You don’t have to speak French to get this commercial – I absolutely love this ad.
Advertising is dead. Yeah, just like paper.
You don’t have to speak French to get this commercial – I absolutely love this ad.
Advertising is dead. Yeah, just like paper.
I work on a regular basis with Ultimate Finance, a company that helps SMEs speed up their cashflow.
Job include writing their press releases, articles, blog posts, web copy, leaflets, product fact sheets, customer success stories, emails, direct mail and advertisements.
They recently bought a poster site by Junction 18 of the M25, where you turn off for the M1. Traffic is at a standstill for much of the time so it’s a prime spot. The headline I came up with isn’t super-creative. But it doesn’t have to be – just gets the point across in a way that’s appropriate to the location.
Shows variety of work I undertake – one day it’s luxury holidays in the Seychelles the next I’m on gritty finance and the M25.
You don’t buy wine for how it tastes, you buy it for how it looks. Discuss.
On the face of it this is a ridiculous statement. Wine is ALL about taste, surely?
Errr, sorry darling, that attitude is just so passé. Let’s go somewhere in private where we can talk – without anybody noticing (I’m not sure I want to be seen with someone who is, you know, so out of the loop…).
Vintage wine is so last year
Some people, for sure, will wax lyrical over the “fine, floral, honeysuckle fruit on the palate with hazelnut overtones”, or go all-of-a-flutter for the “lean, cherry-like fruit flavours on the palate, with a hint of wood and a touch of bitter almonds”.
But you know what? You are actually just being a boring old fart.
The in-crowd, the people who are where-it’s-at, just don’t give a toss. Hence these ads for Gallo Moscato.
The small print tells us the taste is refreshing and sweet, but that’s almost an aside. Flavour takes second place to fashion – it’s all about “finding your wine style”. This is a wine to be seen with when you are sharing girlie good times – it goes with your dress, complements your look, and shows you are well and truly on-trend.
Forget all that stuff about vintages, and letting the stuff mature for a fuller and more characterful taste – it must be “this season’s”! As Gallo’s marketing people tell us, it’s targeted at “fashion-conscious 25- to 34-year-old women” – and I’d say they’ve hit it bang on.
New twist to an old theme
This approach isn’t new. Drinks marketers have always been hyper aware of the fact that drinkers are incredibly self-conscious – what a particular brand says about you has always played a huge part when it comes consumer behaviour.
This is the first time, however, that I’ve seen a drinks brand so blatantly playing the fashion card (as opposed to a more general appeal to people’s self-image). And it’s interesting to see a wine doing it, rather than a spirits, beer, lager or cider brand.
The bigger picture
I came across this paragraph: “The issue with brands today is not about whether ‘it’, the product, works – I expect ‘it’ to work – but what ‘it’ says about me. ‘It’ becomes a fashion statement.”
The Gallo ads make perfect sense when viewed in this context.
He also makes the point that while advertisers are “increasingly in the fashion business, they’re also in the entertainment industry.” As examples of this convergence and mash-up of different industries he cites David Beckham, a footballer who models for Armani (among others). Is soccer a sport, or fashion, or entertainment? It’s all of them (just look at the haircuts!).
He goes on to write “I could say the future is about ‘fashiontainment’. I know it’s a dreadful word, but I’m using it only to capture what’s going on in our world.” He argues that advertising always had to entertain, but that there’s more pressure to do so these days – if you are not fun then people won’t engage with you, share etc.
The Gallo ads make sense in this context too. They celebrate having fun and are brimming with the feel-good factor. And they’re playful, irreverent and frivolous – a huge departure from the stuffiness that has surrounded the world of wine for generations. I imagine that a few die-hard French wine makers will be choking on their Bordeaux, Burgundy and Beaujolais at such blatant frivolity.
An echo of the same idea, idea, idea…
In the same Tesco magazine where I found the Gallo ad there was this one for Echo Falls.
It’s a bit of a bus accident. The “Life’s great when things just happen” is a hangover (sorry, I know, a pun) from their sponsorship of “Come dine with me”. And what are those colourful circles? And I have to use the discover app to find out more, and visit facebook…what a faff! But in the interests of research I persevere.
