Submissions are all in and have been for a while. Hopefully you'll appreciate judges are busy with the day and job and want give entrants' hard work the full attention it deserves.
Feedback will be published Monday July 4th!
Submissions are all in and have been for a while. Hopefully you'll appreciate judges are busy with the day and job and want give entrants' hard work the full attention it deserves.
Feedback will be published Monday July 4th!
Of course, really good ideas defy being put in a box - you just know it's good, you then need to figure out why, and how you can make it easy for the client to buy it it (it won't create work for them, it's easy to sell to their bosses because it's based on solving real business problems, it's easy to evaluate).
However, we live in world where too many brands are doing stuff because they can, rather than they should. They're inventing products and added value services no one wants, making 'content' no one wants to watch and basically doing stuff that is chosen for being cool and innovative, rather than what will transform business success.
This might be useful for the Planning School of the Web stuff by the way...where ideas will need to overcome budget and content and sponsorship mean you need to give more than you take to have a hope of anyone caring!!
Also, with so many stakeholders involved in making things happen these days - I worked on something recently that involved the creative agency, the digital agency, the media agency, the media owner, the content agency, the PR agency and the sports marketing agency - a creative/content/media/media owner brief or whatever no longer works as a basis to review ideas on the table.
This just might work.......
Does the product or brand actually have a clear part to play in the idea? You see too much stuff these days with a very tenuous link to what the client actually does or sells. People MAY engage with it, but it will do NOTHING for the business unless there is a link between the idea and the client business. And please don't come to me with 'brand awareness', I'm very aware of Donald Trump, but want nothing to do with him
Will it actually create some sort of change in how people think, feel or behave towards the brand or product? Advertising in all it's forms is really about removing reasons not to buy in the short term and delivering a DISTINCTIVE imprint in people's hearts and minds, so the brand comes front on mind in buying situations.
There are only really four macro roles for communication - you're either creating impact with people not interested in the brand or the category, changing what people who have an impression already think or feel (re-positioning), activating brand interest into action, or reinforcing what people think and feel already....and creating a new reference point hopefully (this coffee brand is about being a grown up...but did you know we have a more authentic heritage than you may have thought)
Others would say you should look at the business objective, define what that means in terms of what you need people to do they are not doing now, and then work out the most efficient way of doing that.
Does it get anyone remotely excited? If no one internally, or partner agencies, can be bothered to be excited, or want to make the idea happen, can you expect any real people with proper jobs and a billion things to look at and do on their phones to give a monkeys? Thought not. David Abbot once said, "Tell people about the product in way that cannot be missed". Don't forget the 'cannot be missed' part. A useful guide is if various stakeholders want to start building on it and doing their own little versions.
Does it give a much as it takes (or even more??) I mean does it feel like it's adding to what people really care about? Might people talk about it a bit? Does it feel bigger that the brand or category and add something to real life? Would you share it on Twitter? Brands need to accept no one likes people talking about themselves and we have moved from retailers and brands in positions of power to consumers. Show some respect!
Just a quick update.
A couple of people have asked questions about what assets and stuff you can use in relation to the Olympics.
What I've shared with them is as follows:
Hope it's going well, any other questions, just ask!
I'm an idiot, but you knew that.
In this case, it's because a couple of entries slipped through the cracks.
So below is the feedback to Tiffany, who is now joint winner with Samara......
So that's it. I'm going to upload all submissions at some point so everybody can have a look and be intimidated by all hard work and pieces of great thinking. I'll let you know when it's up.
Okay, so on with the individual feedback. Once again, I won't apologise for typos, I need to get this out.
This was interesting. Great that you had insights that were simple and supported. Great you challenged the convention of this all being about just health, perhaps too many entries were like kids playing soccer, just all chasing the same ball. I liked that you had a clear strategy.
Great that you built your planning from a product truth, without it being dull, that you gave it context. And while trial is not exactly a new task for a drinks communications campaign, I'm glad it was clear.
I engaged with the pen portrait and really got the insight. It's dead simple but also true that the story of an object directly dictates our experience of it.
Perhaps the idea went a little far, perhaps it's a little conventional to have 'from deepest Peru or whatever' but it was still a plan I think that would get people to appraise/re-appraise the brand and product.
I thought you did a great job of creating a plan that addressed specific tasks. I just wish you hadn't made changing the packaging part of it. It costs the earth, probably the entire budget. I thought you missed a trick with the daily routines thing, that might have been a bigger thought. And maybe it's a little bitty, for a penetration job, I wondered if you needed something simpler and more scaleable.
Rob said, "I like that they went beyond ‘health’ and into taste. That’s interesting.
Once again, thanks for framing the goal using data. Great it was boiled down to a clear consumption task. Perhaps you could have surprised a bit, but it's solid!
I got really interested in the performative/not being the best stuff - that felt like some sort of attitudinal tension to play with. While before as well as after seemed like a rock hard opportunity to grow consumption.
And I really liked the light buyers strategy which seemed realistic. Then the implementation feels solid, but I wanted you to give me it in a simpler manner. As it happens, 'be a counseller, not personal trainer' felt like a springboard for the whole strategy. This all felt good, but after establishing the principles, I wanted to see some thinking on implentation. As a client or creative agency, I kind of need to know if you're saying this is TV, all digital or whatever.
Rob said, "I was hoping they would have taken that on more directly – just to see someone come up with a new business plan – but instead they decided to go into the areas that were expected.
Ending with your summary is great. This should have been done more. It's critical in a world where we seem to write documents for folks to read, rather than get to talk to them, so having the one pager is really important.
Great naming of a clear audience and articulation of the issue.
I really love the tension you uncover in their lives- being seen to be something they're actually not. So much to play with, do you target the image or the reality? How do play with the tension or even help resolve it?
So I'm excited for commnications role to hit it out of the park and for me, instead it seems you recommend something that doesn't live up to your great insight work and is something any brand could do.
Your framework is solid and well thought out, but I was left disappointed at what might have been!
Right here we go, the feedback.
(I'm not going to apologise for typos and stuff, I'm want to get this feedback out and for it to be comprehensive)
First, thanks to everyone who entered. This was a hardcore task. Because comms planning IS hardcore. You can't hide behind soft brand buffoonery, you have to roll up your sleeves and deal with some fundamental stuff.
As Rob mentioned, "there are too many people out there who forget our is to drive our clients' business, not just make nice ads"
Some general feedback:
There's nothing wrong with resisting a framework or strategy template, in fact, there's too much process in this business, allowing too many to hide from proper thinking. However, I was surprised at how little folks overtly followed the "issue, insight, idea, implementation' structure. I was looking for strong arguments and support of course, but even where people followed the stucture, there wasn't enough boiling down into a few rich hooks to hang your thinking.
A piece of advice. Right the last slide first, then the first one and finally, THE key slide in the middle that captures the moment of revelation in your presentation. Then populate the links as succinctly as possible.
Also, there was some great thinking and some good points of view, but there seemed to be lots of subjectivity and less simple factual support. It's hard of course doing this for a UK brand if you're not from here, but nevertheless.
Rob said,"a client isn’t going to necessarily respond favourably to (a point of view)if you haven’t got a broader understanding of both the market, the competition and the audience … otherwise they just think you’re either kissing their ass or kicking it.
In addition Rob said,"I did like her ‘diabetes’ comment. I was disappointed she reduced it to an ‘ad placement’ because there is something interesting and different in it. Whether it’s interesting or different enough to grow the brand in the way they want it is open for debate … but saying ‘a drink so good for you, even diabetics drink it for energy’ could be very interesting indeed"
Jane and Mike
Great you boil it all down to a clear set of goals. I wanted to show me where the leap from business to marketing objectives had come from though. Clean living is interesting, but I wanted more justification ,especially for a new brand position. Really great you look at what is already working/available, this isn't done enough by very experienced people even, and the four insight buckets work really well. And purity is interesting, as is the insight about not suffereing for health. Something rub against there, a tension to play with.
But then you're proposition loses to opportunity to play with this. Guilt free pleasure feels like a rich toy for comms to play with, I can see all sorts of shapes for creative to become, and media can really go wild with context and need states.
Rob said, "It just doesn’t push against anything. It ends up making the brand seem bland and given their product insight is basically saying ‘this is the brand that stops scaring people into feeling bad about themselves"
There was something far more interesting and pragmatic in there, just waiting to come out.n fact, a task, or statement of intent would have worked a lot better than a proposition, as single minded messaging propositions only really work for the advertising creatives (if then!), this is about a comms task for an interactive team. I thought the customer journey slide and principle of meeting them in their world was helpful, but I wasn't sure you followed the thought through. Adsmart TV for example would be efficient, but it still felt a little like 'talking at people' unless you have a bigger idea for the role of TV -perhaps adding scale to the activation or co-creation pieces?
Pierce and Jeanie
At times I felt there was a lot of opinion, great to have a point of view, but it needed more support.
Great you turned the business task into a human task, but then the task was a bit, "this and this' rather than a fundamental challenge to mobilise on. Now I loved the 'it's water duh!" thought but questiond if folks really are skeptical about miracle products. In the UK, Boots No 7 position is based on miracle products, "Ta Dah".
Great you have a SIMPLE idea, but it felt a little like a TV ad proposition and 'nature is best' doesn't feel that new.
The plan was nice and simple with clear tasks, it made a lot of sense ,but I thought your idea of 'the brand with nothing to hide was interesting' and could have sprinkled more magic dust and innovation. Also, I wasn't sure if their was any media to add sufficient scale or at least more emotive heavy lifting, perhaps a partnership with the Guardian? Brands need a wider enthusiasm and perhaps a genuine conversation around the work/.life balance thing in the 21st century hosted by the Guardian could have been interesting - I'm not saying work life balance is original, but I for one am finding that collaborating with media owners on something simple, but that matters to their readers/viewers can generate great stuff .
Rob said, "They had something in their presentation that I felt could have provided the tension to build brand distinction ["There’s heavy skepticism around miracle products …”], but instead of exploring that further, they decided to say “ … and water remains the purest beverage available” which may be true but:
I'm really sorry, but feedback will be late. It makes a mockery of the hard work folks have put in, not ti mention the work Rob has put into his judging feedback.
But a perfect storm of unexpected work and personal bits mean it's going to be Monday. I'm really sorry.
So, the entries are in.
Thanks everyone for your hard work .
To make sure we give them the attention they deserve, myself, Rob and Gareth will give ourselves until June 9th to share feedback.
One final thing. This isn't about winning. Someone will be judged to have answered the brief in the best manner, but it's about trying and learning. It's about putting yourself out there. Well played to everyone for having a go.
I'm away now until May 28th, on the annual Easter pilgrimage to Mum and Dad's in St Ives. My children have been there for a week now, on the beach all day, I miss them very much. The internet is bitter sweet, my wife sends me pictures of what I've been missing, great to see them happy, painful I'm not there.
Hopefully you're working on your APSOTW project. Don't forget the deadline is 2nd May.
If you have any questions, I'm afraid they'll have to wait until I get back.
See you later.
Right, sorry this is later than previously billed, work stuff and a son with broken arms has to take priority.
Hopefully you will have absorbed the launch post and subsequent case studies and you're raring to go.
So here's you're challenge.
SoBe V Water is a zero sugar, high vitamin drink with natural sweeteners. It's only 10 calories per bottle.The sweetness comes from Stevia leaves, a totally natural source, that isn't well known in the UK.
It comes in a range of flavours you can explore here. The product comes in clear bottles, and it looks like coloured water. SoBE know this is important, because the clearer the drink, the better people think it is for them.
They have great distribution in two major UK supermarkets, where you'll find it in the aisle between energy drinks and juice cordials. These are in six-packs. You can also find it in the chiller, in single bottles, in the fresh sandwich section. SoBe Water is also stocked in the chiller in major service stations on busy UK motorways -in chillers again.
They are not in gyms or anything like that, which are mostly sown up by Vitamin Water already, the undispited leader of healthy flavoured water.
They have invested little in the brand in the UK, sales have mostly come from distribution.
Those sales need to build rapidly, or the brand will be de-listed by the retailers and probably pulled out of the UK all together.
They are selling two million units a year and they need to double those sales in the period June 2014 to June 2015.
90% of those sales are coming from the supermarkets, 10% from the service stations. What is interesting is that those sales are coming from people who have tried the brand and seem to quite like it. SoBE always wins hands down in taste tests against Vitamin Water.
According to their panel data, the top 20% of buyers purchase SoBe Water drink it 20 times a year, while the rest drink it on average 5 times a year.
They did a sampling exercise with Hot Yoga, as they suspect there's something in natural, active health. It went quite well, in that those that trialled claimed they'd buy it themselves.
While that core 20% of heavy buyers over index on being interested in Yoga and pilates .
This was done because, while there has been little investment in the brand, and there is no clear brand essence or anything like that, the brand comes from South Beach, an upscale part of Miami, all sunshine, outdoors and perfect bodies. They were scared that in modern, austerity Britiain, the luxury US health image wouldn't play and wanted to give natural health a different role in the UK.
The rest of the buyers do not, but they do ALL agree with statements like, "I believe you get out of life exactly what you put it". "I prefer to be active but I don't have the time" "I like to choose products that feel more natural" and "I want to look my best whenever I can" "I would consider holistic medicine".
And they're 80% women.
The product is 10% less expensive that Vitamin Water, the main rival in the market.The marketing team believe this has driven sales performance, such as it is. So price cutting isn't really an option.
Whatever is done, the retailers are demanding a national campaign that shows SoBe is prepared to invest in the UK market.
So your brief is, present to the client, in more that 20 slides, sift through that very wide brief with a very specific business task to show how communications can help with the problem.
I want you to:
Define the issue at the heart of business problem. What does that sales target look like in human terms? What do you need people to DO?
What is the core insight that will unlock the problem? It might be a consumer insight, it might be cultural, it might be about how people shop
So what is your core idea? What is the fundamental task communications will address?
And what does that look like as a plan? I'm not expecting a detailed media plan, I am expecting you to define the two to three pillars of your plan and the role for media within this.
Add some value with what communications cannot do but they should consider.
This is not about creative exectution, it's about a core task for creative, media, experiential (or whoever needs to be involved with where you're getting to) to work from. This is everyone's jumping off point.
Your budget is £1million pounds. That's not enough to a do a big national campaign. It's enough do something integrated including TV with a VERY defined national.
Finally, the brand is owned by a US company. They don't care too much about what you do in communications, brand is VERY loose, as long as you make sure the brand comes accross as natural and healthy.
You have until Friday 2nd May to deliver a (no more than) twenty side powerpoint by email (link on this blog). It will be judged by myself,Gareth and Rob. Be aware that your submission will be published unless you tell me your prefer otherwise. I'll edit the collective feedback into one document.
More case studies for the APSOTW project. All being well, the task will be set on Wednesday.
Dead busy, I'll apologise for even more typos and stuff than usual. Need to priorities getting this stuff out there.
Hopefully, you're getting familiar with the comms planning format....
The new Sherlock Holmes film is action packed re-boot, but viewers right now have unhelpful associations with old fahioned deerstalkers and crusty Sunday evening telly on ITV
James Bond films are having a renaiassance thanks to the Daniel Craig re-boot tapping into the growing 'Bourne Identity' complicated man of action archetype.
Project Sherlock as cooler and more original than James Bond
Credibliity - partnerships with authorities in modern 'maleness'
Scale - act with confident swagger in places where lots of young men with something about them come for entertainment
Encouragement - interactive tools that draw you into a world at least as exciting and dangerous as Bond.
We haven't been able to repeat the success of the Cadbury Gorilla
The Gorilla was naturally adopted and shared like wildfire, therefore our young audience felt involved, like the best of modern entertainment, the story was shared with it's adopters.
Act more like Walt Disney and less like an FMCG - bring alive the spirit of Glass and Half Full Products in the manner of the worlds largest entertainment brand, where the film is only the tip of the experience
Create magical moments for people to participate in from Saturday night TV to mass participation games in cinemas and at the O2 through to interactive eyebrow jiggling competitions on the MSN homepage
IRN BRU's share is being threatened by the growth of energy drinks
Today's youth generation is dealing with austerity by knuckling down, but perversely, this also means they're also looking for moments of release
IRN-BRU is Scotland's original energy drink, it fortified steel workers a hundred years ago and today is Scotland's favourite hangover cure
Dramatise the fact that IRN-BRU gets you through difficult situations, no matter how tricky and enendurable
1. Fame - Get the nation talking about IRN-BRU core role in their lives, with that familair maverick twist
2. Entertain the youth audience where they seek non-broadcast entertainment
3. Get people talking about their own 'gets you through moments'
OK on to the next case studies for the APSOTW project.
Sainsburys. I use this this a lot. Because it’s great. Search for Sainsburys 'Try Something New Today' for how it panned out.
Sainsburys had overcome massive flaws in their infrastructure. Now they could fully re-engage with shoppers…in order to add the £1 billion in revenue the business desperately needed.
Huge insight, massive. The usual approach is to try and recruit new buyers. When they broke down the objective, they realised they only needed £1 for every EXISTING customer visit. That was easy, that was do-able. It wasn’t behavioural change, it was situation change.
The situation was that people sleep shop, buy the same stuff every week because they cook the same stuff every week. They’re stuck in a boring food routine, they can’t be arsed with fancy recipes on a rainy Tuesday night, but they Do want to sprinkle some magic dust into humdrum cooking.
Get customers excited them about £1 sized bits of ‘safe experimentation’ to shake up the shopping routine and get that extra item in the basket
IMPLEMENTATION (this is all observational, I didn’t work on it)
Now, a purely digital one from a few years back – the re-invention of Lynx’s digital strategy (this is largely from a memory of a Lynx APG case study, sorry to the BBH folks if this is slightly incorrect, I think the point still gets across)
The LYNX EFFECT was a brilliant piece of brand image work aimed at TV advertising. But the young men who bought Lynx were increasingly living on line. The brand needed to evolve.
Digital is about doing and experience, not ‘saying at people’. So what could Lynx DO? Young men have always needed confidence in the mating game, but now they had a virtual world (Youporn etc) where they were engaging with women on screens rather than real women in the real world.
Lynx had an opportunity to move from ‘image maker’ to ‘genuine wingman’. Encouraging them to ‘Get out there’ and provide the tools they needed for success.
More to come. Hope it helps.
Okay, so following on from this post, it's case study time .
Everything will be broken down into a simple structure I want you to follow in your task:
ISSUE - what's the busines problem we're solving
INSIGHT - what the human behaviour driving the issue and what further insight unlocks it?
IDEA- what core role does communications therfore need to assume? will help us get there?
IMPLEMENTION - so what does that idea actually mean in practise?
First of all, here's some thinking behind a film launches.
Sex and the City 2. Awful, awful film.
ISSUE The first film had been a roaring success, and wasn't a critical disaster either. But the studio knew the new film wasn't very good. It was dreadful. They had to get the footfall into the theatres despite of this.
INSIGHT Analysis of WHY women really loved Sex and the City showed it had little to do with the quality of the content anyway. It was a phenomenon, it was about belonging. They also looked at how the audience had enjoyed the last film. They had dressed up, they had enjoyed pre and post film cocktails. They had left reality and wholeheartedly entered the escapist world of Carrie and her cronies
Reinforce why women around the world love Sex and the City
By positioning the new film as the ultimate night out with the girls
Three clear sub-tasks came from that:
1. Tap into shared moments with the girls
2. Create buzz and momentum with added experiential 'big night out' content and added value
3. Tap into moments when the desire, anticipation or preparation for the big night out are strongest
Hopefully you can see the cross agency brief arising directly from this.
Hope it makes sense.
So it befalls me do the next Account Planning School of the Web project. How one follows what Gareth did last time is obviously beyond me, but I’ll try to fail gloriously.
If you don’t know what it is, you’re best reading Rob's history of asignments. Basically, planning legend Russell Davies started helping aspiring and young planners with online projects and then passed the baton onto Rob, Gareth and myself.
Rob’s last task was brilliant, as it dealt with a real world situation -the dreaded client RFP. I loved this as it dealt with the realities of the job, rather than the floaty, pie in the sky philosophy sometimes peddled in conferences and post rationalised case studies.
The reality Rob addressed is that clients often want great ideas, but are often in thrall to cumbersome procurement procedures. You have inspire them on very formulaic platforms. I don’t mind this, like the discipline of the 7 sylable haiku or the 140 character tweet, much creativity is unleashed by constraint if you embrace the confines you’re working in.
Look at these Youtube pre-rolls that embrace the fact young men hate them and you’ll see how creativity can be unleashed by the confines of what it has to work with.
Then Gareth showed us the realism of the fact that clients need to be convinced of the need to do communications campaigns at all. Finding a role for comminications that will transform business succsess is ALWAYS the primary task of planner in my view.
Now since Gareth did his task, I’ve found myself in a media agency. My primary task is comms planning. I don’t exist to bring big, long term brand ideas kicking and screaming into the world. I exist to help clients identify the biggest challenge they face THIS YEAR, or even THIS quarter, and what they should do about it.
The operative word here is SHOULD. The problem with the explosion of media these days, is there is tons you could do, the hardest thing to identify is what you should DO.
How this works in practise changes by agency and client. You should read Julian Cole’s slideshare on comms planning.
In his world, the brand planner will come up with a fundamental campaign idea, (his example is Puma’s Out of Hours athlete), the comms planner will then focus on how this should actually be implemented – the barriers the campaign needs to overcome to work and the right media to make this happen.
My world, and I suspect the world of most planners is a little simpler…and harder.
The reality goes a little as follows (and since the last two projects dealt with reality so shall I) I:
The client will give you a commercial objective and some thoughts on what comms might do about it
You have to then look at market, consumer, brand, product to identify the most efficient way communications might help
This is boiled down into a clear communications task
Which is then boiled down further into sub-tasks and recommendations for different media and content.
