Why I think W+K’s new Tesco work is brilliant.

I admit that it’s easy to write positively about W+K campaigns. I’m not exactly in a minority position here.

Anyways, they recently published their Tesco campaign, something that people in the industry have been waiting for to see. How would W+K work with a huge supermarket chain, an industry not exactly known for creativity? (Even thought I’d doubt that: there’s a lot of commercial creativity involved in running a retailer). Anyways, here’s the stuff that has been released at the moment, with – my guess – much more happening behind the scenes.

Now I know it’s not exactly the thing anymore in our circles to praise a traditional advertising campaign, or advertising in general. However, I think this is really, really good, and while I have no idea what the brief was and if what I’m thinking reflects anything the ladies and gentlemen in London have been thinking, I thought I’d write down the reasons that make me like the work.

First of all, I think the bigger theme or concept they are going with, “It’s the little things that make Christmas” is very true. When everything is said and done, the small things are what make up the big experience. But it’s what W+K is doing with it that’s impressive, another example making the point that coming up with a concept isn’t the hardest part.

“The little things” fit perfectly with the commercial needs of Tesco. After all, this isn’t an ‘image campaign’ (well, it is, but I assume it will sell), but a campaign that highlights different parts of Tesco’s offering – products, services, member cards, … – weaving it into the bigger story of christmas, and what it’s made of.

(See the other posters at W+K London’s blog.)

So there is the craft of the execution. The always well-crafted and well-told mini-stories, with those little scenes that make them so true and weirdly emotionally appealing (granddad playing Wii, the cooking, the kiss, the music, the helicopter; oh how I professionally love-hate W+K).

However, what really convinces me that this is going to be effective is the ‘branding brilliance’ of the whole campaign working together, even if they seem to be only small things: the champaign from the first commercial being sorted in in the store in the second long one, the paper hat on Tesco’s logo, the synching of the 5 little bars of the Tesco logo to the stories’ music, the association of the different products at the end (Every [...] counts.), the combination of smaller stories about otherwise rather mundane products, like carrots, with the bigger theme (this reminded me a bit of W+K Portland’s 5 second ads for Target). There are many, many different ways this campaign can ‘pick up’ people, many different things it to possibly be exposed to and, after all, like.

Now, Andrew (and here) and Martin have already quoted Byron Sharp and Ehrenberg extensively and promoted the thought that the role of advertising is “building memory structures, making distinctive assets, feelings and associations more famous and familiar over time”.

Brands don’t have a ‘position’, but are rather weak, long-term memory structures that need to be constantly updated. However, most of the time, we are still concerned with what people think about when and if they think about your brand. All those health tracking charts are not doing anything else but showing what adjectives come to mind once people think about a brand (in a rather artificial setting, but let’s leave that out for a second), or how exactly it rates on certain adjectives from, say, 1 to 7.

This really is fascinating, because in real life, we hardly ever consciously evaluate anything. And already 20 years ago, Holden and Lutz promoted a change of perspective already back in their 1992 paper “Ask Not What The Brand Can Evoke; Ask What Can Evoke The Brand?”

“Research on consumer memory and choice has been dominated by paradigms that implicitly assume the availability of the brand, whether it is physically present in the choice situation or symbolically present in working memory as a member of a stable evoked set of brands in a product category. Research attention, therefore, typically has focused on the accessibility of brand information, given the presence of the brand. Recently, brand accessibility has attracted some attention, but only from the perspective that the product category is the stimulus activating brand retrieval processes. In this paper, we propose the alternative view that brand retrieval is more frequently stimulated by consumption goals or consumption occasions, and a model is developed that reflects this ecological dimension of consumer choice, using concepts of spreading activation and goal-derived categories.”

It’s ‘only’ a Christmas campaign, but I think W+K’s work might be a case study for this kind of thinking.

Holden, Lutz (1992): Ask Not What The Brand Can Evoke; Ask What Can Evoke The Brand? Advances in Consumer Research, Volume 19, 1992, Pages 101-107.

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