BBH has a number of Mantras which we collated and profiled at the start of the year – see them all here. This is the first in a new Labs series where we delve deeper into what they mean, how they’ve impacted the work and what they mean for us all going forward. “Moving it on without moving it off” is one of our favourites, coined by Sir Nigel Bogle himself. Senior Strategist Frankie Everson dissects the mantra and explores the urgent importance of building enduring brand ideas.

As advertisers, making a difference is our reason for being. We’re here to create work that works; that tangibly drives growth for brands and businesses.

So as an industry, we should be seriously concerned by recent data that digs deeper than ever into the fact that advertising effectiveness is on the decline. The data, in the new IPA publication ‘Lemon’, paints a worrying picture of an industry in crisis, in which short-term thinking driven by the rise in digital is leading to the production of work that doesn’t really work.

This ‘efficiency bubble’, as it was originally described by Binet and Field, means that instead of focusing on metrics that actually matter for brand building, our industry has become obsessed with vanity metrics which offer instant gratification but don’t reflect any impact on the bottom line. 

We all know how easy it is to fall into the trap of short-termism. With markets changing at an alarming pace, and competition looming aggressively, it can be tempting to throw the baby out with the bathwater; to start from scratch with a completely new campaign idea every short while.

But the data is telling us, loud and clear, that this is almost always a terrible idea. Long-term thinking needs to be protected, for the sake of our industry and clients.

It’s a far smarter move to find a way to “move it on, without moving it off”, as Nigel Bogle so eloquently puts it.

Building some of our biggest brands

Audi, Johnnie Walker and Axe: all examples of BBH brands which have never wavered from their core idea, and have reaped the rewards over the course of many years.

Audi is probably the most famous example. ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’ is not only Audi’s tagline but the idea that sits at the heart of everything the brand does. It’s an idea with remarkable endurance: it has held fast over the course of 37 years and dozens of creative campaigns, and has enabled Audi to go from being barely recognized to being one of the leading car brands in the UK.

Johnnie Walker’s ‘Keep Walking’ started its life as a global ad campaign, and became an enduring symbol of the brand and what it stands for; of pride, of progress and of positivity. The idea has transcended time and geography and has underpinned how the brand speaks and behaves in over fifty different campaign executions. It has seen Johnnie Walker grow to become the most recognized whisky brand worldwide.

As for Axe, ‘The Axe Effect’ has helped the brand go from strength to strength since its conception in 1995. The idea, which positioned Axe as the way to ‘give guys the edge in the mating game’, has stood the test of time, providing a springboard for game-changing work for over 15 years. With this enduring idea at the helm, the brand has delivered double-digit growth year-on-year, and become a $500m in the US alone.

These are all brands for which the creative brief is never, “come up with a new idea”, but rather, “come up with a new way to bring the same idea to life”. This has never stifled creativity; on the contrary, it has helped us create work which has enabled us to build some of the most successful brands in history.

Because the best, biggest ideas are the ones which are so powerful that they can be executed off again and again, without ever getting old or losing momentum.

Goths and Anglers

More recently, we applied Nigel Bogle’s same wisdom to Experian.

We faced a crowded, increasingly diluted market; a sudden dip in brand attribution; a decline in share of voice. Considering all of this, it would have been easy to jump to conclusions and pull the plug on an idea that we’d spent 3 years establishing.

Instead of panicking, we took a step back. We stopped concerning ourselves with only the short-term and looked at the evidence over the past three years. It was clear that something was working. The fundamental idea of Experian being the data expert was well understood and remained a unique position in the market. Awareness and consideration were both increasing, as was revenue.

Marcus Brigstock and his ‘Data Self’ has seen great success and served an important purpose for establishing Experian as the data experts. With an evolving competitive marketplace, the idea was no longer helping us hit the brand attribution metrics we needed; but the idea behind the campaign was still strong. It would have been remiss of us to throw it out this late in the day. 

So, we had to find a way of moving it on, without moving it off.

Enter Experian’s goths and anglers.  

Together with the clients, we created a new campaign which stripped out all the detail and explanation that was needed in the original ‘Data Self’ ads to establish Experian in the category and took it back to the essence of the idea. We used humour to entertain and cut through; a creative device which, according to ‘Lemon’, is dying along with the rise in short-termism, but which is actually one of the few devices linked to profitability.

Whilst on the surface our goths and anglers are a complete departure from Marcus and his ‘Data Self’, the idea remains the same as it ever was.

We’ll have to wait for the results; but if the success of our other enduring brands is anything to go by, we’re excited to find them out.

Lesson from the Mantra

The stories of all of these brands, and the recent findings in ‘Lemon’, are an important reminder for our industry as a whole: when the short term threatens to overwhelm us, it’s vital we remind ourselves of the power of building enduring ideas. Often, it’s better to move it on, without moving it off.