Tag Archives: provocation - Page 2

Will the real creativity please stand up?

Daring and creativity is no more important to brands than right now.

Standing out from the crowd, a shiny makeover and carving a patch is one of the most powerfully important things any brand can do in any climate but especially now when the marketing landscape is rife with tumbleweed.

Why is it then that there is so little creativity in marketing?

When creativity is the single most vital element of business and marketing strategy, I’m constantly struck at the lack of imagination, creativity and allegiance to “doing as always” shown by an industry supposedly built on the function of attention-getting.

A Linkedin discussion caught my eye this week with the subject of which question – if you had only one – is the most important to ask in a creative brief.  The responses were hot; there were 50 when I joined in.  It was posted across several boards but I caught it on the Australian Marketing Institute’s board.

The respondents’ titles were impressive; director of this brand, head of marketing for that one, creative director for some agency but what struck me was the distinct lack of imagination shown in some of the responses, from an industry that’s supposedly built on creativity.

While there were a few provocative responses, most of them smacked of same and some were truly laughable (in fact sackable, in my opinion).  Several respondents suggested that asking “who is your target market” was the single most important question.  “What does your product do” made too many appearances to be ignored and it was even suggested that the most important question was – wait for it – “do you have a healthy budget”.  Enough said.

Marketing is as creative an art form as any and marketers should seek to tell stories about their brand or product that engage audiences.  Questions about how much budget do you have, and who’s your target market don’t draw stories out.

When I wrote about the importance of looking beyond the latest killer tactic and getting back to marketing boring, that doesn’t mean pulling the valve on the creative juice tank and letting it all flow down the drain.  You can be wildly off the mark if you market without any consideration of the fundamentals but equally you can’t tell a story and engage an audience without creativity

I don’t know where all the creativity bled out of marketing but I think it’s time for a transfusion.

Why you shouldn’t

It’s subtle, though there’s a big difference between “why wouldn’t they” and “why wouldn’t I”.

Maybe that’s why so many marketers get it confused.

“Why wouldn’t they” is internal.  It’s focused on features, not benefits.  It ignores value and destroys brand.  It’s arrogant.

On the other hand, “why wouldn’t I” is a response you seek to invoke in your audience.  It’s a desired result that opens the door to meaningful, potentially fruitful interaction.

Getting a “why wouldn’t I” should be your focus, not sending a “why wouldn’t they”.

Foxes, grubs and other dirty words

What’s going through the ASB doesn’t normally get my attention too much (unless it’s because of their stuffed-shirt insistence on using the word “advertisement”, which I hate, or it’s because I’m the one in their sights).  One particular case did though, because I drove underneath it pretty much every day and I was sure that it’d make it to the big table in the ASB’s complaints room.

I’m referring to Fernwood Fitness Centres (you know, those gyms that’ve reversed sexual discrimination and don’t let blokes in, which is actually a fantastic innovation and great target marketing) and their use of the word ‘fox’ in their most recent ad campaign.  The complaints were dismissed.  I reckon they were fortunate to get off.  The ASB’s mood of the day must’ve been with them.  You can download the determination and the reasons why here.

A not insignificant part of the campaign was an outdoor billboard with the simple, giant headline “Join For Fox Sake” and this was my first exposure to the campaign as I drove under it (and second, third and subsequently many more).

When my kids saw it the first time, they read it out loud and giggled.  Every other time they saw it they giggled again.  They got the vibe.  I think that’s a fairly revealing fact about the intended reaction to the creative.  Funny thing though, they couldn’t tell you who the company was, even after many trips and giggling fits under that billboard.

Because I’m in the game of marketing & communications, people often ask me if I think an ad is any good.  I usually answer those questions with other questions (because I might think it’s good, but if I’m not the desired audience….).  In this case, to the standard “what do you think” question, most of the responses weren’t particularly positive.  More than a few thought it was a bit too crude and suggestive especially to be hanging over a main road, adjacent to a school.  Several likened it to the long-running “Do It Longer” ads.

As an aside, on that I disagree and refuse to draw any comparison between this campaign by Fernwood and the controversy-courting trash out of the Advanced Medical Institute.  The AMI are little more than charlatans, enticing great wads of cash out of vulnerable gents who may actually have serious medical & emotional problems that should be discussed with a real doctor.  Their campaigns are designed to get every man and his dog talking about it, either way, in the hope that the brand sticks.  Negative publicity isn’t always good publicity though (but that’s another topic).  In contrast, I reckon Fernwood offers real value to its consumers and in that sense, the distinctions couldn’t be clearer.

