I’m no ad man, for sure. With a solid background in PR, I love it when people share information simply because they want to. For themselves. And not just because they are paid to.
PR is sometimes described as more powerful than advertising, but that’s a way too simplistic view. Advertising is important, too. Oftentimes even more important than PR, and vice versa. It’s the mix, really.
Parallel with the rise of social media, which is profoundly composed of two-way dialogue and relationships, traditional advertising sure took a hit. It’s not like the fifties anymore.
The ad industry took to all the talk about conversation and viral bliss. Shortly thereafter, they started to break into PR and web content creation, just to be a part of it.
In short, the ad industry took a wrong turn somewhere along the way.
The ad industry shouldn’t look to the PR or web agencies for answers. They are simply better at interactivity – or at least they should be.
And it makes no sense having planners, copywriters, and art directors working with digital PR or web site creation. You’d be better off firing them and hiring PR-people, web strategists, and programmers instead.
Instead, the ad industry should be looking at Google.
The social web isn’t all about conversation, contrary to popular belief. It’s also about reaching the right people at the right time at the right place with the right message.
The ad industry has a proud history when it comes to researching target audiences. Why not focusing on planning and on making sure the client’s message reaches not the masses, but the right potential consumers at the right moment?
What if the ad industry could be masters in reaching those who actually wants to hear what the client has to say – right then and there?
Sadly, this is where the ad industry fails today. I get bombarded with ads, but the ads don’t really care about me. I don’t even get the opportunity to choose what type of ads I would want to be exposed to.
Some argue advertising needs to become better. That’s besides the point, according to me. Ads need to hit the consumer exactly at the right time – when the consumer actually wants the information.
If the ad reaches me at the exact moment when I actually need the information, then the ad don’t even have to be particularly creative. Informative would suffice, really.
I believe in a strong future for advertising. It is only a matter of shifting focus. I just hope this message reaches you at a point in time and space when you’re actually ready for it.
Jerry Silfwer är Executive Digital Strategist på Whispr Group i Stockholm och utbildad inom PR och lingvistik. Han har grundat branschforumet PR of Sweden och är medredaktör för mediebloggen Same Same But Different. På den egna bloggen Doktor Spinn skriver han om strategisk kommunikation i det digitala medielandskapet. Jerry har en stor passion för det kommunikativa hantverket, men strävar alltid efter att utgå från företagsledningens perspektiv.
I talked about brand drivers and statements of relevant differentiation in school last week. And yes there are a lot of good, smart, creative brands out there taking a relevant and different approach, finding themselves a proper position on the market.
But what is the leap to become a great super brand, something more than just a shelf share competitor?
First I think we have to leave the general thinking of just products and specific categories. As Colin Drummond, Head of Planning at Ogilvy West, claims:
Instead of just thinking about how our brands can differentiate on the basis of product or service attribute, we must think about how our brands can differentiate within culture.
Traditionally, marketers place brands in different categories and divide them into segments. But this limits the product’s meaning as whole, because great brands are never only in the product category. I think they also contribute to culture at large.
Great brands have strong beliefs. Great brands don’t have to give any reasons for why consumers actually should buy them. Great brands can exclude any product benefits from their adverts. In fact, at the risk of sounding nonchalant, I would say that your products oftentimes actually don’t need any technical innovations or even benefits at all.
There are no rational reasons (beside the free SMS/text service) or extra benefits that motivates youths to choose the Swedish mobile operator Halebop. Interesting reactions nonetheless.
Apple may not have the best of all smart-phones, the most technical nor the most innovative phones. Yet, the iPhone’s 4% market share volume-wise ends up to 50% of the total industry profit. Talk about a high margin product! And well-executed branding.
Starbucks may not have the very best macchiato. But who cares? A lot of us go to Starbucks to get our macchiato anyway, if not for the coffee so for the place to meet. However, Starbucks nowadays seems to have forgotten the main reason it was founded, which leads it to fail because too much focus is on its own product and category. (Read more about the danger of being blinded by your own product.)
The list continues: Domino’s pizza is probably far from being the best pizza you can get and ABSOLUT is definitely not the very best vodka.
