In 1982, Levi’s launched black jeans in the UK. At the time denim was invariably blue so Levi’s wanted to capture the rebellious spirit of those opting for black. The ad by BBH became a classic. But the strapline, written by Barbara Noakes, “When the world zigs, zag”, has relevance beyond fashion. Advertisers should heed the brand’s message: distinctiveness is a route to memorability. And that’s not just hearsay. After all academic evidence shows that brands benefit from subverting expectations. The original evidence comes from the work of Hedwig von Restorff in 1933. The paediatrician gave participants a list of text: it consisted of random strings of three letters interrupted by one set of three digits. So, for example: jrm, tws, als, huk, bnm, 153, fdy. After a short pause the participants were asked to recall the items. The results showed that items that stood out, in this case, the three digits were most recalled. This is known as The Von Restorff effect.
The coffee-pot whistles on a dreary Tuesday morning, and the TV hums in the corner. A quick look at the calendar reveals a cascade of meetings, whilst you discover your beloved flatmate has (yet again) done the last of the milk. It might push you to ask: What is the point? Such is the frenetic pace of our culture, its daily demands and dramas, that it’s rare we have a chance to step back and evaluate the meaning of things. What is it that we are really driving toward or setting out to achieve? To earn some money? But then, why? For a house, holiday or a wedding? A limitless supply of milk? But then what follows that? You’re not the first to ask.
Anyone who’s worked in this industry for long enough will have become almost numb to jargon and cliché. From “owning” calendar days of the year,(“how do we OWN Pancake Day this year?”); to consumers “feeling lost” in a consumer journey due to “a lack of a clear call to action”. But the most baffling cliché must be the notion that advertising has the ability to engage one set of consumers whilst simultaneously “alienating” another. We’ve all heard it. “We want to modernise and appeal to a younger audience, but we don’t want to alienate our existing customers”. “We need to speak to dog owners but we can’t alienate cat owners!”. “Alienation”. The definition of alienation is ‘to make someone feel isolated’. The feeling of isolation is an uncomfortable thought for anyone. Advertising, at its best, builds distinctive memories of brands in people’s minds.
To celebrate International Women's Day we asked some of the brilliant women in our network for their thoughts on two questions: Which women they most admire and why? (They can be alive or dead.) What advice would they give to young women today on thriving at work in the marketing industry? Here's what they had to say, starting with our very own chief executive, Gemma.
In 2016, a thunderbolt of MBA 101 struck the client side. That’s when several brands got vocal about their insistence that agency partners reflect the diversity of their consumer base (hat tip to HP, Verizon and General Mills). It seems embarrassingly obvious that consumer audiences (which are increasingly multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and female-dominated) would jolt clients awake to the enormous economic opportunity of marketing to them from a place of understanding. Yet two years later, the very memo-writers who sounded the alarm (clients) seem oddly quiet about their role in supporting their agency partners in diversity efforts. Agencies are pledging allegiance to The 3% Conference, Free the Bid, AdColor, See It Be It, Here Are All the Black People, MAIP, the Marcus Graham Project. They’re setting diversity goals, hosting unconscious bias trainings, widening their hiring pools, firing serial harassers, creating returnships, and more. Are you not only slow to join in, but slowing the progress?