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Storytelling creative marketing

Be Brave, Marketers, Be Brave!

We’ll explore why creative bravery is not just about coming up with the next Superbowl advert or challenger brand, but about courage to drive a viewpoint or ideas, products, services. It also means the right mindset and the power of saying yes, then figuring it out.


Episode 006 TOPICS:

  • Creative bravery - it's not just about ads, it's about purpose and differentiation

  • The power of saying yes, and backing yourself to figure it out

  • Tap into your superpower and be receptive  to new insights

  • Storytelling, storytelling, storytelling!

Across the Pond- Marketing Transformed.

6. Be Brave, Marketers. Be Brave!


Ever Tried? Ever Failed? No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.- Samuel Beckett


Eggs, Soap and Guinness


In this show we’re going to dig deep into the power of being, we’re going to explore why creative bravery is not just coming up with the next Superbowl advert or challenger brand, but to drive different viewpoints of ideas, right products and services. But also, that you’ve got the right mindset and the power of saying yes ,and then figuring out after how you’re going to do it. What do you think is the bravest launch that you’ve seen Sam?



I like the Lifebuoy campaign. A soap brand called Lifebuoy which was truly purpose driven. They were a leader in promoting healthy hand washing around the world, and moving on from selling soap to promoting healthy hand washing they found an opportunity to live into their brand purpose by championing this issue with the goal of changing the behaviour of one billion people across Asia, Africa and Latin America- going after one billion people is a huge and audacious goal. Their mission statement is that it’s so wrong that so many children die from diseases that washing hands can prevent so, they’re going to do something about it, they’re going to change the behaviour of one billion people by promoting hand washing and ultimately saving lives.

Some data that they saw- for example, in Indonesia: three hundred thousand children would die every year. Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer- most of the consumers are unaware of this and it can easily be prevented with hand washing and so they got into the role of providing resources, training, information. They adopted a village in 2013 and helped reduce problems with diarrhoea by thirty-six percent to five percent. So, that ability to save lives also commenced from selling soap right, but there was a true community benefit as well as a brand benefit, so that in terms of being brave is about how you communicate to the market and what you stand for. Even if you’re just the commodity of a bar of soap, you can set yourself apart and differentiate yourself by having an impact on the community.



Yeah, look I don’t think you can argue with that example at all, it’s an incredibly strong example. I think Water Aid based in the UK has been doing a lot of work in a similar area, a big partnership and sponsorship with Glastonbury for many years as well.

Taking a slightly different approach, for me in terms of the creativity perspective, I still remember those Guinness adverts, a decade of inspirational adverts that changed the way people talk about drinks let alone Guinness, I think it was a very different way of marketing an alcohol brand and really bringing emotion into it and trying to bring into it some creativity and  time and time again throughout pretty much the whole decade that it was almost a ‘must-see’ advert.

The other extreme I thought was perhaps worth talking about because it is an area that can be quite dull, one of the bravest was Egg which was a credit card brand that was marketed in a very different way- very bright, very colourful, very abstract. Even if you aren’t familiar with the card in the States, if you look at Slack it’s quite bright, intuitive, very simple in an energetic way. A, sort of, common language to get across what is a relatively mundane approach. Any other examples from the States that feel that might fit that?



Yeah I think there seems to be some awesome consumer insightful innovation from the financial services industry. LearnVest was one that seems to come to mind, it’s a financial planning company, founded by a female entrepreneur Alexa Von Tobel. They were selling personal finance information to millennials, they were subsequently bought by a Northwestern Mutual, which is one of the huge companies over here, in 2018 I think they might have shut it down but North  Western bought it for two hundred and fifteen million. So, that’s an example of an organisation that stood out, did things differently and just used the channels and the media and lured millennials in on the fact that they’re not interested in the traditional vestiges of banks and financial organisations, they don’t care about the big marble walls around  them- they just want solutions that work for them, so that was a good example.


Insurance Done Right



For me, Lemonade is an example of a huge inspiration that turned the market upside down. They reversed the traditional insurance model; they’ve launched huge in the US and I think also Germany, so they’re not all across Europe yet. They treat the premium like my money, not theirs, so they’re an insurance company that says: hey, this is your money, not the company’s money, everything becomes simple and transparent, they take a flat fee and then they pride themselves on how quickly they pay their fees and how quickly they can pay-out back to you and then give what’s left at the end of year to something you care about. So, it’s the idea that we’re not fighting you over your money, it’s your money we’re just helping you use it- and then we're going to give it to the causes that you love. Their mission is to transform a necessary evil into a social good, you know they designed Lemonade to bring out the best in people, while giving society a push for the better- that’s why they introduced the give back.

