The Warc Blog

The Warc Blog

Why some ideas are so hard to resist
Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest
David Penn

I recently read The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge, by Matt Ridley, and was struck by the following passage:

"Evolution is far more common and far more influential than most people recognise. It is not confined to genetic systems, but explains the way that virtually all of human culture changes…The ways in which these streams of human culture flow is … undirected, emergent and driven by natural selection among competing ideas" (my italics)

Over the past few years, my company has been trying to identify factors which fuel the spread of ideas, and why some succeed, while others fail. Here are some of the insights and hypotheses we want to share:


Subjects: Marketing, Advertising, Brands

01 October 2015 14:29

Switch 'nice to have' for 'unthinkable not to have'
Posted by: Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, OgilvyOne London
Rory Sutherland

I once met someone from an IT company who had been present at several advertising pitches. By and large he was impressed. In countless ways - the pitch theatre, the audio-visual displays, the presentation skills - he had found what the agencies did extraordinarily impressive; much more exotic and polished than anything he had seen before.

"But," he went on, "every agency made the same terrible mistake."

"Go on then..."

"You all sold what you had to offer as an improvement - a bonus; a nice thing to do which would be good for business."

"What's wrong with that?"

"Well, in the IT business, only in the direst cases would we ever attempt to sell positives. It's a really difficult sell. Every business has plenty of ideas for 'nice things to do' already, and you're just competing with them in offering what they see as a cute optional extra; a 'nice to have' - a flagpole, a fountain in reception. In IT we don't sell positives - we sell the absence of negatives. We don't say 'if you do this it will be nice'. We simply say 'if you don't do this it will be bad - or even catastrophic'. Once you can see the horror in their eyes, the sale is already made."


Subjects: Marketing, Advertising, Brands

29 September 2015 16:23

The 'new normal'
Posted by: Edward Bell, CEO, FCB Greater China
Edward Bell

There's a lot of talk about the 'new normal' in China. And with the slowdown now percolating every corner of Chinese life, one is left with a palpable sense that, from consumers, the 'new normal' calls for 'more value'.

There was a time, several years ago amid the double-digit growth era, when the deep frugality of Chineseness almost gave way to financial flippancy. People were so confident of the future that the cost of things was rendered not unimportant, but less relevant. When everything is going up, what matters is what it will be worth, not what it costs now.

With steadily declining GDP growth rates and two severe down-jolts in the Shanghai share market, the value 'reflex' is back in the forefront of the Chinese mind. And in the context of the highly anticipated 'rerise' of China, it makes for unusual headlines.


Subjects: Consumers, Brands

22 September 2015 08:59

Stand Up for Creativity
Posted by: Waqar Riaz, Cheil Worldwide
Waqar Riaz

"Our customers want to know who is Apple and what is it that we stand for – where do we fit in this world.
…and what we are about isn't making boxes for people to get their jobs done – although we do that well, better than anybody in some cases.
But Apple is about something more than that. Apple at the core – its core value is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better."

The words above were used in a speech given by Steve Jobs to his employees after his 1997 return to Apple.

Mr. Jobs' carefully selected words suggest he wasn't trying to reinvent Apple, he was simply pushing it back to its core. And the history demonstrates how Apple forever changed the way people communicate, entertain themselves, even the way they absorb information. The application of Steve Jobs belief moved Apple from $3 billion at the start of 1997 to $350 billion by 2011.

I suspect that our industry is going through the same confusion, as Apple was during 1985 to 1997 (the period Apple spent without Steve Jobs and the beliefs he practised).

We have lost sense of direction and suffering from identity crisis.


Subjects: Advertising, Brands, Marketing

10 August 2015 12:40

Five tips on the future of strategic planning
Posted by: Guest blog
Guest blog

This post is by Antonio Nunez, an author, speaker and brand strategist with 25 years experience in the communication industry

Brand Planners. User Experience Planners. Shopper Planners. Digital Planners. Social media planners. Content Planners. Channel Planners. You-name-it planners. Many big agencies' strategic departments resemble a scary Tower of Babel: flooded with data, confronted by hyper specialized jargons and unable to create unifying brand metrics. They work at turtle pace and are fragmented by narrow discipline-oriented points of view.

Many creative teams complain about having to pay the toll in this situation. They are forced to spend more time trying to find an overarching theme for campaigns, which means less time to craft their storytelling productions. Many marketers too. They are left to build their brands relying almost solely on brand personality and tone of voice consistency. Their brands can't generate true meaningful conversations, relying on a collection of key visuals or on superficial anecdotes to influence consumers' perceptions. Those brands end-up lacking purpose and a distinctive point of view.


Subjects: Advertising, Brands

20 July 2015 16:24

Last word from the East: This girl can?
Posted by: Edward Bell, CEO, FCB Greater China
Edward Bell

If only young Chinese women had taken to sports with the same enthusiasm as they have for public square dancing, China's sport brands would have saved themselves a lot of heartache and been a lot more successful in inspiring participation. Given the success of Sport England's 'This Girl Can', the question has to be asked 'are China's girls really different from those of the West or are China's sports brands just not getting it?'