Then it gets given to the creative agency and other partners, or the creative agency has to do it in the first place!!
This is what I’m going to want you to do.
This is important, it matters.
Because this is what really happens when brands are planning for next year, or a big event.
And more and more, the reality I have found is that the responsibility lies less with the creative (or brand agency) and more with the media folks. Not always, but you’ll find this more and more, unless you work at BBH like Julian Cole. And even if you do I (or want to), mastering the fundamentals of comms planning means you can collaborate with the media agency better, and defend where you have to and come up with ideas like Yeo Valley, which came from media thinking - one spot in the X Factor, leading to mashing up popular music culture with the product's 'natural' truth.
It also matters because innovation within strict boundaries is the secret to unlocking creativity, which is why the most beautiful poetry in the world follows strict rules, and many of the the most game changing, uplifting songs have verses, chorus and a middle eight.
And, just with creative execution, innovation of comms and media planning pays back more than anything else you can do (according to vast swathes of research into PHD case studies).
The next post will share some case studies to help you see what I mean and what I'll be looking for.
Then the next will lay out the ‘client brief’ and the task.
It amazes me 4 or so people who read this blog bother. I get even more incredulous that after reading it, some actually ask for advice. Please remember, I'm just a tea drinking swimmer who works in one of the most god-forsaken planning outposts in the world.
Not even my little boy listens to anything I say, unless it's our weekly swimming lessons, or sharing deep knowledge about Star Wars (and yes, this is shameless excuse to publish my favourite picture of the two of us, but for balance, I'd better publish one of both kids, but if Evie ever wants to know about Star Wars remains to be seen)
Anyway, I still swelled with pride when an former APSOTW student let me know he has his first planning job. Brilliant, brilliant - and I'm sure, nothing to do with the blatherings on here.
But he let me know that his first job is about shaping his own role without mentoring. At once great, since you can write your own future, but also tough - we all need guidance from time to time.
So I was glad to share some thoughts on this and that through email and, on reflection, thought it might be of use to the other three readers.
Probably not, but you never know.
Just be mindful, what I share won't be what everyone thinks, it certainly won't be 100% right.
Because we're all different and so are different organisations. How you fit and develop is a reflections of amplifying the best parts of both. So you have to find your own voice and mould that to wherever you are, or wherever you want to be if they end up mutually exclusive. .
This is just what I think and the kind things I try and do do get through the day to day.
(and these were stream of consciousness emails, I will apologise for typos and grammar mistakes even less than usual)
Anyway, here's the first email chain. Names and clues to identity have, of course, been removed.
As part of your job, do you create storytelling platforms? If not, who's job would that normally be?
That depends on the objective- if it requires overt storytelling then yes because it's as much about comms planning as creative therefore it needs to be collaborated on
If you are a great writer it's something you can own a bit more than traditional creatives
Just a watch out try and develop stories that include customers as fellow protagonists
Thank you, Andrew.
What do you mean by overt storytelling? Can you please give me an example.
I'll go about creating one with your advice about the customers.
Actually telling a story that develops in your communication rather than just making all your channels consistentAlso, think about the role of different channels they shouldn't have identical executions but should play their own part in the narrative ...they should make sense on their own and add to the wider whole
Naturally, it is replete with proper tea making equipment, including the trusty pot, even trustier Yorkshire Tea and china mug. Just out of shot is some Fortnum and Mason Earl Grey leaf tea that is actually quite amazing and that I'm not an inverted snob enough to hate myself enjoying
You can see the telephone that hasn't been used for about 6 months - it's all mobile these days isn't it?
In the absence of the Head of Planning - who usually sits opposite, for passive aggressive discussions on the minutia of modern music and an ongoing competition for who can build the bigggest mountain of unopened Amazon books - you can enjoy the spectacular view of the fire exit and the tips of a leafy tree. Apparently green makes you more creative. Tick.
Peer past the desk and you'll spy the most fashionable social media PR type peering over her laptop, pretending to do some sort if 'listening exercise' (whatever that is) while actually abusing me through the medium of Twitter. Just out of sight is her sidekick, part witch, part hippy, part French philospher who insists on drinking tea with honey. That's right, honey. Different strokes etc, but sometimes I weep for the future.
Above the Twitter Twattering, honey drinking Witches of Eastwick, you'll see some bunting. Not for the jubilee, on no, we're too louche and ironic for that. For something French that happened months ago.
Back to the desk and, predictably, there's the little pile of pretentious books, ostensibly reference for some projects while actually ornaments to make passers by think, "Ooh he's clever!".
If you could peer down, you would see feet sporting sandals, since the chief exec is back and doesn't like people wandering around the agency in bare feet. She hasn't been around for over a week, allowing my 5 toed friends to breathe the free air. Quite the rebel me.
Look around and you see a listed building that used to be a school and was then transformed into 'Players Bar' a drinking establishment owned by the world famous soft rock Gods, Def Leppard.
You too could enjoy the delights of this working environment for a couple of weeks even longer. All you have to do is endure doing work experience (or poisoning young minds as I like to call it) with me. Obviously, work experience based around planning and stuff, but also the chance to learn how to make the perfect cup of tea, correct my spelling, learn about fashion from the aforementioned Witches of Eastwick and do your own Account Planning School of the Web project on a one to one basis.
Any takers email me at your leisure.
One addition, added after original post. I'm not suggesting there will be people clamouring at the door, but there are some criteria to get in. You need to be enthusiastic about planning. To that end, in no more than a thousand words, you need to email me why you want to get into planning and describe your favourite ever campaign and why it's so good (clue, I'm more interested in the strategy than the casting).
The thing about planning is that every agency and some invidusals have their own process or schtick that's the answer to all the world's ills. That's great for creds and selling to clients but pretty useless to anyone trying to learn on the job because, to be honest, their is far more than one way of going about it.
All that matters is what works for you and whatever you happen to working on. If the outcomes is great, who cares how you got there?
In that spirit, I firmly believe that cultural strategy matters more now than ever, but that doesn't mean that the approach in the Account Planning School of the Web is the only way. If you haven't read Heather Lefevre's presentation on starting a cultural movement, you should. It's insanely helpful.
One thing to bare in mind in both cases though.
Great communications ideas tend to relieve tension in culture, they address real problems in people's lives. This matters of course, it gets you somewhere good since the real long term value of advertising in all its forms is to build distinctiveness and create strong and deep memory structures. In other words, it needs to make the brand stand out in a very cluttered world.
But that's only half the story. In the short to medium term, their should always be a 'hard' objective to solve. The IPA databank shows that campaigns that work to hard targets are far more successful than those with 'soft targets' like brand consideration, salience or, God forbid, awareness.
Therefore, whatever your doing, make sure you have a clear business issue and tightly defined communications task that will solve it first.
BUSINESS CHALLENGE Grow penetration by encouraging more people to consciously switch from buying standard fresh milk to Cravendale.
CREATIVE CHALLENGE Jolt people out of their milk-buying inertia. Create love and fame for the brand that gets people talking, buying and believing Cravendale’s milk is superior.
BUSINESS CHALLENGE IKEA can drive 24% increases in kitchen-related visitation by improving
awareness of IKEA kitchens by 10%. We hace to first make IKEA kitchens famous to get them to be considered
CREATIVE CHALLENGE The kitchen is the room, outside of the bedroom, where we spend the most time - it's the heart of the home.A common belief is that you always end up in the kitchen at parties. We need to dramatise this is the most culturally sticky way we can
(both taken from the respective APG case studies)
I liked this article from The Observer to how entertainment culture in the US is responding to difficult times- basically, escapism or wallow in the situation with grim reality.
Not only can this found in the UK, on many levels, including brand ones: thrift culture/back to basics v escapism and nostalgia, actually all dramatised to wonderful effect in this:
It's accross westerb culture in general.
Actually, you can see the wallowing or denial approach in all sorts of stuff. In the ageing population phenomenon in the western world, people of a certain age get frustrated at the way culture ignores them. They respond either with total denial and escapism, trying to fit in with the culture shutting them out, going for the mutton dressed as lamb approach:
Or wallow in it, with the grumpy old fogey, rebellious, sod the lot of you approach:
Increasingly though, there is the emerging third way, where individuals decide lifestage is irrelevant and choose to defined by attitude rather than age. They embrace the opportunities that good health, decent money and freedom give them:
It reminds me of all those King of Shaves discussion from the APSOTW project, about the male reaction to their loss of status and uncertain role in the world. Much of culture and the ads and stuff that reflect take the this way or that way approach:
The wallowing, reactionary rebellion:
Or going the other way:
But, like the Helen Mirren example for baby boomers, there is a third way. Both for austere times and for men. Instead of giving in to one cultural pressure or the other, brands can relieve tension with another answer, rather than following the behaviour already there.
I'm suprised we're not seeing more examples of the 'man of action', and I wonder what the modern version of that might be.
Back in the 1930's Superman worked as both independent hero, outside of the system who got things done, in a time when men felt emasculated, helpless and resentful of authority and institutions that restricted their freedom but didn't deliver on the other part of that deal - security and prosperity.
Marlboro man is another great example, as was the empowering, self motivated rallying cry of 'Just Do It' back in the late 80's early 90's when individual responsibility and merit were standards few felt they could live up to.
Of course, the idea of an earnest serious superhero probably isn't right for these ironic cynical times - or hold on, maybe it is?...., with the possible exception of the - tongue firmly in cheek - Iron Man, the string of comic book adaptations are pretty earnest and gritty. Not mention modern day hero icons without super powers:
Or even better, what about anti-heroes. Like Omar Little from the Wire, Christopher Nolan's Batman, Tony Soprano, Nucky Thompson from Boardwalk Empire or even Don Draper. Men who step outside the rules of the game to alter the status quo. They're morally ambiguous and contradictory, but they don't wait for permission, they don't worry for too long. They ACT. Something that isn't just an answer for masculine identity conflicts, but the helplessness we feel as the world around us collapses. Something that rubs against some of todays cultural norms, from the get rich quick for doing nothing of use myth that applies equally to the bankers, Peter Andre and sleb culture, to challenging the ruling elite that looked after each other while they fucked us all over. It challenges the convention of make sulking, while the world leaves them behind and champions men who..erm, act.
On the other hand, it doesn't have to get so serious. I wonder what someone like KOS could do with the subculture of real life superheroes. Not only would they be a vehicle to convey all sorts of angles on the above stuff, it could drip in irony, avoiding the blood curdling earnestness of the category and be, well, rather funny and maverick. Something that category badly needs. Something that would cut through. Something that implies, rather than tells.
Imagine tapping into the rich love for slightly uncomfortable mockumentaries where people don't know how funny they are, like The Office etc. Let's face it, these guys are already doing it.........
I'm in two minds about this prize, since I get impatient with planning intellectually talking to itself, rather than reaching out beyond it's faux academic walled gardens and engaging with the real world out there.
But on the other hand, the more people put in fresh points of view, the better we'll all be for it. I love planners and our enthusiasm for stuff other people can't be bothered with, it's a great skill to make dull things interesting for others, even if one of those things is planning itself.
So do have a go, especially you Young Turks, shake up the smug establishment. I dare you.
Okay, so it 's time to announce the winners to the APSOTW project.
This was hard.
Nearly everybody wrote clearly, beautifully and with a Goldilocks approach; not too long, not too short, but just right.
Everybody had moved on their thinking from the original submission, taking on board, often very honest, feedback and taking it to another level.
In many ways, picking a winner seems almost irrelevant now, after two rounds, a river of feedback and some lovely words back from entrants on how useful they've found the whole thing. But someone has to win.
The fact that Carol is disqualified from winning because she missed the first round makes it easier.
Eventually, I decided the ultimate test was to not view this a pretentious planner, but like a creative would. So I got all the briefs out, quickly skimmed them, and looked for a core thought to help me start work. I felt that all quickly gave me a great place to start, but Zelico just shades it. I wanted just a little more meat, but there was a clear creative challenge that instantly felt fresh against the category and got me want to start generating ideas. There was just a little less contradiction.
Some of the others has incredible pieces of writing and little gems encrusted all over the place, but a creative brief ultimately is about one sentence that acts as a springboard for everything else. Zelico did this a little better than everyone else.
By the way, Zelico also got John Dodds to re-appraise his views on promoting occasional shaving. If he hadn't won anyway, some sort of special prize would have been in order.
Well played. Zelico, you need to email your book preference and address.
I was re-reading the creative briefs on my Scribd for the APSOTW King of Shaves project and found that smarty pants Andreea's decided to do a submission. I haven't had time to look in detail, but as usual, she's done a beautifully written piece that makes me think. Have a look.
JWT are lucky to have her.
You may remember that the APSOTW project finished a few weeks back, but didn't quite conclude. We had some great entries by all, but no clear winner. So we opened up a new round.
The challenge was for everyone to take their thinking, think about the feedback and bring their strategy to life in a creative brief.
No small task, since a creative brief is really hard to write anyway, writing one for cultural strategy is doubly so, since the sames principles of clarity, brevity and insipration still apply, as they do to all briefs, but you're trying to condense something which is probably richer and meatier than the usual.
I often think the best planners are genuises of compression, they can pack masses of depth into very small spaces, which in turn, enables creatives to do the same.
Not everyone who did round 1 has had time to do a brief, but it's so great that most of the orginal entrants have.
In addition, Carol wanted to have a go. Since she didn't do KOS, I challenged her to write a brief for a sports drink for women made from natural ingredients. Tough since I was asking for brand new thinking AND that thinking compressed.
Everyone already had indivudual feedback via email. What follows is a direct cut and paste from this. Forgive some crap grammar and spelling. I wanted to be thorough, I didn't want to keep people waiting and I have both a job and a 2 year old little boy (not to mention heavilly pregnant wife), I just haven't the time for slavish checking. Hopefully it all makes sense.
Before we move to the feedback, I want anyone reading this to remember these are junior planners, if planners at all. They're not given much chance to write briefs, they're busy doing lots of legwork for their bosses, or doing their day job. So DO admire what they've done. The quality of their writing and their thinking is streets ahead of many account handlers who think they can do strategy and then stimulate the creative process. I think it's better than many planners too.
You can see they've worked hard and, when it comes to creatives, that's half the battle. If they think you've made an effort to give them a good springboard, they're much more likely to return the favour.
That's why the briefing matters so much. Make it inspiring, make it memorable, make it look like you've thought about it and tried to make it interesting. Never, ever, just read out the brief. Please.
The brief is a summary of strategy. It's there so anyone can refer back to it to it to understand what the creative work is supposed to achieve and how you've all agreed to approach it. It's the agreed criteria for how you will judge ideas in a creative review. But remember, creatives work to a brief not FROM it. Creative work should build on the great start you've given them, not be constricted to follow it to the letter.
So the principles for judging the entries were pretty straight forward:
Level of clarity and brevity
Level of inspiration
Quality of writing and overall style.
With clarity and brevity, I don't mean mindless, brutal simplicity, a brief should be as long as it needs to be. I mean a creative knows exactly what is expected of them with no confusion or misunderstanding. I mean writing in plain human, rather than marketing speak. Here's a secret, long words and academic language don't make you look clever, they make you look like you're trying too hard and, at the worse, stupid.
This wasn't a task about pure strategy, it was about bringing strategy to life.Inevitably though, thoughts on thinking have made their way into the mix. With good reason. Slavishly trying to write a single minded, 'messaging' proposition isn't necessarily the best way to do a brief as we learn more and more that brands and communcations are more about feelings and associations, and because great work comes from having great problems to solve.
My view is a 'role for communications', 'task based proposition' or 'take-out or resulting behaviour' are far more useful. It's a bit more 'open' and generates the 'how we say' at least as much as the 'what we say' which is critical. In fact, messaging is now suspected to get in the way of effectiveness. BUT, it is critical that communications has a very single-minded, clear and, hopefully, gripping inspiring task. The resulting communications might be complex and meaty, but the job it's doing must be simple and clear.
Like I said, a brief is a summary of strategy, if it's not clear or there are some contradictions, it tends to mean there are some knots in the strategy. So it has been impossible not to have an element of judging strategy within judging the clarity and simplicity.
But it's not all boring simpleness and logic. Because somewhere in the strategy there needs to be a leap of imagination, some spark of inspiration...an idea...this is true of the brief. A great brief is a springboard to great work. The clarity should mean that even my Mum should be able to have an ideas that's on brief, but it needs to generate work that isn't just right, it's INTERESTING, it makes people take notice, it makes people think. It should not just enable creatives to do work from it, it should make them want to get out their layout pad straight away and pull an all nighter. It should not just enable someone to see one idea, it should create the possibility of many.
So that's why a beautifully written document is a must. Something you want to read. The sad fact is that creatives skim briefs for a propositon/task/challenge, then starts work, then they read a bit more if and when the well runs dry. You need to make them WANT to read the whole document, litter the whol thing with gold, even bury creative starters in the support.
So that's what the work is judged against and why. Now, to the feedback...........
First some general points. The standard of writing was really high. Without exeption,everyone was showing promise in the trick of taking the time to write less, and making those words count. Really good.
Overall, found that most work has a level of ambiguity or contradiction. I found again and again that I was being asked to do more than one task, or I was a little unsure of what that task was. Not badly, if I was a creative I think I could quickly get going on something good. But I would probably get annoyed when there was some misunderstanding in a creative review between what you were looking for and what I've done. I think this is mostly down to some knots in the thinking.
But I really liked that in most cases, that thinking was brough engagingly to life, rather than a brutal exercise in spartan prose. I found myself wishing at times that people would write with a touch more humanity. I also found that at some points, people has edited too much and I wanted to know more had to guess. The rules of what to put into a brief are clear I think. Have they got enought to understand the task and get excited about solving it? Have they got enough to solve it brilliantly? It should be no more an no less than this. A times I found both too much and too little.Think of a brief like a good story, you need just enough background and context to make people care about the plot, but too much and no one can figure out what's going on, or can't be bothered to find out!
Finally. Every brief needs a focal point. It used to be the proposition and still is in many organisations. I liked that people experimented with roles for communications, creative challenges etc. But not having a proposition is not an excuse for avoiding a simple sentence that encapsulates. not just the brief, but the entire strategy.In too many cases, the pivotal sentence was too long,too wooly or asked for more than one thing. There are examples from great briefs in the feedback, please use these for inspiration.
Here is Carol's feedback (don't forget this is for a woman's sports drink)
Firstly, on your style. It’s really well written, it’s concise and it’s clear. Big thumbs up for this. Even better, it’s written in plain English rather than marketing speak, something too few planners seem to be able to do. You’ve already got the discipline of précis and brevity down, so well played.
Now for the content. First though. All briefs and briefings should be tailored to the type of creative who will get it. Many want a really good problem framed out and want to them collaborate on how to solve this. Others just want a clarity and not too much thinking – ‘fuck off and leave me to it’. I think your brief sets out the requirements well, it’s simple and clear, and there’s something great for the creatives to get hold of and bring to life. As I’ll go on to say, I’m not sure you’re pointing the creatives to this as well as you could, which is all to do with the order you’ve put your information in.
‘The product is’ a natural energy drink for women, made from fruits and water’….I’ve always liked the BBH discipline of defining the product and then defining the brand and this is both simple and clear
‘The brand is’ and encouraging supporting friend who helps you keep going….what I like about this is you have clearly defines a tone of voice/brand behaviour. It’s usually the weakest part of creative briefs and strategy in general. This is clear and gives me a clear picture of brand in my head. So great on style and approach, but I did wonder if this was memorable enough. Following on the thread of great briefs written by BBH (which I presume is the brief structure you’re following) this section usually has a memorable hook for creative to grip. For example, Boddingtons was something like ‘Smooth with a cheeky Mancunian twist’. While you’re clear, I’m not getting excited like I am about Boddingtons. This doesn’t always matter of course if the rest of the brief is littered with creative gunpowder, but worth thinking about nonetheless. What I do like is the idea of an energy drink that isn’t combative, aggressive or macho like the rest of the market, I really think the thought is there, possibly just needs expressing in a more inspiring way.
‘Why are we advertising’ To create a niche for an energy drink that is for women, in a highly competitive landscape of energy drinks with artificial ingredients….again, this is clear and frames a task, namely we have to launch a new drink for women in a fierce market. But really great briefs start with really great problems, usual the underlying behavioural problem that’s causing the business problem. For example, BBH asked creative to ‘make Axe part of the morning routine’ because Japanese guys only used it at night. I saw great brief for Crown Paint, who had lost share because no one was interested in the brand, that asked creative to inspire people to pick up a brush and get creative with their home. Many briefs don’t bother with a proposition, they just frame a great problem, usually calling it ‘role for communications’ (I like that you don’t have proposition and have a core take-out though). I just think you could make yours juicer. I think you have in your other content – you’re launching a natural energy drink in a market that’s mostly artificial, which probably means many will think it won’t work.
Nice, clear pen portrait of the audience. I suppose the only thing I’d consider would be adding a bit more about what they like about exercising. If we’re creating a niche, a challenger, these brands tend to share a provocative point of view with their audience. I’d be putting in clues to what that might be, for example, they might hate the macho bullshit of sport. It might be that they really struggle to fit a work out in their busy lives and don’t see why they should waste all that effort to be good then put artificial crap in their bodies. Maybe you’ve got it with ‘healthy inside and out’ but this seems a little ‘buried’, but I would still want to know what outlook on life they have that’s driving the desire for natural stuff – are they being pretentious bohemians? Are they gentle, back to nature types? Do they yearn for simpler times and natural stuff fills that need for them?
