A lesson in shouting the big idea from CP+B

January 22, 2010


Crispin Porter + Bogusky know a thing or two about advertising brands (Google ‘subservient chicken’ and their work for Burger King, or IKEA or MINI). They know how to think up Big Honkin’ Ideas and how to get them in front of their audience.

They’re not currently the best US ad agency for nothing either, every one of their campaigns delivers on lots of levels. They drive big ideas though appropriate channels to get amazing results.

Lets take their work for Coke Zero as the basis of today’s lesson in boosting you bottom line…

Start with a Big Idea

The first thing you need to do is work out what you want to say. Sound simple? Well I reckon it’s the hardest thing to do.

At every brand workshop I’ve run, I’ve always asked ‘What does your audience think now?’ (and ‘What do you want them to think?’). This normally stops people in their tracks, they tend know all about their business and the products and services they trade, but as for their customers’ thoughts…

I believe, it’s only by knowing what your target whats to hear, that you can really work out need to say.

It’s strange how many companies assume their audience has an instant interest in their product or service. People tend to be pretty selfish, they want to know what’s in it for them.

So, on to Coke Zero, everyone who is on a diet knows that they should drink low-cal drinks. They also know that these drinks taste horrible – take away the sugar, take away the taste. That was what Coke Zero’s targets were thinking (the problem). The solution? well, it was to convince a skeptical audience that Coke Zero actually did taste like regular Coke. Simple.

The big idea: Coke Zero has Coke’s taste.

Follow with a dramatic story

CP+B had worked out what Coke Zero’s audience wanted to hear. All they had to do now was tell them the story.

But, as we all know, a good story or, the truth told well (to cross agencies for a second!), is all about the drama. You’ve got to make it dramatic, exciting and interesting to your target if you want to attract attention to your message, over that of the others in this highly messaged world.

CP+B first dramatised the Coke Zero’s story with their great ‘taste infringement’ campaign. I won’t go into it here, but Google it, it’s great. The story grew on and offline, with ‘fans’ being able to follow the campaign on YouTube, media banners, press ads and posters as well as a great web tool allowing you to sue your friends for their own forays into ‘taste infringements’. A pretty dramatic story.

Continue to drive home your single minded message

Once you’ve established your ‘Big Idea’ and then dramatically told its story (with much success!), that’s not your final goal. Sorry!

As with anything in life, you’ve got to keep at it. Frequency is the key. People have short attention spans, they easily revert back to their ‘default’ position (or brand), they quickly forget how your brilliant story relates to them.

You have to grab people time and again. You have to work hard at getting their attention every time, all the time. You need to be able to climb the ladder in your targets mind that positions this brand up here, but your brand down there (or in Coke Zero’s case – change ladders completely!).

The key with frequency is not to change your ‘Big Idea’. Too many companies fall into the trap of believing their audience now know the benefit that your big idea conveys. They rush to push out a new benefit, or worse, try to push several benefits within one communication.

Think about it, if I tell you one thing over and over, you’ll probably remember me as the guy who kept saying that one thing. If I tell you a whole bunch of stuff, you many remember me for one thing, possible two things, chances are you won’t remember me at all.

So, CP+B took this ongoing concept and built a new story that would drive home this single minded message.

Face it, we all have a twin

CP+B’s new story for Coke Zero is the Facial Profiler. The premise: If Coke Zero has Coke’s taste, is it possible that someone out there has your face? Quite a question, and one the really drives you to go online and find out.

Perfect. A great idea, that grabs attention and drives action. Now, all that needs to be done, is to structure how this message is going to get to its audience.

The channels you use to reach your target, and grab their attention will completely depend on what’s appropriate to them. Don’t force your message, interruption is fine (and well used) but don’t spam. Powerful ideas grow naturally – person to person. A good campaign used the channels its audience use. A great campaign delights with appropriate unexpectedness.

So, looking at Facial Profiler, what channels would be appropriate?

  1. To scan your features you need a computer (digital)
  2. To match profiles you need connections (internet)
  3. To find faces you need a network (Facebook)

So, we have our channels – an internet application that will link up to your Facebook profile. The Facebook channel is inspired, not only does it reach its targets (the youth (ish) market) but it also supplies the data (face images) and encourages the ‘viral spread’ of the application – and the message. Word spreads, message grows, people drink Coke Zero, cash registers ring.


Here endeth the lesson. Thanks CP+B.


(‘taste infringements’ ideas came from Steve Harrison’s excellent book ‘How to do better creative work‘.)

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by____ Gavin Johnson