I’ve been lucky enough to know two great men, David Ogilvy and Tom
Harrison, my father. I don’t know what David is like at bricklaying but
dad taught me a few interesting things about brands.
In the early 70s, he, being a man behaving normally for those times,
retired to the pub five nights out of every week to sink a few swift
pints of fine ale.
It was not, however, any old pub nor any old pint. These were the days
when most beer was insipid froth sucked from stainless steel kegs by
electronic pumps. Dad didn’t like it.
He wouldn’t ’smile please, you’re in Greenall Whitley land’. He wasn’t
impressed by Whitbread big head Trophy Bitter, ’the pint that thinks
it’s a quart’. Nor was he consoled by the notion that ’Worthington is
the beer, there’s satisfaction here, it’s the Worthington taste that
satisfies, tiddley tiddley pom’ (forgive that last flourish but we are
in pre-Webster beer ad jingleland).
In fact, dad would get in his car (in those days the point of having a
car was to broaden drinking options) and drive five miles to the Vic, a
ramshackle establishment, where he would wait while surly Norman drew,
in two pulls, the perfect pint from its wooden barrel.
Then he’d watch it for 20 seconds - because one of the main reasons dad
drank (yes) Boddingtons was its wondrous creamy head.
Dad taught me to love Boddies. Looking back, I also learned from him
that there’s a small group of consumers in every product category who
get through a hugely disproportionate amount of the volume in that
category (in dad’s case, 20 pints a week, 52 weeks a year).
And, through constant consumption, they get to know more about the
category than the people who market the product or do the advertising.
As such, these most valuable consumers - the very individuals we’re
usually trying to get to switch brands - usually find the ads to be
silly or superficial (indeed, the Tetley bitter men actually put dad off
So if the ads don’t work on these people, what do we do? Send them trite
letters that begin: ’As a valued customer ...’? I hope not because it is
they, not us, who are the real custodians of the brand and we must find
ways to involve ourselves with them (not vice versa).
Moreover, it is they who notice the slightest change in product,
packaging, price and quality. Really, we should be urging clients to
co-opt them into their marketing departments.
Someone should have done that with dad. He’d have got breweries back to
hand-pulled beers 15 years before they eventually succumbed to Camra’s
tiresome preaching. What’s more, he arrived at Boddies 18 years before
Mr Hegarty. If only someone had taken notice of him. But then again,
what am I saying? I never did, and look at me now - unemployed.
Steve Harrison is a resting copywriter.