Think like a consumer instead of a brand

 

Two explorers are walking through the jungle. Suddenly they hear a tiger roar.

One explorer sits down and takes a pair of running shoes out of his backpack.

“You’re crazy, you’ll never out-run a tiger,” says the other explorer.

“I don’t have to out-run the tiger,” he replies. “I just have to out-run you.”

This is the story Dave Trott tells in his book Predatory Thinking, to explain his philosophy of looking at a challenge you can’t solve and getting ‘upstream’ of it – changing it into a challenge you can solve. I was reminded of it this morning when a mate of mine, the CD and digital guru Steve Farkas, drew my attention to the new campaign for the HTC One. I think it has a touch of ‘predatory thinking’ about it.

Apple and Samsung are the leaders in the smartphone sector by a wide margin. Their products are great, their marketing is strong and their media spend is huge. It’s tough for the brands in third, fourth and fifth place to get onto consumers’ radars. I’ve worked in the sector – on Sony Mobile – and have seen up close how most challengers try to compete on product points. But even if they have brilliant smartphones with great features, unless they do something brilliant, their product message is often drowned out by all the other brands’ product messages. There’s an ongoing features arms race going on in this sector and we’ve got to a point where all consumers hear is a load of jumbled messages about better cameras, bigger displays, more pixels, works underwater, blah blah blah. Nothing sticks; it’s the advertising equivalent of white noise. Many consumers, understandably, take the easy option and default to the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.

The clever thing about the HTC work is that rather than diving straight into product points and continuing the victor-less feature war, they’ve gone upstream and started with a consumer insight about the way people buy smartphones. This is not a category where people think “Ooh, I like the ads, I’m going to buy the product.” It’s a category where they do research and seek opinions – from friends, family, store staff…and, most of all, online. So, boldly confident in the quality of their product (off the back of outstanding feedback from industry bodies, bloggers and reviewers), their message is, Don’t listen to us, listen to what the world is saying about our phone.

It’s so refreshing and confident it made me stop and think. It made me want to Google the HTC One to see if it’s for real. At which point I actually did engage with the product story. Which is job done. By pausing for thought rather than diving in with the usual approach. By recognising the way the world actually is rather than the way we (as advertisers) want it to be. By thinking like a consumer instead of a brand.

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About antmelder
Creative Partner at DDB Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

7 Responses to Think like a consumer instead of a brand

  1. Rob Hatfield says:

    I’ve got to disagree with you on this one. “Designed for people who form their own opinions. Go ahead, ask the internet.” WTF? How contradictory can they be? Just reinforces that most advertising is just blah, blah, blah–including this lame attempt to appear too cool for school. Completely forgettable and pretentious IMHO. I totally agree with Dave Trott’s observations, just not too sure he would agree that this is a good example of predatory thinking. (Seems miscast as well. Imagine how this might have worked with say, Christopher Walken. And changing that crappy line.)

  2. antmelder says:

    Hi Rob. Hmm, I do see where you’re coming from. But for me “Designed for people who form their own opinions. Go ahead, ask the internet.” means – This is not for people who buy a phone based on fancy ads (eg. iPhone) and celebrity endorsements (eg Samsung); it’s a phone for people who do their own research and buy a phone based on the facts.

    Conventional thinking would’ve had Gary Oldman banging on about product points and how great the phone is. Smarter thinking had him saying – Don’t listen to me – I know you’re to smart to be sucked in by a celebrity endorsement from an ad whore – chef out what the experts are saying and make your mind up based on that.

    Whether that’s ‘Predatory Thinking’ is up for debate. I’ll give Dave T a shout to see if we can get his opinion…

    PS. I think the celebrity element is completely interchangeable. Could’ve been Christopher Walken, could’ve been George Clooney, could’ve been Madonna. Surely the point is, it doesn’t matter what the celeb says – all you hear is blah blah blah.

  3. dave trott says:

    Ant (since you asked),
    This is predatory thinking assuming the other phone companies are using celebrity spokespeople.
    If they are, then it makes sense to piggyback their ads.
    But for my taste the VO should work harder.
    At the moment it just gently hints (probably diluted by the client, marketing people, etc).
    I would have said:
    “All you hear from celebrities is what they’ve been paid to say.
    Why not ask the people who pay to buy the product?
    Why not ask the internet?”

  4. antmelder says:

    Thanks very much Dave.
    Well, Samsung’s advertising is very celeb focused so this really plays off of that.
    Totally agree with your clearer VO. I did get that message out of the ad but I’m looking really closely and have watched it multiple times. For ‘real world’ conditions it would’ve been far more powerful with a harder-working VO.

  5. Rob Hatfield says:

    Ant,
    So I guess we just interpret the line differently. I see it as a contradiction, you see it as an invitation to do research. (Although to me, “ask the internet” implies that it is thinking being, not just an assemblage of opinions that may or may not be relevant or helpful). I’m with Dave that the copy should have worked harder. I don’t think I would have wanted to pay that kind of money just to have my spot saying blah, blah blah. And here’s the most important observation of all:
    Dave Trott is like Santa or the NSA. He’s everywhere and he knows what you’re doing…

  6. Simon Helyar says:

    I loved this ad. The simplicity, confidence, charm and balls of it: http://cdn7.blueglass.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Sonos-Google-Example.png

  7. antmelder says:

    Hi Simon. Yeah, I like it too. Same confident, cheeky thought.

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