Then the crux of your brief. What do we want them to think? I’ve often favoured the approach of focusing on a ‘take-out’ rather than a proposition. I can be very liberating for creatives..as long as you create this impression, it’s up to you how you get there. I’ve often thought it lends itself to the essential non-verbal bits of communication too. However, if you’re going to replace a proposition with another focus, it’s still the crux of your brief, the part creatives will real first. As such it needs to go beyond simple and be interesting, thought provoking and memorable. I just don’t think what you’ve written does this. It’s clear and you can’t argue with it, which is a start, but at the moment, you’ve simply captured the product benefit. The challenge is how you make that interesting and relevant..that might come from how it’s made, the values of the company that make it, why the audience might care, it might even dramatise what the product isn’t. You’d be surprised how liberating the word ‘not’ is. For example, ‘not artificial’ ‘not macho’.
But then your support does all this. That’s a really engaging story. That brings all the stuff you’ve been talking about to life, and even shuts me up with the alternatives I’ve been on about. It feels that the creative task is actually to dramatise Mindy’s story. So what I think I’m saying ultimately is that your brief could be really great, but the crux should be a ‘role for communications’ focus, or a task based proposition. The rest of your brief should be about putting this is in context.
One final quibble, quite right you tell the creatives what the comms plan is and what media they have to play with. But I would also make sure you have some executional guidelines, anything that’s a no no from the client point of view for example (for example, is Mindy happy to ‘star in the ads’) is there a logo? Do we have to use it? Does the brand have a name?
Finally, in conclusion, you write briefs really well. You have the knack for clarity and brevity, just have a think about what the most potent springboard is to help creatives solve the problem. I think it’s Mindy’s story, which not only feels like rich creative territory, it redefines the rest of the market as in-authentic next to a product owned by a woman, developed by a woman athlete, with other women athletes. There’s an independent feminist streak within this I really like.
Here is Geert's.
Right. First of all, well played for experimenting with briefing structures. Most places have a pre-prescribed list of boxes to fill, when the reality is that most projects and clients vary wildly and being flexible about what goes into a brief and how it’s written makes a lot of sense.
But then, the role of the brief in an agency doesn’t alter that much. A creative needs to understand what problem they’re solving, how best to go about doing that and be inspired to do their best work.
So I’m in quandary when it comes to the structure you’ve put together. Some would strongly rail against the fact you’ve left out the business context, others would applaud you for leaving out the extraneous stuff that gets in the way of creatives getting straight into what the role of communications is. I happen to believe that framing the commercial objective isn’t that important (you know, grow market share, increase frequency and so on), so I’m nearly on your side. But what I’m missing is you telling me what the point is of what you’re asking me to do. The best briefs tend to have a behavioural objective, or a very specific customer ‘take-out’. For example, ‘Make the reliability of the Honda Civic desirable rather than dull’, ‘Make Axe part of the morning routine’, ‘We need to get men and women talking about Old Spice’s authority in proper manliness’. I know you’re writing a brief about cultural strategy, but the creatives probably won’t, and there’s a lot of power in setting behavioural goals. I wonder if you just need to add a specific ‘role for communications’ section that might say, “Make the use of King of Shaves socially desirable’ or maybe, ‘Inspire men to use King of Shaves by offering an modern alternative to the out of touch market leaders’ . Does that make sense?
Anyway, after suggesting writing additional stuff, let’s look at what you have put….
Resounding applause for being clear and writing not too much. There tend to be two styles of brief. Either brutally clear and short, or a little longer in a style that’s a pleasure to read. Yours is the latter and I enjoyed reading it. I thought you let your words breathe, but it never got too long, I never got impatient for you to get to the point.
Now let’s take your content section by section…………
I really like your approach to the target audience. Smart to focus on the ‘main issue’ we’re going to be relevant to. I have to form an opinion on what you say, which is always good. You’ve been really specific with the cultural issue, but I find myself wishing you had been more specific with WHO they are. It wouldn’t be an issue if you stuck to the first paragraph, which could be a seen as issue for all men, but when you go on to say they’re spoilt, overpaid and lazy I wonder who you mean. It doesn’t mean working class men, who are actually losing disposable income, but if you mean professional or middle class types, you need to state this and be clear about what they’re lazy ABOUT. I don’t think you mean their jobs, I think you mean the things they do and their attitude to it outside of the workplace, or in a wider context. You need to clarify
But in any case, nicely linked to the cultural orthodoxy in the category. That’s an inspiring and credible enemy to rub up against.
You neatly link this to a role for King of Shaves- create a new sense of purpose amongst western males. But then you lose me a bit. It’s absolutely valid to have a ‘point of view’ rather than a ‘proposition’ especially for a brand looking for a new beginning. But you leave me confused about what part of that point of view might be. I loved your title, I wondered if that was a ‘proposition’, I certainly liked the simplicity. But now I’m not sure if what you want communications to do is overtly puncture the ‘fake male ideal’ (which could be very funny), actually shake men out of their complacency or excite them about what the future might hold.
Oh, then you tell me, it’s about rediscovering what manhood in Western society might mean. My issue is that most briefs tend to focus on one ‘box’ the thing creatives usually read first. I found it hard to find in your brief and still question the disconnect between an open source ‘let’s face the future together’ project and the opinionated ‘grow some balls title’. I take the first as similar to the Levis’ Go Forth work and the latter as something with a strong opinion of what modern men should be i.e men with courage and willingness to adventure. It’s not for me to judge which is right, but I really want to know what YOU think is right.
I then struggle with you telling me how to execute it. I’m not saying a motivational speech isn’t right and it really helps with clarity, I can see what’s inside your head now, you DO mean inspire men to have courage etc. But my view is that you should collaborate with creatives on execution after the briefing, it really shouldn’t be part of the brief. What I would do instead is point to some great source material you know customers will react to – perhaps culture they’re into or something emerging they’ll find relevant and fresh. For example, I got creatives a little excited in a project recently for an outdoorsy brand about various subcultures in big cities that are finding ways to shake up the monotony, conformity and downright ‘concreteness’ of them by doing stuff like guerrilla gardening or rollerblading en masse against the traffic.
You do have something later on the 40 motivational speeches in 2 minutes thing, but it’s very different to suggest some stimulus and TELL creatives what to do.
Then finally, you give us some clarity with your three stage campaign. I question asking so much of one campaign, you are actually doing three things, rather than doing ONE thing in a variety of guises. In many ways, this feel like campaigns one two and three. That’s your call of course, wonder if you should be trying to establish credibility for the brand as stage one, focus on your ‘confrontational mirror of modern man’.
That credibility thing brings me to my final point. What is missing from your brief is the support. I want to know why this is relevant to KOS. You eloquently spell out why it’s relevant to the category. But what is the relevance to KOS. I totally get that it’s a valid approach to own a point of view, but to do this without any obvious link to the brand or product means you have to work doubly hard to establish that credibility and focus on this 110%.What many miss about the Apple 1984 stuff was that they didn’t have any credibility in ‘tools for creative minds’ at this point, but they created it by redefining the competition as ‘Big Brother’. I’d possibly argue that even then macs were much more pleasant to use than clunky IBM’s but we’ll let that pass. When ghd launched, they went out and GOT credibility in fashion and hair culture by building a relationship with key opinion formers in those areas. People always go on about the Old Spice Guy, but forget, that work was only possible once they had re-calibrated their experienced, masculine credentials.
Great style. Really great I enjoyed reading this, some of your turns of phrase made me want to reach for the layout pad. But when you mess with more traditional brief formats, don’t forget creatives want to be given a clear task and have some inspirational starters for doing that well. A little more work on being clearer in your mind about what the job for communications is and what you need to do first would have paid off.
First point. So take the time to write less. Creatives don’t have a long attention span, you’re first objective, to be honest, to get them to pay attention to anything beyond the proposition. That means writing clearly and briefly. It also means speaking human, at times, you brief reads more like a client brief in terms of both the level of detail and you’re style. A brief should help a creative get excited about a simple problem/task and the springboard to solve it. No more no less. If the content of a brief doesn’t do this, chop it out.
That headings in bold? To a certain degree, I’d just put those in, that are great.
Right, let’s take the content chunk by chunk.
On your business problem…trust me, include stats and market share and you’ll lose a creative team straight away. I love that you’ve written that King of Shaves need to made notorious. There really is nothing wrong with admitting that you need to make your brand famous for upsetting a complacent market.
Now, on your ‘key insight’ section. It’s a valid way of approaching strategy and many creatives have moaned at me for not ‘having an insight’ when I’ve discussed with them a great story about the organisation I want them to bring to life. But, you can spend your life looking for an earth shattering, game-changing insight and never find one, usually at the expense of great thinking. So I usually simply approach customers in brief from the point of view of, either stating their current mindset and behaviour around the brand and/or what I know about them that will help us solve the problem. Sometimes that’s really simple information, in fact most of the time. I don’t think you’ve got an ‘insight’, we all know that shaving is part of that wonderful/terrible time for when you’re neither a boy or a man, when you’re finding out who you are and who you might want to be. It’s a time when young men begin to loosen the shackles of that teenage need to belong and begin to experiment with their own identity. This stuff Justin is truly great, I think you’re expressing a core truth about the role of the category no one else has ever brought to life. It’s not an insight, it’s better than that, it’s a rock solid truth at the heart of shaving that no one has ever tried to ‘own’. God knows why. I’m labouring the point here, but by calling this an insight, you run the risk of having your great thinking rejected by some arsey creative you might say, ‘That’s bloody obvious’. It’s not, by I would frame as who is the audience and what do we know about them that will help us? Anyhow, this is very good start.
I always love briefs that have a role for communications, a key behavioural task. Strategy with a clear, hard behavioural target is proven to be more effective that soft, wishy washy, ‘awareness’ and such. And you have a simple clear one……get them to buy a three step shaving package, rather than the traditional ‘gel and blades’. Cool. But what is missing from this section and the rest of the brief is the relevance of this to your emerging ‘character’. It’s fair to say that just by making the brand famous, you make the product famous, but I’d argue what you are really doing is making a new (to young men) way of shaving famous.
Then, unfortunately, you’ve missed an opportunity to get in all that cultural relevance to your great observation about this being a the beginnings of a man real journey, to tell me what might influence them on that journey and how they may currently choose shaving stuff with some lovely words I don’t really understand. I THINK you’re saying that other people define you by the way you look, and you have a chance to play with this and turn it to your advantage….if so, that’s great, it’s usually something brands seem to do with women, it hasn’t been done very well, if at all with men. But I’m only guessing. Yes, a brief should be beautifully written, but you need to make me understand exactly what you are saying. A brief is a contract between departments and sometimes between agency and client. Ambiguity is bad.
So you’ve missed a chance to bring enough context to your proposition. Now, I don’t believe a proposition is the be all and end all. Many planners don’t bother with one, they put it a great task for communications or a key customer ‘take-out’. That’s mostly my approach. If you’re going to do one, it needs to really good. The kind of thing you might say to someone in the pub and they go, ‘oh!’. For example, ‘Harvey Nichols is heaven for fashion addicts’, ‘when you use ghd for the first time it’s like an epiphany’ etc. Of course, clarity is key, and you are being clear, but this is where you sum up your strategy in a way that gets creatives wanting to pick up their layout pad. This doesn’t quite do this. Also, I don’t this is what your brief is actually about. It seems to me you’re saying that every day is a new start, the chance to try on another version of yourself and see if you like it, a chance to do something different, surprising, to push the boundaries of your own limits and inhibitions…to defy the pigeonhole others could put you in. I don’t know if that’s what you’re driving at, because you haven’t been clear, but that’s where you’re support is going to my mind. I’m not a great proposition writer, I tend to plagiarise quotes and stuff, but I wonder if actually you might want to write something like ’never be the same man twice’, something that encourages young men to, every day, suck up all the endless variety of experience out there. I don’t know.
Like I said, what is missing is the role for a different shaving ritual, I suspect what you’re driving at is that that’s what you’re creating, by making every shave a ritual for contemplation, by making young men think about the act and what it represents, you create a role for it anyway, If so, you need to actually say this.
Of course, what I’m on about is not quite ‘character’ but I struggle to find a real role for this within your brief, or at least my interpretation of it. So I’m a little unsure about your brand behaviour section. That feels like a something for another brief, or brand to be honest. ‘Taking time to make the right impression’ almost reads as worrying about what other people think. I know that’s not what you’re saying, but it could be read that way. I want something that grabs me a little more and makes me ‘feel’ what you’re on about. I can’t work out if this is a rebellious, maverick brand (I think so since you want KOS to be notorious) or something more considered…which is where character takes me.
That’s my struggle with your ‘success’ section. Again, don’t bother with telling creatives sales targets, focus on the change of opinion, culture or behaviour you’re after. This isn’t the open bit of a brief, the change you want needs to be rock solid, the open bit of the brief is the best way to get there. I’m already confused about the role of ‘three step product’, and I how much this about ‘self definition’ of identity, or behaving like KOS tells me. I’m still none the wiser.
Finally, I like you have suggested the brand origins as place to look for ideas, but what is the relevance to your brief? I actually wanted to know what is the relevance of KOS full stop to your direction. It’s fair to say that, when you have a brand with no real history, heritage or point of difference, you create one, looking to culture as we’ve talked about in the wider cultural strategy project….that’s what Dove did with the campaign for real beauty and made it credible by ‘walking the walk’ with real women as models and actual survey they still do year in year out. But look at Old Spice, who had years of ‘experience’ and credibility in manliness, the trick was bringing it to life. When you have a credible story like KOS, it’s worth thinking about how to use it. I was beginning to love how you wanted to use the different approach to the ritual, with the 3 step process, but you haven’t built real meaning into this, are at least you’ve left me to work out too much myself.
Do take more time to write less. Your bold headline almost did the job without the need for the paragraph behind it.
Only include what will inspire the creatives to get to grips with the task in hand and help them crack it. Nothing else.
Don’t call it an insight unless it is one. What you had was a core truth that no one else uses and clear customer for it. This bit was great, but then I think you failed to be clear about what you wanted the creatives to do with it.
That task is to change behaviour around the shaving ritual, so you needed to weave the three step process into that ritual more.
Be consistent. I doesn’t matter if your proposition isn’t the greatest if the rest of your brief is littered with gold. Your observations about the customer absolutely was golden, and many creatives could have stopped there and got on with some great work. But then you confused me…self-definition v character seems the central conflict, also, a ‘notorious brand’ v ‘character’.
Great work, really great bits, but be simpler, clearer, more consistent and have one, clear task.
First comments on style. Very well written and pleasure to read. But keep an eye on brevity. Whoever said that creative briefs need to fit on a page, that person is an idiot. Briefs need to be as long as they need to be. But, do edit précis and distil until you are sure every word is there for a good reason…this brief could be a tiny but shorter, creative’s attention spans are not massive, this could maybe have done with one final edit. Possibly, this is down to slightly over elaborate writing. Well played for not writing in marketing speak and talking ‘human’ but on occasion, your style is a little ‘literary’ there’s a fine line something that’s inspiring clear and something that’s either brutally simple and dull or self- indulgently prosaic. You definitely are on the right side, it’s great, but do keep an eye on it.
Now for the content.
Your business challenge is fine, it’s clear - but maybe here is where little simplicity can go a long way. You’re basically saying we can’t ‘out product’ Gillette and co, so we need to bring a fresh approach to the category. I wonder if it could be said that simply. Here’s this section from an ‘Axe’ brief…’There’s a big opportunity in getting Axe users to use Axe more often more often. In Japan they only use it a few times a day, if we can get them using Axe every day we will make xxM euros per year’ I wonder if you’d better setting some sort of crystal clear behavioural target – even if it’s as simple as ‘get young men to switch from Gillette to KOS by giving them a reason beyond how many blades it has’. Or maybe, ‘Sell more KOS by making it socially desirable in a category built on an NP arms race’
The brand is..it’s really important to nail this. I actually like the BBH method of stating ‘the product is’ and ‘the brand is’. In the respect of KOS, this is important because I want to know if you’re world is the razor, or the oils and stuff that go with it. In the respect of the brand, I really like what you’ve written, but it needs to be shorter. Some great BBH examples: Polaroid is ‘a unique social lubricant who’s results are as unpredictable as they are immediate’ or Axe again. “The edge in the mating game”. How can you condense your great thinking into something equally clear, brief and stimulating. BBH (is use them because it’s their ‘the brand is question you’ve used) tend to focus on the relevant role the brand plays in its customers lives. Think about Old Spice that ‘gets you experience’. The best encapsulation I got if ghd was ‘liberation from limits culture sets for what woman can do and be’. I’m not a fan of using archetypes I’m afraid, lots of brands do, which is why so many brands are similar. Lots of brands want to ‘challenge’ lots of brands want to ‘be you friend’, the real differentiation is how they go about this. Challenger brands usually focus on one thing, they tend to unite a community against a common enemy (usually one no one has identified besides the fact it’s becoming a real cultural flashpoint). Also, much of what you’re doing here is setting out the background, which maybe should have been done in the ‘business challenge’ or even not have one and have a ’background’. I think you’re on to something with your elaboration on friend- this is really good stuff, I need to be drawn to this quickly and you need to make this more memorable. For example, “KOS liberates the inner mischief maker inside every man”, I’ve got to say, I quite like a male version of ghd “liberation from the limits culture sets on what a man can be or do” Perhaps you want to lighten up a bit and inject a bit more ‘mischief into it “the provocateur who inspires men to try all the things never quite dared”. Of course you can do a hell of a lot better, but still, you need to be a little clearer. As we’ll see, this becomes more important as we go into the rest of your brief.
Love your description of the customer. You’ve nailed exactly who they are and what we know about them that will help us. Trouble is, what I’m getting from this is not necessarily that culturally they need an injection of mischief, I’m getting that they need liberation from the pressure to conform to out of date role models and archetypes. You state that they need to rediscover their sense of mischief, but that feels like the solution to another problem….the fact more grown up men increasingly miss opportunities to behave like boys, but this is well catered for by WKD in the UK, the Hangover in movies and even Men Behaving Badly…I know that’s not the fact more grown up men increasingly miss opportunities to behave like boys, but this is well catered for by WKD in the UK, the Hangover in movies and even Men Behaving Badly…I know that’s not what you’re saying, but that’s because I think you’re talking about something more subtle and important – the opportunities for what can do, or can be, are so rich now, but at the same time, culture pigeonholes a bloke in a way it no longer does with women. Love what you say about ambiguity and robo-males, but I don’t agree the solution is ‘mischief’. Creatively, I always return to WKD territory, or the Coke Zero work in the UK, I just see older more varied casting. I keep going to a place where we get men to embrace contradiction and ambiguity.
You state this in your role for communications, which I think is the most creatively interesting, liberating and clear part of your brief. I really love this. But then I feel let down by the proposition, which is a GOOD proposition, don’t get me wrong, it’s clear, powerful and full of potential. But it not only limits the great stuff you’ve already set out, it feels opposite. Your role for comms takes me to a place where, yes, bored, staid blokes at work can do outrageous stuff in their spare time, but it also takes me to a place where people with outrageous jobs can do mundane but rewarding things in THEIR spare time. Most comedians are not funny out of their day job (have look at Steve Coogan in the trip for reference) for example. Am I making sense. I’m trying not to question your strategy, this isn’t what this is all about, but there IS a disconnect in your brief, The cultural problem you set out isn’t answered by your proposition. I don’t think you need one when your role for comms is so great….and so relevant to the category.
So when you tell me to avoid WKD Nuts, I’m a little lost, as I’m not sure where else to go for inspiration. Yes, I could go to examples from more grown up culture, but you should point me there.
I get a bit lost after this. If you’re going to have a big section on channel thinking, you need to actually include channel thinking. My fear is what you’ve really written is ‘up to you’. Which mostly means that a creative is likely to start with TV scripts I’m afraid (harsh but true). There’s nothing wrong with not putting specific media in, but I tend to find that some engagement pointers really help. The crux of that BBH brief for frequency in Japan was the fact that young Japanese guys use their phone as an alarm clock – they built an idea and a comms plan out from this. The Old Spice engagement thinking is based on creating conversation between man and woman. I think you are asking the creatives for a ‘big idea’. Not an advertising idea, an idea. The right point to show up in their lives and what you want to happen at this point is critical. Suddenly, what you get is ideas that you advertise rather than ‘advertising ideas’. Shaving brands pummel men into submission with high frequency, really insultingly bad, formulaic ‘advertising’ TV scripts. What would the opposite of this be? I think straight away you’re in a world where we don’t insult our customer’s intelligence and where the characters are never quite what they seem. I think you might be targeting situations where men might want the opposite of what they’re pretending to want or be to other people. Again, you can do much better, but if you’re going to channel thinking, or engagement thinking, you have to DO channel thinking or engagement thinking!
Finally, you use Will King in your support. Now that’s fine, on the level that he’s a natural challenger, but it doesn’t really help in terms of either mischief or ambiguity. I applaud you for trying pull everything back to credible relevance to KOS, but I’m not sure ‘this is challenger strategy, he’s a challenger’ does this as well as it might. The culture jamming thing with the King’s Speech is interesting, it shows he might be interested in shaking things up, but I see no real evidence he is either mischievous or a modern, more ambiguous guy.
You need to look harder for relevance or don’t bother. For example, Chrysler is made in Detroit, a hard down to earth city, so the ‘hard work campaign’ is credible, Old Spice has lots of ‘experience’ as a brand for real men (to its detriment until the this weakness was turned into a strength). Conversely, Axe had no heritage in male confidence, except for helping with this first, now in this day and age when you have to walk the walk, their digital stuff provides real help with the mating game, rather than just ad concepts. This is an option. Just do the mischief thing, but go all in. Personally, I think there’s something a range that doesn’t just rival Gillette’s but is very different. Oils and serums, a funny shaped razor that isn’t the same as the rest, but with more fucking blades. When you compare the two, Gillette’s product look stuck in the eighties, as does it’s comms, as is its brand. I wonder if it’s as simple as that. I know you allude to this, but if this is your point, you need to make it in a clearer way.
