My wife is an art director.
Recently she went to The Marketing Forum.
Being a creative, she expected to be bored by lots of case histories, graphs, charts, numbers.
But one client told an amazingly creative story about the birth of a brand.
It started when he was working in Belgium.
Every day he had to try to sell margarine (butter-flavoured spread) to people who didn’t want it.
It was dispiriting work.
To cheer himself up, every day he went to the same pastry shop and ate a delicious chocolate pastry.
Eventually it became clear to him.
“I don’t like margarine.
I do like chocolate.
I’m in the wrong game.”
Doing what you love is always the best idea.
So he quit his job and began working on perfecting a delicious, rich, chocolate pudding.
He worked on it until he had it exactly right.
Now he needed marketing.
He needed a positioning, a name, packaging, a brand in fact.
So he went to see an agency and asked if they could do that for him.
They said leave it with us.
So he waited.
And he waited.
Three weeks later they hadn’t contacted him, so he called them.
They said “We-ell…. You’d better come in, we’ve got something to show you.”
He went to see them.
They said, “We’ve got some bad news we’re afraid. It looks like someone else has already done it.”
His jaw dropped.
They said “Yes, unfortunately, virtually the same product, same positioning, everything. We’ve managed to get hold of some pictures.
If you promise not to let it leave this room, we’ll show you.”
He nodded.
They said “You wanted a stylish, classy chocolate pudding, deliciously gooey, yet premium? Look, theirs is called Gu.
It’s got the German umlaut (two little dots) over the letter U, so it looks like a smiley face. And it rhymes with ‘goo’ so it’s fun but classy.
A bit like Haagen Dazs.”
The client’s face fell, he said, “I can’t believe it. That’s a great name.”
They said “Yes, and look at the packaging: it’s dark, rich, elegant. Indulgent and chocolaty, but also stylish.”
The client said “This is terrible. How advanced are they.”
They said “Their sales force is ready to start selling it in. We’re worried because we think they’ll be very successful.”
The client said “What do you mean: you think they’ll be successful. Of course they’ll be successful. It’s a brilliant product, a brilliant name, a brilliant pack design. It’s exactly what I wanted dammit.”
And he sat back, depressed, thinking about all the success he could have had if only he’d got that idea first.
Then the account man smiled and said “Well if you really mean that I may have some good news for you.”
The client said, “What?”
The account man said “I made that story up. No one has actually done anything. This is our presentation to you: the name, the packaging, everything.
If you want it you can have it.”
The client said he felt as if the sun came out.
Instead of the usual shuffling, and humming and hawing he just took everything as it stood and went with it.
Isn’t that great.
We never want anything so much as when we can’t have it.
So instead of selling the client an idea in a way that lets him think he’s got all the time in the world to fiddle with every tiny unimportant detail, they let him see what’s really important.
How will he feel if he sees a competitor has done it?
If he’s been beaten to market.
He won’t quibble about the serif on the typeface.
He won’t worry that the background colour isn’t exactly 100% perfect.
He’ll just wish to God he’d done it.
What a great lesson.
Show the client the idea in a situation where he would give anything to have done it.
But it’s too late, someone else got there first.
It’s like a nightmare.
Then wake him up and tell him it was just a dream, and he’s still got a chance to do it himself.
Instead of suspicion and hesitation, he’ll feel gratitude and eagerness.
He’ll be concentrating on the 95% that’s right.
Not holding everything up for the tiny 5% that isn’t.
We’ll have a client that wants to move things forward, not hold things back.

By the way, the name of the client who told that story was James Averdieck.
And he’s just sold that brand for £35 million.

  • John W.

    There he was thinking, like the rest of of us, that the next train’s gone. Excellent bit of brinkmanship by the agency.
    Don’t suppose you know who deployed it?

    Interesting aside, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed but the flipside copy appears to centre around a George Lois comment. “This is a case of 1+1=3″.

  • Iain G. Morrison

    That’s some exceptionally bold suiting.

  • Grilla Login

    Mister Averdieck, I’m sorry but the x-rays don’t look good, we’re going to have to amputate your leg.

  • Sue Turner

    Nice story and the right approach on agency side. It’s the way I’ve always worked. The problem as ever is that some of those client-side just don’t get it. They don’t understand the basics, namely that our job is provide the next thing. If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard some dumb-ass dismiss something great proclaiming “that won’t work, because I haven’t seen it before” (you couldn’t make it up) I’d be as rich as Grilla.

  • Grilla Login

    Mister Averdieck, we may have some good news for you – the x-rays were fine – I made the whole thing up – Mister Averdieck, M.. M.. Mister Averdieck, put that bag of surgical waste down… I’ll have to call security…

  • Thomas Heginbotham

    I think it was ‘Big Fish’ John.
    They were also responsible for that Dorset Cereal stuff with the lovely matt packaging and leaf cut-outs that mean Dorset can charge £4.75 for a box of granola.

  • Soap Box

    people. we want what we don’t have; but don’t want what we have. brilliant idea/story.

  • Soap Box

    people. we don’t want what we have and want what we don’t have. brilliant idea/story.

  • Kayley Brooks

    Very clever. Would be interesting to hear what James would have said had the agency taken the reverse (traditional?) approach.

  • Andrew Cameron

    Wow. Great story, nicely told.

  • Soap Box

    sorry about the double post, think there was/is a posting problem? :)

  • Perry Haydn Taylor

    I’ve only just found this article (5 years after it was posted!). It was me who created and presented this all those years ago. I decided to do it like this because I wanted James to see the brand from a consumer’s perspective. I wanted him to feel like a consumer rather than a businessman. I knew that if I showed him something that broke the mould and defied convention he would try and rationalise it and probably compromise the idea by putting it through a lengthy research process. It was a risk, but it paid off. My company is called big fish and we are still working with Gü all these years later.

Campaign Jobs