Creating memorable brand messages

July 24, 2018
July 24, 2018 Simon Ellis

Business survival is now, more than ever, dependent on its ability to effectively respond to and manage change. The way that people buy into products and services has evolved and we must keep up. I’m not so much referring to changes in technology – but changes in mentalities.  

Long gone are the days whereby potential customers responded to hard sell or unreliable promises. For businesses, taking the time to show your understanding and prove that your brand is in tune with how your customer or audience is thinking – is now all the rage.

There are very few businesses who have the fortune of offering a unique product or service, and it is becoming increasingly harder to differentiate from competitors. For that reason, it’s not so much about the telling of a business offering – but about how you pitch it to show meaning to your audience. Today, it’s more about your brand associations and perceptions than ever before.

Take Halifax’s recent Top Cat Campaign. Halifax’s main selling point ‘Halifax gives you Extra’ has been running as the theme in their campaigns for several years. This time they were looking for a different way to say it – to really mean something to their audience, especially since their ad awareness score had fallen by almost 4 points.

But why would a mortgage lender choose a con-artist who lives in a bin to front their campaign?

Top Cat was an animated television series made by the Hanna-Barbera studios. It first aired in the UK in 1962 on BBC and was aimed at children and young adults. A frequent plot-line revolved around the local beat cop Charles “Charlie” Dibble, and his ineffective attempts to evict Top Cat and his gang from the alley due to them constantly attempting to earn a quick buck.

In this new campaign targeting first time buyers and home movers, Halifax have added another element to their original message: Halifax gives extra to every customer, no matter who you are.

They manage to appeal to the audience’s fond memories of Top Cat in order to get their own message across. In their advert, Top Cat and Benny visit a Halifax branch wanting to borrow some ‘Mulah’ to buy a new home, and they go prepared to give their sob story. But they needn’t worry because the very helpful lady shows them empathy and tells them that Halifax can help. The ad ends with Top Cat and his gang in their brand new home in their alley and a visit from a very surprised Officer Dibble. Oh, and of course – the very catchy Top Cat theme tune.

Their campaign included a 60 second advert launched during Gogglebox on Channel 4 and outdoor, digital and social media. Customers enquiring on Twitter have the pleasure of a response from Top Cat himself.

By associating their own brand with a brand that their audience is likely to have known and loved – was a winning idea. At Halifax – they make their thoughts clear:

“We did a lot of research with customers and colleagues exploring the use of lots of different characters. Top Cat was the standout favourite with both groups.

Warner Bros. Consumer Products were really open to us using him in our campaign. Customers and colleagues loved the humour of using Top Cat and his gang and in a serious category dominated by ‘slice of life’ advertising, the introduction of characters from popular culture sets us apart from others. We’re looking at other characters to feature in future advertising.

No other bank could run this campaign. It reflects our personality and is a real celebration of how our friendly and down to earth colleagues support everyone – showing Halifax as the uniquely human face of banking.”

Their objective was to show the ‘human face of banking’. Isn’t it ironic then that it’s actually animation that is managing to do this? Halifax are also insistent that their campaign appeals to the british sense of humour: “British consumers appreciate and respond well to a good sense of humour – it’s a good way to engage with people”.

But what they have achieved goes further than just appealing to sense of humour, and humanity. They have made their brand more memorable, to an audience bogged down with financial concerns about buying their first home, by touching upon their own memories – of happier, simpler times.

The essence of this message is that our focus needs to shift from unique selling propositions, to unique selling moments – these being, the moments that we can create for our audience where we are truly engaging with their hearts and minds.

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