Be brave and tell the truth

Posted on August 9, 2010

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I don’t know why I was thinking about an obscure Dudley Moore film this morning. The only thing I can think that might have prompted this was the fact that he came to mind whilst I was eating cereal at breakfast. There are a number of cereals that use midgets in their imagery – I’m thinking ‘Snap, Crackle, Pop’ and ‘Frosted Lucky Charms’. The latter disappeared from UK shelves pretty quickly after its introduction – probably due to the fact that British kids (at the time) found the idea of a small Irish midget quite threatening, conjuring up images of terrorism rather than ‘magically delicious’(TM) breakfast thoughts. When you think about it, who wants to eat a food which promises ‘if you eat me, you’ll grow up… but not much’?

I digress, but not too far, because ‘if you eat me, you’ll grow up… but not much” would be a more truthful statement than ‘magically delicious’ and, who knows, maybe Frosted Lucky Charms would still be on the market today in the UK if they’d been a bit more honest. Anyway, the premise of Dudley Moore’s 1990 movie, Crazy People, was that Dudley’s character (an Ad Exec) has an epiphany and decides to be honest. In doing so he comes up with the strapline, “Volvos, yes they are boxy, but they’re safe” , his boss takes this as a sign he’s had a breakdown and Dudley is packed off to a mental institution where he finds love. In the meantime the advert accidentally gets published and is a smash hit, so Dudley has to come up with even more honest ads. Sounds great doesn’t it? Okay, it’s pretty poor – think a poor man’s ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ without the lobotomy at the end and you’ll get the picture. That said, Dudley’s character does come up with some great concepts:

New York tourism campaign: Ad concept #1 “It’s not as filthy as you think,” Ad concept #2 “There were fewer murders last year.”

United Airlines: “Most of our passengers get there alive.”

Greek tourism: “Forget France – Come to Greece. We’re Nicer.”

Crazy People

Crazy people make for rubbish movies

The fact is that, there is a lot of truth in the premise. For brands to work they have to behave in a similar fashion as to how they wish to be portrayed if they are going to be successful. In short, they need to be honest. If you want to be a premium brand then you need to behave in a classy way and your product needs to live up to the quality promise. If you position yourself as different then you need to be different. It’s quite simple.

Currently, the most truthful brand out there is also the most hated. Ryanair and in particular its honest chief exec Michael O’Leary (there is a definite Irish midget theme to this post today) is a brand built on honesty. For example, here’s Michael on the subject of refunds: [source] “We don’t fall over ourselves if they say… my granny fell ill. What part of no refund don’t you understand? You’re not getting a refund, so F**K off!”

Ryanair doesn’t promise you anything and so it is never going to fail to live up to an expectation it has set, because the only promise it makes is that you’d better not expect anything other than getting to your destination. They might as well load you into a giant catapult and fire you towards your destination and we all know if they were allowed to Ryanair would do just that.

But guess what, it’s also one of the most successful and certainly one of the most profitable airlines in existence.

So here’s to some more truthful marketing. I couldn’t help myself, here are some concepts which I’m happy for the brands in question to take up for free:

Wilkinsons: “The pikey’s choice for cheap tat.”

Argos: “We’re a catalogue company that can’t be ar$ed to deliver.”

Subway: “Underground is where you’ll end up if you eat our food every day.”

BMW: “The ultimate driving machine… for cutting people up in. Out of my way you losers.”

Butlins: “Can’t afford to go abroad.”

Gordon Ramsey: “Yes I use frozen food, but you can all F**k off.”

I’d love to hear some of your own ideas!

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Posted in: Marketing