Brand books are a great way of exploring a strategic space and discovering its creative possibilities. Ever since I was lucky enough to work on the Honda Book Of Dreams, I’ve created a number of them for various clients. (Mostly car makers, I now notice.) Without fail, they have helped everyone get excited and inspired by a particular brand direction. I think the reason clients like them so much is that they don’t contain any ‘ads’, so they’re not under pressure to ‘approve’ its contents. (Which isn’t to say that the ideas can’t eventually get turned into ads, or strategies, or behaviour.) But they have to be more than just a history book. Every page has to have an idea; thought; truth; surprise; story or insight, all directly playing off an overall creative direction.
The book that won the pitch; that set the tone of voice; that introduced the ‘Power of Dreams’ campaign; that became Campaign of the Decade; that made me fall in love with advertising again. It was a team effort but I am proud to have contributed a good few pages and ideas. (Is it heresy to say that, in hindsight, it has too many found quotes in it, which mostly just serve as filler? Yes, it is heresy, but there, I’ve said it.)
The more I learnt about Toyota, the more it became clear that they LOVED problems and that problem-seeking and problem-solving was the philosophy that drove their success. This book was an attempt to explore, prove and celebrate this company truth and pave the way for a new brand positioning that would dictate all advertising and brand behaviour. The European Senior Vice-President loved it, but his marketing team killed the positioning behind his back. Talking about problems is too negative, they said. Forgive them, heavenly father. They knew not what the fook they were doing.
Volvo had a long-running end line – Life Is Better Lived Together. I needed to explore the company truth behind it, and find out whether it was a creatively promising space. A brand book is the perfect way to do that. I discovered that the sentiment of ‘togetherness’ is indeed a fascinating and fertile Volvo truth that could differentiate the marque from the herd and restore the brand’s fortunes if executed with freshness. Sure enough, they dropped the end line three months later.
One of life’s trickier briefs – how to get people to holiday in Egypt, despite the troubles faced by the country. Our solution was a) to focus on the Egyptian people and their friendly, quirky ways (not the more attention-grabbing pyramids and Sphinx, etc) and, b) show how this distinctive, inventive spirit refreshes all the usual holiday stereotypes. This deck contains the TV, plus the brand and destination print.
I’d always been a big lad but by 2005 I was super-sized. So I went and lost 11 stone (70 kg). You know, like you do. I did it by rigidly following a hardcore diet called Lighter Life. A couple of years later, I contacted Lighter Life and rudely told them that their advertising was completely failing to capture the incredible brilliance of their weight loss programme, and that they should give the account to me. To be fair, they could see the logic in my thinking and I started working for them soon after. (Though they did make me pitch for it, the cheeky whelps.) Our relationship was brief because I left the terrible agency I was at soon after I won the account, but not before I’d made the one thing I wanted to make: a little book that laid out clearly and insightfully how Lighter Life worked. If I had 10 minutes in a room with someone and wanted to give them the lowdown on LL, this is what I’d say, and how I’d say it. Hopefully, it helped others take the plunge and get their life back.
In 2013, faced with declining sales, plunging brand love and a wobbly share price, McDonald’s were questioning whether they should replace their ten-year-old global end line; ‘i’m lovin’ it’. I felt then, as now, that it was one of their strongest assets and so well-known that they’d be crazy to drop it. (You don’t see Nike thinking about junking ‘Just Do It’, do you?) Better by far to keep it and actually start living up to its claim. So I corralled some clever Creatives and we put a book together to show all global clients, and all their partner agencies (not just DDB, where I was) that it was a privilege to work on this iconic, fertile brand and there was nothing to stop us bringing it to life in magical ways. Perhaps it made a difference, because a few years later ‘i’m lovin’ it’ is still out there.
“The Book Of Love really re-energised my love and understanding for the brand. It should be an essential document for beginners.”
European Marketing Director
The McDonald’s Creative Framework
Across the world, McDonald’s has been making stand-out advertising for decades. Cut to 2012 and while some countries ‘got’ the brand and knew how to make wonderful work I was genuinely bemused that so many others were making such crass wallpaper. My background on McDonald’s at Leo’s in the 90s had given me an insider’s understanding on how to do justice to this fascinating brand, so I locked myself in a room for a month and wrote a working handbook that was designed to be a practical, hands-on guide to pretty much any creative or strategic task any agency might have for McDonald’s. It advised how to do it, backing up its theories with creative examples from the past that adhered to the same principles. It was written just as much for clients as agencies and McDonald’s global management enthusiastically embraced it. Hundreds of copies were printed and distributed across every global market. There was also an interactive version where you could click and play all of the films and case studies within.