Really great work. It’s a great brief, but work harder on saying less and being clearer. Someone once told me that a great brief might have different sections, but really you’re making the same point in different ways. Be sure your brief is doing that. Great briefs are also ‘open’ but with a clear direction of travel. That’s why lots of modern briefs focus on the task, or the creative challenge and leave off with the proposition. I was with you 100% with your role for comms, I knew what you wanted me to do, than I fell flat with the mischief proposition. So I’m saying have one central theme, resist the temptation to have more.
First, your style. I really like the way you write and especially the way you write briefs. A really good brief can be brutally simple, which isn’t easy, but nowhere near as hard as the other way (in my eyes) something that retains clarity and brevity, but is also a joy to read- drawing you in and packing lots of thought starters and ideas into the content. You’re on the way to doing this, really good.
Now for the content..
Nicely written background, sets the scene well. Sets up a clear task – get a switch from Gillette.
I like the way you build on this with your category conventions section, nice observation about Tiger Woods and interesting guys. You NEARLY paint a clear picture of the Gillette guy, I just wanted you to be more specific…possibly at this point you fall into ‘planner speak’ a little, you know ‘modern masculine identity’…I wanted you to tell me what you mean by ‘highly performing’. I think you mean the successful, driven competitive guy who has ‘won’, but I’m not sure. Maybe it doesn’t matter because you’ve immediately drawn me to picture in my own head with all those instinctive associations, but I think it’s really important to clearly state the category orthodoxy when you’re about to show me what that cultural tension this is part of, and what the big opportunity is for KOS.
I like your audience/tension section. I do wonder if it edges towards being slightly too grandiose, at times it feels like ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’ but to be honest, like the confidence and the sense of a call to arms. Personally I have a quibble with the view that it’s all expectation to be like your Dad, I think it’s a lot more complex than that. I think a little more that it’s confusing and burdensome to be made to feel at one point you need to be a steadfast, man of action…the chiselled, self- sacrificing rock who provides and takes care, and at the next be encouraged to reject responsibility and hang with the lads, and then be a metro sexual dandy. I know the category focuses just on the ‘man of action’ stuff, but I wonder if the bigger cultural stuff is a ‘range’ of clichés, none of which capture the complexity of being a man today. Also, I’m very interested in WHY this is, you don’t get to this…but now I’m on about strategy and this is really about how you bring strategy to life. On that note, it’s clear and motivating….and I love that you’ve established a clear ‘real world’ link to this – beards.
Business challenge, great, simple.
But then I’m a little let down by your creative challenge. It’s great you’re experimenting with a task based proposition/role for communications or whatever you want to call it. But you’ve got me interested and a little excited, I’m waiting for the punch line, the sentence that puts it in the back of the net. This, I’m afraid is a little too long. (some) Creatives are happy to not have ‘propositions’ in briefs, but all want a clear, simple sentence that sets out their task, for example: make the reliability of the Honda Civic desirable rather than dull, make Lurpak the champion of good Food, dramatise how using ghd for the first time is like an epiphany, inspire people to up a paintbrush and get creative with their home, create a national debate about who really is tidiest – men or woman, inspire women to free their inner child…………..I wanted the equivalent of that.
‘Tell the story of these new men and what it means to be a man today’ and ‘embed shaving as a way of self transformation’ feel like two separate tasks. I’d be confused as to which you want me to do (I like the former, it feels more like a behavioural target which is usually more effective). I think the heart of what you’re asking for is inspiring men to follow their own instincts on a daily basis, making the act of shaving with KOS some kind of daily ‘spark’ towards men living each day on their own terms, or experimenting more.
In your tone of voice section I get confused. Why are you talking about beards? I thought it was going to be significant when you introduced it in your audience section, but then it went away. I’m suspecting it’s an important part again, but it doesn’t have a place in the bit of the brief that should help with tone and manner. Nothing else. Nothing with creative starters, or even some ‘supporting idea’ rather than just support, but it’s either one or the other. Right now it’s neither. I’m getting to like the rest of it. I’m not really on board with a couple of ‘personality traits’ (I’ve always like the ‘the brand is’ section in BBH briefs) ….but I’m not 100% clear how this brand should behave. It’s well written, but be sure it really MEANS something. I wonder if you’re trying to be bit clever.
I like your clear, simple support. It feels credible when you describe Will King as someone who has followed his own instincts rather than the expectations of others. Perhaps more evidence – both how Will have behaved and also how the products themselves feel like a modern alternative to competition that all looks that same. I sometimes use the support to bury my own pet ideas and thought starters, this might the place to throw in beards and anything else you would like to see tried out. Creatives tend to work straight from the proposition/task/challenge first, kind of dumping all their first thoughts. Then the really get into it, usually going to the support for more inspiration. I’ve even been jovially bollocked by a creative team by having what they thought SHOULD have been the core proposition in the support, not knowing that I did it on purpose.
So there you go. Like I said, really well written, great thoughts. But while you’re clear about the problem you want creatives to solve, you need to be much clearers and single-minded about the creative task and what the role of beards might be. I’m all for littering a brief with gold rather than relying on one sentence, but it still needs to be coherent. A brief is a summary of strategy and very quickly finds out any knots in that strategy, I wonder if that’s the case with this document.
First, on your style. Impressively succinct. Clear, brief, good. There’s a really good discipline about the way briefs summarise a strategy, you soon find any weaknesses, contradictions or knots, the shear brevity of your document already suggests something simple and clear. So really, really good. I’m also liking your tone. You speak human, cutting out the needless marketing speak and temptation to look clever. This brief sings intelligence because it doesn’t try too hard.
So, to the content.
I like your background, you’ve introduced me to the company and the man. My only quibble is you’ve got little carried away. Great you’re saying KOS is doing OK in the UK, but time to step forward…but what is that step forward? What are the plans? Is that world domination? US? Europe? Asia? People are very different in those markets, creatives need to know if this is real global stuff, which is bloody hard and needs a brand out approach, or common observation about how people behave, or a more specific Western approach. And again, with the problems of language and cultural differences (US gets irony, Germany doesn’t) it needs to be specific. I hoped you would cover this in your business challenge, but you merely say this is a voyage into the unknown.
Irrespective of this, I like that you’re very clear you’ve selected audience. It’s clear you’ve defines them by attitude and what interests them, but I wanted more. I get they hate shaving and don’t do it very often (I won’t get into the debate about reducing frequency or not, since my view is that frequency/loyalty etc is pretty much stable across all brands in a category, you won’t get them shaving more or less. I actually think your choice of creative class might inspire all sorts of more ‘boring’ men too, most blokes struggle with conflict between responsibility and self indulgence, it’s biological in the sense our instincts telling us to shag everything that moves while our heads telling us to be civilised, just like we know we should grow up and be sensible but we secretly wish for freedom. I see much possibility in getting lots of blokes having an outlet for their ache to be the free man of action, modern day cowboys or something…anyway) You’ll see that I think there’s loads of stuff bubbling under the surface of the ‘creative class’ approach. I wish that a) you’d told the creatives a little more about who they were, rather than expecting them to know, it’s great to give an audience an interesting name, but you do need to paint a picture of them a bit more. Also, you say they don’t like shaving but don’t really nail the open minded, non-conformist mentality creatives need to get a handle of. Also, I’d want you to nail the way shaving is part of a wider tension much of their liberal outlook rubs against cultural expectations, especially with the current lurch to the right in western society and new puritanism (in fact come to think of it, they might like puritan aesthetics, you know, scratch cooking, simple but bloody expensive clothes etc). What does the well groomed business guy really represent to them (Gillette man if you like) and in what way are they the antithesis of this.
This, almost over brevity, in your audience section, mean that, despite my really liking your creative challenge (it feels open and full of creative potential, there isn’t much in male popular culture that feels like sticking it to ‘the man’ you know, the man that’s fucked up nearly everything for all of us and somehow got richer for it, which your left leaning audience will love and might really blow up a tinderbox of a cultural flashpoint, I’m liking a grown up version of Levis) I don’t have enough CONTEXT from what’s gone before to REALLY get fired up by it. Which is a shame because I think it could be great. You need to either write a new ‘challenge’ which really unites these guys against a common enemy (which I think is what you’re really driving at) or provide much more context in the stuff previously.
There’s an opportunity to inject a bit more meat with your support section. I don’t think it’s enough to say there’s a book, this bit is not only for proving this is the right thing to do, it’s also for smuggling ideas into the brief. Creatives tend to read this section second, after the ‘challenge/proposition’. It should be littered with gold.
So, I really liked this brief. I love your style, I love the simplicity and brevity. I can read this quickly, get excited and get on. That’s great. I just wanted you to clearer about where these people actually are, what they get excited about (and why) and how and why ‘Gillette’ man can be made into such a potent enemy. As young planner, you won’t get this kind of feedback very often, but I want you to take the time to write more!
That's nearly it.There will be winner announced the week after next. I've run out time and I'm on holiday next week. Hope nobody minds and it feels like a victory getting the actual feedback out thus far!
One of the intrepid entrants on the APSOTW project asked a great question in response to this post and the thought starters on a KOS cultural strategy. Basically, when you have a number of potentially good ideas, how do you decide what to move forward with?
The most honest answer is instinct, just like a tennis player just knows what shot to choose after years and years of practise and competition, you find that your instincts are not far wrong.
But here are a few pointers I shared, just in case they're useful (I've changed an example for client confidentiality and the entrants own developing work):
In a real life situation, much depends in the client and the brief you received. Some clients will give you a very specific (usually too much so) brief with a target audience already selected from a segmentation study - usually with lots of information about what they care about within the category and some characteristics, along with a specific communications objective. In this case, the task is to get to know this audience, what they REALLY care about that could be exploited by the brand...and developing a proper role for communications. For example, I once saw a great, ironically shaving example, where the client brief was 'increase penetration amongst hard to reach, style conscious 18-24 years olds who think the shaving category is boring" and the strategy was 'make beards uncool' (at the time these young proto men were experimenting with goatees which they thought were really hip, while the women they wanted to pull thought it made them look like idiots)
Focused briefs don't come along too often, and you find many strategy presentations therefore have a couple of options, just like creative tends to have two or three 'routes'. Personally, I think this is lazy, but some clients actually expect this. But in any case, some kind of selection needs to made internally and a good planner will be presenting in a manner that helps client 'choose' an, already selected, preferred direction. There is a school of thought built around behavioural economics where you need to give people a choice if yo want them to buy something, just make sure you have two similar things where the one you want them to buy us a little bit better....
So.........first off what can happen when you look at your different ideas more closely, usually when you put them up on the wall together, is that there's something more fundamental that is driving them. You sometimes see that actually, your strategic routes are, or could be, different campaign ideas for a much deeper brand idea. So I tend to not look at what the best idea is out of the bunch, I look at what connects them.
Of course, this isn't always the case sometimes they are genuinely different ideas with disparate roots, and the ultimate criteria to apply to selection usually boils down to might be:
Is the problem we're solving something enough people could care about? Or could be made to care about? That doesn't mean for example, with my half formed 'assault on pleasure' thoughts that I'd be thinking just about that smallish, cool urban professional type (though I reckon the numbers would be pretty good) I'd be thinking about how many other men would want to be like him, which is quite a lot judging from the stable sales of GQ.
Is it provocative? Is it something you can imagine your audience not only agreeing with, but talking about and even debating?
Do you honestly think it's something your brand could do credibly? That wonderful Old Spice work is rooted in the truth that it's on old brand that's your Dad probably used buy for example. It doesn't have to be something no other brand could do (it helps though!) because once you own it, you OWN it, but it does need to be credible for YOUR brand to do it - Chrysler isn't the only brand built in Detroit but boy they make the most of the fact it is, it and the way its grit, those 'men of action' are something Americans need as a culture right now .
How many battles in the war you want to wage can you see coming from this? For example, that 'assault on pleasure' stuff I was on about could take a stand against the creep of work into our leisure time, it could have a pop at traditional competitive male culture that's all fitting in and pretending to like sport even if yo don't- it could parody men who think it's fun watching football in a freezing stadium while more interesting men are having sex with the kind of women they only dream of, it could make an enemy of Ben Sherman lager louts and the endless routine of the Saturday night out in the same bars and nightclubs, it could stand up for sexual freedom, it could tell 'the man' to get lost "I'll drink as much as I like" etc. I'm not saying this direction is good, but I am saying there are plenty if flashpoints to light.
And finally, which is simplest? Which can you explain in a sentence, but when you do, it feels like a compression of lots and lots of interesting stuff. A useful way of approaching this is to write 'movie log lines for it' - which are one sentence compressions of, hopefully, very interesting 90 minute films used in the initial pitch. For example, Rocky might have been pitched as ' A washed up boxer gets the chance to fight for the world title, but he must overcome his own demons before he can even think about his opponent". Levis Go Forth stuff could be pitched as "The story of America's youth rebuilding our country with the pioneering spirit that once made it great'
Hope this helps
By the way, remember this slightly confused post on cultural strategy for energy drinks? It needed a lot of pruning, which goes to show why you need to think hard about this stuff rather than going off half cocked.
Anyway, here's something a lot simpler.
The energy drinks market is very macho. With the exception of the current Lucozade stuff it's about joy in pain etc, while Lucozade isn't really seen that much in gyms and stuff because it's mostly a lifestyle drink, a fact they've embraced.
There's nothing in the category for women. Who tend to avoid to avoid energy drinks because they think they're full if calories. This is part of something quite rich to delve into.
On the practical level, food has become fetishised for body concious young women. Fad diet after fad diet leaves them either half starved from eating next to nothing, or disappointed when they realise the 'cheat diet' that lets them eat what they want doesn't work.
On another level, the macho, no pain sports turns women off. They're not ultra competitive like men, they just want to look good - get into those jeans, work that killer black dress. One of the big trends in health is the increasing desire for physcial perfection. It ain't going away.
That takes us to an interesting place for a watery looking , natural 'good' sports drink. It can puncture all the bullshit around fad diets AND quash the qualms about calories.....basically with the truth that you should burn more than you chew. Instead the the hollow emptiness you get from dieting, if you burn calories instead, you get a wonderful positive buzz.
On a higher level, instead of all that pain, suffering and winning stuff, you could embrace the truth that women train to look great and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
Suddenly you're in a world of independent, sexy, empowered, women who are a million miles away from the crash dieting, famous for doing nothing airheads you see in OK Magazine.
You're tapping into Generation Y women who don't see a conflict between beauty and brains, see the irony in the glamour industry and enjoy the fact that 'men just don't get it'. They also dislike the 'assault on pleasure' discussed in the last post. They also at once dislike and mock the lunkeads in gyms who can't help but ogle them and don't get why they would never be interested in a million years..........
With some time and effort, that could get quite provocative and interesting..................
Once again, I really want to praise the people that took part. We got a series of great, mostly beautifully written entries with some really good observations. I really got a sense that people were getting a feel for their audience, what they really care about and what that could mean for KOS. Again, I want to impress upon everyone, the entrants showed a level of thinking, empathy and emotional intelligence way beyond what most planners demonstrate.
The fact that nobody really nailed a truly succinct, watertight presentation isn't and shouldn't be disappointment, only SOME of the best agencies in the world do this stuff really well, and they don't always nail it. This was always intended as a learning experience to get people thinking about this kind of stuff and get a feel for how to go about it. I hope it succeeded to that end.
Anyway, here's one or two things I would have considered if I was looking at this...
Firstly, nearly everybody looked at shaving as a symbol of masculinity and naturally delved into what it could mean to be a man in the 21st century. Great approach of course, when the category is so far behind others in this respect, from Old Spice to Johnnie Walker, from most beer brands to quite a few automotive ones. But then again, when so many brands are providing a variety of outlets for all sorts of tensions in masculine culture, it's really hard to find something new. Doing something similar to another brand outside of shaving, and as well would still have profound effects in such a stilted category, but finding completely new cultural codes instead of a new take on masculine ones would have really interesting.
When shaving is so crassly tied up with being a real man, what else could it be about? For example, the rest of the category is all about space age white hot, NASA, technology (thanks SC) which feels part of the general cultural demand to always keep up with the latest thing, or even worse, take away the need for skill and concentration in favour of convenience . But King of Shaves is proud it was invented in a man's kitchen sink and began with a traditional shaving oil - that could have real meaning for brand that makes shaving an act of authentic concentration and skill, rather than a thoughtless act where man in subservient to technology. You could be quite provocative, delving into the growing cult of the amateur, where people are developing an untapped need to have absorbing hobbies again - things they can do with passion, that require concentration and perseverance, but where learning along the way is as much fun as actually getting there...and it's mostly an intention in life, more than a reality because who has the time? That could be about craft skills, but it could also be about things that actually make you feel something.
Many people picked up on the new quest for physical perfection amongst men. My view is that this part something much deeper. The kind of guys that are embracing the male beauty ideal tend to be young urban professionals - they work hard and play hard, totally embracing experience culture, completely dedicated to having as much damned fun as they can, drinking to excess, partying in cool bars and clubs, lots of sex with hot women and not afraid to embrace the fashion codes that go with it, depillating, smooth skin, immaculate hair, even considering plastic surgery. All the while, where seeing a massive 'assault on pleasure' - promiscuity, drink, eating the wrong foods...our institutions are trying to end the fun and make people behave. How interesting would it be for a set a sub-culture of hedonistic beatiful people against the dull, authoritative mass market - and predictable, one dimensional Gillette guy could be made part of the enemy possibly. Even better, this target gets irony, they love sophisticated, multi-layer comedy and culture that others just don't get - how great would it to be to mount protest your enemy doesn't even understand?
Back on manliness, I wonder if there's more in transformation culture? Many picked up on the confusing variety of roles men are asked to play these days. Rather than fight this, why not embrace it? Much of the feminine codes you see out there are about women playing with their identity. Maybe it's time to be the brand that does this for men? Shaving, as many points out, seems to fight against new masculine ideals and preserve the classic male- why not smash it by embracing the new masculinity, where different mindsets and seemingly contradictory behaviours are not hyocrisy or schizophrenia, they're embracing the modern man who has as many sides to his identity as a woman and wants to explore this and the possibilities it represents. You see it in the way fashion has become less about the diktats from the fashion police and more a huge selection of styles and identities to mix, match and try on. That might lead to the The staid corporate stooge who goes base jumping at the weekend. The loving, dependable single Dad who's also the ladykiller. The reason superheroes tend to have a human alter ego is because it touches a deep need in most people to be someone else from time to time, or even just vent that part of yourself that never comes out very often. I find it funny that much of modern feminist culture is about independence and self actualisation when that luxury isn't, at least in the popular culture we see, afforded to men. Don Draper's identity crises don't strike a chord because they're abnormal, but because they're all too common.
I'd argue that much of why people connect with the Bourne Identity or the new James Bobd movies is the way the complex, conflicted, ambiguous and, in the case of Bourne, multi identity characters reflect tension in their own lives.
What about women? KOS is launching Queen of Shaves. In culture, women are loving invading previously male only citadels (apparently the biggest growth area for motorcyle sales is women) - instead of the seriously crap Gilette Venus stuff:
Why not champion Generation Y women invading the mans world? Most brands treat young women as idiots, why not embrace their dizzying march?
Oh, and one final thing. Young men feel rather helpless right now. The category not only shows them a world of success that's out if reach, it's one dimensional men with nothing about them. Right now, they feel helpless, listless and without any control in their own lives. This especially acute with 2o somethings who have been sold a pup by culture- the fake rich beatiful MTV lifestyle and the promise that of they worked hard and buckles down, they could have great jobs and great lives with the houses, cars and fantastic leisure pursuits that go with it. But most of them are finding the jobs are not there, and end if working in boring, repetitive jobs, call centres admin, or some even have to take a McJob. Even the successful ones feel they've sold out to the man and wish for something for meaningful. That's the deep need expressed in Fight Club
and even Wanted-
young men looking for outlets, for a way to feel control in their own lives. As James whatsisface says at the end of Wanted (dreadful film, but still).."What the fuck did you do today?". Yes it's youth rebellion, but I wonder what outlets - naturally safer and less silly than bare knuckly fighting or teaming up with Ms Jolie to kill people - KOS could provide. You only have look at culture jamming or the student protests in the UK to see there's something to tap into here. Maybe it's even showing that a life of significance doesn't revolve around how much money you earn and being the corporate guy, it comes from being a 'man of action' rather than words?
Anyway, just some rough, half formed channels of interest. Please rip them apart at will.
So, with the exception of Gareth, who's feedback will appear as a kind of epilogue in due course, I have the task of going last. Bugger.
That means it's a struggle to say anything that hasn't been said before and you've all probably lost interest by now. Oh well.
I need to apologise though. This post is late - after entries being on time and the kind effort of (most of) the judges to be on time - and I'm sorry. The last week has been crazy, not an excuse, a reason I hope.
First, there are the thankyous. Thanks to the judges for giving their time on this. But more importantly, thanks to the people who submitted their entries. Hopefully, you'll benefit from the direct feedback, but it's incredibly generous to give your time and expose yourself in this manner so that the others, who didn't, might benefit from the comments and pointers too. Seriously, I salute you.
Right, onwards. Here's my general feedback. At the heart of this project is a conflict. I've banged on before about the weakness of slavishly following proprietary planning processes, yet lo! I set out a distinct process for this one. Why on earth would I do that? Because this was never going to be an easy project. It flies in the face of most of the accepted wisdom in some of the, ahem, most respected organisations in this business..product or emotional benefit focus I mean. So I thought it useful to provide a guide to help and, hopefully, case studies that brought it to life.
Another reason was that, like it or not, we always have to tailor how we deliver our ideas to clients: the way they think about how brands work and their sign off process. Practising organising your thinking to help someone buy it is something you need to start doing.
