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


Simple Advertising Is Great Advertising …

I’m 46.

I’m a husband.

And a father.

I supposedly hold down a senior job at a highly respected company.

I have responsibilities … mortgages and a bunch of other things ‘older people’ should have.

And yet despite all that, when I saw this ad for Hot Wheels, I totally got what they were saying.

Oh Hot Wheels.

When I was a kid, they were the toy cars to have.

Matchbox made the practical but Hot Wheels made the sexy.

The daring.

The souped up.

The ‘fuck, that looks cool’.

Kids who were good at maths would play with Matchbox but kids who could play the guitar would have Hot Wheels.

I must admit, I am shocked at all this emotion coming out of me despite the fact I haven’t bought – or played with – a toy car for at least 36 years. And that’s why I love this ad so much, because in an instant – and without showing any product whatsoever – I get it.

I totally get it.

Given this ad appeared on a motorway, I am assuming Hot Wheels actually want to target people like me.

Their goal being to awaken my memories of their brilliant toy cars and introduce my kids to them.

It could be because a while back I read Hot Wheels was a billion dollar company under threat.

Not from other toy car competitors, but because parents didn’t know how to play toy cars with their children. Especially Mum’s with boys.

[Don’t call me sexist, this is what they said]

Whatever the truth is, this ad worked for me.

It not only reminded me how much I loved Hot Wheels, it made me want to play with them with Otis. Which all goes to show that while the features of a brand can be copied, it’s spirit and values are always unique.



Why Trust Is The Single Most Important Word In Business …

One of the things that makes me smile is when I hear – or read – Western articles talking about how things like iPay will change the way people spend/transact forever.

The reason for my amusement is not just because this has been happening in China for at least 2 years, but that iPay is a massively inferior product when compared to something like Wechat wallet.

Now, to be fair, lots has been written about Wechat.

From how it has become a hub for almost every aspect of daily life in China – from messaging, to ordering food and taxis to spending, borrowing, investing or sending money – right through to it’s ability, in 2016, to transact more mobile payments in 14 days that eBay & Amazon did globally in an entire year.

[UPDATE: During the 2017 Chinese New Year, Wechat say 46 BILLION red packets [envelopes with money] were sent through their app over the 7 day holiday period. This represents 5 times the volume that occurred in 2016]

And all that is true and fascinating … but unless you live here, I don’t think anyone can truly grasp the way China has embraced technology based spending.

What makes it even more amazing is that prior to Wechat, China tended to be quite protective in how they used their money.

They were one of the slowest nations to embrace internet banking.

There’s millions upon millions of people who still won’t put their money in a bank.

And yet Wechat has come about and despite not being a bank, if has fundamentally changed consumer habits and sentiment regarding their cash.

Which has fundamentally changed retail habits and sentiment regarding how they offer service to their customers.

So how did they do it?

Well, there’s a bunch of reasons.

Without doubt one is they appeal to a different generation to those who were there before.

A generation brought up in the digital age.

A generation who have a ‘I want it now’ mentality.

But it’s more than that.

You see Wechat’s genius was they refused to take any advertising for years.

In a nation where making money is everything, Wechat resisted the lure of ‘easy cash’.

This might not seem a massive thing, but to the people here, it felt like they’d found a brand that actually cared about them.

A brand that wouldn’t sell them out to line their own pocket.

This gave Wechat an integrity few brands could ever hope to achieve – especially in such a limited period of time and in a place as suspicious as China – so when they launched their ‘wallet feature’, there was no doubt people would embrace it because the level of trust in them was so high.

Of course there’s many other reasons for their success – and arguably, Wechat did this so they could ultimately win the long game with advertisers and partners – but with so many brands talking about ‘changing behaviour and perceptions’, it’s worth remembering part of Wechat’s success is as much because of what they didn’t do, as it is what they did.



Sometimes Crazy Is The Most Sensible Thing In The World …

So a while back I saw this weird looking thing being advertised everywhere.

It’s that thing at the top of this page.

At first, I was captivated … it looked like the ultimate gadget.

And then, on closer inspection, I realised it literally did nothing.

That’s right …

No wifi.

No bluetooth.

No nothing.

Just a bunch of buttons and balls to press, roll and click.

Seriously, who would need this shit?

People with game controller addiction?

People with pen clicking obsession?

People with nothing better to do?

And then I saw the manufacturers had created this terrible video to help explain things …

Look, I know the ‘fidget cube’ is relatively cheap … but contrary to the video’s claims, ‘fidgeting’ is not actually an addiction and so you have to ask if people really need something like this over – say – ‘tapping their foot’ repeatedly.

So I bought one.

And you know what … it’s fucking amazing.

I know … I know … my taste is hardly the barometer for mass acceptance, but remember, I am saying positive things about something that literally has no wifi, bluetooth or web access and I’m a guy that has bought robot balls and a mug that will digitally tell me what I’m drinking even though I CAN TASTE WHAT I AM DRINKING.

I’ve bought loads of them now.

In multiple colours.

