Monday 21 January 2019

Flawed thinking can boost brands

Suranne Jones and Lennie James in a scene from Sky’s ‘Save Me’, which is returning for a second series
Suranne Jones and Lennie James in a scene from Sky’s ‘Save Me’, which is returning for a second series
Just Eat marketing director Edel Kinane

AdLib: Media & Marketing with Michael Cullen

Marketers who openly admit their brands' flaws and follow a line of self-deprecation can be business successes, British adman and 'Choice Factory' author Richard Shotton claims. Speaking at the DMX Dublin conference in the Aviva Stadium, Shotton said Avis (as No 2 to Hertz 'We try harder'), and Stella Artois ('Reassuringly expensive') were two well-known brands that did so with some aplomb.

Shotton says it's a strategy which he defines as 'the power of flaw'. It's a behavioural bias evident in everyday life where people respect you if you own up to personal shortcomings - and the same applies to self-confident brands. Consumers today are clued in and know that marketers will always try and 'spin' the brand's best story in ads. "There's no such thing as a free lunch," Shotton said, "and if you don't tell them, they're going to be suspicious."

Some marketing experts argue that while 'the power of flaw' may work for brands, it's not a wise strategy across the board in marketing. But Shotton argues that "what's distinctive is memorable". He cites the Levi's black denim jeans press ad, showing a single black sheep among a white flock and the line 'When the world zigs, zag'.

The only time where a brand owner should shy away from 'the power of flaw' is when such a ploy impacts on the brand's core competence. For instance, an airline relies on people trusting it for not cutting corners on safety. If the brand decides to do something in its marketing which undermines trust, it could seriously damage its reputation and status.

During the Q&A session, Shotton was asked to name a brand owner who took 'the power of flaw' too far. He said disgraced British businessman Gerald Ratner got the tone completely wrong. He said that his Ratners Jewellers could sell a sherry decanter for £4.95 because "it's total crap". Marketers must show a core competence before ever admitting imperfections.


A survey for Just Eat home food deliveries rates Roddy Doyle's 'The Snapper' as the most iconic Dublin movie. The spice bag, fish 'n' chips and coddle were voted the capital's favourite dishes. Grafton Street, the Ha'penny Bridge and Trinity College were voted the city's most popular landmarks. The top three Dublin sayings are "C'mere to me", "What's the craic?" and "Story?"

Just Eat marketing director Edel Kinane now wants to appoint two ambassadors for its Dublinbikes scheme. Consumers are being urged to produce a short video and show they're game for a laugh. The two winners will get free takeaways for a year, tickets to events and festivals and a year's subscription to Dublinbikes. Entries can be made on Just, but as the deadline is the end of next week you'd want to get 'On yer bike'.


Staying with competitions, Kerry Foods is pushing all things deli with a new website. Launched specifically for the island of Ireland, targets retailers by giving advice on becoming experts and adding more deli shoppers. The site showcases Kerry's brands Denny, Shaws and Ballyfree. As of last year, Ireland has around 1.7m households.

One in four Irish grocery shoppers say they don't buy deli meat because they don't know the price and 88pc of those who buy from deli counters only decide to do so when they arrive at a store. Retailers can now enter a competition online to win a deli counter makeover and €500 worth of Kerry products.


Sky plans to screen a second series of Lennie James's 'Save Me' drama next year. A combined audience of over 1.7m viewers tuned into Sky Atlantic and Now TV for the first episode, as Nelly Rowe (James) saw his world turn upside down after he was arrested and accused of kidnapping his 13-year-old daughter Jody, a child he barely knew existed. A total of 700,000 viewers binge-watched the full series in the first week, making it Sky's fastest box-set release ever.


The value of the shopping experience as opposed to buying everything online hit home at the launch of Harvey Norman Interiors' spring summer collection at the Australian retailer's flagship store in Tallaght. Interior experts and media attended the event, with demos, trend talks and even some pillow measuring in the store's sleep studio.

The evening focused on Harvey Norman's Irish brands, not least Colourtrend, King Koil, Thermopure, Wellbeing, Emerald Isle and the Holli corner sofa.


And finally... former Paddy Power Betfair ad director Ken Robertson's new agency is up and running. Called The Tenth Man, Robertson vows to continue to push creative limits by rolling out edgy ad campaigns. What odds would Robertson offer clients that his agency can deliver results? 10/1?

  • Michael Cullen is editor of;

Indo Business

Also in Business