Thursday 30 July, 2020

By Neil Simpson

The benefits of having a famous brand are far reaching.

Your brand tends to be top of mind whenever the category is thought of. A tagline, jingle or logo may even become part of popular cultureOther brands will want to partner with you. Distributors and suppliers will be more receptive to your advances. Strategically, your brand becomes more insulated against competitors, as it benefits from a unique and intangible resource.  

Due to a well-observed psychological quirk called the “mere exposure effect”, we trust things more when we are familiar with them. We take them more seriously. We notice them more. We will pay more for them. We are more ready to recommend them to others.  

But while it’s arguably easier than ever for individuals to become famous, it’s not quite as simple for brands. The media and cultural landscape is more fragmented than it once was, with audiences turning to a diverse array of media providers and sources.  

Our approach at Weber Shandwick is to start with a simple thought: brands are social constructs built into our collective memories. The more famous a brand is, the more it gets stuck in our memory, the more effective it becomes  

Gaining broad reach is a vital part of achieving this. The fundamental task of a brand – to use mass-reach media, reach lots of people and make itself known – remains unchanged. Bruce McColl, former CMO at Mars noted “I’m not a great believer in targeting. Our target is about seven billion people sitting on our planet. Our task is to reach as many people as we can…” 

Another key element to fame lies in creativity. This is a powerful, unfair (and entirely legal) advantage you can use over your competitors. There is no magic formula to arriving at great creative, but at Weber Shandwick we have a few principles. 

Appeal to hearts not minds. Many brands aim to persuade and forget to make their audiences feel something. Creating communications that generate an emotional response increases their effectiveness. Tapping into the intuitive, instinctive “System 1” parts of minds and drawing out emotion – excitement, anticipation, curiosity, joy, sadness, even fear – can be immensely powerful. 

Another rule of thumb is to remember that humans are torn between two opposing forces – a curiosity about the new, and a fear of anything too new. Good creative dances around these lines – it produces bold and surprising things, but makes them safe, understandable and familiar. In short, if your product or category is familiar, make it surprising and unexpected; if it is unexpected, complicated or weird, make it familiar and approachable 

So, ruthlessly exploit the power of creativity to your advantage – it’s the single most powerful element in determining whether a promotion is a rocket or a dud. Appeal to hearts not minds, and walk the line of familiarity and surprise.    

Neil is Associate Planning Director at Weber Shandwick Scotland. He is responsible for using deep customer insights to develop ideas that capture audience’s attentions, inspire behaviour change and deliver positive outcomes for our clients’ businesses. Contact Neil at NSimpson@webershandwick.com