February 26, 2015

Brand, Bullshit & Beyond

Lately, the Ad Contrarian blog has been breaking all kinds of attendance records.

In trying to analyze the reason for this sudden popularity, I've noticed something. People seem to love posts with the word "bullshit" in the title.

Being the kind of guy who likes to give the customers what they want, from now on every post title will contain the word "bullshit." I think this is what CMOs call "best practices."

Last week, I really gave it to the "Global CEO" of a huge ad agency concerning a video he did in which he invoked the genius of Steve Jobs for his own purposes -- and got it 100% wrong.

The guy was lecturing on his theory called "Why Your Brand Is More Important Than Your Product" which, of course, is the constant mantra of the world's professional brand babblers. To bolster his theory he invoked the name of Steve Jobs and proclaimed that the reason for Steve's great success was that he, too, put brand first.

Only problem was that Mr. Global was absolutely, positively, laughably wrong. In fact, Steve was such a believer in the power of the product, that according to Allison Johnson, his VP of Worldwide Marketing, at Apple "brand" was a "dirty word" and Steve "dreaded, hated" the word branding.

Now we get an equally powerful repudiation of the misrepresentations of this global loudmouth, this time from the man who was closest to Steve at Apple, Jony Ive.

The New Yorker has a lengthy and interesting profile of Ive in this week's edition called "The Shape of Things to Come: How an industrial designer became Apple’s greatest product."

Here are some quotes from the piece juxtaposed with some of the assertions of Mr. Global.
Steve Jobs: "If I had a spiritual partner at Apple, it's Jony. Jony and I think up most of the products together and then pull the others in and say 'Hey, what do you think about this?' He gets the big picture as well as the most infinitesimal details about each product. And he understands that Apple is a product company."
Global CEO: "Product first, I think, is very retro and very 1980's." 
Jony Ive: "I can't emphasize enough: I think there's something really very special  about how practical we are. And you could, depending on your vantage point, describe it as old school and traditional, or you could describe it as very effective."
Global CEO: (About Jobs) He started with an idea that consumers want to be bespoke...and he back-filled into a product
Ive: "We put the product ahead of everything else."
Don't you love it? There is so much bullshit in our business. Most of it arrives in the form of an opinion or an anecdote. Consequently, it is very hard to actually catch a bullshitter red-handed like this.

I don't know why this thrills me so much, but it does. Despite all my tantrums, I really do feel deeply about the ad business and I'm sick at heart from watching it being diminished and dismantled by financial manipulators and insufferable blowhards.

I'm also completely fucking tired of these over-fed meatballs undermining the credibility of our industry with their trite, cunning theories and pompous pronouncements.

Thank you Allison Johnson and Jony Ive. 


Joel said...

Minor point, but it's "Jony", not "Jonny".

bob hoffman said...

Thanks. Corrected.

Choobs said...

I've met this man in the flesh. The urge to slap his shiny, shit-filled head was incredibly hard.

Choobs said...

*to resist.

terrylev said...

This blowhard began his bullshit in New Zealand as a beer marketer. He single-handedly managed to alienate the nation from rugby which had been to that point a religion through nothing other than performance on the field. Fortunately they cottoned on and distanced him. Then he tried again through adidas. It lasted only until people realised they were being ripped off through product pricing. Thankfully thereafter he left to become a blight on America.

Almost poetic said...

Fucking love this. Keep up the good work adcon.

Jim said...

Arhh yeah but the clever cognitive behavioural scientists' have theories (that show in general how stupid people) that are now creeping into agency presentations.

Which is handy because they two should get on quite well, they both see people / consumers are irrational zombies.

And they'd say something like this to you, Bob, "Well you would say that wouldn't you Mr Ex Science Teacher but really all you are doing (as is Jobs and Ive too in their bullshit world I assume) post rationalising so it looks like Apple are a product company but that is just naive.

People buy emotionally and brands are emotional and so people just post rationalise their behaviours so they look rational when really they acting emotionally i.e. at the brand level.

They talk as if a brand could exists with no bloody product at all. It is as if they are contemplating the mind body problem.

Shanghai61 said...

And he clearly does not know what bespoke means ...

Koen Smeets said...

This guy loves himself way too much and so he doesn't even realise that he is talking bullshit most of the times. Unfortunately it is people like him who make our industry look bad.

Dexter said...

Mr.Roberts popped in my Guardian today, sprouting more acrid toss. http://tinyurl.com/ongbtd2 The comments are worth a look...

Stefano said...

Your despite for bullshit is laudable, but consider that Jobs was capable of affirming something and its very opposite with equal conviction. For instance, in this case he celebrates Nike because it doesn't focus its communication on product: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keCwRdbwNQY

And he does so introducing "Think different": quite ironic considering that
Jony Ive complains about too many companies obsessed with doing something different and not enough with doing something better.

In retrospect, we can say that what Jobs says in the video is very different from what he went on to do later.