So, super, super simple to use and they’ve really learnt. I know they worked with a guy called Dan Ariely who’s a professor and he’s written a few books on economics; basically, you get a policy, you select a non-profit that you care about and once a year they tally up the unclaimed money left from you and others who chose your cause and they donate to the causes. For the non-profits in 2019 so far they’ve given away six hundred and thirty one thousand dollars- and that’s just not how insurance usually works, and it’s not what you think about with insurance since it seems to be all about you as a consumer and then what you care about vs. trying not to pay and ripping you off in that really negative mindset, so really it just means people are engaging in the category in a completely different way.



I think that’s a lovely example, they’ve taken the cautious, the detailed and quite frankly the relatively dull and made it into something we can all really identify with and raise a smile about it at the same time, so I think that’s really powerful. The example I used Egg, you know- very similar time to coming out with the original Guinness adverts about the surfer and the dancing horses and, interestingly, Egg is not around anymore, it went through a tumultuous time of mis-selling scandals and various other problems, Guinness most certainly is still around and growing stronger by the year and it just shows you that it doesn’t matter what the creative campaign is, without a strong product at the end of the process- being brave won’t save you.


What Is It to Be Brave?

Now both examples require a momentum from the top, even though at some point they’re going to require that creative team, or for the manger, to be brave. Breaking it down, what makes it brave? I think it’s about challenging the status quo, seeing it from a  different angle, being prepared to take risks, not having a plan B- and I think that’s quite an interesting one, and trusting your gut and facing down those negative voices, I mean there’s a good phrase from someone that I listen to, a guy called Nick Bradley who I know very well and he talks long about ‘burning the boat’ , having the courage of your convictions to actually burn the boat so that there’s no way back. Now, as marketeers I think it’s incredibly important that we continue to focus on the contingencies, and we ensure that we have it.  But you’ve got to be both feet in toward these to make it work.



Yeah, those personal mindsets or philosophies and behaviours that you can apply to yourself and you can layer  it up to think about broader ‘best practices’ for a category or campaign level. I was reading an article about the Effies and the most successful initiatives these programmes had and guess what, bravery was the single biggest driver of success.

It comes from four or five key drivers.


  • One of those was- focus on specific outcomes vs. having five or ten objectives; have one or two objectives so that you really know what you’re trying to deliver against, and then that increases the likelihood of you delivering against those objectives. Smart objectives really focused on what those outcomes are.

  • Base your work on research and insight, some organisations philosophy is: but ultimately having that insight on the consumer, really understanding the why behind what people want and need, so that research is the gold mine of resource and its fundamental.

  • You’ve got to be broad enough to reach as many people as possible but you’ve got tohave specific targets in mind. So, you have to have a consumer target audience in mind, but also not to be so narrow, it’s a very small component of people. Yes, you’ve got to be broad enough to reach them and you must be different in a relevant way not just different for the sake of different but differentiate to be meaningful for your consumers .

  • The key one is sticking to it over time and so it’s not a one and done for the short burst, you’ve got to have the premises of sticking to it long run in brand building, which we all know to be true in the performance marketing era where folks are saying: . Brand building over time is a thing that supports it, and you have to stick with it. I think the Guinness one is a good example that you’ve shown. Yes, they have grown over time that kind of links back to the brand or based in the core of the brand and you know what this proposition stands for.


So those four or five drivers are critical for success and bravery is core to doing those four or five things. I think in our current climate, especially when budgets are tight and people are very hypersensitive to the next thing, sticking to it seems to be harder now than it ever was in the past. That’s how I see it.



That’s a good one actually that reminds me of an example about sticking with it, I think of Twitter, do you remember about 2007? It was growing at light speed, but it was frequently crashing- but the team embraced it. They didn’t try to rationalise it, they just came up with a cute image of a whale being pulled up by eight birds, trying to humanise the fact that they were working on the problem, I think they started to call it the fail whale and it took on a life of its own and became a household thing. Did you know the service for Twitter went down for seven whole days in 2007, but then you think about it- it was growing faster than it could and all they could do was humanise a problem and ensure that everyone understood that they were working on it in the background. Now sticking to your guns there, I think that is definitely brave. A good friend of mine, Bruce Daisley is a head honcho for Twitter in the UK and Europe and  and he’s written a book called The Joy of Work and he talks about the office spirit needed to help each other succeed. And I think that’s an essentials part of being brave- you’ve got to know that people have got your back.


Being Brave About the Boring


Yeah, I love the idea of having that support and having the conviction to keep going and you spoke earlier about burning the boat and how you’ve really got to stand for it. I think one of the stories that really comes to mind from your stories is very early in my career I was responsible for a really boring category and my mission was to make it interesting and relevant. The category of all boring categories was vacuum cleaners- yes people this is really something you spend a lot of time thinking about- not. But actually it was just an observation that actually when most products in the entertainment field, or music publishers  come out with music they actually do pre-awareness, they do prelaunch efforts and there’ll be trailers, teasers, and just stuff to get you interested in the launch, so my approach to this category was to start six/nine months in advance, to use the product, get you  to engage with people in advance, which in 2019 seems pretty obvious but back in 2009 it was not done at all.

