The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Less Is More Than More, It’s Also Less Chance To Look A Tool …
October 30, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

When I was in the UK a few weeks ago, I passed a DR Marten’s shop and saw this poster in the front window:

Now putting aside the fact the ‘self expression’ message they’re pushing doesn’t really resonate with me – and not just because I’m a Birkenstock fiend, but because it feels weak … though I admit my frame of reference for the brand is still linked to skinheads kicking someone’s head in – the bit that really bothered me was that they had expressed it as, ‘Creative Self Expression’.

Maybe it’s just me, but who talks like that?

I could [sort-of] understand if they said it was about creativity.

I could [sort-of] understand if they said it was about self expression.

But creative self expression?

What does that even mean? Isn’t any act of self expression, creative by default?

OK, so I bet there are a ton of people who could talk for hours about the difference between self expression and creative self expression … but while that is a [potentially] valid point, the real issue is that’s not how the public think or talk and so it creates a barrier between audience and brand that doesn’t need to be there … which is especially mad given advertising has a hard enough time to ‘cut through and engage’ at the best of time.

For me, that headline/quote just smacks of either a clients pushiness, a planners ego or a researchers myopicness.

I can just imagine the creative team presenting ‘self expression’ only for someone to say …

“That doesn’t quite capture what we want to say, we’re also about creativity.”

“OK …” say the creatives, “… what about saying ‘we’re about creativity?”

“No …” the client/planner/researcher replies, “… that might not speak to the people who want to express themselves but don’t think they’re creative.”


While I obviously think work should always be informed by the strategy, it should never be executed literally … not just because it ends up looking and sounding like shit, but because people buy things for themselves and so you need to connect to them on their terms.

That doesn’t mean you have to dumb down or be sycophantic, but advertising should be encouraging, inspiring, involving and informing so [1] using words you wish people would say back to you about your brand or [2] talking rather than making people feel … ends up creating reasons why people should ignore you rather than explore you, even if it might make you feel more comfortable in the campaign development phase.

Oh and finally, for the people that say, “but there’s plenty of brands that are hugely successful who don’t adopt that approach”, I’d say they are mistaking convenience, habit and/or distribution strength with true brand appeal.

And yes, I know ‘brand loyalty’ often doesn’t translate into consumer habits – at least to the level many brands delude themselves into believing – but if you’re not liked [for want of a better word], then you’re not in the consideration set & at that point, you may as well give up.

36 Comments so far
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doc martens are acting like theyve become doc specialist surgeon in a private fucking hospital and will only deal with patients by appointment only. its the fucking equivalent of scampi fries (northerns fucking favourite) acting like theyre after 8s.

Comment by andy@cynic

and i dont care who doesnt get that analogy, its fucking up there with anything that shakespeare bloke put out.

Comment by andy@cynic

I get it. Not sure if it’s the best analogy in the world, but given its ability to slander and insult, I like it.

Comment by Rob

What are scampi fries?

Comment by Billy Whizz

the tool of the fake teenage casanova and when youre older, the bald fucks pretend love candy. isnt that right northern.

Comment by andy@cynic

Poor Northern.

Comment by Pete

While the inference that I ever claimed to be a romantic tryanossaurus is incorrent, it’s true I have a weakness for Scampi Fries, but due to said lack of sexual success, I couldn’t comment on their mythic aromatic resemblance to fanny juice

Comment by northern

“strategy should inform the work not be the work.” fuck me campbell, youre spouting shit i agree with. have you come to your fucking senses or have i lost mine? by the way, saw your jeep spot. not bad. i just like that one of americas brand icons got made in fucking china by a bastard brit. thats 4 july revenge right fucking there.

Comment by andy@cynic

Is it the one they kicked on agencyspy? I liked it. Fuck, now I’ll have to agree with agencyspy

Comment by Billy Whizz

being hated by agencyspy is the ultimate fucking compliment.

Comment by andy@cynic

Just seen what they’ve said. You can’t win. Show too much car and you’re “selling out”, don’t show enough and you’re “not selling cars”.

But the fact is, I think there’s plenty of car in it and linking Jeep to constrained human needs and desires, starts the journey of selling the brand both functionally and emotionally. Though I would say that wouldn’t I. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Only preppy trust fund wankers who want to look tough wear doc m these days.

Comment by Billy Whizz


Comment by Rob

Whatever the reason for using that language, it comes across like “marketing”, which is especially sad for a brand that was once the Bill Hicks of fashion.
Great point about strategy needing to set the agenda for communication but never to be the communication.