What I discover is that Echo Falls, the UK’s third largest wine brand, has signed British fashion designer Holly Fulton to develop a limited edition wine range that launched in July 2014. This “comprises three girly label designs for white, red and rosé wine, with each design drawing inspiration from Fulton’s signature prints. This is designed to fit in well for the colourful brand that Echo Falls is known for.”
Commenting on this partnership Holly says “I am delighted to be collaborating with a fun, young brand Echo Falls. For me, there are many parallels between wine and fashion; both have a fun, feel-good factor, and a focus on craftsmanship. The designs that I have created for the Echo Falls range take their inspiration from my 2014 Spring/Summer prints, so they should feel fresh, contemporary and on-trend.”
Lucy Shannon, Marketing Manager Echo Falls adds “We are so excited to launch the limited edition range in collaboration with Holly Fulton. We know that our consumers are passionate about fashion, and partnering with such a fun and aspirational British fashion label is certain to delight and excite them.”
Wine you can wear?
Digging further, I find that Echo Falls also had a big presence at The Clothes Show last year (with WIWT founder Poppy Disney, fashion icon Caryn Franklin, stylist Karl Willet and MTV’s Becca Dudley). The Clothes Show – isn’t that fashiontainment central?
So you get the picture? What’s in the bottle is pretty much irrelevant and it’s all about colour, style, design, name dropping and fun.
I’ll have a pint of this season’s must-have
Well, all this talk of drink and fun makes me want to run down to the pub. Trouble is, I’ve got a nothing to wear. And no idea what ale is on-trend right now. Ooooh, let me see, shall I have the Dog’s Bollocks to go with my dark brown Next T shirt, or the Old Rasputin to match my M&S black jeans? It’ll be such a giggle with the boys at the bar – I can hardly wait!
The marketing industry is full of people who look the part and talk the talk. But a lot of them, when it comes to actually doing the job, can’t punch their way out of a wet paper bag.
What do I mean by “doing the job”? I mean taking a communication and marketing problem then coming up with a solution that works – one that passes the old AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) test.
Look at their websites and you’ll see a lot of waffle about what they promise to do (expect words like “passion”, “inspire”, “creative”, “refresh” and “insight”). But very little evidence of what they have actually done.
Where’s the proof? If people are shy about showing their work then it suggests they’re not proud of it. Or they don’t have as much experience as they pretend.
On those rare occasions when you do get examples of work it tends to be shown fleetingly, as if they don’t want you to look too closely. When you can see it there’s a lack of substance – pretty pictures and wallpaper words but nothing in the way of a strong message expressed in a remarkable way.
So I’m big on showing my work. And I’m also not scared to give you my thinking. Because there is some!
I’ve decided to call these little case studies “stories from the drawing board” because that’s what they are. Tales of how I took a marketing problem and turned it into a story that sells. To view them click on the links below…
Stories from the drawing board:
I do a lot of work for upmarket companies in the travel and leisure markets. This involves capturing the unique spirit of a particular destination and evoking an experience in a way that readers will find irresistibly inviting.
Halcyon Collections have put their new Passport online – I’d checked the proofs before it went to print, but I’ve just had my first sight of the completed job (albeit in electronic format).
Who are Halcyon?
David Eck was Vice President of Marketing at Red Carnation Hotels and I worked with him for about four years, writing their web copy, blogs, e-shots, press releases, brochures and all the other things that come under the heading of marketing comms.
When he set up Halcyon Collections with Ali a couple of years ago I was delighted to be invited to help on the writing side of things.
The overall challenge
Between them David and Ali have huge experience of the holidays and travel business. With Halcyon they offer bespoke itineraries for those who want to enjoy the most inspiring adventures and extraordinary experiences that the world has to offer.
What they don’t have, however, is unlimited resources and cash. They put in what you could term “sweat equity” – huge amounts of their own time and effort to get the business up and running. A big part of that has involved creating marketing communications that reflect the quality of the offering. That’s incredibly tough when it’s just two of you, you have to do everything yourself, and you don’t have a backer with deep pockets.
My help has been limited to assisting them produce the Halcyon Passport – a taster of what kind of properties they partner with and the type of bespoke and unique itineraries they can create. The first edition was 86 pages and covered Africa, the Indian Ocean and subcontinent, the United Arab Emirates and Europe. The second edition is 200 pages and covers most of the world.
