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Learning from 30 years of IPA effectiveness: the 1990s

Opinion, 24 February 2010

My slot in 'the learning from 30 years of the IPA Effectiveness Awards' session at MAP 2010 relates to the 90s. The Awards introduced a new Longer and Broader category in 1990 and the 90s provide many brilliant examples of the commercial value of continuity (across time) and coherence (across different elements of the brand mix).

But that was then, and this is now.

The business and marketing communications environment we face today is increasingly short term in its pressures, with a faster pace of innovation and a more complex, often co-created communications palette. Are these cases from the 90s still relevant?

So the questions I set myself are:

'Is continuity and coherence as valuable and relevant today as it was in the 90s?'

and

'What learnings are there about how to deliver it in today’s dynamic environment?'

My conclusion is that creating a thread of continuity and coherence remains hugely important today, if anything more so than in the past, for a number of reasons.
One relates to the human brain and how it works.

Thanks to neuroscience we know a lot more about how the brain works than we did in the 90s. In particular we have a scientific explanation for the importance of repetition.

Arguably the most important task for marketing and communications is to create and maintain relevant 'hardwired' associations in consumer’s brains, and exploit them for commercial gain.

This isn’t about only doing the same thing over and over again – brands need to introduce new news and innovation to stay relevant and interesting – but it does demand identifying and maintaining your thread of continuity and coherence.

This fusion of consistency and innovation is at the heart of brand marketing. Sir Michael Perry hit the nail on the head back in 1994 when he characterised brands as ‘a vehicle for innovation’.

The more dynamic a marketplace, and more broadly the world about us, the more important brands are, to both their owners and consumers. The more change we face, the more important brands are to help us successfully navigate it.

As in any strong relationship we don’t expect to have the same conversation every day, but we do reward brands that behave in a consistent way that we can rely on.

There are many great examples from 90s IPA cases of how brands have delivered continuity and coherence over many years in a dynamic way.

The great thing about the 90s is we don’t just have the chance to look back over the years covered by a case, we can also join up the dots between then and now to look at continuing effects (often helped by later IPA case histories updating us on the next chapter in the story).

I will touch briefly on 5 brands (still going strong today) showing 5 different ways that continuity and coherence can be delivered in a dynamic way – each sufficiently flexible in approach to accommodate new information and adapt to the changing world about them. (If they hadn’t been they wouldn’t have continued to prosper.)

These will be:

Felix
Direct Line
Tesco
VW
Peperami

(But I could have just as easily selected Stella Artois, PG Tips, Andrex, Orange, Marmite or BMW.)

About the author

Chris started his career in market research at BMRB. He then joined Saatchi & Saatchi later becoming Deputy Head of Planning. He left Saatchi’s to become a founder member of Bainsfair Sharkey Trott (BST.BDDP) where he was Planning Director. Subsequent mergers took him to senior planning roles at GGT, BDDP, and later TBWA as Director of Strategic Consultancy. Chris left TBWA in 2008 to become a partner at Bacon Strategy & Research. He has won several IPA Effectiveness Awards and is a Full Member of the MRS and a Fellow of the IPA.