7 Universal Branding Lessons From Christmas Adverts

You’d not be alone in thinking that 2016 delivered some unexpected political surprises on both sides of the pond. Your customers may share that thought. But uncertainty is no friend to retail therapy, so to lighten the mood and reinforce economic prosperity, we’ve collected some of the outstanding moments — for better or for worse — as distributed in video format by the forefront U.K. brands doing their best at storytelling this holiday season.

While entertaining to watch, you may also benefit from pairing several observations that apply to strategic thinking for SMBs / SMEs and enterprise organisations — we all need a laugh at the moment! Have you seen Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot Christmas advert?


Here are our favourites and others that miss the mark. Yet, lessons are learned all around.

Do you agree? Did we miss any?


1.  Brand Personification

Aldi is a leading global retailer and one of the world’s largest privately owned companies with over 7,500 store locations. But that hasn’t stopped them from adopting a brand voice in the form of an animated three-inch-tall carrot who desperately wants to meet Santa. A sure fire winner due in no small part to the theme song from “Home Alone,” the one-minute rhymed narration has had 1.8 million YouTube views in its first four weeks. Short and sweet.


Takeaway: Give your brand an irresistible personality. Humanize your brand, give it an authentic voice, enable connections with the character your brand embodies. Think of enduring 20th century mascots such as the Jolly Green Giant and Ol’ Lonely, the Maytag Repairman with nothing to fix. Consider 21st century successes like the sexy Old Spice Man and “The Most Interesting Man in the World” by Dos Equis.




2. Confusing Branding

For the holiday voice of Sainsbury’s, James Corden sings, “The streets are chaotic, the shops idiotic, there’s a queue for the queue…” Weirdly, it’s an animation about a frazzled dad stuck on a delayed train (“It’s a catastrophe! I’ll never get it done!”) who perhaps never heard of online shopping. We’re not sure what mileage Sainsbury’s gets out of 3:35 minutes of highlighting the hassle of Christmas shopping.


Takeaway: Don’t stray off message. To elevate your brand, stick to the core messaging so consumers can quickly see the call to action. Like too many different fonts and colours on the same page, a message can easily get lost in the shuffle…especially during peak times such as holidays and back to school. Be clear, be consistent, be focused, be unified in your messaging.




3. Feel Good Branding

At a rather lengthy 2:10 minutes, John Lewis’s Christmas Advert 2016 takes a risk that viewers’ attention won’t wander. However, there’s not a chance, as viewers really do want to see how this story concludes. Featuring the family pet, foxes, badgers, squirrels and hedgehogs, we see animals enjoying a secret midnight trampoline romp. With extensive social media and TV tie-ins garnering a remarkable 21 million views and counting, it’s less of an advert than a short movie clip with an uplifting soundtrack (“One Day I’ll Fly Away”) about Buster the Boxer. Highly shareable — and directly associated with the store’s toy department — it’s a distinct pull away from last year’s lonely, elderly man “sadvertising” theme.


Takeaway: Emotional branding has huge appeal. To successfully tap into creating a bond between brand and consumer is the most effective connection of all. Get it right, like John Lewis does here, and you’re golden. (Bonus: Word-of-mouth and shares are guaranteed!)




4. Branding Content Without a Point

Tesco chooses to introduce us to yet another “typical” shopper annoyed with the season’s chores. We get to hear the thoughts running through her mind (“It’s only November and my clothes still smell of Bonfire”) as she becomes overwhelmed by a mental to-do list, rendering her frozen behind the shopping trolley in mid-aisle. We certainly get a sense of place (the uninspiring inside of a Tesco store), but what’s the story line? The only point made comes at the end (for any viewers that have hung around) when she speaks Tesco’s tagline aloud, “Nah, bring it on.” Did they actually think this advert would get many shares?


Takeaway: Like any good story, your brand message must grab your audience’s attention in the first few seconds, or they’re gone. Many video views will be made on mobile and a good percentage[1] will be seen in public places with the volume turned off, so a woman standing still by her shopping cart cannot maintain audience interest.




5. Branding That Spins a Classic

Marks & Spencer re-purposes an age-old story, this one is about Santa and Mrs. Claus on Christmas Eve, and re-tells it with a modern spin. You needn’t have the Hollywood budget and Oscar-star studded cast that M&S can afford in order to accomplish something similar. The result is a compelling, contemporary tale with a feminist twist that some viewers are calling, “a hundred times better than John Lewis’s,” in the 2016 Christmas advert annual parade. Some 7.3 million views so far for “Christmas With Love From Mrs Claus.”


Takeaway: Dress up a classic tale is usually a good storytelling idea. Mrs Claus in a red sheath dress and high heels delivering gifts in her own helicopter works incredibly well. The advert manages to also provide a call to action that is on point for the brand, once we see what’s in the gift box Mrs Claus leaves under the Christmas tree.




6. Branding to Surprise and Delight

And the winner is…Heathrow Airport, connecting with everyone in their advertisement, “Coming Home for Christmas.” Anyone who has flown home for the holidays can identify with these two elderly teddy bears making their way from arrival gate to meeting point. Take a close look at Edward Bair’s passport — he’s 71, just like Heathrow Airport. Stay tuned for the surprise ending; there’s a lovely surprise.


Takeaway: Making authentic connections to human emotions are any brand’s surefire success. LHR does everything right in this year’s ad. Not a department store, not a supermarket, Heathrow Airport is the glue that speaks to both travelers and their hosts coming home for the holidays, so most everyone can relate to this tearjerker, even without the soundtrack.




