By Prarthana Mitra
In the cluttered multiverse of advertisements, some ideas stand out and fewer become truly iconic. And where do ideas originate but from stories?
In a wonderful repository of the process and power driving some of the world’s greatest brands, author and brand thinker Giles Lury handpicks stories across a diverse range of products and services that have withstood the test of time in his latest book, From Ideas to Iconic Brands.
From Ideas To Iconic Brands, published by Jaico Publishing House, is not the handbook you’re likely to find on your reading list this semester at management school, but you may just find it on your mentor’s personal bookshelf. Because it is essentially a collection of real life “fables,” as Patrick Cairns puts it, in which you may find comfort and inspiration when you’re not exactly looking for either.
Prefacing the book with his resounding belief in the power of the advertising medium, Lury goes on to develop branding as “an economic and social phenomenon”—a tool for the prophet, the profiteer, and politician alike. If you don’t believe him, google Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Socialist Democrat who won a New York primary with a viral social media campaign.
A brief history of 101 brands
If my brief stint in the advertising industry has taught me anything (besides a whole lot of marketing jargon), it is the value of unique perspectives, the power of imagination and the ability to choose the best medium to tell a story.
Lury focuses on the stories behind 101 million-dollar ideas, and he does so in a manner that isn’t didactic or pedagogic. Once you approach the brief (and neatly illustrated) chapters, each with an interesting title that alone can make copywriters swoon, you’ll have learned a great deal more than you’d think. Engaging the reader in a way that makes you throw all caution to the wind, Lury first develops the history and origin of the product, laying the context that preceded the brand’s emergence, before shedding light on the challenges. At times, he even sets you up for a big surprise, by reserving the big reveal for later.
There is no parochial formula or a common lesson grounding the stories that he has clubbed under familiar advertising constructs such as nomenclature, strategy, social currency, positioning, packaging, innovation, ideation and communication. He focuses on each tenet with the choicest of examples to illustrate his point. For a primer on audacious goals, he looks at LG electronics; to emphasise the importance of building content around a brand, he points to Barbie. Making his bid in favour of constructive criticism, Lury cites Disney.
Compiling similar anecdotes and accounts has, in a way, also served as a personal quest for Lury to discover how KFC became an indispensable part of the American diet and Ben and Jerry’s became the Willy Wonka of the ice-cream industry, why Marilyn Monroe went to bed in Chanel No.5, and the utterly fascinating and unlikely origins of Pinterest.
Lury saunters across tea traders, shoemakers, frozen foods, board games and denim brands, to illustrate how brands like Lipton, Louboutin, LinkedIn and Levis made it to 2018, and how Apple, Marlboro, Corona, and Nutella conquered and married branding to their visions. In the section titled ‘Naming and Identities,’ he devotes a chapter to Nike’s accidentally iconic logo, and another to Hello Kitty to underline the importance of backstories. Mont Blanc, Macintosh, and the MGM Lion also receive noteworthy mentions to watch out for.
How to tell a story about stories
A key to unlocking a good ad campaign (often an oversight in lazy advertising), is manipulating consumer psychology and consumption pattern without appearing too patronising. Lury seems to have internalised this branding mantra in his book, squeezing in lessons, morals, and instructions without the help of obnoxious bulletin points. Posing questions and piquing readers’ curiosity, Lury inserts food for thought and bounces strategies off of aspiring copywriters and art directors like any adman would.
Over the 300-odd pages, Lury manages to succinctly present the history of advertising, placing the bad and the ugly alongside the good, and hoping to inspire advertising professionals. The book addresses seminal dilemmas about what it takes for an ad to cut through the clutter and encourages young advertisers to learn, unlearn and dismantle time-honoured archetypes. Above all, the book serves as a reminder for brand-makers to trust their intuition and a glowing testament for brands that stuck by their core values.
Lury’s collection of stories offers a glimpse of that liminal space between an idea and an ad.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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