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

Brand Mischief Is Funnier Than A Brand Joke …
August 15, 2008, 4:03 am
Filed under: Comment

Remember my post about US singer/songwriter Ryan Adams?

It’s the one where I talk about the time he was just about to launch into a song at one of his concerts when some evil genius in the audience screamed out …

“Play The Summer Of 69”

Apparently the singer was so angry that he declared he wouldn’t play another song till the guilty party was kicked out from the show.

Genius. [that’s the heckler, not the singer]

Anyway, it would seem Bryan Adams has decided to totally fuck with the guy, because browsing through a record shop, I saw his new album cover looked like this …

Bryan Adams

… which looks remarkably like this one from Ryan …

Ryan Adams

Coincidence? I don’t fucking think so.

To be honest I’ve always had abit of a soft spot for Bryan Adams [and no, it’s not a marsh] because I loved his ‘Reckless’ album and my guitar teacher actually went and joined his band for a few years … however seeing this act of mindfucking brilliance – intentional or not – makes me like him even more and I’m almost willing to forgive him for that Robin Hood bollocks he churned out for Kevin ‘hair weave’ Costner.

I wish more brands embraced humour.

No, I’m not talking about the 30 second sponsored joke … I’m talking about their overall brand behaviour.

OK, so challenger brands tend to have it in abundance but what about the more established players? When did humour come to represent unprofessional?

Sure, it’s down to what you say, how you say it and – to a certain extent – where you say it [so no “NORTHERN ROCK TO LAUNCH RUBBER CHEQUEBOOK” gags] but it’s ability to capture and enrapture cannot be underestimated … especially when the competition continually act like a bunch of stiffs.

I always felt BMW’s “April Fools Day” press releases in the UK, did more to make the brand appealing to the masses than any of their ‘Gillette Man’ ads. Infact it made such an impact on me that I always suggest to our clients they do something on April 1 because not only does it give them almost instant differentiation [for basically zero cost] but it genuinely enhances the reputation and perception of the brand in an instant.

Admittedly, whilst it’s been relatively easy to get brands like Virgin and Lonely Planet to do it, I’ve had less luck with organisations like TNT and NASA, but I’ll keep trying because I believe the benefits [for brand, agency, trade, consumer] far outweigh the possible negatives.

Despite me saying I’m against 30″ jokes … I am going to leave you with one.

Infact, this is one of my favourite ones because it’s not built around an irrelevant or ambiguous gag, it’s built around the core benefit of the clients product. [Take note Fallon, ha!]

What makes it especially worthy of praise is that the category – Corporate Data Backup – is hardly known for it’s sense of humour, so great credit has to go to the agency [Y&R] and the client [Computer Associates] for letting go of the category pomp and embracing a more human side to corporate communication.

And it worked it’s little socks off!

29 Comments so far
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Come on Rob, they may have similar names. But a guy with a guitar as record cover was done as often as detergents are advertised by throwing dirty clothes into a tank where all the dirt magically disappears.
So that was a bad intro. But, as always, I agree with the rest. There are far too less brands that actually show a sense of humor. And people don’t like people without humor (this should be common sense but a lot of brand managers turn it off when they enter their office). Off for some proper running now. Healthy greetings (that’s so fucking unmanly that it suits this blog). No offense, just a joke, sunshine. Hope you’re alright.

Comment by Seb

Ha, the look the boss gives after that guy smacks himself out is priceless…

Comment by Age

what kind of sick bastard would even notice ryan/bryan album covers in the first fucking place. youve just shown that planners can invent connections so your unexpected relevance bollocks should be untrue relevance. then it does link to ryan adams fear of bryan adams so there is a thread to it even if you made it up. youre fucking dangerous campbell and the only reason you didnt go into law is because you knew you could inflict more wrongs on the world this way. i like that.

after 3 decent posts i reckon northern is right and somehow you got big tits to write this blog. well keep it up because im liking it a fucking lot and not just because im hoping she brings a “page 3” element to each post.

