Posts Tagged 'storytelling'

150 not out

Innocent Drinks – those masters of simple marketing – have just released a lovely new piece of activity:

“Hello… My name is Alex Horne and I’m trying to set a World Record to one day be the oldest man in the world. I have been attempting this death-defying feat non-stop for the last 31 years and 7 months and although I’m now getting tired, I am still confident that I can keep going.

So please get behind me, wish me luck and warn me of any imminent dangers. Keep checking this site for regular blog, video and twitter updates and watch me avoid the reaper for another century at least.”

Alex’s video tells more of the story:

Equally mad are his 10 reasons why he believes he’ll succeed in living to be the world’s oldest man:

The whole thing is totally daft, but (I think) that’s pretty much the point.

Overall, it’s a great fit with Innocent’s brand personality, but it doesn’t feel like they’re trying to sell me anything.

Obviously the concept of living to be the world’s oldest person fits well with a brand that promotes a healthy lifestyle, but there’s no overt mention of any Innocent products (at least for now).

Other great elements of this initiative include Alex’s blog:

His twitter page:

And the selection of random bits on the website:

Including this great little competition:

They’re supporting it on their wonderful Facebook page too:

Overall, a lovely bit of fun that successfully deepens my relationship with the brand.

I look forward to seeing how this one evolves.

See for yourselves at Long Live Alex.

great to share

It’s been a while since I posted something in the classics series, but I’ve found myself referring to this spot quite a lot recently, so I thought it was probably worth sharing here too.

This ad does a great job of extending the product’s benefit into a compelling new territory.

Up until this, most gum ads talked about ‘freshness’ and alluded to the romantic advantages this could bring.

But this ad reversed the allusion, putting the romance centre stage, and so making the overall benefit much more emotional.

This turns the promise into a more engaging story that people can relate to, and crucially, it makes it much easier to recall (20 years later I still remember it clearly).

I really like the way the final product shot feels like a natural part of the story too.

What about you – what do you think makes it work?

soap operettes

This is a fantastic Nescafé campaign from the late 1980s.

It’s an interesting variation on the leitmotiv approach: evolve a creative concept over time to deliver increased depth and duration of audience engagement:

The same technique was harnessed in the equally wonderful Nicole, Papa work for Renault Clio a few years later.

Such storytelling is a powerful communications proposition that brands can deliver through conventional media like TV.

However, the proliferation of storytelling media like the Web means we now have many more opportunities to engage people than we did in the 1980s; which brand will be the first to refresh this approach and deliver the first epic  transmedia story?

I’d love to see more examples of these brand ‘soap operettes’ – please share any links via the comments section below.

implicit complicity

manager on vacation

There’s something about this sign’s implicit complicity that establishes instant affinity.

Very simple, but highly engaging.

I think the image first appeared here, but I found it thanks to these subsequent reposts.

orchestrating success


Marketing is similar to conducting an orchestra: our role is to bring all the different pieces of a story together into one, harmonious experience.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but this superb TED talk from Itay Talgam helped to bring those thoughts together:

Itay’s points have relevance to many areas of business, but they seem particularly pertinent to today’s world of participative brand relationships.

Let’s explore his points in a bit more depth.

Be as one

Itay begins his talk by observing that, until the conductor arrives, the orchestra is just making noise.

Some of that noise may stand out above the rest, but ultimately, the noise lacks a coherent structure.

A conductor’s role is to establish that structure:

“The conductor enables eveyone’s story to be heard at the same time.”

It’s important to remember that brands only exist in people’s minds, and their perceptions differ depending on individual experiences and context.

Some people hear different parts of our brand’s music in different ways, and those differences lead to differing perceptions and preferences.

As marketers, we need to ensure that the important instruments stand out, but also that they all come together in one, harmonious melody.

Communications should work as an ensemble

When combined effectively, a full orchestra delivers a far richer experience than any one instrument can on its own.

The same principle applies to communications channels (i.e. media): we can use the power of a ‘solo’ where appropriate, but relying too heavily on just one instrument can limit your potential.

Our task is to take the beauty and power inherent in each instrument, and weave each of them together into a rich symphony.

Audience participation is a double-edged sword

The clip Itay shows of the Viennese audience clapping along to the music is a great example of audience participation.

Rather than ‘interfering’ with the performance, their contribution adds to the ‘story’ and elevates the experience.

However, such participation would have ruined a rendition of Mozart’s Moonlight Sonata:

Where it’s relevant, audience participation can play a valuable part in the experience, but it’s critical to remember that it’s not always relevant.

Our task is to identify when it makes sense to harness participation, and then influence and guide it to ensure that it doesn’t become an unwelcome distraction.

Inspiration vs. control

Itay tells the story of the conductor at La Scala, who was forced to resign because he was overly commanding.

As Itay notes, trying to control with an iron fist removes the possibility of partnership – a loss that would have serious consequences in a world where participation is becoming increasingly important.

If we try too hard to command the conversations surrounding our brands, we risk suffocating them.

Instead, we need to shift our focus from control to guidance – as Itay suggests,

“Open a space for players to add in another layer of interpretation — their own.”