So I was a little surprised that not everyone followed the brief. I don't mean following the process in a linear order, but making sure that you covered the main questions, so that my imaginary tick list was complete (you'd be amazed in pitches how many clients have a real tick list). First and foremost in any presentation, you need to be thinking about what your audience is looking for and tailor it to that.
With regards to presentation style, it really varied from the too succinct to virtual verbal diarrhoea. I wanted to see a clear story told in an inspiring way. There were wonderful examples of design, brilliant pieces of writing and, in places, crystal clarity. No one entry did it all in one go. What works for me, whether it's writing a document, preparing for a presentation or whatever is writing down the story first. Literally, the elevator pitch.Usually that means a one pager. Ever since I read Perfect Pitch I've followed the advice and organise it as Robert McKee suggests: The Inciting Incident that sets it all in motion, Progressive Complications, Crisis, Climax and Resolution. It works for me and is well worth a go. Once you have this, fleshing it out is easy, but you have that critical structure.
Now for the content. Specifically the approaches to cultural strategy. Every single entry has at least one gem of an observation, but it tended to feel that most of your efforts had gone into finding a category convention ( and done this brilliantly) which is critical of course, and less so the genuine tension tension in culture you could resolve...in many ways it felt like people were tapping into a mainstream trend to break a category convention rather than resolve real tension in people's lives. That said, nearly everybody showed a direction of thinking that was fresher and more thought provoking than 90% of what most planners would do and 100% fresher than existing category stuff. It just felt a little like piggybacking a trend at times, rather than repurposing something beginning to get momentum in culture that no one else has yet.
LIke I said, there were some fantastic observations about category conventions, some great directions about what was going on in mens REAL lives we could address, plus some great thoughts about what was going on in culture we could repurpose. But I never felt that that all that happened in one entry. I was also a little bit disappointed that so many approaches addressed a question about what masculinity should be about, when a more interesting question might be, WHY is shaving so tied up with masculinity and manliness, starting there might have got to somewhere very different.
The biggest category convention seems to be that shaving is tied up with masculinity - what else could it be about?
So well done all, but no one was perfect. Which is a relief since I bet the judges don't want to be ousted by the Young Turks just yet.
So to the entries:
Short and to the point. Interesting to focus on the category convention of the clean shaven guy...but I was looking for more than this, what it is it in life/culture this means/could mean? What's wrong with the clean shaven guy and the way brands focus on him?
The 'creative guy' is interesting but what's BEHIND this, what's the tension in men's lives championing the loose creative types could resolve? How and why could this be any different to Apple's 'tools for creatives'? I wonder if digging into further might have exposed something like the 'weekend hippy' - the young guy who hasn't come to terms with the constraints of adulthood yet. That night have got to a place that talks about shaving at weekends - or providing 'outlets' during the week.
Still, didn't entirely agree with other judges that encouraging blokes to shave less is a bad thing - most strategy doesn't change behaviour, it tends to change brand preference, and I wonder if providing 'cultural capital' to your audience might generate that 'switch' without actually making them shave more or less. Also, there night be all sorts of tactics for helping guys shave off a thicker beard, I bet shaving oil helps with that (just out of interest, I was amazed nobody dug into KOS heritage a little bit more, which the oil is the bedrock).
Independent art IS interesting and I can see how you might supply 'cultural trickledown' to guys with the interest but not the palate or the time and effort to seek it out, but you don't really show how you make it relevant to KOS.
So there's lots going on here but I wonder if you audacious attempt at striking brevity left out the story that would pull it together. Beautifully written manifesto, but the brief said it should inspire anyone in the KOS business and, to be honest, it's a little oblique.
On final point - I loved the idea of craven mediocrity- guys who want to be great but don't really have the chops (most of us then) would loved to have seen this developed more.
Points for actually following the process. I like what you do with the category- it's great to see challenger strategy applied. It's great for you to look for inspiration from other categories, but it worries me at this stage, as this category is already very functional to me, it just dresses it in emotional benefit bollocks.
I really liked where you were going, but you frustrated me by stopping short of looking at cultural conventions in the category. It felt like you were judging their ads not what what their content might really represent. The smug self satisfied guy is interesting but what is it about him you can bring meaning to and subvert? I do love that you go for inspiration from popular culture, bit ads.
For me though, your cultural tension misses a crucial point, you state the category doesn't connect with real guys, but you go no further. What is it about these fake men that might be made to piss guys off? This what I'm thinking at this point as your story unfolds and wanted you to push it further.
But I LOVE your manifesto I see how grown up mischief helps you play judo with Gillete. But you haven't shown why robomen are such a problem. You just say that's not what real guys are like- but what's wrong with out of touch images to aspire to? If they don't aspire to this image WHY NOT? You haven't said or I'm missing something.
So I'm frustrated becasue I thought what you were driving at with your Hangover/Mad Men references was great..something about the boiling tensions in men forces to conform, just waiting to explode. I would have loved to see how you would light the touchpaper.
On your executions,I wanted to see where you might show up to have maximum impact, where your 'tension' would be the most intense. The fashion store thought is interesting, but where and how could you be the most provocative?
Great start, you're wetting my appetite - the best presentations make the audience sit up and take notice from the first second. I like you getting quickly to the functional relationship with the category - shaving's a pain in the arse and part of a much wider ritual of pretending to be someone else when you go to work. This was really going somewhere. You really link the category to a wider issue in life.
Then you lose me.
Your solution seems to add to the problem in my view - getting a proper shave. That feels like an answer to a different problem, possibly the way men might yearn for the days when men where men, but you didn't lead to this and then, to be honest, you seem to descend into lots of functional stuff, which makes it feel like an FMCG planning deck of yore rather than a cultural strategy. A real shame because you started brilliantly.
I like your quote at the start, but be careful, if I had a penny for every planning presentation I'd seen that starts with a quote..and then the proverbs approach gets stale quickly and gets in the way of me understanding what you're trying to say!
The archetypes approach was great, it's a fresh way to look at what the category does/doesn't do. But I've got to be honest, I got confused. I THINK you're saying the world confusing for a certain kind of guy who thinks culture has left him behind - it wants him to be many, conflicting things when he just wants be himself, uncomlicated, dependable, nice. I really wanted this developed, but you don't really link it to why the category exacerbates this. I think you've found something really great to pursue, but you don't pull this through to relevance to shaving.
I'm thinking you're saying nice guys shave because it shows you care about the woman you love, and helps build the uncool, family driven life these guys want. This gets me back on track but then you bamboozle me with your process chart, which seems very different to the process laid out in the brief.
I work at it and tease out what I think you means, the category is about the alpha male, our men like the backyard life. I'm loving this - love, not lust, home to boardroom. I wish you'd made this clearer because it's great.
Also, really smart to start a conversation between men and women, since I bet a massive chunk of razors are bought by women for their partner.
I really wanted you to develop this more rather than muddy it with the 'shave because your partner prefers it', Gillete have done this and yes, you suggest a different wrapping, but it's rather old hat to tell men women prefer men to be stubble free. I really wanted you to push the 'backyard guy' who doesn't have to try too hard, or make the loving family man cool.
But you really needed to develop this a lot more. Because while the category doesn't champion nice guys (but I do wonder if the old Gillette the Best a Man Can Get did) culture does. From 'My Family' in the UK to the dependable Dad who seems to be the bedrock of US popular culture - sitcom, dramas even movies. I'll wager the VW Star Wars commercial is all about making family guys feel good about themselves.
Love your video manifesto though. So really great thoughts, but be clear and hone and really push your story.
LOVE your title, just love it. You get going quickly and a big tick for nailing category conventions swiftly. I think the 'macho ritual is an interesting springboard as it 'NASA 7 blade crap'...but what is the deeper cultural orthodoxy beneath this? I doubly wanted this because your analysis of the cultural mess that is men's vanity was great - the shift from looking good being once pansy, now pre-requisite. Within those archetypes, part of me wanted you to settle on one and challenge it - bondi beach guy? hpister? Which one?
But I liked you nailed it into simple cultural tension (not everybody did this!) - real world body image pressures v Hollywood's achievement over image.
I'm in a quandry though. You've said some really stimulating stuff, but I don't think you've linked the category behaviour to you cultural need--I agree the category shows an outdated version of what it means to be a man, but you haven't really showed how this links to the body image observations. I'd argue in many ways it doesn't since much of the category behaviour arguably says, forget all that nonsense, just shave well and it's job done.
Perhaps I'm being picky. I can see that it's probably enough to say the category doesn't accept that the world has moved and needs a new ideology in world where men's roles and self image are confusing. But you don't state this clearly enough.
I still struggle with your tension point. I'm not sure Hollywood says achieving is good. Your examples, geeks and slackers are very niche subcultures and I'm not sure either is about achievement. In my view, the geek thing seems to be about nice guys finishing first while Apatows slackers seem to be NON-achievers finally growing up.
All of this is really thought provoking though, wish you'd taken it to the next level and tied together more.
You don't take me with you the rest of the way though. The thought of guys who feel life makes it hard to get to where their old man got is great, but it's not really linked to what you've said before.
Then you manifesto is beautiful. I THINK you are really on about resolving the tension between men who want to live up to what's expected of them...looks, achievements, but it's hard in the face of realism about their looks and talents and the way women are winning in the schoolroom, workplace and culture at large.
You get to shifting the centre of gravity from success as perfection to character, wit and, well, being interesting. Comedy and Apatow's films make great source material, wonderful finish but I wish you'd taken me there rather than making me work so hard!
Top marks for art direction but you really need to take more time to write a lot less! Seriously, edit, precis, distil. Please!!!!!!!!
Nice distilation of shaving as the world of the classical man, nice how you show this is aout of step with blurred gender roles and how it leads to slacking and underachievement. This is great.
Really good observation that blokes are squandering more freedom and opportunity than they've ever had before.
But your Ivy League solution does't feel like the solution! I t felt like you were saying at first men need to start making life happen rather than waiting for it to happen to them. I like this, but I'm looking for a provocative call to arms to mobilise blokes in the first place.
I'm not denying Ivy league Man is a good idea, but it feels like in icon for men who have already decided to act, you need to convince them to get off their arses in the first place
I love that you've gone right into shave culture, not just brand culture. Your pace and style begin really well. Great tension I thought - the submissive man who does what he's told, leaving most men just getting angry and a great opportunity to embrace a much wider identity and all the possibilities that brings. Really good.
But your strategy suffers from lace of the pace and brevity in your first bit! I was really with you, but then I get less sure about 'good men' as a name for a target, it's not great when you're talking about men who embrace the best of where they've been and where they could go. 'Good doesn't encapsulate that for me!
But i LOVE the idea of the evolution of new generation, "One day we will all be like this' if feels like a grand vision, a shared goal.
I wish you had captured the essence of what that might be, but if feels like your solution is more about embracing the old than the new. I wanted to see more possibility.
Your manifesto was beautifully written but I don't think you've captured what your thinking could have been, it begins to feel like inspiring progress' which is a great, relevant idea for a male audience, except for the fact Johnnie Walker have already done it!!
Your post starts really well. That quote is a killer. I like how you boil the category down to 'success' and targeting 'men before they become men' is wonderful, in the face of the men in the category all too sure of who they are.
But then you go 'all planner' on me. It looks very clever but I want you to be clear and inspiring, I've sat through too many planning presentations that try and be too clever, be simply great. Please.
I'd be careful of using rebellious codes- from Levis to Pepsi it's the most pilfered approach to youth there is.
I don't you're actually saying this really, you're saying do as many things as you can, try stuff, decide what you like and who YOU want to be. I wish you'd pursued this further and linked it back to a credible role for KOS. You don't do this really.
I also wanted you to show me what kind of tactis KOS might use, and tbought showing up at universities wasn't really enough. Plus, what about the mllions of young me who DON'T go?
So, that's all the entries. I hope you can see that EVERY entry has moments of brilliance, but ultimately there wasn't one where there was a totally coherent, watertight cultural strategy. Don't be disheartened, you all did great...and better than most so called 'seasoned' planners. The level of analysis, instinct and overall thinking was great. But again, I urge you to think about your story and always try and dig underneath why what you've observed is important.
So who wins? I'm going to be controversial and say no one. Like I saidm everyone was brilliant in one place or other, some found some great cultural tensions but didn't really provide a credible solutions, others provided great cultural ideas but didn't really show what deep cultural need they were helping with.
There's a tie breaker round if you're up for it. 14 days from today I want you distill your thinking into a creative brief. Imagine your strategy has been signed off by the client. Imagine they've signed it off with some concerns along the lines of the above comments, but like where you're going and want to sign off a brief to put into creative. I want you to write a shit hot brief that will make any creative desperate to pick up their layout pad and start work on a big creative idea. The format is up to you - I'll supply reference of agency briefs if you need it.
Judging this time will just be done by me. It will be 30% based in how you develop your strategy and 70% based on a clear, succinct, inspiring brief.
Up for that?
Any questions, let me know. Any challenges to the feedback, likewise.
Off you go.
Okay, so we're nearly there with judges feedback. I'm still waiting for poor Gareth to share his, but he's under the cosh at the moment, Depending on how he does, we'll either share his feedback before the end, this week, or sum up share Gareth's after. Either way, we'll conclude this week.
Here's Rob Campbells. He's been thorough and he's been honest. One thing I want you take in is that he's Planning Director at Weiden and Kennedy Shanghai. I don't mean, listen to him because he's a senior person at an organisation most of us would probably like to work at the most,I mean look at the rigour. I sometimes think that the so called, 'cooler' more creative agencies do themselves a disservice by not exposing the utter mania for rigorous, watertight thinking. All the great work you see isn't just a result of a mania for doing great creative work, it's about taking care of the detail. Take the famous Old Spice work. It's probably as creative and provocative as an integrated campaign gets, but don't forger it was done for P&G - one the most notoriously formulaic, risk averse clients there is. You don't get any work through clients like that, especially work like this without proven rigorous thinking. There's a case study here in case you're interested:
So apart from the feedback itself, take in the fact that the most groundbreaking agencies get to the work they do by having coffee and being wacky. They work very hard and don't anything leave the building until it's as good as it can be. That goes for a strategy presentation as much as it goes for rough storyboard or a finished film.
Here's Rob's feedback:
OK, so before I go on to individual submissions, a general overview:
The range of entries - at least in duration - was very varied.
Some were very to the point whereas some seemed to go on for so long that when I got to the end, I had to re–look at them because I genuinely thought I'd missed a page explaining what they were trying to say.
NONE, were very clear.
They either used 1,000 words when 100 would do or used 10 when 100 was needed. [Those number are obviously just to prove my point, I don't mean it literally – just incase John Dodds reads this] I would suggest everyone hands their preso over to someone not in the industry to read. Preferably their mums or dads. If they can understand it, fantastic – if they can't, look at how you're talking, framing or telling the story again.
Another thing was that all of them didn't title their submission in a way that started selling me their 'view' from the get-go.
I absolutely detest bland titles like "KING OF SHAVES ASSIGNMENT".
It might sound like a little thing, but you want to start guiding people down your path of thinking from the moment you see it and only one person did it [and even then it wasn't that good] – a tragedy.
Also, I know it should be about substance over style … but that should not mean you don't put any design element into it.
Pages of text don't encourage you to read it.
Sure, in a perfect world, that shouldn't matter – but people still want to be engaged and entertained. They need to be kept interested and how you present your work has a very important role to play – not least, to ensure your submission gets the attention and focus it is due.
A couple of the presentations were good, but sadly, the layout – or flow – was so disparate that all the good energy they built up started dying within a few pages.
Finally, I'd say that my overall view is the people who submitted their assignments didn't quite get the challenge.
That sounds unfair because it's obvious a lot of work went into the submissions – however I can't help but in some cases, they were more about showing they'd done a lot of work rather than they'd truly grasped what you were saying.
In most cases, I felt they were still focusing too much on trying to be different from the category rather than coming up with something that infiltrated, changed or created culture – which highlights a need for the industry as a whole to step away from focusing all their energies on celebrating what's new and cool and get back to highlighting the values of some of the fundamentals.
Again, that sounds harsh – especially as I know a lot of people who are doing planning at a senior level who wouldn't have come up with something as good as some of these guys – however I guess I was just disappointed overall because nothing really grabbed me by the balls and screamed "THIS IS IT".
Gareth once said [or it might of been – god forbid – Andy] that the key is to find "unexpected relevance" and sadly I didn't find any.
A cultural tension point is like a crossroads, where there is a mass of energy all congregated, waiting for one of the other doors to be opened and let liberation or – at the least – validation to be released. I didn't feel the tension point the submissions highlighted really got under the skin of the audience, they were either more a CATEGORY tension point or amplifying what the media has been promoting in terms of gender attitudes and issues.
Some entries definitely have potential … some are better than others … however if I was KOS and looking for a direction to create culture rather than just reflect it, I think I'd still be putting my business out to pitch because at the end of the day, as much as everyone mocks Gillette, they're the market leader by a country mile [admittedly, aided by their incredible distribution] and I'm sure the objective for KOS wold be to give the major players a real run for their money, not just give the public an alternative positioning.
OK, so that's the overview errrrrm, over – now to the specifics.
Given the amount of judges comments you'll of got, I'm going to be very efficient by just highlighting key points rather than go into detail for each entry.
I liked 'boys must figure out who they are to become a man'. I liked it a lot.
And I liked the idea of targeting younger men – men before they were men – but then it ended up like a wet weekend in Cleethorpes for me. I don't buy the justification – it sounds like someone trying desperately to look academic and while it may be true, I come away going "so what".
Also, the 'bringing it to life' section at the end just didn't capture my imagination. It said nothing – and this is a point where they could have made me feel their idea and overcome many of my views. Sadly they didn't do that as well as they could have. Or should have.
When I saw the 'mission' chart, I was interested, by the end I was disappointed.
I like Zeljko a lot, but this isn't one of their best submissions.
It feels a bit lazy to be honest … in terms of the background, strategy and ideas.
And the thing that pisses me off [and yes, I mean that expression] is the lyrics to the manifesto has some lovely stuff in there - stuff that had the potential to be a really interesting foundation for what KOS could be … certainly more innovative than the 3rd rate Converse territory that was submitted.
I don't know what happened, but I'm guessing Zeljko was busy and pulled this together at the last moment. Kudos for the commitment, detention for the content.
I absolutely love "The Gillette-shaved man isn't exactly a
realistic, interesting or multilayered guy. And once he
does 'interesting' things, he gets axed." Fantastic summation that made me smile and nod at the same time.
Took long enough to get to that point, but like a great joke, the punchline delivered.
Please don't use terms like 'he-cession', especially when the word you are raping doesn't really reflect the point you're trying to make.
My problem with this submission is it feels like the Chivas Regal campaign – Be Chivalrous.
I know it's not, I know what Thomas is saying is different, but I can't help but feel this is more like the evolution of Gillette man than something that captures the spirit of the times.
I agree that the rebellious angle wouldn't work long term [ala Right Wing voting tools] but the direction being presented doesn't make my gut feel it's something that reflects a genuine cultural tension point – something that would touch people in the same way that listening to Al Pacino's 'Any Given Sunday' speech or watching Wieden's 'Chrysler Superbowl' spot made them feel – even if they were about as far away from the 'core target audience' as you could get.
Thorough background, nicely paced – but sadly, once it got to the strategy, I felt it lost direction, energy and interest. Sorry Thomas.
Matt's preso was a bit like Thomas'.
Lot's of great background, a couple of awesome observations [
“The smug look is more
post-coital than posts-have”] but ultimately a conclusion that feels like you've just won 3rd prize in the office lottery.
To be fair, the manifesto kind of worked – it was still way too category focused for my liking – but then when I read his 'what mischief is/isn't', I went away disappointed because I felt I was reading some words to describe a pseudo-wannabe status beer brand, not a shaving company that wanted to put mischief on a pedestal.
Some of the activation ideas were OK [retail location for example, for exactly the reason he states] however I felt what Matt was trying to do was 'upmarket Virgin' but without the charisma or wit and given the heart of his idea was mischief, I would have hoped he would of been far braver in what he put forward.
His 2nd page had a bunch of stuff that could have been explored [albeit, category observations] but turning KOS into KOSkin doesn't answer the brief, even if it could be argued it could drive significant revenue growth. Which I doubt.
I just don't think Justin really understood the task – but seriously good on him for having a go and I hope once he's read the comments of all the judges and the feedback as a whole, he understands where he might have gone wrong and is hungry to rub our faces in the shit on the next assignment.
In all honesty, nothing would make me happier.
Like Thomas, Carolin has identified the everyday good guy, the man who is decent, hardworking and honourable.
And, like Thomas, she has expressed it in a way that feels more like a [boring] category differentiation than a cultural tension point … even though 'the role and purpose of man' is something that is very much is the collective consciousness.
There is obviously something there, however I can't help but feel they've only scratched the surface as regards what this tension point really is/means and as such, have ended up in an area that feels generic rather than liberating.
The preso was also way too cluttered – I'm sure it would have been better if Carolin had presented it herself [I know for a fact she's very good at that] however in powerpoint form, it just seemed to make giant leaps that didn't really flow.
Best laid out preso of the lot but 45 pages is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long, especially when each page is written in 2 columns!
Christ, I overwrite on my blog, but Geert takes it to a new level.
While Geert's overview was in a similar vein to everyone else's, he did it with a style and humour that lifted it from the others. Saying that, he wrote so damn much that there was more than one occasion where I was left wondering 'what the point' of a particular slide was and even now, I still am questioning how he went from the interesting 'gender blending' shift into the 'IVY LEAGUE MAN' territory.
I sort-of buy the idea, but I still feel he came to it because of existing brands going into that area [even if they're not in the shaving category] than a deep understanding of how to create/change culture due to a recognition of undercurrent tension points.
Like everyone else, he has gone for quantity rather than quality in how to bring his idea to life … however, given he actually has an idea, it has allowed him to explore concepts without losing the heart of what he is trying to make KOS represents.
