on their website by over 100/200/300 % respectively. As Getty put it as “we become increasingly inundated with mass replicated imagery and aggregated articles our appetite for a unique point of view and stand out visuals increases”  This is a trend they call Outsider in 

Scan 1

Another telling trend is Messthetics, which is a different side of the same coin: as Getty put it ” a breakaway from predictability …the imagery is messy, grimy sweaty, visceral… it comes from our desire to break away from the sanitation and predictability of everyday life and revel in the physicality of human nature .”  Think of the success of campaigns to sell more ugly fruit and veg.

Scan 2

In retrospect the rise of Trump and Sanders seems all too obvious …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Last year The Cannes Awards saw many examples of brands trying to “do good business by doing good”. I expect this year there will again be many awards entries that aim to engender brand loyalty by being good corporate citizens. Aurora commissioned me to write a piece about this undoubtedly  big trend.

I have taken an historical perspective to explain why brands adopted “higher purpose branding” covering- 19th century philanthropy, challenger brand thinking courtesy of Adam Morgan and finally looking at the influence of big tech and social media. Brands covered include – The Body Shop, Dove, Google, Microsoft and Uber

A word doc is here which may be easier to read  HPB final

 

 

Page 29

 

Page 30

For most of my career people have aspired to buy premium brands and just wanted an affordable way to buy into them – think of the Mercedes A class, Waitrose essentials or a tie from Armani. Premium brands used to “reach down”

But something has shifted in the culture – Value brands have captured the middle classes as extended recession has finally stripped away illusions.

Now to be cheap is chic and the next inevitable development in branding is for these cheap brands to smarten themselves up to reflect their new clientele. These images are from Chippenham High Street

Poundland now looks just fine to me and perhaps a coffee in the Greg’s cafe too ? Who wants to fork out £4-00 for a coffee in Starbucks ? Inside Gregs was just fine and dandy and you can get a sausage roll for 99 p.

IMG_2433IMG_2434

Justin King left Sainsbury at just the right time…Aldi and Lidl will be smartening up soon too no doubt to hang onto those newly converted members of the squeezed middle.

Since writing this post we have seen the first big beast to suffer the consequences – the CEO of Tesco-Philip Clarke– has stood down as his business has been battered by the discounters.

I have just had an out burst in this quarter’s Market Leader (quarterly journal of the Marketing Society-subscribe here) about the use of jargon in marketing – which my daughter read and described as pompous.

Perhaps I have reached a pompous age – must do something as an antidote

See Cword

It was inspired by Orwell’s essay Politics and the English Language – in which he wrote

“the slovenliness of our language makes it easier to have foolish thoughts”

and

“If thought corrupts language ( think of the dead language of the communists) language can also corrupt thought”