The Adman Talks

Oscar Svenang - Writer, strategist, adman.

Long live the Brand

I take joy in reading Martin Weigel slash the brand-as-person model in being outdated. I like his emphasis on how that metaphor fails to fully differentiate a brand, and how it exaggerates the relations brands imagine people have with them.

So the king is dead. Long live Brand-as-software, because let’s humour Weigel.

Maybe there’s something to that. Maybe we should be encouraged “to think how utility (not just storytelling) can create meaning.” Maybe we should explore how storytelling can be enhanced by creating utility. Maybe we should even accept that a large part of storytelling now lies in how we create that elusive utility.

Here’s where to read Weigel’s disruptive thoughts.


This video relates to this post, about making sure that what you make is first and foremost for the customer’s benefit. You start with her needs, then you make or design whatever it is you make or design.

Sell It Like the Wolf of Wall Street

Have you seen The Wolf of Wall Street? 

If not, see it now. It is one of the truly great movies of the past ten years.

If you have seen it, you might recall the scene where Jordan Belfort (Leo DiCaprio) challenges his partners to sell him a pen. Someone mumbles something about the benefits of the pen, how comfortable it is to hold. Someone else goes on about how amazing the ink in the pen is. Needless to say, those pitches fail to close the deal by being feeble and uninteresting.  Finally, someone lifts a napkin and asks Belfort to write his name on it. That guy sells the pen by creating a demand and without even mentioning the product itself.

And that is precisely how you do your most efficient marketing. 

But most of the time, you won’t be creating a demand. You will be tapping into an already existing need.

This goes back to the advertising adage that people like to talk about themselves, and to first and foremost learn about things that relate to them. Marketers who base their marketing discussions on things their customers need, instead of things they would like to say about themselves, find success in two ways (at least).

First, they have gained the interest and attention of their customer (and we all know that isn’t easy). Second, they have positioned themselves as knowledgeable of the field in question - and with a will and ability to provide the remedy to the problem.

The way to work this is to make sure you fully understand what benefits your product provides, and then seeing how those benefits sync with the needs of your prospective customers. When you locate a match, your chances of creating (or stimulating) a desire are radically heightened.

Even the most persuasive mouth-to-mouth advertising has nothing on the power of conviction brought on by discovering a desire on your own.

Twitter Affection

The creators of Twitter really nailed a format. Who knew that information in 140 characters could be so addictive?

Staying (almost) true to the short and brief tweet format, I won’t dive into a deeper analysis on how Twitter fulfills basic human needs for short spurts of fascinating info and a never ending feed of news and nonsense from nowhere and back. But I will say that without Twitter we never would have gotten as close as we have to so many real personalities, far beyond the media coverage of them. I think established media will agree that Twitter has done a lot for them and their research too.

And if there is one thing everybody should learn from Twitter, it is to keep it short and sweet, and always cut the fat. Then cut it again.

3 Ways Ruin Creativity (as taught by Mao)

Last Saturday night I saw a documentary on the Great Famine in Mao’s Red China (typical Sat. night, btw) and was struck by what societies and creative work have in common.

In Mao’s China, a culture of punishment for odd and unusual behaviour destroyed much of what existed in the form of free thinking. With free thinkers disappeared original ideas. A low tolerance for original ideas led to repetition of mistakes and and as most of us know, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to come out different.”

An often understated long-term problem that arises in repressive societies like Mao’s China is that the supply of good ideas dries out. With them die most forms of development: cultural, technical, spiritual, humane.

The same principles can be applied to creative work. In any organization where individuals can’t speak their mind because they fear being punished for it, people will keep their thoughts to themselves. And just as China suffered horribly from lack of original input, any creative work that has a hard time taking on deviant ideas is not worth its name.

Also, both societies and creative work benefit from a certain division of labor. If everyone involved can count on all aspects being covered, those who push the wild and original ideas are free to do their part, and can leave administration to those better geared for that.

One last thing Mao’s degeneration of China had in common with bad and unproductive creative work: they were/are both based on superstition and bad intel. Just as knowledge built on knowledge (what we know as science) is crucial to building a great society, amazing ideas usually can’t be found without first locating the the what, when and where.