7. Branding From Our House to Yours

Lidl Ireland packs a lot of emotion into one minute with “Homecoming.” See behind the scenes as a lovely, but unassuming family, prepares the country house and Christmas supper for a recently widowed Grandpa as guest of honor. At one minute, the length is perfect. No words are needed — go ahead, watch it without the sounds and see that it can still work.


Takeaways: Again, emotional branding that leaves people with a strong feeling is the hot button here. Will they smile or cry? That’s your choice. When you create material that’s so compelling that it’s eminently shareable, your viral brand is massively strengthened in customers’ hearts and minds.




Questions you may ask yourself about branding lessons from the pros:

  1. Does my brand have a strong brand promise?
  2. Have I fully communicated that brand promise well?
  3. Does my brand have a personality? Does it align with my product or service?
  4. Have I used my brand persona to grow audience beyond my base?
  5. Does my brand receive more than its fair share? Or does my brand under-perform?
  6. How do I know if it’s time for a brand re-fresh?


Want to clarify your brand promise, develop your brand personality — standout more effectively to increase your sales? Then take a look here at our online eprogramme which walks you through step-by-step ‘How to Build Your Brand’.


Alternatively if you want some in-person professional direction to build your brand then drop us a line to [email protected] or give us a call T: +353 1 8322724 (GMT).

We’d be delighted to help.


Find out ‘How to Build Your Brand’ with the Personality Profile Performer™ programme



[1] https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/need-to-know/try-this-at-home/85-percent-facebook-videos-watched-without-sound



Brand Strategy: 6 Lessons Learned – Tourism Queensland’s Amazing Campaign

How do you get 53.9 million page views by 8 million unique visitors in six weeks while generating a 60-minute BBC documentary and 6,000 news stories worth $US165 million in free coverage?    


Turn a media campaign into a job search, was the response for one of the most successful brand campaigns ever. Tourism Queensland’s 2009 “Best Job in the World” campaign provides a stunning case study — and it was all done on a relatively modest budget. We take a closer look to determine six ways the brilliant brand strategy employed here is applicable to brands outside of travel and tourism and can be scaled up or down to suit your brand and resources.


First, we’ll look at the product and its competition. Let’s say you want to go on an island adventure  holiday. What springs to mind? The Caribbean, Hawaii, the Seychelles and Maldives, perhaps? Islands of the Great Barrier Reef were aiming for that kind of top-of-mind-awareness among global experience seekers in their eight key country markets.


Tourism Queensland consulted ad agency CumminsNitro in Brisbane as the recession hit new lows. They determined the only solution was to capture public interest with something that seemed too good to be true and eminently shareable. In fact, they said, don’t just visit this gorgeous place, live here. And we’ll pay you, too. 


Why not promote an international search for the best job in the world?



The Campaign


The Challenge: Create International Brand Awareness


For Tourism Queensland officials, the islands of the Great Barrier Reef were the product. Substitute your brand here.



The Budget: Small


A budget of $US1.2 million for a global campaign was appropriate for developing the brand strategy and creating multiple print ads in seven languages, placing these as classified ads on recruitment pages of newspapers in selected markets around the world, creating a YouTube channel with compelling content together with a Facebook, Twitter and Myspace presence and a landing page for job applications.


No fixed budget is required to model this campaign, which doesn’t require international reach to be successful. Scale it to suit your brand needs. A city-wide or nation wide ‘job search’ brand campaign can be extremely effective too.



Best Job In The World Print Ad 

 Image via www.teq.queensland.com



The Idea: Offer a prize that’s not a prize. Make it a Job


Call it “The Best Job in the World” and buy classified ads in newspapers in the key markets around the world. The position? Vacant Island Caretaker. Job responsibilities? Clean the pool, feed the fish, collect the mail, explore and report back. Salary? $AUD150K for 6 months. (Accommodation and transportation included.)


Message: Anyone can apply. And they did…





The ROI: Priceless


On day one of the launch, the landing page received 4 million hits an hour, beating out Google searches. By the end of six weeks, 1.4 million applications were received. 34,684 one-minute video job applications included one from at least one person in every country in the world, including Vatican City. Worldwide media attention supplemented the reach to an estimated 3 billion people. 



Tourism Queensland Hamilton Island Caretaker 

 Image via www.teq.queensland.com



The Top 6 Takeaways


Social media evolves quickly. When Tourism Queensland brainstormed in 2008, Twitter had only 6 million occasional users. Facebook pages for business were “nice to have,” an afterthought. 



Levi's Girl Job Ad 

Image via www.levi.com 



Mirroring Tourism Queensland, at the start of 2011, Levi’s launched a Facebook search with crowdsourced voting for the next “Levi’s Girl” selected to model and be the online voice of the brand for six months in a job based at headquarters in San Francisco. The following year, #iamlevis hit Instagram. In an article about the latter campaign, Esquire magazine wrote, “Will someone explain to us what the hell Pinterest is?” Need we mention Snapchat, Periscope and Meerkat?



Lesson 1: Be Everywhere


Integrate social media to deliver real results. Tourism Queensland had fully integrated all their key brand marketing elements on and offline, including a website, print advertising and public relations. If you want to maximise your brand reach you must integrate social media across multi-device, multi-channel platforms to tap into viewers wherever they are, fostering sharing. 






In 2010, Procter & Gamble introduced the Old Spice guy on TV to appeal to men’s fragrance buyers (the women), but when ad agency Wieden+Kennedy plugged into shareable channels YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, sales increased by 107 percent.