Five people who know what they are doing
This was a team effort. David and Ali, using their existing relationships, and forging new ones, assembled an impressive collection of hotels and destinations that wanted to partner with them and be included. Then they had to collect the raw content (information and pictures) from all those organisations (a hugely time-consuming administrative challenge). The design work (the leather cover with logo imprinted into the surface, and the layout of all the pages) and print management was handled by my good friends at db communication by design (again, very challenging, requiring terrific attention to detail and a great “eye”).
I think you’ll agree that the results look amazing. These are publications of the highest quality and stand alongside some of the best travel & leisure literature being produced today by market leading companies with large in-house teams, famous design and branding consultancies and mega budgets. It just shows what can be achieved when you have five really experienced people who know exactly what they are doing.
I did the writing. But let me explain what that involved (so I take credit for what I did, but not for the stuff I didn’t).
I quite often get briefed by people who say something along the lines of “I’m pretty good at writing, but I just don’t have the time on this project” (this was NOT the case here – David is good at writing and he did do some of it on the second edition, as I’ll explain). Good writing is easy to read, and flows effortlessly. Those who glibly assume they can do it often under estimate just how hard it is to achieve this – there’s more going on than they realise.
120 words x 200, and different every time
First of all there’s the fact that each partner sent very different content, ranging from just a few words that said very little, up to 1,000 word essays. I had to turn each of these into pages of about 120 words, in a style that was consistent.
This generally involved a complete re-write, using their website as the source (because the text we received was often supplied by those for whom English was a second language). You have to capture what’s unique about the experience on offer whilst giving some specific information about the location, accommodation, facilities, activities, wining and dining.
It has to be evocative and fresh, without lapsing into clichés or painting the prose too purple. In the first edition I did all the destinations but for the second edition, with 200 pages, David did a lot too.
I can resist anything except temptation
Then there are the introductory pages at the start of the Passport. These are tricky in that the product will be different for everyone – each itinerary is individually designed, and much of the value is in the personal service. The challenge is to draw the reader in and appeal directly to their emotions. You have to pull hard on the heart strings, but without being clumsy. The touch has to be light, but actually quite forceful – otherwise people will just get a nice warm feeling but not actually do anything!
Smoothly does it
Then you have to move on, gracefully and start talking about the specific features of the service. It’s a gear change in the writing, but without there being an awkward transition. If you are promising elegance, comfort and sophistication then the writing must proceed gracefully and flow effortlessly.
In the second edition I also had to paint mini-portraits of Ali and David. The art here is to quickly give their background in such a way that their unique personalities come across in a winning way – personal service is not very appealing unless you get a great feeling about the person who will be offering it!
Continental drift – in 160 words
Then there are the pages which introduce each continent. You try summing up the unique appeal of India, the cultures, heritage, religions, peoples, landscapes, festivals, architecture, tastes and colours in just 160 words. And making it vivid, inviting and compelling, without appearing to try too hard. Oh, and don’t forget Sri Lanka and all those islands across the Indian Ocean.
Good, done that? Now do the same for the Americas, both north and south, in another 160 words, lightly skipping from the Canadian Rockies to the Amazon Rainforest and the islands of the Caribbean to the ancient ruins of the Aztecs.
Next, the Far East.
And then Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the pacific islands like Fiji.
Then Europe and the UK – an area with more than its fair share of variety and history. Finally, can you wrap up Africa, from cosmopolitan Cape Town to the archaeological sites of the Sudan and the remoteness of the Okavango to the teeming bazaars of Morocco?
Days of wonder, conjured up in words
Finally there are the itineraries. These are tough, because they have to cram in the maximum detail in the fewest number of words. There’s a price quoted on the page so you have to get in as much as you can, without it just becoming a boring list.
So, just one example of how I approach the challenge of selling luxurious travel experiences. If you’d like to see the complete job in flipbook form, click here. To read words more clearly just click on images.
Copying – if someone nicks your words they must think those words are good.
So I was gratified to hear from upmarket chauffeuring company Sybaris that whole sections of their website, written by yours truly, have recently appeared on two competitor websites.
One of the competitors was known to them, and apologised – it appears the web design company they employed just saved time and effort by cutting and pasting. The other case is “progressing”.
