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The American TV series, ‘Mad Men’ is not only a fascinating sociological study of the world of ‘free love’ and political incorrectness of the 1960s (can you believe how everybody smokes all of the time, and how the women in the programme are seen to fulfil only supportive roles), but it also provides a fascinating historical perspective of the evolution of marketing over the last 50 or so years.


The 60s marked the emergence of the “Era of Mass Marketing” facilitated by the arrival of supermarkets and mass media which meant that a manufacturer needed to communicate with the consumer in order to attract them to his product. Advertising provided the most potent form of connection and given that the majority of the products were relatively new, it was sufficient to go out with a simple demonstration of how the product worked, plus just a hint of the benefit to the user.


In a very short period of time the number of similar products began to make differentiation critical. In some cases this could be achieved by design and innovation, but in many cases the products performed similarly and it was up to the marketers to find a way to differentiate them. Enter Al Ries and Jack Trout with their definitive book, “Positioning the Battle for Your Mind”, which even today remains a classic text-book on the importance of ‘owning a space or a gap in the mind of the consumer’.

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Published in Branding
Thursday, 13 December 2012 12:45

Brave clients get what they deserve

Brave clients get what they deserve

The great thing about a brave client is that they can scare you with their demands. I mean the clients that are driven by the commercial imperative to inform and inspire. The clients that want something that is both strategically smart and creatively unique. These are the clients that make my job so much harder, and my work that much better.


Telkom Business is a brave client. They have a huge story to tell to a blue chip audience of deeply interested businesses and organisations, all of who are very invested in the future growth and success of the telecommunications industry in SA. This is an audience that is hungry for growth and development, but at the same time looking for the kind of secure infrastructure and reliability that they can build their own telecommunications strategies upon.


So when it came to positioning their future offerings due to be released over the next twelve months to this select audience, Head of Communications, Mala Suriah and CEO Dr Brian Armstrong asked us to come up with a way to dramatise the presentation in a unique and memorable manner.


A real creative challenge with a clear communication objective – what a pleasure.


After you’ve mined and exhausted all of the comparisons, metaphors, endorsements, graphs, graphics, animations and anecdotes that festoon the liveliest PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi you are often left with the feeling that you’ve missed something. All the elements of the story are there, the headlines are concise, the visuals are compelling, the graphics and animations are cool, the videos rock, and nothing is missing, except that certain … what is it?


I suggest that it is what we call ‘Physical PowerPoint’. It’s that moment in a presentation where some surprising, delightful, or even disturbing manifestation of the message comes to life and smashes its way past polite attentiveness and blasts its way into living memory.


Sometimes this can be as simple as the presenter stepping away from the podium, or interrupting his metronomic stride up and down the stage, or otherwise breaking the rhythm of a practised delivery, but most effective is when you break the convention and push through the comfort zone and invite a new level of participation beyond passive observation.


As a quick but relevant aside, one of my biggest regrets in life [there are many] is that I missed a PowerPoint presentation by lead singer of the Talking Heads, David Byrne a few years ago in the Royal Albert Hall. To this day I don’t know what he talked about, I don’t know how many slides he used or what was on those slides, but I am sure that he had something so compelling to say that not even PowerPoint could stand in his way.


Unfortunately most people that make presentations are not rock stars like David Byrne, but in a time where housewife bloggers can become blockbuster novelists I do believe that there are ways to turn fifteen minutes of ‘lame’ into so many minutes of fabulous engagement for anyone with a good enough reason to climb onto a corporate stage.


The way we achieved this with Dr Brian’s presentation was by suddenly supporting his presentation with modern dance. A group of eight dancers - each carrying an icon of communication media – literally and physically converged around the anchor point of fixed line telecommunications in perfect choreography with his oration.


This was not easy to achieve but it was delightful to experience. And this is the other – and perhaps the most important aspect of client bravery – the leap of faith that they take after the pitch of a potentially exciting but totally untested idea.


When a client gives you that kind of trust, you can only repay it with your best work.


For more information, visit www.mannmademedia.com or call

Published in Events
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 12:58

More on the Subject of Branding

More on the Subject of Branding

During the course of my tenure at Wetpaint Advertising I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of graphic design. Some came from junior designers, some came from our clients themselves, or from major agencies whose work we had to adjust for clients we had recently taken over.

It's easy to spot a great advert. A great advert gets the message across in a simple, easy-to-process kind of way that entertains and amuses at the same time. It's a big idea advert that leaves the viewer knowing more about your product, and more importantly, stays with the viewer long after the advert has been viewed.

A bad advert simply doesn't do any of the above. It's the advert you page past to get to the stuff you really want to see. It's the advert that you forget more quickly than an amnesiac on a morphine drip forgets the positioning of his limbs.

Below are a few things for you to keep in mind while designing your next advertisement. And remember, the true test is always in your own customer's response to your advertising...

