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


The Taste Of Bullshit …

I’ve written a ton about brand purpose over the years.

Not as viciously as my beloved Martin Weigel. But close.

It’s not that I am against brand purpose, It’s when it’s used as a marketing tool and ‘updated’ to whatever trend is currently popular that my hate boils over.

It’s why I have always advocated for belief rather than purpose.

Belief is demonstrated by what and how you do things, not what and how you say things.

Or give things away.

Belief drives change. Purpose hopes for it.

Which is probably why so many brands prefer purpose.

The ability to look like you care without always having to demonstrate it.

Take this from Unilever food brand, Knorr …

“Our purpose is to reinvent food for humanity by being healthier for both people and the land. 
 Knorr brings the power of flavour to good food to 
overcome barriers that stop us from eating for good”

Sounds good doesn’t it.

Sounds purposeful.

But for those who are not sure what Knorr make, let me enlighten you …

Yeah, when I think of flavour and good food – not to mention being good for humanity and the land – the first thing I think of is cheddar broccoli rice sides.

But maybe I’m wrong, how do you cook these things that help us ‘eat for good’?

Here’s the instructions …

Microwave directions: In 2-quart microwave-safe bowl, combine 2-1/4 cups water, 1 tbsp. margarine(optional) and contents of package. Microwave uncovered at high about 12 minutes* or until rice is tender, stirring once halfway through. Stir and serve.

Yep, thought so. Utter rubbish.

The reason I am writing this is because I recently saw a post from an ice-cream brand.

Have a look at this …

While those words sounds trite, purpose-for-marketing … food and culture are incredibly entwined and so there is a real chance it may be a badly worded version of what they really believe and do.

Let’s look at their website.

For those too lazy, here is a screenshot of their flavours …

Hmmmmn … doesn’t seem too much about people, places or cultures does it?

There’s a lot about ingredients.

Some even seem interesting. But absolutely no mention of people, places or cultures.

But is that surprising when it’s so obviously an absolute load of purpose-washing?

And what a missed opportunity.

They could truly make that into something that could change something.

Educate, unite, challenge, inform … tell the stories of the people, places and cultures that were the inspiration of those flavours through the flavours.

Ben and Jerry’s meets Tony Chocolonely.

And what makes it worse is their intentions sound honourable. They’re already a B-Corp certified business, choose ingredients that are direct-trade and believe in diversity.

All great and important things except nothing to do with what they claim they do on their packaging.

Many years ago, at Wieden, we were invited to pitch for an ice-cream brand.

We said yes because hey, it’s ice cream.

Anyway, when we got the brief, it read like a purpose fluffer.

My god, it was literally dripping in claims and terminology that not only had nothing to do with their category, but had nothing to do with any of their actions, behaviours or products.

We spoke to them about looking at ice cream another way.

If they had to have a ‘purpose’, make that purpose about what ice cream is supposed to be.

Fun and tasty.

Not deeper meaning. Just that.

And then prove it in the product, not just the experience.

You may think that is overly simplistic, but by then the entire category had gone purpose insane and no one was actually owning what they were and what people actually wanted.

Put it this way, it had gone a looooooong way from the days where BBH had brilliantly changed the way people looked at ice cream and did it in a way that was sexy, powerful and based on a real truth. [A campaign so good that is was spoofed brilliantly by Fosters Lager]

Anyway, for us, the way we could get back to what ice cream was but in a way that proved the fun was down to flavours … so unlike Jeni’s ice creams, we actually went out and talked to all manner of people about their weird tastes. Things they love others think are a bit mental. Things that make them deliriously happy for whatever reason or whatever duration. Because we saw an opportunity for the client to be more like a taste and colour experiment lab than a manufacturer of everyday ice-creams and flavours with an unbelievable purpose attached.

So we worked it all up and I remember it for 2 main reasons.

+ We used a picture of a cat in the presentation with an inverted cross on its forehead … which is still my favourite mad presentation image ever used. And I’ve used a lot.

+ When the client wanted us to justify our idea, we simply showed this …

It may not be the deepest reason you’ve ever read.

It may not even be the most exciting.

But it was definitely more believable than all the shit they were saying.

And with the flavour combinations we had and how it all came together with the creative work – which had some weird ice cream flavour meme generator at the heart of it … generating all manner of taste sensation madness out into the internet … it was something that not only would help them differentiate from the competition, but have a place and role in culture.

They hated it.

Instead they went with some bollocks about ice cream being ‘a gesture of love for those who are not rich’.

No, I’m not joking.

