Tuesday, 24 July 2012

UPS Good delivery


In the series of Olympic ad reviews, the global logistic and delivery company UPS is next on the blocks. Their role in the Games is to be officially in charge of Deliveries, and they will have paid a handsome sum for this, many times greater than the value of deliveries they will be making. Have they wasted their money?

If you haven't seen their ad here it is:


This whole sponsorship seems right and quietly relevant.
UPS have managed to continue their approach of making delivering packages ( aka logistics) seem glam and professional. And at the same time, subtly calling into question the credibility of the hordes of lesser brands and white van men who compete with them, and who, by implication, perform on a lesser stage.
This ad has got it right too.
It's got the balance between its sponsorship and its ad message right. This means that the service it is offering to the Games a) makes sense and b) fits well with the reality of its day to day business: it has not had to try too hard to get them to coalesce.( Many brands in my previous reviews have struggled to see how to make their sponsorship deal relevant or differentiated).
It's got the overall strategy right: to be simultaneously big and small, global and local, professional but personal.

It's also got the tone right : it feels service orientated, understanding, approachable, inclusive.
It's got the "sponsorship symbiosis" balance in its favour. What I mean by that is that UPS has a clear image advantage in its favour via its association with the Games: this is not always the case with larger or more "famous" global brands for whom the additional kudos is far less tangible than they had originally imagined.In this context, because it has executed it well, UPS gets loads of positive borrowed interest from the Olympics and makes this work for their brand. ( If interested see the BP and Omega blogs below for how to get this balance working against you).
Further, this ad has many of the right ingredients to work.It's been conceived and built properly.


Within the solidity of the overall approach, UPS has neatly chosen key ingredients that are likely to result in success (and are detailed as a working blueprint at www.cambridgecomms.com if you're interested). Whether they have done this knowingly or by luck is a matter of conjecture, but this ad is well designed.

As an aside, readers may be familiar with the BBC's hilarious Twenty Twelve. Perhaps not so well known is the fact that this is pretty much how it is in reality: in particular, the ad agency/PR portrayal is not over fanciful - clients are daily fed questionable rubbish, cooked up without design, on a whim, by amateurs. What such organisations tend to lack is a rigorous results orientated process to create and judge their own work. A suggestion for such a framework, and the necessary ingredients, is set out at Cambridge Comms if you're interested.
Of the ingredients I look at in detail, the key one UPS have chosen is Strong tribal leader message.
At Cambridge Comms I suggest that much human behaviour is based on auto responses, quite primitive sub conscious promptings, many of which are the result of an involuntary desire to belong to a group ( a tribe). Ads that show a range of people reacting positively to something have a built in advantage from the start as the message of mutual security in the tribe, and trust in the tribal leader, comes across.
In a recent survey of brands, the "generic cheddar" Cathedral City came high at No 13 in the list of the nation's favourites , and many commentators were falling over themselves to be surprised by this.

But Cathedral City has always based its approach on national popularity, and, by pitching itself as the nation's favourite, and showing a semi-romantic view of  families and individuals across the country tucking in from dawn to dusk, by showing family relevance and nostalgia, it has successfully created a movement that inveigles people in via the inherent perception of popularity: if everyone is doing it I will too. This is how the Olympic torch phenomenon works too (see my previous blog post). Cathedral City also got a number of other key building blocks right including naming, the use of specific colours, and parchment wrapping, all of which helped provide substance and natural "continuum".

There will invariably be more people willing to follow this sort of Pied Piper message than those (arguably with "minds of their own") who prefer to pursue their own course, and  that's why this approach works in so many cases.
Halifax, with their singing choir, have over the last 10 years or so built their brand around this foundation. Ditto Coke and BA.                                

UPS's choice of a range of different enterprises from sport to theatre, from hi-tech to bespoke tailoring, not only shows the constituent parts of the tribe, but also allow UPS to bask in the reflected glory of those constituents: will UPS be seen as a higher tech or more creative company in the future? Will UPS be seen as a company that's creative and  plays fair? Yes, subtly, on all counts.
Presumably, too, the featured tribal members ( the customers shown) are also those companies who are targets for UPS, customer sectors where they are currently light. It's part of the design.
Note, none of the above refers to creative egregiousness in any way.This ad is not going to win any creative awards ( except possibly within the logistics industry itself), but this will not diminish its power to work in the real world.

Of course, a true creative breakthrough, combined with the design ingredients shown above, makes for an even better final product, but too many "creative breakthroughs" fail because they are not grounded in what will work. In such cases the creative world may win, but the commercial world ( the advertising client who is paying) loses.
There are rare exceptions, but these need to be entered into knowingly: and some ads are meant simply to be art and the ad replaces the product story completely.(Benneton in the 80s was a good and rare example).
To conclude.When the post mortem comes after the Games, and the winners and losers in the casino of sponsorship are decided, how will UPS fare?
In image and relevance terms I  believe it's on a certain win. Its advertising should talk to the FD as much as the despatch manager, and to big and small businesses alike. Its brand image is likely to be enhanced as much to current and future customers as to current and  future employees ( so it is actually a decent recruitment ad too).
So, as far as image is concerned, the only way is up.
Prove this on the ground UPS, via meticulous professionalism and punctuality, avoid a GS4 style cock up and try not to lose the Polish long jumpers's jock strap and you can expect a podium finish.

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