Magazine article Marketing

Helen Edwards on Branding: A Flaw in the Logic

Magazine article Marketing

Helen Edwards on Branding: A Flaw in the Logic

Article excerpt

When it comes to marketing effectiveness, creativity and logic are not an either/or proposition.

Unilever's decision to prioritise 'magic over logic' in its future marketing efforts (Marketing, 26 October) is a reminder of our industry's predilection for polarity. In this scenario, the 'magic' guys are the ones in white; the 'logic' baddies are in black. Any kind of rapprochement between them, we infer, will result in output that is crushingly grey.

It is a theme explored in a recent polemical piece in Campaign, the ad-industry journal and sister title to Marketing. Under the headline 'Creativity is more that just a numbers game', the article takes issue with marketers whose focus is data and ROI. Nevertheless, it quickly runs into the very thicket it counsels readers to avoid, with its assertion that 'we know the most creative ads are also the most effective - that's been proved time over'.

How do we 'know'? Where is the 'proof'?

It is certainly a claim I have heard often, but no one has ever ventured the study that backs it up, to the extent that I have come to suspect that its existence is advertising's version of an urban myth. If the proof does indeed exist, though, it is presumably numerically based, with clear definitions of what 'creative' means, how it is measured, and how it is correlated with 'effectiveness' - which, again, would require its own definitions.

Such terminological and numerical precision might be anathema to those who argue for a more intuitive approach to branding and communications, but it would be of great service to both marketer and agency standing before a chief executive trying to decide whether to sanction the budget for a supposedly 'magical' piece of creative advertising.

Good marketers have long prized metrics that can help minimise the risk of poor returns on communications investment, and that includes Unilever, with its adherence to Millward Brown 'Link' testing. Yes, some of its lesser-starred agency teams have tended to blame such testing for dull creative work, but even they go quiet when told that the same tests apply to Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and its stellar output on Unilever's Lynx.

In any case, there is something even more fundamentally flawed in the logic vs magic rhetoric, in that the former is often a secret ingredient in the latter.

Some of the campaigns that awaken our imaginations and flick a little switch of recognition in our heads do so because they have a logical insight at their core. They succeed in surprising us, and making us exclaim 'Of course!', because they blow away the cobwebs of irrationality that have long been blurring our perception of the truth. …

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