Lesson 2: Be flexible. Be bold


Hard times call for tough decisions. For a luxury brand, fewer consumer dollars directed at discretionary spending during a global recession was felt even more deeply by a long-haul destination with strong appeal to youth.


“The Best Job in the World” campaign had a built-in deadline six weeks after launch, which meant gaining agreement for pouring the lion’s share of the entire year’s budget into a single campaign conducted in January and February.



Lesson 3: Review and Repeat


Extend reach. Tourism Australia re-introduced the campaign in 2013 to involve more states in a single voice by expansion into six regions. The 2013 re-launch of “The Best Jobs in the World” acquired 60 strategic partners, including Virgin Australia, STA Travel, Citibank, DELL, IKEA, Sony Music and Monster.com.






What about the ‘losers’? Tourism Australia Director Andrew McEvoy said, “We’re now going to capitalise on the enormous interest in this campaign by working with Virgin Australia and STA Travel to sell holidays and working holidays to those who missed out on one of the six best jobs.”



Lesson 4: Be Ready and Prepared


User-generated content has its challenges. According to Chris Chambers, digital marketing lead in Queensland, they were unprepared for submissions wildly above estimates, not to mention crisis management due to the demands that mass media attention garnered. 


In addition to watching nearly 35,000 videos, some 20,000 emails required responses. By creating a URL for shared content, as Tourism Queensland did with the video job applications, anything can be posted.


A brand must be ready with both policy and people to curate, post content and manage content.



Lesson 5:  Surprise and Delight


The evolution of social media for brands means that the interactive aspect of brand response takes on immediacy far beyond what happened in 2009. Early campaigns such as “The Best Job in the World”  and the guy from Old Spice have taught us that brands must develop marketing plans to engage with consumers, surprise and delight, drive sharing via brand evangelists and ambassadors and work with social media pros to maximize impact.






With an eye-watering 35 percent of the lingerie market, Victoria’s Secret has the world’s top models under contract and hardly needs a hand. Yet, in 2009, they launched a nationwide search for the newest runway Angel to represent the brand. The online and media presence are closely aligned to the retail stores. 



 Victorias Secret's Angels

 Image via Cyril Attias, flickr 2.0CC  



Lesson 6: Crowdsource Content


We’ve been hearing that content is king for several years and the crown remains securely in place. However, not all content is created equally. User-generated content resonates more loudly, drives distribution, creates word-of-mouth, prompts engagement, builds loyalty, gets shares that maximize tapping into free networks run by other people. As a bonus, social media activates mass media.

Here’s the million dollar question, where and how do you think you could take the learnings from these various examples discussed and integrate them into your branding strategy? Maybe your brand needs a complete overhaul and revitalisation with a strong rebranding strategy to give it a new lease of life.


Regardless of your business size there are opportunities here which even the most modest budgets could potentially leverage to great effect — with some solid strategic thinking and creativity.


You may also like:


Destination Branding: The Key Essentials for Success


Brand Profiling: Top 6 Components to Creating a Strong Brand Personality


Branding Amazon: 3 Lessons to Learn for Your Brand Success


Entrepreneurial Branding: 5 Top Tips for Brand Success


World Cup Branding: What Can You Learn from the World Cup Campaigns?


So, what do you think?


• Does your brand need repositioning or revitalisation and would a ‘job search’ brand strategy work for your brand? Full-time or interim?


• What is the most desirable aspect of working for your brand?

• Does a ‘job search’ brand campaign fit with your company brand culture?

• Would user-generated content work well for your brand?

• Where can you harness the best resources to develop your brand strategy, execute the plan effectively, get the required return on your investment and ensure all your brand collateral is cohesive, both on and offline?


Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!



World Cup Branding: What Can You Learn from the World Cup Campaigns?

Much like the Olympics, every four years the World Cup captures the attention of the globe—and global marketers. World Cup branding is a powerful way for businesses to elevate their brand profiles and strengthen brand visibility on a global scale.


But the branding techniques used by companies during World Cup fever don’t have to be confined to once every four years. Here are some branding lessons your business can take away from the latest World Cup marketing campaigns.


Take A Risk With Something Different

World Cup advertising sponsorships aren’t easy to come by—they’re highly limited, extremely costly, and competed for fiercely. Only a handful of big brands manage to score these coveted sponsorships. Non-sponsor companies, therefore, usually arrange for star-studded branded advertising that conveys support for the game and suggests affiliation.


 Nike Swoosh Logo

Image via www.nike.com


Nike, who wasn’t a sanctioned World Cup sponsor for 2014—though competitor Adidas was—managed to grab an early win by going against the trend. The company created a video, released right before the start of the tournament, that broke all the rules: it’s animated (though some of the characters are futbol celebrities), it never directly mentions the World Cup, and it’s a whopping five and a half minutes long—nearly twice the maximum length of three minutes that’s usually recommended for customer engagement.




The video, which is really a mini-film, uses subtle and strategic product placement throughout. The theme of the video’s story is “risk everything”—and it’s a risk that paid off significantly for Nike, who garnered over 65 million views and experienced more user engagement than its sponsored competitor, with less effort.


What can your business learn from “The Last Game”? When you take risks and deliver something unexpected, your brand benefits.


Be A Good Sport

When it comes to sporting events, especially global tournaments like the World Cup, passions can run high. Everyone will have their favorites, but not all of them can win. Brands in particular need to carefully monitor their support for one team over another, and be cautious when posting their sentiments in public spaces.


