Archive for April 22, 2010

Posted: April 22, 2010
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Where have all the catch phrases gone?

In my previous post I highlighted the value of a catch phrase like Tom Dickson’s “Will it blend” and mentioned one from way back “Nice one Cyril” that came to me as I was writing.  However, it strikes me that most people in agencies these days aren’t old enough to remember that catch phrases like this were the social networking of the pre-Face-Book era.

“Nice one Cyril” was carried as a song and released as a record (remember those?) but there were many more, like Murray Mint’s “Too-good-to-hurry mint” and Do-It-All’s “How do Do-It-All do it?” that were immortalised as jingles.  You really knew you had a hit on your hands when the popular press plagiarised them in their headlines, but there were many that worked without being turned into songs.  You just heard people use them in conversation.

How many can you think of?


Posted: April 22, 2010
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The Big Idea – but, will it blend?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAl28d6tbko]

Folks are used to me banging on about how essential  “the big idea” is in marketing today, but genuinely big ideas are still a rarity.  There are loads of businesses and agencies that think their’s are humongous, but that’s usually only because their sense of proportion has deserted them.

I guess you have to have a nose for these things?  For example, Tom Dickson sells high-powered blenders.  He’s not Microsoft by any means, but he has created a campaign based on an idea that has taken off, big time.  I mean, if your USP is “power” what better way to drive this home than to take on challenges.  And that’s exactly what he has done, filming each challenge and posting it on You-Tube, then building a social networking campaign around it that has taken the imagination of folks all over America.

Of course, a big slice of his audience are youths, but that’s OK, because apparently evidence is revealing that they share this content with parents, if not by showing them the films, certainly by dragging them to see the challenges reproduced (on a less dramatic scale) in their local stores.  Yes, while this is a campaign that wouldn’t have been possible without social networking, it’s real beauty for me is that way it is integrated.  The films tie-in with the in-store demos and the advertising and the point-of-sale material and more.  The contribution this is making to his brand character, the reinforcement of his “brand promise” and the new “Brandships” he is acquiring as a result are priceless and the “will it blend” catch phrase is rapidly becoming the kind of equity that we Brits haven’t heard since “Nice one Cyril!”.


Posted: April 6, 2010
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Now there’s a chance we’ll see some real advertising.

The initial poster from Saatchi & Saatchi for Labour (top) and the Conservative response by M&C Saatchi

I was reading a piece somewhere on the web a week or so ago that asked  why we Brits seem to have an edge the US when it comes to creativity in advertising.  There were a number of suggestions , legislation, cultural mix and training among them, but to my recollection the most popular seemed to be the Brits’ ironic sense of humor, which produces advertising that even if it is explained to them a lot of Americans don’t understand.

When, back in the eighties, I was at the old Saatchi & Saatchi there was a buzz about our Charlotte Street HQ that I have never felt before or since in any agency anywhere in the world.  Sadly for today’s Saatchi & Saatchi the magic left the building, with Maurice, Charles, Bill Muirhead and the rest of the old team and unfortunately for everyone it never seemed to be replicated in their subsequent M&C Saatchi incarnation … until now.

I was disappointed to say the least, both when Saatchi & Saatchi teamed up with Labour and when David Cameron’s team switched agency from the M&C Saatchi to Euro RSCG.  I have nothing in particular against Euro, although their contribution in this case has been pretty dire, but the culture upon which the brothers built the original Saatchi & Saatchi and the people involved, including Tim Bell, made it the perfect environment for political advertising and no agency has more ground-breaking case studies as evidence of this.

I couldn’t possibly list all the on-the-ball, witty, to-the-point campaigns that emerged from Charlotte Street in the Saatchi & Saatchi heyday to capture the hearts and minds of the British consumer, not to mention people in markets around the world.  Saatchi brought fun and daring to the most austere sectors, with famous retail campaigns like ‘How do Do-It-All do it?’ for a DIY chain and they earned a reputation for smart repost, even in the previously utilitarian lawnmower market with “A lot less bover than a hover” for Qualcast in response to Flymo’s ‘Don’t  slow mow, Flymo’.

The Tories aren’t the first clients to have brought the Boys off the subs bench and scored an immediate goal, in this case with an advertising campaign that has made Euro’s attempt look like the wallpaper it was.  I’m sure somebody will get around to calling it ‘negative advertising’ but when your competitor has a Achiles heel you’d be a fool not to turn it to your advantage.  In this case M&C appear to have enough material to keep them going and its not in their DNA to let the opportunity pass by.  However, its their mastery of the counterpunch that delivered the stroke of true magic, turning Labour’s (Saatchi & Saatchi) ‘Ashes to Ashes spoof poster campaign back on them with the deftest touch, proving beyond a doubt that the old masters haven’t lost it. It’s a real pity that without knowing the background to this campaign – the characters and storyline of the TV series that it is based on – and without the English sense of humour that I was talking about a moment ago, the beauty of this piece will be lost on people beyond British shores.

One of a series of M&C Saatchi Tory posters that mark their return to the Conservative cause.

I remember how we felt in Charlotte Street when we pulled a coup like this.  It was electric and I bet its the same now at M&C.  The bad news from Labour’s viewpoint is that coups like this always fueled bigger and better ideas that sent the competition running for their dug-outs.  The British election has become a Saatchi & Saatchi versus M&C Saatchi head-to-head with both sides trying to prove that the old fire resides with them.  If nothing else comes of this event we could see  some great advertising!


Posted: April 2, 2010
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Thurman brand not cut out for Motherhood

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9SyLvwAcEQ]

I wouldn’t like to estimate the Uma Thurman brand equity prior to the release of her latest film Motherhood, but the fact that it grossed only £88 on its UK debut is a bit of a give-away.

There’s an inherent promise in every brand and being consistent with that is the secret to success.  Personally I think that regardless of the content of the film it was probably doomed at birth by its name.  ‘Motherhood’ is hardly consistent with the promise established by Thurman’s previous work.  Maybe she would have had more success with ‘Kill Mother’ or  something, but I have to admit, I’m a little surprised that the existing brand equity didn’t put more bums on seats.

Brand builders tread a very narrow path.  Deliver your promise and your equity multiplies, fail to deliver it and it will diminish.  What is more, while it may cost ten times as much to entice a new customer as to sell a second time to an existing one, if you fail to deliver your promise and disappoint, the bill for getting that customer back again will be more like a hundred-times the original cost.  If more than eleven people had forked out to see this movie the disappointment and consequently the cost and the damage to the brand could have been even greater.

Given that cinema like this relies on a younger demographic, who by definition are more likely to research a movie on the Internet prior to buying tickets, its tempting to conclude that the Thurman brand wasn’t strong enough in the first place to withstand the bad reviews that the movie received in the US – hence the low turn-out.  Alice In Wonderland received bad reviews too, but the equity of the Burton and Depp brand proved more resilient.

The critical difference may be that the Depp promise is visual, boundary-breaking, creativity that can and does apply to any role or genre.  Thurman is rather more about mindless action, which lends nothing to Motherhood.  Then again, Depp also has acting ability on his side, which has never really been a factor in Thurman’s brand.

There’s a lot of over-confidence and bad decision-making evident in this disaster.  The belief that the brand could sustain the new idea of the actress in a radically different kind of role and failure to appreciate what the Thurman ‘promise’ actually is.  Its just a pity that the producer, despite the film’s dismal performance in the US, blames the UK distributors for bad marketing.  Although if this were the case and the reviewers are correct, the distributors may even have done Thurman a favor by not revealing it to too many people!