Leave the ladder in the garage

Great to see marketoonist Tom Fishburne update his cartoon on 'brand laddering', inspired by a talk from Anne Charbonneau, our partner in Amsterdam. Anne and Tom were both speaking at MARCOM12, the largest marketing conference in the Netherlands.

Here it is. Yet another bit of pure genius from Tom.

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Tom refers to the risk of what I call “brand ego tripping”, when a brand climbs too high up the ladder of benefits. The team leave behind the product and start to think they can change the world. Now, this might work for the odd brand like Apple. The problem comes when brands of corn chips or catfood try to do this.

I suggest you leave the ladders in your garage. A better approach is having a more obvious, direct link back to the product. Get the "sausage" (product) and "sizzle" (emotional values) working together.

An example of this is Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty, as told in my book Brand Vision, that Tom mentions in his post. The campaign was based on a "beauty theory", a bit like a brand manifesto. The Dove team and their agency, Ogilvy, started by climing a brand ladder, leaving the product behind. They developed three different "brand anthem" campaigns that urged women to stop judging themselves so harshly ('Beauty Has A Million Faces One Of Them Is Yours', 'Give Your Beauty Wings' and 'Let's Make Peace With Beauty'). However, as the planner from Ogilvy agency commented :

"Unfortunately, women were not impressed. They found our ideas patronising. The top-down approach seemed to lead to rather didactic, theoretical and distant work. So we decided instead to work bottom-up – product first, wrapped in beauty theory."

I love that last line: "Product wrapped in beauty theory". Tell a product story, but in an impactful, emotionally engaging way. This led to the launch of Firming Cream, with the now famous advert of real ladies in their undies. It was fresh. It was honest. And it plugged a product: "As tested on real curves". "Real-ness" and "honesty" was the brand's personality, but not the idea itself.This helped create impact for the brand, at the same time as selling lots of product.

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In conclusion, leave the ladder in the garage and create engaging communication that sells more stuff, by telling a product story wrapped in emotion.