I read with great interest that Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK, voted “Remain” but was able to speak with great insight about the tribal appeal of the “Leave” vote, whose emotion propelled Nigel Farage’s party to the front of the UK pack in the European Parliamentary elections.
The dismay felt by most of the London creative class at this result mirrors the dismay that many brands feel when they find out that a rational benefit often fails to achieve traction with consumers until it is disguised as an appeal to more “primitive” human instincts.
Take, the launch of Gablingers beer in the 80’s with its positioning of the first beer with low carbohydrates, a very clear rational benefit. It failed miserably. Not until Lite beer from Miller appealed to macho males via sports celebrities arguing in taverns about whether the beer was about “Tastes Great” or “Less Filling” did the category take off and put category leader Budweiser on the defensive.
Same with Tab from Coca-Cola. It was positioned to be “a mindsticker” for 1960s women who wanted to “watch their figures.” Only when it was relaunched as Diet Coke under the idea of “Just for the taste of it” could it become the most popular fizzy drink in America.
And then there’s the Las Vegas tourism board and its brief to agency R&R Partners: “Clean up the image of Las Vegas. Tell visitors it’s not just a place to gamble.” R&R Partners ignored the idea of “cleaning up” Vegas and instead made it a place where “What happens here, stays here.” They made it even naughtier than it had ever been.
My point is, what’s rational is rarely what’s human. Which is why however rational the “Remain” idea was, it’s gone. Because something with more tribal and human appeal was presented in a way that captured the popular imagination.
The perfect case in point: the anti-littering campaign run by Texas Department of Transportation. Placed on the side of roads was an appeal to higher self to all those tempted to throw their garbage out their pick-up truck window: KEEP TEXAS BEAUTIFUL
It wasn’t working. It brought no change over many years. Why not?