Brad is the Pitts

October 16, 2012

When Chanel released a teaser picture of Brad Pitt appearing in their new Chanel No.5 campaign females worldwide swooned, however following the release of the full ad yesterday no doubt many have been left unsatisfied. Pitt is the first male in the fragrance’s 93 year history to feature in an advertising campaign and has reportedly been paid $7 million for his efforts. According to the man himself;

“What’s important to remember about Chanel N°5 is how revolutionary this fragrance is; when it was introduced, it broke all the rules,” Brad said. “N°5 has always been the most iconic women’s fragrance. That’s what I see being the appeal of this campaign; it goes beyond the abstract of emotion or beauty to evoke what is timeless: a woman’s spirit.”

Sorry what?

Following some truely iconic ads for the fragrance over the last few years, including those featuring actors Nicole Kidman and Keira Knightley,I really think this is a step in the wrong direction. As always we’ll let you make up your own mind.



Apple, Guinness and Nike are all brands who have all successfully, over time,  shown us who they are, without having to tell us.

Building Brand Equity

I’ve been involved in some interesting brand deep-dives recently, and the same thing has been coming up again and again and again. In a world of brand-savvy consumers who are crying out for authenticity, brands who are trying to build brand equity need to stop telling us who they are and start showing us.

A clever comrade in advertising arms argued recently that Dunnes Stores is an example of a brand that has been left behind in this regard. Dunnes tell us they’re better because they’re Irish. Is that good enough anymore?

Do we believe that something can be better by virtue alone of being Irish? Well, no, not really.  For that matter, we’re not really sure we can put our finger on what makes one supermarket ultimately better than another. There’s lots of things that matter to us, including buying Irish. Ultimately,  if Dunnes want to centre their communications around the fact that they’re Irish, that’s fine. That’s as good an attribute as any upon which to hang your hat. But we’re a culturally distinct people; there’s a rich supply of Irishisms there to exploit without having to simply say ‘I’m Irish’.

Simply put, I trust myself, so if I interpret what a brand does and says and sum those things up as that brand’s identity, I believe myself. The job of the brand owner is to nudge the customer towards the right conclusion. 

My feeling is that there is a vast spectrum on this, which goes all the way from “Buy me, I’m X”, to a brand so perfectly identifying and embodying X that they never need to talk about it. Yes, getting it right is where the magic is; Apple, Nike, Guinness, these are all brands that perfectly embody their own values, and appear to do so with ease. Some brands, (Jamie Oliver?), try just a bit too hard and come across as a little contrived. In the modern world of branding, the ‘Buy me, I’m X’ brands come across as cheap and desperate and do little to help their own brand’s health in the long run.

Apple don’t talk explicitly to consumers about their brand values, (Simplicity, ease of use, user focused, fun & humour, memorable and different, innovative, personalisation, coherency) they just are those things, and it’s reaffirmed in every single interaction we have with the brand. As a brand, you know you’re there when people use your brand as a descriptor for other things.  This, of course, is the Holy Grail, and achieving it requires confidence, courage and no small amount of investment.



Every day, we are faced with an overwhelming number of decisions to make.  We can’t possibly devote attention to every single one of them.

Most people have a few categories, which they are especially involved in. Some care a lot about the phone they buy, but couldn’t care less about the food in their fridge. Others are really involved in choosing clothes but when it comes to the car they drive, have little interest.

For categories we feel personally invested in, we make our decisions as maximisers. We find out as much information as possible and carefully weigh up each option to ensure that we make the best possible decision. In other categories, categories we don’t care as much about, we are satisficers.  It’s not worth our time to examine every angle. In these cases, good is good enough.

This is where Brands come in. We rely on Brands as time saving heuristics. Brands offer us a rule of thumb – they may not guarantee us the absolute best solution every time, but they deliver enough of the time, for us to comfortably rely on them. And we can apply our surplus cognitive energy to the stuff we actually care about.

So for example, I know if I’m buying a TV, that I can expect certain product standards from Sony, without having to do a load of homework around picture quality and refresh rates.

These brands didn’t build up this valuable collateral overnight however. They consistently delivered high quality products, invested in their brand and earned this positive reputation over time.

The beauty of this investment however, is that once this brand equity is established, they can then reap the rewards of brand heuristics in decision making.

Which Apple are clearly doing now, as illustrated above, with their iPhone.


As a side note:

The guy who made this video works in Best Buy who weren’t too pleased with him insulting one of their preferred partners Apple, despite the fact that he never mentioned Best Buy in the video. They insisted he remove it and when he wouldn’t, fired him. He reports on his Youtube channel that they have now asked him back – the issue is still ongoing.

This video has over 5 million views on Youtube so far. If I was HTC, I’d very publicly offer him a job!

So we all had a great night at the Radio Advertising Awards on Friday, none more so than our sister agency Cawley Nea who took home the Grand Prix.  Having a discussion later about the quality of radio creative, one of the party commented that the only way to forward the case of radio advertising, is to make it part of the culture. Strategy is all well and good, but it doesn’t impact much wider than management meetings. If you have a culture of creating great radio advertising, that’s what everyone does. Because when culture meets strategy, culture wins every time.

This is equally true in thinking about how businesses perform generally, in creativity, innovation, client service and any other desirable trait you’d like to promote.

Company culture is the sum of all the “this is the way we do things around here” type behaviours. It is the combination of leader personalities, the type of people they choose to hire and the relationships they have with each other. Strategies are a top down management product which can be developed and announced overnight. Culture is a collection of habits. It takes time to establish and time to change.

Our increasingly transparent world where companies can be exposed and embarrassed by vigilant bloggers and rogue tweeters, makes it even less feasible to separate company culture and brand identity. In our most recent wave of ID, we looked at the brands perceived by Irish youth as ethical and unethical. The results were telling. They were clearly drawing on much wider impressions of these companies to inform how they felt about “the brand”.

In the new order, marketing needs to be inbuilt, an intrinsic part of your company culture, to be credible. Everything about your company – how you treat your employees, your customers, your partners – defines your culture, and therefore defines your brand. As in life , as always, if you want to influence outside perceptions, you need to look inside first.


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