My only point on this is that while being able to show your strategy/idea has real depth and legs, coming up with 10,000 ideas doesn't always do you justice.
Amongst all the things LEVIS did to launch 'GO FORTH', the 'write your own declaration of independence' and Braddock brought it all to life way more than the countless other things that were done and I would suggest in future, people highlight 1 or 2 'shop window' ideas they have - and then maybe detail some of the other concepts – rather than list lots and lots of things and give them all equal billing.
Does that make sense? Probably not, oh well …
I am left in a quandary with SC's entry.
While I think it gives a general overview to a bunch of things, I think there's parts that are very 'light' and parts that take massive jumps [Geeks to comedians?]
Not only that, her manifesto reeks of a remake of the Apple 'Crazy One's' ad and some of her 'findings' are open to massive interpretation, and yet her
comedian thing really interests me … it's just I am not really sure how she got there and how it exists beyond just creative execution.
Shame, because if she could link it all together better for me [or for her] she would have something that could really made me think about KOS going somewhere new, however I am left wondering how they ended up there.
Some interesting thoughts in there.
Did a nice job of building a picture of the sort of man who would reject Gillette, but I wasn’t as sure how King of Shaves were going to capture these people’s imagination. Perhaps he should have gone back to Connery and co and shown what they would have said about KOS.
The just enough is more part also seemed to come out of nowhere a bit for me. I wasn’t quite sure how this fitted with the rest of the story.
Matt Nixon - Mischief
Builds a good story of why mischief could stand out in the category. I think it needs to be defined what/who they’re being mischievous against though. Is it the old representations of men, is it the dull and characterless? Without this clear agenda for their mischief, it’s hard to anticipate and support what they do.
I quite like the idea of KOS/Shaving helping to fuel creativity. It fits quite well with the product and usage situation, but I think it could be better defined what the tension is. Funding indie films seems a little safe and predictable, which is perhaps because it’s not clear why they’re fighting against the status quo?
Also, the song lyric manifesto was a bit too abstract for my uncultured brain.
Justin Thor Hoyer
Unfortunately, I think this presentation is let down by not defining, or at least not showing evidence for the key insight/behaviour KOS is going to take advantage of. The idea of poor shaving being a problem, or mocked seems a small point at the start of the presentation, but appears to be the basis of the whole idea. This could have done with some substantiation – even just a few Twitter quotes or something.
Interesting contrast to the standard shaving ads. I think it could have done with being clearer about the reasons the ‘good guys’ would use KOS. Was it to help them get their loving wife, or was it a kind of selfless act to make their home life happier? If it’s the first, then it may need more direction on how the advertising would differ from the usual ‘woman stroking the man’s beard after the shave’ imagery.
Bonus points for Tom Selleck.
In terms of presentation, it’s quite hard to follow the early slides, as the info jumps around the page.
There’s also a lot of quotes and thoughts at the start, which it might have been nice to apply next to the new direction at the end of the presentation. To show the challenges set had been answered. That may just be my style though!
Feels a bit like a male version of Dove, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and humour is probably the right way to tackle the subject for men.
However, I’m not sure some of the activity described actually lives up to the manifesto. It feels like you’d be owning comedy, rather than necessarily comedy with a purpose, as the manifesto suggests.
While I wouldn’t say Powerpoint is always the answer, I think this response suffered without pictures to reinforce the audience and idea.
I quite liked the idea of returning to traditional, timeless qualities in an age of uncertainty.
The end of the manifesto and some of the event activity are what got me most interested – providing support and opportunities to build character. I’m less comfortable with the bits about determination to be successful, just because I started picturing the usual Gillette ads in my head. I’m sure this wasn’t what they had in mind though.
Probably my favourite presentation, because I could really see people getting behind a brand that genuinely helps people to build character and experience, rather than just hold up pictures of people who have already made it. It also feels like an area a shaving brand could legitimately own – it being one of the first steps into manhood.
It’s also a lovely looking Powerpoint. It shouldn’t matter, but it does…
My one criticism would be that it was perhaps a touch too long – a few she-male slides could have been cut, and the length means it’s even more important that the key positioning/insight statements are made clear and given room to breath. I only truly understood the positioning on the second read through because of this. It may not get that chance in the real world.
I don’t know if it was the format, but I found it really hard to pick out the key ideas in this one. Perhaps it needed a bit more editing to make sure all the ideas were pointing in the same direction and told one story.
I think there was the basis of a good idea in young men just wanting to get shaving out of the way, to enjoy better things, but I found the whole thing quite confusing.
Maybe I was just being stupid though.
So here's another round of judges' feedback. Jason's obviously taken time to be thorough, constuctive, point to what's working and what needs working on.
First off I have to commend everyone who had the guts to submit something – I think it’s amazing that so many of you took the time and energy to take an honest crack at this, in your spare time, and to open yourself up to judgment and criticism. It’s not an easy thing to do for anyone, let alone earlier in your career. Seriously – you each have my heartfelt respect for that.
Overall, I have a couple of observations.
One is that while there was some good solid thinking in each of the entries, many seemed to miss the point of the exercise. Andrew gave you something very specific to do. Cultural Strategy is not just about finding something that is culturally relevant (all marketing should really do that to some degree or another). It is about finding a lightning rod to provoke debate & conversation, to insert the brand into popular discourse. It’s not just about finding an insight into people’s feelings towards a category. It’s about finding reservoirs of deep, strong emotion – passion, frustration, anger, disappointment, joy – which are untapped and unspoken in the category and in popular culture. Most of you didn’t do that.
The other is the importance of really giving some thought to how you set up and sell your idea. Several of the entries buried a lot of the smart bits under too much explanation and discussion. Some exposition is fine, but be crystal clear what you’re saying and what you want people to remember. Remember your readers and judges will read 10 of these in a row. So don’t be afraid to be didactic. Clearly call out your key thoughts, even repeat and summarize them. Otherwise your big ideas might get lost. Another benefit of being didactic is it reminds yourself to follow all the steps and the rules – which a few entries didn’t do.
So – your submission is incredibly succinct. Which can be a good thing. I like that you were brave enough to submit it in a short, simply written style and avoided an elaborate deck. But in this case, sorry to be harsh, it mostly felt like you weren’t trying that hard. I’m not sure if you were going for an off-the-cuff style or just didn’t have much time to work on it, but it all came across as dashed off and not totally thought through.
You made a lot of observations and conclusions that had no evidence or examples behind them. Which is too bad because you had a few nice ideas for sure. I think the cultural shift you identify – basically the rise of the creative class – is true and has potential, but it unravels from there. I think I get why you went to “celebrating the occasional shave” as a territory. But celebrating people for not using your products very often is a difficult strategy to pull off, especially for a premium priced brand that needs to build up sales momentum. That’s not to say you can’t feature guys with facial hair – see Thomas’ entry for a different approach to featuring guys with beards. Also, your tactics felt superficial. Supporting independent creative content is a basic idea, and there are a lot of brands doing that today. I didn’t get the exactly how KOS would do it to fit the idea and the brand. So overall I didn’t get the sense of how you would create a real cultural impact.
And then your manifesto didn’t seem to really fit with the rest of it. The idea of using song lyrics as a manifesto is a nice one. Music can be a powerful shortcut to help bring people along. But the lyrics you chose are darker and have more conflict and edge than the rest of your submission. And in that I think there’s a missed opportunity. You could have explored some of the themes in the song more deeply – lines like “woke up in the nightmare world of craven mediocrity” and “calling into question virtue gone to seed” have all by themselves the potential for some really interesting cultural strategy.
Overall this felt like some solid, basic planning. Nothing that really blew me away, but a good start. Adopting a challenger brand strategy is a decent place to start with a brand like this. However you didn’t really go into that too much, you mostly talked just about the need to generate strong preference. There are a lot of good other useful principles and rules behind how to activate challenger brands which you could have tapped into further. Read Adam Morgan’s book Eating the Big Fish if you haven’t already.
Mischief is a nice territory. I would have mentioned earlier in your strategy setup that you drew some inspiration from how the brand and the founder are already behaving (like the King’s Speech video), rather than leaving that as an afterthought in the tactics. That helps ground the strategy in something really authentic to the brand. And I’m very glad you talked about the founder. It’s interesting that more submissions didn’t mention him, there’s usually some great cultural fodder in the founders of a company like this.
Some of your creative work was a let down – the pogo sticks and fight club stuff felt gimmicky and inauthentic. But I thought the “grow down” idea has great potential. “Removing the signs of growing up” is actually a very big cultural insight that I think you could have done a lot more with.
The last couple of thoughts around keeping the conversation open through fast mischievous takes on current events have potential to be great tactics. They are using (as Faris would say) cultural latency to your advantage in a way bigger corporations usually find hard to do. I would have liked to see you explore that and its implications a bit more.
And really glad to see that you gave a bit of thought to retail, that’s such an important point of activation for a brand like this. And one we often don’t give enough thought to.
So I like that you did some good planner basics – looking at barriers to usage, identifying potential target audiences, and being brave enough to put some specific numbers behind your objectives. That’s always very refreshing to see so thank you for that.
But overall it was disjointed, more like a collection of observations and thoughts than a cohesive argument. And most importantly, the thing that the brief focused on, the cultural strategy part, was really weak. You focused on the shaving behaviours, but not on their role in and connection to broader culture. I didn’t see a real idea, or what the cultural shift was, what your ideology was, what your manifesto was. So it came across more like a brand manager’s brief to the agency than as a strategist’s point of view. You didn’t really follow the rules. And the first rule of an assignment like this is always, before you do anything else, ANSWER THE BRIEF.
Overall you did a really good job. You had me from the first slide. I really liked your intro quotes and there was a simple but powerful logic to the way you explored the target and the category landscape. The cultural shifts around the changing definitions of being a man, roles of the sexes in relationships, and of changing focus from facial hair to body hair, are all great territories. With the ‘good guy’ target you have identified a nice cultural space to build on.
Having set everything up really well, I would have liked to see you go even deeper in the ideology and your manifesto video. I think you could get more specific on why and how hair gets in the way of the good guy’s dream of connection and love. And I bet if you did think a bit more about that, you could find some rich ideas that would create some cultural impact. Your activation tactics were a bit light, but as a planner the strategic work is the most important and you did all the right stuff.
Nice job on this one, a good logic taking us through the thinking. And I find a well-written prose argument to be a nice break from glossy PowerPoint sometimes, so thank you for that.
I like that you took on the packaging as a touchpoint. Not something that we think about enough, or that we just take as a given which can’t be changed (although of course the reality is it can be fantastically tough to actually change).
I like the cultural shift you’ve identified around the Zuckerberg/Eiseberg/Apatow axis of new male icons. And “funny men” makes for a nice territory with a lot of potential. I think you’ve hit on a cultural strategy that quite deep, but in some ways it leaves me wishing you had done even more with it.
You talk about creating a comic face to the brand and making fun of category conventions. And your manifesto is a good start. But you touch on stuff in your manifesto that I would have liked to see you explore further. Beyond just sponsoring a comedy festival and sending people funny video clips… what would it really mean to be a brand that takes the piss out of the expectations of being a guy today, and uses humour to stand up for guys to authentically be who they want to be? The realm of male identity today is hugely ripe for some witty deconstruction. How could we really interject that perspective into culture and create debate and conversation around what it means to be a guy? And how could we use that to the brand’s advantage?
This was the submission that I felt most polarized about. There is a lot of good stuff in here, smart and very thorough, and I like that you clearly stuck to answering the brief as a structure. But at times it was over-written and over-thought and over-packaged, and I found myself having to struggle through parts of it (45 pages!). I felt you were sometimes trying to prove how clever you were, and that is never a good thing for the audience to start thinking.
The analysis of the current orthodoxy was good, the changing gender roles are clearly a huge cultural shift. Identifying the trend of “slacking off” as “male R&R” after generations of dominance is really interesting and has a lot of potential. The two stereotypes of metrosexual and slacker, and the fact that they are at once common and unaspirational is also an interesting tension. There’s a gold mine of cultural relevance in there and you went back to it effectively in your tactics as material to culturally comment on.
But then we get to the Ivy League man. I was left wondering about what you meant by that. At first you seemed to be talking about it as a new preppiness. That confused me a bit because it wasn’t entirely connected with the cultural shifts you identified, and you could argue that preppiness actually is just a re-packaging of the same shaving category orthodoxies of successful, clean shaven men. But then where you actually went with it – into the James Francos of the world – was more about a new type of thoughtful, curious, individual, T-shaped male icon. But I wouldn’t call that Ivy League, it feels like the wrong label for the person you’ve identified. Ivy League brings to mind cultural elites, jackets with crests, and the rowing team, rather than individualism and pursuing your passions, and it kept throwing me off.
But, within all that, you’ve also made some great observations. I like the idea that the future is something to be actively created. I think James Franco (and others you mention like Justin Timberlake) is a brilliant cultural icon and the ideology around having a personal sense of style is really nice. Being a curator of culture and timeless style is a good way to articulate the role of the brand. And standing up for purposeful, thoughtful men in an age of slackers and care-free guys is a really lovely position to take. I also like that you thought about how to use Will King – always a good idea to think about the founder and the role he plays in the brand mythology.
But some of the tactics felt like they could be patronizing to the target – things like a summer school in being a renaissance man, training them in sophistication. If they identify as this target they probably already think of themselves that way. And being a curator is a better place than a teacher. Then, after all the richness of the thinking, your manifesto felt like a bit of a let down. I missed the thoughtfulness and purposeful earlier descriptions, and reading some of it – “survival of the fittest”, “take charge of your destiny” – sounded like it could be a Gillette ad.
Your submission felt understated and simple, which I liked. But probably too understated: I think you could have done a better job really calling out the key ideas to help the audience along, and having a stronger point of view. Sometimes you presented a lot of information and I wasn’t sure what the key take away was supposed to be. And sometimes there were really brilliant thoughts buried in the middle of a paragraph.
You did a really good, thorough job with the category myths and orthodoxy. Nice use of various sources, quotes, pictures and videos to make it really multi-dimensional. And some great insights – like when the Gillette guys gets interesting and deviates from ‘perfect,’ he gets axed; or the link between category norms and male submission. But again these were a bit buried – could have called them out and explored them a bit more.
The cultural shift you identify around gender equality and how men are reacting is good. The ideology and source material was OK but felt a bit superficial – ‘the good things men did in the past are still valid’ is true but you could go deeper. You have some really meaty stuff buried in there which would have been great to explore more, like Susan Faludi’s point about masculinity being derived from utility in society, and not being something ornamental to display. And Tom Ford talking about contributing to the world. You could do a lot with that. What position could the brand take around that thought? A brand standing for guys who contribute to society, or who get their hands dirty, would be an interesting cultural strategy.
Similarly, the idea of “just enough is more” is a really interesting thought, would have liked to hear a bit more about where that could go.
I think you had some OK ideas for tactics. Celebrating “interesting” men is a good starting point, but a bit obvious and I think you could have gone further with it. I like the idea of a shaving brand celebrating guys with facial hair overtly, that would definitely be a departure for the category.
Calling out the industry for over-doing the technology has a lot of cultural potential, stuff like “there is no good reason for Gillette Fusion” and getting dermatologists questioning the utility of 5 blades would be great. I wasn’t sure if these were just observations though, or something you were actually suggesting – but I think it would be a great tactic to go out and pick that fight.
Overall some really good stuff, but I think you needed a bit more clarity on your thoughts, and the courage of your convictions to really take a stand and have a cultural point of view that would create impact.
“Theestrategy” blog entry:
Not really sure what to say. This was a difficult one to read – to be honest at times I wasn’t sure what you were getting at. And using various ads or other source material to demonstrate your point is one thing, but this relied almost entirely on video clips and didn’t make clear your observations or conclusions about it. You left us to connect the dots too much. It’s too bad because there were a few potentially good nuggets of thought in there. Targeting younger guys at their early shaving moments is an interesting strategy, and I think an untapped moment in the category. The “boys will be boys but they need to become men” tension has some potential. But the whole thing kind of fizzled out and didn’t go anywhere.
John protests that he isn't a planner, which is one of the reasons I asked him to a judge, the people you have to persuade with your thinking are not planners either, they're marketeers like John ( marketing consultant if you didn't know).
The other reason I asked him is that he's a pedant and loves picking people up on inconsistencies and lapses of logic. That's important because you have to be inspiring of course, but the bedrock of any strategy and the way you deliver it is watertight thinking.
I'll quickly chip in with one observation of my own. A couple of judges have pointed out that championing beards ergo shaving less needs more stout defence as it logical result is reducing sales. I think that's a fair point but will be picked up for further debate, basically around how much any strategy..and 'the cultural approach in particular'.... results is behavioural change v reinforcing/switching brand preference.
Anyway, here it is:
A difficult task but I was surprised that not everyone explicitly covered the six points consecutively. It seems to me that was a helpful guide designed to hone your thinking and make it easier for others to understand. Maybe this is why I thought the entries were better on analysis than deductions, specifically in terms of the cultural disruption and tactics sections.
It may be harsh but I felt the analysis of the status quo became a substitute for the cultural element of the assignment in many cases, Yes, for both genders, the current marketing emphasis is a combination of smooth beauty and the technical innovation that facilitates this, but you also need to consider what shaving represents as a behaviour and what it signifies.
In similar vein, when it came to tactics, there were good ideas, but I thought the King image was jumped on too easily. It can provide good solutions but only if the cultural disruption points to it - don't shoehorn it into your analysis.
The key is that people who identify with the cultural disruption will identify with KOS. Don't tell them who they are, tell them how they feel.
That said, I'm not a planner so maybe I've got the wrong end of the stick.
You go through the process ok, but where's the original cultural disruption? An assessment of status quo is fine, but you don't go far enough away from it. What is shaving - culturally speaking? I'd like to see much more on the reasoning behind your proposed social disruption - this is the key argument and doesn't belong in an appendix. You also need more than one conference as source of your evidence and the manifesto is too brief,
You conclude that becoming a man is the fulcrum of your strategy but I'm not sure how that's cultural disruption and , in any case,, you don't define what masculinity is. You also don't say how KOS uniquely provides that or what the benefits of becoming a man are. (I'd also dispute whether shaving can ever be an amazing experience).
The strength of an insight lies in relating the culture to shaving - you don't do that, You and others just talk about the nebulous idea of men, I'm also concerned that you are isolating a small segment of the market without enthusing them or, more importantly, allowing spillover into other groups osmotically. If the message appeals to the the young, it also helps if it can appeal to not so young - even if that's self-delusion - being a man is something that has already happened to them (arguably) and so there's no appeal to them in your approach.
As for your tactics - I don't think you specify any other than rebellion. Disruption doesn't have to be rebellion but you need to tell me what the tactics are and not just the philosophy behind them.
No focus on what shaving is. Why is well-groomed, clean-shaving a good thing and a cultural norm?
Creativity is not a new thing so I don't see it as a disruption - it's just an amorphous market segment. I'm not sure why you've chosen them - why does this apply to shaving specifically?
How would that reflect uniquely on KOS? Beck's and others use art/creativity but the best executions facilitate something unique to their users - sponsorship which is effectively what you're suggesting has to have the product at the heart of the infrastructure and ecosystem of the target audience. What does shaving have to do with creativity?
In tactical terms, the indie movie idea fits with your thinking but I'm concerned that it would be very costly and involve a long time lag from inception to reality.
Moreover, focusing on people who sometimes don't shave is an odd approach commercially - this is a company that lost 2million last year, and we want to encourage people to shave more not less.
The true challenger brand is an idea I like - more companies should do it. But that's not a cultural insight and it is that which is the key to this assignment.
I'd also question whether leader brands really are happy with weak or moderate performance, It sounds like a complacent assumption - that they'll just let you walk in and steal their share. They won't, they'll react and that's why you have to connect strongly with your potential users.
You mention functionality as a secondary message - why secondary? It's why KOS started in the first place - the search for a better shave (via shaving oil as it happens) without the nonsense of Gillette and their 7 innovations. I'm biased but I think this needs more consideration as can be the patentable source of true competitive advantage.
Instead you opt for mischief, Doesn't everyone do mischief these days? On the one hand that may be a good thing in that people clearly identify with it, but how will you stop being me-too in your marketing especially when you explicitly state you're aiming for the middle ground of mischief?
That said, I think your manifesto is strong and pithy -though as with most of the entries it makes no mention of women.
There's also some good ideas in the creative expression section, but for me the big one is the retail idea.. Real marketing isn't just promotion - distribution is crucial - associative piggy-backing can make KOS stand out in a way it won't do on the supermarket shelf and will be presenting itself to users in a KOS state of mind. That's real differentiation.
Justin Thor Heyer
The chore and compulsion of shaving is where my thinking went immediately when presented with the assignment. It never seems to be discussed in the marketing - the focus is on the positive but surely there's greater power in making a negative a positive? I would have liked you to pursue this further.
No surprise then that I like the idea of online fora, get people talking about the subject and identifying it with KOS and you build a constituency. Smart, cheap tactic and a good way to get KOS to head of search engine results. What about a shaving app? That would be cheap and useful - true branded utility.
Not sure I'd phrase it as the art of shaving and I think your process break-down makes it sound a bit mechanistic and, dare I say, a chore, It's a coincidence that you're Australian but I'd already mentioned the slip, slop slap campaign as a creative route when discussing it with the other judges. I like the idea of focusing on the results that accrue from shaving but also make it clear that it's a good - trade-off in real life as well as in theory.
I like your breakdown of users and especially that you don't forget women but in terms of the assignment, I'm not sure that you've made the cultural disruption clear to me.
Targeting those who aren't targeted is very smart thinking and the Man that Gillette forgot is a great line - but what's the cultural distinction/disruption?
