Thank you for continuing the conversation on brand stories that work. Gerry had a pretty spectacular career. He contributed to the growth and success of such clients as Unilever, Hershey Foods, and Hasbro Toys among others, while an officer at Ogilvy and DDB.
In recognition of his contributions, Gerry has received three Effies—the American Marketing Association award for sales effectiveness, two David Ogilvy Awards—for creativity and sales effectiveness, and the Toy Marketing Association's Award for Best Marketing, Advertising, & Promotion of 2000.
As CMO at Ferrero USA, the makers of Tic Tac, Rocher, and Nutella, he directed marketing, sales, advertising, public relations, promotions and research initiatives for both global and domestic brands. He now consults with corporations, communications companies, design firms, ad agencies, and executives in New York and Philadelphia.
Valeria Maltoni: Can there be authentic conversations between consumers and brands?
Gerry Lantz: Absolutely. I just gave a speech at the Smithsonian storytelling weekend, May 4-5, 2007. The conference focused on conversations, storytelling and leadership. The event was sponsored by the Golden Fleece Organizational Storytelling Group in D.C.
Your question about authentic marketing conversations was the driving force behind my presentation. Let’s look at some inauthentic marketing conversations first so when we run into the real thing, it will stand out. Sadly, most run of the mill marketing and advertising thinks it is having a genuine exchange with its consumer, but it’s all send with no receive despite all kinds of “interactive” web stuff going on. The consumer knows when the message and the action of the brand are authentic. Their crap detectors are very sensitive.
Several years ago British Petroleum changed its name to BP and attached new significance to those letters—“Beyond Petroleum.” They did a good job of repositioning themselves as a different kind of Oil Company that was seeking to find alternative energies and be environmentally friendly.
They even changed their logo into a flower-like burst of green, yellow, and white, and changed the livery of their gas stations in the same colors. Everything was so environmentally friendly the brand appears to be a crunchy green salad you could almost eat! Hell, I paid the 10 to 12 cents premium per gallon for their gas because I wanted to support their efforts.
Alas, in 2005, BP had the largest oil leak in its pipelines in the history of Alaska. Press reports were rampant about lack of inspections, ignoring warning signs, etc. Ouch! That green and yellow salad was suddenly less tasty. What’s worse, their Texas refinery blew up killing 15 people and injuring 180, I think. The lawsuits continue to this day on that incident. Again, unsafe conditions had been well documented and warnings given; top managers got into an ugly public row and heads rolled.
I asked the group I was presenting to what went wrong in this case. One astute listener answered: “BP didn’t push its brand story all the way down to the operational level.” Exactly.
Similarly, Chevy Tahoe jumped on the new interactive media and invited consumers to make their own commercials for the latest version of the SUV. A two-way conversation turned into a bloody fiasco. People uploaded ads so critical of the brand (“Chevy Tahoe: Weapon of Mass Destruction.”—that was a tame example!), that they had to pull down ads from their website. (The ads are still on YouTube if you want to see them.)
Chevy executives claimed they expected “some critical ads” but they were inundated. Why? Because they assumed that SUV owners, lovers of the brand would write and produce hymns of praise. NOT. They failed to take into account the worldview of all drivers, many of whom do not buy the Tahoe’s or its “Live Better” theme. Don’t invite a conversation if you don’t want to listen!
Valeria Maltoni: Do you have an example of someone who's done it right?
Gerry Lantz: Let us now praise a savvy marketer who started a frank and startling conversation about images of beauty and beauty products now pitched at women. In the interest of disclosure, I worked on Dove ads twenty-five years ago as a young account executive. When I saw what the brand was doing today, I just had to speak about it and express my admiration.
Dove started an authentic conversation between a brand and its customers and their stories. Dove’s “Real Beauty” and “Self-Esteem” Campaigns. Check out these links: The Campaign for Real Beauty or Dove web site.
Dove has leveraged all the impossible wrinkle-free, wraith-like, retouched beyond reality standards of beauty in advertising and popular culture and stood them on their heads. They have taken the current false category conversation of unachievable beauty playing on the fears and insecurities of so many women and turned it into an honest dialogue.
And you should see the response on the web. And it has been done largely without television ads, mostly with print, billboards, PR, and the web. They have invited women and men to respond and have they ever. Go to their website to see the amazing image of a 96 year old woman which asks you is she “wrinkled and wonderful.” Look at the “Evolution” ad that demonstrates how artificial most beauty ads and images are—and it is lampooned on YouTube, but the ad is sensational. What I admire most is an ad executive at Dove’s agency, Ogilvy, who has said, and I paraphrase, “We don’t want to destroy the competition in the category; we want to change them.” Bravo.
When I presented this case history, women and men were touched by the campaign’s honesty. In 44 countries around the world, consumers have responded by making Dove a $3 billion brand. It’s amazing what an honest conversation with consumers can help build.
Thank you, Gerry. Brand stories that work deliver not only great and memorable experiences, they also deliver results. Gerry discusses how companies can use storytelling techniques during culture change initiatives, mergers and acquisitions, in a recent podcast, courtesy of Anna Farmery at The Engaging Brand.