Monthly Archives: June 2011

Dear brands that don’t reveal themselves until right at the very end of their ads

Dear brands that don’t reveal themselves until right at the very end of their ads,

Thank you for ignoring the “the product’s got to feature throughout” crashers, and giving us ads that are comic…and as such are deeply memorable, not to mention heavily prone to “going viral”.

Here’s just a few of my favourites:









Dear VW Commercial Vehicles

Dear VW Commercial Vehicles,

Thank you for understanding, being proud of, playing back and celebrating the deep connection that can exist between man and vehicle…or in your case, man and van:

To some, this might seem trivial (as far as they’re concerned, a van is a functional item that takes you and some of your stuff from A-B), but for those of us that have experienced you, there’s something else.

It’s hard to pin down, but as a former owner of a VW Campervan, I really do feel the love.

Perhaps it’s because you’re reliable, faithful, consistent and loyal. Like a dog in fact, you’re a man’s best friend.

And thank you for acting as a Reason to Believe for van drivers and tradesmen up and down the country. I trust VW drivers. I’ll get a good job at a fair price from a VW driver. A cowboy wouldn’t drive a VW.

When the day comes that I need to buy a van, you are the only option.



Dear Brita

Dear Brita,
Thank you for keeping me hydrated via your Marella Water Filter Jug:
There’s something inherently pleasing and calming about a simple glass of chilled refreshing, purified water…and you help me achieve that lots of times a day – so thanks for that.
And thanks for being another example of Branded System Lock-In.
I have very mixed feelings towards brands that have locked me in to their system.
As a consumer, I feel slightly stitched up and vexed, as it feels like they’ve gained my loyalty unjustly:
  • Gillette (razor blades – the classic, definitive example)
  • Thule (roof bar accessories – an expensive shock)
  • Brabanita (bin liners – I know you can get generic ones but they’re not as good)
  • Nespresso (capsules – but it can be quite fun)
  • HP (inkjet cartridges – annoying, but what can you do? Other than not print as much…)
  • Bugaboo (pram accessories – do we really need that?)
  • Tommee Tippee (nappy bin disposal cassettes – OK, we really do need that)
Although sometimes I don’t (or didn’t) seem to mind that much:
  • Apple / iTunes (hardware/software compatibility – yes it does work on a PC, but it’s good to have an excuse to shell out on some shiny new kit)
  • Filofax (replacement pages / inserts – the Apps for the 80s)
  • Sony (MiniDisc – like CDs that you can record onto but cannot scratch – let me at ’em!)
  • Henry Numatic (Vacuum Bags – hard to deny that cheeky face something quite so simple)
But as a marketer, I’m full of admiration…as long as the forced repeat purchase does not turn into resentment and subsequent abandonment.

Dear Birds Eye

Dear Birds Eye,

Thank you for your Catch Fresh range. A very simple, but very smart piece of innovation, with an ad that makes me laugh every time I see it:

Thank you for your inspired selection of William Dafoe as the voice of your polar bear…I bet he never thought he’d find himself saying the words, “But this time tomorrow night you’ll be back in Bromley”.

Thank you for:

– Your proposition – it’s clear, compelling, motivating, relevant and highly campaignable

– Your packaging – it sure is tough behind those glass / white doors (and consequently you will never look as good as you do on the design agencies boards / your own website) but you do manage to stand-out and convey freshness

– Filling a close-to-home gap in your portfolio – good old simple common sense in action

– Your Peeled to Frozen in 2.5 hours claim – it supports freshness unequivocally

– Your brand architecture – you play the hinterland between a costly sub-brand and a plain old boring descriptor beautifully, and the linkage to the Field Fresh vegetable proposition is smart, elegant and plays to your historical equities

So thanks for Catch Fresh

…but also thanks for your William Dafoe powered mafioso polar bear – he makes me laugh:

Thanks again


Dear Dr Oetker

Dear Dr Oetker,

Thank you for your Pizza Ristorante ad – I admire (and am in awe of) your apparently irony-free ambition:

Thank you for being so confident in your German-made frozen pizzas (which for the brand unaware appears to have been created by a Bavarian medical professional) that you feel a head-to-head comparison with a real Italian pizzeria is appropriate. That takes some courage.

