Brand News

Brands must stop expecting life-long loyalty


No, really, I don't see anything earth-shatteringly different about the advertising business in 2016. And that's both good and bad news.

The good news is that, as Bill Bernbach said way back in the 1960s, there are more things unchanged and unchanging than there are things changed and changing. By the time 2015 rolls to an end, the delusional fight between data heads versus storytellers seems to have meandered into a stalemate, with both parties agreeing to one being the means and the other the end.

The bad news is that over the last year there have been few genuinely world-changing ideas from the world of advertising. Cynical as I sound, I retain my sunniness because we continue to have opportunities to do some exciting work.

I'll pick three cultural trends to ride on.

First, present utility entertainingly. Some of the most important issues today are being presented most tellingly by entertainers. Think John Oliver, Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart in the US. Think Cyrus Broacha, The Week That Wasn't and A.I.B. and TVF in India. Feels like advertising currently errs on being too utilitarian without entertainment, or being too entertaining without utility.

Second, temporary is not a bad thing. Let's face it. People are, at best, serial monogamists. It's time brands stopped expecting life-long loyalty and love. Advertising will work just perfectly encouraging flings and affairs, one-night stands with brands, without worrying about what it might do to brand health.

Third, failure is an option.

The long tail of non-starters and hiccupping casualties by the wayside in the start-up economy is pretty long. But these are the never-say-die young'uns whose mantra is that famous exchange between a young Bruce Wayne and Alfred: "Why do we fall, Master Bruce? So that we may rise again." And as long as advertising is seen as an expense, we'll be afraid to fail, unlike the intrepid entrepreneurs of the e-comm cosmos. Because it's not all or nothing. It's all in, all the time. Regardless.