One of the fundamental principles behind Brand Discovery is that brands should never make promises they can’t deliver.  It sounds simple enough doesn’t it?  However there are still alarmingly few organisations who really get it, as has been demonstrated by HM Gov this month with their “Go direct gov” campaign.

Just to state the obvious the reason that this idea of avoiding making promises that you can’t deliver is so important is that it just costs you money – often quite a lot of money – and even if that was acceptable way-back in history somewhere, no organisation can afford to waste a cent these days.  Of course, that’s something that the public sector has always had difficulty coming to terms with, as this campaign powerfully demonstrates.

While it has been estimated that it costs ten times as much to sell to a new customer as it does to sell a second time to an existing one, it’s also true that it costs something like a hundred times as much to entice back a customer that you have disappointed.  I guess this doesn’t bother the public sector that much as they have a monopoly, but it should resound with the Labour party, who, I would have thought need all the credibility they can muster in the run up to election day.  So, while its important to make propositions that are attractive, if you raise expectations too high, you are bound to disappoint.  Brand Discovery tackles this by introducing businesses to a new approach to brand development that focusses as much on delivering the promise as it does making it.

This campaign by the UK’s biggest spender on advertising falls at the first hurdle by being incredible to start with.  Everyone knows that our government couldn’t run a piss-up in a brewery, so they are on to a loser straight off by suggesting that they can sort out insurance, car tax, pensions and the like at the click of a mouse and as one who this went to battle with the Gov’s on-line tax assessment process this year, I know that its massively more time-consuming, complicated and stressful than handing everything to an accountant, so there are definitely going to be some disappointed customers around.

Then there’s the execution.  I see there’s no creative credit given for the commercial – wise move by the creatives I think!  It seems that the agency has adopted the when-you-are-trying-to-really-blag-it-use-celebrities-with-popular-appeal” strategy that has proven to fail on just about every occasion its been pulled out of the drawer and dusted off.  However, apart from having Z-list celebrities anyway, why dress Christopher Biggins like a baby, and have Suggs prating around like an idiot?  It can’t have helped his credibility.  Its also a mystery to me why, apart from its association with Suggs and Madness, why anybody would use a song entitled “It Must Be Love” to promote anything to do with the government – Yuk!

Like a lot of public-sector initiatives this looks to me like a sound-enough concept (the business principle I mean, not the advertising) that’s been totally screwed up in its execution (Including the advertising).

Michael Weaver
January 12, 2010

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