Cola wars – Coca-Cola’s new ‘one brand’ strategy

Around about the time the Beatles were becoming famous, Coca-Cola already had a ‘one-sight, one-sound, one-sell’ strategy in place, along with a worldwide advertising campaign based on the proposition “Things Go Better With Coke”. Developed with the creative input of McCann-Erickson (an agency I worked for several decades later), it was a campaign that dominated the sixties, fighting for attention with Pepsi’s rallying call “Come Alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation.”

A brand expert could see Coke’s new ‘one brand’ strategy as a reflection of the ‘one-sight, one-sound, one-sell’ strategy and applaud the consistency of the approach. The problem is that in the sixties, leaving aside Fanta and some other syrupy diversions, Coca-Cola was still essentially a one-product company, but today the Coca-Cola Company manages a series of distinct and different brands. You don’t meet many Diet Coke drinkers who are just as happy with the full-fat alternative.

Jon Woods, General Manager of Coca-Cola in Great Britain & Ireland explains the company’s thinking: “With our new ‘one brand’ approach, we are uniting four distinct brands under the umbrella of Coca-Cola. We believe our no and lower sugar variants will benefit from this closer association with Coca-Cola and that featuring all variants in our advertising will make clear to more consumers the full choice we offer them.” Read more

Copywriting and branding lessons from seven seasons of Mad Men

One of the interesting things about the recently ended Mad Men series was how it so often pitched its way out of the confines of the TV soap opera and into the real world of a creative advertising agency.

As a Creative Director who escaped the clutches of McCann-Erickson myself, there are lessons from the series for not just about every type of creative and marketing professional, but for every business owner too.

Copyhackers has produced the useful infographic below outlining the copywriting lessons from the show from the practical, ‘If you don’t like what they’re saying about you, change the conversation,’ to the philosophical, ‘We’re gonna sit at our desks typing while the walls fall down around us. Because we’re the least important most important thing there is.’

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Mad Men, Coca-Cola and the big brand dilemma

In the Mad Men finale, broadcast late last night in the UK and Ireland, Don Draper and many of the main Sterling Cooper characters are desperate to flee the all-consuming, skirt-chasing ad agency giant McCann-Erickson. In fact US reviewers have largely overlooked the fact that Don is trying to escape the deathly clutches of McCann’s almost as much as he’s been running away from the everyday horror of his tangled New York existence.

Until a total stranger opens the fridge door of his mind to give him a very Madison Avenue kind of enlightenment, Don is completely lost. A Coca-Cola style of creative immortality seems to call to him on a California hilltop overlooking the ocean. Jack Kerouac meets David Ogilvy.

Mad Men, not inadvertently, raises an issue for McCann’s, Coca-Cola and Mad Men itself. Let’s call it the big brand dilemma.

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Put a tiger in your tank – the advertising revolution

There was a time when a great headline, image, copy and strapline were all you needed to get your message across to your target audiences. And once you had a great campaign in place, you could pretty much broadcast it to the known world without thinking too much about nuance and local adaptation.

The Esso ‘Put a tiger in your tank’ campaign is a good example of an old style company ‘brandcasting’ its message to a captive audience in every corner of the then developed world. Have a look at the example below. When you consider these campaigns were often beautifully produced and hand drawn without the help of any technology, they seem to belong to a very distant world.

Multinational agencies grew as the campaigns grew, but it really wasn’t that long ago when I was a young designer in McCann Erickson, I could pretty much guarantee that anyone that saw a Peugeot advert in Ireland in any given day, in any media format, would be looking at a version of the layout I had designed.

It’s the ability to target that has revolutionised the advertising industry, so that it’s possible to say the best forms of advertising today are not really advertising at all.

TV, radio and 48-sheet posters, of course, could extend the brand message and target customers as they travelled and went to work, but advertising was essentially ‘brandcasting’ with very little personalisation.

It’s the ability to target that has revolutionised the advertising industry, so that it’s possible to say the best forms of advertising today are not really advertising at all, and certainly have little relation to old-style brandcasting.

The tiger in the tank of business owners and marketing professionals today is technology. Instead of roaring an unambiguous brand message, the best targeted and most effective results are found using personalised marketing and social media that purr in the ear of the target audiences. You have the opportunity to get closer to your target market than the old advertising tigers could ever dream of getting.

Through digital and social media you can engage with virtually anyone, even when they’re behind the wheel of their car, without resorting to large radio and outdoor budgets. You can speak to them though social technology on their smart phone, be part of their entertainment and lifestyle though sponsorship and branded content and use existing sales and research data to refine your message and grow your business.