Which may also explain why they … Haagan Daaz and Jeni’s talk a lot about their purpose in society but are – with the possible exception of Jeni’s – increasingly irrelevant ice creams brands whereas that old, dumb favourite, Ben And Jerry’s, still has some sort of position in culture, because despite selling out to the death star Unilever, they try to do shit rather than just say it.

Emphasis increasingly on try.

But even with that, the reality is – as is the real test of any brand that claims to have purpose – they show what they believe through every aspect of what they do, even when it’s inconvenient, rather than market what they claim their purpose is, only when it suits them.

Enjoy your day. Be careful you don’t eat any bullshit.

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When Hijacking Culture Is Copyright Theft In Disguise …

Love it or loathe it, but Wordle has captured the world’s attention. Whether it will continue to do that now the NYTimes has bought it, is anyones guess, but right now, it’s peak popularity.

Hell, even I love it and I HATE word games.

Crosswords? Hate.

Scrabble? Hate.

And yet whether it’s the last thing I do before I go to sleep or the first thing I do when I wake up, I’m playing the days challenge. And I’m brilliant at it. Hahaha.

Anyway, I was on Twitter when I recently saw this from Air New Zealand.

Look, I get it’s a competitive world.

I get brands are looking for anything that can help them stand out.

And I get ‘hijacking culture’ is a cheat way of doing this.

But there’s 2 reasons why this approach is tragic rather than magic.

First is it’s Air New Zealand.

Of all the airline brands out there, they are a pioneer. An innovator. A leader.

They’ve created, influenced and changed the airline industry in ways few have come close.

From being the first to make ‘in-flight safety videos’, entertainment to creating economy seats that turn into beds.

Ripping off Wordle doesn’t represent any of this.

If anything, it does the opposite.

But then, when I see the work they are putting out these days, maybe it all makes sense.

When a nation that prides itself as explorers and adventures has their National Airline promote their role in a post-covid world as being ‘we fly for you’ … you have to question if they realise what they’ve done or if they made a conscious effort to ditch the approach that made them great and forward thinking in favour of the sort of bland, contrived, unrealistic and meaningless twaddle of big corporation 90’s advertising.

Like this.

From 1991.

God I hope not. They are better than that and NZ needs them to be better than that.

Which leads to the other reason.

Hijacking culture.

What’s interesting is that so many brands do it.

As I said, I get why … but 99% of them have failed to understand how it really works and so we now live in a world where the approach is so common, it doesn’t surprise anyone.

If anything, it un-hijacks culture.

So how does it really work?

Well having worked with the brand and agency that arguably created the approach – or at least mastered it – the secret is to do something that adds to culture, not just steals from it.

Which means having an actual right to be there.

Then do something that opens things up, not just repeat what’s already happened.

Adding a point of view to the situation not just adding more noise and clutter to it.

Of course, even with all that, it still doesn’t mean it will work … but its definitely going to be better than the desperate amateur hour that so many brands favour.

Who think it makes them look cool but forgetting if you’re trying to be that, you’re definitely not ever going to be that.



With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies …

Way back in 2007, I wrote a post called, Should Ink Stink?

It was how Mont Blanc had gone into fragrance and I found the whole thing a bit bizarre.

Then in 2008 I wrote about how Ferrari had licensed their name to a bloody memory card … in some very loose nod to how fast the 4gb SD card could save and upload files.

You’d think things couldn’t get worse, but over the years we’ve seen more than a few candidates for the title of ‘what the fuck were they thinking’ but in 2021, we finally got a winner.

To be fair, the brand in question is old, so you could imagine the license owner thought they may as well say yes to anything if it will make them a few extra bob.

But – and it’s a big but – late last year they released a special edition ‘reunion’ of the brand, and the clamor to get access to it from people and press all around the world was immense … which makes the decision to lend their name to this product ‘extension’ even stranger.

What am I talking about?

This.

Yes, that is a Friends manicure set and carry case.

Why???

WHY???

Yes, the cast of Friends were young and beautiful … but I don’t know if anyone in the history of the show ever commented on their nails.

And why a carry case?

How many people use their manicure set so often, they need a case to transport it?

Hell, how many people need a new set of nail scissors and nail file anyway?

Hell, they even had to say ‘The Television Series’ on the package, because they knew no one would naturally associate the TELEVISION COMEDY WITH A MOBILE MANICURE SET.

Does it even have the Friends logo on the actual manicure case?

What if it doesn’t? What is the fucking point of it then?

Actually, what is the point of it whether it’s on or off.

Frankly, if someone pulled out a manicure suitcase I’d already be concerned.

If that suitcase then had the Friends logo on it, I’d be bloody petrified.

How much did this license cost?

