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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Changing Attitudes

This summary is based on Mike Hall’s typology of how advertising works.  Having witnessed the amusing spectacle of other UK based ad tracking companies tiptoeing around trying to use it without being seen to use it I reckon for the time being I can’t better it so will blatantly borrow.  Full credit to Mike Hall who can be found via If you’re developing the brand as promise then you will be using one or a blend of one of the following communications strategies.

Basically every communication achieves one or more of the following (but rarely all):

 It gets noticed: salience strategy

 It communicates a concept: persuasion strategy

 It draws the viewer into closer involvement: affinity strategy

 It changes the way people intend to behave: consideration strategy

Salience Strategy

All about getting noticed.  This is not that far away from Seth Godin’s work on the Attention Economy. All economics is based on scarcity.  Now the scarce resource is no longer goods but the time to choose between them.  Therefore any communications strategy that succeeds in getting more than its fair share of attention will win a strategic advantage whether or not the product being promoted is demonstrably better.  Benetton, Tango, FCUK have all used this to great effect.  The standard putdown is to say that it only works for silly things like fashion and sugar water. However my perception is that wherever this strategy has been tried in an overcommoditised, overadvertised market it has been effective.

Persuasion Strategy

We’re on safe ground here.  This is what communications is supposed to be about – it’s the one the punters use when they say how they consume advertising, and it’s the one the ad apologists turn to.  The issue here is how much people can take on, how much they retain and for how long.  But while there is an industry of worthy companies who carefully measure how to bundle up messages stuff them into people’s heads and to forecast how long the messages will stay there who am I to cast aspersions.  Persuasion based strategies are a complete waste of time unless you have a brand to hang them off (see page below). The great thing about a brand is that it goes on working when you have  stopped communicating.  Without a brand you are educating people to buy any product in the category not yours because they can’t remember who told them.
There are a lot of generous advertisers out there…

And the other issue is whether advertising or PR is best placed to do this job.  Peter Bigge at British Television Awards gave me a quote from Randolph-Hearst (immortalised in Citizen Kane) “Bad news is whatever someone doesn’t want you to know.  All the rest is advertising.”  PR has the tremendous asset that on the whole people haven’t yet tumbled to the fact that few journalists get around to properly researching anything, so the independence of journalistic coverage adds lustre to a well placed press release.  On the other hand when the boot is on the other foot the great thing about advertising is that at least the advertiser has the decency to pay for the space and to identify themselves so there is a kind of integrity there.

Affinity Strategy

Is one of the reasons UK advertising has had such a terrific run in the latter quartile of the 20th century.  No it wasn’t all about that terrific British sense of humour.  Advertising engaged with people, it treated them as more than consumers waiting for the next set of buying instructions and it created worlds in which they could participate.  This more than anything has enabled communication for commercial purposes to become a lethal component of popular culture. Affinity is the glue that sticks brands together and glues people to brands.  Unfortunately it doesn’t necessarily turn them into buyers.  They just like you lots and think the ads are great. I won’t start a debate here about whether people who like your communication are more likely to buy your product.  The two groups are coterminous but the connections between them are subtle dear reader. And there’s something in almost every research publication and every issue of Admap about it so I’ll move on.

Consideration Strategy

Cut the ads as art crap.  This is what we want.  Make ’em buy it.   I’ve put the Zyman quote in the quotes section about marketing being all about making people want stuff.  True, but there’s a huge difference between people saying they want or don’t want stuff and them actually buying it.  I once had the onerous task of explaining to the Product Manager of Uncle Ben’s rice why the annual attitude survey showed everyone thought his rice was terrific and preferred it when the sales figures showed everyone heading off to buy an alternative American long grain at half the price.  This is the big weakness with addressing buying behaviour through changing attitudes.  You have to use some kind of black box model: they don’t do what they say they’re going to do.  By the same token, people say they don’t respond to direct mail.  So why do we have a DM industry growing hand over fist with a 2% typical response rate?  You can at least achieve changes in claimed intended behaviour and in perceptions of the brand.  But don’t wait up…  Check out the neighbouring page to this looking at how planning CAN change behaviour.

And if you want some ideas and tools for developing Brand Promise then try the Brand Promise page.



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