At the time 30 was considered too young, so I had to go to the head office in Chicago to be interviewed.
This was a new experience in corporate America for me.
I met the President in the lobby and we got on the elevator.
A secretary was drinking a can of Coke.
The President looked at her and asked "What is that?"
The entire elevator went quiet.
The secretary turned red and became flustered.
"Omigish, I am so sorry. I asked for Royal Crown Cola but they were all sold out. I am so sorry. I promise I will never happen again."
The President frowned at her.
She was obviously mortified.
When we got off the elevator I asked what the problem was.
He said "Everyone who works at Leo Burnett is required to use only our clients’ brands, of course."
And I thought, hmmm, I wonder if that’s a good idea.
It’s very seductive to only want converts working on your advertising.
People who only buy your clients’ brands.
But it’s also divorced from reality.
The problem with brand zealots is that they are Core Users.
Imagine a straight line with a dot at each end.
The dot at one end represents the people who will always use your brand, no matter what.
The dot at the other end represents the people who’d never dream of using your brand.
The people who’d always use your brand are loyalists: Core Users.
The people who’d never use your brand are Core Non-users.
There isn’t any point in talking to either of these groups.
The Core Users will buy you, no matter what.
The Core Non-users won’t buy you, no matter what.
The Core users are already doing what you want.
The Core Non-users will never do what you want.
So talking to either group is wasted time and money.
Now imagine ripples coming out from these dots like concentric circles.
As each gets further from the core, they are less entrenched in their views.
Eventually the circles will meet and cross.
Like a Venn diagram.
The part where these circles cross is the people who are capable of changing their opinions.
People who aren’t either Core-Users or Core Non-users.
This is where the vast majority of us are.
Because even brand loyalists aren’t monogamous.
Most people have a vague brand preference, but that’s all it is: vague.
Most people will accept a substitute if the preferred choice isn’t available.
They’d rather do that than go without.
What Leo Burnett were saying was that the girl in the elevator should go without if she can’t get Royal Crown Cola.
So it looks like everyone’s attitude is - Royal Crown or nothing.
And that isn’t the attitude in the real world.
That’s the pretend world of brand zealots.
And that isn’t the attitude that will enable Leo Burnett to convert floating voters.
Real people are like the girl in the elevator.
I think real people are much more useful to an agency than pretend zealots.