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John Lewis Xmas Ad – Love It Or Hate It?

So, last week we had the official start of Christmas – John Lewis unveiled their Christmas ad.

You have probably seen or heard about it by now.  But, just in case you haven’t, here is a quick summary.

It features Elton John.  The soundtrack is “Your Song”.  It shows scenes from Elton’s life and career.  Some are real, some use actors.  It pulls on all the emotional heartstrings that we’ve come to expect from John Lewis.  It ends with a young Elton unwrapping his Christmas gift – a piano.  The tagline is “some gifts are more than just a gift”.  All good, right?

Well not quite.  It has divided opinion.  Nowhere more than amongst the Insight Traction gang.  Two competing points of view have emerged. 

The first…”What was that all about?  It doesn’t link strongly to John Lewis.  I went on the website and they don’t even sell (expletive removed) pianos”.  The second…”Great ad.  Captures the spirit of Christmas.  Nice tagline.  It’s about gifts not pianos”.

So, which camp are you in?  Are you in the “they don’t even sell pianos” camp?  Or are you in the “they are not trying to sell you pianos” camp?

Why are we talking about this?  The debate about the John Lewis ad is a great demonstration of how exactly the same thing can be interpreted in very different ways.  It happens all the time.  Brexit?  Marmite?  Cricket?  Piers Morgan?  Well, maybe we are all united on the last one.

There is a lot of subjectivity in our world.  This is particularly true of marketing – whether it is a TV ad, 6 sheet poster, a POS display, or a pack.  We all look at things through a certain lens.  This means we can look at the same thing, view it through our own lens and come to different conclusions. 

To change this, we need to look at things through the same lens.  Take the subjectivity and emotion out of things and allow different people to look at the same thing in the same way.

To look at things more objectively.

So, how can you do this?

WHAT you need.  To start with you need a set of rules that can be used as the lens through which you look at things.  These might be the ‘Golden Rules for Pack Design’ or the ‘Golden Rules for POS Communication’.  These rules move the conversation away from what each individual thinks towards a conversation about whether the Pack or POS (or other form of communication) delivers against the rules.

The rules need to be written in a certain way.  Firstly, they need to be clear.  Use simple, everyday language that everyone can understand.  Don’t say “Use the key visual identifiers that shoppers associate with the brand” when you could say “Reinforce the brand colour cues”.  Secondly, they need to be specific.  Don’t say “Don’t overcomplicate the message”.  Say “Use few words.  Use short words”.  Thirdly, they need to be objective.  Don’t say “Make pack designs simple”.  Say “have 5 visual elements or less”.

HOW you use them.  There are three ways you can use Golden Rules. 

First, is to diagnose.  For instance, you could look at your current pack designs and identify strengths and weaknesses.  What are the key strengths you need to maintain?  What are the key weaknesses you need to address?  Just looking at a pack and saying this is a rubbish pack is not helpful.  It’s like a Doctor saying “You’re not well”.  Yes, but…what is wrong?  You need to be able to diagnose what is wrong (or right).

Second, is to direct.  Having a set of Golden Rules means that you set the right direction in the first place.  So, the 6 sheet poster or POS options are more likely to follow the right principles.  So you end up with a few good design options.  Your job is to then select the best of a good bunch.  Too often we see designs that don’t follow core communication principles.  It means you end up filtering through the design options looking for the tallest dwarf.

Third, is to assess.  Having Golden Rules means that you can objectively assess different communication or design options.  For example, of the different messages we could use, which one best meets our rules?  And do we need to make any tweaks to it based on those rules?  Many companies and brands don’t have the time or money to carry out lots of quantitative testing before they put communication into market.  If you have the right rules to assess against you often don’t need to.

Subjectivity is great for debate.  Objectivity is great for agreement.

So, we can all objectively agree that the John Lewis ad was not about selling pianos.  Right…?

Feel free to forward.  Have a great weekend and speak to you next week.

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