Why Emotional branding and Behavioural economics are so tightly associated with the marketing of sport.

I’m going to share an experience with you that made me realise I was so completely immersed in a brand that even though I thought I could wean myself off it, almost completely exclude it from my active pursuit of life, entertainment and cultural consumption a single shot, like an alcoholic, brought me right back to an almost preternatural state.

A state of dependance.

My following of Hibernian Football Club is not, of course, preternatural because I’m not from a ‘Hibby’ family.  I wasn’t wired before birth to scream 7 – 0 as my first words.  And I haven’t indoctrinated my kids into the ‘Hibby’ way.

But for many years it was part of my Saturday ritual with friends; beer, fags, football (the Hibees), beer, fags and a Chinese Take Away. That’s what I did.

Then inexplicably, I stopped.  Family got in the way, golf got in the way, theatre got in the way.  Ticket prices got in the way.

“You’re no a proper fan.”

“You just turn up for the big occasions.”

Yes, all true.  Guilty as charged.

But it changes nothing.

Because it became clear to me on a wet and windy  Tuesday night, last week, that I remain completely consumed by the emotional strength of this magnificent brand.

Some of the explanation can be found in Behavioural Economics theory and its explanation of emotional branding.  The words of Dan Ariely from his paper, Behavioural Economics: An Exercise in Design and Humility, is quite apposite..

“There are lots of biases, and lots of ways we make mistakes, but two of the blind spots that surprise me most are the continuous belief in the rationality of people and of the markets. This surprises me particularly because even the people who seem to believe that rationality is a good way to describe individuals, societies and markets, feel very differently when you ask them specific questions about the people and institutions they know very well. On one hand, they can state all kinds of high order beliefs about the rationality of people, corporations, and societies, but then they share very different sentiments about their significant other, their mother-in-law (and I am sure that their significant other and mother-in-law also have crazy stories to share about them), and the organizations they work at. Somehow when we look at a particular example of life up close, the illusion of sensible behavior fades almost instantly. And the more we look at the small details of our own life, the more our bad decisions seem to multiply.”

Of course Behavioural Economics is designed to ‘Nudge’ people away from bad or dangerous decisions.  But what could be more attuned to Ariely’s theory than football supporting.  Sensible behaviour is jettisoned the second we get into the (fan) zone.  We over indulge.  We endure extreme weather conditions.  We neglect family life for our own gratification.  We spend way more than rationally the product is worth (on tickets, memorabilia and stadium food).

But then this happens.

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To mark this momentous occasion the Club’s ‘unofficial’ song was sung by 16,000 home fans as the away end, where moments before your natural born and sworn enemy were congregated, emptied,  as if by magic.

Before I share this moment of total brand immersion with you I need to explain the lyrics.  It’s a song by The Proclaimers.  Bespectacled (some would say geeky) twins with broad Scottish accents.

They are Hibs fans.  Everyone knows that.

This, then, is their Magnus Opus.

The opening stanza is a lament.  appropriated by the Hibernian fans as a total metaphor for the last 114 years in which we have not won the ‘Big’ Cup in Scotland.  Or the sixty or so that the ‘Big’ league had evaded our trophy cabinet.

My heart was broken, my heart was broken
Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow
My heart was broken, my heart was broken

Although verses 2 – 4 were clearly written about the arrival of a woman into a man’s life it has been anthromorphosised into our love of our team and its restorative qualities in only a relatively minor victory (nothing as big as winning the ‘Big’ Cup for example);

You saw it, You claimed it
You touched it, You saved it

My tears are drying, my tears are drying
Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you
My tears are drying, my tears are drying

Your beauty and kindness
Made tears clear my blindness

But the killer stanza is this one.  The one in which our declaration of faith, devotion, love recognises that Leith is the spiritual home of Hibernian FC and the central role of this great brand in our lives.

While I’m worth my room on this earth
I will be with you
While the Chief, puts sunshine on Leith
I’ll thank Him for His work
And your birth and my birth.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Then we do it all again.

My heart was broken, my heart was broken
Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow
My heart was broken, my heart was broken

You saw it, You claimed it
You touched it, You saved it

While I’m worth my room on this earth
I will be with you
While the Chief, puts sunshine on Leith
I’ll thank Him for His work
And your birth and my birth.

yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Now, here’s how it translates into a brand mantra.  The greatest brand emotional call and response that even Liverpool, and Celtic cannot match, try though they might.

Because they sing a hymn.

We sing a Gospel.

And it’s ours.  Only ours.

 

 

Speculative work in design and advertising and its absurdity.

I am grateful to Dean Happel for bringing this film to my attention.  It’s a rhetorical polemic on the absurdity of our industry.

The trouble is we have made our bed for many years and the vast majority of us now have no choice but to lie in it, or be absurdly ‘go to’, or persuasive to take the ‘take’ out of pitching.

Great work from Zulu Alpha Kilo in Toronto, Canada.

Advertising ideas are “Non Working Spend” for marketers.

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I honestly thought I’d seen it all until I woke this morning to an email from a company called Percolate who have published a “White Paper”.

“Ooh, a White Paper – must be important and true because David Cameron has signed it off, what incredible words of wisdom does it hold within its shimmering virginal covers?”

These.

