Oh, Mary

“Basic” is Brilliant

October 2, 2018
Tracy Squillace

As communicators in a dogged profession, we are in constant pursuit of the sizzle for the brands we represent. With some, the genius surfaces faster than others.  Companies like Nike, Sony and Apple are sexy brands, we’d all love to work with them.  With brands such as these, creativity is boundless, audiences are riveted, and words flow profusely. Soon, awards are won, everyone feels smarter and we all go home loving our job.

But what if the brand isn’t innately sexy? What if the brand is obscure, complex or worse, deemed “basic”?

The answer is basic. Work with people who are rooted in finding the big idea for the brand. Find an agency who never believes an idea is too far-fetched, too “out there” or too much of a departure for the category. The right idea done the right way can make even the most commoditized product different, memorable and a standout in their category.

Take Flo. In 2008, in response to the longstanding sense of dread most have when shopping for auto insurance, Progressive decided to disband the dread with humor. Enter Flo, the fictional salesperson recognizable by her extreme enthusiasm, name tag, sparkling white no-wrinkles uniform, upbeat personality, and perfect retro hair flip.  She can be seen in over 100 commercials to date, giggling her way to help each of us as we seek a lower premium easily, effectively and with a wee bit more pizzazz.  A December 2008 article in Advertising Age described Flo as “a weirdly sincere, post-modern Josephine the Plumber who just really wants to help.” She has, the brand is flourishing, and she’s become an icon that continues to bring frivolity and light to a dreary category.

Being “basic” doesn’t always mean boring. In fact, for Charmin even their toilet paper has a ‘tude.  Voted “The Sassiest Brand on Twitter”, Charmin recently revealed its #tweetfromtheseat campaign aimed to engage its readership on what really happens behind the bathroom door.  They’ve taken an awkward subject and a boring product and made it light, shareable and relatable. We laugh in recognition. We begin to like the brand for addressing simple truths. As a result, brand awareness soars and their engagement multiplies.

Both of these examples leverage humor as the ultimate brand mover. We live in serious times. Most days, the news is too serious. If you can attach your brand to a humorous character or universal truths, you will attract attention in all the right ways.

We all want the hot slick brand, the layup client with the right product, right audience at the right time. But is that really work for us creatives? A good agency (and an even better writer) should reach into the depths of a “boring” brand and find the fire that lives within it. If toilet paper can find its seat at the table, any decent product can.  Find the agency that will bring your brand to the table.