Contextual Codes

Quick Read: Think Contextual Codes, not Category Codes. Sometimes it could make a massive difference. 

Fifty years ago, in the fictional world of Mad Men, Don Draper pitched a bold ad campaign to Heinz.

The ads showed close-ups of food that go great with ketchup— a cheeseburger, french fries, a slice of steak—but without any ketchup in sight.

The tagline: “Pass the Heinz.”

But the Heinz clients in the Mad Men episode called it “half an ad”. They wanted to see the bottle.

No wonder Don didn’t get the account.

But now, in March 2017, in a meta union of advertising’s real and fictional worlds, Heinz green lighted the ads.

The best thing: Heinz is slated to run these ads almost exactly as Draper intended, in print and in OOH executions in the New York City. Read more here.

Heinz OOH
Heinz, At 49th and 7th. NYC, Source

Regardless of the fact that these ads are part PR stunt, part on-brand communications, they have something great going for them.

What’s that?

For an insight into that, see any GoPro ad.

And ask the same question.

What do these GoPro Ads have going for them?

GoPro_1GoPro_2

 GoPro_5

My favorite is the following one. (big H/T to Rob Campbell for this one)

GoPro_3

As Rob raves about this ad in his post.

Look at it..Even if you’re not a skier, that photo makes you feel ‘in the action’. Literally in it.

You can feel the snow, the cold, the speed of the World rushing past you.

Then there’s that line, ‘Be A Hero’.

Now compare these GoPro ads to this one from Garmin for the same product category.

Garmin
Garmin, Source

Or this one from Nikon.

Nikon
Nikon, Source

These are all camera brands trying their hand at the “live action category”.

But seeing these, you could say that Garmin and Nikon have failed to understand a crucial distinction between a camera in the ‘live action category’ and that from the photographic category. Sure, they both involve a lens to capture the action, but fundamentally the rules, values and the culture around these categories are very different.

Quoting Rob again from another post,

GoPro’s success is not just because they were one of the first to exploit this market, but because they were part of the culture that created this market.

They understood these people. What they do. What they want. What they feel.

This knowledge influenced everything, from their positioning through to the style of advertising they created.

The fact  that Nikon’s (or Garmin’s) ads show an image that comes from the perspective of watching others do something, highlights how they have failed to understand the audience they are talking to.

So now my question again –  what do  these ads have going for them? 

The New Range Rover Velar’s ad is another case in point. 

(Agency: Spark44 . Directed by Chris Palmer of Gorgeous TV)

From the very first second of the ad you are living it.

Thanks to the brilliant sound design, you feel the jungle cruising by you and the night looming over you.

The car almost becomes your sensory vehicle for this experience.

Now, if you look at them all, don’t these great ads have one thing in common?

The Insight

Don Draper’s ‘Pass the Heinz’ creatives or GoPro’s ads or The New Range Rover Velar’s ad stand out because their executions are not about conforming to any of their respective ‘category codes’ but are about staying true to their respective ‘contextual codes’.

That’s perhaps why you don’t need to show the bottle.

As Don Draper said in his Heinz pitch..

“The greatest thing you have working for you is not the photo you take or the picture you paint. It’s the imagination of a consumer. They have no budget, they have no time limit. And if you can get into that space, your ad can run all day.”

(Featured Image: GoPro Ad)  

Art Of Making Noise. Perfected

How would you make branded noise without making any ‘noise’?

We might need to ask Selfridges, the high end department store chain in UK (which has been voted Best Department Store in the World in the Global Department Store Summit, Paris 2012).

As part of their recent drive called No Noise – Selfridges embarked on a bold new initiative to offer a unique experience to its shoppers that is de-cluttered, de-branded and ‘de-noiseified’.

1. De-cluttered: By featuring fashion/apparels/beauty products that are a ‘carefully curated edit’ of minimalist design from brands like Jil Sander, Uniform Wares etc.  

curated-edit

2. De-branded: By featuring flagship products from brands like Heinz, Levi’s, Beats by Dre, Marmite, Crème de la Mer & Clinique that are (surprise..surprise..!) stripped off their logos. As it says on the website

  “Some of the world’s most recognizable brands have taken the symbolic step of removing their logos in our exclusive collection of de-branded products.”

No Noise Assortment

and ..

3. De-Noise -ified:  by getting equipped with Headspace pods and a re-instated ‘Silence Room’ – dedicated oasis of silence and contemplation amidst the usual frenzy of brands and bargains where shoppers can get access to guided meditation modules  and an ambiance  to help calm busy heads.

This is how they explain the No Noise initiative on their website:

As we become increasingly bombarded with information and stimulation, the world is becoming a noisier place. In an initiative that goes beyond retail, we invite you to celebrate the power of quiet, see the beauty in function and find calm among the crowds.

A couple of thoughts on No Noise:

  1. The initiative sounds like a very unique (and a first of its kind?) anti-retail concept by a retail brand 
  2. Sounds like the high street fashion’s foray into the space of low-fi living – the recent lifestyle trend that is picking steam where less is said to be more
  3. And obviously, contrary to the stated purpose, these products with stripped off logos end up creating buzz and making the greatest magnitude of noise.  For, after all, any partially fleshed out visual element that only leaves out the name and yet succeeds in making the shopper recognize its identity in no uncertain terms is a clever way to trigger imagination, engage attention, and reinforce the shoppers’ memory structures about the brand’s visual identity.
  4. Finally and more importantly it is clearly a self bragging loud statement by these brands on the iconic status of their visual identity elements so much so that these ‘unbranded’ products are being offered as exclusive collector’s items (Selfridges has even debranded its own bag).

To sum it up, as Tim Nudd aptly notes in AdWeek:

Throw in all the communications surrounding “No Noise,” and it seems the company is making more noise than ever this year.

Talk about the next level of sophistication in making noise without making noise.

Reminded me of Andrew Miller’s experiment Brand Spirit in 2012  – check out my  related post.