Well, I think you get the picture: A great brand makes it easier to sell your product with higher margins without actually having the best product within its category.
The simple reason for this is that great brands are almost always much more than just a product or a category. Consequently, the recipe for success in many industries is to change your brand thinking from merely products and categories to include thinking in terms of culture. But also about to not become hung up about what kind of needs consumers might have or not have. One year ago I didn’t need an iPhone and, at this very moment, I don’t need an iPad. I do have an iPhone now, and I probably will have an iPad within a year or two
In short, it’s all about creating demand through understanding your consumers’ lifestyles and the context of the brand’s sociological role. And when you have a brand that people want to interact with, that people want to buy because the brand tells a story about them, then you are getting closer to creating a great super brand.
The Problem: I have not been in the business for long, but I have already come across brand managers rigorously protecting their brands instead of creating what could be part of something more than just another product category. But it shouldn’t be the brand managers who act as brand advocates – it should be the consumers.
The Solution: Extending the brand’s philosophical attributes instead of the physical ones.
What is it then with culture as a brand driver versus benefits on a product level? Here are some brands that, instead of dramatizing product features, focus on culture as well as on a more philosophical differentiation.
So much more than just a spirituous beverage – “Doing things differently leads to something exceptional”:
Celebrating the real supporter and football culture. No shoes, no products – just a wider perspective of the meaning and life of the brand. This is a masterstroke as Adidas, the number one competitor, is synonymous with this football culture:
No one humanizes technical products as Apple does. In everything they execute they try to have human and emotional touch-points, starting with the very simple logo in the form of an apple with no direct link to what they actually produce. Below is one of the classic Apple ads; there are no products exposed (as is often the case in Apple ads these days), and it’s not needed ether. Apple is a brand that customers immediately understand:
Finally a really funny one from Burger King – “What if”. What would happen if there were no whoppers at Burger King anymore? Bear in mind that whopper is a part of the American culture:
Things to do (or at least try to):
Think: Which culture – or perhaps movement – could be relevant for your brand, instead of which category to expand into.
Invest: Put your money in brand (relationship) building advertising instead of product promotion.
Make: Always strive to make advertising based on the preferences of the consumer and her lifestyle, not your client’s.
Stop: Don’t measure gross rating point in the classic manner. Instead, try to measure how many who actually choose to look at your ad or really want/wanted to do so. (Read more here.)
And finally, challenge the status quo – all that seems to be “normal”. The most disliked and sometimes hated stars are at the same time quite often the most loved by their supporters. Why wouldn’t the same apply to company and product brands?
Think for instance about why Diego Maradona actually is that adored? He is also one of the most disliked football players ever. He as a brand stands for something beyond football itself, on very controversial standpoints sometimes, and for both good and bad, but this gives you a hint of what I’m aiming at.
If your brand has a philosophical vision beyond the product, and if it strives to claim a place in the culture instead of only on the shelves, then people who like it are going to do that even more and in a deeper sense than if your brand is the average “trying-to-be-liked-by-everyone brand”. People will talk about your brand, and instead of the conventional thinking of product and categories it will become an active part of the culture.
After all, that is the best statement of relevant differentiation your brand can ever get.
Richard Seger Johansson studerar Brand Management vid School of Communication IED i Milano. Han har en examen i marknadsföring och har även studerat sociologi vid Stockholms universitet. Richard har ett stort intresse för det mesta, men framförallt för samhällen och kulturer kopplat till konsumtion, köpbeteenden, varumärken, marknadsföring och reklam. Så snart han är klar med allt vad han har för sig för tillfället, hoppas han ta steget in i en roll som junior account planner på byrå.
The picture at the top is Grayson Perry’s The Walthamstow Tapestry. The textile can be read left to right, starting with a bloody scene of childbirth then continuing with depictions of the seven ages of man, through childhood, adulthood and eventually to death. Around these large human figures teem hundreds of smaller images and words. The words are brand names, detached from their products but leaving behind them, Grayson Perry says, the aroma of the particular values they convey.