shes even managing to get “values” into each post like its harry fucking potter or something. fuck me campbell jordan is turning you into the lego of adland, you must be paying her a fucking fortune.

if mondays post is about writing penetrating propositions i might need to read this in the fucking shower

great ad btw, team left straight after. probably knew you were coming in πŸ™‚

Comment by andy@cynic

i just noticed that both you and ryan adam use Rx [prescriptions] to sign off.

ok, this is dangerous territory i’m treading, so i’ll just tell you how insightful and amazing you are. that you’re absolutely right, humour is a wonderful thing. that bryan adams is hilarious and that video is brilliant. better than clay shirky at TED.

Comment by lauren

I really like this post and it is not because you’re going to be my new boss πŸ™‚

I think you raise a very interesting point regarding brand mischief because this approach inherently links the brand to the humour because it is an expression of the organizations personality and values (Virgin) while a company who relies on “joke ads” for social acceptance often ends up creating laughter but no brand recollection.

Of course being liked is very important in brand development but being liked and remembered is something entirely different. I guess this is what Andy means with his “live not tell” policy and I’m not saying that because he’s going to be my new boss either πŸ™‚

Comment by Pete

Pete – are you showing off, or are you warning us that cynic are going to be telling you what to do now?

Comment by lauren

Is it something that is even worth showing off? πŸ™‚

Comment by Pete

You don’t even start for 3 months and you’re already turning into one of us. I don’t know whether I should be proud or horrified πŸ™‚

You raise a very good point about people being able to spot the difference between a contrived brand personality and one that is a true reflection of the organisation … but the thing is do people even care?

Well in the main, I would say they don’t however – and here’s the thing – by continually fighting to prove you are worthy of societies attention and loyalty, you can make them care and that is why brands like Virgin, Apple and Nudie will always have an amazing emotional aura versus brands like Qantas, Microsoft and Coke.

I know some will say this is a reflection of a challenger brand or a company with a charismatic figure head … and while I believe they have contributed to their success … it’s way more than that, it’s what Andy say’s, “LIVE NOT TELL” and these brands do it as much with the little things as they do with the big.

PS: If someone wants to talk about how Qantas is much more profitable than Virgin etc etc, I will happily talk about ‘profit-per-employee’ ratios which gives a much more accurate position to the brands potential and strength. Not only that, but it will allow me to bore someone to within an inch of their life – even though I probably do that on a daily basis anyway!

Comment by Rob

An excellent articulation of how a brand can infiltrate popular culture on an ongoing basis.

Naturally marketing and advertising plays an important role but it is the values, vision and attitude of the organisation that’s most critical for they ultimately dictate how the company behaves and invests.

As one of my friends continually tells his agency, you cannot lead a horse to water unless it wants to drink.

Is Peter really coming back into my life?

Comment by Lee Hill

here’s some brand mischief for you, at least I think it’s fucking hilarious:

Comment by n to the h

Rob C bossing Pete?
I’ve missed some news here I feel…

Great ad, great point. So many brands need to understand the humanity of their brand, this isn’t 1996 with brand uber alles.

Comment by Rob Mortimer


Comment by Marcus

@ Rob Profit per employee ratios may highlight potential, but they’re not always scalable.

@Lee Advertising is marketing -not a separate entity as suggested by your use of the phrase “marketing and advertising” (which is almost as bad as “sales and marketing”) and I’d argue that the values, vision and attitude of an organisation are as well. Of course, that’s when marketing is seen as a strategic as well as a tactical endeavour and not just as a department title.

@Marcus Morning.

Comment by John

Congratulations Pete, I guess it was a case of google beating microsoft because I can’t imagine it was Rob beating Colin or Andy beating Alex πŸ™‚

I love posts like this because it makes me rethink my views on brand behavior. Years ago you said a large part of Apple’s success was down to its failures and I remember thinking you were talking a lot of shit but now I am here and talk to guys who have been around the place for 20 years, you were so right.

