Wednesday, May 16, 2012

the #1 rule for amazing advertising

One of my favorite quotes about advertising comes from the great Leo Burnett. I've wrote about this concept extensively, mainly because I feel it is one of the most important "rules" for advertising that any creative -- young, or old -- can ever understand. Burnett said that every product has an "inherent drama," and it is up to the creative team to find this drama, and bring it to life.

When you bring this "inherent drama" to life, you have no need for disruptive tricks like flashy graphics, or naked girls. The drama sells itself.

A recent example of this is a new spot by staples (featured below), from agency David (in the Ogilvy & Mather family), of Brazil/Argentina.

Mark Duffy of BuzzFeed sums it up best:

One simple little linchpin, and you've got an interesting commercial about a very dull subject.

No depressing office supplies shots. No depressing voiceover doofus. Just a nice low-key spot with a little wink that sells me. Bravo.

Bravo, indeed.

google takes a page from the handbook of bush league branding tactics

In July of last year, in the midst of the frenzy around the launch of Google Plus, I wrote an article simply titled, “Google+ Will Fail.” A few articles on the topic had been published at the time, but most of the press surrounding Google’s latest foray into social media had been glowing — almost to the point of outright sycophancy.
A year later, G+ is still here. Of course, nobody (even me) expected otherwise. But, since then, Instagram has been sold to Facebook for $1 billion, games like Draw Something and Words With Friends have set the standard for mobile gaming, and Pinterest — not G+ — is the “next” major social networking site.
G+ may not have failed in the traditional sense (well, yet), but at this point, that’s merely a matter of semantics. G+ did not revolutionize social networking. It did not "kill" Facebook. It was all hype. And, now, it’s more frequently brought up as a joke than something to be taken seriously.
However, my prediction, and those of others during the same time, didn’t take genius-level skill to make. The fate of G+ was obvious. And, because their mistakes were so obvious is why Google’s recent redesign of the network is an embarrassing rookie move by the powerhouse brand.
Clearly, they still don’t get it.
Common rookie tactics to “save” struggling brands include things like changing a logo orhiring a celebrity spokesperson. Why? It’s easy to change a logo. And if you have the money, it’s not hard to hire a celebrity. But, it’s much harder to do the soul searchingnecessary to discover why the brand is failing, which is why this is rarely done when it is desperately needed.
JCPenney is a perfect example. On Feb. 27, 2011, the brand unveiled a new logo intended to convey a new, modern feel for the brand. Did it work for them? No, which is why they a year later they came out with yet another logo. Except, this time, the logo was in conjunction with a new ad campaign designed to promote the company’s brand realignment — something that was fatally lacking in 2011. "The new JCPenney logo, which combines the elements that have made JCPenney an enduring American brand, by evoking the nation's flag and JCPenney's commitment to treating customers Fair and Square,” the company said in a statement when launching its most recent logo.
It wasn’t just a superficial change. JCPenney was making a substantial change to their business model in order to define itself in the department store market.
The redesign of G+ is a move straight from the 2011 JCPenney Handbook of Bush League Branding Tactics. It screams rookie in every single way.
In the year that G+ has been around, Google has failed to address the reason why its social network is failing: It’s not any different from everything else that consumers already use.
“The reason Google+ will fail is that there is no reason; that is, no reason for consumers to leave Facebook,” reads my 2011 article. “There is nothing revolutionary about Google+. There is nothing worthwhile about it.”
Adding a cover photo and tweaking the aesthetics of the network doesn’t make up for the fact that in a social media realm where consumers are already struggling to keep up with Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Linkedin, G+ still doesn’t offer anything worth their attention.
Or, time.
Putting a new face on G+ is like a tree falling in the woods. If nobody is around to see it, does it really matter?
No. It doesn’t. And, social media consumers have made that abundantly clear.

