Scrunch or Fold: Who Gives a Sh!t?
Yup, I don’t think it’s possible to devise an idea that someone has truly never come up with before.
Original APPLICATION on the other hand is altogether more achievable.
Just as Jung traces all characters back to his archetypes, all modern marketing concepts, even the most groundbreaking, can be thematically found in many other areas going back any number of years.
For example, the visually stunning and very engaging Perrier Secret Place site which provides an immersive online experience and rewards users with the chance to win some spectacular prizes utilises the same basic mechanic used in various iterations by Honda, Timberland, Felix and a host of other treasure hunts.
In each of these cases it is the application that sets them apart and gives them originality; not the basic idea.
Creating emotional response through debate
Another ‘archetypal’ marketing approach which seems to have popped up in a big way in recent times is what I like to call “the great debate”.
As with all marketing approaches, the great debate is about creating an emotional response. When done well it can inspire genuine emotion. When done really well it can even enter the modern lexicon.
Think Marmite. Although many column inches, presentations and publications have been dedicated to the long running ‘love it or hate it’ positioning, for me it is the way that it has elevated those indifferent to the brand into enthusiasts that is key to its original application.
Faced with insight showing that there were a number of people who adored its product but just as many who genuinely couldn’t stand the stuff, most brands would just focus on the positive.
However, Marmite embraced and used to create a real buzz. The genius of the approach was presenting the audience with just two options. In one pithy statement they immediately created an emotional response not just in their customers but in everyone they touched.
Ambivalence was not an option. Even if you were indifferent to it, if you didn’t hate it then you must, by default, love it.
Other brands have developed their own takes on the approach with varying degrees of success, such as Twix’s ‘left or right’ and Oreo’s ‘cookie or creme’. Both attempt to inspire debate in similar veins, although often with the offer of tangible rewards.
Marmite however offers nothing in return for your emotional connection. No free jars. Nothing.
However they also don’t ask you for anything. There is no ‘tell us about this’ or ‘choose an option’. Your emotional connection becomes a simple statement of fact.
Sure at various intervals they have presented themselves as a political party to be aligned with and offered the chance to join the ‘Marmarati’ but in general, just assuming a personal opinion on which side of the fence you’re on is sufficient. An opinion anyone else is unlikely to hear about unless the product comes up in conversation or, vitally, until you see it on the shelf in your local store.
Is the digital landscape to blame for failure?
Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale is, in my opinion, a prime example of how not to do it.
The culprit is Andrex and its request for the nation to tell them if they ‘Scrunch or Fold’. The campaign forces an opinion and response to an area and activity that people are, at best, indifferent to, offering no reward at all, either physical or emotional.
You need look no further than the Twittersphere to gauge the success of the approach. Responses range from the mildly bemused ‘mind your own business’, ‘Freaking Weirdos’ and ‘No Andrex, just no!’ to altogether more colourful answers involving cats, fingernails and dental floss.*
But fear not, Andrex has pulled it back by rewarding us with some crucial stats from their thorough research with big data, ahem, nuggets such as;
- More scrunchers wear glasses than folders
- Folders are more likely to live in a city
- Blue eyes? Probably a scruncher
OK, so you could argue that no one cares who loves or hates Marmite, but it’s a lot more promising source of conversation than the nation’s toilet habits.
However, a further consideration is that Marmite’s statement is a pre-digital concept, having been around since the mid 90’s.
When it first broke there simply wasn’t the means for the audience to express emotion beyond chatting to those they were physically in the same room as. Very few had a wide circle of influence and even fewer would use this to communicate something as irrelevant as their spread preference.
I think that trying to force a discussion in the modern digital landscape is possibly more to blame for the reaction than the actual content.
How often are we asked or even commanded to vote, share, comment, like or tweet to express an opinion?
With so many channels immediately available for the modern audience to voice their positive, negative or indeed ambivalent feelings, perhaps if Marmite were launching ‘love it or hate it’ today it might be received very differently indeed (although I don’t think it would garner the scathing commentary given by Vice to Andrex as ‘THE WORST ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN EVER’).
Sparking curiosity in consumers can be a real game changer. However, trying to create social debate will always come with an element of danger as, by its nature, the space is uncontrollable.
People will only talk about what they want to so it’s vital to consider the wider connotations of what you’re asking, no matter how original the application.
Despite direct response being at the heart of what I do on a day to day basis, I think sometimes it can be better not to ask the customer to do anything at all…
*Developing this list without profanity was tricky to say the least but these are genuine responses, look them up!
Gavin Wheeler’s blog was hijacked by WDMP planner Ed Dalgleish @special__ed