Home Blog Why simplicity can be key

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the ones that can really help your brand stand out from the crowd. Our Account Director, Victoria Ross, explains why communications success isn’t always down to big budgets – even at Christmas!

The lights have been switched on, Fenwick’s window is drawing its usual crowds, and the most wonderful time of year, is finally here.

Along with the festivities has come the typical slew of big budget retail Christmas adverts and, as has become tradition, so too come the barrage of journalists keen to review who has been naughty and nice, and which ones we really should watch twice!

Over the last decade we’ve seen the competition for the top spot in the Christmas advert rankings become tougher than ever. And with it, has emerged a different style of advert. John Lewis’ 2011 ‘The Long Wait’ advert ensured that the festive ad game would never be the same again. Since then we’ve seen the triumphant rise of the storytelling approach. Call it charming, call it heart-warming – you certainly won’t need to look far to find the John Lewis effect in action. Think Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot. Or this year’s Cadbury’s offering, with its ‘Secret Santa’ theme encouraging us to give a small gift anonymously this Christmas, ‘just because’. (Of course if that gift can be chocolate, all the better).

With so much money being spent, it’s easy for companies to feel priced out of the ball game. But every so often, along comes a brand to show us why that isn’t the case.

One such advert that stands out this year for arguably achieving more column inches than most, is Iceland’s ‘non-Christmas’ Christmas advert. Whilst it wasn’t set to be the biggest budget advert on the box this year, it is likely to be this year’s most talked about. Supposedly aimed at raising awareness of the impact of palm oil production on orangutans and their habitats, the advert was banned by Clearcast, not for its content (as many originally claimed), but for breaking a well-known rule prohibiting advertising that is ‘inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature.’ In this case, it was produced not by Iceland, but by Greenpeace.

A heart-warming advert, yes. Strong storytelling, yes. A PR stunt… possibly. After all, surely Iceland knew it would contravene broadcasting rules? And in doing so they’ve prompted more conversations (and raised more awareness of Iceland’s environmental commitment – something they’ve previously ranked poorly for) than they would have done otherwise.

But if you’re anything like me, you may have noticed that it isn’t even a Christmas advert that has been dominating the local airwaves. Instead, it’s an exceptionally clever little marketing tactic by the North East’s very own Gregg’s.

When the curtains were pulled back on this year’s Fenwick’s window, the crowds were quick to spot something different. Thanks to some clever thinking, and the hard work of a few workmen (no doubt dispatched to Northumberland Street in the middle of the night), the neon sign of the Gregg’s store located directly across the street had been turned around. It may look back to front when you look at it straight on, but in those all-important Instagram snaps of Fenwick’s festive scenes, the wording in the reflection reads perfectly.

It’s an exceptionally simple idea. One that, beyond a couple of hours of time, won’t have broken the bank. But arguably the reason why it is so effective, is because it reinforces a brand persona that has long since been established. Cheeky, somewhat irreverent, the king of the stunt. Gregg’s latest offering is the perfect addition.

More often than not, the very best PR or marketing campaigns will appear to be simple. But scratch the surface and you’ll uncover a potent mix of both strategy and creativity. Rooted in insight, supported by genuine actions, and brought to life with a sprinkling of imagination and creative genius.

At Karol we call this process forensic PR.

It starts at the end, with your customer. Learning who your audience are, what motivates them, what they like and what they don’t. Knowing who else is competing for their attention – and how.  Knowing what makes you different and where you add value.

It’s what helps you have a point of view, a purpose, an opinion. It’s what allows you to craft a story that reflects who you are and what you stand for.

And then comes the hard work. That brilliant creative thinking. That gem of idea that allows you to tell your story, time and time again.

We told you it was simple!