WHY ARE WE CHEERING A BRITISH INVASION?
Yes, it is July 4, 2017. In the United States, we are celebrating our declaration of independence from the United Kingdom.
Last week, our neighbors in Canada celebrated their sesquicentennial (that's the 150-year anniversary for all you civilians) of their independence from the UK.
No doubt, many Americans today are wishing they could move to Canada for more than just celebration.
But we here at the Mountaintop Marketing Fortress are not going there.
We will not make this a political screed. We never have. We never will. Because politics is just too divisive.
We are inclusionists.
We like to invite everyone to celebrate.
Which explains today's celebration.
WE ARE CELEBRATING A BRIT WHO CHANGED THE SHAPE OF AMERICAN ADVERTISING
Indeed, as creators of advertising, it's hard for us to not appreciate a man who famously said, "Talent, I believe, is most likely to be found among nonconformists, dissenters, and rebels."
And is there anything more American than an appreciation for nonconformity, dissent and rebellion?
Well, yeah, there is the national pastime of banging the drum for nonconformity, dissent and rebellion while making sure it conforms, agrees and complies.
"Let's all be different by dressing alike and indulging fanatical groupthink about the same stupid idea! Woo-hoo!"
But I digress.
REBELLION IS THE GAME THAT GAVE THE U.S. ITS INDEPENDENCE
And this Brit, the son of a Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlander, was fascinated by the American character.
Back in the middle of the 20th century, in the days before the mayhem and the menace of the over-communicated digital culture, this man was an iconoclast, a subversive, a revolutionary.
He came to the U.S. banging the drum for a sea change in advertising.
In an age of the hard sell, he made a convincing pitch for the soft sell.
And his soft sell built brands with ferocious intensity. He won more major advertising accounts than any ad man before or since.
He never won any advertising awards for creativity. He didn't believe in them.
The idea of an industry's creative people giving awards to each other left him cold. He always maintained that if something didn't sell, it wasn't creative.
I COULD ARGUE THAT IF IT DOESN'T SELL, IT MIGHT BE STILL BE CREATIVE--IT JUST ISN'T RELEVANT
But why parse words with a genius? He'll always run rings around you logically.
And this man's particular genius is responsible for so much of what we do in our business that wins friends and influences people.
He changed advertising using his soft-sell methods combined with research.
Yes, that pox, research, always a nuisance, a bother and a misery to so many creative people.
In a famous quote, he said, "Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals."
BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN HE LOOKED DOWN UPON CREATIVE
Remember, he was all about the talented nonconformists, dissenters, and rebels.
In fact, despite being an enormously successful businessman, he disdained businessmen who lacked the ability to be creative.
This man famously said:
The creative process requires more
than reason. Most original thinking
isn't even verbal. It requires "a groping
experimentation with ideas, governed
by intuitive hunches and inspired by
the unconscious." The majority of
business men are incapable of original
thinking because they are unable to
escape from the tyranny of reason.
Their imaginations are blocked.
BLAMMO! TAKE THAT, BLOCKED BUSINESSMAN!
Talk about potentially biting the hand that feeds you.
Who makes the decision to hire an advertising agency?
But then, don't Americans like to imagine themselves as the outlier, the nonconformist, the rebel?
"He's right! Let's be rebellious and hire the creative guy! Yay, we're nonconformists! Let's start dressing like nonconformists and pretending we're the new originals!"
But one of the most significant pieces of ad think propagated by this rebellious Brit regards branding.
And interestingly, "branding" is not a word that you hear him use a lot.
But when you look at his track record of iconic brand development, he was a king.
HE SPECIALIZED IN MAKING THE PROSPECT FEEL ONE WAY ABOUT THE PRODUCT
In fact, he called it essential to winning. He said:
There isn't any significant difference
between the various brands of whiskey,
or cigarettes or beer. They are all about
the same. And so are the cake mixes and
the detergents, and the margarines...
The manufacturer who dedicates his
advertising to building the most sharply
defined personality for his brand will
get the largest share of the market at
the highest profit.
We at Slow Burn might argue that this thesis becomes shaky when applied to various small-businesses with whom we work. Because many of them really are different than the competitors.
Nonetheless, the core concept--that the most sharply defined and most attractive personality wins--is one with which we have no argument whatsoever.
Hands down, we have seen it work for our clients. We have even seen it inspire the competition to scramble and regroup in an effort to redefine their own personality--with laughable results.
AND, THIS BRIT EVEN USED AN EXPRESSION NEAR AND DEAR TO THE FABULOUS HONEY PARKER'S HEART
He said something which is not only similar to a phrase she uses repeatedly, but is an idea which is uniquely American.
Honey loves a good sports story, and likes to talk about helping our clients "Knock it out of the park."
And lemmetellya, that is fun to do.
And this Brit liked to say, "Don't bunt. Aim out of the ball park."
And then he said, "Aim for the company of immortals."
Aim for the company of immortals.
I just got chills.
And interestingly, the Brit was also realistic about this.
He wasn't about winning at all costs. He had perspective and balance.
He also said, "Play to win, but enjoy the fun."
WE HAVE A RULE HERE AT SLOW BURN MARKETING
We've repeated it here before.
We will do business only with people whom we'd look forward to joining for dinner.
Life is too short. We will not take a client just for the money.
It has to be a good fit.
They, like us, have to play to win but enjoy the fun.
Interestingly, this describes not only the person who hired us, but every single person we met when we were engaged in a branding effort for a division of Wells Fargo.
HARD TO IMAGINE--BUT TRUE
And finally, one of the most practical quotes from our British invader.
It is just as piercing and relevant now as it was then.
And it speaks to a mindset seen too often in the hucksterish sales messages that come at us over the airwaves and through the ether.
This man was adamant that, "The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Try not to insult her intelligence."
On this Independence Day, a salute to you, David Ogilvy.
Here's to being fascinated by Americans, to burning it up with the soft sell, and to nonconformity, dissension, and rebellion.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.