February 04, 2020

by Nigel Hollis

I have to thank those nice people at Mediacom for sharing 'Two minutes with Simon Peel, Global Media Director at adidas'. In the video, Peel shares his thoughts on the power of a shared idea, and while he might be thinking that a shared idea of what makes things cool encourages people to buy a pair of sneakers, I think it applies to all strong brands.

A long time ago I wrote a post about how marketing can rehearse reality, helping people to anticipate what it is like to use or consume a brand. As I noted in that post,

“(Effective advertising) gets you to rehearse what it is like to recognize, use and desire a brand, even if you have never heard of it before.”

This exposure to the brand frames people’s expectations of what it is like to use the brand and helps them focus on positive aspects of the experience.

I often use an ad for Leffe beer to highlight how a video can create anticipation of a positive experience. The video simply shows aperitifs being prepared – cured ham with figs notably sticks in my mind – and every now and again we see and hear Leffe being poured into one of the brand’s signature goblets. Little is said, but the video conveys a strong sense of anticipation of what it might be like to consume the food and the drink.

The interesting thing, however, is that I suddenly realized that the video is doing more than just create an individual sense of future enjoyment. It is creating a shared understanding of the brand. While it may not be the cultural cool that Peel talks about, the video creates a common understanding of when it might be appropriate to drink Leffe.

If we go back to a time before Leffe began to associate itself with aperitifs, then perhaps the logical drink on that occasion might have been wine. So, if I invited you round for aperitifs in mid-90s France and plonked down a bottle of beer you might have been nonplussed. Ten years later, after the campaign has taken effect, when I serve Leffe with aperitifs we both have a common understanding of why I do so.

If this is true of a simple product like beer, how much more powerful is this shared understanding when it comes to brands like adidas, BMW or Louis Vuitton? Each one has a deep heritage that informs people’s shared understanding of what the brand stands for. And the more I think about the importance of a shared understanding the more concerned I become about the drive to segment, target and personalise marketing communications. Not only do I doubt the ability to accurately anticipate people’s needs, wants and desires based on the partial, fragmented and inaccurate behavioural data available to us, I think the power of a strong brand still lies in the shared understanding it creates among potential buyers. I am not suggesting we abandon attempts to create compelling, targeted calls to action, simply that we should not forget that a brand is far more than an individual experience.

If this is true, perhaps now is the time to take a step back and re-examine how brands really create value for a business. Not by trying to target the transient and often random behaviour of individuals, but by creating a strong and shared understanding of what the brand means, when it should be used and how. But what do you think?



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