How a green, climate change-denying blob became the perfect case study for binning your brand bible

After a Polish telco bought the rights to his bizarre, politically incorrect, ukelele-playing cartoon character Mr Pipik; Sheldon Lieberman realised how vanilla Australia's marketing landscape had become.

All agencies know the best ideas often fall at the first hurdle. We present a gem of a campaign that would cut through all the noise and be loved by customers. The marketing team love it and everyone gets excited.

But then someone has to take it upstairs and sell it to the powers that be.

They know their job could be forfeit if they take a risk and it fails. So, bit by bit, the brilliant idea becomes vanilla, they wheel in the brand bible, de-risk and slowly dismantle everything that made it great in the first place.

It could be argued that vanilla is still the best selling flavour, but here’s the thing. As content becomes more and more powerful and prolific and technology becomes even more sophisticated and seductive, if CMOs continue to hide behind dogma and the safe rules of their brand bibles, their brands will fade into the shadows. The spotlight will be taken by content that doesn’t feel corporate, but more like art.

Six years ago, my company Bigfish was approached by Ogilvy & Mather Global about buying the rights to Mr Pipik, a very simple, very strange 2D animated ukulele-playing character our team had created for a short film. Ogilvy wanted Mr Pipik for a launch campaign for a new Polish telco NJU Mobile, part of the global Orange network.

Since this time, Mr Pipika has been the brand, the influencer and the talent for NJU Mobile. He gets millions of views on YouTube, the company has more than 400,000 followers on Facebook and excellent engagement and they continue to put out fresh content starring Mr Pipika (they adapted the name) at least every week. He’s not yet the Clooney to Nespresso, but he’s definitely the Clooney to that beer he sells in Japan. He even rates a mention on the NJU wikipedia page.

A simple 2D character continues to have cut-through using just internet and social media marketing because he is funny and no-one got out a brand bible and bashed away at him until he lost everything that made him Mr Pipik. Instead they built the brand guidelines around him.

There is no point having a perfect 3D model when the voice is stupid and annoying, or too on brand to be interesting. Only by focusing on character and truth, can content that’s compelling, entertaining and inspiring break through the noise.

Over-produced, expensive and repetitive TVCs ramming messages down people’s throats – they’re dead. Talking head corporate videos presenting to camera reading an autocue – stop it, no one believes you. Explainer videos where that hand draws everything like it’s on a whiteboard – it was good four years ago… once. No more. Please. Voice overs that sound like they’ve been trained by a radio station announcer from the early ’90s. Arghhhhhhhhhhh.

The frequency of content and the ever expanding channels we have available to reach our audiences also mean we are going to have to stop worrying about insane brand guidelines. We often hear from people outside of the marketing department, like HR who want to do a recruitment drive or an internal communications project and just need to get a simple message out quickly.

The future of content is human – so show imperfection, it can be rough but it has to be real.

Marketing teams, especially those working for big corporate brands, must have the determination to take those really creative, raw, real ideas upstairs and fight for them.

Content must start with character, it must be relatable whether it’s a potato-shaped blob or a real person talking. And shred the brand bible. Because as we become more and more swamped with content, boring, on-brand and safe is going to fade away.

Sheldon Lieberman is founder and owner of Bigfish.


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