Beyond the overt commercialism and religious hypocrisy debates about the Christmas break, it is a great time for families to get together and play together. It’s often said, ‘the family that plays together, stays together’ and while we can all ‘make’ the time and opportunity to do this at other times of the year, life often gets in the way – so, for me, the Christmas and New Year break will always serve an excellent purpose in the opportunity it provides for family fun.
I also like the fact that despite the relentless rise of sophisticated electronic toys and computer games, the humble ‘board game’ still finds a space in many families’ collective entertainment experiences.
In the UK, the board game that would appear to have got families together around the table this last Christmas is ‘The Logo Game’ – its strapline is - “the game about logos…of things you know and love”
While I’m sure there could be valid debates about whether this type of game simply reinforces the ‘altar of commercialism’ that we worship today or the ‘dumbing down of society’ I must admit I found it fascinating to play this game with family members across the various generations - from my youngest daughter (of the Z generation) through the Ys and Xs of other offspring, nieces and nephews to the baby boomers of in-laws, aunts, uncles and parents.
There’s something for everyone in the game and I’m sure it will provide an interesting snapshot of our society if played 10, 20 or even 30 years from now. I must admit I found it slightly worrying the ease with which my children could identify the fragments of sweetwrapper logos, cross-sections of chocolate bars and different types of burgers, not at all surprising that my wife was an expert on the contents of various chocolate box selections or that my ‘Geek Squad’ nephew had all the gadget, car and computer brand questions nailed in seconds. While playing the game, I started wondering what criteria the designers had used to determine which brands fell into the category of ‘known and loved’ and which didn’t make the grade. Judging by the questions, it was also clear that the game is designed for a reasonable shelf-life and the inherent ‘fickleness’ of we consumers must also have been a key factor in the ‘know and love’ criteria.
This ‘known and loved’ brand assessment criteria brings me to another Xmas break experience, a trash TV programme about the best loved UK TV ads in 2010. Here were the top 5 ads as voted for by UK viewers…
5. CompareTheMarket – I’d loved to have been in the brainstorming session that produced this advertising gem “oh..sorry…I thought you said CompareTheMeerkat” – “hmm – now there’s an idea…”
4. John Lewis – promoting other brands, this advert may have seemed overly sentimental and a little bit nauseating, however linked with a brand that has an ethos of cradle to grave co-operative employment and a reputation for excellent customer service, this advert does indeed strike an emotional chord
3. PG Tips – Amazing how the participants of a ‘failed campaign’ for digital TV (a badly knitted ‘Monkey’ and fat comedian) have been given new life by a brand forever synonymous with trained chimps. Presumably they can only use knitted versions now for fear of animal rights protests over using real ones.
2. Barclaycard – use of advanced CGI to give a ‘wow’ factor to an otherwise mundane financial service
1. Thinkbox – hmm – an advert that advertises advertising – with a well trained cute dog.
So, what does all this tell us about the state of marketing, advertising and brand awareness one decade into the 21st Century?
1. Kids really love sweets and junk food and turn into adults who really love sweets and junk food
2. Sweets and junk food brands have the shelf-life that will see them still relevant 10, 20, 30 years from now
3. In times of recession, we turn to brands with history and authenticity
4. When comparing prices on the internet, cute loveable meerkats win – fat irritating gits with bizarre facial hair lose – it’s as dumb and simple as that…or is it? I’ve used ‘gocompare’ simply because it’s easier to type than ‘comparethemarket’ – ho-hum
5. The classic advertising ‘hooks’ are alive and well – the endlessly ‘consistent word hook’ of John Lewis’s ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’, the ‘character hooks’ of Aleksandr Orlov, a knitted ‘Monkey’ and cute dog called Harvey and Barclaycard’s ‘repeatable theme’ – from waterslides to rollercoasters (although it’s tough to see how they can repeat it again?)
So there we have it, the secret to marketing success in the 21st century is to invent a brand that will rot your teeth, give you spots and make you fat and promote it using a cute/cuddly/talented character – failing that, get someone as irritating as possible to sing your brand name endlessly so that even though the audience much prefers the meerkats, they still type into Google first, the name of the company that irritates them most!