Category Archives: brand strategy

The Playboy Club Bunny Manual

Most companies with staff have some form of an employee handbook.  It’s usually buried deep up there on the dustiest shelf or at the bottom of the never-opened drawer.

It might’ve been section 27 in the big binder you were handed when you started at your job.  It included things like start time, finish time, lunchtime, holidays, how you can be fired (if it comes to it).  Stuff like that.

Not many even talk about (let alone enforce) your expected behaviour as part of a world famous brand experience and that’s a big problem.

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Unexpectations

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If you want to change (or even reset) the way people think about your brand and what you offer, you won’t do it by telling stories that are expected.  Communicating the same idea as always doesn’t change behaviour, invite new actions, craft positive experiences or create deeper engagement.

At all.

You need unexpectations to do that.

I got a late call up to goal-umpire my son’s under 13 AFL match at the weekend.  I’ve never done it before (it’s a high pressure job and I like to keep Saturdays a bit calmer) but, ever the willing helper, I jumped in there with my white flags and did the job.  It didn’t take long for the controversy to follow.

The goal umpire’s job (expectedly) is to call if the ball goes through for a goal or a behind.  When a goal is scored in AFL, the goal umpire is supposed to get quickly to a spot exactly in between the posts, stand very straight, leave a little pause for suspense and then shoot both cuffs with elbows bent, followed by a choreographed waving of both white flags.  This tells the opposing goal umpire that a goal’s been scored and both cards are compared at the end of the game to make sure the scores match.

It’s expected that this will all be done with an impressive level of sequence, poise and steely seriousness.

During this particular under 13′s game, where there’s no salary cap and all the players have day-jobs (i.e. school), I concentrated on getting the main thing right and was less worried about the formalities, which is to say calling the goal, casually shooting the cuffs and waving the flags without necessarily thinking about whether it was the right way (which I didn’t know anyway), just that it was seen.

As a result my actions invited the attention of the officials and evoked a response.  It wasn’t positive but it was a response all the same (elbows bent).  I’d raised their unexpectations.

The goals (and behinds) were still scored and recorded.  The opposing goal umpire’s tally matched mine.  I wasn’t less professional than the other umpire though I certainly had more fun.  It was the expectation that I’d act like all the other goal umpires that attracted the attention and response of the officials (and one or two of the crowd).  I’d cut through by being unexpected.

The next time you’re crafting or telling a story about your brand, wanting to cut through and attract attention, you could probably do a lot worse than bringing an unexpectation or three into the mix.

I’m on a horse…

Old Spice’s Man Your Man Could Smell Like won big at Cannes and must surely go down as one of the best ads ever made.  Russel Howcroft was right when, on a recent Gruen Transfer episode he said that it was an entirely new idea and that’s why it was so good.

Here’s that winning ad, along with another in the series in case you thought the first was too good to be repeated.

Apart from being an original idea, the reasons these ads are so good is hard to pin down, which in-itself is part of their appeal (the ability to analyse something is harder when it makes you smile as broadly as these do).  The fact that it’s a one-shot ad, the unexpectedness of what happens during that 30-second piece of film, the surprising climax, the writing (which is brilliant) or the perfectly-cast, strategically-intrinsic talent (and his perfect delivery of a sharp, idea-rich script) are all elements that combine together to deliver advertising gold.

That the idea works to engage fans, position the brand and spread awareness like a grass-fire is without question and so whether it works to sell the product will be measured by how much, not if.

One insight is in how Old Spice have continued with a brand campaign that started years ago, maintaining core elements and refreshing it beautifully with the new Man your Man could smell like campaign.  It proves that it’s possible to refresh a brand and in fact make it even stronger without de-stabilising its position by tearing away at its heart.

Take a look at this ad from a few years ago (again, one of a series), which includes – among other things – the now almost certainly recognisable whistle (triggering memory), along with the unexpectedness and surprise of the current campaign.

On the current ads alone, I’m certain that this strategy would’ve been a raging success and besides, how do you follow up on something so good?

Well it seems they have and the other great insight is in how the campaign has been followed up, extended and strengthened so that now, not only are fans who saw the ad still talking about it, they’re now engaging with the brand via an equally well executed digital strategy.

The Man your Man could smell like is, although brilliantly personified by Isaiah Mustafa, a character.  He’s a creation born of the creative idea and while not the brand is the perfect charcterisation of a) the man your man could smell like and b) the man you could be like if using Old Spice.

That hasn’t stopped Old Spice putting The Man on Twitter and Facebook though, linking through to a YouTube channel and having him post video responses to questions he posed by followers.

The responses, predictably, are written and delivered with the same sharpness as the ads. The idea that The Man is waiting in front of a HD digicam, waiting for tweets and wall posts so he can record a response is a temptation too big to ignore for many of the fans. The level of interactivity going on here is unbelievable (as I write, the Twitter account has almost 30,000 followers in a day and a thousand of those were added just now) and each one of these interactions makes the brand more memorable.

