Ashgrove Marketing’s Terry van Rhyn is no fan of bland advertising and soulless marketing. He argues that change is a useful catalyst to help brands shape effective communications that connect with consumers at an emotional level.

So are we now in the new normal? If we are, how is it different from the old normal? And how many ads will still be talking about the new normal long after the new normal has ceased to exist?

For the truth is that we are always in a state of constant change. And that’s how things should be. After all, we are human: we create, innovate, collaborate, adapt and change naturally. That is how we survive.

Let’s just look at the past six decades which are especially relevant to old guys like me.

Think about communication: how we have gone from having to ring a central exchange to make a landline call to having a single phone per household (jealously guarded by your parents so you had to use a phone box to make more intimate calls) to the personal handheld devices we take for granted today.

Not only do we have global accessibility in the palm of our hands, we have it in full audio visual joy!

The impact of this on other parts of our lives has been huge. Where once we may have relied on a few drab department stores with minimal product options for our shopping, we can now use our smartphones to place an order online from any store around the world. We also expect (perhaps even demand) delivery within days if not hours.

We are always in constant change – it is part of who we are as beings! So how, as marketers, do we respond to this?

The answer is not to churn out what we’ve always done. For another truth is that the world is filled to the brim with mundane, average and simply boring communication messages, not to speak of utterly dull and uninspiring advertising.

It’s our role as marketers to help brands break through this, so that when you come to articulating your message to the outside world, you do it in a memorable and significant way. Aim to capture the imagination of your audience, stand out and be brave.

So how is this achieved when people have limited capacity to recall specific messages, especially when endlessly exposed to many thousands of remarkably poor ones on a daily basis?

Generally, statistics show that just a tad over 15% of people will be able to recall a brand or brand name. Even some of those will struggle to make the connection to its relevance.

There are a few things to consider.

Firstly distil your brand message down to ONE unique idea or message that defines you and then make sure you present it in a powerful and creative manner so people remember your name, what you’re offering and why they should care.

Do not over-complicate things – we will not remember ten things you do well, we will only know how you make us feel for one reason.

Secondly, remember that, as humans, we respond to emotional messages. We make buying decisions based on our “feelings”. Donald Trump was someone who recognised this, simplifying his message to give his supporter base exactly what they wanted to hear.

A study by Binet & Field found that emotional campaigns are twice as likely to work as rational ads and are more than twice as efficient at driving market share.

Thirdly, ask yourself a few questions about your brand and proposition, and answer them truthfully (rather than giving the responses you want to hear). This includes looking at things from a client/customer perspective, given they should be at the centre of your universe anyway. (They also often have all the answers you are looking for, just ask!)

Creative consultant Dave Trott has outlined the fundamental questions you should be asking before any campaign. The first three – are you looking at brand share or market growth, are you targeting current or new users, and are you promoting your brand or product (ie emotional or rational reasoning) – relate to your business.

A further three – who should buy it, why should they buy it and what could they buy instead – relate more to the customer.

Very often mistakes are made by not understanding the difference between short-term sales activation and long-term brand building. Knowing exactly what you are setting out to do makes the whole thing a lot easier and more likely to end in success.

For those brands/businesses using an ad agency, pick one you can collaborate with and that offers not only strategic value but will deliver creative substance.
External perspectives and challenges are important otherwise you risk simply reverting to type and saying the same things you have been saying for a long time.

It is inevitable that we will continue to endure ads and companies talking about their “new normal” and it’s likely these will be lost in the mists of time as we navigate to newer normals over the coming years.

In many ways, advertising echoes its current environment and community, but it also has the power to change perceptions and shift thinking…maybe it’s time for advertising to do its thing and move us all on?



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