We can guide the conversation along a particular path, but we need to allow that conversation the freedom to evolve of its own accord as well.

Immerse yourself

Quite early on in his talk, Itay notes that:

“success comes from happiness”

I’ve mentioned this before: if you want to be the best at what you do, you’ve got to love doing it.

Most importantly, you’ve got to get involved.

A means vs. the end

For me, the most salient point in Itay’s talk is when he contrasts interpretation with execution.

As marketers in a social world, our role is to inspire; not to control.

That will inevitably lead to some unexpected results; sometimes, people will interpret our efforts in a way that is markedly different to what we’d intended.

However, as long as the the results are still favourable, there’s little reason to worry: there are many different routes to success, and it’s arriving at the destination that counts.

All the right notes…

I’ll conclude with a point I’ve made a few times before: success in marketing depends on them, not you.

Sometimes, even if you play all the right notes, you can’t guarantee you’ll achieve success.

Take it away Eric, Ernie, and André…

Thanks very much to John for sowing the seeds of this post in my mind, and to Inaki for introducing me to Itay’s TED talk.

legends of the dark black


A few weeks ago, over on the wonderful Noisy Decent Graphics, Ben shared some history relating to the oldest logo still in use today.

He came to the conclusion that it’s the S.P.Q.R. mark, which dates back to Ancient Roman times:


This started me thinking about the world’s longest surviving brands.

The world’s major religions – Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam – would probably all make it into the top 10.

Surprisingly, this Wikipedia page suggests that they might be joined by a few hotel brands.

Less surprising was the fact that breweries would probably make the list too; I can think of a few beer brands that have been around for more than a couple of centuries.

Perhaps the best example of this is Guinness – a brand which, fittingly, celebrates its 250th birthday this week.

It’s by no means the world’s oldest beer brand, but it’s certainly one of the most widely recognised; indeed, it enjoys such cult status that people happily wear Guinness T-shirts, even if they’re not big fans of the drink.

So what is it that has helped Guinness to survive and continue growing for so long, and what can other brands learn from its success?

Here are a few thoughts:

The brand is a story

Many people still believe that the recipe for Guinness was discovered by accident when Arthur accidentally burnt a batch of his normal brew. The story goes that he sold this batch at a discount to porters at the local docks, who all came back asking for more. Regardless of whether this story is true*, it’s exactly the kind of trivia that the brand’s core consumers love to share in pubs and bars, inspiring talkability at the point of purchase and consumption.

In a similar vein, I’ve heard many people retell the more accurate story that Guinness was regularly prescribed to new mothers, people who gave blood, those with heart conditions, and for a variety of other ailments. A variety of functional qualities, not least the drink’s high iron content, mean that many people still believe the brand’s historic claim that “Guinness is Good For You.”

The product is highly distinctive

In a market saturated with hundreds of lager brands that all look, smell, and taste the same, Guinness offers something different. It’s thick, dark, and bitter, and as a consequence, it stands apart from all the competing offers at the bar.

What’s more, outlets invariably serve Guinness in distinctive, branded glassware – vessels so prized that drinkers often ‘forget’ to return them once they’ve finished their pint.

It’s part of numerous consumption rituals

To many people, Guinness is Ireland, and vice versa. Every year, people make a point of visiting bars on March 17th to drink a Guinness in honour of St Patrick. A good proportion of them will do so in an Irish Pub – another ‘brand’ which has successfully travelled the globe, invariably taking Guinness with it.

And then there’s the product ritual itself. The real Guinness pour – ‘119.53 seconds to perfection’ – is a brand ritual like no other. It’s an unparalleled intangible social object, reinforced by barstaff and brand fans the world over. Not only is the ritual observed, but people share the story themselves, citing the brand’s famous “good things come to those who wait” explanation.

Crucially, consumers can be a part of all these occasions – indeed, the brand is often merely a facilitator in their occasions – and that draws people deeper into the brand’s franchise.

It delivers a strong expressive (emotional) benefit

Guinness is often seen as a ‘real man’s beer’. The strong, bitter taste takes some getting used to, and more than a couple of pints in one sitting requires determination. The associations vary subtly by culture, but most relate to strength, courage, and masculinity, as well as a sense of mystery and intrigue.

It delivers inconic communications

The brand has built on its talkability through a long-standing association with iconic advertising. From the famous “Guinness is Good For You” slogan and the instantly recognisable toucan, to more modern incarnations such as the Rutger Hauer “Pure Genius” campaign and the award-winning surfer (both below), Guinness’s advertising regularly inspires conversations.

Guinness toucan

It’s an experience

It’s hard to rush Guinness, even if you could find a reason to want to. It’s a stout that’s meant to be savoured, not guzzled. The rituals, the distinctive glassware, the experiential settings all combine to make a Guinness so much more than a “quick pint”. Because of this, Guinness actually helps the drinker to slow down, which makes it a relevant choice at the end of a long day.

It’s tasty

While taste is a matter of subjective interpretation, it’s unlikely the brand would sell 1 billion pints around the world each year if it didn’t tickle the right taste buds. And that makes a big difference; no matter how much hype surrounds a brand, if it delivers fundamental utility, it stands a better chance of surviving in the long run.

