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


Leaves A Terrible Taste In Your Mouth …

Today we’re [finally] moving into our house and so to celebrate, I thought I’d end the week with a smile.

Unless you are a Colgate brand manager.

Or packaging designer.

You see I recently realised that their packaging looks awfully similar to Canesten – the thrush treatment.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Mind you, if you brushed your teeth with Canestan, I’m pretty sure it would still leave less of a horrible taste in your mouth than the Colgate ad I’ll be writing about next week.

Yes, that really is my attempt to try and make you come back.

Have a great weekend.



The Condiments Versus The Food …

I don’t understand what some people are thinking.

We have got to a point where ‘the idea’ is seemingly regarded as a superficial bit of nonsense.

A wrapper for marketing.

Something as interchangeable as a phone cover.

For some utterly imbecilic reason, ‘the idea’ is now seen as optional – a potential distraction to purpose, eco-systems, frameworks and anything else designed to elevate an idea rather than be the idea.

No wonder our industry is in such a state.

Not only have we sold the value of creativity down the river, we now have a business model based on selling condiments rather than meals.

This post isn’t about dismissing the different and the new.

There’s value in a lot of them – despite the fact most of them aren’t new, just in possession of a new name.

This is actually about being stubborn with the priorities …

Because an idea isn’t wrapping, it’s the fucking present.

Have a good weekend … we have Monday off here, so see you Tuesday.



Codify Is The Posh Word For Copying …

There are some marketing terminologies that make my blood pressure pop.

One of them is ‘codify’.

Codify.

A word that implies we’ve used cutting edge science, space-age technology and Einstein intellect to explore, understand and articulate the rules of the impossible and the unexplained.

But actually all we’re talking about is looking at how some pretty blatantly obvious stuff has worked.

Hell, if you spend 2 minutes online, you’ll find most of it explained by the very people who did it in the first place.

But there we go, throwing out ego-enhancing words with our smug smiles as if we are the masters of the universe … a bastard love child of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk … when really we’re a bunch of human photocopiers who go into meltdown when the Wi-Fi goes down.

I get we’re in marketing.

I get we need to show our value to business.

But apart from the fact that means pushing brands forwards rather than copying what others are doing, the only people we end up fooling with this sort of bullshit are the sort of people we shouldn’t want to be working with in the first place.

Seriously, codify is as much as a cry for validation and acceptance as when WeWork kept claiming they were a tech company.

I get from a marketing perspective that there can occasionally be some real value in this, but as one of my mentors recently said to me – who is an individual with an incredible track record in business – if you want to make a difference to a company, make a difference to them.



Challenger Brands That Challenge …

I’ve been very fortunate in my career to work with challenger brands.

Some were overtly challenger … some were more in terms of their internal attitude and approach … but in all cases, they were up for a fight and were happy to take it straight to the competitor they wanted to play against.

Now forcing people to pick a side is not a new strategy … it’s been around for ages.

From religions to rock bands to sport to almost everything in-between.

And while some of the challenger brands I’ve worked with over the years became the beast they were created to slay, what united them all wasn’t just their ambition, but their dedication to doing something that fundamentally challenged the convention.

I’m not talking about an ad that said they were different.

Or a single product ingredient that claimed they were different but were still exactly the same.

I’m talking about a fundamental, distinctive alternative to what has been there before.

From features, to behaviours, to values to standards to design.

All in commitment.

Shit or bust.

Now we have a lot of brands today that claim to do that and be that.

Brands that go direct to the customer.

Brands that offer their services on the internet.

In the majority of cases, they’re not real challengers.

They might like to think they are.

The people who led the change probably are.

But having an internet bank that claims to be different but offers exactly the same products and services – albeit with a ‘cool name and choice of ATM card design’ – is not challenging much.

Nor is the 15th razor/toothbrush/haircare company who go direct to their customers.

They’re definitely an alternative, but they’re not a challenger.

In fact, given in many cases, they offer no distinctive element to their product or service to build something bigger than simply supplying razor blades/toothbrushes/haircare products to people at the lowest rate possible, all they’re doing is commoditising themselves to oblivion.

No, challenger brands don’t enter the market with an attitude of ‘minimal viable product’ – which basically translates to “we’re interested to see if it works, but if it doesn’t – no biggie”, they enter it with fully focused, fully engaged commitment.

You can read a lot about these in Adam Morgan’s brilliant book Eating The Big Fish … though, because of when it came out, it only refers to a challenger brands from a certain period of time rather than the ones of the modern era … whether that’s Tony’s Chocolonely, Fenty, Fortnite or even Greta.

But the reason I’m talking about this is because of that picture at the top of the post.

The iconic ‘we try harder’ announcement by Avis.

Maybe the first example where marketing embraced being a challenger.

We forget how impactful this campaign was when it came out in the 60’s.

Back then, the industry was all about superlatives … the biggest, the most successful, the most loved etc etc.

For a brand to come out and say, “we’re not the first choice”, was a big thing.

But this was not a mere marketing trick, Avis did indeed have big ambitions and knew that the only way they stood any chance of making it was if they indeed, ‘try harder’.

From making sure every car was washed before it went out.

Checking that the glove boxes and – because this was the 60’s – ashtrays were emptied.

Customer service people trained to help, not just take your money.

Not having to wait for ages to get given your rental.

All sounds the standard now, but back then? No way.

And on top of that, they then ran ads telling people to complain if they found the experience didn’t match the promise … because they never wanted to be seen as having the passive attitude of a number 1 brand – where their goal is to protect their revenue rather than reward their customers.

Which leads to the point of this post.

This.

Yep, it’s a continuation of the We Try Harder campaign.

Though, calling it a ‘campaign’ cheapens it, because it was their purpose. I don’t mean that in the wank way it is being used today. At no point were Avis saying. ‘We Try Harder To Make The World Better’. No, this was all about them trying harder for them. Which is not only more believable, it had a genuine benefit to the people who used them.

Which leads back to the ad.

Specially, the ad that features the President of Avis’ phone number.

So you can complain.

Directly to them.

Imagine that today?

You can’t can you, because not only do companies – including Avis – give customers who wish to complain the absolute runaround with endless email forms, faceless processes and protocols – all while claiming this is a more ‘helpful and efficient’ process for their customers – but because you don’t feel many companies are really trying harder at all.

Now it’s all about efficiency.

Removal of friction.

Basically making you do it all yourself but charging you as if you weren’t.

Now I have to admit, I don’t know if this ended up being the real President of Avis’ phone number … even though I really hope it was … but I know this ethos drove that brand to continued growth for decades.

Sadly, at some point, it went from purpose to a tagline and then Avis as a cultural force was done.

Which is the big lesson for us all.

Because while few would ever start a company to be like everyone else, the reality is many end up doing just that.

And while we hear people all talking about being the next Apple or Nike, they have to understand you don’t get there with a playbook, you get there with a singular focus on what you believe, what you value and what you are going to destroy to create.



A House Of Brands Or A House Of Cards?

Yes it’s real.

Yes, it has been out for at least 4 months.

And yes, there are so many things I could say about it … but I’m relying on you do it for me.

I will say this however …

When I worked on Old Spice at Wieden – which was only for Asia and had little to do with the great work from Portland – we were adamant that while the creativity should be allowed to explore all manner of mad worlds, the packaging/fragrances had to communicate stability because otherwise there was the danger the whole brand would look like one giant joke.

Or said another way …

The product had to allow madness around it rather than try to compete with it.

I’ll leave it there, over to you …