Stop and Smell the Roses: The Case for Saying No to Change
There’s an old agency saying that goes something like: Clients will always get sick of the work before their audience ever does.
And it’s true; someone in the chain of command gets bored with the creative and moves it on well before the intended target has even had chance to get sick of it. But it goes beyond the campaign work. Our industry is infamous for throwing out perfectly good thinking in favour of doing something new and “out-of-the-box”. It might be a product of the constant pressure we place on ourselves to justify our existence, or simply a reflection of our nature to “add” value, even when doing less can be more.
Fortunately, there are a few examples of brands that have stuck to their guns and seen great returns over the long-term, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourites.
In the case of UK supermarket brand, Tesco, after decades of successfully using their promise of ‘Every Little Helps’, in 2015 they found themselves reporting a historic loss and the brand’s lowest ever scores in customer trust. Time to ditch the tag line right?
Instead, David Lewis, the newly arrived CEO doubled down and put ‘Helping’ at the heart of not just the brand but the business, and effectively said to hell with the consequences:
“Having been a marketer, I come with very much a customer lens to any business, as that’s what I care about most … I will say let’s do what’s right for the customer and then let’s deal with the consequences from that on finance and the cost, because it’s ultimately worth it”.
For the past five years, Tesco has utterly committed to instilling helpfulness into everything they do and say; with “every little helps” transcending a mere tagline into a true business strategy. Following the news of the Tesco accounting scandal in 2014, and a subsequent GBP6.4billion loss, they resisted the urge to start over, instead focusing on rebuilding and restoring trust and quality measures through a consistent message. A remarkable financial and brand turnaround ultimately saw the supermarket giant post a GBP2.21billion profit in 2020. I believe the correlation between brand health and profit is irrefutable, and great testament to sticking with what they already had.
Other excellent long-term brand and advertising case studies include MasterCard, Optus, Toyota (“Oh What a Feeling”) and Snickers (“You’re not you when you’re hungry”), demonstrating the effect consistency holds over a diversity of categories.
‘Yes’ has been an enduring part of the Optus brand since it launched in 1992. A simple and positive statement of enablement has evolved to a central element of every touch point of the brand. The pay-off for Optus is to be the second most recognised brand asset in Australia after the Qantas kangaroo, with a platform that ensures consistency and distinctiveness in a very tough category.
In another challenging category, MasterCard’s ‘Priceless’ grew from a 1997 advertising campaign into a pop cultural phenomenon – the original meme in fact! It’s a platform that works seamlessly across the globe and in any vertical, bringing to life emotional connections that everyone can aspire and relate to.
In all these cases a simple emotional truth has been given centre stage and then afforded the time and space to grow into a truly ownable and distinctive business asset. If the marketers responsible for these enduring brand stories had been in a rush to move onto something new, we wouldn’t have witnessed the intelligent permutations of these core ideas and the undoubted impact they’ve all had on their company’s bottom line.
At some stage, we’ve all been tempted to agitate for change for change’s sake. But next time, maybe consider building on what we already have. Effective brands are like anything worthwhile. They need time, consistency and commitment to build into bankable returns.
AFFINITY works with brands to assess the role of their brand and marketing assets in working towards business-transforming outcomes. We’d love to work with you in strengthening these rather than starting over. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org – I guarantee we’ll write back.
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