OK, I can laugh about it. But, joking aside, this is serious problem. Because if copy that’s original is then taken by others, the text is identified by Google as “plagiarised”- and there’s a danger that Google will penalise all of the sites with these identical words (including the one with the original text) in its search results.
So, those paying for original content lose out. And those who think they are paying for original content lose out also. And copywriters lose out because there’s less writing going on (hey, why pay when you have copy and paste?!).
I’ve just read Watertight Marketing by Bryony Thomas. It’s good – full of excellent practical advice on how to tighten up your marketing to get a better return on your investment. But, like a huge number of other marketing books, courses and seminars that present a system for success, it fills me with misgivings.
I’m not picking on this book in particular – it’s just a good (as in “one of the better ones” and “representative”) example of a type. It’s the type, as a whole, that I have a problem with.
These “How to…” books are useful. But only as far as they go.
As Hamlet says,
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
There’s more to marketing than these books would have you believe
Simplicity is seductive
The world is complicated. People are lazy, so they are hungry for simple solutions. Whether it’s losing weight, or winning customers, a simple system that’s easy to follow is going to be popular.
Marketing people have figured out this is what people want. They’re in marketing, duh! So you get a lot of books like Bryony’s that provide a simple way of looking at things, with simple diagrams, and a simple process to follow.
Her book is useful, because it gives you a clear picture of what it takes to put a watertight sales funnel together. And it talks you through all the stages – “do this, then do this, then do this…”
Simple is what sells the book. Simple is what makes it useful. But, being simple, it has shortcomings. In other words, the very thing that makes it good also makes it flawed.
Life ain’t simple.
So just reading this particular “how to” book, and getting your head around this specific system, won’t make you a successful marketing practitioner.
It’s a start. And reading more books like this, on “how to win with AdWords”, or “how to market with SMS”, or “how to manage your metrics”, and all those other topics crying out for a “how to…” guide, will plug further gaps in our knowledge.
They’ll give you a sound foundation based on best practice. And they’ll help you avoid many of the most common mistakes. You’ll be a solid, dependable and efficient professional, in a plodding sort of way. But that’s not enough.
Invisibility is not the goal
If this is all you do, the work you produce will be formulaic. Because that’s what you’re following, a formula. It will take you to the same place as all the others who are studiously putting one foot in front of the other on the prescribed path.
In other words you are spending a load of time and money just to lose yourself in the crowd.
At the start of Bryony’s book she writes “If you’re the owner of a small business this book is for you. If you’re a highly ambitious owner of a small business heading towards being a big business, or your goal is to build a business that sells for millions, this book is a must.”
In other words she’s primarily writing for “challenger brands” – something we’ll come back to.
If you are to challenge the big boys, and become one yourself, you can’t afford to waste a penny of your marketing budget (which is where Bryony’s book comes in – do what she says and you’ll save money).
But you’re also going to have to do something else (which is where Bryony’s book won’t help). You must come up with a message that punches way above its weight – one that makes a big impact with a puny budget.
In his book Purple Cow Seth Godin gives loads of examples of small businesses that did just that, by being remarkable – they realised that to stand out in a world of black and white cows they had to be purple.
Does your marketing cause erectile dysfunction?
So you’ve got to do something different, something that makes you jump out from the crowd. But getting attention is not enough – you’ve got to communicate it in a way that moves people, a way that wins hearts and minds.
Marketing is like sex – nothing happens till people get excited. And if you spend all your time stuck in a bean-counter, task-orientated, box-ticker, don’t-think-for-yourself or colour-outside-the lines-frame of mind then you’ll never create a single communication, let alone a brand, that’ll ever make the earth move.
Define the problem. Work out your objective. Draw up a plan. Use systems, formulas, step-by-step best practice approaches for all their worth. But there comes a point where you’ve got to cut loose and let your imagination off the leash. Otherwise all you’ll be is same old same old. And boring as ****.
Two heads are better than one
What we’re talking about here is a change of heads. Put your Mr Logic head on to do all the groundwork. Then put your Mr Creative head on and go walk the wild side. Where will you end up? Somewhere more interesting than you are now!
Way back in the Mad Men era there were two characters who personified these two very different approaches. David Ogilvy, coming from a market research background, was a methodical, analytical, left-brain sort of chap who tended to produce campaigns, backed up data and piles of best practice, that were hard to argue against – logical, but not terrible lovable.
