I want to pay homage to the Norwegian PR company hired to inject some life into the campaign of the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. They had him out on the streets for an afternoon working incognito as a taxi driver in Oslo, which enabled him to listen to and engage with the voters who got into the back of his cab. It’s a fantastic piece of creative PR, not just because it captured the attention of the media as well as the interest of the voters with whom he came into contact, but also because it served an actual purpose. It enabled him to engage directly with the voters and therefore, presumably, helped meet one of his strategic objectives for communications.

PR as an industry is packed full of fantastically creative people, each and every one capable of coming up with stand-out ideas that will out-innovate their colleagues or their competitors. But all of that creativity means very little unless it is working towards a common purpose.

The starting point for any campaign must be to identify what the commercial objectives are; ask yourself what success would look like if everything worked to plan and then how you would measure or quantify that success. Only then should you begin to apply the techniques and disciplines you might use to help you achieve those objectives – and only then can you get creative to come up with the ideas to create the standout you need.

There are two further caveats. No matter how awesome the idea, if it doesn’t fit with the objectives you have set, park the idea for another time. Don’t try and shoehorn the idea to fit the objectives. And second, if your brand is conservative in character, with a traditional customer base, don’t put your energies behind a wild and whacky idea that is likely to baffle, confuse or even alienate them.

Your brand profile is critical to success. Increasingly we buy products and services from companies because we value or respect the brand FIRST, and we look at the detailed features and benefits second. If we got to buy a new car, a new phone or a new television, we enter the shop armed with a hit list of brands and refine our choice from there. The key is to make it onto that hit list of brands in the first place.

Your company must live up to its brand promise. It must deliver what we expect it to deliver in the way we have come to expect it. Surprises should only be good ones; initiatives should be in keeping with the brand personality. Easy Group has made its name championing the affordable through its orange-clad airline EasyJet. We each may moan occasionally, but nobody can doubt that Easyjet has contributed to a revolution in low cost air travel.

In recent years the brand values have been successfully transferred to other sectors through Easy Car Hire and Easy Hotel. Now EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is to open his first easyFoodstore in Croydon. The venture could be extended next year if it is successful. Although it has little track record in food retailing, the brand strength and the nature of the proposition are likely to be such that consumers will warm to the idea because of inherent trust in the brand. Creative communications on the back of that becomes not only easier but also considerably more powerful.

However, Sir Stelios says that his foodstore will concentrate on affordable, basic ‘no-brand-name’ packet and tinned foods at bargain prices. For a company that is all about the power of the brand, that’s an interesting move – unless it is reluctant to share the limelight with any others.


Marketing types always look forward to the plethora of surveys that come out during the course of every year that rank one brand higher than another on some random criterion or another. It makes for great water cooler conversation as people compare notes to see whether the findings reflect what they also feel.

And so it is again with this week’s YouGov survey which listed London Underground and Royal Mail as the most improved brands in positive noise generated (whatever that actually means). Apparently, London Underground’s role in making the Olympics a success is behind its rise whilst Royal Mail’s financial revival has boosted its rankings. La Senza, Santander and Sky are the other big improvers.

It’s a bit of fun that fills some column inches and keeps tweeters occupied for a few more minutes, but are the findings of this or any other survey of genuine significance?

We don’t want to be too dismissive but measuring “positive buzz” doesn’t seem to us to be the best way of assessing brand performance. Marketers may be in the brand perception business but brand perception is only ever going to be as good as brand reality. No matter how much positive buzz you want to apply to a brand to assess performance, it will always come undone if the messages you’re putting out about a brand do not align with the reality of the consumer’s real world experience of the brand.

Businesses need to acknowledge that the role of the marketer is to convey the reality of the company and its proposition, not to act as a smokescreen for them. If your marketing says one thing when your customers experience the complete opposite, it will do more damage to the brand and its relationship with customers than saying nothing it all. Marketing is about clear communication, about getting your services right before promoting them to your audiences and using social platforms to both welcome the plaudits and addressing concerns. Brands are often judged more on how they respond to complaints and concerns than on the original cause for the concern.

So recognise that your marketing should be telling the truth about your business, albeit in a persuasive and creative way that is closely aligned to your commercial objectives. But equally recognise it’s not the role of marketing to pull the wool over your customers’ eyes. Marketers can be magicians, but if you want an illusionist, call Dynamo.

Twitter @astutemarketeer