It seems to me that you're focused on body hair or did I get that wrong? I would like more on women's attitudes to hairy men - does shaving have to be non-facial - that's the majority activity surely?
It seems to me there is some tension between grooming and narcissism - manliness and nurturing. The Man that Gillette forgot isn't the one obsessed with body shaving is he - frankly that seems to be more in tune with what Gillette already do
Removing hairs as a barrier is an intriguing rallying cry but it has to be believable premise and I need to know why it is unique to KOS
(Also - if he already has a woman - does she not like him already regardless of his body hair - is that a logical flaw/)
That said, there's a lot of interesting executions in your list, though I'd suggest that most
men don't read female bloggers - info needs to be on "men's" media
PS I hate the last page - it's a valid statement but don't apologies, you undermine yourself and your thinking. It would have been better to say in the midst of your text that you would need more research to confirm your hypothesis.
Good on Gillette. Good on tension, But who are these unsmooth guys and why are they unsmooth? Do they think they cant compete or do they simply not aspire to Gillette ideal? That seems important to understand.
Not sure why you suddenly leap to identifying a demographic - are these behaviours and concerns really limited to those with a university education or indeed of a certain age? This and the Anxious Achievers moniker all seem a bit too "advertising industry" for me. Stick with the tension and see what behaviours it leads to - they will inform your tactics in a better way than overlaying socio-economic guides
Kudos for being the first person to mention dry shavers - small segment but might be worth contemplating. Useless in my experience and therefore a ripe target market. Why don't they wet shave and what can KOS do for them?
On the tactical front, I think packaging is a good route to pursue albeit not cheap,
But your stand-up idea I frankly don't get. I'm not sure you've shown me how it connects to your idea and to KOS. My reaction to nice comedy is that while it may be unthreatening it also isn't very funny and that comedy these days is mainstream and the safe ones like McIntyre and Kay appeal to sheep. You need to justify this better for my liking but if you can find the right comedian it might work.
I know planners drone on, but that's no reason to copy Rob Campbell. It was a chore to read this much. You've shown all your work. Distil it down and keep me interested. Focus my attention on your key points - they're in there
I shall now contradict myself by saying that the analysis of lost men was terrific and I think I want more on that and less of other the stuff. Need to know more about them, so that the subsequent leap to the Ivy League man is not as baffling as it was. Where did he come from?
It struck me as a construct imposed into your narrative rather than an evolution. Moreover they're the epitome of privilege and the source of the whole preppy ideal which I think you're arguing against. Roger Federer looks very Ivy League as did John Kennedy junior. For me, your description is a caricature and too prescriptive - better to talk in terms of attitude than dress code. Thinking about why they wear what they wear is more important than what they wear
James Franco is not a good choice - he has a beard! Indeed too many of your images have beards - KOS isn't in the beard business though it would be interesting to know why beardies don't shave and if there's an angle there to exploit.
Finally - Chapter 4.? My Ivy League education was insufficient to allow me to understand this - seriously.
That said, I do think you make a very good point about products that talk about themselves being boring. I'd go further and consider talking not about the user but about those with whom they interact - I had an idea about KOS reducing stubble burn that would be very distinctive and reflect a definite cultural change but I'll keep that to myself.
As for your tactics, they strike me as expensive and multi-directional. You talk about young feckless men, then focusing on the older and very driven Will King, and finally introduce curators who are too old to appeal to the 17-25 year olds in my opinion. You're too wide ranging - and you're throwing everything in - including Groupon, It's good that you've though about all the possibilities but the key then is to be selective in pursuit of affordability and effectiveness.
You end with a very well written manifesto but I just wish it had more specificity - a clearer cultural disruption would have helped you there.
Good analysis of the status quo and a history of Gillette's advertising and "is this really the best a man can get?" is a very good question to ask. But I think you need more proof of your subsequent assertions about submission and insecurity and how that relates to shaving.
What is the cultural disruption you're highlighting? It seems to be a redefinition of nebulous things like manliness and masculinity combined with a rejection of the technological claims. I may be wrong but you've not made it clear enough for me. Why do men want to be good men ? Why do they want a new definition and what makes KOS the smart choice for them?
For me, you've created an alluring alternative but not explained why it's alluring and to whom?
The tactics that follow are generally consistent though I wonder if the idea of a modern "gentleman" and barber shops suggest higher costs in contradiction with your complaints about Gilltete's prices? And I still don't get why so many of the entries featured beards - surely the anti-christ of shaving?
Finally, the manifesto lays out the position well - I just need you to anchor it explicitly to a cultural disruption
OK, you'll notice this a bit different to Andrea, both in what she was looking for and what she thought was good and what needed work. Don't let it confuse you. Ask 7 planners a questions and you'll get 10 anwers (if you get that far, some will tell you you're asking the wrong thing). You'll develop a planning style as you go along, but you'll find you'll also have to adapt that to the different expectations and styles of various senior planners and planning directors.
That style is as much about how you present your thinking as it is about the thinking itself.
So use the variety of feedback as maximum input, personally I love it when someone tells me I'm wrong, it forces me to think really hard abot why I think I'm right, or gives fodder for getting a lot better. So take all the feedback and feel free to challenge it, or use to hone your thinking and approach.
Here it is:
So starting with a general point:
Three submissions relied entirely on other people’s ads as ‘source’ material. Ads are not exactly a full and frank representation of culture or society and you shouldn’t really rely on them as such. I do appreciate that there wasn’t the time or budget to do primary research but I’d have liked to see other sources of desk research used (other submissions had dug up free online academic research, interviewed friends or found relevant news stories). Yes, yes, I know Andrew uses a lot of TV ads in his posts, but he mainly uses them to illustrate points he’s already made and supported.
The Strategy (blog post by unknown)
I think the author was trying to suggest a WKD style ‘aligned with young lads behaving slightly badly’ positioning which is interesting as I don’t believe that any skincare brand has tried that before.
But this entry seemed to miss off stage six in the brief entirely (“Write a manifesto … something anyone involved can read, so they can get excited about what you're setting out to do”), so it didn’t really deliver the inspiration that a great strategy needs.
Matt Nixon (APSOTW-2 ppt)
Matt has obviously given a lot of thought to what he wants the reader to take away with them. Quotes, illustrative imagery, a user friendly layout and a Big Idea (grown up Mischief) make it a memorable, sell-able piece of work. I know it’s a cliché, but you really could sell a client this strategy in the time you had stood in the lift with them.
As a manifesto, (Grown Up) Mischief is relevant, distinctive, a good brand fit and ownable within the category. To be honest, I think this thinking is better than the ‘Creative expressions’ that followed it, but overall – very nice work.
There’s a clear and distinctive (if a bit brief at two pages long) idea here – celebrating the ‘occasional shave’ as a form of creative freedom.
But I think you might struggle to convince King of Shaves that appealing to people who shave less frequently (and indeed suggesting that it is desirable to shave less frequently) is a sure fire way to build market share…
Justin Thor Hoyer (King of Shaves)
A nice idea to get men to ‘appreciate and love the art of shaving’ and introduce a routine for a ‘King Shave’. Great from a commercial perspective and also true to where the KoS brand has come from.
It was well researched - although following the many links to outside information revealed that some of the snappy wordplay I’d been appreciating (e.g. most men have a hate/hate/hate relationship with shaving) had actually been lifted from source material. *Don’t do this* – either be very upfront and quote the article directly or find your own voice.
Carolin Dahlman (King of Shaves Carolin Dahlman ppt)
Carolin wants KoS to go after The Good Guy – the man Gillette forgot. She’d position facial hair as a barrier to Finding Love. I suppose it’s the equal opportunities version of a 1950’s housewife ad.
The presentation flowed well and came to a clear and concise conclusion, even if I’d have like to see the manifesto itself flagged up a little more clearly. However MAJOR bonus points to Carolin for a link at the end to a three minute youtube video of her pitching the strategy where she was enthused, told a story and sold it well.
SC (King of Shaves SC)
Sonia writes well, giving her document a clear beginning, middle and end and a manifesto for the brand to march behind. I particularly loved the last line: Because there’s more to life than caressing your face in the mirror after shaving with a razor that could have been nicked off the set of Minority Report.
But I didn’t find anything that summed her manifesto up in a single sentence, which is a real shame as she’s obviously very capable of doing so. Perhaps it was something along the lines of ‘There’s more ways than one to be a Man’?
Geert-Jan Baltus (KINGODSHAVES_GJBALTUS)
The work is all beautifully presented with good supporting imagery, but there’s just too much of it. If it takes 45 slides to get to a manifesto, either your thinking or your working is too complex. It’s very important to go through the thinking process – but you only want to actually share the important leads-us-on-to-the-next-point stuff.
There’s a lot of excellent work here identifying the Ivy League Man, but I’m not sure that the manifesto necessarily fully reflects him, there’s a little bit of a disconnect.
Thomas Wagner (KOS Thomas Wagner)
There are some nice observations about Modern Man and Modern Masculinity here and a nicely linked solution celebrating the modern gentleman (with part of being a gentleman linked to having a decent shave).
There are gems too in the manifesto, but they’re buried a bit. Perhaps a shorter, punchier manifesto might have got the point across more effectively?
Okay. As mentioned, we're running a little late with this.
You can read 7 of the entries here on my Scribd
And there's one more here
Below is the the first part of the feedback. Please feel free to add your own comments. Open source etc.
APSotW Feedback from Andreea.
For me the winner would be Thomas Wagner, Geert in second place and SC on 3rd.
Just a quick update on what's happening. Inevitably, with judges workloads etc, there's a delay on getting feedback. Results etc should have been up June 1st but it just hasn't happened. Sorry to everyone who took the time to enter, but I'm sure you'll agree it's better to wait for people to look at your work properly than get rushed feedback.
The plan is a little different from usual. In the past, the person running the project has summarised what all the judges have said in one post. We're not going to do that. People have been really generous and provided detailed feedback on each entry- the thinking, quality of writing and presentation style- so it's a bit silly to mess with their words, we're going to let you have it all.
A word if caution. I specifically asked them to be both honest and constructive. That means entrants get the full, unvarnished truth. What's working well and what they need to think about. Don't take anything personally, if you'd written a perfect submission, you shouldn't be doing the project, this is an opportunity to learn by doing and understand what things you need to work on. Success is 99% failure.
Once all the feebback is posted, I'll summarise what I think the main points are and pick a winner.
Oh, yes, a winner. That means a prize. The mandatory part of that is box of Yorkshire Tea (what did you expect?). The bit you get to choose is what book? Since this is about Cultural Strategy, is makes sense to offer The Book as a prize. If you have it, or you've read it, you can have Eating the Big Fish or Daniel Pink's Drive.
As mentioned, changing your mind can be good. In this case, it means the APSOTW judging panel wasn't final after all.
There were one or two rumblings it was man heavy. That's never good in an industry too male orientated, and since this is a 'King of Shaves' project, a woman's perspective is doubly interesting (it took a female creative to tell me one the first thing a woman notices about a man is his shoes).
SoAndrea Nastase is joining us.
Andrea'sa planner at JWT, she hasn't been been doing it for long, but I've know her and her planet sized (and very oddly wired in a good plannery way) brain for much longer.
Welcome on board.
Okay, all the judges finalised. I'm really excited about this.
In addition to Rob, Gareth and John we have:
Jason Oak, Regional Strategy Director, Y&R Asia
Gemma Teed, freelance planner, horserider, prolific blogger
David Mortimer, panner at DDB London, digital guru
David Warren Strategy Director DDB London
Tom Cleeland, Planner the Reading Room
There's a breadth of experience, planning styles and personalities for lots of feedback from different perspectives. I'm slightly humbled these people are willing to share their time and expertise (and worried they'll expose me for the fraud I am). Planners eh? Aren't they great.
Well, the submissions for the APSOTW are in. Thanks so much for the people who took the time out of their day jobs to have a go. Naturally, we haven't looked at your submsissions in detail yet, but it's already obvious you've put a lot of work into it.
The 'we' I'm refering to are the judges. That's me, Rob Campbell (Head of Planning at WK Shanghai, Gareth Kay (Director of Brand Strategy at the GSP&P) and John Dodds (independent marketing consultant). John protests that he's no experience in planning, which is a good thing since planners are worthless if they inspire 'marketeers' i.e the client, with their thinking.
There will be more judges coming soon.
We hope to publish feedback anf results by 1st June, which is just long enough to give submissions the attention they deserve and just short enough to not keep everybody waiting.
Finally, an apology from me, I never got around to publishing the final tutorial thing, following on from this. No one's had a go, so I might have got away with it, but if anyone has any interest, whatsoever, let me know.
There's that old saying saying, (incidentally by Arthur Conan Doyle)that mediocrity knows no higher than itself, but talent instantly recognises genius.
Whichever I am (not genius of course), I know genius when I see it.
Junior planner or old hack, you must read it. Simple, brilliant, insightful advice. Seriously, just read.
..and just to be clear, it's your manifesto that needs to be 300 words or less. The rest of what you submit can be as long or short as you like. As usual, I'd take the time to write less. The judges - like clients - will appreciate brevity and clarity.
More importantly, when you edit, precis, distill etc, you tend to find all sorts of little wrinkles to iron out. It forces you to think a little harder and better.
The deadline for the project is May 1st. I'll put up the final tutorial post next Monday or Tuesday.
By the way, I've been more than a little dumb and not told you how to submit. Email please, link is one the sidebar.
Hope it's going well, if you have any questions, do give me shout.
Right, final project. I'm going to put my neck on the line and go through a thought process for what I would do for a new UK sports drink.
Here's a few caveats and stuff:
What follows will be a bit long, if had more time I'd write less, but I do not. It's case of do what I say, not do what I do. Take some time to write less (I'm guessing whatever format you present your submission in, it will have words).
Please don't think this is based on data or much category specific research. It isn't I haven't time.
It IS based on one or two things happening in culture you tend to pick up as planner with your eyes and ears open, not to mention, someone who still spends a fair amount of spare time doing sport and fitness related things. Not to mention a little experience working on soft drinks.
So don't beat me up for statistical accuracy or anything like that, this is about demonstrating a thought process based on some braod, but interesting UK cultural goings on.
So on we go...........................
Now imagine you had a client developeding a new sports drink. They'd been playing around with new formulations they think will make an impact on the market. They've hit on something they think has potential with one or two variations to iron out.
What they do know is that they want t carve some share from 18-35 year olds who play sport or exercise. From the 5 a side football weekend warriors to the people who go to the gym twice a week, and everything in between.
Their main product attribute is that the product is easy to drink, compared with their analysis of competitors like Gatorade, Powerade, Lucozade (lots of Ades!!) that taste harsh and are hard to get down.
It does well in taste tests, with natural tasting flavours - just three - Strawberry, Orange and Cranberry. People say it tastes like dilute fresh juice, in a good way and the appearance supports this, it doesn't have the artificial 'neon' colour that sportsdrinks tend to have, in fact, it looks like flavoured water. They're having kittens on a final formulation - they can make it 100% natural, which will cost loads, or just have natural flavours and put in the nasty preservatives. They're not sure, in addition to worrying about what product attribute to focus on in brand development.
So they come their agency strategists for help. What should we make? What rational product attribute should we hang our hang on? What emotional benefit does that ladder up to?
Fortunately, they've come to strategy people who know that inspecting culture is as important category specifics and product messaging.
So they go through our process. Here's what it might look like:
Map the category's cultural orthodoxy
This is, still wide, the audience who drinks for sport. This isn't lifestyle energy drinks like Red Bull, nor is it 'health drinks like vitamin water. And guess what? Sports drinks are all about 'pure sport' in some manner. In fact, scratch that - it's about 'purist' sport- an arms race for sporting authenticity.
The culltural codes arising from that are all about the fight for authenticity....the noble gladiator - ultimate athletes, ultimate performance. So that the average consumer of sports drinks - ordinary human beings, mostly working out in gyms, feel a little more like a superhuman champion athlete when they drink, before, during and after a session.
So you get the joy of pain and self sacrifice, the purity of sport as a test of self belief and physical strength and skill, people who kill themselves for that minuscule difference between winning and losing. It's all very serious, very macho and very conventional.
Even when it's tapping into hip-hop subculture, the imagery and tone is still 'joy in pain', dead serious, the quintessential pure athlete - either in their performance, or like this, the training.
There's the 'Just Do It' me-toos, like Gatorade. Ultimately though, this about 'pure product for pure sport'
And behind the big players a whole host of sciency brands for more elite athletes.
You could say the cultural convention is all about championing self sacrifice, the joy in toil. It's the bootcamp, it's no pain, no gain. It's survival of the fittest. It's all very masculine.
Map the social disruption
I want to develop a new ideology for our sports drink, expressing new cultural codes. Our target is th 25-45 year old educated professionals who go to members only gyms and drink an athletic based drink during or after their workout.
The bullseye within this are the liberal minded ones who tend to have an interest in outdoor sports. For them, the old middle class utopia of a well paying job, in a good firm, to pay for comfortable life in the suburbs is anathema. They ache for more independence, with pipe dreams of downsizing, going freelance, getting closer to nature or something more creative.....sticking it to the man and being in control of their own lives
But here's the conflict, they're too used to the money and security. So they try to look for outlets in their leisure time, cooking organic foods from scratch, wandering around farmers markets, active holidays by the coast, camping, with aspirations to learn to surf, to do proper mountain biking. They want to feel they're doing the non-obvious stuff, the kind a corporate stooge would never do, things beyond the palate of X Factor watching celeb magazine reading, football supporting commoners would never do. So they're into Opera, independent travel, world cinema.
They'll love watching stuff like this on telly
If they lived in Manchester, they've make sure they lived in Chorlton.
The long, long hours they work, plus pressure to DO and experience so much, leaves a massive gap between their aspiration and the reality. Mostly, they're just as predictable as the those they want to differentiate themselves from, but with more more 'right on' clothes (organic), food and reading material. They probably bought a bike to cycle to work, but only use it once a fortnight.
So, boiling all that down, they're Bourgeois Bohemians suffering from a cultural anxiety - they ache live the life of some sort of 'artistic rebel', everything they do needs to be about spirituality or enlightenment, but working for 'the man' doesn't give them the time. So they're desperate for easy 'outlets'.
Now, they're still prey to the 21st century pressure to stay in shape. Being overweight or unfit is something for the masses. Ideally it would all be surfing, mountain biking and rock climbing, but time pressures mean they just about make it the gym three or four times a week, probably for a 30 minute slot.
But it doesn't make them feel good. On a cultural level, they can't stand the macho, pain and sacrifice culture that pervades most gyms. The huge Neanderthal lunkheads on the heavy weights, the physical elitism, the painfully thin zombies on the treadmill...all reinforced by the 'sporting purist' cultural conventions of the sports drink category. The mindless, disciplined, spartan drone, obsessed with nobilty in pain or the vanity of outward seld image, rather than something deeper inside, is exactly what they're rebelling against (or trying to).
On an experience level, they dislike the 'simulation' of it all. Everything is a pale imitation of actually going out and doing real running, cycling or rowing. Only swimming is authentic, but then again, in their fantasies they'd be doing open water swimming.
What they do like is the way it clears the head, the FLOW state they can get in. In their heads, they can go to another place, at once removed and more present in the moment.
In short, there's an ideological opportunity to carve some cultural elitism with our audience based around 'realness' , 'escape' and 'flow'- something more spiritual, enlightened and 'right on', directly challenging the purist, aggressive 'no pain no gain' mentality that's for the mindless drones they so want to separate themselves from.
OK, that will do for now. This will have to be done in two chunks. I know it's too long, but like I said, I need more time to write less.
However, if you think you can see where this is going...the sports drinks for outdoor sports, think again. It's one of the most pilfered subcultures in modern brand communications. The next stage is the search for source material. We'll discuss why outdoor sports is only half the story and hopefully, something bigger and more potent, something relevant for a 'not harsh, nasty or agressive' sports drink with a natural, 'real taste'.
Hope this is helping.
Hope the case studies have been useful so far. After taking another look, one thing we're a bit light on is more 'meat' around Applying Cultural Tactics. What follows is a list of tactics identified by Holt and Cameron that tend to work. My recommendation would be to get to the point where you've scoped out what ideological opportunity you will pursue, you've gathered your Source Material and then review these six key tactics and see what is the most promising fit, what is right for your particular cultural innovation and the dynamics of the market you're in.
For the task you're doing, I'd also be looking for the biggest return for the least amount of money.
1. Provoke a fight
This is a great example from Howies.
Another is comes from Ben and Jerry's was young. They found that Pillsbury, owner of Haagen Dazs was threatening to pull it's account from big retailers is they didn't stop selling Ben and Jerry's. So they ran a campaign based on PR and flyers called, 'What's Doughboy Afraid Off?" (Doughboy was Pillsbury's corporate icon). It pitted Little 'back to the land' Ben and Jerry's against the huge, mechanised behemoth. Basically, it lit the spark of social activism under counter culture wanabes and it worked. Read more here.
Way back when, Apple had a direct pop at IBM and other computer manufacturers by positioning them all with unfeeling, cold 'Big Brother', with Apple as the creative, revolutionary alternative.
2. Mythologise the company
Build a myth around the brand's origins and vision, something powerful that your audience instantly relates to. Your source material is critical here.
Jack Daniels consistently mythologisesit's old school distillery techniques - championing self sufficient, free frontiersmen in a world of identikit, soft men who've sold out to 'the man' toeing the line in big corporations. Every piece of communication communicates that what happens now at HQ is pretty much what happened when Jack was around.
Harley Davidson's success is built out of the the classic American man of action.That was the 50's and 60's bad boy, but developed in the 1980's to be the 'man of action' upholding the law by whatever means necessary, in a slack, soft and morally bankrupt world. I was about a special community for men who were the last wolves in a world of sheep...and still is. At the heart is Harley's own club.
