Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Tidal: Celebrity Power is not a Brand Equity

You’ll probably heard about the big, mass-media event that was Jay-Z’s launch of Tidal, the music service he’s bought out. It was a huge deal, especially on social media, with music stars promoting the service and talking about a revolution in music.

Of course, it is now underperforming and barely registering in the market.

Why? This one is pretty easy actually. A new service entering a crowded market needs to have a point of difference. What is the point of difference for Tidal? 

Well, strictly speaking it has higher sound quality than other providers, something that audiophiles should love.

The problem is that no one knows that.

If you ask people what they know about Tidal, the first thing they know about it is that it’s by Jay-Z.

(Actually the first thing they know about it is that it’s that thing that makes waves. I doubt that many people care about Tidal yet, if they ever will.)

By making the launch event so megalomaniacal, so overblown, Tidal has made celebrity its story. Now in an age of celeb culture, Twitter and Instagram, that could be a way to launch a product. Lord knows that a lot of people are willing to buy virtually anything if it has a whiff of celebrity around it.

But Tidal aspires to be something bigger than celebrity. They just chose to frame their marketing in a way that makes it seem that way – that this was just an exercise in ego for Jay-Z and the other artists involved.

The core issue is that the main pitch made by the leaders of Tidal was that this was a system that would be better for the artists. And that is a good pitch to make – to artists.

Your everyday consumer, rightly or wrongly, doesn’t care very much about making things better for the artists. It’s a nice idea sure, but it comes tangentially to the primary concern, which is value.

And it’s hard to feel good about value when the artists that are front and centre in the Tidal launch are the multimillionaires. 

McVities Want You to Eat Adorable Animals

I’ve been struggling to come up with a good reason for why I’m not a fan of the McVities ads by Grey going around – the ones where the biscuits are imagined as cute animals and then get eaten.

Although writing that down, that’s a pretty good reason right there.

Obviously the campaign is intended to be a bit facetious, a bit silly. While I haven’t seen the brief created for that campaign, I doubt the objective listed was “reduce the fluffy kitten population”.

Even so, I’m just not sure what the thought process was behind it.

Perhaps it’s just considered to be part of building the brand. But it’s not that much of a good feelings campaign, it’s more tongue in cheek, more child-like.

Perhaps it’s to demonstrate the variety of products that McVities make. But the biscuits are hardly the stars of the ad. They may be centre stage but the attention is on the animals, save for the last second. That might be enough but I don’t think it really sends the right message.

That’s my issue with it in the end. It’s a product-centric ad where you hardly see the product.

(Although one argument I can make in its favour is that it’s clearly going to have some aim at kids, who have a different mentality and a different value set when it comes to asking for products. Perhaps in the end it’s just a kids’ ad that happens to be designed to appeal to adults a bit as well.)

On an unrelated note, I really think they should play more on the name McVities. Everyone knows that they make biscuits, but I always think it’s funny that McVities makes you make a crunching motion with your mouth. Just a thought.

Tube is a Funny Word

There’s a few ads I’d like to talk about today. 

Tube ads are remarkably diverse, ranging from high quality, agency driven campaigns, to some pretty sleazy fare which come off as the creepy uncle to those banner ads you find on news websites.

(You know the ones, about the 55 year old mom who confounds doctors with skin treatments and/or makes random exciting dollar amounts per month. From home! And it’s all about the shocking truth about one little trick, possibly from China.)

So on that note, our first contender. This is a group of ads from the same company about their various products, including Pregnacare and Wellbaby. They hawk vitamin supplements to (expecting) mothers, which is one of those areas where I think it’s pretty hard to justify advertising.

But quite apart from the ethics of the ads, they just aren’t good. Sure they nail the implied fear about not doing enough for your baby, but simple comparison with the ads around them makes them look scuzzy and untrustworthy just from their low production values.

Plus the names just don’t inspire confidence, mostly because they seem so open and desperate. Pregnacare. For caring for you when you’re pregnant. Wellbaby. Because you want your baby to be well, right? Right? You get what we’ve saying?

