Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Enthusiam Sells, Or, Iguanas With Hats In Argentina

If you can’t be enthusiastic about what you’re selling, you can’t expect anyone else to be. But there’s an upside to that argument, which is that if you can be enthusiastic, if you can genuinely, strongly want your client to succeed, that enthusiasm is a powerful tool.

People sometimes talk mockingly about an ad’s passion for product X or service Y, as though there is something wholly artificial about advocating for a client’s work. Sure, it is true in some cases. There are plenty of agencies who just phone it in.

But genuine passion for the task at hand – communication – is not the same thing.

I used to work in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, on a street team selling tickets to shows. I was pretty good at it. The reason was that whatever act I was selling on a particular day, there was always something positive to say about it. I knew the acts, I knew their shows – and that’s what came across.

I would be full of energy, excited to tell people about this show because I saw it last week and it was amazing and the guy is really cool and has this story about the iguana with a hat in Argentina and the mermaids and – you get the idea.

Being a genuine advocate for these people made my sales pitch so much more effective. People can sense enthusiasm, and trust it when it seems genuine.

Which is why you have to find a genuine reason to be excited about your side.

Here’s a great example of runaway enthusiasm changing everything for a brand. Lurpak butter got the Wieden + Kennedy treatment a while ago, going from a backwards dairy spread to the face of great food in no time at all. Before, Lurpak was seen as old-fashioned, dull, unhealthy – the product of an older generation. Butter wasn’t cool. Lurpak wasn’t cool. And why should it be? It’s just butter.

But that’s not what W+K saw. They knew that any brand is what you make of it. And any brand can have a deep emotional connection – if you make it work.

Lurpak is just butter. But why shouldn’t it be cool?

W+K could have done a series of ads that said “Butter isn’t so bad, butter can be quite nice, Lurpak is a nice kind of butter”. But there’s no passion there, no emotional pull.

(Apart from anything else, I’ve been told that the word ‘nice’ is basically the advertising equivalent to veal.)

The solution was to be provocative – not to offend, but to take a stance. It may only be butter, but it is reclaiming its place in the kitchen, and doing so with no apologies for itself.

“Good food deserves Lurpak.”

And there’s the key. The ads themselves are beautiful, engaging pieces of communication. But what makes them work is the brand identity behind them. Because it’s not about what Lurpak is – it’s about what Lurpak means. That is an emotional question, not one based on statistics. And thanks to Wieden + Kennedy, Lurpak now means great food, and pride in great cooking. And everyone knows it.

That’s the lesson here. There are no limits on which products can have an emotional pull. So find the emotion, find the passion behind your brand, and let everyone know it.

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