August 19th, 2015
By Mark Ritson
The story of marketing communications is a cat and mouse game between two opposing forces.
On the one hand we have the various advertising media that, at any one time, carry the persuasive messages of brands. On the other, the concerted attempts of consumers to screen out these messages as much as possible. On the marketing side we call this evasive activity ‘ad avoidance’. On the consumer side they call it ‘having a life’.
There is no prescribed moment when ad avoidance actually began but we can probably assume it started about 20 minutes after the invention of advertising. The methods used to avoid ads can vary from high tech to the very basic. During the late 20th century, for example, the National Grid actively monitored the so-called ‘TV pickup’ that occurred when millions of British households encountered the first TV ad at the end of their scheduled program and headed, en masse, to the kitchen for a brew.
With the advent of the digital diaspora the likelihood of two million kettles being turned on simultaneously has lessened. But we are no more immune to the effects of ad avoidance today than we were 30 years ago. Both advertisers and avoiders have evolved in parallel. Specifically, it’s the new breed of ad blocking software that will surely become the big issue for marketers over the next few years.
Ad avoidance software – offered as a free download under brand names such as AdBlock Plus and Adguard – can systematically turn off unwanted auto-playing videos, on-screen ads and pop-ups. That’s attractive to consumers not only because it cleans up and optimizes browsing but it also speeds the surfing experience too.
Just Do It is an example of a brand campaign that tapped deeply into the authentic character of Nike’s brand values and brand purpose. But, few people know about the internal conversations that led to the ad brief that went to Nike’s agency Wieden+Kennedy (W+K) to create the campaign.
Until now. I was there, right in the middle of it. Today on Branding Strategy Insider I’ll share how it came to be.
Let me begin with some context. A brand’s symbolic meaning originates with its underlying purpose, and is expressed as a field vibration that radiates from the very core of a company. If a brand is to become iconic, to become a world-class energy that customers deeply identify with, then it must evoke transcendent qualities of human soulfulness. And to do that it has to express deep insight into its unique purpose in the world.
Such a deep brand purpose can be described as the intersection of three circles of influence. The first circle relates to understanding an underlying social tension that desperately requires resolving. The second circle relates to a core brand truth that expresses reasons for a brand’s very existence. And the third circle connects a specific unmet consumer need in a way that the brand can legitimately address.
These three circles of influence were the subjects of discussion between Scott Bedbury and myself in the winter of 1987. Scott had been newly hired as Nike’s Director of Advertising and I was Nike’s Director of Marketing Insights & Planning. Nike at the time was struggling with the first sales contraction in its history and had just laid off 20% of its work force. Nike’s agency W+K had just delivered a new batch of ads that had fallen flat with senior management and the sales force. I was asked by Tom Clarke, Nike’s VP of Marketing to thoroughly brief Scott on the state of the brand, its brand purpose and brand values. Here are the topics that I covered with Scott in the state of the brand briefing.
It’s July, which means aside from the occasional hot spell we marketers are about to be deluged by an ocean of talks, tweets and treatises on the importance of creativity and her bespectacled, more reserved brother, innovation.
Blame Cannes. Last week, 13,000 marketers descended on the French Riviera to have the overriding importance of all things creative drummed into them. If proof was needed that Cannes Lions was all about the C word, we need only consult last week’s social media analytics. Apparently, more than half of the messages emanating from the event mentioned either creativity or innovation.
But there’s more than just the annual French maritime party to persuade marketers that it’s all about creativity. The digital revolution apparent across our industry has many implications and one of them is to make creativity a more appealing focus for many marketers. In years gone by, a brand manager had to surmount several distinct obstacles to get to a point where they would interact with creative teams and partake in the creative end of the marketing conveyor belt. Today, thanks to ‘real-time marketing’ and the surfeit of digital communication platforms that marketers personally manage, many view themselves as being directly responsible for the creative act.
Back in the day when marketers realized that their main challenges revolved around market research, brand positioning, product strategy and pricing there was a much clearer awareness that creatives were a separate species. Few made the mistake of thinking they were the creative ones. But today, many marketers believe that their main challenge is content marketing and traditional strategic work has been replaced with a more abject emphasis on creativity uber alles.
That’s troubling because in my experience most marketers are hopeless at creative work. I say experience not because I claim any personal creative talent (I have none) but because I have worked for several large, creative businesses at the height of fashion and luxury. It’s difficult not to sound like a braggart in that last sentence but it’s true. I worked for several companies famed for their creative prowess and the irony was that I, and the marketers I worked with at these brands, never thought for a second we were creative in any way. We knew our place – which was at the analytical and strategic end of the process that then fed the creative teams.
I enjoy seeing people poke business models, but it’s important that when you look to disrupt a business that you do so without assumptions. The call by Marc Ruxin of Universal McCann to rethink the creative department of ad agencies is a great idea but my sense is that his suggestions still assume the battle is for attention, and that winning that attention and holding it via great content, well presented, is critical to achieving consumer preference.
The noise preventing that, he says, is formidable. Brands are trying to get their messages heard and acted upon in an environment of 150 million tweets a day, 700 billion minutes a month on Facebook, 300 million global players of Zynga games, 200 million Daily Deal subscribers…
I’m far from convinced though that attention and preference are a linear progression. And I think we need to insert at least three further filters into that zig-zag of decision making: notice, consider and purchase. You may gain a consumer’s attention momentarily, but until they choose to escalate that attention and actually take notice of you, there’s no way they’re going to consider you, never mind prefer you – and even then, they may not buy.
It seems to me Mr. Ruxin is still trying to run an interruption model based on see, want, get. I feel he still thinks content is the make or break, and he’s now looking to adapt that model to fit the new channels that consumers now occupy their time with. That doesn’t so much require a rethink of the creative department as it requires the creative and media departments to rethink their approach and to adopt new skills. Not quite the same thing.
In his article, the author suggests: “It is a new world: Brands + Skillfully Placed Media Investments + The Right Platforms + The Right Partner + The Right Offer = Creative Success” Two things about that. I don’t think that’s a new world at all. That equation doesn’t look any different from the way it looked when I started in advertising – it’s just that the media, platforms and partners themselves have changed. And there’s no reason to believe that ‘Creative Success’ is the result anyone should be seeking anyway. That’s an agency metric, not a commercial one.
October 22nd, 2014
By Chris Wren
Customers are intimately familiar with how brand excitement or brand dislike is communicated: word of mouth, written recommendations, ratings, reviews, etc. Everyone can access information about a brand’s stuff – the good, bad, and ugly.
When digital was young, we approached it with an advertising mindset. But digital media, mobile media, and social media are really three names for the same thing: a social web that is powered by human media. And anytime humans are in the mix, we need to be thinking about behavior.
Convincing people to change is a like a game, and brands that create the best change understand how games work. Sebastian Detering says, “Games are fun to play because they are designed well, not because they are games.” How do game designers do it? They craft smart, interesting choices and place them inside of the intersection where a behavioral change should happen.
Here’s a great example: