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


Even An Apple Can Leave A Bad Taste In Your Mouth …

Apple.

One of the best brands in the world.

From product to marketing … everything they do is considered, consistent and distinctive.

A brand voice forged over years, with a clear understanding of who they are.

But what’s interesting is what they used to be …

Or this …

Or worse of all, this …

I know they’re from a time where long copy wasn’t viewed with the same distain as a global pandemic but look at them?

And what’s with their obsession with mythical figures?

It’s ugly, it’s cluttered, it’s got no clear point of view and it’s talking around the product not at it.

And then, there’s a point in their advertising evolution that you feel they took a clear step towards where they are today with work like this …

And this …

Still a lot of copy. Arguably more.

But it just feels more contemporary …

From being product benefit focused to the choice of font to the voice … which talks to adults like an adult rather than the disinterested, casual, general audience tone they had used before.

It’s so strikingly different that you feel this was the moment Apple understood who they were and who they were for.

It’s also an obviously deliberate act … because there’s no way you would get here from the – let’s be honest – horrible historical figure focused campaigns they’d run before.

Which leads to the point of this post.

A while back I got to hear the wonderful Nils of Uncommon talk.

One of the things he said that particularly resonated with me was brands who say they need to ‘work up’ to the creativity you think they need.

In essence, it’s just their polite way of saying ‘no’ to the work you want them to do.

But the funny thing is that in the main, there’s no valid reason for them to say that, other than them being fearful of change or commitment.

There’s a lot of that at the moment.

Work in an endless loop … seemingly because the people who have the right to sign off on something are scared that the moment they do, they will be judged.

So what happens is the entire industry are caught in arrested development.

And what do agencies do?

Well, in a bid to get anything made, they agree to anything – justifying it as “being a bit better than what they did before” – so we end up with bland and boring campaigns that, bizarrely, keep everyone happy as the agency got to make something and the client doesn’t have to worry of offending anybody.

Said another way, everybody loses with this strategy.

Brand.
Advertising.
Customers.
Industry.

Which is why Nils challenges brands on what they need to do the work they could do.

It’s a test of their truth and ambition.

And he’s right to do that …

Because brands don’t get to where they want through time, but deliberate acts and choices.

Even then it won’t happen overnight … but continually and consistently playing to where you want to be is far smarter than playing to where you hope to be taken.

Because to paraphrase Dan Wieden said … you don’t become the brand you can be by discovering the power of advertising … you do it when you discover the power of your own voice.

Comments Off on Even An Apple Can Leave A Bad Taste In Your Mouth …


If Tony Robbins Was A Car …

It’s been well documented how car design – thanks to a focus on efficiency and production optimisation – is becoming more and more similar.

So to increase differentiation, more and more manufacturers are adding little touches both inside and outside the car.

Paintwork.

Wheel design.

Technology options.

But recently I saw something that took my breath away.

For all the wrong reasons.

This.

Build Your Dreams????

What. The. Fuck!!!

I am at a loss.

Why would anyone have this on their car?

Who would choose to put this on their car?

It’s the sort of shit you expect to see from some imposter on Linkedin, not on the back of a car.

I have no idea if this was added by the manufacturer or the owner … but given they didn’t thank me when I let them in, all this car did was build my road rage.

Their used to be an old joke that went:

Q: What’s more embarrassing that being seen in the back of a sheep?

A: Being seen in the back of a Skoda.

Well, even if Skoda had not improved, that joke would be out of date because we now all know the answer would be … being seen driving a car with the words ‘BUILD YOUR DREAMS’ emblazoned on the back.

Over-reaction?

Well I did tell you on Friday that the older I get, the more I understand the film, Falling Down.

_________________________________________________________________

Update:

Apparently the car in question is made by Chinese [electric] car company, BYD.

I should have known.

Good cars. Terrible slogan.

Comments Off on If Tony Robbins Was A Car …


Marketing Is Less About Promoting Your Truth, But Hiding Your Flaws …

Toblerone.

The chocolate you only see – and buy – at airports.

The chunky triangular pieces that are guaranteed to give you lock jaw.

And while you may think nothing has changed with that chocolate for 10,000 years, a lot has.

Not in taste.

Not in ingredients.

But definitely in reputation.

You see in 2016, the Swiss chocolate brand quietly increased the gaps between the pieces so they could use less chocolate and maintain their price.

On one hand, that’s a smart way to do it.

However on the other, by not telling anyone that’s how they were doing it, left Toblerone’s owners – Mondelez – look like they were trying to pull a fast one.

A year later, Mondelēz went a step further and reduced the number of triangular peaks in each pack from 15 to 11.

But that’s not what this post is about …

You see, Mondelez shifted a large amount of Toblerone’s production outside of Switzerland.

However, in 2017, the Swiss Government passed legislation that restricts use of Swiss provenance. To be able to market yourself as ‘made in Switzerland’, 80% of raw ingredients must be sourced from the country and the majority of processing take place there.

For milk and milk-based products – ie: Toblerone – the required quota is 100%, with exceptions for ingredients that cannot be sourced in Switzerland, like cocoa. Apparently products branded as ‘made in Switzerland’ can command a 20% premium compared to other comparable goods from other countries … with this rising up to 50% for luxury items.

Given the extortionate prices of all things Swiss, none of this is a surprise.

Anyway, because Toblerlone no longer meets the criteria to use Swiss iconography in its marketing, they have to replace the image of the Matterhorn mountain that has been a mainstay of their packaging for over 100 years.

The Matterhorn was used because of it’s near symmetrical pyramidal peak that mirrors the shape of the almond-and-honey-laced chocolate bar.

Anyway, in a perfect example of diversion marketing justification, just take a read of what an Mondelez say’s to explain this change …

I mean, I know they’re not wrong … but their ability to ignore the reason WHY they are changing the logo is the sort of corporate-toady that I both admire and loathe in equal measure.

Admire … because the willpower needed to be able to publicly sell-out your own morals and standards for the good of your employer is almost impossible to fathom.

Loathe … for exactly the same reason.

I have no problem Toblerone are producing their product outside of Switzerland … but I have a lot of problems with them trying to hide that fact under the guise of some packaging redesign.

But then that’s modern marketing these days.

Rather than opening up opportunities for more people to consider buying you, now it is increasingly about hiding the reasons people might not.

Comments Off on Marketing Is Less About Promoting Your Truth, But Hiding Your Flaws …


Let Imagination Live …

Over my career, I’ve had a lot of ‘annual reviews’ and in all that time, there’s been a couple of topics that have made regular appearances in my bosses observations.

I am sure you can guess a lot of them, but one is that I approach every brief like a chance to change or impact everything.

Sometimes it was said in a positive tone.

Sometimes it was said in a less than positive tone.

And they were right.

They still are.

Because whenever we/I get a brief, my starting point is ‘what excites me about the brief’ … quickly followed by ‘how insanely big could we make the idea’ … quickly followed by me getting ridiculous excited about the potential, totally ignoring the fact that all they wanted was a shelf wobbler. Or something.

You think I’m joking don’t you? Well I am, but only just.

My strength/weakness is I always dream massive. Proper massive.

Sometimes it’s paid off – creating the first 4×4 on 2 wheels for Peugeot Mopeds in Vietnam.

Sometimes it’s been a total and unmitigated disaster – trying to get Porsche to bring rally car culture to China.

But pretty much all the time I’ve been able to look in the mirror and know I gave them what they needed, albeit in bigger, more provocative ways than they may have wanted … imagined … or expected.

And you know what, I’m good with that … which probably explains why the quote from the KLF – ‘Don’t give them what they want, give them what they’ll never forget’ – resonated with me so hard.

Anyway, the reason I say this is because waaaaaaaaay back in 1973, this ad appeared in the good, old Nottingham Evening Post.

It was an ad to design the Nottingham Forest Football Club badge.

If that sounds strange, wait till you hear the reason.

Originally, the Forest badge was the Nottingham Coat of Arms … it’s the emblem featured in the middle of the ad.