How many products did they end up actually selling?

Who was behind this utter insanity?

The only good thing about it is that when I saw this product, I laughed more than I laughed at any episode of the last 2 seasons of the show.

The theme song sings the words, “I’ll be there for you”.

Well, if it means they’re there with a Friends manicure set in its own case, I’d rather you didn’t thank you very much.



How To Stop The Smallest Minds In The Room Create The Biggest Headaches …

I recently read an article in the Guardian about the launch of the X-Box.

Given the brand has been part of gaming culture for the past 20 years, it’s easy to forget what an achievement this has been for Microsoft.

Let’s remember back then, the brand was far more synonymous with office computer programs than gaming … so to come from such a negative space and place to become the powerhouse it is today, is nothing short of incredible.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Sure, their cause was helped by SONY seemingly forgetting everything that had made the original PlayStation launch so successful … but even with that, Microsoft were still coming from pretty much a standing start.

It’s a great article that’s well worth the read, but there was one part that really stood out to me.

This:

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there …

Where someone chooses to ignore a statement of obviousness and instead, attempts to turn it around so you look like you’re making a potentially dangerous assumption.

Don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t blindly assume common sense is common sense, and – without doubt – there’s been a lot of unsubstantiated assumptions that have ended up being the backbone of ideas and campaigns all around the World, but this sort of behaviour is nothing but an act of petty cowardice.

However, let’s assume for a moment the person who wanted proof that people did expect DVD quality to be better than the crunched-up shit that was on screen, was right.

Let’s assume that we didn’t know that DVD brands had been communicating ‘improved image quality’ to the general public for years.

Even if all that was true, the real issue was still not being addressed.

And that is facts doesn’t mean standards.

So rather than fall into a ‘fact inflation fight’ that no one was going to come out of well – even though I get why they were triggered – they should have asked Mr Petty if the image on the screen reflected the quality of product and performance he – and the company – wanted to globally be associated with?

Quickly followed up by enquiring whether Microsoft had the technology to dramatically improve the current standard of performance?

By doing this, they not only side-step the pointless barrier being placed in front of them and refocused the conversation to values, standards and ambition.

I’ve seen this situation happen so many times.

Where political point scoring derails ambition, potential and standards.

Where the company starts focusing on the ‘minimum viable product’ rather than what could drive the brands perception.

And while these situations have also seen me lose my shit – A LOT – I always remember my Dad telling me the real way to win these sorts of arguments, which is to elevate the discussion to reputational standards not down to petty point scoring.

He was brilliant at it.

Me? I’m still working on it.



Last Week Of 2021 …

OK, so the heading on this post is decidedly fake news … but you will be ecstatic to know it is the last week of this blog for 2022.

Better yet, because NZ has quite long Christmas holidays, it will be the last post until Jan 31st – albeit with a post on Jan 16th to commemorate 23 years since my Dad passed away.

So after this week, you get about 6 weeks of blog post freedom.

Talk about ending 2021 and starting 2022 on a high …

I know, you’re welcome.

But it’s not all good news as you still have to get through this week of blog posts PLUS they’re going to be full of sentimentality, so you’ll probably need 6 weeks to recover from them.

That said, I’m not a total beast, so I’ll gently throw you in to the big, pile of steaming vomit and because of that, today’s post is about this …

Yep, Norton – the anti-virus people – sent me an email about their new logo.

Their new logo that looks almost identical to their old logo, except …

1. Replacing N with n.

2. Using a solid ‘tick’, instead of the weird graphic one.

3. Changing the orange ring, to a yellow one.

4. All placed on a white background instead of a black one.

And while having four differences could indicate some big changes, this doesn’t.

On face value, people would probably not notice any change at all … which is maybe why Norton – I mean, Norton – sent the email out.

So we’d know, because otherwise we wouldn’t know.

Which makes you ask why do the name change in the first place … or why send an email about it to people who literally don’t give a shit.

I mean, what do they expect me to do?

Suddenly buy their entire suite of anti-virus products?
Or try and buy a t-shirt with their new logo emblazoned on the front of it?
Or possible just buy them as Christmas presents for friends and family?

I’m happy Norton are happy with their non-change, logo change.

I’m chuffed they still take some pride in their appearance after all this time.

I’m thrilled they don’t mind paying a couple of mill for minute changes.

I’m ecstatic they’re so easily pleased and must be a dream to buy presents for.
[read: $10 gift voucher from the local hardware shop].

But frankly, I buy their software to stop me getting this sort of corporate virus email, so please Norton, pull yourself together and don’t bother me with this sort of rubbish again.

Thanks.