Monthly Archives: December 2010

Dear OK!

Dear OK!

Thank you for your Xmas issue TV ad that opens – without even a hint of irony – with the bold claim “Transform your life with OK!” It made me laugh.

I admire your confidence and your detachment from reality.

Thanks again



Dear Lush

Dear Lush,

Thank you for being so smelly – when I’m out shopping, it makes me smile to know that you’re somewhere nearby, even though I cannot see you.

Lots of brands talk about “creating multi-sensorial brand experiences”, but you actually do it. In a big way.



Formidable. All the more so because it sums up what you are – fresh, smelly, stuff…

This is no case of pumping freshly-baked bread essence through the air-conditioning. It’s just you, making highstreets up and down the land just that little bit more fragrant.

Thanks Lush.


Dear Seksy

Dear Seksy,

Thank you for making me laugh out loud – but more out of horror and shocked wonderment than humour I’m afraid – and for reminding me of some of the potential branding pitfalls out there. Lots of reasons to thank you:

Thank you for reminding me of the crucial branding difference between simply claiming to be something, and actually being that thing. Has there ever been a person who has shouted at the top of their voice “I’m sexy, I’m sexy, I’m sexy!” and actually been sexy as a result?

Thank you for your misspelt / pun-style name which seems – to me at least – to be the sort of name that the “Local Hairdresser Brand Naming Academy” would have rejected on the grounds that it was just too awful. Personally, I think that misspelt / pun-style name can only work when the tongue is firmly in the cheek, as per Judy Rothchild’s boot brand:

Thank you for your loyalty to the pun – my shock was compounded when I saw your Christmas TV ad. Other brands would have stopped at a simple brand name pun, but you have chosen to demonstrate your unwavering commitment to the form by selecting  “First time I ever Saw your Face” as the soundtrack. So bad, it’s almost good:

And finally thank you for reminding me that one really should think quite hard about how to go about targeting women. Just going for a pink logo and sticking on some sparkly bits doesn’t really cut the mustard I’m afraid.

Thanks for everything.


PS – On reflection, I think you might be being quite clever. Maybe you’re not targeting women at all. Maybe you’re targeting clueless blokes who are desperate to remedy their appalling present-buying track record. Maybe Seksy is a competitive portfolio play, you don’t care about the brand at all, safe in the knowledge that the clueless bloke Christmas sales will justify the whole thing. Maybe.

Dear Johnnie Walker

Dear Johnnie Walker,

Thank you for your new Gold Label Ice Pillar. It’s just the latest of the multitude of things that I admire about you – as a product and as a brand.

So maybe it’s not “the done thing” to serve whiskey frozen, but I love the way you’re not bothered by that, by the way you’ve got a portfolio that does do the right thing for the whiskey sticklers out there, and how through innovation you make your positioning a reality.

Whilst I’m at it, thank you for your positioning. “Keep Walking” inspires me again and again, both as a “brand consultant” and as a “normal person”. I just love this execution:

And thanks for your “The Man Who Walked Around The World” mini-film featuring Robert Carlyle – it serves to remind me that you can have too much of a good thing. Now I know that it’s not an ad and that it’s designed to tell the brand story, but for me, much of the mystery and power of the “Keep Walking” positioning is lost:

The concept is compelling. The execution is powerful and beautiful. In fact, it’s masterful right up until the point when Robert Carlyle says “A commercial proposition – and a very profitable one”. It’s as if, from that point, the brand team could help but start annotating the script, peppering it with business jargon and meeting room speak. Reminds me of this:

Maybe it’s just me but I cannot help but think that at least some of the other nearly 1m viewers on YouTube might have been rankled by phrases such as: “corporate raiding”; “unmistakable presence on any shelf in the world”; “led the brand into the 20th Century”; “the brand’s advertising”; “the world’s biggest whiskey brand”.

Or maybe not.

Either way it’s a minor discrepancy in a world of excellence. Thanks for everything.


Dear Byron

Dear Byron,

Thank you for reminding me that success is all about doing the simple things well…not OK, not fine, not alright, but really, really, unflinchingly and consistently well.

And thanks for having Brooklyn Lager on your drinks menu.


It’s the little touches – like that – which make me feel like I’m near the centre of the burger universe (which for me is Manhattan). It gets you close to the very centre of that universe (but not quite I’m afraid) – the fabulously incongruous and utterly marvellous Burger Joint hidden in Midtown within Le Parker Meridien Hotel.


Thanks Byron for taking me back there. And for a damn fine burger in the meantime.


Dear Strongbow

Dear Strongbow,

Thank you for your “Hard Earned” positioning – it’s made me think about the massively important, apparently simple, but all too often confused (and confusing) topic of “targeting”.

It seems to me that you’re in the fortunate position where you couldn’t be clearer about your approach to targeting:

But what about all the brands out there who need to navigate the complexities and vagaries of human “aspiration”, for whom it’s not quite so straightforward?

  • If a brand knows that more than 2/3rds of its volume is consumed by adults, but it’s  been a “kids brand” since the year dot, should it switch its approach to targeting?
  • Is it better to hold up the mirror to reality in advertising (e.g. Maltesers) or to take consumers to an aspirational fantasy world (e.g. Bounty and/or Flake)?
  • Do fat / old / ugly etc people want to be reminded of that fact or will they feel alienated by brands that sweep the realities of their situation under the carpet?
  • Is it credible to show glamourous young things sporting incontinence pants or just patronising?
  • Will changing the approach to targeting alienate those that have historically consumed the brand, even if it does bring in new consumers in the future?

Two very famous and much discussed – if somewhat hackneyed – Unilever examples come to mind:

Axe/Lynx where the User Target is (I’m guessing) 14-18 year old boys, but the Brand Positioning / Image Target is 20-something men.

And Dove with its Campaign for Real Beauty where the received wisdom of the mainstrean category (i.e. differentiating between Brand Positioning / Image Target (unattainable models, actresses, celebrities etc) and User Target (people you might actually know)) was turned on its head.

So thanks Strongbow for reminding me how important it is to be clear about the difference between User Target and Brand Positioning / Image Target.

On a different note, thanks for making me think about “demonisation” and “stereotyping” in branding and advertising with your follow-up executions:

I’m assuming that this is a viral campaign only, intended to do the rounds within your User Target and Brand Positioning / Image Target, but I think it’s inherently risky for a brand to demonise any group quite so overtly, no matter how deserving of criticism they are.

Sure it makes for a good ad / viral that everyone can jeer along to and agree with today, but I’m not so sure it does such a great job for your brand values /personality / tone of voice, in the long-term.

I’m not defending bankers for one moment, I’m merely observing that it’s a risky approach, that inspires some awkward questions about your brand personality – who are you going to pick on next, can I really trust you, are you actually as nice as you seem, do you hate me for not being you?

In a bit of a 7.50am BBC Radio4 “Thought for the Day” moment, the phrase “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” springs to mind.