“As the pressure to demonstrate the value of marketing grows, one overlooked metric for return on investment (ROI) analysis is on the rise.  Non working spend [my emboldening]  is the cost of producing marketing content, as opposed to media spend distributing it.”

Here it is in more detail. In case you think I made a dreadfully stupid assumption.

Yes, it really does say “Non working [spend) is EVERYTHING ELSE [my caps].”

So, my thirty year career, not to mention that of my planning friends, my creative buddies, my TV producers, digital content creators, print buyers, secretaries (back in the day), studio managers and those scary guys that work for them but deliver such great work…they’re all “non working spend.”

A necessary evil.

Expensive grist to the media mill owners.

Jeezo.  I’m gonna have to take a little minute here.

I’m a little shaken, I admit.

I mean it’s a fucking White Paper.  Not just any old made up shit.

Sorry Mum.

Sorry I let you down.  Remember I told you I worked in a reputable industry where I made a difference – along with Charlie, and Smudger and Jimbo and Will?

Yeah.  That’s them.

And Gerry too and Raymond, and Roger.

Yeah, yes Victoria and Ruth.

All just “Non Working Spend.”

That guy at the government. Remember I told you about him?

The guy you liked off the telly?

No, not George Osborne, he’s a bad man.

The Scottish guy.

Remember I came home and told you he said advertising people were like “leeches’?

Yup, that’s him.

Well, he was right, ‘cos it’s in a White Paper.

We’re all just “Non Working Spend.”

You don’t believe me?

Read it here.

http://tinyurl.com/zqnub9x

My board responsibilities. And why they are important.

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I have chaired a charity for children for six years.  A musical theatre company for the record.

I am a trustee of a professional theatre co.  Another charity.  And have been for seven years.

I chair a creative membership organisation.  For four years so far.

I have been chair, advisor or council member of several more.  And part of my day job is providing advice to company boards.  Usually micro/small enterprises.

I am no guru but I take my responsibilities very seriously and have learned a great deal about governance from a number of highly responsible individuals.

It has been my privilege.

So I really do take offence at the behaviour of The Kids Company – a charity run by a highly charismatic lady who freely admits she is a loose canon (and that’s fine, were checks and measures in place to control her undoubted energy, enthusiasm and ability to engage with sponsors, funders and political and social/behavioural/societal influencers) but in this situation what she did not need were staff, trustees, a chairman and, believe it or not, even the Charity Commission – not to mention a government – that indulged her.  (In the latter case in the hope that some of Camila Batmanghelidjh’s charisma would rub off on them.)

This is the BBC article that exposes the findings of the The Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

It’s a disgrace frankly.

 

“With Creativity you don’t need to scream to be heard.” (Dave Trott 01/02/2016)

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I often share with you Dave Trott’s incisive insights that he publishes on his outstanding blog.  He really is a hero of mine and the best living writer on advertising (but really on creativity).

This is a remarkable blog post from him.  But before you read it take a moment to view this.

Please.

It happens to be one of my favourite songs of all time (if you can use favourite to describe a nightmare).

The film ‘Gone With The Wind’ was released in 1939.

Fine southern ladies and gentlemen living civilised lives in elegant houses on huge plantations, attended by grateful slaves who were thankful to their kindly masters for being so considerate.

Of course, the reality wasn’t quite like that.

The truth was, in the south over five thousand African Americans were lynched by white mobs.

Strung up from the nearest tree and left hanging.

Photographs were taken of the smiling crowd, much like a picnic or a barbeque.

Grinning for the camera, pointing at the hanging corpses.

But in that same year, 1939, Billie Holliday released a song that would begin to change all that.

Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, describes her song as the beginning of the civil rights movement.

And yet it didn’t scream outrage, it wasn’t a cry of horror.

It was softly, gently ironic.

Every evening, at the end of her nightclub act, Billie Holliday would have the room lights darkened all the way down.

Just a spotlight on her as she sang softly and gently what everyone assumed would be another romantic ballad.

She started quietly:

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit:

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root.

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”

By the end of the first verse the audience were silent.

They didn’t know what to make of it, or the next verse:

“Pastoral scene of the gallant south:

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth.

Scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh,

And the sudden smell of burning flesh.”

Now the crowd shifted uncomfortably:

“Here is fruit for the crows to pluck:

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck.

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,

Here is a strange and a bitter crop.”

Then the spotlight went out, and Billie Holliday left the stage.

No encore just stunned silence.

The unsettling words lingering like a surreal nightmare.

No mention of corpses in the song: just the sweet scent of magnolia and strange fruit hanging from trees.

Cognitive disonance.

Mass murder described in gentle irony.

It became the first example of a kind of music we would later take for granted.

The intelligent protest song.

Thirty years later, Bob Dylan would quote it as the song that influenced him most.

‘Strange Fruit’ is still quoted by every civil rights leader.

But it wasn’t written by a black man.

It was written by a white Jew living in the Bronx.

Abel Meeropol was so horrified by the images he’d seen on postcards, he wrote it and persuaded Billie Holliday to sing it.

In 1999, Time Magazine named it ‘The Song Of The Century’.

The quiet, intelligent song that started a movement.

The movement which eventually led to a black man being elected President Of The USA.

Proving that, with creativity you don’t need to scream to be heard.