Brands often fail on delivering promises.  If The Man’s promise is anything to go by then Old Spice are true because there’s an ever-growing number of video responses stacking up, all personally addressed to the questioner by The Man.

Before this latest tactic I was wondering if it was unreasonable to think that Old Spice might be objectifying men with The Man ads, given the current debate over the objectification of women in advertising.

For the record, I never thought they did (and wouldn’t have cared anyway) though now I am certain that this strategy should go down in the casebook of how to do integrated marketing, truly engage with your fans and get it right.

Go here and start picking up tips @OldSpice.

All of something or a little bit of everything?

So, you’re cracking along with 2010 and a new decade, sitting down to plan the marketing & promotional assault that’ll see your brand, business or franchise climb higher.

Money’s a bit tight, confidence is still a little weak and so you need to stretch your marketing budget (because you have one, right?) as far as possible and invite consumer engagement with your thing.

In the past you run some ads, maybe some PR, product sampling (giving stuff away for free), maybe a sponsorship and tried out two-for-one or % discount offers but now you can’t really afford to do everything you did in the past (while you can’t really afford not to; the great business balancing act).

There are plenty of creative, production and media agencies who’ll willingly take your money, but who should get it?  Does what you’re doing still invite and entertain your market?  Are your customers still engaged and motivated?  What strategy and tactics will attract the most attention in the future?  What stories should I tell?

You’re faced with a dilemma; do I cut down a little on everything or stop doing something altogether?

I’d always suggest thinking twice about killing something altogether.  It might be like unhooking the link of a chain; you’ll find the machine doesn’t work at all and a good marketing strategy should make use of several channels.

Before making any decisions, look at your market and how it’s changing, what’s changing and where you can have a louder, clearer voice that matches your brand position.  Talk to your agencies and service providers about your ideas on what to do and where.  Make sure they (and you) understand what you want to achieve.  Above all, know your edge because that’s the one thing nobody else can own.  It’s hard to go wrong marketing your edge.

Do that and the decision on where and how to spend your marketing budget will start to become a whole lot clearer.

The secret to success isn’t in what you know

You know your business better than anyone.

You know why you’re in business to start with.

You know your brand, why it’s named what it is, why you chose the visual identity you did and what you want it to stand for.

You know your product or service, it’s value, what it can do and how it fulfils a customer need or want.

You know your customers, the market and what turns them on to your value proposition for satisfaction of their needs or wants.

You know what you want from your business in return for the investment you make now, next week, next month, next year or next decade.

Essentially, as far as what your business needs to succeed, it’s a strong argument that nobody knows more than you, even if you might need a little expertise to help you to realise your goals.

Except maybe for your competitors.

That’s because the secret isn’t in what needs to be done.  What needs to be done is on show and the framework is the same for everybody.  The secret is in how you do what you need to do to make your brand & business remarkable, memorable and a mandatory stop for your searching customers.

So what are you waiting for?  Get busy and get on with telling your story, right now and for as long as it takes to carve out your unique position.

Happy New Year, decade, and all the best for achieving your goals before your competitors do.

Sitting on your innovation hands

Was riding with a friend just this weekend in his new BMW M3 coupe.

Very sweet car indeed.  Nimble, mid-size chassis.  All alloy 4 liter V8 with 420 horsepower and a six-speed manual (the way it was intended).  Zero to 100 in 4.5 seconds, give or take.  Apart from the bonnet bulge and the dinner-plate brake discs, it’s not too ostentatious.

What makes the M even more sweet is that a standard 3 series coupe (on which the M3 is based) is had with either a 4 or 6 cyl motor and is as quiet and safe as your grandparents need.

As we’re winding up in this exceptional piece of automotive engineering, I couldn’t help but reveal to my friend that this sweet piece of German 4-wheeled fun owed a thank you note to a distant, unlikely relative, the Pontiac GTO.

See, back in the early sixties, the then chief of Pontiac (John Z. DeLorean) hypothesised the concept of putting their big car engines into their mid-size model range, thus creating the muscle car category.  The first muscle car was the 1964 Pontiac GTO and the wider Pontiac brand became a lightning rod for driving excitement.

Pontiac died not long ago, and while there were other business factors that forced this, the brand had been on life support for years before.  It’d lost its value and its distinctive positioning, one that had been accelerated (pun intended) years before by dropping a mountain motor in a mid-size.  This was an innovation that shifted the direction of an entire industry and Pontiac, for a long time owned it.  Unfortunately, they failed to keep it up.  They let the competition catch up and ultimately overtake them.

If you have innovation hands and have shown them, don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ll ride that wave forever.  You’ve proven you can do it, so keep on doing it and resetting your competitive distinction.