It’s just creepy as shit.

Next on the list is an interesting example, British Military Fitness – it’s all about those fitness programmes with military instructors that you see in the park and make you very glad that you’re not doing them. And then you go home and try to do some pushups.

The ad itself is quite fun and playful. It’s all about convincing you that their programme can be fun as well as a good work out. What’s interesting about it though is that it is very time conscious. It knows that its core aim has to be to engage and inform you about its merits in as little as the time between one Tube stop and the next.

In fact it explicitly says that that’s what it’s doing. Which is at the least eye-catching. But it doesn’t scrimp on copy. Quite the opposite, it makes a clear, informative, but concise sell. And then lets you on your way.

And all in all it works.

I’m saving my current favourite for last. Audible is probably the best funded of the three I’m talking about here – it’s a subsidiary of Amazon. It’s a subscription service for audiobooks, which I confess I wasn’t aware of as a thing until these ads came out.

In a way that’s great, because the ads for Audible are great at selling the concept – which is key to growing the market.

What works about them is a simple art direction choice – showing the listener, and showing them surrounded by the words of the book. It really illustrates simply and effectively the joy of audiobooks – to be surrounded by the voice, thoughts, feelings of a book. And the copy does the rest of the job, describing how you can carry books around you easily in the crush of the train, and how easily you can get new material, only paying monthly rather than for every book. And the people in the ads are realistic – they look happy, attractive, but realistic. People you can identify with, enjoying books – and enjoying them on the train. It’s a very apt bit of targeting.

So that’s it. Tube ads from high to low.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Cara Delevingne Is Not A Good Face For Your Brand

I’ll keep this short and simple.

Cara Delevingne is a very successful model. She’s got a distinctive look, and wears the camera well. She’s good at what she does.

But I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone is using her for their campaigns right now.

Think about it. She’s everywhere. She may look good, but she’s looking good everywhere, for everyone she works for. And she has multiple brands that she works for.

So there’s the problem. What’s the value in working with someone who is inherently disassociated and disengaged from your brand? Someone like Cara Delevingne may be the face of a brand for a moment, but all it gives you is five minutes of memory in the mind of the consumer, before they see her in some other ad, perhaps even a competitor.

I know she’s working for Top Shop right now. A few months ago it was Burberry. Next week maybe it’ll be Gap. Who knows.

Face it. When you get someone like Cara Delevingne to front your campaign, you’re not building your brand. You’re building hers.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

A Bit of Branding from Richard Bran(d)son

Richard Branson of Virgin fame has some ads out on the Tube. The sales pitch?

Your sales pitch.

The idea is that you, the reader, pitch ideas for businesses – you #PitchToRich.

It’s brilliant.

Think about it. It’s a pitch for business ideas. They are advertising cash prizes for great business ideas. Richard Branson of course is a famously successful businessman, so it lends credibility.

But more to the point, this is a no-lose campaign for Branson. At best, he gets great ideas for businesses, at a relatively cheap price and with the chance to snap up entrepreneurs who may have the ability to implement them. These things cannot be taken lightly – but Virgin has the chance to win them at a low cost.

And what is the negative side? What’s the worst case scenario?

At worst, they get no good ideas. They perhaps lose a little money. But they build the Branson, Virgin brand for cheap. Because the basis for so much of Richard Branson’s success is not so much his business acumen in a literal sense, but his business acumen in the sense that he knows how to use the fact that people think he has business acumen.

I know - that’s a little confused.

But the point is that Richard Branson is famous for being an innovator, a great businessman – but most importantly as a man who takes risks and believes strongly in trying out new ideas. And even if it were not true, the fact that people believe it is in of itself a business advantage. It makes competitors afraid, and investors bullish.

And this campaign, whether it yields great ideas or not, is building and maintaining that reputation – and building and maintaining the business case for Richard Branson and Virgin for years to come.