KLM Airlines learned the hard way with what happens when you offend your audience with your fan sentiments. The European company tweeted about Mexico’s defeat to the Holland team with a stereotyped picture of a mustached, sombrero-sporting figure next to a departure sign, captioned with the words “Adios Amigos!” The tweet went rapidly viral in a negative way, incurring backlash from the online community that included a profanity-laced attack from Hollywood A-List actor Gael Garcia Bernal tweeting his 2 million plus followers that he’ll never fly KLM again! Though KLM soon deleted the tweet, the damage had been done.


Gael Garcia Bernal Tweet


The takeaway here is to choose your brand alignment carefully, and be a good sport when it comes to wins and losses. Your brand sentiment should never offend your customers.



Link Your Offline and Online Campaigns Together

The most successful global brands present a consistent customer experience throughout all aspects and representations of their brands. One of the best ways to maintain consistency is to create links between various campaigns that will drive customer engagement on multiple channels.


During the World Cup, several brands strove for integration across channels, from television to social to mobile. Global auto manufacturer Hyundai created a particularly successful integrated World Cup campaign with television commercials that called on a popular internet meme and created a user-friendly Twitter hashtag to continue the theme online.



The video incorporates the “because something” meme that’s frequently used on social media and pop culture websites. While the subject is the Spanish team and their 2010 World Cup win, the advertisement is universal, with just one line of subtitled dialogue and the rest of the story told in actions and flashbacks. It’s funny and endearing, and the use of the #BecauseFutbol hashtag helped to engage audiences and increase Twitter activity for Hyundai.


The lesson here is that a consistent and integrated brand strategy across multiple channels can help your business succeed any time, not just during global sporting events.


What do you think?


• How can your brand capitalise on global events, even without official sponsorships?


• What are some unique ways you can present your brand, or unexpected twists you could deploy over typical marketing themes?


• How carefully are you monitoring your brand alliances to ensure you’re not offending your audience?


• What are you doing to tie your online and offline campaigns together?


• Do you create a consistent customer experience across all channels, on and offline, with your brand?


Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!


Brand Curiosity! Is It The Most Irresistible Way To Woo Your Customers?

When it comes to attracting customer attention sometimes a little information goes a long way. Feelings have a critical role in the way customers are influenced and few are stronger than the pull of curiosity.


 Rules For Success


Curiosity occurs when there is a gap between what we know and what we want to know. For brands, this offers significant power when influencing customers because the drive for knowledge is not only a key motivation in the decision making process, it’s also instinctual.



Excite Curiosity to Grow Your Brand and Drive Sales

Utilizing emotions constructively can be key to increasing sales. California Pizza Kitchen created a campaign that engaged the customer by tapping into their natural curiosity. The “Don’t Open It” Thank you card was a coupon campaign with an interesting twist.


Customer’s received the card with their receipt. The card contained what they would receive on their next visit. It could be a free desert or $50 voucher for example. However they could not find out what exactly they would receive until they brought the card unopened with them on their next visit. If the card was opened before they returned to the store for their next purchase the prize inside became null and void.


 California Pizza Kitchen Thankyou Card


The intrigue is built around the promise of something of value. Teasing with the list of possibilities is critical to arousing curiosity. The success of the campaign was built around building curiosity but guaranteeing something worthwhile as the reward.



Use the Unexpected to Gain Attention

Red Square Agency did a test campaign using Facebook Ads to examine the pull of curiosity on customer behavior. They created four Facebook advertisements. Three were real advertisements, the fourth was a picture of a large grey-haired cat called Cous Cous with the tag “This ad features a cat: it has nothing to do with Red Square Agency but we hope you will click on it anyway”.


 Cous Cous Cat Advert


After a month, Cous Cous had received twice as many clicks as the other real advertisements. The success of Cous Cous was credited to the advertisement exciting curiosity with the audience. Whether those click throughs translated into meaningful sales or merely attracted attention is not clear. What the campaign did highlight was that sometimes it is the unexpected that can trigger the desired response with customers.



Invoke the Pull of the Unknown

All marketing communication strategies involve a certain level of intrigue; just enough information to make it interesting. When customers are teased with a hint of what is on offer the draw of curiosity can be irresistible. 


Steve Jobs 


During his time at Apple, Steve Jobs became the master of exploiting natural curiosity to the company’s advantage. Jobs would hint at a product demo, would leak a product proto type and then Apple would embargo all official information between the demo and the release.


 Apple Customers Queue Ny


By the time the product was released the world would be a buzz with bloggers and Apple loyalists interpreting and speculating as to the latest features and design. This practice consistently sees Apple receiving expressions to buy reaching far into the millions before their products are even released.




In October 2012 Sony released a series of mysterious advertisements called “The Arrival”. With no information or hint as to whether the ‘arrival’ referred to a game or to a new Sony product, the internet became awash with speculation.


Customers and critics alike generated an unprecedented level of attention sparked by curiosity and driven by expectation. It’s not clear what Sony were releasing but either way, they certainly had people’s attention.


Pushing information at the customer gives them the tools they need to make an informed decision during the purchasing process. However sometimes withholding critical information can invoke the pull of the unknown, and draws the customer to actively seek information putting the power back in the hands of the brand.

  Curiosity Teaser Advert


Use curiosity to your advantage, as part of your brand strategy, by limiting information and leaving something to the imagination.


• Can you invoke the pull of the unknown with your customers?


• Have you leveraged the irresistible pull of ‘curiosity’ to underpin some of your marketing campaigns?



