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.

 

 

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The latest from down 60 watt way

Grow-your-own-new work version

The latest instalment of 60 Watt’s Austerity campaign.

I’m very fond of this execution.  But…it reminds me of my childhood.

Toiling in my father’s allotment for what?  I’ll tell you for what!   Broccoli.

Twenty frigging tons a year of broccoli.

I hated broccoli, it gave me the frickin’ boak.  We had broccoli stew, broccoli pasta, broccoli salad, boiled broccoli, roasted broccoli, summer broccoli, winter broccoli, spring broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli.  We even had Cubby bloody Broccoli.

We had broccoli salad, broccoli soup (that was Ok), broccoli and eggs, broccoli and broccoli, raw broccoli, microwaved broccoli, broccoli tart, broccoli ice cream (actually I made that one up) and last but not least, leftover broccoli.

I HATED BROCCOLI.

This ad gives me nightmares.

New work

I’m really happy with this new campaign we’ve been working on at 60 Watt.  It appears as full pages in The Scotsman and it really taps into the current zeitgeist (a good German word for a war inspired ad). We call it the “austerity campaign”.  Hope you like them.  Let me know what you think.

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Scotland’s best advertising ever?

I’m making a presentation to the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday and in it I have to demonstrate how good we are at advertising in Scotland.

So this is what I could find on Youtube that at least makes the cut. Some of it is very very fine indeed.

The best Tennent’s ad ever?

The best Irn Bru ad ever?

A rather nice VisitScotland ad that I was involved with at 1576.

and another…

Kwik Fit

S1

HEBS

Talking crap

This one, from my friend Gerry Farrell, Creative Director of The Leith Agency, is a cracker.

He appeared in a BBC4 TV programme charting the history of advertising and was outraged when he read this review of it in The Scotsman last week.

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So annoyed was he that he was moved to write to Paul Whitelaw, the TV critic responsible for irking him so much.

I reproduce the article and letter in full for your comment, amusement, anger.

I’m totally with Gerry in defending our industry’s professional standards. Is it fair for this guy to make a sweeping generalisation that our industry is a pack of disingenious snakes who will happilly feed a pack of lies in order to sell consumers our product?

No Mr Whitelaw it is not.

Dear Paul,


I just read your TV review in Wednesday’s Scotsman and, like all good admen should, I felt like stabbing myself through the heart with a breadknife.

Let me declare an interest right away. I work at The Leith Agency and the BBC interviewed me and broadcast some of what I said on The Hard Sell on Tuesday night. I`ve only got council telly so I didn`t see the show but I`m sure I did “state the bleeding obvious” and I can quite believe that it was tame and bland, nor can I understand the public`s appetite for programmes about advertising, least of all ones like this, put together by lazy journalists who don`t look far beneath the surface.

Hope you spotted the hint of menace there. How tedious it is to have to take another knee-jerk kick to the nuts from yet another lazy journo with opinions pre-formed in the Sixth Year and unchanged since.

Bill Hicks. Yeah,yeah,yeah. Tom Lappin used the same quote a couple of months back just before he called Alan Hansen “ a money-grubbing whore” for doing TV ads for Morrison`s Supermarket. And now, from your bottomless journalistic well of investigation, research and experience (aka Google), you`ve drawn up a very similar bucket of insults.

If you`d had the energy to click more than once, you might`ve found “Advertising is the rattling of a stick in a swill bucket” (George Orwell) or – my personal favourite – the title of a French adman`s autobiography, “Don`t Tell My Mother I Work In Advertising, She Thinks I Play The Piano In A Brothel”.

And so you rummaged around your own personal swill bucket and came up with the usual lazy rubbish that “ most admen are disingenuous snakes…who.. feed consumers a multi-pack of lies”.

Whoo. How edgy and unpredictable.

Where to start.

Show me a society with no advertising and I`ll show you a government that lies to its own people. Show me a daily newspaper with no lies in it…wait a minute, that`s silly, the average daily newspaper contains more lies, half-truths and uninformed opinion than you`ll find in a month`s worth of ads. Journalist ain`t got much moral high ground to play around on; every paper or magazine I`ve ever read has been funded by the ads it carries. How much does that bother your conscience?

Thought not.

There isn`t even any logic to your position. You watch a lot of telly, apparently. If the Sony client runs a beautiful ad with coloured balls bouncing down hills to tell people the colour on a Sony Bravia is amazing and somebody goes out and buys one and the colour`s shite, they`re not going to sell many more. The best way to kill a rubbish product dead is to advertise it because people will only buy a crap thing once and once isn`t really enough for those wonderful folk who flog beer, cornflakes and Yakult. The internet makes bad word of mouth virally infectious. None of our clients can afford to publicise anything that doesn`t do what it says on the tin. (See what I did there).

It`s persuasion, not mass hypnosis.

Where`s the lie in Cadbury`s drumming gorilla ad?

Have you actually ever been so outraged by an untruthful ad that you`ve complained to the Advertising Standards Authority? Try it. My bet is you`ll struggle to find a single untruthful claim. If you do, and your complaint is valid, the ad will be pulled and the ad agency punished. That`s because we operate under a draconian code of `legal, decent, honest and truthful` that`s a hundred times stricter than your toothless Press Complaints Commission.

More to the point, the vast majority of the men and women I`ve worked with over the last 28 years ( and it`s a fifty/fifty gender split, by the way) are also nice, decent, truthful people. In fact half the people in this agency give up their free time once a fortnight to do free marketing clinics for any business that`s based in Leith for no other reason other than that we love Leith and we think we can help small businesses to market themselves more effectively.

Oh dear, I`ve ranted onto a second page. Let me finish with an invitation and a challenge. Come into The Leith Agency for a day. If you can find a single ad with a lie in it, I`ll buy you an Eighties-style advertising lunch at the posh restaurant of your choice. If you can`t, the lunch is on you.

Alternatively, if you`d prefer something more adversarial, I`ll stand up and debate the point with you anytime, any place, anywhere (see what I did there again).

Or, if you feel particularly feisty about the whole thing, I`ll fight you for it in a boxing ring, all proceeds to a cancer charity.

Any of those three would give you material for a more interesting piece of journalism than the tired old tat you bashed out for your TV review in Wednesday`s Scotsman.

Yours Wearily,

Gerry Farrell
Creative Director, The Leith Agency

(Postscript.  I reproduced this post onto my personal blog and it got a LOT more comments which you may enjoy.  Here.)

think Hard in the news

Although an unpleasant subject matter I was asked to allow my blog post on 1576 to be subbed for use in All Media Scotland. If you don’t read i, you should. It’s a good view on life in Scottish media and Mike Wilson is doing a good job there.

I think you’ll be able to read it by right clicking on the image and clicking on view, you can enlarge it to read it with the magnifying glass icon.  It’s easier than it sounds… Alternatively just go to the source, here.

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