Ogilvy’s approach worked fine for big and well established brands that had lots of money to spend.
Bill Bernbach, however, was the exact opposite. He was a genius at helping smaller challenger brands take on the market leaders. Like Avis.
Or become market leaders. Like VW.
Go forth and be creative
Bernbach’s words are hard to improve on, so I’ll just quote him. “A company will spend years in research and hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a point of difference for its product, and then use run-of-the-mill advertising to convey that difference to the people. Why? They must know that if their ad looks like all others, their product will be classed with all others. So often the words are saying ‘Look how different I am’, while the total ad says, ‘Pay no attention to what I say, I’m really one of the boys’.”
And here, for me, is the killer. “There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules. They can tell you that people in an ad will get you greater readership. They can tell you that a sentence should be this short or that long. They can tell you that body copy should be broken up for easier reading. They can give you fact after fact after fact. They are the scientists of advertising. But there’s one little rub. Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.”
In the same letter (his retirement letter, describing how he has been searching for people to replace him) he adds “I don’t want academicians. I don’t want scientists. I don’t want people who do the right things. I want people who do inspiring things.” He complained that those who follow formulas exhibit “sameness, a mental weariness, a mediocrity of ideas.” They could defend their work “on the basis that it obeyed the rules of advertising. It was like worshipping a ritual instead of the God.”
In other words he passionately believed that great advertising, marketing, branding (call it what you will), has a soul. Like great art, music, literature, architecture and even cookery, it’s created by people who first mastered the rules, then went off piste with a passion. Think Picasso, Bob Dylan, Shakespeare, Gaudi and Heston Blumenthal. Or, put it another way, you don’t get the Mona Lisa, a work of sublime mastery and mystique that transcends any explanation, if you stick to painting by numbers.
Mona Lisa picture credit http://chrispop.deviantart.com/
A couple of months ago I got a phone call from someone wanting a Muslim copywriter to help them launch a new halal product. I tried to tell them they had got the wrong number. But they insisted I was the person for the job. Did they know something I didn’t? The answer is yes.
Surely some mistake
The person who approached me was a lawyer on maternity leave who wanted to use their time productively. Despite having little marketing experience they had already got quite a long way with a website. But the kind of site they had in mind was probably going to cost them £30,000 and they simply didn’t have that kind of money. I felt I didn’t have the necessary skills to pull off this kind of miracle by words alone so, after several long phone calls, I turned the job down.
This still left me puzzled as to how they got my number. Then, looking at the analytics on my blog, I spotted that one of my posts had shown up on a search for “Muslim copywriter”. So, being pretty SEO/internet savvy (not) I had a brilliant idea – type the words “Muslim copywriter” into Google and let’s see what happens.
And there I was, on page one, about half way down. (And I’m still there).
How wrong can you get something?
In the summer of 2012 I wrote a post entitled “Why designers need copywriters – a cautionary tale”. It told the story of a design agency who branded a data security company, called “Saracen”, by using images of crusader knights. I pointed out that the Saracens were Muslim horsemen while the crusader knights were Christians. This I felt was a bit of a faux pas, seeing as they were fighting on opposite sides, and that Muslims and Christians still have their well-publicised differences to this day.
I expressed surprise that nobody from the design agency picked this or even bothered to check it. And amazemed that the client didn’t know what their own brand name meant. My feeling was that if they’d involved a copywriter then they might have picked that up. Because we tend to pay a bit more attention to the meaning of words, rather than just colours and stuff. And we probably did English and History at A Level, rather than Art and Media Studies. Don’t get me started…
The law of unintended consequences
So, if you type the words “Muslim copywriter” into Google this post comes up as about number six on page one. In fact, considering the number of times I’ve used the term in this post, and the headline, I may even hit the top slot. Which is a nonsense, because this is not my speciality (OK, I lived in Yemen as a child, but that doesn’t qualify me – and it’s another story. Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you).
Postscript. Saracen Datastore now have images of girls in white shirts on their website. Not guys in chain mail sporting the Cross of St George. And I’m now one of the world’s leading copywriters. Ha!
Picture credit: Brian
Marketers are very focused on whatever it is that they are promoting.