Or there is Lambrini in the UK, making the most of a small budget to champion young women going and having fun despite the prude media and society at large that hates them drinking, not growing up and basically having fun like men have been allowed to for years. It's a downmarket drink for what society thinks are downmarket girls - Lambrini, like the girls is defiantly proud and doesn't care what anyone thinks.
3 Cultural trickle down
You might have the opportunity to make something the audience would like to do, but don't the time, budget or perhaps courage or sophistication. You can make it accessible, making something for connoisseurs more accessible for everyone. Even if they don't actually participate in the real thing, you can provide a more mass market, novice friendly approximation, or just let them feel like they're part of it.
Starbucks made the obscure world of authentic barista coffee accessible to wanabe cosmopolitan people around the world for example.
Lurpak brings the world of the authentic foodie to more people who can't, or won't cook well.
Original Source in the UK brings the outdoorsy, extreme sports lifestyle to those who probably only ride a mountain bike to their local paper shop.
5. Finally, there's playing judo with the big boy's strength
It's a variation on 'provoking a fight' , but if you not only create a provocative attack on a huge category leader, that mobilises your audience, but also directly turn their biggest strength into a weakness, you'll have something very powerful indeed.
Dove turned the intense hope derived from the incredible models and beautiful shoots from the the industry big boys into a weakness with viral videos like this:
Fuse TV parodies the fake, beautiful lifestyle MTV had come to epimtomise with culture jamming tactics like the Fuse Beach House
This is MTV's version.
Irn Bru in the 80's did something similar with the shiny version of teenage life Coke was becoming synonymous with:
I'd argue that Old Spice's long game is a clever one, destabilising Lynx/Axe' position as the fragrance that gives young guys confidence in the mating game, by becoming the brand that get's you experience, the one thing guys really need for sexual success. Like the man says, "If you need it, you don't have it". "If you've never had any of it, people just seem to know" (not to mention bringing relevance to it's mocked 1970's hairy chested masculine heritage)
This continues that theme, albeit in a very different form.
Hope that helps.
Now this nearly concludes case studies, tutorials etc. One final exercise next week. I'm going to show what I would do with a new sports/energy drink. May as well put my money where my mouth is.
For the next tutorial/case study thing we're going to look at Levis over two phases.
First is the famous BBH work from the 80's and 90's. You can read a fuller account in this book (where I'm stealing from).
Back in the 1980's Levis was doing so badly in Europe they were thinking of pulling out. They persevered and hired BBH led by the Saint Hegarty and Saint Bogle. They quickly identified that the problem was a cultural one - Levis was once a symbol of rebellious, American youth culture - the James Deans and Brando's - but had lost that meaning, amidst a deeper problem, British youth rejected American (Reagan) culture in favour of home grown icons. So how could they reclaim Levi's cultural space?
First, here's a quick commercial break. When you find a one loved brand on its arse, don't do what so many so called gurus try and do, completely reinvent it, usually, the problem is that it's lost the meaning and territory it once had. Your job is to nearly always bring new relevance and meaning to what was there before they lost their way.
Anyway...the first attempt, led by the usual useless advice from a trends expert, leadingtoa campaign that dramatised a product benefit - durability. It didn't work.
They got somewhere when they tapped into Levi's heyday as a 1960's counter culture icon. A symbol of youth rebellion that Europeans felt nostalgic about, in contrast to how they despised conservative Reagan America of the 80's. So they thought they would win back their cultural space as a the ultimate symbol of youth rebellion, tapping into the music and iconography of those days.
Now, if you talk to most people about why Levi's succeeded back then, this is where the story ends.
But it goes far deeper. The first commercial was an incredible success:
But what really hit home was the rejection of mass market 'rebel' cliches. The James Dean type is always the dangerous bad boy, able to have any girl he wants. But this was the rebel posturing of the target audience's parents, not the 80's kids themselves. What worked was a provocative subverting of these images. All the cultural cues are authentic, but the portrayal was anything but.
The ad objectified the male body. It was shocking, provocative, perhaps even homoerotic. It challenged the stereotypical hero who was rugged and didn't care about his looks. Kamen was beautiful.
It mocked prudery, it laughed at American conservatism and cliches, while at the same time dramatising Levi's heritage.
The idea wasn't original, it was steeped in a growing pattern in fashion culture. Bruce Webber's photography a prime example:
You have your category orthodoxy:
Basically, the shiny, hairgel automatons from every bad music video from the era.
You had a powerful cultural tension to address - every youth generation wants symbols of rebellion, Levi's provocatively subverted male, rebellious codes, providing a powerful cultural expression of gender, masculinity and , to be honest, defiance of sexual prudery.
Lots of source material, including Bruce Weber's work.
Interestingly, work that followed wasn't as successful because they only did the '60's' rebellion thing, an left out the male objectification:
They got their mojo back with:
By now they realised it wasn't the setting that was working, it was the depiction of the beautiful, sexual, masculine boy rebel. Which freed them up to visit other settings:
Now fast forward to the end of noughties. You're in the US, Levi's needs relevance there, as it's lost relevance with American youth (I have no data, no facts by the way, this is all interpretation).
They needed to restage Levi's pioneering, youthful rebellion spirit. Worse, young people question everything. You're in Web 2.0 world where they insist in being involved and participating.
Now map the category orthodoxy for mass market jeans and you find it replete with symbols of heroic young people, lots of it set in the rugged old country. Being individual, being original.
WK, I imagine, looked at the culture and found a frustrated youth generation feeling pretty frustrated. The economy shattered, jobs scarce, a country divided in two, with mad Tea Part activists actually getting elected. The country of George Bush, bland MTV and the promise of the American dream and the declaration of independence stolen from them. The generations before has scorched the earth, leaving a mess for someone else to clear up, oil running out, the environment tottering. A mess.
Big cultural tension to tap into - all that frustration and no collective voice in a country dominated by partisan media.
So they restaged Levi's pioneering, rebellious spirit with a new ideology - providing a collective voice for disenchanted youth to not only vent their frustration, but do something positive about it. GO FORTH. From individualism to collective action.
The source material, I suppose was obvious, once they had that hook....the hallowed US declaration of independence -the promise made to all Americans.
The first tactic, provide something for young people to coalesce around, a group statement of intent - collaboratively rewriting the Declaration itself. But there was also the imagery of the men of action, the original pioneer, exemplified in the hallowed work of Walt Whitman and his optimism for the potential that America represented.
The next stage was about taking action. Providing a multi platform story everyone could participate within. The source material, the modern iteration of the hardworking American labourer, the towns who want to work, they don't want charity, they don't want handouts, they just want the chance to support themselves. Etched deep into the American psyche, this would be a powerful cultural innovation.
This was the campaign:
Read more about it here. In short, Levis' focused it's entire campaign on Braddock, Pensylvania, contributing to, and documenting, the story of a town on it's knees, trying to turn itself around.
Overtly, Levi's was selling it's 'Workwear' range, in reality, that was just a bit more relevance to what they were doing, just as Sta Prest provided a means of narrative for more reinvention in the late 90's with Flat Eric.
You can imagine the cultural strategy set out like this:
America has lost its way because it has forgotten the pioneering spirit that made it great. America was once a promise of equal opportunity and reward for anyone who worked hard, no matter who they were, now the few profit at the expense of the many, hope has been hijacked by corporate Americna. Today's youth are the future, it's down to them to remake The American Dream. We will inspire them to rediscover the pionnering spirit that embodies both Levis and the best of what it is to be American.To rebuild our country their way. Enough sitting their doing nothing, enough frustration with no action. We will give them a collective voice, and inspire collective action. They are the new pioneers. We will inspire them to Go Forth.
Category Cultural Orthodoxy
Nike wasn't popular enough with women, they thought it too macho, part of the convention that true sport is the preserve of male athletes in the big stadiums, winning the trophies with thousands chanting their name
Women loved sport, but for them it wasn't about the typical male traits of winning, domination and being competitive, for them it was enjoying the actual act of doing the sport, the participation. It wasn't for adulation or winning in the pecking order.
Women around the world enjoyed dance. It was an uncelebrated sport, probably treated with derision by most men, but the demands of strength, co-ordination and endurance were the equal to any celebrated 'male sport'
Ideology and tactics
Make the 'Just Do It' ethos of 'If you have a body, you're an athlete' philosophy relevant to women by championing unsung dancers around the world as athletes worthy of respect
They created provacative of dancers pulling off improbable moves while demanding to know why they weren't an 'athlete'.
They activated the campaign worldwide with dance classes both online and offline
The manifesto is pretty much the V/O in the ad
Righto. So, if your thinking of doing this project, you're probably wanting more flesh around the process I want you to go through. So in the next week, we'll be looking at some case studies.
First up is ghd, a electrical hair styling brand that's passionately loved in the UK and growing worldwide. It went from $0 to $100 million in turnover in just seven years.
So, how did they do it? They had a far superior product of course. Back in 2000, women were pretty much stuck with what they has when it came to hair, apart from the bi-monthly cut, or getting it styled by a pro. Then ghd launched a hair straightener that instantly made ANY woman's hair look amazing. But that's not the whole story, no sir. Ever since, competitors like Braun and Babyliss launched cheaper, copycoat versions that, to be honest, were just as good. But ghd maintained ridiculous levels of market share and price premium- about 1/3 more expensive than a comparable product. Millions of women still spend far more on ghd than something because they just love it and believe it's better - irrationally so.
Looking at the process, this is what they did.
Map the category's cultural orthodoxy - identikit identity
When the immediate category was investigated, i was all 'technology' Endless rational benefits claiming why one product was better than the other. Straight away, the opportunity for something deeper and more ideological was there. The category was replete with massive, predictable multi nationals all doing the same stuff. Glassy eyed mannequin models with no personality and unattainable looks all saying 'be like me' - in all corners of hair beauty and, to be honest, beauty full stop (this was before Dove).
Unwittingly, the wider category was part of a wider cultural symptom where society tries pigeonhole women as much as possible. Women are judges by their looks and are assigned traits and abilities accordingly. A serious businesswoman needs a more severe haircut and trouser suit, big hair denotes the sexually voracious 'slut', blonds are ditzy but have more fun, redheads are trouble - hot tempered and unpredictable. Society still tells women how to look and who to be, limiting their opportunities, encouraging their inhibitions and stopping explorations of their own identity.
The social Disruption - chameleon Generation Y Women
Investigating challenges to this in culture unearthed rich territory. Generation Y women, the primary audience totally rejected any expectations of how they should look, or who they should be. They were out there enjoying countless opportunities to experiment with their identities - through how they chose to look and what they chose to do. Hair was the quickest and most potent way to try on new looks and therefore try on a new identity for a bit, but it was part of a much wider game that included fashion, leisure pursuits and even their career. Generation Y women think the world is there for the taking, they're not happy settling for second best, they're out there experimenting, trying what they like, discarding what they don't. That goes for hairstyles, clothes, men, hobbies and everything in between, adjusting their looks, behaviour and experience at will as they go along.
This was ghd's breakthrough. Rather than follow the category culture that said to women, "be like how others expect' ghd said, "be who the hell you like, do what the hell you like". And it was rooted in how women related to the product - because it transformed their expectations of how they could look, it fundamentally altered who they thought they could be. The tools were really magic wands, where every day was an opportunity to create yourself anew.
Undearth the ideological opportunity - 'independent women'
The opportunity was clear- ghd would embrace the growing independence of modern Generation Y Women. It would champion women pushing their own internal limits and inhibitions, exploring all the possibilities of who they could be.
Right at the heart were women who dreamed of doing all the things they saw modern, independent women doing, but the realities of their own self confidence, not to mention their own circumstances made this seem nothing more than pipe dream. Their are limits to the freedoms afforded to a mother of two covered in baby sick every morning. But ghd made them feel a little more like them - for the minute they put that wand over their hair, they were no longer the 'mother' 'wife' employee' 'daughter' are anything like that, they were simply 'me' with all sorts of dreams, hopes and desires. ghd let them explore their alter ego. And just because the reality was the woman in the business suit with the red hot plunge bra underneath, or the Mum who got to glam up and go out with the girls on a raucus night out once a month, it was no less powerful or meaningful that this:
In fact, it was MORE powerful.
Get the appropriate source material -reverance of the craft
The bi-monthly visit to the hairdresser is moment of joy, hope and even fear for every woman. She culd emerge as the person she's always dreamed of, or have her self confidence smashed. Hairdressers are purveyors of dreams. They hold the essence of how a woman feels about herself in their hands. They are not merely vain, arrogant fashionistas, they are artists who have more of an impact on a woman's life than a Dali or Hurst ever will.
The same can be said for fashion designers. Yes, they're up their own arses, but they are able to sprinkle magic dust in the lived of ordinary women around the world. Fashion is release from the humdrum banality of the world, it's a way to become someone else.
So ghd fully embraced fully embraced these transformation artists.
Apply Cultural tactics
So when ghd launched, they limited distribution to quality hair salons and built a realtionship with the professionals that worked there, developing exclusive training courses for juniors and pro's alike, along with their own awards. They did an annual 'tour' that was a bonkers celebration of the intersection between hair and fashion. And the love their built from the pro's passed to the woman who went to the salons.
At the same time, ghd started doing styling for fashion shows, while stealing the tone and style cues from the industry, the same mystique.
And the brand went 'viral'. Women talked about the performance, but the real voodoo came from the utter credibility as a part of salon and fashion culture. And like all scarce resources, women started coming into salon demanding ghd. The myth became reality.
Advertising only poured petrol on flames that we're already there. The style was borrowed from the fashion industry while ads never talked about product superiority, they focused on showing women there was no limit to who she could be. Every time she used ghdm it was statement of independence and self determination for every women, no matter who she was.
She could play with her looks and her identity
She could be ambigous, what was happing outside wasn't exactly what was happening inside:
And no one wrote her story but her..
I always thought they could have done a print campaign like this:
Craft the cultural strategy
ghd never wrote a manifesto, everyone lived and breathed it. But if they had, it might have gone something like this:
In a world that all too often holds women back and expects them to passively accept whatever life brings, ghd celebrates independent women, free to embrace the infinite variety and possibility the modern world offers
We champion the transformational power and artistry of fashion and hairdressing, their incredible power to transform women inside and out, resetting their internal limits and inhibitions, enabling them to resist the narrow roles in which others would place them and choose their own fate
Like the women we champion, we're sexy, confident, knowing and utterly independent. You can't second guess us and you can't tell us what to do. We won't necessarily tell you what we want, but you can be sure we're going to get it. We have secret desires you haven't even dreamed of and we're not afraid to pursue them
Hope this helps
Right, it seems to be my turn to do the Account Planning School of the Web. If you haven't a clue what that is, start by reading this.
If you can't be bothered following the links, basically Saint Russell was kind enough to set some homework projects for aspiring planners and gave free feedback. He passed it on to me, Rob and Gareth and Paul Colman has done one too (what am I doing on this list? You had better ask them).
This time around, we're going to do a task based on what I think should be at the heart of planning, but it rarely happens that way in most cases. Let me explain.
The usual approach to strategy is finding a way to communicate rational and/or emotional benefits of a product or service to a chosen audience in the most relevant way possible. If your lucky, in the most entertaining way possible.
It usually follows that once you've nailed what you want to say to people, then, and only then, you sprinkle this with some trends, influential celebs or try and link it all with something popular or cool in your target's lives.
In other words, sell a product benefit and try to 'buy' attention by piggybacking on their interests. It rarely works well because of two major faultlines in this conventional approach:
1. It's not authentic and today's web enabled, marketing savvy human will see the brand isn't 'walking the walk' and reject it out of hand. Take all those brands using soccer as a shortcut to brand involvement- how many add to the experience, enriching fans enjoyment of their sport? How many just get in the way? Exactly.
2. Worse, this approach is still based on people making rational decisions, making choices because they know that something is better. It simply doesn't work that way. We mostly make quick decisions based on emotion and instinct - how we feel about something. The rational stuff is mostly a smokescreen our own brain blinds us with. And these days, few products don't stay superior for long, before someone copies it or outdoes it.
That's why campaigns that build fame for a brand, that make you feel a specific way about it and want to talk about, are proven to be the most effective. That's really how we buy stuff in most cases. Most things we buy builds our identity, a way to tell others, and ourselves, who we are and what our values are. This isn't vacuous image marketing, it is constructing the person you want to be. And, amazingly, campaigns like this are MORE effective at creating belief in product superiority and price premium than 'telling people' why it's better.
AND they save money, because you don't have to enage in an escalating NPD arms race. Naturally, you have to be credible and relevant to what you're selling, but that's the real art - discover what people are interested in or what really matters to them, and work back from there.
With me so far? Good.
A major trait of these fame campaigns is that they don't follow culture, they seek to influence it. They don't just follow popular opinion, they don't just mirror what people are thinking, they seek to change their minds. Rather than communicating a better product, or better 'image', they communicate a better ideology. It's a cultural innovation, not a product or emotional one'.
So that's what this task is about, it's about cultural strategy. I urge you to read this book,at some point, but with apologies to Holt and Cameron, we're going to do a task based on their approach. To be honest, is something many great planners are doing already and have been for a while. So I'm going to set out a process in a bit, here, and I want you to go through it for this project. First, here's why it works.
Some, and maybe most, of the most powerful brands in the world got there by offering an innovative cultural idea, or expression if you like. Throughout history, cultural expressions have played a pivotal role in helping people organise their lives within societies, what is moral, meaningful, what we should strive for and what we should despise. They're the linchpins of how we construct our identity - how we view ourselves and how we want others to view us, the foundation of what we want to belong to, how we want to be recognised and what we want people to think we care about. Truly successful brands are much more than a 'badge' or some sort of product innovation, they're one of these linchpins.
Amazingly successful brands provide an anwer to some sort of tension, contradiction or struggle that contempory culture enforces on the lives of real people.
Nike's 'Just Do It' gives people the feeling they have the willpower to succeed on their own, no matter what the odds -when in reality, most people can't live up to ideals of success and individual attainment capitalist societies enforce on us.
Ben and Jerry's provides easy access to 'counter culture' for middle class people who need to pay the bills but don't want to feel like a 'sell out'
Sainsburys 'Try Something New Today' resolves the tensions between the current pressure to be a great cook and the realities of budgets, time and talent
Jack Daniels is an outlet for men looking for an expression and independence and masculinity in an ever increasingly 'soft' and feminised world.
While Starbucks brought accessable artisanal sophistication to people felt they should be a bit more cosmopolitan but didn't have the courage palate or to leave their comfort zone.
Patagonia do the same for armchair eco warriors or outdoors types.
ghd resolves the tension between women who hanker for the indepedence and exitement of The Sex and The City, Generation Y Women, but also feel the pull of suty and a woman's natural need sacrifice, care and nurture those around her.
It's not easy to pull off, you need to find the right tension, create the right ideology and then communicate it with the right cultural expressions (well come to that in a bit). But when you do, it does functional benefits stuff far more effectively than traditional 'benefit led' brands.
When a brand has proper cultural resonance, when people love you for your better ideology, they naturally assume your products will be better. In other words, if you get people loving, and talking about the brand r'aison detre, you do the price premium, product superiority job too.
I want you to show us what you would do with King of Shaves. They might be successful in the UK, but they want to go global and even in Britain, their success is piddling next to the lumbering behemoths that are Gillete and Wilkinson Sword. This is mature market that's brimming with masculine cliches, NPD arms races and sciency marketing. What's your cultural strategy to turn this on its head?
And don't worry about keeping anything they are doing right now doing, it's all dire in my book. Just take into account every market will have limited budget. You won't be able to afford much TV or outdoors beyond very well target stuff that will create much more noise than it normally would.
This is the six stage process I want you to follow (read the case studies here):
1 Map the shaving category's Cultural Orthodoxy
Every market tends to use the same cultural expressions, with only variation around the edges. What are the conventions in this market, what cultural/social status quoe is this reinforcing?
2. Identify the social/cultural shift that can blow it to bits
There's nearly always something happening in culture, some sort tension, contradiction or you can help resolve and latch onto. Something that's far more potent and relevant than the cliches the category sticks to. Naturally, it has to be relevant to how people feel about the category. What is happening in male culture, that can turn the conventions on their head? What specific audience is this important to and why?
3. Create the ideology
Now you've nailed your cultural shift, you need to detail how this is impacting on how consumers feel about the category and what resultingh brand idea, what ideology it can share with the people.
4. Gather source material
There's no need to 'brainstorm' what people will be interested in ten years from now. Rather, cultural brands repurpose stuff already out there. Stuff already lurking in subcultures, in media (past or present). What's your best source material?
5. Define core tactics
This about defining what tactics will best create the most conversation and noise - a blueprint to how you'll get people talking and flocking to your 'movement'. This is the blueprint to your communications strategy
6. Define your cultural strategy
Write a manifesto, no more than 300 words, something anyone involved can read, so they can get excited about what you're setting out to do.
This is not an easy project, and since this is a 'school' like with all good projects, over the next week there will be examples to hopefully inspire and help you go about your task.
In terms of output, I don't care. There are no rules. Can be powerpoint, a written document, blog post, Youtube video. That's up to you. But make it impactful inspiring and succinct. Email me wither the document or the link. Be prepared for others to see and admire your work.
There will be judges. Rob Campbell, Gareth Kay for starters, but there will be others.
You have until 1st May to submit your work. Feedback and winners etc will be announced 1st June. I want judges to have time to give your ideas the attention they deserve.
But please don't submit until at least a week on Monday. I want to take a week absorbing what you can find out about KIng of Shaves, the category and the whole cuture around and attached to (and what you might add!!!) to shaving.
At the same time, come back to this blog and spend time with the case studies. I know the process might not make complete sense right now, the examples I'll share will bring it to life. Think of them as 'tutorials'.
For the time being, good luck and enjoy.