Frans Nel

Jul 12, 2020

4 min read

Hands Off! | #MyFridayStory №126

“Any fool can write a bad advertisement, but it takes a genius to keep his hands off a good one.” ~ David Ogilvy

Almost two decades ago, I was the head of marketing for a medium-sized company. Without a defined strategy, we were flying by the seat of our pants. Most of our projects and campaigns were in response to our CEO’s wishes and whims. Around this same time, a senior executive of a large international award-winning advertising agency had been courting our executive team.

The courtship had gone on for so long he often quipped:

“You’re the biggest client our agency doesn’t have!”

Our company had been successful through early innovations and disruptive distribution models. This played a large role in why our CEO was hesitant to invest in the brand. As the ad agency executive also pontificated:

There’s no burning platform.

Until one day, our CEO saw the light and decided to invest in the brand. We hired the advertising agency to develop the brand and grow our market share.

For the first of a few workshops with our executive team, the agency sent in a team of experts. Looking back, I realise some of the best strategists and creative thinkers in the country were in the boardroom that day. At the time, we had no idea of the level of talent working on our fledgling brand.

They investigated the entire industry in depth. They became knowledgeable about our industry in a matter of weeks. They found the movers and shakers and what they have been up to and compared us to them. They revealed our shortcomings and showed what we could do to fix them. They also showed us where we could take advantage of the competition.

They subjected all the brands in our market to their expert evaluation and analysis. Once they understood the landscape, the strategy fell into place. The gaps in the market became obvious and finding a solution to fill those gaps was a lot easier.

The agency presented their findings outlining every area we could capitalise on. One of the findings was, that although there was equity in the brand name, the brand design needed a revamp. They also suggested we add a new strap-line. This would further help to strengthen and reinforce the new positioning.

One of the products of the strategy workshops was a 1-page Brand Outline. It presents the key aspects of the brand for easy reference and guidance.

Our Brand Essence was:

“Challenging Convention.”

The Brand Tone and Manner we adopted was:

“A Little Cheeky. Credible with Attitude”

The advertising agency came back with work that can only be described as world-class. The re-brand of the logo using the old company name had presented some challenges. They navigated this territory like true professionals. They even went as far to include one of the CEO’s whims into the logo! They created an entire narrative around the new logo. Even more astounding, they managed to nail the brief on the first take!

The new brand was accepted and embraced immediately.

For the brand strap-line, the agency took a bold leap. To drive home our new brand essence, tone and manner, they suggested a strap-line of copy-writing genius. In line with the key elements of “challenging convention” and “cheeky,” they came up with the strap-line:

As everyone knows, shit happens. The agency felt as a short-term insurance provider, we could play on the words and the two cleverly placed dashes. This allowed us to ‘ get away’ with using the suggested language in the media.

We used humorous situations to reinforce that _ _ it happens to us all. The possibilities to leverage such clever copy-writing is enormous.

The amount of PR we received by using “_ _ it happens.” in our advertising and our promotional campaigns was overwhelming. Our combined marketing team executed many tactical campaigns. Using cheeky guerrilla marketing tactics at industry events and in the media, people took note.

Our brand recognition and recall shot up over the coming months and years. We were firmly positioned as a company willing to challenge convention.

Sadly, the campaign came to an end. A far too premature end. The strap-line was changed after only a few years when a new agency was appointed. It prompted the end of a legendary piece of copy-writing.

As my agency executive close friend likes to remind me with his usual sage advice:

“When you are just starting to get bored with your advertising, your brand, or your logo, the rest of the world has only just started noticing your advertising, your brand, or your logo.”

Have an awesome weekend! 😄

Thanks for reading, I appreciate it tremendously 🙏

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Originally published at https://www.leapfirst.co.za on July 12, 2020.