Comment by George

You’ve just used Bill Hicks name in relation to marketing a shoe brand. That is genius George. He’ll be spinning in his grave.

Comment by Rob

When Andy agrees with you, this must be a good post. It is. Great points littered throughout. I particularly like your final paragraph because sometimes it feels like the industries commentators have forgotten there is commercial value in likeability.

Comment by Pete

Before anyone turns on me, I know communication must achieve more than pure popularity to create conversion, but it is still an important step in the brand building process.

Comment by Pete

Yes. Both to Andy’s agreement and the value in being valued beyond functional satisfaction.

Comment by Rob

Are you really saying that no creative would come up with nonsense like this?

Comment by John

not any with the slightest hint of self fucking respect. which means anyone who works at an interpublic creative department could have done it.

Comment by andy@cynic

Nasty. But fair.

Comment by DH

No, but in this example, it feels more like the insane actions of a client/planner or researcher. I don’t know why I say that, but I do.

Comment by Rob

We never know why you say what you do, but you still do.

Comment by John

strepsil addiction.

Comment by andy@cynic

who speaks like that? the same people who made creative noun.

Comment by bd

Good point.

Comment by Rob

It’s what’s at the bottom of the poster that caught my eye: “Stand for something”.

I suspect the agency sold it as a very sharp, smart line – playing on the double meaning of the word ‘stand’ (boots, stand, geddit?).

But really it just sums up the brand’s problem: what to stand for? (Presumably they’d like it to be something other than fading memories of aggro skinheads). It doesn’t look as if they’ve found the solution yet.

Like the Jeep ad, BTW. Selling the SUV dream of ‘escape from the city/office/humdrum life’. It’s the core emotional driver of the entire category. Generic? Yes, but Jeep can get away with it as the lead brand in the category. Nicely done. I suspect it resonates strongly with its ‘early mid-life crisis’ target.

Comment by Ian Gee

Thanks mate. We found that if any brand can say it, it’s Jeep – but the opportunity was to get away from purely ‘geographical escape’ and focus on the ‘inherent human need to be curious’, even if as they get older, they feel this is in conflict with their desire to be seen as responsible, reliable folk.

As for your Doc Martens point, yep. How the hell can a brand tell you to stand for something when they don’t. Unless that’s what they’re standing for. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Just putting this out there, but is it possible they asked Agyness Deyn what she ‘stood for’, and she said that?

She’s been trying to move beyond modelling into acting, music and stuff for several years, so it might well be the sort of thing she would say.

Cue copywriter eye-rolling at the agency, but they’re stuck with the line because she’s lending her name to one of DM’s ranges.—Footwear/c/Womens-Agyness-Deyn

And the moral is, don’t ask people’s opinions unless you know they’re going to say the right thing.

Comment by Tomb Albrighton (@tomcopy)

Hi there and thanks for commenting. Maybe you’re right … maybe that’s what happened … but even if she did say that, I’d argue there would still be a case to pull out the pretentiousness [read: marketing talk, even if it was said by someone not in marketing … which is arguable given the role models have both in the industry and in trying to get business in the industry]

I still hate it. And still think it alienates rather than connects. But then I wear Birkenstocks.

Comment by Rob

When I was a student, every girl wore Doc Martens. They’re as individual as Nike Airs with a decent heritage. .
Asking young people express themselves is as obvious as asking Sir Sorrell to make economic pronouncements in the style of bathroom furniture.
If only they’d followed brand 101 and looked at what they were doing when they mattered.
Totally agree with the sentiment of talking like real people as opposed to marketing automatons, as it happens, I used to be okay at writing propositions, which meant they got ignored more than usual, since creatives wanted to compete against what they thought was an okay line.

Comment by northern

you mean the chicks who wouldnt fuck you so you called them lesbians?

Comment by andy@cynic

Lesbians prefer Birkenstocks don’t they? What that says about Rob is anybody’s guess

Comment by northern

In unrelated news, Yorkshire is the third best place in the world to visit and not just because I live here

Comment by northern

I love that you said ‘and not just because’. With that sort of ego, you should be an ECD in London somewhere.

Comment by Rob

Let’s be honest, it’s only the fact I live here that’s stopping Yorkshire being number one, that and the how unbearably smug Yorkshire folk would be, especially the York lot

Comment by northern

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