Markus Gull

Are you safe from the Christmas brand story trap?

Thunder Levin had the guts to say in a Hollywood meeting a few years ago: "This is my idea: a tornado drops ravenous sharks over Los Angeles!", but no one had the guts to put the guy headfirst into the wastepaper basket, and that's why, unfortunately, there are not only already five parts of "Sharknado", but also a TV series. I hope for his parents' sake that Levin is not his real family name.

At Pepsi, on the other hand, someone apparently recently had not only Pepsi for breakfast and then the idea: "Current racism always goes, guys, there's emotion in it. We sit on the riots in Baton Rouge and stage Kendall Jenner as Ieshia Evans. It's sure to be a sensational commercial.”.

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In any case, the latter prediction came true pretty much on the dot, even if the excited buzz was about "... so awful it did the impossible: it united the internet."

Ideas are precious.

Among the greatest treasures we humans have been given are ideas, hope and emotions. In this respect, we are vastly superior to any algorithm, robot or Alexa in the long run. And dear Siri, anyway. On the other hand, a stiff breeze of artificial intelligence would be most welcome as a countermovement to the growing trend towards real stupidity. Maybe Santa Claus will bring us a little of that. Or Krampus will fetch the bullshitters.

Ideas, hopes and emotions are precious and to this day I can't understand why in meetings there are always phrases like: "That's just a feeling now ..." or "That's just an idea now ...". Revolutions, nations and great companies are built on ideas, hope and emotions.

Only ideas will take us further.

New things come into being because someone said, "Fuck the candles, I'm going to try out a few thousand ways of generating light with electricity. When I'm done, at least we'll have light bulbs, even if there is no electricity grid." Or: "I don't care that over 80 per cent of the people can't read and that there isn't a single bookshop. I'm going to invent printing, and you can keep drawing on your cave walls in the meantime." That's creativity! That is innovation! That's us humans!

So the first insight quartet for us as story insiders is:

  1. Hope does not die last, but lives first.
  2. The success of an idea definitely says nothing about its quality, one way or another.
  3. An emotion can never be wrong, but it can certainly be inappropriate.
  4. Just because an idea is good doesn't make it workable.

Because we like to learn from our own mistakes, but still don't have to make them all ourselves, the Pepsi disaster shows us something else: Apart from the fact that this idea is a totally imposed, hare-brained advertising brainwave, it can only be screwed into the brand positioning Live for now with a spasm and would therefore not be worth any further professional consideration, even if it were good.

Emotions - as divine as they are diabolical.

The power of emotional ideas is infinite, and that is also the bewitching thing about divine emotions: They emotionalise the hell out of us, which he then promptly does, instantly making us our own victim.

When it comes to emotions, brands and products, the communications industry celebrates Thanksgiving at Christmas. Because just as surely as the sparkling Coca-Cola truck and thus Christmas, the campaigns that go with it come down to earth every year, where we humans are. And just as surely, marketers around the world are running full speed ahead against the Christmas tree, so that the brand strategy sparks are flying.

For some years now, at the latest since EDEKA put a magnificently wrapped package full of cynicism under our tree with the #Heimkommen/Vater-Opa film, the food retailer has been one of the main actors in the annual folklore.

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Last year, after the #Heimkommen father/grandfather unfortunately did not survive, children were given gifts of time. Under #Zeitschenken there was an emotionally powerful spot and for the EDEKA public there were many suggestions on the website so that everyone could be an active part of the story beyond advertising. That is ideal in principle.

No celebration without ... brand story

At EDEKA , the year 2017 is apparently marked by artificial intelligence, because robots now have a fixed place in the advertising. This is done quite sympathetically and also works splendidly with the EDEKA story"We love food". In the film "What is love", the connection between the values and meta-values (that's the story!), the implementation idea and the factual, the food, works wonderfully.

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This year's Christmas film #NoFestWithout brings the campaign motto "Without love it's just a celebration" to the people. A cinematic gem of almost epic length with a production budget that makes your eyes sparkle as if it were Easter and your birthday at the same time. The producers' children will probably have some extra surprises under the tree this year.

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I ask myself:
Is the film #KeinFestOhne good? - What do you mean good, it's even great!
Is the film emotional? - But how!
Is the implicit message important and right? - Undoubtedly!
Does EDEKA get Likes & Shares as a result? - Lots of them?

A lot of money - way off.

However, the people at EDEKA once again put a lot of money next to the brand story "We love food", i.e. in the sand (there's not much snow yet). Why doesn't anyone there ask: "Can we think of something cool that does the same thing, only for our brand story instead of for any other? Why doesn't anyone ask: "Can we spin the spot in the direction of food?" And another team member. "Just an idea: what if the magnetic heart for the robot is actually a biscuit and smells from the oven?"

"Without love, it's just a party" is spot on, but at EDEKA , love goes through the stomach, and there is no way around this, no matter how seductive the emotional path. You can see the error of your ways when at the end of a film you don't necessarily have to show your claim - in this case: "We love food" - at the end of a film. And if the claim even triggers a surprising, inner "Aha!", then you have achieved a masterpiece.

Why don't you come up with something that is emotional, well done and still nourishes the EDEKA brand core? With "Eatkarus" and "Supergeil" you also succeeded in being super cool.

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New year - new chance.

Perhaps this is a first New Year's resolution for 2018? Because next year, too, everyone will be focusing on emotion, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the two. Maybe even the brand story muse will kiss someone under the mistletoe and whisper: "You'll think of something completely different for next Christmas anyway ..." And they take each other by the hand and do together what the people in the "No Christmas without" film did long ago: they flee from the artificial intelligence into the forest.(Just an idea ...)

A more intensive activation of the audience than is currently happening on the EDEKA website could also help, because then the power of the idea would multiply beyond advertising and gain massive credibility that can be experienced. HoHoHo: Brand Experience!

Brand experience beats advertising.

A great example of this is the Canadian airline WestJet, which has consistently shared its care story as a corporate mission for years. With a lucrative plan for employees to buy company shares, employees become co-owners and bring the claim "Owners Care" very personally to life in various forms. This story certainly contributed to the airline's rise from low-cost carrier to a top ten North American airline. Here is a little more about it.

Care is particularly well suited for immersive brand experience campaigns at Christmas. The WestJet videos are already classics, especially the one from 2013 with many millions of views on YouTube. Very inspiring, also in the spirit of Pablo Picasso: "Good artists copy, great artists steal!

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Story instead of advertising wins.

The good news: stories instead of advertising are the order of the day and Christmas is a good occasion to put emotions at the centre of your communication. But please don't fall into the trap. It's all too easy to be seduced by a wonderful idea and forget your brand story. Without exception, please activate emotions around the values your brand shares with your audience. Amen.

By the way: If you are your team alone, then of course this also applies. Brand story is not a question of company size, but a question of attitude and an indispensable necessity for successful communication. Regardless of whether it's a global corporation, an SME or a small business - every person, every brand, every company has an image, some kind of story, stands for something, even if it's nothing.

So if you don't just want to talk about price, but respectfully engage with your audience, involve the people with a story relevant to both of you, and those closest to the company first.

To all those who say, "You can't do that with my brand!" let me remind you of the title of the most famous Christmas poem penned by my grandmother, old Story Dudette: "No Story. No Glory."

 

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