I started out my career as copywriter writing obituaries. And if that wasn’t distressing enough, my parents constantly asked me what it was I did for a living again. Somehow, when they were paying for my education, they had imagined me in a suit and tie, poring over important documents and solving real world problems. They also didn’t imagine me borrowing money from them before the month was over. I tried to make them understand that had nothing to do with the job per se but a result of my lifestyle. But they didn’t know many bankers or accountants who were broke by the tenth day of the month. They loved me of course and would support me in whatever career I chose. But this sign writer or typewriter thing (copywriter, damn it!), well if it made me happy…
Then I’d come to work and write obituaries. I reckon my lines must have brought tears to the eyes of both the living and the dead because I was unceremoniously removed from that duty. Shame. I was becoming quite the poet.
But a brief from Virgin Atlantic was a brief to die for.
The Virgin Atlantic business was amongst the best businesses I worked on at the agency. I loved the business because it made marketing it easy. It had a clear and inspiring brand essence (challenge the status quo). Second, it was always true to its essence (in product development and communication). And three, it had a distinct attitude, tone of voice and visual identity. Of course, the ‘Virgin attitude’ is built upon the personality of Sir Richard Branson – maverick, challenging, witty and innovative.
This distinctive Virgin Atlantic identity benefits both its marketing and consumers. It helps the brand breaks through clutter. You know the piece of communication is from Virgin and not BA, KLM/Air France, Emirates or Lufthansa. For consumers, it makes life easier for them by shortening the time and effort they need to ‘understand’ and process the brand. Usually without them being aware of their thought process. Advances in neuroscience and psychology now help us to know that much thinking and decision-making is non-conscious and emotional.
On the Lagos – London route, with half the frequency and resources of BA, Virgin almost climbed to market share parity with BA, who has been in the market longer. Obviously, the slightly lower pricing of Virgin has played a key role in this affair, but the image and advertising have equally played a significant role.
Data Source: NCAA
I remember a lot of clients used to tell the agency to make their brand advertising ‘unmistakeably theirs.’ They would ask that if Brand X logo was removed from the advertising, would the advertising still be peculiarly Brand X? I have always felt that question was nonsensical because for many brands, the only thing that made the advertising ‘native’ to it was simply the presence of the logo, brand colour or tagline. Remove these and the advertising could have been for Brand X, Brand Y or Brand Z.
That is because many brands do not have a distinct personality, attitude or voice. And this is prevalent across many categories; from banking to telecoms, to FMCG. I would have expected that keen competition would force brands to be distinctive.
Oh well. Each man to his own. You fellas remember some the Virgin Atlantic ads below? Caused quite a stir in the land back in the days. I’ve added some foreign ones that I really liked.
What’s your take on distinctive brand voice? Any other brand comes to mind?