This is the advertising revolution. This is the new tiger’s roar.

If you take a total product experience approach to your brand and your business, everything you do is an important part of your brand and product experience.

Note that I use the term social technology, as social media really owes it reach to the software and hardware-driven technology that has changed our lives and businesses in recent times and continues to evolve and revolutionise our communication on an almost daily basis.

And if, like many of our clients, you take a total product experience approach to your business, everything you do is an important part of your brand and product experience. Your technology and everything you do is your advertising.

You will need help to deliver the best targeted messages that fit the positioning and voice of your brand. To grow your business you must be hungry to communicate and get as close as possible to those you want to speak to, but without biting them of course!

Let your social media purr…

Eugene Burns




The democracy of design

Fictitious Mad Men account director Pete Campbell was unceremoniously removed from the Chevy account when the clients found out he couldn’t drive a car with a stick. As a non-driver I however thrived for several years on the Peugeot account in Ireland, as I was still able to design great creative ideas and express the key elements of the brand without needing to be a petrolhead.

Cars are designed for everyone and there is a unique democracy about car design that appeals to the enlightened designer. In the first part of the twenty-first century a well-designed car is available to almost everyone that can afford one. That’s why I’ve been watching with interest the re-engineering of the Volkswagen Beetle for the new era. The third iteration of the classic Beetle – the most recent being the 1998 curvaceous ‘flower vase’ model – the new version is both more masculine and a better engineered homage to the classic of over seventy years before.

The German design of the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle says Porsche curves rather than city run-about, and yet it’s a similar price range as the same company’s Golf, or a Mini Cooper. The VW Beetle seems better designed, better thought-through, better contoured and therefore potentially a better more enduring brand of car than others in its class. It’s unique shape turns heads on the road.

There are clearly creative ideas at play that influence and shape the form of the finished VW Beetle 2012, and these are echoed inside with optional extras such as a Fender-branded sound system that oozes credibility. Mass production doesn’t have to mean inferior products as long as the ideas that drive the car’s production are practical and design led and each buyer has the bespoke options that make the brand more personal.

Cars are designed for everyone and there is a unique democracy about car design that appeals to the enlightened designer.

Leaving the luxury market aside, you really don’t have to pay that much more for a well designed car. If design is important to you, if it’s part of the brand that speaks to you and engages your mind as well as your heart, then you’ll invest in a car, or any product or service, that’s well designed and durable. If a car is something more than a vehicle that gets you to work in the morning, it’s worth applying that thinking to other design choices in your life.


Why waste money and resource on poor choices and indifferent thinking? Why chose something that’s mass produced just because everyone else is has it, when you can enjoy something that’s bespoke, is the result of better creative thinking and is designed to be right for you?

Democracy is good for design. Let’s not forget Steve Jobs’ Bauhaus inspired aesthetic ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’ If simple, classic design is available to all in the shape of a well designed car, it’s all the more important for your business that you realise great design is not necessarily more expensive or harder to achieve than indifferent design. It’s worth looking for the right design supplier when it comes to your business and your brand. Great design is your democratic right after all. Let’s talk.

Eugene Burns



The era of Game Of Thrones style agencies is over

If you work in marketing or buy creative services of any kind you’ve probably met some wag who has told you about the bad old days, when all agencies were like Mad Men where the drink and more flowed day and night and egos ruled the castle.

Having worked for McCann-Erickson in my youth – one of the best known of the Madison Avenue agencies that covered the globe – my stories of past misdeeds and behaviour from colleagues and competitors are more like Game Of Thrones than Mad Men. Creative agencies were once fiefdoms of influence and closely guarded secrets where account warriors fought tooth and nail for patronage and territory; often to the creative detriment of the clients they served.

But those dragon-infested days are on the wane I’m glad to say, and apart from a few isolated and dying outposts, those types of agency encampments are either dead or dying.

[blockquote]Now collaboration between client and creative agency is the watchword.[/blockquote]

Infighting and the incestuous drive for power that so often was the driving force behind agency monoliths are now outmoded ways of working. Put simply, the atmosphere that sometimes became poisoned in advertising agencies in particular was rarely a good breeding ground for creative thinking and fresh design ideas. Technology has disrupted the creative industries and that has largely been for the general good of clients and creative designers too.

