On the Campaign couch: How can I show my brand is 'doing good'?
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch: How can I show my brand is 'doing good'?

Don't ruin your brand's good work by telling the world how wonderful, generous, philanthropic you've been. Let it speak for itself, because it will.

Dear Jeremy, How can I show my brand is "doing good" without coming across as disingenuous?

When we watch politicians being sincere on television, we listen to what they have to say – but just as carefully, we note their body language.

Even if we’d never heard a word of what they were saying, we’d probably have clear opinions about Messrs Farage, Johnson and Corbyn. When we sit in presentations, listening to executive creative directors staking their reputations on a mongoose in a wheelchair, we mentally scrutinise what they have to say – but, just as warily, we note their body language.

It’s a good phrase, body language. It’s often subtler than a spoken language and it far more often speaks the truth. People can be trained to express sympathy and compassion in the form of words: but one spontaneous hug can convey a great deal more.

Brands don’t think about body language nearly enough. Brand body language is probably most apparent in retailing. No amount of skilful advertising can neutralise a dirty delicatessen counter or a hostile exchange at the checkout.

The American supermarket that gives away the discarded outside leaves of lettuces as Bunny Bags to families with pet rabbits has probably earned itself several million dollars’ worth of appreciation.

That’s the thing about brand body language: it can never be dismissed as empty assertion; it’s always demonstrable behaviour. So if you want to show that your brand is doing good without coming across as being devious and insincere, I make the modest suggestion that it should actually do some good.

What sort of good only you can determine because it must, of course, be true to the nature of the brand. Just don’t ruin it all by telling the world how wonderfully, generously, philanthropically good you’ve been. Let it speak for itself – because it will.

There is currently lots of talk about the importance of collaboration and the breaking down of silos – but is the world really changing that much?

I was surprised that, from start to finish of that deeply unedifying referendum campaign, no-one mentioned the Ryder Cup. In 1979, after it became apparent that Great Britain on its own would never again beat the US at golf, we very sensibly invited the rest of Europe to join us.

Since then, Danes, Swedes, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, Irishmen from the north and south, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Scotsmen and the Welsh have all clambered out of their national silos and collaborated.

In 2012, a German national sank a five-foot putt – and all over this country, proud Britons, undoubtedly including a fair proportion of Ukippers, leapt to their feet and cried: "We’ve won!" If you can get a supporter of Ukip to use the inclusive pronoun "we" about a group of foreigners that includes Frogs, Huns and Eyeties, there are clearly no limits to the possibilities of collaboration; you just need to get the motivation right.

By voting Leave, of course, we may have to revert to competing with America on our own – and not just at golf.

Dear Jeremy, Why are creative agencies struggling to evolve to digital-first thinking? Should they?

The only reason that creative agencies struggle to evolve to digital-first thinking is because they’re so terrified of being labelled traditional that they have to pretend to be hyperenthusiastic about something that they’ve yet to be convinced is as transformational as a dwindling number of fanatics still claim it to be. Technology and the internet have enabled us to do things that we were previously unable to do.

That’s a lot, but that’s all. When an agency takes on a client, it should first ask: what would this client like to happen that isn’t happening at the moment? And then it should ask: what do we have at our disposal that would most efficiently deliver that happy outcome? Digital? Possibly.

And possibly also stunts or sandwichboards. Or maybe even brand body language. (See above.) The best thinking is nothing-first thinking. And after that, everything.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham, TW1 3SP