Archive for May, 2012
In the first half of my Planning career I worked on a number of drinks brands and became a bit of an authority on stuff like maximising back bar selling hotspots. As a result, I ended up writing lots of features for drinks trade mag The Publican and still provide expert comment for the odd piece in The Morning Advertiser (who merged with The Publican).
In December last year I contributed to a feature on Why New Drinks Fail, including a rant on the drinks industry’s attitude towards Marketing to Women:
click to enlarge to readable size – or the text is below...
It’s only the brewing industry that seems to feel the need to target it’s NPD on the basis of gender. But women have been conditioned by the industry itself to look for a drink to suit the occasion, rather than their femininity.
Women are more willing to order their own drink to suit the occasion, or invent one, with hundreds of variations on spirit-and-a-mixer. And that’s the point – everyone is an individual and you can’t market at the entire female adult population as some kind of homogenous sisterhood. Which is exactly what beers aimed at women seem to have set out to do.
It seems that the drinks industry didn’t listen. We’re about to see the launch of Coco Breve, a ‘coconut water-infused clear malt beverage targeting women’, hot on the heels of last year’s Animee, a low calorie beer that comes in clear, lemon and rose – and only sold £300K worth in its first four months on supermarket shelves. Then there’s Carlsberg’s Eve, a lychee flavoured drink fronted by Louise Redknapp which failed despite massive marketing spend.
There’s a great piece from last year by Melissa Cole in The Guardian about why she thinks beers aimed at women fail. Only 17% of beer in the UK is drunk by women so it’s clear why brewers see an opportunity. But they still seem to be hell-bent on producing a brand to fit a demographic rather than a mindset and/or needstate.
I’ve written lots of posts with tips for wannabe Planners (here, here and here), but it struck me that I’ve never posted anything aimed at Junior Planners who are already in their first Planning post.
If you want to get ahead, you need to get noticed. And these days being good at your specific Roles and Responsibilities probably isn’t enough. So Junior Planners who’d like to be Senior Planners one day might find the following advice helpful:
Share, learn and network
Get on twitter, start a blog, make some new Planning friends – and remember to share as you learn.
Also check out Junior Strategy which has loads of indirect mentor type videos from ‘a variety of insiders in strategic roles, from client side to agency side, from communications to product design’.
Be a hoarder
Every time you see, read or hear something interesting, squirrel it away. Use bookmarking services, tumblrs, RSS readers, PC folders and even old fashion lever arch files to save anything that inspires, interests or excites you – as well as any data to find that relates to any brand or market segment your agency is ever likely to work on. Then come the Last Minute Pitch or Small Budget Project enjoy your position as Oracle of all Knowledge and Wisdom.
Learn how to be helpful
Learn how to mount creative, film and edit a basic video, host an online community, book omnibus research, find a decent viewing facility and get your boss on the next flight to Honolulu. Your agency might have dedicated specialists to take care of all of this but you’ll brief them better if you know roughly how to do it – and when it’s the Friday evening before a 9am Monday pitch you’ll be the one who saves the day by getting on and fixing the problem in their absence.
Equally you should know how to fix a paper jam in the photocopier, where the spare printer ink lives, who is in charge of petty cash, what time the sandwich man comes and when all the team birthdays are. In short, be a brilliant PA. It’s not about wanting to take over the PA role or stay as a junior forever, it’s just that well informed, helpful, organised, makes-everything-run-smoothly people are the ones that are valued, remembered – and more likely to be supported when they ask for training and development.
You’re a junior. So it’s unlikely that you’ll be sorting out the agency’s biggest client’s 5 year strategic plan any time soon. You may well spend your days wading through Mintel reports and doing vox pops. All the less glamorous stuff is not only vital to the Planning process but also brilliant training. If you can persuade a complete stranger to stop in the street and talk to you on video about their shampoo for five minutes then life will hold few challenges :) And nobody wants a whiner on their team.
Get to know Reception, Production, Traffic and IT as well as all the account handling and creative teams. Agency support staff can make your life heaven or hell and a smile and a quick chat can work wonders. Internal meetings tip: when in doubt, bring biscuits.
But all that is no use if you don’t contribute something to the actual Planning process. Even if it’s not a project you’re working on directly, do you have a friend who loves that brand, have you read a really interesting article about that business or are you going into town on Saturday and happy to mystery shop some competitor brands?
But don’t just share information – add your own insight to it, “I’ve read this interesting article about Brand X and it struck me that….” “When I was going round the store I noticed that…”
Big-up Brand You
And if it IS your own project, make sure you put your own stamp on your work. By all means stick to the ‘global planning system’ if your agency has one, but find a fresh way of interpreting a piece of data or illustrating an insight. There isn’t a ‘right’ way to do Planning, you have to develop your own style.
And finally, don’t forget to take time to Plan your own career. The best piece of career advice I ever had was from an account handler who told me back in 2000 to start building a portfolio of my work. Twelve years later I’ve reached Volume Seven – and every time I’ve needed to make an agency move (or later to illustrate my experience as a freelance) I’ve had case studies to back me up. Respect client confidentiality and any NDAs you may have signed, but keep adding to your Greatest Hits file – and keep it at home in case you ever have to make a swift exit from an agency…
I explained my theory about Rollercoaster Agencies to someone in AgencyLand last week:
In any agency market (be it all-the-agencies-in-Yorkshire, all-the-cool-digital-agencies or all-the-ones-big-enough-to-handle-a-multinational-FMCG-client) there will always be one or two businesses at the top of the tree doing really well – creatively and/or financially, although the two are of course inevitably connected. And there will also always be one or two outfits that are wobbling. But it’s rare for one agency to keep the top spot for more than a couple of years.
