Friday, 22 May 2015
Cravendale and the Thumb Cats
This is a fantastic example of making great creative and great strategy in tandem. Wieden + Kennedy London have worked for a while now with Cravendale Milk. Cravendale’s special feature is that it’s filtered, which gives it a better taste. Exciting stuff.
And yet oddly enough Cravendale has been a part of the national conversation for years now, with great, fun, engaging advertising. Still more so with the creation of a semi-recent campaign, Cats With Thumbs. You can guess what the premise was.
Cats have launched a series of horrific attacks on humans, cutting off thumbs as trophies in what will later be known as the Thumb War. Their leader, Lionel von Mewserschatz, has just declared: “Your people, your land, your balls of twine are now ours, here and henceforth.” In reaction, the –
OK so apparently that wasn’t the premise.
(Though I think we can agree that that would make a great movie.)
The real idea of course was that if cats had thumbs they would steal Cravendale milk. Which is a simple idea to be sure, but it was executed fantastically. Check it out.
What I want to concentrate on though is the strategic thinking that went into it. Because what they did was not just come up with a fun idea with the Cats With Thumbs concept, they seeded the idea in the public imagination before the campaign was even launched, to help it fit more readily into our minds and seem part of a trend, rather than just being a strange, eye-catching initiative.
They did it through unbranded content, with guerrilla marketing that was so guerrilla that the whole team was probably wearing camouflage throughout. By releasing a video weeks in advance showing a housecat which appeared to have thumbs, the Cats With Thumbs concept was spread around the web virally with no one imagining that there might be any deeper meaning behind it.
And so, when the actual campaign launched, it was essentially as though we had already seen the film before – we were aware and accepting and bought-in to the idea without even realising it.
Now that is some serious planning.
Seeding an idea amongst your audience might seem a little Machiavellian, a little disturbing in a way, but that’s not what this is about. It’s not forcing an idea on people. All it’s doing is creating familiarity with an idea, making the audience comfortable with a strange concept.
Comedians do it all the time – Jimmy Carr discusses this in a talk, how he builds a rapport with the audience at his shows, getting them used to his style of no-holds-barred comedy before ramping it up to its more shocking level.
Or take pop music. You might have noticed this phenomenon, when you hear a song and think it’s an old classic, only to discover that it actually just came out last month – but because you’ve been hearing it casually all this time it seems familiar. As if you had always known it.
That’s what WK did with Cravendale. They sowed seeds, and built an invisible rapport. That’s not just knowing your audience. That’s knowing audiences in general.
When you can make people understand your message before you’ve even said it, you’ve already won half the battle.