Friday, December 05, 2008

Lost your bottle?

I've been flicking through a new Bangkok business magazine called Director (I know, it's a pretty rock 'n' roll life I lead) and came across a piece about Diageo, and how they're dealing with restrictions on alcohol marketing in Thailand. The most delicious part of the rules is that advertisers can't actually refer to the products, only the brand. So you can't show a bottle of Johnnie Walker (Diageo's big seller in the region) or even suggest that Johnnie Walker might be something that someone might want to drink. All you can show is the quintessence of JohnnieWalkerness, and quietly hope that someone will be encouraged to buy some whisky on the back of it.

Zanita Kajiji, Diageo's VP (Marketing), says:

All that's left is to focus on the brand... About the positive messages associated with that brand. That makes it easier for someone else to say exactly the same thing, and you then can't differentiate the product for the consumer.

Uh... I would have thought the exact opposite was true. How many consumers can really tell Johnnie Walker Red Label apart from any other big-selling Scotch (Bell's, Teacher's, 100 Pipers) in a blind tasting? Especially when it's consumed, as is usually the case in Thailand, with copious amounts of ice, soda and often slices of lime? Surely all that distinguishes them is the brand, so the marketing restrictions actually make things easier, by doing away with the mundane reality of product, that so often gets in the way of a good ad. I'll let someone else explain:

7 comments:

Christopher Campbell-Howes said...

Silk Cut?

Murph said...

Yes the UK ad industry has enthusiastically adopted a voluntary code of not talking about the product but just exuding the "quintessence of productness". That's why 50% of ads leave the viewer wondering what the ad is actually for (the answer is winning creative awards and maintaining a fab lifestyle for the agency execs).

It all rather explains why Western economies are going down the toilet.

The trouble with worshiping the Brand above all else is that one day they ring up and leave lewd messages on your answerphone.

Geoff said...

Johnnie Walker goes well with coke.

Christopher Campbell-Howes said...

Sorry - before I was interrupted* I was going on to comment on the impenetrability of the logic of an unidentified product, as in the famous Silk Cut series of ads (Benson and Hedges tried to pick up the baton but dropped it), being required to carry a government health warning.

*By dogs barking outside. Probably Murph.

The Bureauista said...

I'm surprised by that quote from Diageo's VP. I did some work for Diageo on a Johnnie Walker product this year, and they have documentation a metre thick on using branding to get across this 'quintessence' nonsense - scarcely any mention of the whisky itself (if you can call it whisky). Mind you, their staff were terrible at communicating with one another, so she (?) probably isn't even aware that it exists.

ohmygod - Word verification is elshag.

Tim Footman said...

Christopher (at 1 and 4): Maybe the ads needed the health warning, to remind punters that they were for cigarettes.

Be fair, Murph. Red braces don't come cheap.

Now, now, Geoff. I'm sure he does a lot for charidee.

I worked for them as well, Bureauista. I think there was a gagging clause in my redundancy package, so I'll just nod and sigh.

Charles Frith said...

Quite by coincidence I was at the publishers of Director mag today picking up a copy of this very edition. Bizzaro!