Whatever the level or location, as an agency head count gets beyond the tipping point (which seems to be over 150 round here) there will always be times when they have to financially speculate on future needs, like moving offices, investing in IT and HR, buying in a complimentary business like digital or research or staffing up on Planners, Heads of Client Service and the like.
But it only takes one big client loss to make an all-equipped, all-singing, all-dancing agency wobble. And the bigger the agency, the harder work it is to stabilise that wobble.
I’ve come to this conclusion because as agencies get bigger they tend to invest in Planning (i.e. my entire employment history). And as they hit the top of the curve and start to shrink, the redundancies start (ditto, except mostly I jumped first). I worked out with a Planner friend the other day that I’d spent half my career expecting to get made redundant at any minute. That’s hardly an environment for breeding committed, motivated staff and probably explains why freelancing suits me better :)
So my top tip for any job hunters out there is to find a potential employer who is being cranked up the rollercoaster, not hurtling back down again.
The Olympic Marketing Police can do all they like about cracking down on use of Olympic messaging or brand icons by non-sponsors (their ‘statutory marketing rights’ document is 61 pages long), but brands who aren’t on the official roster are still going to be associated with London 2012 by the Great British Public.
As early as January this year non-sponsor Nike was the sports brand most associated with the event (I guess the assumption being that as the biggest and shoutiest sports brand surely they’d have got involved) and as of early May, over the pond ‘non-affiliated marketers’ took 27 of the top 50 spots measuring effective brand activation.
As consumers of marketing messages, we just aren’t wired to carefully shift through looking for official logos and Olympic endorsed endlines. We connect with the campaigns that talk about national pride, and celebrating great endeavours, i.e. what the Olympics are all about.
Everyone is saying nice things at the moment about P&G’s ‘Proud Sponsor of Mums’ official Olympic campaign, but I’m not sure that come flag waving time what we must now refer to as a ‘John Lewis approach’ is going to cut through. I think the winners are going to be brands that talk about pride and celebration – and handily, no-one has slapped a ban on gratuitous use of union jacks yet (so long as they’re not held by an athlete).
In contrast, the Diamond Jubilee logo can be downloaded free off the royal website (complete with brand guidelines) and it seems that so long as you don’t put it on a teapot without asking nicely first or imply HMQ’s direct endorsement then at least individuals and non-profits can do what they like with it. Top marks, ma’am.
In the Homeland C4 ad break on Sunday evening, something very rare happened. An ad made me cry.
It’s a very simple, John Lewis-ey kind of concept for Quality Solicitors (a kind of holding brand for a group of independent solicitors all over the country) and could easily have got lost as just another ‘snippets of life’ execution…but for some reason it moved me.
I don’t have kids, so John Lewis’ kid-on-Christmas-morning didn’t tug at my heart strings the way it did for parents. But Big Life Events like birth and death move everyone, no matter what their current personal situation might be. Add in the kind of Life’s Challenges that one or more of which will have affected most people in some way – redundancy, divorce, setting up your own business, moving house and you have a very compelling proposition along the lines of We’re here to help you through all your Big Life Events and Challenges.
Judging by twitter the ad divided opinion a bit, but far better to connect on an emotional level (good or bad) than be faced with a reaction of mass indifference.
Personally and from a Planner’s point of view, I would have liked the end of the ad to make it a bit clearer exactly who Quality Solicitors are – nationwide but local lawyers – as I had to google them to be sure before I wrote this. But overall, top marks to Team Saatchi (and nice spot choice from MediaCom Edinburgh too).
Ladies, can I have a big cheer please for Boots No7. Their Ta Dah! campaign (by Mother, which has been running since last August) makes me very happy because they haven’t used airbrushing, models with lash extensions or models who have had cosmetic surgery.
But not only that – the campaign implies that their products make you look like the best version of you, rather than the usual “buy this or no-one will shag you” (thank you, Eddie Izzard) messaging cosmetic companies usually resort to.
I suppose ‘Ta Dah!’ is the cosmetics equivalent of shampoo’s ‘Good Hair Day’. I can totally identify with the (sadly infrequent) moment when you’ve done the usual ‘throw makeup in general direction of face while running late’ thing, then look in the mirror and think “I appear to look like a better version of me!” and bounce off to your evening out full of confidence.
It sounds like that’s what the brand intended to get across. I’m not quite so keen on the TV for their anti-aging cream (again from last year but I’ve only just seen it) which, inevitably, has to focus on the product’s looking-younger properties, but at least it’s still pretty down to earth.
Here’s the rest of the campaign I’ve been able to dig up:
this image came from here
In the last few weeks I’ve been saying a lot of stuff like “well, what I think the brand was trying to say was…” to research respondents and piping up in creative reviews with “do you think we might be overcomplicating things a bit?” equally frequently.
In the quest to engage, to have the new nirvana of a ‘conversation’ with the target audience – and perhaps to hope for a creative award too, it’s easy for creative solutions to stray too far from the original message. Sometimes so far that the poor recipient hasn’t a clue what the brand was trying to say, or gets the wrong end of the stick completely. Chinese whispers creative, if you like.
I’m not suggesting that every TV ad should consist of a bloke reciting the campaign proposition verbatim, but if someone in the brand’s target audience sees, hears or otherwise experiences a piece of communications activity but can’t tell you what the key message was, then in (most) cases I think we’ve failed.
You can be creative and on message. Honda’s Cog talks about reliability while Compare the Market’s Meerkat is about memorability and “cheap car insuuurance”, in a market with little opportunity for product differentiation.
We can’t all churn out award winning, ground breaking campaigns every week. But we can try to engage while getting the message across at the same time. I recently stumbled across this ad by Australian bed retailer Snooze that feels like a Real World, lower budget solution that got the balance right: