While deep down I’m hoping that Christmas isn’t just around the corner, that would mean 2014 is all but done, it is hard to ignore the fact that Santa is on his way when the big budget Christmas ads start appearing. Like last year let’s start with Debenhams.
The ad depicts a bunch of kids in a closed department store looking for stuff they want to receive for Christmas. I’m sure if this was taking place in Tottenham it would be called looting but don’t worry they are all in the their pyjamas and dressing gowns and this is crime Debenhams style. But wait, the soundtrack to this jolly caper is the socialist anthem “We All Stand Together” by Sir Paul McCartney and Rupert Bear, so I think we should take this japery a little more seriously. Clearly these kids in their nice fluffy slippers are working as a team, coordinating the whole thing through Snapchat and BBM, and while the cameras are on they are only going for the cuddly toys but I bet they later moved on to TVs and trainers.
What is Debenhams saying with this music choice? Is this a rallying cry for the disenfranchised youth of today? Unlikely. “We All Stand Together” is certainly festive, after all it charted two Christmases in a row back in the 80’s, plus it has a choir. The problem is that nothing about this ad is surprising it feels like a Christmas shopping list written in May and completed in September. Maybe they could have tied the visual more to the music or possibly done something new with the song but as it is I’m not convinced I’ll be heading to Debenhams to do my Christmas shopping, after all I could be pick-pocketed by the Artful Dodger and his mates.
If you can’t face being a witness to the mindless looting of a Debenhams, simply watch the original video featuring the wonderful dapper Rupert Bear in a swamp.
One of the more interesting projects that I worked on with my colleagues at Sonicbrand was for a leading toothpaste company who wanted to explore the “sound of clean” in the context of an electric toothbrush. The outcome of the project was more interesting on a theoretical than practical level as actually engineering a cheap electric toothbrush to sound like the equivalent of an oral Rolls Royce was pretty difficult. Therefore I was interested to hear what Colgate would come up with from their latest foray into sonic branding.
Colgate, a brand built around probably the most inappropriate colour for those thinking about cleaning their teeth (red), has been around for ages and has the luxury of being known by pretty much everyone who likes to avoid regular visits to the dentist. So it is interesting to hear the expansion of their brand identity through a new sonic logo created by CORD Worldwide .
Toothpaste marketing has often featured sonic branding through the use of jingles that either go on about how bad your breath smells or try to turn two minutes of scrubbing into a Glee type moment. Just check out Aquafresh’s Brushing Song. In the case of Colgate they have gone for something more global and subtle. Following some fairly extensive development work we have the Colgate sonic logo. Three seconds of audio that, if the various marketing agencies around the world use carefully, we will probably be hearing a lot more of in the future.
The use of the sonic logo in the new advertising campaign feels a little forced as it differs so much from the main ad music but that is not such a bad thing as it makes you more aware of it. The true strength of the logo will emerge over time as they make further developments and utilise the flexible nature of their new sonic branding to create an adaptive platform for the communication the whole Colgate brand.
This is one for all you sonic branding purists.
The day after Lilly Allen returned to the number one spot in the UK singles chart I re-read a recent article in Music Week, “The secret to music and brand success at Christmas” which explored the importance of music in brand campaigns at Christmas. The reason I thought I’d have another read was because there was a quote from Eric Sheinkop, CEO of Music Dealers and co-author of Hit Brands, suggesting that John Lewis has in some way become “a trusted filter for great music and consumers look to them to discover the latest upcoming releases”. As a John Lewis customer my immediate reaction was “Are you mad?”, I would never want to think my music consumption was influenced by this wonderfully reliable brand that my mother loves so much. So when I saw that Lilly Allen had returned to number 1 with her Keane cover I started to question whether the new home of music really is the Electronics department in the Oxford Street John Lewis.
Let’s look at the facts. John Lewis’ annual Christmas campaign has become a national music event that is on a par with the announcement of the X Factor winner in terms of selling records and social impact. This from a brand that not long ago would never have considered doing television advertising. So far, each year the campaign has been a perfect blend of creativity with engaging visual narrative and music that is both nostalgic and current. It is not a controversial statement to say that the ads have been on brand for both John Lewis and Christmas. I bitch and moan about the John Lewis ads for their downright niceness but I’m guessing that the brief each year has a massive lump of implied “BE NICE”. But we’re not here to talk about being nice, we’re hear to talk music and John Lewis gets it bloody right, for the masses, every year. I would have burnt my Hunter wellies, if I had any, in protest at the Smiths’ cover they did a couple of years ago but even I had to acknowledge it worked and it worked really well.
So does this make John Lewis my “trusted filter for great music”? Should I be searching for the John Lewis playlist on Spotify or looking forward to the new Lilly Allen Tour sponsored by John Lewis? NOPE. You see John Lewis’ Christmas campaign is a fantastic example of how powerful music is as both a brand and marketing communicator. Once a year we all wonder what track they are going to cover in a slow and wistful way, each year we either hate it or love it but we all get it.
What the “never knowingly undersold” brand gets really right is that it never knowingly oversells its relationship with music. John Lewis doesn’t come to us making out that it is down with the cool kids. It doesn’t put on a festival in Hyde Park with vol-au-vents and comfy sofas for all. It knows its place and because of this its relationship with music is even more powerful. It produces a mega music based campaign every Christmas, revels in the glow of its achievement and then goes back to selling tellies, cutlery and comfy kids shoes. So yes it is a “trusted filter” but only when it needs to be and only when it is relevant to its brand and its consumer.
Hopefully this is the last time I will talk about the John Lewis Christmas campaign for 2013 but I bet it isn’t. In the meantime feel free to go and buy the book Hit Brands written by Daniel Jackson (CORD), Eric Sheinkop (Music Dealers) and Richard Jankovich (loads of companies) and tell me what it is like as I’ve still not got my copy.
For all those interested in how music and brands can play nicely, here is a new book you should have a look at: Hit Brands: How Music Builds Value for the World’s Smartest Brands.
It brings together a trio of leading thinkers and business minds from the world of music and brands. You’ve got Daniel M. Jackson, founder and MD of CORD Worldwide, Richard Jankovich, who has loads of impressive job titles and has worked with some of the biggest brands, and Eric Sheinkop, CEO of MusicDealers.
Forget that Union J 2014 Annual you were thinking of buying and try this for some bedtime reading.