keeping it real with authentic authenticity

One of the fundamental rules to social media for brands is “keeping it human.” That is, a Twitter account should look like it is run by a human, and not a robot. It should have personality, depth, interactivity, and responsiveness. Essentially, community managers must ensure they “keep it real.”
People don't want to interact with a faceless brand, especially via social networks. They want to interact with a brand as if it were a person. People like real. And, the more real a brand comes, the easier it is to bond to it, and establish a “consumer relationship.”
Some brands fail at this. Others try, but it comes off as hollow and feigned, which is perhaps even worse than not trying altogether. Consumers have a good way of sniffing out B.S., even if on a sub-conscious level.
They know.
However, women’s magazine Marie Claire is taking this principle to its models, replacing the "fake" runway cutouts with real women. The May issue of Marie Claire@Work, a supplement sent to women in the top-10 markets along with 100,000 newsstand copies, will feature members of the Marie Claire Career Network on LinkedIn. The magazine will also feature ads from Buick, White House Black Market, and Mustela that include women from Marie Claire’s LinkedIn network, too.
“We’re about being approachable,” Michele Zeiss, assistant advertising manager for General Motors, told AdWeek regarding their decision. “So we’re looking for real people that the readers can identify with and not so much the celebrity who makes millions of dollars.”
And, in a fashion industry that has recently come under scrutiny for its unrealistic portrayal of women through digital manipulation (for example, see this disaster in Voguefrom last August), Marie Claire’s use of non-model models is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Consumers know that the difference between advertised reality and actual reality is usually quite vast. The hamburgers that come out on the tray rarely, if ever, look like the hamburgers on the menu. Even Apple has taken heat for unrealistic portrayals of its famed “Siri” application on the iPhone 4S. So, when consumers are given something truly authentic, they appreciate not being treated like complete idiots.
Yes, there is a time and place for framed reality, and no, brands shouldn’t show everything there is to see about what they do (remember the popular aphorism that nobody wants to see how sausages are made). However, brands could benefit from finding opportunities to inject a little authentic authenticity into their marketing. 

the passion of branding

I recently wrote an article called “A Lesson in Building Brands from the Masters of Advertising,” which offered insight into branding from the longtime legends of the advertising world. In short, the article concluded that the core of branding was making people passionate about brands.
However, what the article didn’t include was “how” this could work for any brand, not just the most flashy, or cutting-edge.
Taking a look at some of the strongest, most culturally imbued brands, passion is always present. Apple consumers stick the logo on their car. Harley Riders have the logo tattooed on their arm. Gmail users laugh at those who still use Hotmail or Yahoo. Nike created an entirely new culture of fitness based around its products.
Passion drives these products. And with that passion comes a nearly unbreakable brand loyalty.
Yet, every brand has the potential to inspire this level of passion. Sure, a local restaurant has little chance of becoming the next Olive Garden, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t come to be one of feature restaurants of the area. It’s all about finding that hook into a consumer’s mind, and getting them excited about what the brand is doing. Then, it’s not just about the logotype, or even the taste of the food. It’s the experience the consumer has when interacting with the brand.
Apple may not make the highest quality product, and Harley Davidson motorcycles may not be the best value — but the experience of joining that brand community is more important than anything else. As the 1987 Harley Davidson ad from Carmichael Lynch asks, "When was the last time you felt this strongly about anything?"
But what is that hook? It’s simple. It’s whatever separates your brand from the competitors. It’s called the unique selling point, or point of differentiation, or value proposition. It’s the element of the brand that keeps people coming back to it rather than opting for a competitor.
For a restaurant, it may be the setting and atmosphere, which always ensures for a romantic evening so it becomes the go-to place for couples looking to celebrate their love. Or, for a coffee shop, it may be large tables where groups can always count on ample space to work and collaborate. For a pen, it may be the richness of the ink.
Look for what in your brand creates an experience that consumers can’t find anywhere else. It’s there. And, if it’s not, create it.
People can get excited about anything. Make them excited about your brand. Make them want to be a part of your brand community.