After discovering they could not copyright it, they decided they had to come up with a new badge and – for reasons no one has really got a good answer for – they decided to run a competition in the local paper, recruiting two lecturers in art and design as advisers.

Despite this being before the glory years of the Clough era, and a prize of just £25, the response was massive.

There were 855 entries from as far away as Australia and Germany … with one man submitting 27 designs.

After a judging process, David Lewis was crowned the winner with this …

David was 29 at the time, working as a graphic designer and lecturer at Nottingham’s College of Art.

He was a football nut and fancied a shot at winning the cash, but there was one problem … one of the judges, a man called Wilf Payne, was the head of the department where he worked.

David said …

“I didn’t think that any design I entered could have been judged fairly if he knew it was mine, and I also didn’t want to embarrass the judges. I did want to enter, though, so I decided to use my mother’s maiden name to hide my real identity. My mother’s side of the family were Italian immigrants and her maiden name was Lago. So I submitted my design as Lago and it wasn’t until afterwards that the judges found out my real name.”

Thank god he did that, because otherwise he may not have won and football – not just Nottingham Forest – would have missed out on one of the most beautiful and distinctive football club logos of all time.

Simple, yet powerful.

Accessible, yet iconic.

Universal, yet truly Nottingham … thanks to the tree representing Sherwood Forest, the wavy lines reflecting the river Trent [where the City Ground stands next to] and the red/white colour formation to reflect the club colours.

Forest’s badge has remained unchanged ever since David’s design – except for the addition of 2 stars to celebrate Forest’s back-to-back European Cup triumphs in 1979 and 1980.

Hell, the club is known to fans as ‘the tricky tree’s’ thanks to the logo.

And a few years ago, an American magazine ran an article on the most memorable and liked sports logos across the world and Davi’d design was in the top 10.

THE. TOP. TEN.

The point is, David Lewis could have approached the competition ‘pitch brief’ as many approach real pitch briefs.

Giving them exactly what they ask for in ways they would expect or feel comfortable with … which in this case would be a badge that represents Nottingham Forest and takes design cues from the existing logo.

But David thought bigger than that.

He wanted to create a design for Nottingham Forest that would be known, respected and revered across all sports and across all countries. A badge that could play outside the lines of the game and into culture.

A designer badge. Literally and figuratively.

And he did it. Beautifully and brilliantly.

Which is why the next time you get a brief – whether for a pitch or an existing client – just remember this story, because the whole industry could do with being more David Lewis.

Comments Off on Let Imagination Live …


Why Distinction Is More Than How You Look, But How You Look At The World …

Don’t get me wrong, commercial creativity has a job to do.

It needs to create the cultural conditions for people to think/act in ways that benefit your client.

What ‘benefit’ means is both open to debate and individual contexts and needs.

But here’s where the problem lies.

Because for many companies, it’s no longer about creating the cultural conditions … it’s explaining EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT PEOPLE TO THINK, SEE AND DO.

What they think is ‘advertising’ is delusional dictator-ing. If dictatoring is a word.

And there’s 2 reasons why it’s delusional …

The first is people do what is in their best interests, not a companies. And so unless a company lets go of their fragile ego and God-complex, they’re never going to understand or resonate with their audience. Resulting in either being ignored, or forever ever having a utility style relationship.

The second is when your only focus is telling people what you want them to think, see and do … you often discover it’s exactly the same as what everybody else in your category wants people to think, see and do.

So you end up with this.

Brand gets a lot of stick these days.

Its whole role and value is being questioned.

But the irony is the problem isn’t with the value of brand, but the understanding of what some people think a brand is.

Because a brand isn’t contrived wrapping paper placed around a functional product feature … it’s an idea that is as distinctive for how it see’s the world as it appears in it.

That some people will find this shocking not only explains why we are subjected to such ugly noise day after day after day, but how little companies/venture capitalists/consultancies understand, respect and value culture.

Comments Off on Why Distinction Is More Than How You Look, But How You Look At The World …