What Is A Brave Brand (Or Ad)?

What Is A Brave Brand (Or Ad)?

In his latest post (see: rant), B&T’s favourite industry contrarian, Robert Strohfeldt, takes aim at adland’s latest buzzword “brave”. Storming the D-Day Beaches, he argues, is brave. Margarine, on the other hand, is less so…

Marketing and advertising, like other areas of specialty, always had words that applied specifically to their practice. In the past decade though, we have seen the explosion of buzz words.

How many times have we heard this? “Everything should be done at scale.  I am going to reach out and engage with you to develop a bespoke solution, not seen in your space which will amplify results across an omnichannel environment”.

I am a big fan of the classic British comedy Yes Minister/Prime Minister. One of the main characters is Sir Humphry Appleby, permanent secretary to the cabinet. An example of his language: “Yes, yes, yes, I do see that there is a real dilemma here. In that, while it has been government policy to regard policy as a responsibility of Ministers and administration as a responsibility of Officials, the questions of administrative policy can cause confusion between the policy of administration and the administration of policy, especially when responsibility for the administration of the policy of administration conflicts, or overlaps with, responsibility for the policy of the administration of policy.”

While both are similar in that they don’t really say anything; the latter is comedy, the former part of day to day speech in many agencies and marketing departments.

In the past couple of years, I have noticed a particular word that has slipped into the buzz and its use is becoming more and more frequent i.e. Brave.

English is a dynamic language, always changing – read a Shakespearean play in old English. We certainly do not speak or write this way today. Each year a list of new words is released – even before the rapid increase in technology, new words came into existence. According to the Oxford dictionary, around 185,000 new words, or new meanings of old words came into existence between 1900 and 1999.

But I don’t think the meaning of brave has changed by any significance over the past 100 years or so.

He ran into the burning building as it kept collapsing around him, with no thought of his own safety, dragging people out. Though suffering burns to 40 per cent of his body, his actions saved six people from certain death = BRAVE

The seas were massive, rolling into the rocks with a ferocity and power that would smash any man- made craft to match sticks. Without any thought for her safety, she dived into the boiling mass of fury and somehow managed to grab hold of the little girl just before her head went down for the third and final time. She pulled her out past the breakers, allowing the helicopter to winch both to safety = BRAVE

The bullets were kicking up dust all around him as he sprinted 100 meters to his wounded comrade, put him over his shoulder and sprinted the 100 meters back to cover. That he was not killed was a 1000 to 1 chance = BRAVE

Carlsberg launches a new beer, which receives harsh criticism in social media posts (all 25 of them). Such as “And they manufacture Carlsberg a stone’s throw from where I am right now but that also tastes like the rancid piss of Satan.” Or, “Drinking bath water, your Nan died in” were re-tweeted by Carlsberg marketing department. (Probably the best larger in the world)

To cut a long story short, Carlsberg admitted they had made a mistake, using the worst of drinker’s tweets to highlight just how bad (still a long way short of doing it in mass media).

In the words of my favourite marketing academic, Professor Mark Ritson: “The Carlsberg team were caught in an unlikely pincer trap of a strap line that boasts superiority for a beer that desperately needed to improve itself. It’s a quietly brilliant move to make that misplaced superiority the basis for the new campaign and product refresh. Bravery does not guarantee success, but without it you might as well go home and burn your marketing budget on the stove.”

Nothing wrong with all of this, but the description of being “Brave” was where it lost me.

To be truly brave, is not just a risk, but a bloody big risk with a huge potential downside. Business is risk adverse, with risk management at the heart of any corporation of significance.

To take a huge risk is commercially stupid, not brave stupid – why not go to the casino and put all of the company’s cash reserves on black at the Roulette wheel?

We have enough buzz words and phrases in marketing and advertising. Can we please leave out brave?



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Robert Strohfeldt

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