Celebrity Brand Endorsement: 7 Tips to Getting it Right

Michael Jordan and Nike, Michael Jackson and Pepsi, Jennifer Lopez and Venus. For decades now branding giants have paid big bucks to get celebrities to endorse their brand and it’s not hard to see why. It can be a critical and very profitable part of your brand strategy.


 Jennifer Lopez Venus


From winning athletes to global superstars of the entertainment industry, the use of celebrities as brand ambassadors offers significant advantages to a company.


Celebrity endorsement is concerned with the strategic alignment of the celebrity brand and the marketing brand. A celebrity brand spoksperson can attract attention and generate emotional affinity with the brand in a way that may not be possible with traditional advertising.


 Michel Jordan Nike


A well-matched celebrity endorsement partnership can benefit the brand when the target audience transfers their admiration for the celebrity onto the brand, thereby allowing it influence their purchase decision making process.


As well as influncing the bottom line, aligning the brand with celebrity gives the brand greater access to more fans. The wider the fan base the larger the spread of the marketing message and the increased profitability of the brand.



7 Essential Tips to Getting the Right Celebrity Brand Match


Celebrity Brand Mismatch

In the same way brands develop a perceived brand image within their market, celebrities develop a public persona based on their professional achievements and public behavior. The closer aligned the brand image and celebrity image the better the return on investment of the celebrity endorsement.


Using a celebrity who’s public image, or what they stand for, which is incongruent or does not align with your brand’s message/image and what it stands for, will cause confusion and largely do more harm than good.



Damage to Reputation

The danger of using celebrities to endorse your brand is that any discrepancies in their personal life can damage the reputation of the brand. Celebrities as brand ambassadors should be looked upon as role models or inspirational people for your customers.


 Tiger Woods Tag Heuer


In associating your brand to the celebrity it is intended that their positive public image is reflected on to your brand. An athlete who tarnishes their reputation by using drugs instantly strips value from any brand they were endorsing. Tiger Woods lost millions in sponsorship deals when brands were quick to disassociate with him after his marital indiscretions.


 Tiger Woods Carlos Papi Baez 33778 Tiger Woods Sponsors



Brands Like Winners

Sporting heroes are admired because of their talent and performance. They are desirable brand ambassadors as they inspire audiences and positively influence purchase decisions, as long as they are winning…


There is a risk to brands when investing in a sporting partnership in case the athlete is ‘off form’ or performs poorly. The value of the sports celebrity to the brand is only as valuable as his or her performance in the field. The ROI often lies in the amount of media coverage they receive. A player who is not getting the pitch time offers little value to the brand.


Personality is also a factor. If the athelete is lacking in the personality stakes then they are of little value as a brand representative at consumer-facing events or brand-focused media activity.


 Brian Gillette Endorsement


According to a national survey, Brian O’Driscol is Ireland’s most admired sports personality, favoured by one in four irish adults. It is a combination of his performance on the field with his personality off the field that makes him appeal to consumers and the brand alike.


While the use of celebrity endorsers has been shown to improve brand recall, increase brand awareness and help develop brand image, the cost of signing up strong celebritiy role models as brand endorsers is often prohibitively expensive to small business.


Even by Irish standards, IRU players can command €10,000. for a single corporate appearance, never mind the cost of exclusive brand partnership deals. There are however a number of ways to align your brand with a celebritiy ambassador without bursting your budget




If you have identified a celebrity that fits with your brand identity and can increase your market penetration or reach with your target audience then gifting your product to that celebrity may be a way of gaining greater exposure for your brand.


Neff Headware is now popular street wear among snowboarders, surfers and other boarding customrs. Unable to pay for celebrity endorsement in their early days the company sent their merchandise to up and coming influencers in the sport. When the audience began seeing the brand being worn by their sporting idols the demand for the brand sky-rocketed with the company enjoying a 300% increase in revenue over the last 3 years.




There is a growing trend of getting aspirational celebrities on board as brand ambassadors by offering them an equity stake in the company. This allows the company to land high profile endorsement while maintaining cash flow. Furthermore, the celebrity has an incentive to continue their association with the brand and continue to offer promotional support.




Traditional celebrity endorsers were those that had wide audince recognition and influence. Some of the biggest influencers of the 21st centuary come not from entertainers and athletes but from those with a large online following.


 Fashion Bloggers 600px


Frequently bloggers have as wide and significant a reach as traditional celebrities and demand fees of far less to promote a brand. By redefining ‘celebrity’, brands can harness these people with an engaged internet following and use their online voice to fuel marketing campaigns for the brand.



Charitable Causes

Many celebrities rely on sponsorship to suplement their salary. Therefore remaining relevant and maintaing a positive public perception is equally important for their earning potential.


Celebrities that have had their reputations tarnished in some way often look to improve their public image by being associated with charities and non profits. Small companies can use cause marketing to find common ground with potential customers. For every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, the company gives a new pair of shoes to a child in need. This makes the brand attractive to celebrities in public disrepute.


Celebrity endorsement is not for every brand but it certainly broadens the potential customer reach for those that find a suitable celebrity match.



• Have you considered if your brand is suitable for celebrity endorsement?


• Does your brand strategy include elements that would be attractive to a potential celebrity ambassador?


• What do you think of celebrity brand endorsement?



Drop us a line we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Strategies to Successfully Penetrate Your Brand Into Irish Households

Early examples of branded goods “placement” in television shows, films and print date back nearly one hundred years so it’s clearly not a recent phenomenon. However Irish law has only permitted product placement since September 2011.


