Ads with Strong Brand Link

It’s always easier to judge everyone else’s advertising than when you are on the hot seat and judging the ads on your own brand.  I’ve been there 100s of times, and I still find it very difficult. You try to balance having it be a good ad, jamming in all the messaging you want and still maintaining enough branding so that it pays off for the brand.

The tool I use for judging ads is the ABC’S.  The best ads attract Attention (A) are about the Brand (B)Communicate the brand’s story (C) and they Stick in people’s minds (S)

  • Attention:  You have to get noticed in a crowded world of advertising.  If your brand doesn’t draw attention naturally, then you’ll have to force it into the limelight.
  • Branding:  Ads that are about the brand will link.  The balance is to have it be about the consumers view of the brand.  It’s not the amount of branding, but the climax to where the brand fits in.
  • Communication:  Tapping into the truths of the consumer and the brand, helps you to tell the brand’s life story.  Communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it—because that says just as much.
  • Stickiness:  In the end, brands are really about “consistency”.  They exist in the minds of the consumer.  Sticky ads help to build a consistent brand/consumer experience over time

So let’s focus on the BRANDING part.  How do we ensure high brand link scores?  The 4 simple ways to brand your spot are:

  1. Be Part of the Story: In the spirit of big ideas, how do you tell a story, using your brand. It’s not how much branding you use, or how early you bring the brand name in, but rather how closely connected the brand to the climax of your ad.
  2. Is it the Truth: It sounds funny, but if there is a disconnect between what you say, and what you are….then the brand link won’t be there. People will discard the ad.   But ads that are hitting that truth zone really nail the brand link.  This starts with your creative brief to make sure it connects with what people think about the brand.
  3. Own the Idea Area: Be a bit different—make sure that what you do sets you apart from anyone else.  Not only does the difference help you stand out, it helps you to own it over time.  Within your category or your market, make sure that it doesn’t feel like a copy-cat ad.   “Me Too” = “Me” diocre.
  4. Repeat: Don’t be afraid of building your campaign—and the simplest way to get branding is to repeat and repeat and repeat.  So many great campaigns have built them over 5-10 yeas.  As you’re in the creative room, sit there and say “can I see this lasting for 5 years?  Is the idea big enough?”

Here are some brands that do a good job in driving Brand Link:

Google “Parisian Love”

Google’s first and only TV was a pure beauty.  Google is part of the story, in fact it’s the facilitator of every part of the story.  And for creative people that hate demos, this is just a demo!   All this ad does is showcase how using this product can make your life better, showing how often we now reach for Google as a support to everything we now do.  The beauty of this ad is they were able take the searches into such an emotional space.  Whenever you do an interesting demonstration of how your brand really works, the brand link will be very high.  The new great idea is to create an Ad that will be passed on.  Aired once during the Super Bowl, it’s been passed around emails and viewed on youtube millions of time.  In fact, there are hundreds of parody ads as well which shows the power of the idea.  

Listerine “Bottle Guy”

I’m sneaking another one of mine in here.  Listerine ads are hard to make interesting–it’s a very serious brand in a low interest category, it’s clinical with information to deliver and how can you make gingivitis interesting.  This campaign idea lasted 10 years, and had brand link scores of 85-97%.  People would dress up as Listerine at Halloween and when we brought the Bottle Guy to events, we had people lined up to get their photo taken with him.  These ads were kind of crazy–but so different that they stood out.  With such a high brand link and stickiness already embedded in the idea, we could dedicate all our attention to driving the message–a new message about healthier gums.  Truth be told, I wasn’t sure whether it would work or whether I’d be quickly fired.  But it was sure fun finding out–and Listerine grew over 10% for the next 10 years.   

Wheat Thins “Wheat Thins”

Imagine a creative idea that just says the brand name over and over again.  For those with a quirky sense of humour, this one works.   For an impulse driven brand, Wheat Thins aired these spots 5 minutes into football games last year.  Just how popcorn does ads at the beginning of a Movie, this media buy likely made a few people think about Wheat Thins for the next hour before they finally got up, went to their kitchens and grabbed the box.  It worked on me.  I kept saying “wheat thins” the rest of the day.  

