Lesson #1 in advertising: Where is it going wrong?

It was once referred to as “the Better Call Apeldoorn effect”: fantastic commercials that are promoting competitors, or at best the category in general. Because you don’t actually find out what company the ad is promoting until the very end. In this case, it’s the insurance company Centraal Beheer.

Text continues below the image

For decades, various well-known studies have revealed that in a commercial it is essential to quickly make it clear what brand is being advertised and then to keep repeating the brand name. It’s all about brand recognition. This is Lesson #1 in advertising, as I remember from a SWOCC event. And yet this often doesn’t happen.

“We learn from history that we don’t learn anything from history... and we don’t even learn that!” (Justus van Oel; at some point)

In every commercial break you still see at least one commercial that breaks this rule. But the rule exists for a reason. It is there for the world of advertising. FOR the world of advertising, not against it!

“But hang on a minute,” the world of advertising retorts; “Are we being given lessons by a researcher now, or what? Surely you researchers know that a commercial has to convey an emotion and that you have to get a message across in it, right?” Advertising is more than simply airtime for your logo – I’m with you on that.

It’s all about the combination. But don’t forget, a lovely commercial that conveys an emotion, stays with the viewer and brings across a message is important, but if it is not recognised as coming from you, and only you, then it’s worth zilch. Brand recognition is crucial – it’s a must.

If we have the ball, they can’t score.” Johan Cruyff said it all. Having good players, good tactics, a good mentality, a bit of luck – it’s all important. But if you don’t have the ball... And in this example, the ball stands for brand recognition.”

So yes, keep making beautiful, surprising and captivating commercials, by all means, but don’t forget to be recognisable. And the good news is: displaying a brand immediately and repeatedly does not impact negatively on how attractive the consumer finds a commercial. Read more about this in the book Building Distinctive Brand Assets by Jenni Romaniuk. Various studies have corroborated this.

Objection! Why did Centraal Beheer ignore this Lesson #1, if it’s so important? Why did they break the rule and keep producing these commercials, and why were they so successfu? They have probably been asked this often enough, including by researchers. So what’s that about?

Good point. It’s like this: brand recognition benefits from consistency. So if you have enough patience and, importantly, the budget, you can create a new element of recognition. At one point the storyline of the Better Call Apeldoorn commercial became so iconic that it became a distinctive brand asset (DBA) in its own right. Something similar happened with the recent relaunch of the insurance company OHRA’s purple crocodile.

If you don’t have the patience (or rather the vision) or budget, then it is advisable to show the brand early on and keep on showing it.

And it’s not just in commercials that competitors are promoted. Here it’s Haagen-Dazs that is making drivers’ mouths water and reminding them of a ..... Magnum. (Thanks to Wiemer Snijders for the example.)”

So where does it go wrong? It’s the lack of patience and vision. Inspired by the fast pace of change in marketing and brand management, maybe. But not being properly informed about the laws of marketing doesn’t help. And on top of that, there’s the fear of research.

Admittedly you do get some pretty bad research that can kill off an idea or product before it even gets off the ground. But it’s so easy and useful to know what the identifying features of a brand are. Do you always need to mention the name? Or can you get by just as well with a logo, a storyline, a colour, a jingle, a spokesperson, etc.? How great would it be if you knew how strong your brand assets were? You know that from €1k per asset. How great would it be if you could run a good pretest overnight?! You know that from €1k. I’m not mentioning a name here, just a colour: blue (“Blauw” in Dutch).

Do you want to research your brand assets?