Dear Muller

Dear Muller,

Thank you for demonstrating the dangers of getting carried away with an advertising idea at the expense of the long-term brand idea.

When this lavish ad appeared, I somewhat flippantly thanked you here for reminding us of the side-effects of psychedelic drugs…principally because I thought you’d lost the plot.

But now it appears that I’m not the only one:

– Both your UK chief executive and your UK Marketing Director have left you as part of a “shake-up of personnel”

– Your ad agency TBWA have resigned the account

– Your Wunderful Stuff campaign has been pulled in favour of product-led ads first aired in 2007

Yes, Yeo Valley were a threat with their boy band follow-up to 2010’s rapping farmers (I thanked them indirectly for that here when I was thanking the X-Factor):

But as the challenger brand trying to wrestle some of your £400m annual sales from you, it made sense for Yeo Valley to do something and make noise that was going to make them famous.

But you already were famous. And as such, you didn’t need to turn your back on your brand heritage and go down the “whacky” ad road.

Sure, it’s a seductive option, especially if you can get creative and launch a “whacky” ad that builds the long-term brand at the same time.

But that’s exceptionally hard to do. And relies on a whacky brand personality in the first place.

Tango’s You’ve been TANGO’d and Cadbury’s Gorilla are cases in point.

Great ads for famous brands.

Lots of buzz. Lots of talkability. PR field-day. Sky high YouTube hits. New news for existing consumers. Appeal to new consumers. Sizeable uplift in sales.

All good stuff that any Marketing Director would happily accept.

But what did those ads do to build those brands in the long-term? What permanent memory structures did they create?

In the Cadbury case, some might argue that all Gorilla said to its consumers was that Cadbury is a brand that makes cool ads…(although admittedly Airport Trucks and to a lesser extent, Eyebrows undermine that argument).

But Cadbury doesn’t sell ads.

It sells chocolate.

(This is possibly an accusation that could also be levelled at Guinness as well, where it could be said that the ads have become more important than the objective of the ads – which presumably is to get more people to drink more Guinness).

Now I’m all for creativity.

It’s just when people default to whackiness in the belief that they’re being creative that I get worried.

It would be a bit like all comedians resorting to surrealism to try to be funny.

Surrealism can be very funny – as shown by Noel Fielding – but it’s not the only way to be funny.

Whackiness can be creative, but it’s not the only way to be creative.

And as you’ve shown us Muller, should not be pursued at the expense of the long-term brand idea.

Thanks for that.

Ned

PS – Here’s some of those wonderful – but dubious in terms of long-term brand building – ads:

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