The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Hello. My Name Is Robert. I’m Not Very Happy.
December 3, 2007, 7:00 am
Filed under: Comment

Hello there … how are you?

Good week last week?  Hope so.

While I appreciate you are probably interested in what’s been going on … if you don’t mind I/we will be keeping it to ourselves because it involves someone very special to us all and we’re still deeply affected by what has happened. Thank you.

OK … lets get back onto the horse shall we?  And what better way than to start with some fucked press ads.

For reasons I still haven’t worked out, I bought a German copy of FHM for a recent plane journey.

Of course I didn’t MEAN to do it, it just happened – mainly because I was walking around in a daze.

Anyway for the first time in my life I actually ended up literally just ‘looking at the pictures’.  Hell, even when I sneaked a copy of Paul’s brothers Playboy, I’d read the bloody articles. [I was a bit sad like that!]

So inbetween all the ads for Lederhosen and BMW’s, there were a couple of ads for International whiskies …

Can you see the mistake?

Can you tell what they’ve done?

That’s right … bar a little bit of text at the bottom of the Jack Daniels ad … they are both in English.

Now I am not saying that Germans can’t read my nations greatest gift to the World [Ha!], however given FHM is a mainstream magazine – with this edition being just for the German market – it does seem incredibly stupid to run ads that don’t use the native language of the country the magazine was created for.

And please, don’t tell me it’s about ‘brand authenticity’ because I’m likely to smash you in the face  … if anything it is to do with laziness, arrogance and penny-pinching!

[I’m up for this, can’t you tell?]

When I say lazy, arrogant and penny pinching … I aim those comments directly at the US based marketing teams of Jack Daniels and Jim Beam.

Surely if you have successful markets outside of your home territory, you would – at the very least – make versions of yours ads featuring the copy in different languages? 

Even with potential issues regarding cultural relevance [things that Fred and I have both talked about a million times before] you’d make that small gesture if only to demonstrate some solidarity with your country teams.

Well it seems that if you are Jack Daniels or Jim Beam the answer is no.

What the hell were they thinking?

Do they believe everyone in the World reads English?

Do they think everyone in the World craves all things American?

Are they really that tight with their money?

I suppose I should be grateful they just make a product you pour down your neck because if they did something abit more complex, I reckon they’d probably only print the instructions in English and then alot of the World would be well and truly screwed.

As much as it is difficult to develop a global brand idea that has relevance across geographies and cultures … running a global ad is very easy … so to say to your global markets that they can only run the home territory creative is both arrogant, misguided and cheap which is why I hope Germans who enjoy whisky and bourbon turn their back on these American icons because it’s this type of attitude that is getting the good ol’ USA in the mess it currently enjoys.

I’m back and I’m pissed off …

38 Comments so far
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First of all welcome back, I won’t say any more but know Sarah and I are thinking of you all.
This is a classic Campbell post because you’ve taken something small and seemingly innocuous and demonstrated why it has the power to undermine the value of advertising and marketing on a much bigger scale. Whether it is because of arrogance, laziness or being cheap is open to question and maybe Marcus will have a viewpoint which blows this post out the water, but if I was working for these brands in markets outside the US, I’d be calling my colleagues a few choice names at the next phone conference we had.

Comment by Pete

Great post and welcome back! I can’t even begin to imagine what you must be going through, but we’re also thinking of you all.

I can only guess the English copy was meant to reflect what a brand blueprint document would typically state as: “international premiumness” or something equally amusing.

While on the topic of ad language, Audi are smartly using their line ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ in English speaking countires for reasons that are quite obvious.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

Yes, “International Premiumness” … I can see the brief now. Funny how ‘premiumness’ isn’t something I naturally assoicate with America – I know that’s a massive generalisation and that there are some great examples of truly premium brands – but in my mind, they all seem to be overshadowed by the low-rent rubbish that conspires to engulf my brain day in and day out.

As regards the Audi line … that’s a great point Freddie … the funny thing is that while I would hasten to guess most people don’t actually know its specific meaning, it links perfectly with their perception of German culture … experts in engineering craftsmanship, reliability and clinical delivery thus it works almost despite itself, ha.

Of course Audi is an example of BBH at it’s best which is why I laugh when other agencies and car manufactuers try to do the same – most recently Renault.

Not only do they end up looking a poor second but the ‘culture code’ of their country [which in Renault’s case is obviously France] tends not to have the same ‘car engineering’ characteristcs as Germany, hence the potency of the idea/line is severly diluted and the desirability gets undermined. But that could be me.