As a strategy for gaining your target audience’s attention is now arguably far more effective then traditional TV advertising breaks during and between programmes.


Consumers now have total control over what and when they view their content due to the mass market proliferation of digital video recorders. Viewers can fast forward and totally avoid watching your big budget TV advert at the click of a button. Unavoidably this consumer viewing change has had a significant impact on advertising success, not to mention loss of revenue for broadcasters.


Product placement has been used very successfully leveraged in American cinema and television, with brands achieving high profile visibility and targeted audience attention in a “captured environment” for many years now. Big brands have very successfully integrated product placement as a key part of their brand strategy with increasingly sophisticated visibility, which has both aligned their brand with the relevant celebrity, VIP or film/TV show genre.


Think closer to home with the huge success of the James Bond franchise where automobile companies such as Aston Martin and BMW may have invested substantial sums for their brands placement in the James Bond movies.


2006 Aston Martin Dbs James Bond Casino Royale Daniel Craig


Not only have they benefited from mass exposure to a targeted audience but their brands have become synonymous with one of the best known characters in film history. Their brand’s identity, and what it stands for, are now inextricably intertwined with those of the character of James Bond – suave, sophisticated, intelligent, worldly wise, a challenger and a thrill-seeker.


James Bond Bmw


It’s worth noting that BMW is now the world’s best selling luxury vehicle brand, outselling Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus.


While this is a much more overt example of product placement, equally it can be very subtle and understated too with the glimpse of a branded drinks can or bottle on a table, a billboard advertisement in the background of a scene, all of which are proven to have a subliminal impact on the viewer.


Film Billboard Ads


Brands in Ireland have been quick to take advantage of the new laws allowing product placement on national TV. Kraft Food’s Kenco coffee is now the “preferred” coffee of choice for presenters of TV3’s Morning Show and Midday, with branded mugs firmly in the hands of all on screen, albeit at an investment of €250,000 per year to Kraft Foods.


Kenco Tv3 


RTE have embraced product placement to the extent of writing it into the plot of Ireland’s most watched soap. Faircity’s Christie is now the proud owner of Carrickstown’s first Spar corner shop. This brand placement came complete with an official store-launch for the characters of Dublin’s famous fictional community! 


Spar Faircity


The product placement of the Spar brand in a show like Faircity is regarded as a winning strategy for all concerned. Spar get huge exposure beamed into the homes of their target audience multiple times a week, the audience see the brand in life like associations they can relate to in their own lives and referenced or indirectly endorsed by their favourite characters numerous times throughout each episode.


The producers and writers of the show benefit from a real-world authenticity that Spar’s involvement brings to their fictional town, and of course RTE are delighted with the revenue stream that the three-year €900,000 sponsorship and marketing investment by BWG bring to the broadcaster.


While the fees invested by Kraft and BWG may be far outside the range of smaller brands, the choice to place your brand on Irish television should be a real consideration as part of your brand strategy.


The subtle placement of products for much smaller fees can still create a large impression on your target audience with 42% of Irish television viewers claiming to “often notice products or brands that appear in TV programmes”. 


Campbells Soup Placement 


While still in its infancy on this side of the pond, the placement of brands on Irish television shows is still something of a talking point or novelty among Irish viewers. This suggests that there could be double impact for first-mover brands who integrate this form of advertising into their brand strategy. 


Apple House


It’s also worth noting too that it’s not always about the money. Apple topped the US charts for movie product placement in 2011. Unlike other brands however, Apple do not pay for product placement but rather provide the products themselves as a means of payment for displaying them in television shows, films, and print.


Ipad Modern Family


This form of product placement, a bartering of products or services for brand exposure, could offer huge opportunities to smaller or medium size companies looking to gain a larger national profile for their brand.


• Can your brand leverage the new possibilities offered by product placement in the Irish market?


• Does your brand’s identity and strategy align with that of existing Irish television shows and their target audiences?


• Does your brand have a positioning strategy in place?


What do you think of Coca-Cola’s cinematic product placement history shown in this infographic courtesy of “anyclip”?


 Coke Placement Infographic   

Using Guerrilla Marketing to Achieve Massive Brand Impact

Guerrilla marketing is not a new concept for achieving significant brand attention. It first came into use in the mid-eighties but in the last number of years it has become a much more widely used marketing ploy, for both small and global brands alike. Its attractiveness and increasingly effective use is largely due to the ease of online sharing.

According to Jay Conrad Levinson (the man who coined the phrase), Guerrilla marketing “works because it’s simple to understand, easy to implement and outrageously inexpensive. It is about achieving conventional goals, such as profits and joy, with unconventional methods, such as investing energy instead of money”.


Need A Topchop 


This makes Guerrilla marketing a particularly attractive marketing tool for small and medium size businesses alike, which are typically working with more modest budgets that usually prohibit access to large scale campaigns such as national TV or radio advertising.


Why is guerrilla marketing so effective? If nothing else it breaks through the monotony of traditional advertising. Today’s customers are so over loaded by multiple media channels that it often takes a special kind of advertising campaign to actually get their attention, never mind hold it long enough to make an impact.


Feed A Trolley


While an initial draw back of guerrilla marketing might have been the inability to aim directly at your target market, as is possible with traditional advertising channels, the popularity of sharing funny or interesting videos and images on the web has meant that even the smallest businesses are getting the attention of thousands, even millions, on the likes of Youtube. The numbers are then so high they are bound to hit some of their target customers among that mass audience!