There were agencies that banned creatives from ever meeting clients and other agencies that earned their revenues from hefty production and media mark-ups and practically gave the design away for free. Some dinosaurs still operate in this business model but thankfully this Game Of Thrones era has largely disappeared.

Daenerys and dragonTechnology means that design and creativity and the inventive ideas they engender are now more valued and lauded than ever before. Creativity is king and the big agency account execs that used to infest any creative project are now largely extinct.

As a client you want to deal directly with creative people who know you, your business and your brand. More valuable than someone with a gold Amex card who buys you lunch, is a creative professional who has insights and a solid grasp of your business and can play a big role in helping you grow your brand and your products – who has empathy and understanding of your story, your history and your future.

Design and technology are more powerful weapons than scripted processes and tired ideas. Creative teams and projects can be as small or as big as they need to be to get the work done and the objectives achieved without the intervention of too many egos. Now collaboration between client and creative agency is the watchword.

Clients should spend their money and resource on design and creativity rather than on layers of client service. That’s why I made Brandlogik a flexible, virtual team that puts the client and the client’s customers at the centre of our business.

We believe in the power of branding, design and technology to transform your life and your business and anything that gets in the way of delivering the best results is best eliminated, like those Game Of Thrones style feudal barons. Let’s talk.

Eugene Burns



Mad Men new season – dramatizing the creative process

Having just returned from New York I would like to share some thoughts on the opening episode of the Mad Men new season. Warning: contains some spoilers for readers in the UK and Ireland.

In the first episode of Man Men series 6 there’s an interesting examination of the creative process intertwined in the lives of the advertising agency characters.

Early in the episode Don returns rejuvenated from a luxury winter break in Hawaii with Megan, paid for by his client Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Yet later in the episode when it comes to creating the next advertising campaign for the hotel, he allows his own emotions, his own inner inferno, to get in the way of finding a great creative solution.

Don’s past and present confusion gets in the way of the client’s brand so he fails to execute one of his killer presentations, much to the annoyance of Pete Campbell and Roger Sterling. His creative approach and his stapline ‘Hawaii – the jumping off point’ are so clouded by his own emotions that the voice of the brand and the brief itself is lost, and the great Madison Avenue Creative Director is all too visibly cast adrift in front of his disappointed client.

Don’s confusion is later contrasted with Peggy – now a senior copywriter at a rival agency of course – who is forced to come up with a new creative solution for a Koss headphones Superbowl spot, when the client gets nervous and wants to pull the advert at the last minute.

In contrast to Don, Peggy – who of course has learned so much from the master – is forced to work hard to find a stronger feature about the product that better dramatizes the brand.  And how does she find the solution? Not by looking within but by allowing the outside world to inspire her creative juices. The implication is that Peggy has grown to be a better creative by getting out of her own way and taking her creative thinking to a higher level.

There may be a lesson here for all designers and advertising creatives. Great work is not about you. It comes from finding out great things about your client’s business, or product, and getting out of the way to allow the truth to shine through to the users and the audience.

That’s not to say that there’s no room for personality in design and advertising. In fact personality is essential. It’s in the treatment – how you choose to use your skills to express the tone-of-voice of the brand. It’s the words you choose and the typeface that you use. It’s the colour, the definition and the character that you bring to the end result and what gives depth to the final work.

In many ways the creative process must be much the same as the scriptwriting process. With Dante’s Inferno echoing in your head, you may have trouble allowing long-established characters to find their true voice.

It’s this level of approach that makes the Mad Men new season something more than just another TV series. It sometimes knows when to creatively get out of the way and let the ideas and the characters speak for themselves.

Eugene Burns

First Screening driven by great ideas

‘The mobile is evolving as a primary screen for consumers.’ Mobile World Conference, Barcelona 2013

There was a time when we all got our news and even some of our values from our TV set – when most major news and sporting events were a shared, national, screen-based experience. Like many of you I no longer depend on TV alone. In fact TV is my second or even third screen. My first screen depends on the time of day or where I am. Second screening no longer applies.

Thinking back it’s almost four years since we’ve had a web TV that plugs right into our home network and we bought that TV standing in front of the exact same model in John Lewis while completing the Amazon check out on my iPhone.

Before breakfast or traveling my iPhone is my first screen. That’s where I not only first see my important emails of the day – and weed out the unimportant ones – but where I catch up with all my social media feeds finding out what’s happening in design, tech, sport and general world news before logging into my retina iPad where even on the move I’ll do some more detailed web browsing and check apps for business issues of the day.

