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Where’s the join?

Since those heady days in 2009 when we formed Breakfast, one question has stumped us more than any other. (Apart from “Why is James Corden popular?” I really can’t help with that.)

“What kind of agency are you?” is difficult to answer. We’re not an advertising agency – although we often create ads. We’re not a branding agency – although we invent, define and develop brands. And ‘marketing agency’ is just too general.

We settled on the description ‘brand agency’, because in one form or another all of our clients are, or possess, brands. But the nuance of brand/ branding has confused as many people as it has informed, and it feels a little general and vague.

So it was with some interest I read this article. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read it, I’ll summarise: it’s entitled ‘Is advertising redundant?’. Apparently only 5% of 18-35 year olds think it’s worth brands investing in advertising, because consumers want and admire brands with “a clear value-provision mindset”.

The theory is that we – the consumer – can find out all we wish to know about brands on the internet, where one can find “impartial information”.

A couple of points. First, no one has ever produced a survey (I can’t prove this but do your worst) where the actual, real-world influence of advertising has been acknowledged. (“Yes – I genuinely believe that Coca Cola taught the world to sing”, was probably never uttered.) We rarely admit to being influenced by ads but that doesn’t mean brands shouldn’t bother advertising.

Secondly, the idea that the information we find on the internet is ‘impartial’ disappeared among my peers about five years ago. Anyone paying the slightest attention to the current shitstorm surrounding fake news knows that ‘impartiality’ is hard to establish.

So far, so obvious. But the real point here is that brands don’t have to be ‘admired’, or ‘liked’. Brands that are neither aren’t ‘pointless’, they’re possibly fulfilling a function. A function that doesn’t necessitate them being mentioned in a list of most-admired brands…

Everything agencies like ours create for clients, whether it’s advertising, branding or some hard-to-define hybrid, is communicating on a brand’s behalf; whether it’s some copy on Google or a 48 sheet poster. If, somewhere on the internet, there’s a forum where a few consumers are saying Moskovskaya is the greatest vodka they’ve ever tasted (there is), then great. But I can’t know beyond all doubt that those reviews aren’t paid for. Similarly, we all, I think, realise that people generally only share exceptional or awful information about brands online. The truth – and the vast majority of brand interactions – are somewhere in between. What consumers can do is notice and trust the advertising and branding produced by the brand, and then make up their own minds whether to purchase. In other words, much the same as it ever was.

Are Ryanair liked or admired? Can I read thousands of positive words about them online? Are they a highly profitable and successful business? Erm…yes.

So it’s all very well that a non-advertising brand like Lush is so well thought of, but they have clearly placed significant attention and care into their brand. And, I suspect, the first time someone suffocates in one of their bubble baths they might need some paid-for communication to help them recover…

In summary, the article concludes by suggesting that the definition of advertising has changed or needs to. And that’s a conclusion the Breakfast team reached some time ago.

So what type of agency are we? We’re an agency that solves problems for brands by having good ideas. It’s not catchy, but it’s the best I can do…

 

 

 

 

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