While some larger companies use quite elaborate guerrilla marketing techniques to get attention such as this latest stunt from television network TNT. 



Some of the most effective guerrilla marketing campaigns have been the most simplistic, with companies thinking outside the box and playing on humour in order to gain publicity. 


Need A New Bbq


It must be acknowledged though that not all guerrilla campaigns have a positive effect on a company’s brand. In 2005, Sony launched a graffiti ad campaign to promote the release of its new PlayStation Portable device.

The company hired local graffiti artists to spray-paint ads depicting animated kids playing with the new video game console. The ads were featured on the sides of buildings in seven cities across the U.S., including New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Sony came under fire for the campaign from city governments, many of which complained the ads violated their own anti-graffiti initiatives and encouraged vandalism.


In San Francisco, local residents and artists took matters into their own hands, defacing many of the designs with anti-Sony sentiments and tagging one such ad with “Fony.” Sony defended the campaign, stating the marketing was meant to target the “urban nomad.”


Skoda Mercedes


When deciding to engage in a guerrilla marketing campaign you need to consider it in the broader context of your company’s brand message. It is not just about getting attention. It’s about adding another layer to how your customer thinks about, and engages with your brand. 


The campaign’s message must be congruent with your other marketing communications, all of which must be true to your core brand message. Maintaining consistency in your brand communications is critical and on no account should you risk confusing your customers or send them mixed messages.


If your business is in insurance and is strongly reliant on building customer trust than perhaps a guerrilla campaign is not the best tactic for you. If you think it fits with your company’s brand image then ask yourself: 

  • Would it fit within your current brand strategy?
  • Would it appeal to your target market?
  • How would it reinforce your other marketing activity?
  • Could it offer a point of differentiation over your competitors?
  • What call to action would you desire from your customers?


And most importantly, could you handle the potential additional business if the campaign went viral?



Branding with Authenticity to Achieve Massively Increased Market Share

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Hemingway and listening to his riveting  presentation about ‘The Dove Real Beauty Campaign, The Impact & The Aftermath’.


Dove Models Real Beauty


Firstly for those of you who don’t know, Mike Hemingway took over the worldwide Unilever Dove business in 2004, leading the team that created the famous Dove “Real Beauty” campaign. This now iconic work led to immediate sales increases, whilst pioneering new concepts in “brand equity innovation” and “new” mass media engagement and communication.


Dove Profits


In Mike’s opinion mass market advertising is largely dead. It lacks integrity and authenticity which with the rise of social media is increasingly important to consumers. They have opinions, freely express them and expect their brands to engage honestly. A brand can’t merely espouse values anymore, it must be truly authentic.


In Mike Hemingway’s opinion, if businesses don’t have real emotion and integrity they don’t deserve to be in business or survive anymore.


Dove Real Woman


Mike really emphasised Dove’s brand values and challenged more traditional thinking about brands, saying “a brand is an opinion about your category that the consumer must find both personal and important”. “A brand must express emotion and fall in love with its customer”, “treat them with respect, know them intimately, talk to them about what they want to talk about”



Dove’s mission was to broaden the definition of beauty. In researching their market, Mike and his team discovered some disturbing statistics which has since fueled the foundations for all their brand building and engagement strategies.


Dove Real Woman Curves


Perhaps unsurprisingly women feel at their least beautiful during or after childbirth, menopause and puberty. However more worryingly the majority of female children, teenagers and women are unhappy with multiple aspects of their bodies all the time


Dove Pro Age Diana


Every woman has a right to feel beautiful but the stereotypes the beauty industry has fed them for decades has made them feel otherwise in order to sell product. Over the decades, media has distorted and brain washed us to have a very narrow idea of how women should look, to be considered attractive or beautiful e.g. they have to be slim, have beautiful skin, style their hair and makeup a certain way etc.


Research found:

• only 2% of women like their appearance

• 68% of women feel worse after reading Cosmo

• a child of 15 will on average see 500 images a day of stereo typical beauty

• 60% of young girls at home using Facebook are hiding because they feel inadequate

but most disturbing and worst of all, 

unhappiness with the body typically starts at the age of 3 !



With the western notion of beauty, little girls are now future targets before they are barely out of nappies. No wonder such a colossal percentage of young girls are growing up with eating disorders and massive self esteem issues. 


Dove Children


Whether you are a consumer of Dove products or not, we are all aware of the incredibly powerful images, messages and emotions the brand has evoked. The women used in all the Dove campaigns were real women with real bodies, not size 0 models, and they all fitted within their healthy BMI indexes.


Dove Campaign For Real Beauty


In engaging with its market Dove has redefined beauty and the beauty imagery used within the public domain. Dove didn’t start something, it gave a voice to a surge of feeling that was already there



With raised awareness through a combination of print campaigns, videos and viral media, supported by unsolicited PR, Dove successfully created an international storm to government level, which still resonates with as much relevance today.


The longevity of the Dove brand campaigns is a testament to Mike and his teams success,  truly experts in branding.


How does your brand really engage with its consumers ?


Does it stand for something that matters ?


Does it have an opinion ?


Does it express emotion ?


What opinion do your consumers have about your brand ?


Get in touch, we’d love to hear your thoughts . . .


Great Ideas – Solving Problems & Building Economic Prosperity

I had the good fortune to attend Offset 2010, the annual conference for the creative industry, in Dublin this weekend and suffice to say it exceeded expectations.


The back-to-back programming over the three days included a rich and varied choice of very high calibre speakers, many of which are international icons in their chosen fields of expertise. As an event intended to excite, inspire and challenge those of us who work in this industry, it definitely achieved that on a variety of levels.