  1. Borders scream 'READ ME' — coupon style dashed or straight line borders around your ads will increase readership.
  2. Get a little curvy — keep the text aligned if necessary, but try get the border to be designed in a circle — in a square and rectangular world, yours will definitely stand out.
  3. Black on white, and not the other way around. You see it all the time — copy-heavy text with white text on a black background: this is proven worldwide to decrease readership on text heavy marketing by 50% and more.
  4. Make your headings stand out — blue and then red are the most powerful — and the most profit pulling.
  5. White background with black text always pulls best response — second choice is yellow background with black text.
  6. A font of wisdom — Verdana or Arial are most widely received for body copy — Tahoma for headlines and subheads.
  7. Use what you have — Times New Roman and Courier New for body copy have been researched to deliver the best results.
  8. Punctuation is everything, ALL CAPS DOES NOT WORK rather use initial caps (first letter of each word in caps). Also test in heads and subs using only a capital on the very first letter — the rest all in lower case.
    Initial Caps: If I Wanted To Write A Sentence...
    Regular: If I wanted to write a sentence...
  9. Keep those columns in check — both online and off. It makes for easier reading and lessens the chance of getting lost in the text.
  10. The 11 point font size receives the most favourable readership and action in the USA. Again, everything above needs to be tested with your product or service in your market. It is important to note that each consumer group has their nuances; however, the aforementioned guidelines will help you to tap into the consumer mindset and produce a more memorable ad.
Published in Branding
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 10:22

Brand New Storytelling

Brand New Storytelling

As a young playwright in London I learned the commercial impact of poor storytelling when a theatre producing one of my more experimental pieces cancelled the run due to audience absenteeism.
The same rules apply to corporate communications – if people wouldn't pay for a seat, they won't buy what you're telling them. They may sit there and appear to be present if the event is mandatory, but their hearts and minds will be stubbornly absent.
There are a few aspects of this commercial fact that may be of interest to brand marketers.
One of my first exposures to South African consumers was a satirical comedy review that I wrote and directed in the early '90's. After one of the shows, a brand manager offered me a commission to 'write a play about Melrose Cheese.'
Being unfamiliar with the concept of corporate theatre I laughed it off at the time, and only took it seriously when I got the first fifty percent of the fee in my bank account.
What I subsequently learned about the engaging power of corporate and industrial storytelling has stayed with me - in the right conditions, a processed cheese can have the emotional range, comic potential and dramatic power of near Shakespearean proportions.
So how do you begin to recognise the story potential of your brand?

Brand as Character

Every brand has all of the ingredients of a good story. Brand characteristics define how a brand will behave in certain situations. When the brand is clearly defined and authentic, a marketer and their audience intuitively know what to expect from that brand, and any deviation or 'uncharacteristic' behaviour is notable and even suspect.

Brand Muscles as Story Pillars

In terms of SWOT you can define the strengths and weaknesses and opportunities and threats faced by your brand in the ever-evolving backdrop of the competitor environment.

Brand as Protagonist

Competitors are antagonists out to destroy your brand and steal its supporters. Put your brand up against its most dangerous and powerful competitor and you can instantly sense the bristling beginnings of a thumping great yarn about to unfold.

Brand as Action

A brand has goals and objectives and most of them even boast lofty visions and near impossible missions that need to be accomplished. How far is your brand in achieving these goals and what real obstacles is it facing that it has to overcome?
These brand assets are all the staple ingredients of any good story. Add a fresh angle, genuine insight, and a compelling narrative and you have the essentials for the kind of engagement that your audience would happily pay for in a cinema or theatre.

So how do you assess the potential success of a piece of corporate storytelling?
1. Make sure that the people telling the tale of your brand have been successful in the world of commercial storytelling. People that have only ever made corporate creative tend to lack creative rigour, reproduce familiar formulas, and produce a competent mediocrity that fails to fully engage audiences.
2. Make sure that they have an intimate appreciation of your brand and its unique characteristics. Broad understanding and shallow assumptions result in clichéd storylines and caricature.
3. Make sure that they understand and respect the audience that they are addressing. As a marketer you may not be the target audience that your brand story needs to engage. Don't underestimate their ability to appreciate and understand good storytelling.
4. Make sure that the story is true. Most corporate storytelling is remorselessly two-dimensional, singularly positive, falsely upbeat, un-dramatic, facile and trite. This is why so much corporate storytelling fails to engage or convince an audience.
5. Make sure your audience is satisfied but not stuffed. What you leave out is as important as what you put in. No brand story is a movie or a novel that can be enjoyed in one sitting; every brand story is a series of scenes or chapters that are constantly rewritten by context.
6. Don't substitute cliché for comedy. Comedy is born out of conflict, it lives in the gap between expectation and experience, and it thrives in the collusion between an authentic brand and an engaged audience.

Published in Branding
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