Monday, 12 November 2007

The USP (evil) is dead, long live emotional engagement (good)

The revolution has started ladies and gentlemen. Well, it started many moons ago before I was even born but recently the marketing new thinkers have started to kill off old school thinking, approaches and frameworks. It's like the Rebel Alliance vs The Empire - the young free thinking liberals against the dark, structured orderly conservatives. Never before has the movement towards emotional engagement been so strong. We've just had the Sony trilogy - ending with Bunnies (which yes of course isn’t as good as ‘Balls’ or maybe ‘Paint’ – but the very fact that people are arguing about it is a sensation in itself). We’ve just had Cadbury Gorilla which everyone says has had its day and that it’s cliché to discuss. Far from it. It is a milestone in a new movement to change the creative format for which we work in. Then we have Sony Music Pieces (below).

A true gem and echoes Honda Cog. All of this great stuff, none of it selling you a rational reason to purchase with a clumsy USP rammed in there to keep a client happy. What it does do is creates a level of enjoyment, engagement and positive values, all attached to a logo, whether it be concious or subconsious. A far stronger lever towards a brand than any hard sell messaging will achieve. I think the faster we break down the rationale that all work must be based on a rational reason to buy the quicker we can start doing our jobs better.

Of course, there are exceptions to the emotional engagement trend, FMCGs you might argue must be based on USPs, how else will you shift medicine for example. Well, a very successful example is Andrex. It’s USPs are that it’s strong and long. So, what the hell has a puppy got to do with anything?

But….it works, and Andrex now commands the greatest market share and share of mind in its sector. So you can apply the emotional leverage to FMCGs and it’ll work.

Now a bad example, one from the old school of thinking that is a dying out, British Airways

A brand that you could really go to town with in terms of leveraging the engagement levels and based to a degree on a product truth (once upon a time). Now however we see a bunch of people walking around Sydney handing stuff out because……well……that’s what the lovely people of BA do and make you feel like you’ve upgraded. Firstly it’s a very poorly produced piece of film, secondly the idea is really lame and undifferentiating and thirdly it’s a promise that isn’t delivered by the customer experience - when I'm sat in economy being a lowly 'young' planner - I don't feel like I've upgraded at all, I feel like the sooner I can afford to fly with Emirates or Singapore Airways I will. Surely it would be a better job for the agency to advise BA on how to innovate itself before running off to create seriously vanilla advertising.

The above is surely a case to stay well away from such a clinical, structured and frame worked ways of working. We’re talking to human beings who don’t process in rational ways, don’t consume TV footage in rational ways and don’t buy in rational ways. If that’s the case why the hell are we trying to shove rational communication through the medium of TV? Surely that’s a job for online and print where people have actively flagged an interest in information (not that online and print shouldn’t be emotionally engaging - but is the perfect platform to elaborate on a brand image).

Apologies for the long winded and incoherent rant, I just feel that a few agencies have their finger firmly on the pulse right now by actively understanding how human beings work and have a fantastic creative talent. The combination fuses and creates what we’re seeing now which is a colourful revolution against functional and structured advertising.

Start thinking about which ads fall into which camp, it could be an interesting debate in your interviews.

Anton xx


Anonymous said...

I nearly fogot to include this one, fantastic to watch

Anonymous said...

I think the ovierall point you make is a good one, but I really have to disagree with a few of the above comments. Not sure you can compare the Cadbury Gorilla and the new Sony walkman ad. The Gorilla ad may be all about a great piece of branded entertainment but the Sony ad is in fact firmly focussed on a USP...The fact that the sound quality of their product is superior to that of the much lauded i-pod, hence 'Music like no other.' Also, surely the Andrex Puppy is symbolic of the unique softness of their bog roll?!

Anonymous said...


Always good to have differing comments on here, that's what this is all about really so thank you.

I'm not too sure that in a passive state on the couch would have person take out those two views, I think it would be far more simple than that i.e. I was entertained by Cadbury Gorilla and I was entertained by Sony. There isn't any real functional/technical USP rammed down people's throat. But I do see what you mean in that it is closer to the product due to being about sound whereas Gorilla is much more removed.

I probably didn't articulate the post correctly. In terms of Andrex, again yes it's semi close to the product being soft etc but I really don't think someone in passive TV states conciously make the leap:

Puppy = Soft therefore Andrex = Soft. I strongly believe that people don't care enough to make even those simple conclusions (consiously anyway). As a result I cited the puppy example as it is known to work on an aesthetic level which then aids the symbolism you mention.

But that's just my humble opinion.


Anonymous said...

thanks for the clarification. I'm certainly no expert, given that I joined the industry a few months ago, just an opinionated bastard...

I certainly see where you are coming from. I think you are right about the conscious/subconscious link. Often the USP (like the superior sound) is very much at the back of the consumers mind (if there at all). What most take out from an ad like the SOny Walkman spot is that it is great entertainment. If at the same time they subconscously form the opinion that SOny's sound quality is superior to that of its competitors then that is a bonus for the client.

In terms of the Cadburys Gorilla spot, I think it works so well because even though there is undoubtedly some research and planning strategy behind it, at its core it really is a piece of branded entertainment (questions of this resonating with the brand personality are secondary- the fact that this ad could clearly work with a hell of a lot of brands surely says it all.) However, is it not the case that we love this and think Fallon and Cabral are brillinat because there was a gap in the market for somethink like this. If every Tom Dick and Ford jumps on the bandwaggon and wheels out dancing monkeys etc etc ads of this kind will surely achieve les cut through.

Did any of that make sense? I'm not so sure. It has turned into a rant and i'm too tired to look through it. Feel free to tell me to shut up and that I'm wrong


Anonymous said...

Hey Dylan

Thanks for your comments, we don't get that many so it's nice to get them when we do.

I agree totally, Gorilla is firmly in the branded entertainment, the Bravia trilogy would be more in the engagmement with an angle on the product benefit.

Fallon have pretty much led the way based on the way they work and their creative dept which not many agencies have so I guess they own this right now to a degree. Interesting to see if other other agencies now try and follow suit.

Why not send us your story of how you got in to advertising if you fancy it being published here. You can email me at:

Take care

Anonymous said...

Check out Adliterate to see that even Richard is now one of my emotional engagement pupils