THE TRAIN IS LEAVING THE STATION
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 didnât 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.
âI donât like margarine.
I do like chocolate.
Iâm in the wrong game.â
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 hadnât contacted him, so he called them.
They said âWe-ellâŚ. Youâd better come in, weâve got something to show you.â
He went to see them.
They said, âWeâve got some bad news weâre afraid. It looks like someone else has already done it.â
His jaw dropped.
They said âYes, unfortunately, virtually the same product, same positioning, everything. Weâve managed to get hold of some pictures.
If you promise not to let it leave this room, weâll show you.â
They said âYou wanted a stylish, classy chocolate pudding, deliciously gooey, yet premium? Look, theirs is called Gu.
Itâs got the German umlaut (two little dots) over the letter U, so it looks like a smiley face. And it rhymes with âgooâ so itâs fun but classy.
A bit like Haagen Dazs.â
The clientâs face fell, he said, âI canât believe it. Thatâs a great name.â
They said âYes, and look at the packaging: itâs dark, rich, elegant. Indulgent and chocolaty, but also stylish.â
The client said âThis is terrible. How advanced are they.â
They said âTheir sales force is ready to start selling it in. Weâre worried because we think theyâll be very successful.â
The client said âWhat do you mean: you think theyâll be successful. Of course theyâll be successful. Itâs a brilliant product, a brilliant name, a brilliant pack design. Itâs exactly what I wanted dammit.â
And he sat back, depressed, thinking about all the success he could have had if only heâd got that idea first.
Then the account man smiled and said âWell if you really mean that I may have some good news for you.â
The client said, âWhat?â
The account man said âI 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.â
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.
Isnât that great.
We never want anything so much as when we canât have it.
So instead of selling the client an idea in a way that lets him think heâs got all the time in the world to fiddle with every tiny unimportant detail, they let him see whatâs really important.
How will he feel if he sees a competitor has done it?
If heâs been beaten to market.
He wonât quibble about the serif on the typeface.
He wonât worry that the background colour isnât exactly 100% perfect.
Heâll just wish to God heâd done it.
What a great lesson.
Show the client the idea in a situation where he would give anything to have done it.
But itâs too late, someone else got there first.
Itâs like a nightmare.
Then wake him up and tell him it was just a dream, and heâs still got a chance to do it himself.
Instead of suspicion and hesitation, heâll feel gratitude and eagerness.
Heâll be concentrating on the 95% thatâs right.
Not holding everything up for the tiny 5% that isnât.
Weâll 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 heâs just sold that brand for ÂŁ35 million.