Brands with purpose; the story do far

‘Brands with purpose’ were all the rage for about twenty minutes or so.  Unilever said it was the right thing to do.  So obviously it was the right thing to do.

Then came Pepsigate.  An overzealous attempt to appropriate a world of virtuous resistance against all the evil in the world, while simultaneously calling for world peace, racial harmony and please can we all just start being nice to each other again.  Remember the anti-Vietnam war poster with the girl putting the flower in the barrel of the soldier’s gun?  Except Pepsi misjudged the popular mood and was ridiculed.

My own view is that, while Pepsi’s attempt to tap into this ‘purpose’ was pretty woeful, it wasn’t so much worse than a lot of other work from other brands who just about got away with it.  Pepsi didn’t have any credits in the bank here (as opposed to Coke for example who do) so once social media turned against them, the hole just got deeper and deeper.  Before they knew it, they were a laughing stock and had to withdraw the advertisement in question.  This in turn made them headline news and so doubly a laughing stock.

Harsh but fair.

This debacle has spawned a host of ‘told you so’ coverage.  Most of it is simply accountable to people wanting to score points by dancing on Pepsi’s grave (who wouldn’t?)  I’ve seen lots of other corporate pap which is equally risible, but escaped with barely a word of censure (special mention here for Hewlett Packard’s corporate video).

But I did quite enjoy this:

Moving on, in the wake of Pepsigate, brands should be getting very wary of doing the vision thing.  This idea for Heineken was, presumably, too far advanced to pull out.  In a worlds where Pepsi is ridiculed, this shouldn’t work either.  But it does.  Why?

Two reasons:

  1. Heineken is a brand we like.  It has a history of entertaining us and being witty.  It’s not explicitly a crusading brand (like say, Dove whose influence is very evident here) but it’s well-meaning enough to be credible.
  2. The craft.  It’s very nicely done.

That’s my opinion today.  If it gets lambasted and withdrawn tomorrow, I will of course disown all of this and claim I was being ironic.

And you fell for it right?

Just when you thought….

Liar

Is this a new low for the advertising industry?

The regulators (love ’em) have previously washed their hands of political campaigns, but the Brexit referendum, contested by ‘Project Fear’ on the one side and a series of barefaced, brazen lies on the other, may force them to reconsider.

So far, the industry bigwigs appear to be leaning towards maintaining the ‘free-for-all’ nature of political campaigning. They say politicians’ claims and counter claims are difficult to prove one way or the other and are often simply opinion anyway.  They also point to the immediate time frame – by the time you had evaluated a piece of content it would have already served its purpose.  So taking it down wouldn’t help.  What they don’t say is almost more interesting – that getting banned is one of the best ways for content to become famous.  So being controversial becomes an end in itself (Paddy Power? Protein World?)

All of these points apply equally to lots of other advertising categories, but we would be surprised if the regulators washed their hands of those.  So why the resistance?  Something to do with the power and influence of the players perhaps (that’s the media giants as much as the politicians themselves)?  Don’t make waves?  Surely not.

In a world, now being described by proper journalists as ‘post truth’ this is all a bit disturbing.

Be more…… patient?

 

I see the telecoms network O2 is changing its brand campaign form ‘Be more dog’ to ‘Be more You’.  They say it’s an evolution – look the first two words remain the same – but I’m not buying it.

The new work is exactly what you’d expect from a big corporate giant in a commodity business.  It’s big and faceless and it could equally have been applied to any player in the market.  It does nothing exceptional. There’s an ad about the unremarkable loyalty scheme.  There are others assigned to different elements of )2’s offer.  As a piece of campaign architecture, it all makes perfect sense.  It’s just a bit, well, predictable.

Which is a shame, because ‘Be more Dog’ was one of the few real advertising ideas at the heart of a big campaign in recent years.

The literal rationale is a bit tenuous admittedly – cats are sleepy and placid whereas dogs are playful and curious so,as the digital asset in your pocket can do more and more stuff, you should embrace your inner dogginess to make more of it.

It was a bit polarising – the Creative Director of a competitor’s agency said to me “I don’t really get it, the jury’s out” – but that’s the point.  It provokes a response.  You could have an opinion about it.  The jury might actually bother to come back in and deliver a verdict.

Ultimately it boils down to results – but I seem to recall this campaign had won effectiveness awards not so long ago.  (Does that make me sound a bit naive?)

I’m sad the doggy has died.  And, whatever O2 might say, it’s not an evolution – if it were, it would have learned to speak and walk on its hind legs.

Mike Ashley: marketing genius?

Let’s hear it for one of marketing’s great ideas that’s almost universally unrecognised.  Yes it’s the humble Sports Direct mug.  You’ve got one.  I’ve got one.  We’ve all got one, possibly several.  Every time you buy something (come on, you can admit it, we’ve all been there) from Sports Direct online, you get one of these oversized mugs, like it or not.  And even though it’s frankly rather ugly (and it tells the world  you shop at Sports Direct) your sustainability-driven conscience won’t let you throw it out. So you keep this tiny advertisement for Mike Ashley’s sports empire on show in your home for ever. The cost to him is about a quarter to a fifth of bugger all.  And your lovely home even gives Sports Direct a kind of genteel respectability.  It’s utterly brilliant.

IMG_0901

“Don’t hate the players hate the game”

The quotation comes from Alex Holland, a former Labour councillor who with others successfully campaigned to save Brixton Market from redevelopment as flats.  It could have come from the works of George Orwell – a significant influence on this blog.  I recently re-read ‘Keep the aspidistra Flying’.  It was an inspiration to me as a teenager.  Now it inspired feelings of despair.  But that’s the point.  It’s a kind of 1984-Lite.  The hero, Gordon Comstock is determined not to join in the common herd’s worship for the ‘Money God.’  He maintains his conviction for many years, seeing his life sink deeper and deeper into the mire of poverty and self-loathing, while his values remain ‘pure’.  But eventually even he is dragged into the money-driven world he hates.  Like 1984, it has an inevitability about it.  The final surrender is a relief more than a battle.  More than two things are certain in life.  There are a number of things you can’t beat – biology is one, capitalism is another.