So many brand/comms ideas feel so similar nowadays and it’s not just because everyone reads the same reports and does the same research. It’s because we, as a profession, have lost confidence in our ability to make what we make interesting, writes Shai Idelson, Strategy Director and Creative, BBH.

I love end-lines.

The delicate art of capturing a meaningful thought about a brand or a product in as few words as possible. A great end-line will touch my heart and stay in my memory forever. I still remember some from my childhood. But in the last few years, something happened to end-lines. Here are 27 lines used in consumer facing marketing communications from the last 5 years:

1. Find Your Beach
2. Find Your Strong
3. Find Your Greatness
4. Find Your Fit
5. Find Your Epic
6. Find Your Forte
7. Find Your Happy
8. Find Your Hair Happy
9. Find Your Edge
10. Find Your Flow
11. Find Your Fun
12. Find Your Volcano
13. Find Your Force
14. Find Your More
15. Find Your Essence
16. Find Your Unusual
17. Find Your Flavour
18. Find Your Fave
19. Find Your Extraordinary
20. Find Your Naked
21. Find Your Grit
22. Find Your Belfast
23. Find Your Tribe
24. Find Your Freedom
25. Find Your Own Lane
26. Find Your Dancing Feet
27. Find Your X

The linguistic similarity is staggering. But the strategic similarity is troubling. You see, “Find Your_____” is just a variation on the end-line template of “Verb Your_____”.  

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Take a verb

Step 2: Add “Your”

Step 3: Finish it off with a word that has something to do with what you’re selling.

E.g.

1. Electrolyse Your Exercise
2. Hydrate Your World
3. Move Your Lee
4. Feed Your Happy
5. Feed Your Good
6. Fuel Your Journey
7. Open Your World
8. Unrush Your World
9. Widen Your World
10. Discover Your Smile
11. Empower Your Vision
12. Unbox Your Phone
13. Lite Your Way
14. Bin It Your Way
15. Run Your Way
16. Eat Your Way

These too are lines used in consumer facing marketing communications. You’ll see many of them on a street, screen, or shelf near you.  Again, what’s worrying is not the linguistic similarity, it’s how they’re almost strategically identical. All of these, along with their “Find Your____ ” siblings, try to sell you something by telling you to “be yourself” or “be unique”.

But of course by doing that, as pieces marketing communications, they become anything but.

I used to think the problem lies in the fact that everyone reads and follows the same “millennial trend reports.” And that’s a part of it. But Jonathan Bottomley, ex-CSO of BBH and now CMO of Ralph Lauren, helped me understand WHY so many brands find their ideas in trend reports when he said this:

We, as a profession, have lost confidence in our ability to make what we make interesting.

That’s a powerful thought. One that also helps explain why, as my colleague Tom Roach wrote, most ads out there are all but invisible. Because when you don’t believe what your client makes can be made interesting, you avoid talking about it. Resorting instead to sourcing an idea from audience “values” or “mindset”. And because everyone reads the same reports (that in the last few years spoke about millennials wanting to be “individuals”), an idea for a car brand ends up being very similar to an idea for a toilet cleaner brand. 

And when you don’t believe what you make can be made interesting, you avoid taking creative leaps. Resorting instead to cramming messages into the first 5 seconds (quick, before they skip!) and let the digital platforms spam people’s eyes with meaningless banners disguised as social posts. It wasn’t always like that. And it doesn’t have to be like that. Some of the best brand and campaign ideas came when people in our industry had belief in two things:

  1. The belief that if you, as Sir Nigel Bogle said, “Interrogate a thing to within an inch of its life, it will reveal its true essence.”
  2. The belief that we, as a collection of creative people, can make whatever truth we find interesting, distinctive, and appealing.

That’s why ideas like Audi’s Vorsprung Durch Technik and Tesco’s Every Little Helps keep on giving and giving.

I bet that’s how some of the best brand and campaign lines came to be: BMW’s The Ultimate Driving Machine, Snickers’ You’re Not You When You’re Hungry, KFC’s Finger Lickin’ Good,  VW’s iconic Think Small and many many more. And yes, I know. I’m mixing brand end-lines with campaign lines but the point is the same; when you believe in your ability to make what you make interesting, people are interested in what you make. So what’s next? I think we have two options:

1. Find confidence
Interrogate our clients’ brand and products to unearth an interesting truth about and then use creativity to turn it into a memorable idea. It’s obviously harder than it sounds but we have to try. Because the alternative is already here and it is not terribly promising.

2. Find the next trend to latch on to
In the last 12 months or so, a new trend has emerged. The linguistic similarities aren’t here yet but the strategic direction is clear: we’re in an era when everything can be sold by telling people to “be inclusive, appreciate diversity and be generally woke”. Saturday Night Live has been having fun with it and they’re 100% bang on. 

The new “be yourself” is “be open”. Diversity is a communications strategy.

(Side note: diversity should be a business strategy impacting all facets of an organisation, not just a communication or casting approach. But that’s a topic for another time).

The bottom line is this, we keep telling customers to be themselves. Maybe it’s time we pointed that same call to action at ourselves and our clients’ brands.

Maybe?