Ad Rants 1.

Ford’s Unlearn Everything

The majority of times I encounter new adverts it’s in the cinema and I have to start by saying this new Ford image video is absolutely gorgeously shot. It piggybacks beautifully on the idea of unlearning behaviours, looking at the world with fresh eyes and an open mind – a sentiment that’s very much en vogue within society so much so that we have even invented unschooling for the sake of bringing this adventurous spirit of exploration and curiosity into education.

However, and it is a humungous however for anyone who believes branding is not so much about telling but showing, you simply can’t tell your (past and future) customers to just forgot what they’ve thought about you so far and start having a brand new association to your logo and cars just like that. You especially can’t do that if you are such a household name and millions of people have been bombarded with the previous positioning through countless years.

Can it be effective? Sure, operating with an already familiar concept and encouraging people to “let go of their limiting beliefs” creates and emotional connection, making the transition easier. I’d even say it makes some sense, looking at the new power range of models Ford has launched recently and their efforts to become a force to reckon with digitally. To step into a new era where digital services are as important as the car itself, a brand certainly needs to revive itself. But as I said, telling is never as strong as showing and this is what I miss here: we are told to unlearn but doesn’t get a clear image of what we should learn instead. We are told to replace our old concepts but not given a reason to believe other than “hey, we are much cooler than you thought and anyways, unlearning is just such a rad concept”. While I get the whole message is around opening our minds to possibilities, without a few tangible guiding breadcrumbs this re-branding for me falls punctured tyre flat.

How would I approach it? Part of their Unlearn video manifesto, they say:

“Unlearn is not about forgetting the past; it’s about re-imagining possibilities to make progress in all aspects of our lives.

But Unlearn doesn’t stop with vehicles. By looking into the future with mobility at the top of our agenda, we’re building a more connected and sustainable transport future.
Why not see what happens when you let go of what you know?”

If I may dissect it, the main point they are making is that they constantly innovate and build better products, backed up by a century of know-how.* Strategically, demonstrating this innovation and truly surprising the customers would be the way to go really. Start with a huge PR stunt, like building functional Transformers robots out of oldtimers and letting them fight it out somewhere central with a huge audience. Create a space for your customers to actually explore technology and the fascinating things the future may hold for mobility. New power range? Run your very own race with all the bells and whistles and celebrities. Invite customers (or even better, stunt drivers) to tweak and race themselves. And then use all the fantastic footage from all these fun spectaculars as you TV and print campaign elements. But you know what, really, do anything, but simply tell people to forget your previous branding and get on board with the next.

But you know what, really, do anything, but simply tell people to forget your previous branding and get on board with the next.

*I’m not sure this is a super groundbreaking claim, because a) how else would you innovate, b) every other company claims the same *sigh*

The #futureofmarketing | Why Meaningful Branding Matters?

A few month earlier I ran a workshop for the Outbox Incubator, a very interesting initiative of Stemettes to attract more young girls to stick to STEM subjects and get interested in entrepreneurship as well. The particular challenge in putting my slides together laid in their age: how do you explain branding in the simplest of terms, to primary or high school students? But when it finally came together, I realised, this may just be the perfect way to explain these ideas to any branding virgin adult too. (And maybe provide a bit of a material for all brand marketers out there when they need to support their strategy.)

Let’s start with the basics: what is a brand?

My view and favourite explanation is that every brand serves as shortcut in reality. There is a mind-boggling variety of products, services and potential choices in almost all category. No wonder that people opt for wearing the same uniform every day or become somewhat repetitive in their breakfast choices: making decisions is hard and takes a lot of energy away. Even if the famous jam experiment has since been disproven, human brains are still geared towards efficiency and we are generally very happy to just beeline for the usual products and not worry too much about the content of our basket. (I mean look atMorrison’s 2010 study, the average British supermarket basket is not even very much different from those of 50 years earlier.)
If we have trust towards the brand of that product, that is.

Read the rest of it on Linkedin, where it has been featured, woopwoop.

