Guy Robertson is an independent marketing consultant.
Let me start by holding up my hands. I have borrowed the theme of this piece from an article I read in a magazine. It struck a note with me so I thought I’d add my own thoughts. The writer talked of spotting a poster for Japanese food with the message: ‘Creating a world where everyone believes in their own authenticity.’ This poses some interesting questions: for instance, what does it mean to believe in your own authenticity? How would you go about creating a world where everyone does? And what on earth has that got to do with Japanese food?
Other campaigns are less confusing but still strangely utopian: Heineken has been campaigning for ‘an open world’, where people listen to each other and realise ‘that there is more that unites us than divides us’. Eh?
Why does that make me point to the Heineken tap instead of the tried and tested Tennents?
It wasn’t always like this. The successful slogans of the 20th century tended to be pragmatic ‘Go to work on an egg’ or “Guinness is good for you” or even flattering like ‘Because you’re worth it’. We had catchy phrases like “Beanz Meanz Heinz” and implied cost savings like John Lewis’s “Never knowingly undersold” Now, advertising tries to address the meaning of life.
Sportswear brands were early adopters of the Profound Statement. Adidas has long claimed that ‘Impossible is nothing’, while Nike has urged ‘Just do it’ since 1988. Nike’s new campaign goes further, advising: ‘Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.’ Let’s hope nobody takes it literally.
The current Ad that perplexes me most is HSBC. It is titled “Global Citizen” with 60 seconds of beautifully filmed, narrated and choreographed advertising that I presumed had been commissioned by one of those student organisations that tell us that nationalism is outdated and that we are all just citizens of the world. Only at the end did I realise it’s promoting a bank. I don’t know about you, but what I want from a bank is efficiency, service, prudent investment and a safe place for my money. Global Citizen indeed!!