And creating a programme which  leverages bloggers and ultimately it got people engaged thinking who’s this dude trying to get interested in this category, who cares about it, but you know this is ridiculous, let’s just check it out, and that actually created the interest and the buzz and we got over a million visitors and this campaign generated huge social sentiment, thirty million impressions, hundreds of editorial placements because it was like this cheeky chappie, crazy person trying to get us to care about something that we don’t care about, but look what you did- you made us talk about something we didn’t want to talk about, and it just seems simple ideas  that you go all out for  and having the bravery and courage to push them, influence your colleagues, your stakeholders to actually stand behind it and as I say, if you can be a first in pioneer and make it happen, then you get to stand out, if you just follow the status quo then you just going to be status quo, unlikely to succeed, so that’s one of the examples.


Yeah it’s a good one I think, and if you go back to our previous podcast talking about superpowers, and I think you have to use all of those marketing superpowers that we talked around, you know storytelling, evidence, creating that vision, creating that connection, all of that is essential ingredients to creating that environment and being able to follow it through, yeah it rings true for me Sam- definitely.



Chris, when you think about your career, your history, when do you think you were bravest?


The Dark Side of Marketing


It scarred me for life, really. I can still taste the fear as I entered that board room. It was the early days of digital marketing, and I’d been brought into head of CRM for a large media company, and I was told by my boss what I was employed for- but then, working it out throughout the first three or four weeks,  I realised that we weren’t going to make any money out of it for about three years, and I was seriously worried for myself and for the company.

But there was this thing called HTML email, which was just on the horizon, so I re-pitched my job to the board, and I said look, I know you’ve employed me to do this but actually I think we should be focusing more of our effort on around creating a  marketing email, we could sell advertising around it and if you give me a campaign manager and a new email system I’ll turn it into a million pound business, and we did. And incidentally it was Bruce Daisley  of Twitter selling  it as fast as I could market it, and it wasn’t an easy ride I can tell you, it was incredibly scary, but however hard that ride was, and it was exhilarating as well, the scariest time was walking into that board room and saying I know that you think I’m here to do this, but I don’t think we should do that. They could quite easily have said well thanks for your honesty, you’re on your probation period and out the door, but they took a chance on me, and I sold that vision.

So, bringing it up to date now, anyone that goes to use Snapchat, Tiktok or, in the early days, Twitter, Instagram is in a similar position where you’re going to the establishment and saying you have got potential here, you have to trust me, these are media channels that you have to be on now and mark my words: in a couple of years they’re going to be important -and it seems funny talking about email now where it’s so ubiquitous, but back in the day it was really ourselves. This was Bauer, a media company, and that were doing email marketing. So, those are the scars that I’ve had from that Sam.




Having those connections, and using your voice, speaking up and speaking out- that’s the thing. It’s not good enough to have an idea written down, you have to be able to articulate that idea and put it out there- you can have a lot of hobbies, but unless you put it out there, to speak up and speak out, go after it, you may not succeed, but what happens if you do? Like in your case, you could have been shown the exit door, see ya later but you were told, go on then big man, you’ve got some data, get on with it. And the money was what the business was interested in and it played out and that’s a great example.


Yeah, so Sam, bring us back round.


Three Takeouts and Reflections


I’ll kick off

  1. Is storytelling between the examples that we’ve shared, your example and the one about the boring category in the world of vacuum cleaners and getting everyone on board, it was storytelling and having the ability to get everyone onside with you, not just the numbers but the facts and the inspiration and the passion- bring that to life, I think make it so compelling that you can walk into the board room and influence the highest level of the organisation through to the lower levels of the people that appear to be working with you, so story telling is one.

  2. Which you spoke about, that I think we’ve both covered, is not having a plan B , having the courage of your conviction, standing behind your idea and going after it. Being confident and believing in yourself and the possibility that it could happen.

  3. Which we talked about throughout is having insight. . Insight has to power all the work that you do, and that knowledge and the unique understanding of why actually from the insurance company and Lemonade’s perspective, is: actually, don’t treat it as their money, treat it as the consumer’s money- . They say: hey this is your money, and we’ll get it back to you as soon as we can and then give the rest to good causes, that is not what a normal insurance company sells you, so storytelling, not having a plan B and insight for me are the three things to take away from this show.



Yeah, that’s good. You know it’s so much better to stand for something rather than to stand for nothing, I think that’s a key thing that has bought out the people we’ve talked about across the podcast series, completely with you on that one.

So, in terms of what’s coming up next week, we’re going to start arguing actually- it’s time for a bit of healthy debate, about how we should be starting with ‘the how’ and the key capabilities of building an organisation to help you deliver that promise that modern marketing demands.

So, rolling your sleeves up and getting involved is critical now more than ever to ensure that the human factor is front of mind when doing that, we're thinking about the role that we play. And there’s plenty of debate at the moment about marketing automation or robots and how many jobs are going to be around in the future, but I think bringing it back around to that role that we absolutely fundamentally have now and in the future. 



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