Comment by Rob

As with most things, if you want to find out why your product isn’t selling very well, you should talk to the poor bastards who are trying to sell it. I have. I had a little chat to the area sales guy for Jack Daniels in Bavaria and the poor bugger was having a horrible time.

[this really is a true story]

I’m sat in a bar (Lauren – you know which one, my favourite one) and he comes in with a shit load of merchandising. They wanted to run a promo in the Munich area (where they sell next to NO Jack Daniels at all) but it was all in English.

Three problems with this:

1. The sales guy couldn’t read it (so he couldn’t explain to the bar owner how to run the promo)
2. No bugger else could read it (so nobody knew it was a promo)
3. The promo was confusing (do I have to order 2 Jack Daniels at the same time to get a lighter? Do I always get a fucking lighter every time I buy 2? Why are the lighters so fucking naff.)

But, and this is the biggest but of all – the English copy had been written by a German (you can tell, you just can because it was just soooooo wrong). THEY HAD MADE IT ENGLISH. You know, to keep it on brand. Tossers.

Fuck the press ads. That’s just wank and you know it. What really fucks me off is when the opportunity to inspire us to try something AT THE POINT WHEN WE MIGHT WANT TO BUY THE FUCKING THING is thrown away. Now, that’s fucking criminal.

Wankers, all of ‘em.


Comment by Marcus

At least it answers that age old advertising question: “Which half of my advertising isn’t working”.

The half thats not in the right bloody language!!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Glass half empty.

Comment by Marcus

“…it does seem incredibly stupid to run ads that don’t use the native language of the country…”

Well, I think the real problem is not a question of language, but sticking to pointless guidelines or just being lazy. In the end, the only question that matters is: Does it work?

So I’d avoid coming up with pointless rules, and would recommend to simply add: “…for the wrong reasons…” to the what was said above.

The Audi tagline Fred mentioned seems already one case, where it made sense. And in stuff I worked on there have been rare cases where foreign language has been involved in some way (not as headlines though), and I don’t see that we did the wrong thing.

What’s the point of translating “I’m loving it.” into German (“Ich liebe es.”), when it simply does sound awful.

Comment by Michael

The fact that they’re both advertising specifically to men isn’t that clever either.

Comment by John Dodds

Can’t follow you.
You think “men” too narrow as a target?

Comment by Michael

Women drink too. What’s the point of marketing a mainstream drink to men (and in such an awkward way) and annoying any potential women drinkers out there?

Comment by John Dodds

Foreign language can work… but its very difficult to make it do so.

Vorsprung Durch Technik is probably the best example ever, I cant think of any other great ones right now.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I dont think you can ever say ‘men’ is too narrow a market per se. But if you consider women drink too its certainly morenarrow than it should be.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Hi Michael – I agree that product guidelines are in many cases a massive hindernce to communication development [especially when the client treats the ‘template’ as if it’s the brand] however I wasn’t talking about the translation of a brand idea into a cultural relevant expression [though being so tired, I can see why my ramblings may of come out that way], it was more to do with it being fucking stupid if you write body copy in a language other than that of the country the ad is appearing in.

Comment by Rob

Great post! And i’ve enjoyed the comments a lot too, I am tired and dont have much to add but i’ll just say that it’s great to have you back mate.

Comment by Age

Ok, John, I get your point, but remember those are ads for Germany, where Bourbon is by no means a “mainstream drink”.
Also you want to be clear who you target, just look at bud light ads in the US. Mainstream drink, and still they are going clearly after men.

Comment by Michael

I don’t mind the focus on men … it doesn’t mean women won’t drink it, infact if they suddenly become ‘female focused’ it’s more likely to put men AND women off rather than attract more to the brand.

Diet Coke has communicated to women for 24 years and yet 40% of their sales is to men [especially over 40 year old men] and Harley have a healthy female customer base despite being almost entirely focused at men.

[Though they’ve started doing ‘female ads’ and apart from them being shit, they are diluting the brand value, even though Harley is about freedom rather than masculinity]

Comment by Rob

Thats right, but its hard to clearly target everyone. Its much easier to be specific about a specific target.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Who asked for a female ” fruit-based drink for the ladies” focus? I just said there was not much point having an exclusively male focus for a mainstream drink, (by which I meant a traditional drink as opposed to some new concoction) . Gender differentiation in many categories just sends out an old-fashioned sterotype.

P.S. Having done much in-depth research in Kentucky on this subject, I should point out that Jack Daniels is not bourbon.