Advertising didn’t make Apple a brand people love, Apple’s attitude did and communication just spread the word a little further and faster. Shit I really did absorb your views didn’t I Rob πŸ™‚

Comment by Bazza

awful lot of name droppings in the comment Bazza me old love.

Comment by Marcus

Yes Lee … get your definitions right please, you’re can’t be lazy with your terms with Mr Dodds in the house πŸ™‚

Alright, so advertising is a byproduct of the marketing discipline but I don’t think values, vision and attitude are.

Actually I should clarify that.

In companies that are started by people who want to make a difference, it is not about marketing, it is simply an expression of who they are, what they believe, what they think and what they want to achieve … however in big organisations – the ones that ‘relaunch’ every 12 months – it most certainly is the case.

For these organisations, values, vision and attitude are nothing more than a way to justify/extend their employment.

And as much as per-employee ratios are not always scalable, with organisations like Apple and Virgin they most certainly are – and interms of attracting external investment, they can be very powerful indeed.

Jesus this is becoming a very mature response isn’t it – thank god Marcus is here. Yoohoooo!

PS: Baz you are my puppet. Actually, given your size, you’re more of my glove puppet but I’m not putting my hand inside for any price πŸ™‚

Comment by Rob

Yes Bazza, be careful there. I though I told you how much Marcus hated name-dropping, or was that Al Gore? πŸ™‚

Comment by Rob

I didn’t say they (or advertising for that matter) were a by-product! They’re all an integral part of the mix. Vision, value and attitudes directly relate to how an organisation connects with/serves their customers and as marketing should be seen as everything that a company does to meet customer neeeds inbest way possible, then they are at the heart of marketing. As I always say, branding like a brand on a cow is only skin-deep and fades with time, marketing, as I correctly define it, is a matter of DNA. The big companies you mention are doing the former and not undertstanding that. They probably have sales and marketing directors!

I don’t know enough about the airline industy (though am always open to being a secret shopper) but Qantas I believe have some sort of national, if not legal, obligation to service routes that others would not. If you take on unprofitable activities for “social” purposes your ratio must fall as you scale. On the other hand, yes Virgin and Apple by approaching their industries in innovative, customer-focussed and cost-aware ways stripped out some of the waste under which older companies suffer.

p.s. I wonder if Apple are going to introduce a metric that reflects profi per foot of employee?

Comment by John

I saw this quote on a (my) blog once

β€œTurning aspiration into reality is what counts, not storming off in a rage because your idea has been compromised.”

Comment by John

I know this is off topic – mainly because I’m too tired to go into rounds and rounds of debate that serves no purpose other than to make you look good – but did you know Qantas have had the most profitable route in the World for decades [Sydney / LA]?

This is the most protected and molly-coddled airline in the World and their obligation to service non-profitable routes was either ended or Government subsidised [I can’t remember] years ago.

Only now is their stronghold of certain ‘cash cow routes’ being addressed but that has only come about after decades of lobbying.

It would seem the Spirit of Australia is one mean spirited bitch!

Comment by Rob

You think I can’t tell you’re trying to get free publicity John? Go for it, no brand would want the people who come here as their customers!

Comment by Rob

That’s why I fly Virgin more often than Qantas.

Comment by John

Not exactly subtle – but it might work John πŸ™‚

Comment by Rob

Out-arguing me with actual facts is a low blow and runs ounter to the ethos of this blog.

Comment by John

and to think, I stopped what I was doing(playing) to come and see all of this product placement.

Comment by Marcus

its like fucking waynes world around here.

a movie that sparkles with life when you use b&o audio video equipment

Comment by andy@cynic

Queen featured in that fucking film too Andy.

Comment by Marcus

good fucking point marcus. i now detest waynes world, its fucking shit and mike myers is a barnacle on the bottom of a shitty boat called comedy. do i still get the b&o shit?

Comment by andy@cynic

[…] some may see it as petty, but I see it as cheeky and mischievous and as I’ve written before, I think those traits are incredibly undervalued by brands in terms of their commercial appeal and […]

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