Tag Archives: brands

4 Ways Brands Should Act During COVID-19

It has been a small hiatus in updating this blog.

Here is a short update of what I have been up to: After 8 years in Singapore moved to Kenya and now Managing Partner in Ogilvy Africa. I also became a father. So that is pretty much from my end.

You might have also heard about this COVID-19 thing happening in the world.

I am not an epidemiologist, politician or healthcare professional.

I am marketer.

So therefore I have channeled my opinions and ideas to the one thing I know about:


In the below presentation I outline four ways on how brands can act during this uncommon situation.

These methods are:


It is challenging time for brands, but staying quiet or inactive is not the right way to go. Habits are changed and market shares reshuffled during this time.  Bold brands stand to win or at least lose less.


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Can You Really Have A Relationship With A Brand?

77% percent of consumers don’t have a relationship with a brand.
People in US & Europe would not care if 92% of the brands would disappear.

So if you want to “converse” or “engage” with your potential audience you have to be among the 8% of all the brands in the world. Then you are fighting for only 23% of all the potential audience.
That is quite a small pie. Reflected to that it is not that surprising that you don´t get comments on your brand´s Facebook wall.
Although you should never use yourself as the target audience, I wanted to map out with how many brands I have relationship.

Below is the list and the results were quite shocking as I should be brand enthusiast by trade:

Hobby-related: Driven by passion
Nike (Basketball, running, tennis)
Reebok (Crossfit, although I am likely switching to Nike because the passion runs deeper)
Technics (Mostly one product, the epic turntable SL-1200, which has already been discontinued. I own four though, so I should be covered.)

Appearance: Driven by vanity
I generally only buy brand clothes, but I would not cry a river if I some of those brands disappeared.
Watch: Omega (although I would not mind upgrading to Rolex and later to Patek Phillippe, if I ever had the money)

Technology: Driven by convenience
iPhone, iPad, MacBook: Originally using Apple product was driven by the quality, but I have to honestly say I don´t even know have the competitors reached their level. Maybe they have, but I am already locked in Apple ecosystem and I am too lazy to reach out.

Personal care: Driven by price
For deodorant I naturally use Rexona, because it is our client.
For the rest of the personal care I mostly buy the cheapest or what happens to be easily available.

Food: Driven by quality & ideology
I try to eat healthy food and things, which are not filled with sugar and artificial coloring. Generally the rule of thumb is then to stay away from the big brands as they are mostly filled with all the above-mentioned crap.

Indulge: Driven by the quest
For coffee beans, I want to get the best quality but it is not really correlated to brand loyalty. I want to test out different beans from all over the world, from different roasteries and made with different coffee machines.
The same goes with my weekend tipple. I am sucker for expensive gins (example of how advertising and branding works), but again I would not want to drink Plymouth for the rest of my life. So although I am passionate about my coffee and cocktails, the passion translates to constant exploration between different alternatives instead of loyalty.

Working in advertising, I am probably way more brand-driven than average Joe. I generally select brands and appreciate brands. What was surprising for me to notice was that how little brand loyalty I had across the board. Although consuming good definitely shapes my identity, the brands seem to play lesser role I had thought. Only non-exchangeable category was the passion (and only part of it: sports, music) and to some extends technology (I am just too lazy to change my whole digital device ecosystem).

Being a passion brand is hard and it takes time. For certain categories it might be totally impossible (do you feel passionate about your toothpaste?). It might be wiser for your brand to compete in other categories listed above. Or try to be like Apple, where your consumer is locked-in to your system and the cost and effort of getting out just feels too daunting.

No matter what you do, you have to be ready for aggressive competition. Brand loyalty is mostly myth and no brand is safe from consumer churn. Half of the people who described themselves as highly loyal to brand were no longer loyal a later. The reason for this is simple. Even though you think you are unique, there is always opportunity to upgrade (better quality, more features, and more bragging rights) or downgrade (cheaper).

To succeed in this competitive marketplace you must be realistic about how much (or actually how little) consumers care about your brand, constantly improve your products and attract new consumers. You will be losing your current ones eventually.

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I Love Advertising, Because I Love Lying

I think that Jerry Seinfeld´s acceptance speech in Clios this year, was the most appropriate representation of what we actually do. Jerry might just be taking piss on every ad people on the audience and it might be filled with evil sarcasm and irony. I did not take it that way, I think it spoke with clarity and honesty why our industry is so great.

