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  using words you wish people would say back to you about your brand or  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.
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