TV Bar and the failings of financial institutions

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 4.21.38 PMAt a very swish lunch in the Constantia valley recently, the barefoot man was being taunted by tales of some delicious sauce and eventually proclaimed, hands over eyes, “stop, stop!” which immediately set one of our fine dining companions – the very smart lady who foodies (rightfully) fear – off on a recitation as follows:

“…imagine that it was raining crispy delicious crunchy rice and toasted coconut..”

“Stop! Stop!”

“…imagine a river of milk falling into a chocolate whirlpool…”

Which was followed by a group recitation of “Imagine eating all of that – now!” and satisfied giggles revealing not only our shared devotion to chocolate, but also our collective age.  And the next question, obviously, was “Which chocolate was that ad for again?” And while one person remembered without hesitation, a couple of others backtracked through the ingredients featured and figured it out…

At which point I could not resist asking a question: why do you remember which brand that is for, but for most of the financial services ads, people can’t tell them apart?

A moment of reflection passed and then heads around the table nodded – “Yes,  like the beautiful one about the old man who goes fishing”, or the “one where the couple is reunited after the Berlin wall falls”. Indeed, but what brands are they for? To which the response, without fail, was “I have no idea.”

It’s a perennial problem, you see, that as consumers we often have animated discussions about adverts without being able to recall which products or brands they’re for. And from a brand point of view that is a total failure, the point of an ad, after all, is to sell more products to the right people. And it often comes as a surprise to people when you point out that an ad can be a great film, but still be a bad ad. Every great film that you can’t connect with a product or brand is a royal waste of marketing money and effort, no matter how beautiful or clever or funny or sweet it is.

Often the issue is one we call “borrowed interest” – that happens when the ad idea has nothing to do with the thing you’re selling, and you could actually tag a wide variety of brands onto the end of the ad and it would make no difference. What we’re always looking for in an advert is (here comes the jargon again) for the drama (ie. What actually happens in the ad) to be on the benefit of the product, and not on something at best tangentially related. And then for the benefit to be clearly related to the specific brand in question. So a good ad should be memorable and, when you remember it, you should automatically remember which brand it’s about too.

It’s a fun thing to do (ok, yes, I’m a nerd) when you see an ad (which is more often online than on TV these days) to ask yourself if you know what brand it’s for before they tell you. If you do, you and the brand win.

It’s also a really helpful guideline even when you have a small business or a startup and don’t have any money for fancy TV ads – whatever you DO say about your brand, whether it’s on your website or on a Facebook post or even when you’re just telling a friend about it – remember to try and focus on those ideas that are most unique to you, and will help people remember you amongst everyone else. Is your name Oak Tree Caravans? Then for a South African audience you should be telling everyone that you make “Oak Tree Caravans – awesome caravans for normal okes.” (“Okes” for any international viewers, being a colloquialism for good old South African guys). And if you are an eco-conscious accountant, then you should be telling everyone that you like to “Keep people in the green, not in the red.”

And if your brand is called “Momentum” for example, ahem, then are your adverts about gaining and keeping momentum in your savings and investments? If not, you’ve probably missed a chance to help consumers remember who you are rather than just being one of the many interchangeable financial services ads out there.  And yes, of course there is always complexity to deal with – this is a simplistic point in a very complex field that very many books and diatribes have been written about before, but it is also always worth revisiting the very basic ideas again, often there is magic in there.

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