The Borgusky technique

Fairs Yakob, writing for WARC:

“When Alex Bogusky was creative director of the agency that bears his name, he insisted on being read the press release before seeing the creative work. If the press release was uninspiring, he would refuse to look at the work. Bogusky understood that the role of advertising is to make things famous.

In the ad-saturated environment of the noughties, the decade of which he was crowned creative director, the best way to ensure that was to make advertising generate its own PR.”

This reminds me of a similar technique employed by Amazon.

“Before Amazon developers write a single line of code, they have to write the hypothetical product’s press release and FAQ announcement.

Amazon uses this “working backwards” approach because it forces the team to get the most difficult discussions out of the way early (…). They need to fully understand what the product’s value proposition will be and how it will be pitched to customers. If the team can’t come up with a compelling press release, the product probably isn’t worth making.

It also helps with more rapid iteration and keeps the team on track, Jassy explained.

Jassy’s AWS team isn’t the only one that uses this atypical product approach: It’s institutionalized throughout all of Amazon, according to Brad Stone’s book The Everything Store”.

Sometimes bad ideas can be dressed up to produce passable work. But the underlying idea is still broken.

Starting with the PR or press release separates the idea from the execution. It forces you to asses the former without the distraction of the latter.

If you can’t excite your audience by communicating your idea in simple language, go back to the drawing board.

The three types of awareness

Brian Brydon writing on BBDO’s Comms Planning Medium channel:

Recall (a.k.a., unaided awareness, spontaneous awareness):

The percentage of your audience that lists your brand first when prompted with the brand category.

The percentage of your audience that can name your brand when prompted with the brand category and there is no limit to the number of brands they can name (i.e., Toyota Prius and the eco-friendly cars category).

Recognition (a.k.a., aided awareness):

The percentage of your audience that says they know your brand after being prompted with an explicit brand cue (i.e., brand name or logo).

Top of Mind Awareness:

The percentage of your audience that lists your brand first when prompted with the brand category.”

I think that, as usual, our industry has over complicated awareness. As you can see, each of the three metrics have multiple names. I prefer to keep it simple. I only ever use one name for each: unaided awareness, aided awareness and top of mind awareness. I propose that you do the same.

Two ways to position a brand

Mark Ritson writing on LinkedIn:

“That’s a shame because there are two ways to position a brand: about and versus. In the ‘about’ approach we promote the features and, occasionally, the benefits of our brand to target customers. Positioning is all about the company C, us, and the customer C, them.

The versus position is one in which we make it clear what we stand for to customers by highlighting the differences between ourselves and others.

In the other approach, the less common ‘versus’ approach, we still focus on what the customer wants that we can deliver. However, to communicate the message more strongly, we pick out a specific competitor and position our brand against them as overly and aggressively as possible. The point of the ‘versus’ positioning is not simply to aggressively slight your rivals; it’s more nuanced than that.

The versus position is one in which we make it clear what we stand for to customers by highlighting the differences between ourselves and others.”

Most advanced yet acceptable

Derek Thompson writing in The Atlantic:

“[Raymond] Loewy had an uncanny sense of how to make things fashionable. He believed that consumers are torn between two opposing forces: neophilia, a curiosity about new things; and neophobia, a fear of anything too new. As a result, they gravitate to products that are bold, but instantly comprehensible. Loewy called his grand theory “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable”—maya. He said to sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something familiar, make it surprising.”

I love that last line.

The big brand feedback loop

The following excerpt is taken from the article “Differentiation or Salience” by Andrew Ehrenberg (pictured), Neil Barnard and John Scriven as published in the Journal of Advertising Research in November/December 1997:

“There are also remarkable feedback loops and marketing-mix synergies in these relationships. The bigger brands are so much bigger because the promise of more advertising had slowly, and up to a limit, led to more shelf-space and display, to higher and more profitable sales, hence to bigger advertising budgets (and possibly less price-cutting) and to more shelf-space, etc, again. The benign spiral includes that the more marketing activity and display there is for Brand A, the more noticing the brand can again gain. Just seeing the brand around can reinforce its memorability and thus again its salience.”

It’s a virtuous cycle.

Big ad spend leads to more shelf space leads to more sales.

And repeat.

The bigger the brand becomes the more cash is required to compete.


This is how big brands are built.

Until now.

In Dollar Shave Club and the Disruption of everything, the strategist and analyst Ben Thompson argues that the internet is enabling smaller brands by reducing the amount of investment required to compete.

For example YouTube and Facebook are dramatically reducing the cost of advertising media placement. And Amazon is reducing the monopoly big brands have over the limited shelf space of physical stores.

Perhaps, at them moment, this argument is over egged.

But if, over time, dollars continue to shift from traditional to digital media. And sales continue to shift from in store to online. Then the way to build a big brand may shift as well.

Kaizen and the five whys

The following is taken from “Stop problem solving” by Gareth Kay.

“As part of its effort to reinvigorate itself, Toyota introduced the approach of kaizen (simply meaning ‘change for better’). Overall, this was about ensuring continuous improvement but one of its key tenets was the Five Whys technique. Taiichi Ohno [pictured], the architect of the Toyota Production System in the 1950s, encouraged his team to “observe the production floor without preconception. Ask ‘why’ five times about every matter … by repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.” He goes on to offer the example of a robot stopping. By asking why five times, the problem to be solved becomes clearer: no filter on the oil pump, rather than an overloaded circuit to which initial analysis would point. The ability to ask why until you can ask why no more is an incredibly important skill we forget far too often. When we do this, we begin to find the real, root problem we need to solve, rather than the symptom that is far too frequently the result of the typical problem-solving approach.”

Strategy vs tactics

The following excerpt is taken from a Seth Godin blog post titled ‘The difference between strategy and tactics’:

“Here’s the difference: The right strategy makes any tactic work better. The right strategy puts less pressure on executing your tactics perfectly.

Here’s the obligatory January skiing analogy: Carving your turns better is a tactic. Choosing the right ski area in the first place is a strategy. Everyone skis better in Utah, it turns out.”

Strategy is the long game. It’s the broad, overarching direction. It’s the big decisions. Tactics is the short game. The individual moves. The many, small decisions that move you towards the bigger goal.

Dave Trott puts it best:

The best strategists do the ‘what’ and let the tacticians do the ‘how’.

Cortical relief and the first-choice brand effect

The following excerpt is taken from the excellent ‘Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy’ by Phil Barden:

“In a study into the neural bases of decision making, German neuroeconomist `Professor Peter Kenning and his associates looked at brain scans of people who had been shown photographs of pairs of brands. These photos either included the person’s stated favourite brand or did not. Every time they were shown one of the photographs, each person was told to choose a brand to buy. There were two main findings. First, when a favourite brand was included, the brain areas activated were different to when two non-favourite brands were exposed. When the favourite brand was present the choice was made instantly and, correspondingly, the brain showed significantly less activity in areas involved in reflective thinking, an effect the scientists named ‘cortical relief’. Instead, brain regions involved in intuitive decision making were activated (in particular the so-called ventro-medial prefrontal cortex in the frontal lobe). In other words, strong brands have a real effect in the brain, and this effect is to enable intuitive and rapid decision making without thinking.

Secondly, this cortical relief effect occurs only for the respondent’s number one brand – even the brand ranked second does not trigger this intuitive decision making. The scientists call this the ‘first-choice brand effect’. One target we set as marketers is to be in our target consumer’s relevant, or consideration, set. This research indicates that the optimal target is to maximise the number of consumers for whom we are the number one brand – being in the relevant set is not sufficient to enable this intuitive decision making and, of course, no revenue is earned by the brand that was nearly bought!”

The types of advertising

In a recent blog post, Seth Godin described the two types of advertising.

“Two kinds, it turns out: Brand ads and direct ads. Brand ads are the unmeasurable, widely seen ads you generally think of when you think of an ad. A billboard, a TV commercial, an imprinted mug. Direct ads, on the other hand, are action-oriented and measurable. Infomercials, mail order catalogs and many sorts of digital media are considered direct marketing.

It takes guts to be a brand marketer.

What’s the return on a $75,000 investment of a full-page ad in the New Yorker?

What’s the yield on a three-million dollar Super Bowl commercial?

We have no idea. Brand marketers don’t do math. They pay attention to the culture instead.

On the other hand, it takes math to be a direct marketer.

What’s the yield on this classified ad? How many people used that discount code? How many clicks did we get?”

This concept of brand and direct ads has been expanded by Shelly Palmer (pictured above) who divides direct ads into two different camps:

“When asked about the “future of advertising,” I am always struck by the lay notion that there is a single thing called “advertising.” There isn’t. There are at least three different general categories of advertising: call to action, direct response and brand/lifestyle.

Continue Reading →