Comment by John Dodds

In the end you don’t want to be everything to everybody, and sometimes that involves making clear who you are used by. As Rob pointed out that does not necessarily alienate all others. In fact, it can be even attractive. Exactly, think of women riding Harleys, smoking Marlboro and probably drinking Jim Beam….

Comment by Michael

Sorry, I simply cannot keep up with the speed.

John. As said, i get your point. And it might be valid for the US. Interesting idea to have a whiskey for women maybe. And I don’t say men/female is a distinction you necessarily have to do for targetting.
But in the case of “whiskey in Germany” it looks a reasonable way to go, for a first step.

Comment by Michael

You can target consumers in so many more ways than the usual bollocks of MALE vs FEMALE or age segmentation.

OK … so the MALE vs FEMALE split can be effective in certain situations for certain brands however the age thing [unless the product is absolutely created for a specific circumstance] drives me fucking mental.

I once worked on Sunsilk [yes I know, I’m a bald bloke] and they wanted communication targeted at “WOMEN 25-54”.

I mean, that’s a fucking big difference in attitudes and life stage – almost as massive as Organics “WOMEN 18-39”! It was total bollocks and led to the wank advertising they got.

From my perspective, the most powerful way to target consumers is by particular values / beliefs / attitude … because not only does it open the gender/age issue, it also allows communication with inherent ’emotion’ rather than the overtly rational rubbish we see on our screens far too often.

Comment by Rob

I’ve missed this blog.

I know that makes me sad, but I have.

Thanks to everyone for everything – and while most of the guys will be away for another week or so, I know they are very appreciative of everyones kind words and comments.

Just had to say that – and thanks to you NP, very nice – though what we’re going through isn’t a patch on what some others are feeling at the moment.

Ta … onwards and upwards.

Comment by Rob

Oh absolutely. Sometimes there are inherent gender and age segments within a brand. But there are far better ways to target.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

To be true, I did not clearly catch whether targeting by age “makes sense” or “doesn’t”.
(of course the answer is “depends”, but…)

Comment by Michael

i’m knackered and have to get up early in the morning, so thankfully i don’t have much to add either, except to say yay. nice post, great comments. would love to talk about the posibilities of developing a brand through good design that is consistent, yet flexible, but no time. lovely to have you back, rob.

Comment by lauren

I don’t have much time so here are my two pennies of wisdom and opinion. The Jim Beam ad should have been translated though it wouldn’t make more sense in German than it doesn’t do in English. Welcome Fred? Welcome a guy that is president for nearly 20 years now? But I don’t have to understand everything.

The Jack Daniels is a bit different. Apart from English being some kind of cosmopolitan, a translation wouldn’t change the sentence much. “Aromatherapy for men” would be “Aromatherapie fuer Maenner”. Even Bavarians understand it.

Good to have you back, mate. Hope the world will be bright again soon. Word to your Mother.

Comment by Seb

You cooking MC’s like a pound of bacon Seb?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Lauren wants to design somehting flexible and conistent – the mind boggles.

Comment by John

And of course, the fact that the ads were in one of Rob’s sleazy mags would suggest that this is where the real targetting is occurring, so that renders the male angle superfluous.

Comment by John Dodds

Sleazy Mag? FHM? OK so it’s not the ‘Economist’ or ‘Intellectual Marketing Today’ but it’s hardly Hustler is it.

For a pervert Mr Dodds, you are one hell of a prude! 🙂

Comment by Rob

For a thick-skinned cynic, you’re very easy to rile!

Comment by John Dodds

late to the party on this one, but: rack off doddsy!

Comment by lauren

I am a thick skinned bastard Mr Dodd’s, but as you well know, I’m rather emotionally ‘scarred’ at the moment. Cheap shot … but not as cheap as that attempt by me to make you feel guilty.

Comment by Rob

I’ll get my coat!

Comment by John Dodds

As I explained at the time, yours wasn’t a cheap shot at all. Far from it. But my comment above wasn’t meant as one either. Sorry.

Comment by John Dodds

I never realised I was good at guilt manipulation [I thought it was only a ‘female skill’] but thanks John, you’ve proved me wrong and from now on my business negotiations will take a whole new level of evil.

In all seriousness I was just teasing – we’re having a shit time, but being all ‘cotton-wool’ around us isn’t going to make us feel better, if anything it’s going to remind us of the sadness we’re going through because that is not a natural reaction for anyone on this blog to have towards me/us.

Sorted? Cool … lets get on with it then 🙂

Comment by Rob

That was some serious guilt tripping there.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Thank you … if only I’d been able to do that as a kid around Christmas time [cue: violins]

Comment by Robert

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