I’m sure I won’t be alone in raising a glass (or two) in celebration of the Dark Black on September 24th.

*Apparently this story is pure legend, but I think I’ll stick with it anyway.
Remember that alcohol is only fun in moderation – don’t ruin the occasion by having too much.

context is king

This short clip is great for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s quite funny, and sharing laughter is always good.

But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it shows how saying something in a different context can totally change its meaning.

The critical part of all communication is what’s understood, not what’s said.

A valuable lesson for advertisers everywhere…

Reminds me of the great Lost Generation piece

Please note that I have great respect for Jonathan Charles, and I am not making fun of him in any way by sharing this clip. Many thanks to Rubber Republic for sharing the link.

the evolution of species

eskimon's coffee cups

The Consumerist reports that Starbucks is

“…testing several new stores in which there will be no
Starbucks branding at all. Instead, the coffee shops will
be branded with ‘community names,’ like ’15th Avenue
Coffee and Tea'”

The article goes on to report that these new-concept cafés may serve alcoholic drinks and feature live music.

They may even adopt different names for different locations.

A far cry indeed from the cookie-cutter approach that made Starbucks famous (infamous?) the world over.

So why the radical shift in strategy?

An article in the Seattle Times suggests that the changes are designed to reintroduce an absent “community personality” that characterises traditional, local coffeehouses.

Critically, the article discusses the need for a “compelling consumer experience” that “tells a story“.

It is in these three critical words – ‘tell a story’ – that Starbucks may have lost its way.

As the chain expanded around the world, a considerable element of its appeal lay in the fact that it offered something new: a fresh take on the coffee experience.

Indeed, it wasn’t just a café; it was ‘The Third Place‘.

To many, Starbucks told a new kind of story.

But as time went on, and the brand stuck rigidly to its formulaic approach wherever it went, those same people came to know that story a little too well.

And while few would question the consistency of the Starbucks product and experience, that consistency might cause its very downfall.

Because while Starbucks almost always meets its customers’ expectations, there is precious little opportunity for the brand to exceed them.

And that means that Starbucks is still telling us exactly the same story it was telling us 10 years ago.

But, as Darwin stressed, even the strongest of species must evolve in order to survive.

And if brands are all about the stories they tell, they must evolve their stories if they are to survive.

So, while this new approach from Starbucks may sound like a brave move, in reality, it may be the only strategy that can save the brand from extinction.

Read more in these Consumerist and Seattle Times articles.

thinking space

economist thinking space spotify profile

Those wonderful people over at The Economist have released a new project called Thinking Place.

It’s amazing.

The first thing I noticed was the site itself: it has a beautiful interface, and is a great thing to explore.

But as you explore, you discover that the content is fascinating too (cue comparison with reading The Economist).

The site is like a cross between a blog, a Facebook page, and a Linkedin profile for Economist readers, all hosted by the newspaper itself.

There are fascinating insights into the working spaces of great creative minds, including:

Daniel Ek, co-founder of music sight Spotify;
Elisabeth Chavelet, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Paris Match magazine;
Andrea Llosa, fashion designer.

Each of these ‘profiles’ is based on a photograph of the person’s ‘thinking space’, and contains links to detailed stories behind some of the more important items within that space:

economist thinking space table

Inevitably, one of these ‘important’ items is always a copy of The Economist, but that inclusion is always relevant: each person explains how The Economist helps fuel their creative process.

As Andrea comments,

“I’m always surprised to find articles on movies, books and
arts towards the back of the magazine. It gives me fresh ideas
on alternative media to get the information that I am
interested on.”

economist thinking space magazine ref

Another exciting feature is the option to upload your own thinking space profile – I’m really looking forward to seeing what people submit.

This social element is very clever: it allows readers to benefit from an affiliation with the Economist brand, deepening their relationship with its proposition, but it also allows the Economist to better understand its most engaged audience.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the site gives non-readers a reason to try the brand for the first time; I found the site’s focus on great creative thinkers particularly interesting.

Thinking Place is a great example of strategic communications: it conveys a strong brand personality, and establishes a clear linkage between the Economist brand and ‘inspiration‘.

I’m inspired.

Go explore for yourself.

*UPDATE: Thinking Spaces was created by AMV BBDO in Europe – the agency responsible for the Economist’s classic White out of Red campaign (more on that in this post). In the agency’s own words,

“The campaign message is ‘The Economist is read by, and inspires, interesting people’ and, therefore, has universal appeal. For its readers, The Economist satisfies their appetite for intelligent, independent, global analysis in a world of ever-more commoditised news.”

Thanks again to oneplusinfinity (another great place for creative inspiration!)

tweet and make up

coke twitter

pepsi twitter

This really tickled me – a great idea from Iain at Amnesia.

He’s managed to get Coke and Pepsi talking to each other on twitter.

The idea works on so many levels, but above all, it demonstrates marketing maturity from both brands.

Holding out a hand to your rival is a great way to demonstrate a strong brand personality and a responsible social attitude.

And it’s doing wonders for PR and conversations too…

Who’s next?


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