The Magnificent Geese – idea ping-pong between startups and giant organisations

Very-very rarely, but it does happen that I want to watch something so bad that even 4 advertising block per hour can’t stop me from it. Thanks to my Drag Race addiction and its seventh season not being available on Netflix, I did watch a few ads endlessly.* (On a sidenote, whatever is happening with more sophisticated targeting online? I highly doubt that showing the same ad half a dozen times over 30 minutes gets positive responses.)

Two of these got me thinking. The Magnificent Geese ad by Verizon I have to admit made me smile every time. In my conscientious brain, I’m aware that wildlife does suffer from what we do with the environment. Moreover, after a quick dive into Google you’ll find that their fees seem to be one of the highest on the US market and would you actually want to stream whole movies, you’d end up practically broke. So two black points for lack of reality check.

And two red points as well. The first, building the campaign around one strong claim: “our mobile net is the fastest”. In my now decade of experience this is the hardest to get clients to be comfortable and happy with. There is always one more thing, which is understandable on the human level as well as looking at declining or really small marketing budgets. However, in communication more is almost never better. You can create powerful images and metaphors for one message but will immediately start to crumble and lose attention if you try to cram everything in there. (Or you end up with disasters of taglines like Cheerios’ “what really matters most, the goodness of oats and the people we love”. I mean, really? It’s not only grammatically incorrect, but inevitable to raise eyebrows with suggesting we should love our daily cereal as much as our family members.)

The second red point is deserved for showing that with basically no budget you can get your point across and entertain as well. The ad consists of some stock imagery of geese, clever voice-over and a few great tunes. Nothing that a startup can’t accomplish with a bit of hard work and if they are aware of the one thing they really want to get across to the target audience.

The other advertising that picked my interest is the US Postal Service. They are similarly focused on one goal, getting people trust the post again versus getting clients to sign back into the folds. However instead of drawing lessons that startups may use to their advantage, the interesting aspect of the ad is how startup spirit seemed to have inspired its approach.

“Watch us deliver” is a clever choice of slogan and one that is deeply rooted in the shift around communication, fuelled by the transparency and connectedness that comes with the internet. Delivering on your promises is the most powerful thing to do really, more effective than million dollar advertising budgets or brainstorming clever catchphrases. This is why the first few hundred customers to a startup are so important and why their early adopters and evangelists became paramount to success. A whole generation of entrepreneurs growing up with lean, UX and customer development shifts the culture of entire economies. To me, when the postal service, a major player of nationwide infrastructure adopts a strategy of show and tell and invites its customers to only belive what they see, is a sign of this shift.

*Disclaimer: I am from, live and work in Europe and therefore I am judging from a very different cultural context, had no personal experience with either brand and looking at the ads with an objective eye, analysing goals, messaging and delivery. 

Branding workshop with Stemettes’ Outbox incubator

I’m about to leave for South London, to engage with a classroom full of female STEM students, from age 11 to 22. Now, aside from the fact that I feel a little bit like a fossil – some of these girls already have a startup, how amazing is that? – it is an interesting challenge to design a workshop that gives them a compact picture of the value of branding, especially meaningful marketing and is relatable to all project stages and ages as well.

Since you don’t want to cram too much stuff into 2 hours – keeping in mind general human attention cycles and that the idea is to teach and have fun, not just to push as much knowledge in their heads as possible – I decided to focus on how values can and should lend the base building blocks of a brand.

Three exercises help them to understand how branding works and evolves in the 21st century, thanks to the Internet, information availability and the rise of a conscientious, value driven consumer:

  • starting with the icebreaker, figuring out brand names based on the logo colours only,
  • an exercise to help unearth personal values
  • and the last one helping them to apply the personal values onto the business as well as understanding how they might get into their customer’s head to understand what aspects of the product/service will matter to them.

And of course, examples, examples, examples. From established names to smaller startups, we are going to have a look at how functional values, personal benefits and collective benefits a brand brings create coherent platforms to communicate from. I must say, I’m looking forward to a lot!