Somehow, China's girls have no problem in finding the right excuse to put off the idea of playing sport. They will tell you that they are still 'young and healthy' and 'don't need sport', or 'they are too busy', or, perhaps more honestly, that they just don't want to look like a sweaty rat.

Although it keeps fiddling with its global strategy, Adidas China has held the same line on sport and women for 10 years now. Its strategy has been to position sport for women as a social activity, as seen in recent campaigns – 'In the name of Sisterhood' and 'With sisters, nothing is impossible…'. In the eyes of Adidas, social connection trumps the person performance imperative – a 'sports light' experience that owes more to Sex and the City than a City Fun Run.


Subjects: Brands, Marketing

02 July 2015 16:49

Who runs the world… girls: Brands and the Women's World Cup
Posted by: Guest blog
Guest blog

This post is by Luca Massaro, managing director of WePlay.

It is no secret that sports events give brands a huge platform to advertise. We only have to look at the Superbowl back in February and the 2014 FIFA World Cup to see the vast amounts of money that sponsors and those brands wanting to 'ambush' spend on being a part of the conversation.

In a gap year between the men's FIFA World Cup and next year's UEFA European Cup, it may be assumed that there aren't many sporting talking points in between. However, the FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada has become something of a major point of engagement for fans and brands this summer.

With the recent success of campaigns such as Sport England's "This Girl Can" and the women's England football team claiming their place in the semi-finals, interest in women's sport is rapidly growing. According to FIFA, the Women's World Cup will reach around 30 million female football players and more than 300 million fans worldwide, while the BBC is broadcasting every game for the first time. The growing interest in women's football since the first FIFA Women's World Cup in 1991, is clearly presenting a big opportunity for brands. Here we look at some the brands already tapping into this growing trend.


Subjects: Advertising, Brands

29 June 2015 15:02

Don’t worry about your rough edges: Why brands need to be open about their imperfections
Posted by: Richard Shotton, Head of Insight, ZenithOptimedia
Richard Shotton

Which cookie would you rather eat?

If you're anything like the 626 people we asked you'll have plumped for the one on the left. An overwhelming 66% preferred it.

This cookie experiment was originally developed by Adam Ferrier of cummins&partners, who conducted it at Nudgestock with the same findings.

But why? The differences are minor. The cookie on the right is perfectly round whilst the other has a rough edge. Could it be that the small imperfections made the snack more appealing?

A series of academic studies suggests this is a widespread phenomenon. Eliot Aronson, from the University of California, was the first academic to investigate this bias, now known as the "pratfall effect".


Subjects: Brands, Consumers

24 June 2015 16:27

The customer experience engine: How to organize marketing for outstanding customer experience
Posted by: Brand Learning
Brand Learning

In this post, for The Economist Group Lean Back blog, Rich Bryson argues that marketing departments need to organise themselves differently to deliver the customer experience. For his full perspective read our white paper.The customer experience engine: How to organize marketing for outstanding customer experience

In our rapidly changing world, it’s the customer experience that matters above all else. It’s what builds relationships and drives growth. This customer experience is enhanced or impaired through every interaction a customer has with an organization. As Simon Lowden, CMO for PepsiCo North America, has said: “in today’s world, partnering cross-functionally is everything.”

Continuing to organize marketing in outdated structures while calling to break down silos will no longer suffice. We need a new approach that focuses also on marketing working with other functions as a “Customer Experience Engine,” shaping outstanding customer experiences that drive business growth. There is no one-size-fits-all, but there are principles for success.


Subjects: Consumers, Marketing, Brands

12 June 2015 15:23

How did the German discounters get so popular with the Brits?
Posted by: Guest blog
Guest blog

This post is by Hannah Campbell, Operations Director at The Work Perk.

A recent survey by The Grocer reveals that out of 11 supermarkets across Britain, Aldi and Lidl are not just winning the price war; both supermarket chains have also changed consumer perceptions by proving that a product can still be perceived as 'quality' without a brand's name or a large price tag attached to it.

The report also highlights that Aldi and Lidl are speeding ahead of the 'big four' supermarkets, and have more than five times the nine new store opening projects that have been put forth by Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons combined for 2016. So how did these two discount supermarkets swoop in and take on the UK's most established food stores so successfully?

In short, Aldi and Lidl – in particular – proved to British consumers that they have been mistaken in their perceptions. They didn't attempt to get involved with the supermarket price wars; they simply showed the British consumer that better value for money does not have to equate to poor quality. Aldi and Lidl altered the public's perception of quality by challenging people to step outside of their comfort zone. They didn't pretend to be something they are not – they simply wanted the consumers to understand who they are, by trying their products out for themselves.


Subjects: Brands, Consumers

29 May 2015 14:39


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