Five important points from Seinfeld´s Clio speech:

1. “I love advertising because I love lying. In advertising, everything is the way you wish it was”

Advertising is not really lying, but more of massaging the truth. Advertising is like your wedding photo, job interview or date. You are not making blatant lies, but you are emphasizing your good parts and trying to hide the bad parts. People are not stupid and this is the way the game is played. Just like in life, it is not the most handsome guy getting the prettiest girl. Who gets the prize will be the

2. “I don’t care that it won’t actually be like when I actually get the product being advertised because, in between seeing the commercial and owning the thing, I’m happy, and that’s all I want.”

I know that the weightlifting shoes I ordered will not make me the most awesome weightlifter in the world (or not even in my gym). There are no shortcuts for hard work and when doing sports your whole life you know it. Having those increases my mood and eventually will make me better lifter. The motivation to buy things is much more nuanced than just showing off or filling some kind emotional void and misery.

3. “We know the product is going to stink. We know that. Because we live in the world, and we know that everything stinks. We all believe, hey, maybe this one won’t stink. We are a hopeful species. Stupid but hopeful”

This is what makes us human beings so great. Our hopefulness exceeds our stupidity, and latter we have plenty of. Majority of start-ups will end in bankruptcy. Majority of marriages will end in divorce. Majority of the diets will end in you getting fat or even fatter again. But the flipside is that there are people who are living happily ever after, becoming multi-millionaires and staying in shape. Our ability for rational thinking combined with total negligence of that same rational thinking makes us the most dominant species in this planet.

4. “I also think that just focusing on making money and buying stupid things is a good way of life.”

I think so too.

5. “I believe materialism gets a bad rap. It’s not about the amount of money. Nothing’s better than a Bic pen, a VW Beetle, or a pair of regular Levi’s. If your things don’t make you happy, you’re not getting the right things.”

My grandmother mentioned in my wedding that after a day of shopping I had happily shouted: “This is the life everyone should live!” On that same occasion my father reminded that when he first took my little brother & me to McDonald´s and I got my first ever Bic Mac. I commented that important event with the declaration: “This is the happiest day of my life”. No wonder I ended up in advertising.
Consumption makes us feel good and yes it gets bad rap for no reason. I still get happy when after meticulous saving, I was able to secure myself a pair of Technics turntables. Those have served me well for over 15 years and I still feel utterly happy about that purchase. How many other events you still savor after 15 years? I still remember getting my first jeans (Levis 501s). They were not just jeans, they were passage to adulthood.

With advertising we try to channel the inner need of consumerism to the brands and products we represent. We do not create any new needs for consumers. We do not try to make you feel miserable of not owning stuff, but rather make you happy when you make the right purchase. Consuming products and experiences can have tremendous uplifting affect to your mood.

That is a great and we should be proud of what we do.
At least I am.

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Build Your Brand on the Myth, Not Facts

I always use Moleskine notebook.

And yes I know it is quite silly. I know that Hemingway, Picasso or Van Gogh never used Moleskines, per se. Yes, they used some kind of notebooks back in the day, but not any particular brand. Moleskine just started to do notebooks “inspired” by those old notebooks in 1997. I found it out a while after I had filled my first couple of Moleskines with my brilliant ideas (emphasis mine). Of course, I had envisioned myself scribbling concepts like Hemingway wrote his punctuated prose. Finding out the truth did not stop me from buying Moleskine though. The notebooks were ok enough and it still send my aspiration message to others. Good story is interesting than boring truth.

Some brands should be built on myths not facts.

Notebooks were totally low interest category when Moleskine arrived. Which does not really make sense, because you produce high interest content in your notebook. It is disrespectful for your ideas to go on cheapskate notebook or back of a printed A4. There was opportunity to bring new product there to celebrate the creativity of the people (or their perceived creativity) and make some money at the same time.

Also as our life becomes increasingly more filled with digital devices, people have the desire to do & have something tangible. The rise of Moleskine has actually happened almost parallel to digitalization: starting from dotcom boom, to Web2.0 and the current mobile revolution.

If your product is good enough (if Moleskine product would be really inferior, no one would use it, no matter the story), your audience is not really searching for performance. You are searching for the inspiring story and a product which makes you feel good about yourself.

I have had numerous discussions with clients, who have also Moleskines. Usually being the party pooper planner I tell the real story of the brand. That has not been a reason to stop using Moleskine for anyone. We rather believe in a good story than in the reality. Having a Moleskine showcases certain desired attitude. It also shows that you are still falling prey to marketing communications. I find it as a very comforting thought: there is still need for our line of industry. People still need interesting stories to justify their consumption.

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