But this skews their judgement. Because that thing is so important to them, takes up such a huge amount of their brain space and consumes so much of their emotional energy, they forget that nobody else gives a shit about it.
Every individual in their target audience is equally focused on what it is that pays their own wages and floats their own boat.
Do I look like I’m interested?
Observe people closely, when they pass you in their car, push their trolley around the supermarket, or even talk to you in the pub, and you’ll realise that most of them are floating around in their own self-absorbed bubble, sealed up in little capsule that insulates them from most of what is happening around them.
What’s more, they really don’t want anyone/anything else, including you, to intrude on their “personal space”. Which makes it damn hard to market anything to them.
Too much information
There are a number of reasons for this, but one is information overload (a term popularized by Alvin Toffler in his bestselling 1970 book Future Shock, also known as infobesity or infoxication). People have so much “stuff” coming at them every day (emails, texts, pop-ups, tweets, pokes, press ads, radio/TV commercials, junk mail, sales calls…blah blah…) that they just tune everything out in order to stay sane!
I’ve been looking for some relatively up to date data that underlines just how serious the problem has become – but it has been hard to find (in amongst all the other data out there). But I’ve just stumbled across some recent figures. Read the list below and you’ll realise why people have retreated into their personal space – and how good your marketing has got to be to get through the firewall they’ve constructed around themselves.
Data about data
The information supply is now exploding at a scary pace:
Moral: mediocre marketing is a complete waste of time, effort and money. So next time you decide that hiring a good copywriter is too expensive think again. It’s not as costly as marketing communications that go ignored.
Picture credit Martin Czerwinski
I had a go at a mailer I received last year from Lloyds’ Bank with a post entitled “There is something rotten in the state of brand land”. As they were between campaigns at that point I guess a bit of confusion on their part was excusable. But now the new advertising is in full swing things are no better. Looking at the “Moments that matter” ads you have to ask yourself “what planet are these guys on?!”
Not a happy customer
First of all let me be totally honest – our personal customer experience with the bank has not been good of late, so I’m a bit jaundiced. We bought a new computer a few weeks ago, using my wife’s credit card. Because we don’t buy new computers every week Lloyds Bank decided this constituted “unusual activity on the account” – and suspended the card. Problem was, they neglected to inform us.
She only discovered this when trying to buy books from Amazon. Lucky she wasn’t miles from home, trying to pay for petrol, late at night. When she contacted the bank they told her what they had done, adding “we tried to call you”.
Tried? As in our customer service representative in a remote call centre had one feeble attempt and gave up before they succeeded? We both work from home so at least one of us is here 95% of the time during working hours. We have an answer machine. And they could have texted us. So what kind of “try” was that? Marks for security vigilance 9/10. Marks for communication and service 0/10.
So you could say I’m not a neutral observer when it comes to judging their marketing. But here goes anyway.
We care about you. No, really, honestly, we do, trust us on that one…
Catherine Kehoe, managing director for brands and marketing, Lloyds Banking Group, talked to Marketing Magazine and Marketing Week last September when the new campaign launched. She acknowledged that the bank, along with the entire sector, has some work to do in terms of rebuilding trust (don’t mention PPI mis-selling, Libor fixing, taxpayer bailouts or excessive bonuses). She told the interviewer that the new campaign was intended to persuade people that “what matters to our customers matters to us”. Hence the new theme of “Lloyds Bank – for the moments that matter”.
She adds that the bank is going to use the “customers’ words” and “It’s about reflecting people’s lives and not pushing products at them, and not the bank doing the talking”.
As a strategy it sounds reasonably sensible. But how well does it play out in practice? Dave Trott, in his excellent book “Creative Mischief” has a chapter entitled “The punters haven’t read the brief”. He reminds us that the conventional way of judging an ad campaign, checking how well it matches the brief, is bollocks. You are, as Dave says, “judging the work in exactly the way the consumer won’t – the consumer won’t have read the brief before they’re exposed to the work.”
So what is our reaction to this?
Right, what they are saying is “we know your family matters to you”. Blimey, how did they figure that out? What amazing insight – these guys are truly on my wavelength!
Is that really my reaction? No, I feel they are cynically playing back to me what they think I want to hear. But in a way that’s banal. Insincere. Patronising. Cynical. Sickeningly sweet and cute.
