Jane Asscher, chairman and managing partner, 23red
Jane Asscher, chairman and managing partner, 23red
A view from Jane Asscher

Think BR: It's time for brands to take action

Brands are sometimes guilty of overthinking and underdoing, writes Jane Asscher, managing partner and chairman, 23red.

"The unexamined life is not worth living" is a lovely, oft-used quote and for many of us the maxim that informs how we conduct our professional and personal relationships.

The culture of talking things through, debating, weighing the pros and cons, thinking before we speak and examining our motivation is now ingrained.

I bet most of us, especially in media, advertising, and in offices of all kinds, are familiar with the terms thought leadership, critical thinking, school of thought and positive thinking. 

I am all for making considered and informed decisions, looking at arguments from all sides and taking the long view. However, I sometimes suspect we are guilty of overthinking and underdoing. 

Brands are as prone to this as the rest of us. So many brands take a passive stance when engaging with customers, often using the language of reassurance such as Batchelor’s Cup-a-Soup's Hug in a Mug to Johnson’s No More Tears, and even Sky’s Believe in Better - they all serve a purpose, but they are inert phrases, with no sense of urgency. 

Fragrance and beauty brands are particularly prone - Between Love and Madness Lies Obsession and Because You’re Worth it are inactive, two dimensional positions.

True brand activation requires consumers to do something - engage, act, try your products and return, or change behaviour. Marketing and advertising need to focus much more on the doing of things with clear calls to action, rather than a ponderous, emotional approach. 

The beauty of digital is that the 'do’ can be so quick, easy and cost-effective; it is at the crossover of online and offline that so many engagement opportunities lie.

Advertising-literate audiences need explicit permission to do, rather than just consider. Nike was way ahead of its time coining Just Do It in 1988. 

This simple imperative made all sport feel desirable, accessible, and achievable, whatever the customer’s level of expertise.

Its success was unprecedented - increasing worldwide sales from $877 million to $9.2 billion in ten years.

This year’s quit smoking campaign from the Department of Health is a great example of doing to effect behaviour change. The category convention is to set up the obvious, and well known, negative impacts of smoking, then appeal emotionally to make the audience feel they should stop, ultimately giving them the tools to change that behaviour. 

The Stoptober initiative turns this principle on its head saying ‘just stop’. The rationale is if you give up smoking for 28 days, you’ll be five times more likely to stop for good. Therefore the traditional behaviour change journey is turned on its head.

There are other examples of brands embracing action rather than just words to great effect. Some are simple, some complex, but all of them share the getting on with it ethos. I am particularly fond of the iconic Go to Work on an Egg campaign -  straightforward and unequivocal direction.

The Nespresso lounges and the M&S Shwopping initiatives are both highly successful, deed-based campaigns - very much what 23red would describe as ‘Do. Feel. Think’ executions, with action being the primary driver. 

Respectively they answer a commercial and ethical brief, with each brand bringing action, and therefore ownership to its consumers. This kind of interaction with customers is the ideal - it’s meaningful and engaging, and ultimately about consumers getting up and doing something.

Brands still need to be relevant, useful, honest and appealing, of course they do, but it’s those that prompt action who will engage prospects and convert them to customers more effectively.

Jane Asscher, managing partner and chairman, 23red