21 September 2015 by Richard Parsons

Gorillas and Bulls

gorillas_and_bullsOnce a brand knows what it stands for and knows what kind of relationship it has with its audience, its marketing can be more adventurous and take more risks. Cadbury’s ‘Drumming Gorilla’ ad is a prime example.

The brand is only identified at the beginning by its strapline ‘A glass and a half full’ and the purple background, echoing the livery of its famous dairy milk chocolate bar. A gorilla drumming along to Phil Collins’s hit ‘In the air tonight’ ostensibly has absolutely nothing to do with the product. But the ad gave them huge reach at minimum cost because millions of people were intrigued and watched it online.

The Cadbury’s team understood that there wasn’t much more to say about the product that people didn’t already know: “A glass and a half full of joy”. What the ad did was entertain people in a joyful way, consonant with the brand values, and make them smile. The brand was then able to bask in the reflected bonhomie generated by its oblique messaging.

But did they miss a trick? I don’t want to spend too much time with a chocolate bar, but I might have wanted to spend more time with a clever gorilla. I reckon he (presuming it was a he) could have become a brand ambassador rivalling the Honey Monster in popularity. What other outlandish activities could he have got up to?

When I first came across Red Bull, in a Maidenhead nightclub in the 90s, I thought it was something like Castrol motor oil. It just goes to show that a brand name doesn’t have to mean much in itself; it’s what a brand does that matters and what values it projects.

And Red Bull does total brand engagement rather well. Extrapolating from the ‘Red Bull Gives You Wings’ slogan allows them into a range of spaces and activities where people need to be awake, from nightclubs to adrenalin-junkie environments. Their ownership of a Formula 1 team is a prime example of total brand immersion – a complete alignment of brand values and activity.

There can be no doubting the Red Bull personality. What about most B2B brands out there?

No room for pragmatists?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s no room at all for market research and focus groups in B2B. They have their part to play. And assessing the relative campaign performances of different media channels is obviously crucial. But I think a lot of people use market research the same way a drunk uses a lamppost. Mainly for support, rather than illumination.

I don’t expect every B2B brand to adopt a drum-beating gorilla as its mascot any minute now. All I’m really saying is that creativity – the big idea, the brand proposition – should come first. We shouldn’t put the cart before the horse…or gorilla.

Once we know what a brand stands for – who they are at the party – then we can begin to work out what they should say, how and where they should say it, and what they should wear. We can begin to develop a strategy which can be executed in as scientific, systematic and engineered a way as you like.

I’m all for sales funnels, metrics, etcetera. But where is your brand’s gorilla?

So this is my last post of my 12 blog series and I hope you all got something (anything?) out it and are feeling inspired to think about your next B2B marketing campaign or project in a different and more human way. 

Got any thoughts, please tell me and let's discuss how we can make things better for ourselves so we don't become that nerdy person at the next cocktail party.

Thank you for reading,