What’s more, it begs the question “so, understanding how much my family matters to me, what are you doing to help me do a better job of providing for them?” Does the ad answer that? No (the line along the bottom is the statutory small print). It is all “look and feel”, style and aspirational froth, with absolutely no substance.
All feel good factors and no information. A belly rub for first time buyers who are just expected to roll over then sit up and beg.
Tell me something that I don’t know! But what, specifically, are you doing about it? Apart from suspending my credit card when I buy my business a new computer (sorry, had to get that one in). Having decided that they don’t want to “push products” at people, what is the audience left with – sentiment, hot air, and the suspicion that they have **** all to offer the SME other than fifty shades of green.
And here’s another classic:
Does the arrival of the bank statement really fill people with this kind of euphoric contentedness? Is this a bank that understands me or one that’s taking the piss?
And my favourite. Not:
The sentimentality makes me cringe. Ripping off a line from The Beatles shows a remarkable lack of imagination – it’s just plain lazy. But what really gets me is that word slipped in surreptitiously. Being a good dad is all about loving your kids – almost. You’ve also got to have an annual income of £100,000 or £250,000 in savings or investments (read the body copy). You haven’t got that? You are a heartless parent and total loser!
The campaign is the work of RKCRY&R (on the top of a large block opposite Mornington Crescent tube station – I worked for the Y&R bit years ago), who modestly describe themselves as “The UK’s most creative agency”. Equally modestly they describe the Lloyds work as “The brand transformation story of the year”. Really?
On their website they write that “The strategic direction allows the bank to position itself as truly in tune with the needs of its customers, and there for the challenges and opportunities they face today.”
I beg to differ (but hey, I’m just an ordinary bloke who happens to be one of the bank’s customers, so what do I know?). The work convinces me that they are quite the opposite – totally out of tune with the needs of customers, from a planet in a galaxy far, far away, and so puffed up with self-belief that empathy simply means everyone else agreeing with them.
The blurb on their website continues with “RKCR/Y&R’s new creative approach features distinct and differentiated creative that redefines the bank, and carves a unique position for Lloyds Bank within the financial services sector.” Distinct and differentiated? In what way? All the ads are green, whereas RBS, Barclays and Nat West are blue – is that what you mean? The ads are so devoid of any information that looking for any meaningful point of difference is an entirely futile exercise.
CEO Ben Kay adds “The rebrand afforded us an opportunity to revisit and draw on the role banks should play in customers’ lives today.” There’s a weasel right there – the word “should”. The work draws on the role banks should play, not the one they do play. So we’re not talking fact here, but fantasy. The ads are a projection of the role banks would play, or might play, if their number one priority was to increase the sum of human happiness. They paint a rosy picture (with green tinge as specified in new brand guidelines) of an idealised happy-clappy world, or a fairy story, where everything is perfect and everyone lives happily ever after. This stuff (I’m being polite) is pure wish fulfilment – a truth-free adman’s lala land.
How many people, at the bank and the agency, were involved in creating this campaign? Hundreds. And they all seem to go along with the idea that branding is about painting pictures that are totally aspirational – feeding consumers a sugar coated lie that bears no relationship to current reality. From my own reaction, and other comments online, plenty of consumers are just not buying this tosh – they’re simply not as gullible as the marketers seem to believe.
I can’t work with these people
The marketing industry is now stuffed full of people who “live the brand”. They delude themselves into thinking the fantasy world they live in, and which they have helped to create, is real. And go around feeding themselves, and the public, “future truths”, pretending that what everyone would like to happen has already happened – pure doublethink.
The ordinary punter, who is on the receiving end of the mediocre service and very average products, sees it very differently. And yet the marketing people keep waffling on about how “we understand”. It’s about as convincing as posh boys like David Cameron and George Osborne saying “we share your pain and we’re all in this together”.
I have done work for Lloyds Bank years ago, plus a few other big financial institutions like Legal & General, Coutts and Halifax. And I’ve worked for top agencies like Saatchi and Saatchi and Y&R. But I just can’t stomach it any more.
I much prefer working for smaller and medium sized businesses that really are offering something truly different, genuinely have something to say for themselves and where the marketing people have not lost touch with reality – see my earlier post “I’m sold on my clients”.