Wednesday, March 28, 2012

a lesson in building brands from the masters of advertising

Branding. What is a brand? What is branding? There are many definitions. Many theories. And, many agencies that do branding in many different ways. 
But what can we learn from the masters of advertising — those that have put products on the map, and made them household names — about building brands? 
According to Lee Clow, the bearded Chairman and Global Director of TBWA\Worldwide, brands “are very much like people.” 
“Do you think that brand is interesting? Would you like to have it over for dinner? Is he always the same, or is he sometimes funny, and sometimes he’s serious?” says Clow. 
It’s an interesting perspective, and one that helps to explain the relationship between consumers and brands. It’s a bit strange to think about having a “relationship” with a product. But, that’s exactly what a brand loyalty is: a relationship. If a consumer is loyal to your brand, they have certain expectations for it. They trust it. They don’t want to be betrayed by it.
And, most of all, they want to enjoy the experience of being in a relationship with it. 
Clow refers to an ad for Harley Davidson produced by Carmichael Lynch in 1987 that featured the burly arm of a biker with the Harley Davidson logo tattooed on his bicep. The headline reads, "When was the last time you felt this strongly about anything?"
Passion. It’s what drives any relationship, especially that between a brand and a consumer. If consumers feel passionate about the product, they’ll use it. More importantly, they’ll keep using it, and will encourage people in their social circles to use it. 
Mary Wells Lawrence, who started at DDB in the 1950s before founding her own agency, used passion to help save Braniff, a commercial airline company. Her campaign, “The End of the Plain Plane,” involved redesigns to not only the planes, but the stewardesses, pilots, and general culture of air travel. In a stuffy, boring, plaine plan industry, Braniff became “fun.” "We made it fun to fly,” says Wells. “People flew with us because they were having a theatrical experience."
As one of the Braniff ads stated, they couldn’t get passengers to their destination any faster, but the “experience” of flying was one consumers couldn’t get with any other airline. Wells tapped into the consumer experience to build a relationship with consumers — an exclusive relationship built on the thrill of flying. 
"We, over and over again, stress this so-called inherent drama of things," Leo Burnett, one of the godfathers of modern advertising, told Denis Higgins in an interview years ago. "There’s usually something there, almost always something there, if you can find the thing about that product that keeps it in the marketplace."
The job of advertisers for brands is finding that inherent drama — a spark that builds a brand experience — and bring it to life. 
“I can get excited about selling a new kind of pen,” says George Lois, who made MTV and Tommy Hilfiger household names. “Wow, yeah, look at that pen. It’s a little this. I can do this. Let me sell that mother*****. What a pen! It’s a work of art too.”
“You can get excited about almost nothing,” Lois continues.
“That’s what’s crazy, how passionate people can actually be about brands, if brands are these interesting, fascinating, and maybe high-minded people that you want to assign to be a part of who you are,” remarks Clow.
Are people excited about your brand? Do they have a passion for it? If not, it’s time to take a look at the brand and find that “inherent drama” that Burnett spoke of. Bring it to life. Make it interesting. Make your brand come alive so that consumers can begin building a relationship experience with it. 
Author’s Note: The quotations used in the above article were from interviews featured in the documentary, “Art & Copy.” It is available for purchase (and strongly recommended by this author) here

Monday, March 26, 2012

the stylish hammer to your face

“Weak advertising tells people what you want them to know,” [Ed McCabe] added. “Strong advertising gets people to conclude what you want them to know.”

Fantastic article interviewing one of the real "Mad Men" of the era.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

the quotation that defines me...

"The frightening and most difficult thing about being what somebody calls a 'creative person' is that you have no idea where any of your thoughts come from really, and especially you don't have any idea about where they're gonna come from tomorrow." - Hal Riney

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

deutsch/la bringing the magic

I watched an entire pre-roll ad on YouTube for the first time the other night. It was the "Cubs Win" spot by Deutsch/LA. It features the euphoric scene in the city of Chicago upon the Chicago Cubs finally pulling off a World Series win. And, by the end of the narrative, you're shown that it is actually just a simulation on MLB 12.

I haven't been blown away by an ad like this in a long time. It was...remarkable.

I think it's rare that a commercial can truly encapsulate the emotion of a sacred event, especially one that's as light-hearted (notice the absence of abused puppies, or starving kids) as this. Yet, you're immediately pulled into the narrative. It may be a little inside-baseball (oh look, a pun) for people who may not be aware of Chicago's complete inability to survive in the post season, but that's not really the audience MLB 12 is targeting anyways.

So, bravo, Deutsch. Amazing work.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

call for reinforcements

A recent post at Nex Level Advisors, LLC has a headline that reads, “It’s important that you do everything possible to establish and reinforce a positive brand.” The article goes on to list several good suggestions for brands, such as basic (but, often forgotten) fundamentals like positioning and consistency. However, the headline itself drives home an important concept for brands: reinforcement.
The vast availability of knowledge now available at the fingertips of any one on the Internet has made for incredibly intelligent consumers. This has completely changed the game for branding, as not only are consumers demanding more from brands, but brands are also held to a higher standard.
Delivering a wanted product is no longer enough. Not only must brands deliver on their promised value, but they must also do it in satisfactory ways, and provide excellent customer service in the process. Oh, and brands should seek to create an exceptional “brand experience” for their consumers. A flat model for branding doesn't work when consumers expect brands to be three-dimensional. 
This wealth of information in today’s consumer environment means brands are no longer shaped by the messaging of their 30-second ad spots, or an endcap display at a grocery store. Brands are now defined by every thing they do — from production, to the actual product, to delivery, to answering the phones on the help line.
This is why brands should always “call for reinforcements” when taking an analysis of their branding strategy. Is there some process, or facet, of your organization that doesn’t enhance or help define the brand? More importantly, is there anything that underminesthe brand?
Chipotle’s emphasis on “food with integrity” digs out a brand position that their food is ethical to eat. You better believe they are constantly monitoring the sources of their food. With the speed at which information travels, a single chink in their armor — say, a source for their chickens that keeps them frozen in microscopic crates — could end up on a YouTube video exposing this hypocrisy, which would create a PR nightmare for Chipotle.
This situation is a bit more extreme, but the general principle of reinforcements for any brand is ensuring the branding signals all are aligned to promote, enhance, and reinforce your brand strategy.