In praise of product communication

How refreshing to see a senior ad agency person singing the praises of good old product communication. "Marketers have been told that emotion is the key to effective advertising, but there are cases where fact-based communications can win consumers over," says Matt Willifer, chief strategy officer at WCRS, in his column in Marketing.

1. Use creativity to tell a product story

Matt talks about cases of brands using "brilliant creativity to dramatise a specific truth about the product".  He uses the example of the Volvo trucks commercial that features Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits to dramatise their precision steering. Another example I posted on recently here is the Stella Artois campaign, where creativity throughout the whole process was used to communicate the proposition of "a beer of supreme quality and worth". And then there are the "Will it blend" viral videos of Blendtec that dramatise the blender's performance, where again the product is hero, here

I would go further and suggest that all advertising should work this way, with the product or service the hero of the communication. To use again the words of ad agency McCann Erickson, advertising should be about "The truth well told".

2. Harness the power of brand properties

Distinctive brand properties have the power to not only help build brand saliency, but also communicate a product benefit or attribute. We have posted many times over the last couple of years on this topic, including this post here. These properties allow you to "create fact-based ideas that are not properly processed by the rational mind", as Matt says, "opening of a mental pathway linking the brand to a desirable product attribute …. using visual, semiotic or sensorial communications." 

A great example in Matt's column is Andrex toilet tissue's cute little puppy, described in detail in my post here. As he says, "The use of the puppy is in one sense a rational product communication, but it achieves this by largely bypassing the rational mind." The puppy has been used by Andrex for a remarkable 43 years to communicate the idea of "Soft, strong and very long". The puppy itself is soft and it is shown playing with the toilet tissue to communicate strong and long.  


3. Connect at the right time

The third way of communicating a product message suggested by Matt is to "identify the context in which people are willing and able to process a message". As he rightly points out, modern media planning and digital communication create opportunities to precisely target  moments when people are most receptive to brand communication. For example, Unilever have experimented with using mobile communication based on weather/temperature and vicinity to a store, as we posted on here.

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In conclusion, communication should harness the power of creativity, brand properties and smart targeting to do what all marketing should do:  communicating a product truth in an emotionally compelling way to SMS = sell more stuff.