Be Known For Something...

Have you ever looked at the celebrity pages of a newspaper and thought, Why on earth is that person famous? What have they done?

The pointless celebrity is modern phenomenon. Today you can be famous just for being famous.

But the problem for vacuous celebs is that their popularity can wane just as quickly as it rose.

Real fame comes from being known for something.

People like Prince, Bowie, Hendrix, Jay-Z, Adele, Picasso, Damien Hirst, Banksy, Ayrton Senna, Lewis Hamilton, Winston Churchill, Barack Obama, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Orson Welles, Audrey Hepburn - these people were and are famous for a reason.

They are famous for their abilities as musicians, artists, sportsmen, statesmen, scientists and actors.

Their fame isn't fickle, because it's based on what they bring to the world.

It seems to me that, increasingly, marketers and advertising people are happy for their brand to shine briefly into our consciousness like the pointless celeb.

Let's do a funny video, people love that shit - a cute animal or dancing baby, famous puppet or cartoon, or (dare I say it?) a drumming gorilla.

But how about something with a bit of substance that might last longer than tomorrow's freesheet newspaper?

I think people in advertising need to wake up from their lazy views and received wisdom about so-called product parity.

There's a pervading, fashionable notion among advertising people that we are at a point of universal product parity in all categories, where there is no discernible or relevant difference between competing products.

This is often used to make the subsequent argument that there’s no useful role for the product in advertising because the only difference is at a brand level.

But the notion of widespread, complete product parity is an exaggeration popularised by people who would rather not be making advertising about products anyway.

They'd rather make make the dancing baby ad anyway.

But if you mention product benefits or qualities out loud in advertising, people will immediately fire back Hey dude, the USP is dead, you just don't get it, do you?

We need to end this constant confusion of USPs, product differences and relevant qualities.

While we are at a stage where the vast majority of products in most categories can be said to ‘work’, the extent to which they work – and the quality of how they are made and perform – is still often different at some level. 

The fact is, products do have qualities or benefits that are important to the customer.

They are the very reason the customer buys the product in the first place – to perform a task or fill a need.

They don’t need to be unique (as in the USP), they just have to be relevant to the customer.

And if they are relevant to the customer, then they are very much worth talking about in advertising.

Let's remember that the customer is the most important person in advertising.

To be top of mind is extremely important, but the real value is in not just being known, but being known for those qualities that are relevant to the customer.

Be top of mind, but top of mind for a good reason.

Be known for something.

Be famous for something.

All great, successful brands and products are famous for something.

What are you famous for?

For more pithy challenging of received wisdom, our new book ‘How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better – The Manifesto for a New Creative Revolution’ – is available exclusively at the Design Museum.

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