This new ad from Target is incredible. The collision of fashion show, musical-drama and mega-scale light-show. Using an iconic building and windows as a multi-screen stage. And then you film it reportage style not ad style. It’s had 200,000 views so far. It’s the talk of the town on the fashion bloggersphere and twittersphere. Fantastic too that it comes from a brand that is a value retailer not a couture brand. What a great way to show that you are a cutting edge brand and that you are about fashion, not just cheap. Mother New York we salute you. The look on the faces of the lucky folk in the crowd says it all. Reminds me what it felt like when I saw Fuerza Bruta for the first time.
Friday, 25 March 2011
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
There’s a book I read a couple of years ago that I think still offers some useful guidance. It’s called Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck’. It is written by two brothers. Chip Heath is a professor of education who has been trying to find out how good teachers get their ideas across so that they ‘stick’ with children. Dan Heath is a sociologist who is an expert in understanding why urban myths ‘stick’.
Their definition of a sticky idea is one that people care about, that people act upon and that have longevity. They reckoned there were six things that made ideas sticky:
The Heaths remind us less is more with great ideas. “A successful defence lawyer says; “If you argue ten points, even if each is a good point, when they get back to the jury room they won’t remember any”. But they also go on to say that saying something more important than this - short is not the mission – sound-bites are not the ideal. The Heaths say that the greatest ideas are summed up as “simple proverbs; one sentence statements that are so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it”. You don’t have to go far to find examples of these types of ‘Brand Proverbs’. Never Underestimate the Importance of Local Knowledge, The Power of Dreams, Every Little Helps, Impossible is Nothing, Reassuringly Expensive, No Nonsense beer for No Nonsense blokes. Some of these are brand slogans, others campaign lines others are ‘organising thoughts’ for the brand/business…but all of these are BOTH simple to grasp and ideas that represent a point of view on the world, a way of approaching things or a strongly held belief.
*I don’t think this is the best title for this point. Maybe it should be ‘Profound Simplicity’?
Chip and Dan say that to get attention you need to “violate people’s expectations and be counter-intuitive. But surprise doesn’t last. For an idea to endure, you must generate interest and curiosity. To engage people’s curiosity over a long period of time we need to systematically “open gaps” in their knowledge – and then fill those gaps”. In our world that means give them an idea that connects paradoxical concepts and keeps people wanting to ask or know more of the idea. Our Creatology idea for Sony is one of those. As a brand that collides creativity and technology Sony does what no other player in their market is doing, and, the idea/word makes you wonder more about what Creatology might lead to. It is more than a slogan it is a methodology for the business.
The gang at Crispin Porter also think this kind of concept is critical. In their briefs they have a section headed TENSION which asks “What is the psychological, social or cultural tension associated with this idea? What makes our target tense about this idea?”
Chip and Dan talk about how “mission statements, strategies and visions are too often ambiguous to the point of being meaningless”. However they remind us that naturally sticky ideas are full of concrete images because “our brains are wired to remember concrete data”. This means that for our ideas to be truly sticky they need to be “underpinned by human actions and sensory information”. They talk mainly about how this means that stories filled with concrete images are the most powerful (like the famous kidney heist urban myth).
But I also wonder whether this craving for concreteness is why creating real experiences, products and services (instead of one way messaging) is often more effective. The Asics Support Your Marathoner was one such initiative we spotted recently that does this beautifully. It’s that thinking that lies behind most of our work – from Rapha’s Cycle Clubs to Change the World for a Fiver.
They also talk about how sticky ideas “have to carry their own authority”. They talk about how it’s difficult it is to convince people by facts, figures and building a case point by point/by repetition. Oil companies and banks often fall into this trap. Oil companies have tell us ad infinitum that they are as interested in sustainable energy solutions as they are oil. Likewise banks tell us that our needs are their number one concern.
A better approach is to start with an undeniable truth and build from here.
Chip and Dan also suggest an alternative approach; “help people test our ideas for themselves – a ‘try before you buy’ philosophy for the world of ideas”. There was a great campaign for Burger King last year where rather than say We Are #1/the nations favourite burger they filmed an in-market experiment with consumers.
In some respects this one is obvious. “Make people feel something. We are wired to feel things for people, not for abstractions”. But the thing that Chip and Dan remind us of again is that we need to think cleverly when we think about “what emotion to harness”. They talk about how the best way to get teenagers to quit smoking might not be by instilling a fear of the consequences, but by tapping into their resentment of the duplicity of Big Tobacco. Being clever about how you get your consumer insights is critical here.
Finally Chip and Dan remind us of the importance of stories. They talk about how “stories are strongly associated with entertainment, not instruction, and mean listeners get drawn into the authors world. We can paint a more vivid impression of actions & consequences. Stories provide the context missing from abstract prose and builds in emotion. Stories enable us to communicate in away that is more life-like and more true to our day to day existence. Stories can be more inspiring, memorable and provocative”. But I don’t think this means telling great stories is the only way to engage people and get them on board (although it can be). I think the bigger point is that all great brands have to have a great story behind them. Rapha is about the beauty, pain and glory of road cycling, Sony is about the power of the imagination and Changemakers about the struggle of young people to overcome fear, prejudice and convention.
Friday, 29 October 2010
There's a very simple reason that the vast majority of ads / communications in the world aren't very good. It's because we remove the market's essential editor, the public, from the process in taking shelter beneath the cosy cashmere blanket of paid-for 3rd party media. As long as we rely on paying a third party to force our ideas upon the public, we'll exist in a bubble that accepts and perpetuates mediocrity. It is only when you take this blanket away, expose our ideas to the harsh elements of the real world that we feel the pressure to produce something brilliant. Because, in the real world, if things aren't brilliant, they tend to wither and die.
This is frightening but it's the same world in which the products and services we promote have to exist.
Paying a 3rd party to host your piece of communication can have many benefits (amplification, reach, targeting etc) but it makes us lazy. We need to start thinking like we don't have a media budget. Only then will we necessarily build things that will have true value in the real world. As technology makes editing the stuff we don't like out of our lives easier and easier this will quickly shift from an ideology to a necessity.
So next brief you get, cast away that cashmere blanket and challenge yourself to create something that could survive in the real world; you might just create something that people will be prepared to queue around the block for.
Thursday, 21 October 2010
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
We love this concept. Baked in.
Alex Bogusky and John Winsor have written a book about it - get it here.
It's a simple concept - bake ideas into your product or business, rather than bolting them on.
Ad agencies have long argued that for ideas to really thrive, we need to get involved as up stream as possible. There's no better place than at the genesis of a new product or business.
We often talk to our Clients about Simon Sinek's 'Start with why' - putting the 'why you exist' right at the centre of everything you do. No better place to start than with the product itself.
One of our core principles is 'think like you don't have a media budget' - this often leads us to help our clients create products that market themselves, or even better are communications in and of themselves. Here are a few examples:
1. A BOOK - 'Change the World for a Fiver' - We created a book to launch the social change movement 'We Are What We Do'. The book facilitated people doing small things to change the world, generated global fame (and even paid for itself - to date we've sold over 1.2m copies worldwide).
2. A BAG - 'I'm NOT a plastic bag' - an idea we conceived, a line we wrote and a product that again, encouraged and facilitated the action (in this case 'declining plastic bags'), created global fame and paid for itself. 80,000 sold out worldwide within a couple of days.
3. A WEBSITE - Historypin.com - a website that gets generations hanging out together by asking them to scan in their old photos and tell the stories behind them (a month old an 5m visitors to date)
4. A SPORTS TEAM - Sky Pro Cycling - a team with an idea 'The Line' baked in and brought to life through every conceivable channel.
5. A SHOP - Rapha Cycle Club - a brand experience (A Gallery / screening room / exhibition space / Cafe) that was the living embodiment of the brand - and on it's busiest day generated just under £60,000 of sales.
To see more of our work visit our site.
And remember - air is the most important ingredient.
Friday, 13 August 2010
Cineroleum is another example of a well thought-through pop up. It’s a very surprising use of a site previously used for something else. So it earns a lot of creativity (clever idea) brownie points. It has a bigger message than what it literally is – making use of urban waste-land. (A bit like guerrilla gardening ). So it has cultural significance. They have a very clear and focussed audience and proposition. They’ve got the right the right location, name, content (carefully selected films - “off beat classics”) and the right Lo Fi identity and tone of voice (pared back 60’s styling, the seats and the curtains) to appeal to a Clerkenwell market. The whole street revolution vibe and communal experience will be as motivating and exciting as the movies themselves.
This wouldn’t have been easy to make happen pre-digital. The digital channel not only publicises the whole idea and screening times but it enables people to buy tickets. The fusion of communications and transaction.
(Hope they work out how to shut out traffic noise though)
The Railway Children at Waterloo Station is another example of re-appropriated or reclaimed space.
Thursday, 5 August 2010
The new London Bike Scheme looks like it will be a win-win for everyone involved.
It’s cheap, congestion friendly, non-polluting and healthy public transport. Zeitgeist stuff. Within a week of the launch more than 12,450 keys have been bought by Londoners to unlock bikes left at 315 docking points across the city.
Barclays Bank have paid £25 million to sponsorship it - a very high profile way to signal a brand that is taking a more active interest in its community at a time when it really needs to.
The Mayor’s office is probably the biggest winner though. It’s a self funding communications program. The scheme will cost the city virtually nothing yet everyone is talking about it.
Another recent example of public service as communications is Ping London. 100 table tennis tables will be placed around London over the next month. They will be everywhere from Trafalgar Square, to the Tate Modern to Heathrow Airport. The project has been developed by a charity arts organisation called Sing London in collaboration with English Table Tennis Association, Sport England and Yahoo (not sure how Yahoo fits). The aim is to triple the number of places to play Table Tennis in London. But more broadly it’s to get more people active and to get them using their public spaces more.
Adidas is also showing it is truly interested in being involved at the grass roots, as well as for elite athletes. After a two-year trial they have now installed over 20 Adizones around the country. These are youth focused multi-purpose outdoor fitness facilities, with a large outdoor gym, basketball and football area, climbing wall, tennis wall and a freestyle area for aerobics, dance, yoga and martial arts. The plan is that by the end of this year there will be 40 Adizones.
Early reports are that not only are these spaces being used by broad cross sections of their communities, but the rate of vandalism is negligible.
In May, more than 250 elephants, painted by artists including Jonathan Yeo, Marc Quinn and Jack Vettriano, popped up throughout central London. The ambition was to create the city's biggest outdoor art event and to be seen by 25 million people. All with the ultimate aim of raising awareness of the threat to the Asian elephant and to raise money for their protection via the auctioning of the statues.
We think these initiatives share a number of important attributes. They all have audacious goals at their heart. They all require people to participate in the idea. They all pay careful attention to design and aesthetic as well as pure functionality. They all involve the partnership between a number of different organisations. They all use digital channels to involve more people and activate and amplify the real world activity.
The benefit to all the brands involved is not just that they are seen to being active in their community but they are all ideas that get picked up by the press and talked about by the blogosphere. They are ideas that generate strong core fans and their own free media.