Is a Car ad without cars kinda crazy?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market
An Ad from Volkswagen

While most Car Ads showcase their cars driving around some corner with the sun setting behind it, the new Volkswagen campaign shows 27 seconds of people laughing ranging from babies all the way up to seniors.  And no car.  

Only Volkswagen could attempt to pull this ad off. They have a history of doing quirky ads, dating back to the 50s. And looking at the Brand Love Index for Family Car brands, VW is the most loved of the brands, with 44% rating it as either Loved or Beloved. Toyota and Honda are just behind with 38% and 30%.  

For a Beloved Brand, Volkswagen should be to continue the magic in order to maintain the love for their brand. VW has a very loyal cult-like following. They already have awareness and people know the differences in their brand. As much as Steve Jobs professed “Think Different”, Volkswagen has 60 years of thinking differently.

Overall, the ad does a good job in attracting Attention in that 27 seconds of just laughing is sure to make you look at the TV screen. But, I’m not sure the Branding of linking VW to the idea of the laughing moments does a good enough job. I don’t think the cut to white screen show brand name really does much at all.  Looking closely, the ad is supposed to send you to as a potential combination of traditional and digital media. I think that Communication gets  totally lost in the ad. I’d love to see a 60 second version that could be used for viral sharing with friends, which could help with the Stickiness of the idea. The website is pretty good though–I like the story telling, especially in the voice of the consumer who can connect important moments of their life to the VW brand.  

An Ad from Honda

Here’s another TV ad that tries to play in the same space, but this time from Honda. One difference is that while it ties into life moments, it has the Car as the backbone of each of those little life moments.

The Honda ad does a good job at connecting with consumers. It might not draw as much Attention as the VW ad, but it will connect just as well eventually. But the Branding and Communications are so much stronger that not only will it continue to drive the connectivity between the consumer and the brand, it will also help to sell more cars. In terms of Stickiness, they also have a 90 second anthemic version that they used to kick off the campaign.  Here’s the link:

So while the VW ad makes me smile as it was intended to do, I don’t think this ad will be a big hit. I like the idea better than I like the execution. On the other hand, the Honda ad plays in the same space and it connects the idea of Life Moments nicely to the brand.  

I give the win to Honda, but want to hear your views:

I run Brand Leader Training programs on this very subject as well as a variety of others that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  Click on any of the topics below:

Positioning 2016.112

Ikea: “Long Live the Home” is Easy to Love

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

I’ve always loved Ikea.   As a kid, I’d pour through their catalogues reconfiguring my room in my mind.  Most recently, I took my 13-year-old girl to Ikea and she must have said about 38 times “I’m serious Dad, I want that.”   I can sympathize.

Ikea is fully committed to creating magic for their consumers, whether it is in product designs or in their advertising.    Whether it was the Ikea Lamp Ad (“Many of you feel bad for this lamp.  That is because you’re crazy…”) or the Subway ad where they took a plain and boring subway car and turned it into a lively home you could live in.   Ikea was in the same class as Volkswagen where they’d surprise and delight you on a regular basis.   However, over the last few years, the ads seemed to be missing the magic—I was trying to understand the symbolic nature of the ads, but it wasn’t really connecting with me.  The risk of talking to yourself is you don’t connect and you lose your beloved status.   Ask the Gap.

But this year, Ikea has begun to make their advertising comeback, thanks to the powers of Leo Burnett who can turn brand purpose into brand magic.   And while Ikea always had great ads, it was always hard to piece these ads together until “Long Live the Home” came along this year to establish a Big Idea in the marketplace.   The work is truly beautiful.

One of the hardest things to do is come up with a Big Idea for a Brand, especially in the case of a Branded House.   For a case like Ikea, the idea needs to be big enough to establish the brand idea, yet still sell kitchen cabinets, chairs and closets.   Internal conflict gets in the way of creating a Big Idea and standing behind it:  a) how much brand vs product b) how much equity vs selling c) who makes the ad and finally d) who pays for it internally—brand or product marketing?    You really need to commit to making it happen, and gain the full support across the organization—usually starting from the Top.   Big Ideas like “Think Different”, “Just Do It” and “I’m Loving It” are some of the best examples of Idea lines that connect the brand with consumers and even transform their way right into the culture of everything they do.  That’s where Ikea needs to go next.