A summary of the arguments Fernwood gave in their response to complaints include that the ‘fox’ word was used in other contexts as part of a broader campaign, was clearly written and that print media only and not audio was used because “confusion could arise” when hearing the line spoken.  Personally I don’t think there’d have been any confusion at all…..

“Join” was the first campaign line I saw, on the aforementioned billboard.  That was replaced a couple of months later with another one (I can’t recall which).  In their response, Fernwood don’t detail whether their other lines were concurrent in different media.  Because I’m not the desired audiences I didn’t see the other lines, which included “My Mum’s A Fox” and “Unlock Your Inner Fox”.  Those are good, strong campaign lines and here’s my point.

“Join for fox sake” is a grubby innuendo in the context it ran.  Using double-meanings to boost cut-through and recall is a right strategy but it has to be matched with the right media placement.  There would’ve been no confusion as to the intent in the creative presentation.  Everyone would’ve gotten it and the attention it would attract.  They knew exactly what was going on.   Fernwood are right, however in their response when they say that they don’t believe the word fox is strong or obscene.  It isn’t, when you’re talking about foxes.  But in the context of this ad, it is.  Where they got it wrong is with the media plan.

Am I a prude?  Don’t think so.  It’s not the creative; it’s the media, and the placement in which the grubby line ran (or good, depending on what you think; you can be the judge of whether the media planning for this was intended).  Billboards are hard to hide from the pubic eye, of all ages.  The best way to get the full range of reactions to an ad is to put it in front of everyone.

Whether through creative or media, you might be tempted to get a few laughs, thinking that using a few grubs, foxes and dirt makes your message stick for longer.  Normally it doesn’t.  The greatest ad campaigns ever written didn’t.

You’re above that and don’t need those laughs anyway.  Sure, on one level advertising is entertainment designed to invoke a response.  On another level though it’s part of, reflects and drives (in many ways) our social economy.  Yes, I believe advertising is more important than most people working in advertising do.

Did the campaign work?  I don’t know what the objectives were but I guess if my kids’ reactions are anything to go by maybe it did.  But Fernwood had some other strong campaign lines that suited the media more and played well on the theme.  They didn’t need the other laughs.  They’re above that and you should be too.

What do I know?

Before I meet you I may not know what you do, what you sell, what it does, who (or why) it impacts or what market gap it fills or shifts.  I may not know anything about your business, cause or mission.  In fact, there’s every likelihood that as far as your business, product, market and goals go, you know bucket loads more than I do.

So what qualifies me to tell you how you should market, what media channels you should look into, what strategies and tactics you should employ to build your brand and your business as a whole?

I’m not going to bore you with my background but if you want to, please follow this self-promotion link.

Learning and experience is where most strengths lie.  Knowing what works, how and why.  Taking what’s basically a standard marketing framework and adapting it to your unique proposition via thoughtful analysis and following it with daring action.

Insight is one of my strengths.  I see angles and stories not everyone else does, which form the basis for cut-through strategy, creating unique positioning, memorable experiences and communications tactics that raise a ruckus with desired audiences.

Through my experiences and learning I created my own pathway, if you like (framework is kind of last year) that I use to bind and check the elements (and progress) of a plan, both strategically and tactically.  It was a long, provocative, creative process to get to this, though it doesn’t look that way when you’re just reading 6 words on a page (one never sees how much work goes into something and in a sense, that’s a good thing).

Invite, Entertain, Interact, Experience, Engage, Motivatetm can be applied at the grass-roots level of a single, tactical piece of communication or as deep, strategic and paradigm shifting as organisational change, IT systems, value-chain integration or account management systems, customer experience systems or brand repositioning.

Though it’s my trademark, it’s not a trade secret (but the way I apply it is).  In fact I think it’s pretty basic, though it’s amazing how many marketing or communications plans I see that don’t do it.

If what you’re planning doesn’t answer “yes” to the question “does it?” for the first five words (or binds together with another tactic to answer the queston), then you’re going to struggle to create motivation, which should be the desired action of any marketing or broader business plan.

I felt it was important to say that.

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.