It’s Sunday morning. We just got back fom walking the dog and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my kids, flipping through the Sunday Times and wondering, as always, why I keep renewing my subscription. I’m pretty sure it’s to look at the ads, and get annoyed with the Book Review.
Anyway, I show an ad to my oldest daughter Olivia, who’s six. It’s an ad for a shoe, Calvin Klein I think, but I kind of like the design. Olivia draws and colors all day, so I thought she might like it.
She asked why someone put a single shoe in an ad. Why?
Good question. Six year olds seem to have really good questions.
They get to the point.
So I said, ‘To get someone to buy them.”
Because at the end of the day, in my line of work that’s pretty much what we do. Sure, there’s a lot more to it, but like Ogilvy pointed out, the end result of our efforts whether under the guise of marketing, branding or advertising is to sell – to increase revenue for our clients.
“Oh.” she said. “Can I make an ad?”
“Sure” I shrugged. “Go to it.”
I kept reading. After a couple of quiet minutes, I felt the stare. I looked up. Olivia was looking across the table at me.
“What’s up, Buddy?” I say.
“Well, what goes in an ad?” she asks.
“Usually some words and a picture” I say.
I get back to reading. For a second or two, anyway.
“I want to do an ad for LGM.” she says. ‘LGM creative’ is the name of my business.
I smile. “Ok.”
“But Daddy,” she says, “What do you do?”
“Well,” I say, “We make ads for other businesses, so we do advertising. But we also do marketing, which lets us figure who we want to see the ads, and where we have to put them.”
“Did you do any ads in there?” she asked, pointing to the paper.
“No, not this week anyway.” I say. But now she’s got me thinking about my business in a way that I usually think about our client’s businesses. In fact, one of the first questions I always ask a new client is “What do you do?” It’s a good question, because it lets me know a lot of things all at once: how does the client see their business? Do I (or the public) have a different general sense? Where do those two ideas meet, and how do we get from here to there?
But how to describe my business?
Like anything, if you can nail something in the space of an elevator pitch, you probably have a pretty good handle on it.
But to simplify the idea of being a copywriter and brand strategist to a six year old is considerably tougher. You tend to get a lot of ‘what” and ‘why’ responses when you talk to kids. Like I said, they cut to the point. And that’s good.
“So you make ads for other people? Ok.” And she got back to her drawing tablet. Now it was my turn to interrupt.
“Wait,” I said, ” We’re actually a Branding agency.”
She squints her eyes and cocks her head to one side. I continue.
“We do do advertising and marketing, but that’s just a part of what we do.”
“What do you mean?”
You try and explain branding to a six year old. I dare ya. But I had to, and it turned out to be a pretty good exercise.
“Name a store.” I said.
I watched as she rolled her eyes around, thinking. Silence…
“McDonald’s…?” I offered.
“No…How about Target!” Biiiiig smile, spark in the eye. Target’s a magic place in our house. Target has toys!
“Ok!” I said. “When I say ‘Target’, what do you think?”
Again, a big smile (which tells me Target’s doing something very right. When you can get that kind of unbiased response from a six-year old, your Brand Perception is solid.).
“Red!” she said.
“Very Good! What Else?”
“White – and that circle…” she said, tracing it in the air. “It’s a fun place!”
Wow! I thought. Way to go ,Target Brand Marketing.
“Ok,” I said. “You know what you think when you think about Target? How you feel?”
“Yeah.” she said. Another big smile.
“Well, someone, or some business, makes up all of the things that make you feel that way. Picks the colors, the words, decides what the store sells – even what the shopping carts and the chairs in the food area look like. Everything that you think about the business, someone creates.”
“Wow!” she said, “That’s a lot of stuff.”
I nodded. “It is.”
“And that’s what you do?” she asks, wide-eyed.
“Cool!”she said. Then she put her head down and got back to working on my ad.