Offset Speaker Images


The three speakers who most impacted on me included Scott Dadich – Creative Director Wired Magazine and Executive Director Digital Magazine Development Condé Nast, George Lois – an Advertising Executive and Designer widely regarded as being one of the greatest innovators in advertising and Lance Wyman – a inspiring Designer who is credited with helping define the field of graphic design, and is a specialist in branding and wayfinding systems.


A brief bio on each of these individuals and their achievements, will give you some insight into why it was such a privilege and inspiration to hear them speak.


Scott Dadich oversees the design, photography and production for Wired Magazine coupled with being the lead executive responsible for the building of digital editions of Condé Nast titles for electronic reading devices like iPad. A global publishing entity, the Condé Nast stable of publications includes household brand names such as Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Epicurious, Condé Nast Traveller, Reddit and The New Yorker to name a few.


Wired Covers Obama Mstewart


It was intriguing to hear how he’d worked with the creative team in Wired Magazine to adapt the publication for electronic delivery, all of which was initiated long before iPad came to market. Wired’s reader app for iPad, when introduced in May 2010, became app of the week within days of its release and was downloaded approximately 100,000 times !


Wired Covers Asugar Pixar


Dadich is among the foremost speakers on contemporary publishing and technology and one of the most dynamic creative directors in the industry. He’s the only magazine professional to have won both the National Magazine Award (NMA) for Design and the Society of Publication Designers (SPD) Magazine of the Year award three consecutive years in a row: 2008, 2009 and 2010. He’s also received more than 100 other national design and editorial awards, including 50 gold and silver design and photography medals from the SPD.


George Lois with a career spanning five decades, is widely regarded as a pioneer, innovator and advertising genius, the superman of Madison Avenue, to quote New York Magazine !  A larger then life character and legendary profanity spewing ad man (which he more then lived up to on Saturday) George Lois has a visceral instinct for communication, with messages that are delivered in a nano second. The atmosphere tangibly sizzled with the passion of his delivery at 18:09 on Saturday evening. Its fair to say we were riveted to our seats and the hour past far too quickly.


Mtv Logo


He put MTV on the map with “I want my MTV” campaign, brought the Tommy Hilfiger brand to the international stage and renamed/relaunched Stouffer’s frozen foods as Lean Cuisine. He’s best known though for his near 100 covers designed for Esquire Magazine which are regarded among the most memorable propaganda imagery in any medium and certainly the most provocative in the history of the magazine industry. He’s also author of nine best selling books.


Esquire Covers Warhol Kenne


Describing himself as the “crossover guy” who’s successfully leveraged as much from graphic design as he has from guerilla advertising tactics, even now he’s still an undiminished tour-de-force. In his 79th year and an unconstrained figure of roaring fire and sharp humour, it’s difficult to imagine what it really would have been like to work full time with such ferocious energy when he was at the height of his career. 


Esquire Covers Binwoman Nix


Lance Wyman is another man with an incredibly distinguished career spanning over four decades and a winner of countless awards too. He’s a prolific graphic designer best known for his work in brand design, packaging and wayfinding systems. Wyman is most noted for his design of the 1968 identity, entire stadia and communications collateral for the Mexico Olympics, which although designed to be of the moment (groovy minidresses included), remains one of the most enduring icons of 20th century graphic design.


1968 Mexico Logo


Lance Wymans branding and wayfinding systems also includes work for Washington DC Metro, the Royal Saudi Airport in Jeddah, the LG Arts Center in Seoul, the American Museum of Natural History in New York and pedestrian skywalks in the cities of Calgary and Edmonton in Canada. Time magazine listed his work for the Minnesota Zoo as one of the ten best designs of 1981.


Lance Wyman Mexico 68


A warm approachable man, he was unassuming and gently humorous as he shared insights into his work and some of his most remarkable projects with us. Lance Wymans many awards read like a roll call in design “Oscars”, including from the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Society for Environmental Graphic Design, Art Directors Club of New York and the Milan Triennial. His work has also been published in the New York Times and plethora of magazines including Life, Time, The Architectural Forum, Progressive Architecture, Graphics, Print, ID and Communication Art to name a few.


So having listened with rapt attention to each of these iconic individuals speak, generously sharing their insights, experiences and opinions, what did I take from them individually and collectively ?


Each man has powerful individualism, both in their characters and work ethic, which is clearly demonstrated in the results each has achieved. None would settle for mediocrity or plagiarism or “group grope” as George Lois so aptly put it.


To have a future you must have a healthy economy and to have a healthy economy you must have great ideas and imagination, a message perhaps more potent in our current climate then ever before.


Exceptional graphic design is the transformation of an idea into an amazingly big message, which communicates in a nano second to its target market. To quote George Lois, and I did mention his language was consistently colourful, “If you don’t get it immediately, its a piece of s–t !” It must have “culture busting creativity”.


Professional designers across all their different disciplines are innate problem solvers, contributing their communication skills, knowledge and expertise to help make money, given the freedom to do and the will to make it happen.


Visual and verbal expression are indivisible and design that really works must:

• catch the eyes

• capture the mind

• warm the heart

• have lasting impact


Without doubt, real creativity can solve virtually any problem and each man, in telling his story, mentioned challenges which may have floored less creative, persistent or resilient individuals.


Great design can be an engine metabolizer for economic prosperity, driven by laser sharp ideas which support new developments and change, resulting in tangible benefits both now and into the future for the greater good.