Apple:  “Mac vs PC”

Mac took such a simple concept of the side-by-side demonstration and made it compelling and ownable.  In terms of repeating, Mac must have made hundreds of these, all great and all consistent to the same tone and message.  Part of the brilliance is they never shifted too far from the big idea and yet found room to continuously surprise and delight their loyal following.  So many creative teams presented the “apple” style ads after those ads, but in reality, Apple owned any two guys standing side-by-side.  

For more reading on the ABC’s, view the following presentation:

Or read an article on being An Advertising Leader.

About Graham Robertson: 
I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do. I have walked a mile in your shoes. My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. I’m now a marketing consultant helping brands find their love and find growth for their brands. I do executive training and coaching of executives and brand managers, helping on strategy, brand planning, advertising and profitability. I’m the President of Beloved Brands Inc. and can help you find the love for your brand. To read more about Beloved Brands Inc, visit

Listerine PocketPaks: A case of Becoming a Beloved Brand Through Execution That People Love

It was 11 years ago this month, that I launched the Listerine PocketPaks brand here in Canada.  It was one of the most exciting launches I’ve been a part of–with an amazing consumer response.  Good memories.

We knew we had something different and wanted to take advantage of that difference.   As we brainstormed, we talked about how movies get such quick awareness and desire.   We wanted that–and used that as our model for the launch.

About 4 weeks before the launch, we got devastating news that the launch would be delayed three months.  All the media and sampling programs had already been set, and distribution was committed.   This could destroy our brand before it even launched.  Instead, the delay helped because with all the media and sampling programs pre-launch, it actually created such a pent up demand for the brand, that once we launched, we hit a 55% share in the first month.

The key programs for Listerine PocketPaks.

  • DRIVE TRIAL IN SOCIAL PLACES:  With a product like this, you had to try it to believe it.  We sampled all summer in events like film festivals, food events and carraces–and the theme of the sampling was Aliens from another planet, with attractive 20-somethings in tight blue silk, ready to fully engage in conversation about this product from out of no where.  We gave out full pack sizes, and we know from tracking that people shared them with an average of 13 people.   For every million samples we gave out, we were reaching 13 million people.   They spread the word for us.

    Sampling Events, with Aliens from outer space. Dropped 1 million full size packs before the product hit the shelf, creating pent up demand.

  • DRIVE AWARENESS IN SOCIAL PLACES:   With movies as our inspiration, our Advertising took a very movie feel–launching an 89 second movie ad in theatres that summer.   One other convention we broke was we didn’t say the brand name until second 46, so that we could fully engage the consumer before they knew it was an ad.  Lots of pizazz, but in reality the ad is all about the 5 step demo of using the product.   The advertising results were very strong on breakthrough, brand link was huge, made the brand seem different and persuasion were very strong.

    The way movies marketed new products was our inspiration. And made it's way into our execution.

With all the activity through the summer, there was such pent up demand, that we hit a 55% share of the mint market in the first share period, and maintained a #1 share position throughout the first three years.    We over-delivered our forecasts by over 50%.  Stores could not keep this in stock.   We won the Product of the Year award and the Advertising won a Cassie for Best Advertising.  And on top of that we were the enviable “most stolen product in Wal-Mart”.

The ending of the story is not so pretty.   Like most confectionary products, it had a spike early on, but we weren’t able to sustain.  From a production point of view, they never figured out a way to get that damn strip in the pack for a reasonable cost.  Compared to food or confectionary, the margins were very strong at 60%.   But compared to the other healthcare margins of 75% or 85%, Pfizer could not justify the investment to keep the sales strong.   Different brands tried to use it on other healthcare products as a delivery mechanism.  But it never caught on.   Listerine PocketPaks captured the imagination of consumers in the summer of 2000, with marketing execution all designed to make it a beloved brand.

You’ll still see it around some places, but we haven’t fulfilled that one consumer’s belief that he’ll never have gum or mints again.

Article from Strategy Magazine Go to: