Here’s part 2 of my collection of posts looking at John Hegarty’s memoir “Hegarty on Advertising”.
Hegarty writes that truth is one of the most powerful strategies you can employ in advertising. And humour is an incredibly powerful tool to be truthful in advertising: don’t deny the facts, make a joke about them. Like in this Skoda advert.
Another insight from Hegarty is that you can take a perceived weakness of a product/brand, realise it is unique and turn it into a selling point. This is what he did with Boddingtons and “The Cream of Manchester” campaign. Conventional wisdom said that “creaminess” was not an attribute anyone looked for in a beer. But Hegarty disagreed: “Here was a beer that was differentiated by its creamy head…It was and is what made it different. It was the truth of the brand. So, we created the slogan “The cream of Manchester” and exaggerated the creamy aspect of the beer showing it as an ice-cream cone, as shaving cream, as hair cream…we captured the consumers imagination with irreverent images and, in doing so, turned Boddingtons into a cult brand.” Here’s one of the adverts.
The idea of the weakness of a brand being what made it interesting reminded me of an article I read in the Style magazine in The Sunday Times this weekend by Stephen Bayley, in an essay on beauty. I have to admit a philosophical investigation of aesthetics is not what I expected to read in the Style magazine, which is normally just a series of meditations on what pants are cool, or whether I should hate myself for not knowing Prince Harry. I digress. Bayley wrote:
“Perfection is always tiresome. In human affairs, variety, risk, hazard, and surprise are much more interesting than predictability and order”. He went on “Beauty and ugliness are not opposites. They are part of the same thing: it’s called aesthetics”. The lesson? THE WORST THING ABOUT YOUR BRAND MIGHT BE THE BEST THING TO SELL IT WITH.
Hegarty writes that great advertisers aren’t just doing a job, they’re expressing their beliefs. They are evangelists, they believe in what they are doing. They have belief and passion that what they are saying is important. And this gives them that secret sauce of brilliant communication: conviction. You can smell conviction is advertising and in products. They feel authentic, important, confident. Apple products cannot be separated from the spirit of Steve Jobs who challenged himself, his staff and the world to “think different”. This ideology is authentic and bleeds into everything Apple do, and is best summed up by this classic advert.
Brilliant ads don’t just try to sell. They try to inspire, improve, empower. Arguably Channel 4s brilliant promo for the Paralympics did more to change attitudes to the disabled in this country than the event itself. Remind yourself of the great work here.