There are many brand and business benefits to a Big Idea.   Big ideas should have a 5-10 year life, giving brands a consistent idea to connect behind.   It makes it easier to come back to the brief each year.  Also, there becomes a tone, a character and sometimes a series of devices that help frame the Idea that makes it easier to control how the brand shows up, over time, across various mediums and across the various business units.

Ikea follows the best in class use of the Big Idea, with a 60 second anthem style Ad to establish the Big Idea in the consumers mind, and then separate product ads across various mediums and built into the website, in-store and catalogue.   The TV ads are beautifully shot and connect on a deeply emotinal level, the print ads of high quality and connect.  I really like the unique product Ads they’ve done wheter it is TV ads that sell kitchens or print ideas that sell closets, while staying within the Big Idea.

However, I didn’t notice the idea making its way when I looked at the store level.  I’d love to see “Long Live the Home” be built right into the Ikea culture, brought down to the store level and even begin to influence their customer service.   The big idea becomes more than a tag line, but rather a promise the brand stands behind at every stage of the brand. Without the full comittment to brand all the way through the Love Curve, the magic of the great advertising and cool product designs sets up a High Promise that Ikea struggles to deliver at the experience stage and leaves consumers yearning for more.

That commitment to brand at every touch point has helped propel the Apple brand to the next stratosphere of Beloved Brand.  Ikea, you’ve done such a fantastic job with the advertising, my only ask is that you keep going to make it part of the brand. 

As a bonus for fans of past Ikea Advertising, here is Lamp and the Subway Spots.

A Beloved Christmas Ad that Will Bring a Tear to Your Eye….and a lift in your bonus.

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

At this time of year, we see so many Christmas ads on TV.   In fact, we are bombarded.   Like my local radio station that plays non-stop Christmas music, I’ve come to realize there are only 3-4 great Christmas songs and lots and lots of crap all day long.   It’s the same thing with Christmas ads.  Lots of call to action “start your shopping” crap on TV.

The best Christmas ads I’ve ever seen are from John Lewis, the department store in the UK.  They use beautiful music, a movie-like storyline that demonstrates the beauty of gift giving, stretched out over 90 seconds.    No words are needed to tell the story.  They are not loaded with so much branding that they would turn you off before inviting you in.  They tug at the heart and bring a reminder of what the season is all about:  the gift of Giving. 

Every marketer asks their ad agency “I want a big idea”, but no one really has the patience to build one.   It can take years of continually layering on the creative idea for consumers to know that it’s you.   John Lewis has been doing this same type of ads for years, helping to move the brand from indifferent to liked and to loved.

With deeply emotional ads, John Lewis is able to move the consumers from the Liked to Loved stage. Result is 10% growth in a tough economy.

Consistency in ad technique is a great device for driving brand link.   With each year of the campaign, consumers are now starting to look forward to the latest John Lewis ad.  They don’t need to load the screen with excessive branding, because they now own the idea.

For all those concerned that advertising has to drive hard against short term sales, these softer more emotional ads connect deeply, and live the idea that “if you build it, they will come”.   In fact, John Lewis sales for 2011 are up 10%, and have doubled in the past 10 years.   Contrast that to the dismal sales at other stores in the UK and around the world.  Here’s the last two years of John Lewis Ads, 2010 and 2009, and you’ll see the consistency of the idea building over time.

It’s not just about advertising with John Lewis, it’s about employee commitment.  One very interesting aspect of John Lewis is the culture of the company, which is 100% employee owned.  Every employee is a partner and can influence the business through branch forums, which discuss local issues at every store.   All employees are on a bonus plan, with cheques at the end of the year tied to results.  Happy employees work harder to drive the brand.

This is what employees look like when they make their bonus in the midst of the Great Recession of 2009.

The partnership also has numerous social activities for partners including large country estates, golf clubs, sailing clubs and two hotels that offer holiday accommodations.  They have great pension plans, insurance coverage and generous holidays.   Upon completing 25 years of service, employees are given 6 months off with pay

Happy holidays to all and here’s to a prosperous 2012 for all brands daring to strive for Beloved Status.