And while that may make me look a fucking idiot, the fact is there’s a valuable lesson in all this.

No, it’s not that ‘Rob spends his money on tat’ [though that is also a learning] it’s the fact that if someone had told me about it, I’d have dismissed it as ridiculous.

An over-engineered solution to a problem that isn’t really a problem.

And yet the reality is, I didn’t just buy it … I use it all the time and I truly feel it has helped me focus more.

I know that sounds mad and I swear I have no commercial interests in it … but on top of everything, it reinforced a lesson I have continually pushed upon The Kennedys, which is never kill an idea until you’ve tried it.

Never.

Not just because you may find it actually could end up being something awesome, but even if it doesn’t, it often opens up doors of opportunity you never would have seen before.

The older I get, the more I realise ‘try before you kill’ is one of the most important lessons you can learn.

Especially for planners.

Especially for planners who want to help create something that can change something.

Even if it ends up being something people ridicule.

Until they try it.



An Oldie. But A Semi-Goldie …

This is one of those ads that is constantly referred to as being a perfect example of perfect advertising.

David Ogilvy was behind it – spending 3 weeks doing nothing but reading about the car – before producing that amazing headline.

OK, so there is some conjecture whether he came up with it or not, but regardless, it’s one hell of a headline.

But here’s the thing, when you read the rest of the ad, I’m not sure if its worthy of all the accolades bestowed upon it.

Sure it comes from a different time [as the $13,995 price tag highlights] … and yes, some of the ‘features’ they mention were probably cutting edge back then [power steering for example] … but after you get past that epic headline, what you actually have is an ad that is just a list of product features.

While there are still nods to the sense of craftsmanship and technology within that list – for example, you can have a telephone as an optional extra – I can’t help but feel that all the romance the headline conjures up in your mind disappears once you get to the details.

Maybe that’s because it appears the strategy was not actually to communicate the sophistication and craftsmanship of the car, but to change the perception of it being only for the super-elite … the one’s who are chauffeured around rather than drive themselves.

Hey, I could be wrong, but the fact they use that hilarious image of a ‘Dad’ picking up the kids from the local shop after school – not to mention they state in the copy that you don’t need a chauffeur to drive it – means I might have a point.

Now I get I have no right to criticise the wonderful Mr Ogilvy and the fact this ad is continually referred to implies it was hugely successful … but when I was reminded what the actual ad looked like – rather than just hearing that headline – I couldn’t help feeing that I find this scam ad for Bentley far more appealing.

[Though I accept that just might be my Nottingham heritage shining through]



Taking The Piss. But In A Really Good Way …

Incontinence.

Yes, I’m going there.

It’s an issue that most brands in this category, approach with caution.

Actually scrap that, they approach it with clinical rationality.

Of course, some try and break the ‘taboo’ by doing something very different … but most of the time, it’s done more for the ad agencies ego than the good of the brand or audience.

However I recently saw an ad – even though it’s 2 years old, but they decided to re-run it during Donald Trump’s press conference yesterday [how’s that for once-in-a-lifetime blog relevance!] – that did it very differently but very well …

Sure, you could argue it’s a fusion between the old Heineken ‘Man Of The World’ ads … mixed with a dash of ‘The Most Interesting Man In The World’ campaign for Don Equis and a splash of Old Spice, but it’s bloody lovely.

Also bloody lovely is the line “I’m a man of a certain age” and the premise that “when you’re used to being in control it’s hard not to be”.

While some may say this sort of thing is easier when you have a client who makes a product that needs to stand out and break free from category stereotypes … my experience on brands most people would kill to work on, tells me that I bet this was still a challenge to pull off.

But they did pull it off and they did it with relevance to the product, category and audience … which is to be massively applauded.

It might not entirely break the taboo, but it might crack it …

Lovely insight. Lovely line. Lovely execution. Well done to all behind it.



Anti Positioning Is Enticing …

Positioning.

That thing that planners, marketers and advertising in general spends eons going on about.

Of course I understand why … having a clear and concise territory that you play in helps society associate you with a role/purpose that, hopefully, will pay dividends in the long run.

Now the thing with positioning is it’s as much about sacrificing what you’re not going to be as it is defining what you are.

As much about who you’re not going to appeal to as who you will.

For the last 25 years, I’ve been a massive advocate of that until I saw this …

The photo – and quote – comes from a band called Illust8ors.

I don’t really care if you’ve never heard of them, but that reference is amazing.

Rage Against The Machine and Maroon 5.

Two bands that should never, ever be in the same sentence and yet – despite all you would think – it makes me want to check them out rather than shut the door on them.

Who knows if they mean what they said.

Who knows if their music is like Rage Against Maroon 5.

But I will soon … because while some may say they’ve positioned themselves broad, they’ve achieved exactly what a great positioning does … pull people in.



The Boobs Have Arrived … [This Is Not As Rude As It May Appear]

For anyone who thought my post last week about Titty&Co was a pisstake …

I cannot wait for the launch of their mens retailers, Bollocks&Brothers.