For business and for pleasure my laptop and my desktop iMac are the first screens for pretty much everything and I expect you are like me in this respect.

Things have come a long way in just a few years and we’re still just at the beginning of what’s possible. Why does this matter?

[blockquote]First screening means now more than ever it’s the ideas that drive an insanely great design or marketing campaign.[/blockquote]

Designers have always designed for multiple formats and delivery channels. I remember back in my early days at McCann-Erickson reformatting full-page adverts for Peugeot was my first real studio job.

The difference is that now different devices and channels take and reinterpret the same artwork, the same imagery, and the same design. The measurement of success is in the engagement that the design delivers and not on the number of copies sold, or adverts screened.

The mobile device is starting to become a primary screen for viewing long-form video thanks to bigger and better screens, faster processors and connectivity and evolving consumer behaviour.

‘One out of three digital media consumption minutes takes place on a mobile channel.’ Source: comScore

First screening means now more than ever it’s the ideas that drive an insanely great design or marketing campaign. The freedom from the tyranny of format and the breaking out of the standard delivery channels means it’s the quality of the thinking that’s really on display. Great ideas can drive brand engagement now rather than multi-channel frequency.

Designers still need to deliver creativity and excellent thinking through imagery and copy while clients need to back and invest in that thinking if they want their brands to feature on that first screen where creativity is the star.

Creativity is the new rock and roll. So throw that TV into the swimming pool.


We’re a small team that delivers excellent creativity and brand insights with a plain speaking approach. Let’s talk.


The Shape Of Things To Come

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with one of the major professional services companies. Client confidentiality means I won’t be able to tell you which one of course, but they’re world leaders in their field and are having serious difficulty executing a flexible international advertising campaign to promote the global reach and local depth of their brand. They were simply having problems deciding on an approach that’s right for them and that would get buy-in from the many stakeholders, regions and business sectors within the firm.

Having seen problems like this from an internal design and brand management viewpoint as well as from an external creative director’s point of view, it’s clear they’re very common in many organizations and need a considerable amount of thought and brand insight to solve effectively and creatively. Put simply they couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

There is no substitute for clear yet creative thinking when it comes to brand issues. The problem with many international brands is that they have too many conflicting interests, too much internal pushes and pulls to be able to implement quick, creative design and brand solutions. Major companies often do design and branding well, yet can’t act quickly or effectively enough to embrace inventive ideas to knock their clients socks off. They move more slowly than they should.

Large international firms need to think like smaller companies when it comes to branding and design. They need to be able to act at an individual level to make more impact in their marketing and reaffirm their credibility. Even when dealing with a large corporation or partnership we are all individuals and need to see the shape of personal elements in every brand. I know that this quick-acting, individual approach is easier to say than to implement but companies need to think and respond fast in a social media age.

I’m happy to tell you that the global partnership in question certainly listened to my ideas for the development of an advertising solution for their brand, and I look forward to seeing some of the results very soon, but there’s always a challenge in staying number one in your sector, and that challenge is the continuing need for fresh ideas and fresh thinking.

‘If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change,’ Italian author Giuseppe di Lampedusa said in his novel The Leopard, and that’s something that brand managers and marketing professionals really should always to bear in mind. It takes a lot of work to stay in the same place and in design and brand development this should never be overlooked.

What lessons are there then for you and your business from how major brands deal with brand and marketing issues? Firstly, if you’re not number one in your sector, you should see the relative lack of size and flexibility of your business as an advantage. You should be open to listening to good ideas and implement them quickly once you are certain of their value to your brand. Just be confident in their worth and find good designers and brand specialists to help you deliver them.

The other crucial lesson for all of us is that you should never rest or be content with your design, your brand positioning and how you develop your conversation with your customers and your users. There’s always something new to consider and to learn when managing your brand. Branding, design and social media are still relatively new tools and there are always fresh approaches and fresh ideas and thinking that can drive you in the direction of business growth, or make that growth much easier to reach.

Having helped several major companies successfully re-engineer their brand in the first dot com boom, it’s my view this new media revolution is much more than a bubble. This digital revolution is how business is now and the shape of things to come has finally arrived.

Everything is possible thanks to great technology and software provided by Apple and other firms and great transparent technology tools like Twitter and WordPress that allow you to communicate, publish and effectively reach your target audiences with more accuracy than ever before. We’re still right at the very beginning of a social media age, but unless you want your business to stay exactly as it is, things had better change.

Eugene Burns

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