Thank you for your detailed product shots. If I was in any doubt as to how unappetising you seem to have made your pizzas appear, then the Made in Germany text insert serves as cast-iron confirmation.

But finally, thank you for reminding me of this infamous, highly memorable, highly quotable (i.e. “viral” before its time) and thoroughly enjoyable effort from Ferrero Rocher:

I’d like to think that you were parodying Ferrero Rocher, Dr. Oetker, and that you were you trying to create some kind of ironic cult following.

But in my heart of hearts I don’t think that was the case.



UPDATE (17 June) – Just read in Marketing Magazine that Dr Oetker is rolling out an ad campain claiming that its Ristorante range of thin-based pizzas are the best selling frozen pizzas in Italy:

Well that’s pretty impressive. Well done Dr Oetker.

I feel this news should leave me feeling red-faced, and that I should take it all back…but it doesn’t really, as the “Italy’s best loved pizza” claim is somewhat misleading…

Yes there’s an asterisk clarifying that “Ristorante is the No.1 Frozen Pizza in Italy” – so the arses are well and truly covered – but it’s a bit sneaky if you ask me!

Dear Bridgestone

Dear Bridgestone,

Thank you for demonstrating the risks of climbing up and leaning over the top of the emotional benefit ladder:

When emotional branding becomes emotional blackmail, the alarm bells should start ringing.

I understand why you’ve done it (i.e. to get past the primitive (archipallium) and rational (neopallium) parts of the brain and into the branding sweetspot that is the intermediate brain (aka the paliopallium / the Limbic System) [terminology?], but you seem to have missed the crucial point that there’s “good emotion” and “bad emotion”…

“Buy me unless you want to be a irresponsible parent and risk your children’s life” – is, for me, in the “bad emotion” camp, and that will remain with me and affect my decision-making process next time I’m down at Kwik-Fit…

Unless you’re cheaper than the other premium brands in which case I’ll disregard all of the above, forgive you for blackmailing me and feel good about the fact that I’m being a responsible parent who’s doing the utmost to protect his family even down to his choice of tyres…



Dear Radox

Dear Radox,

Thank you for the latest ad for your range of For Men Shower Gel and Shampoos:

It makes me laugh from start to finish.

Whereas your previous effort only made me smile a bit.

And thanks for  combining Shower Gel and Shampoo – it’s reassuring to see such a classically simple piece of innovation. Vidal Sassoon would have been proud.

Whilst I totally get Designed for Men of the World, I’m not so sure about your Be Selfish masterbrand positioning. In fact, I’m wholly unconvinced.

It strikes me as a classic case (and warning to other brands) of the dangers of taking what people say in focus groups too literally.

Just because doing something…

(…for example, spending 30 minutes in the bath…)

…might make you feel a certain way…

(…for example, slightly selfish or guilty…)

…and that you might admit that to the nice lady in the strange room in Sunbury…

(…which just happens to contain 7 other women all of whom have the same outlook on life as you (as per the recruitment spec) and 2 of whom are actually your friends…)

…that does NOT mean you want to hear a brand reminding you of it.

I mean who wants to actively associate themselves with one of the most dislikable human traits via their brand choice?

It’s a bit like if Carslberg decided to position Special Brew with the line Be Shitfaced

Yes, it’s what some people ultimately want from the product (i.e. to forget your worries with your “mates” in the park from 9am – 11pm) but it’s hardly something to shout about or be proud of…

And finally, thanks Radox for putting your For Men Shower Gel and Shampoos on
constant promotion – why put 2 bottles into your shopping trolley when you can put in 6?

Thanks again