B&Q Build A Campaign.
Flipping the banal into the sublime without getting stuck on trite, the latest B&Q campaign is advertising perfection.
Ad break: a hammer bangs. Families embrace. Things are painted. Families squabble! Messes are made. Ripping up, mending, crashing, and clanging. Everyday people doing everyday things. People like you, people like me, all strung together to land a sense that you can do it.
There’s the functional excellence – an emotional TV spot, strong intrinsics, graphic posters that deliver the message in a really fresh way, and excellent media placement, an excellent evolution of the long-running brand strapline.
But in the midst of all of it, there’s that line. That one line that packs in more insight and impact than most campaigns that pick up at Cannes: “You don’t buy a life, you build one.”
That line is magic because it dares to speak a real truth. The trick is that they seem to really, actually, sincerely mean it.
I think this sincere adherence to something real is why this ad has struck such a chord across the country.
It’s not a particularly novel ad – building a home, and a life for your family is one of the great themes in our discipline.
Nor is it a glossy ad. It’s a compilation of genuine family footage, and this is one of the places the ad draws strength. In its steadfast reality, the film is almost a rebuke of the instagramifcation of everything.
If it was slick, the homes perfect, the families #influencers, the spell wouldn’t take and we wouldn’t care.
The ad is true to a human experience, it’s true to our cultural moment and this overall mood, but most importantly for a good ad, the new campaign also feels true to the brand and true to the experience of shopping at B&Q.
B&Q legitimately occupy this space in our culture, they are safely within their wheelhouse, not overstretching, trying to own a space that isn’t theirs. This is what makes it believable and sincere to a consumer.
The most powerful ad of Lockdown 2020 is real, honest, and … sincere?
Sincerity is not a word you hear often in modern marketing, but it’s a powerful concept running behind powerful campaigns. It’s not in the foreground, it’s way back, but when it hits, it hits hard.
Just so we’re all on the same page, the Oxford English Dictionary defines sincerity as “the absence of pretence, deceit, or hypocrisy.”
As much of the collective output of our industry seems to be precisely pretence, deceit, and/or hypocrisy, I have lately become obsessed with this concept of sincerity in advertising and stumbled on to this gem:
“The older concept of sincerity, referring to being truthful in order to be honest in one’s dealings with others, comes to be replaced by a relatively new concept of authenticity, understood as being true to oneself for one’s own benefit”.
That is rock solid brand marketing advice.
Be sincere – be true to yourself, project what makes you uniquely, truly special – so that others can see if they want you.
I think sincerity is a particularly powerful balm in our current cultural moment.
After years of fake news, alternative facts, tribal loyalties, influencers for hire, and brazen lies, simple sincerity is an incredibly easy way to stand out.
Getting it right.
Yorkshire Tea, in my mind, is another brand that has benefited immensely from deeply sincere advertising and communications.
Yorkshire Tea has gone from strength to strength, growing at a breakneck pace, by building their “proper brew” into a brand world where everything is “done proper.”
They use Yorkshire talent such as Sean Bean and Michael Parkinson to dramatise the quality of the product by showing how everyday actions are done to extreme perfection. The result is silly, sure, but leaves the viewer with a solid impression that the brand really cares about what they do.
The ads also show that the agency cares about the brand.
It’s the full package, and allowed sales to grow “a whopping 16.2% to £35m over lockdown compared with the same period in 2019 [source].”
A crucial distinction here – sincere doesn’t have to mean saccharine.
And it certainly doesn’t mean earnest. Worthy, smug missives from brands trying to assure us all that we’re in the same boat have been informed some of the worst comms moments in lockdown.
British Airways is just one of many brands that managed to look out of touch during the covid crisis, but they get a special mention for the cringe-fest that culminates in “we love you Britain.”
Flying is expensive, unpleasant, and inconvenient at the best of times. No airline loves you, they just want your custom again.
Sincerity is about a real connection with the business you work for, and the people who support it, without overreaching into the absurd.
It requires curiosity, understanding, and a deft creative hand to craft something that makes a sincere connection with viewers.
The best way to sense check whether you’re being sincere or cooking up a saccharine clanger is to simply ask yourself, is this real? Is this true to the business and people who work here?
If it’s a yes, you’re on to a winner.
Want to make a sincere effort?
Look, if you work in an agency you owe it to your clients to really care about their business and what moves it forward. If you care, you ask questions. If you ask questions, you find the truth.
Not every brand needs to jump on every hashtag. Brands that look insincere are often the ones that are simply wearing the trend of the moment, without having a genuine connection to it. Ocean Spray skateboarding TikTok really hitting hard for anyone a week later? Anyone really believe Burberry’s streetwear credentials?
There’s no value in attempting to mirror every possible consumers’ values back at them. A brand should have its own values, and project them clearly and consistently enough that people can see that flag and rally around it.
To be sincere, you must painstakingly interrogate your work and hunt down the insincerity creep. Don’t stake claim to a space your brand can’t legitimately inhabit, don’t use a voice that isn’t genuinely authentic to who they are. Don’t talk about anything you don’t have the proven credentials for. Stay in your lane.