Bob Hoffman wrote an article titled The Three-Word Brief.

« What can advertising realistically achieve and how can it best achieve it? Advertising is a small part of marketing. We don’t control the product. We don’t control the pricing. We don’t control the distribution, the customer service, or the marketing strategy. The only thing we control is one aspect of communication. »

« Are there some brands we’re attached to? Sure. We each have a handful. But consumers are faced with thousands of brands. The likelihood of yours being one of the handful they are strongly attached to is absurdly small. »

« Consumers are annoyingly impervious to understanding the finer points of product positioning, differentiation, and brand meaning. Don’t agree? Stop someone on the street today and ask them what the difference is between BMW and Mercedes-Benz? Ask them for the difference between Coke and Pepsi? Ask them how Nike is different from Adidas? I will bet you very large sums of money that their responses will have little to no correlation to the strategic documents floating around those brands’ headquarters. And these are some of the most successful brands in the world. Each of these brands has spent tens of millions of dollars over the years concocting delusions of “differentiation.” They believe their brands are successful because of their unique “brand meaning.” They’re wrong. »

« The main advertising influence on their success is fame. »

« We advertising and marketing professionals make our living by convincing business people that marketing communication is a deeply specialized practice that requires particular knowledge and acumen. So we do our best to complicate the shit out of it. »

« It is not that positioning and differentiation are irrelevant. It’s that a) they are not advertising’s primary contribution to brand success and b) they are not as compelling to real people as most marketers think they are. »

« Nonetheless, when we are creating advertising, it has to be about something. Positioning and differentiation are better than non-positioning and non-differentiation. So go ahead and position and differentiate away. Just don’t fool yourself into believing that they are advertising’s central goal. »

« a great creative idea is usually the best advertising strategy. »

« Contemporary advertising thinking would also have us believe that a clear path to brand success is built on personalization and precision targeting (thanks in large part to the influence of the online media industry and its supplicants.) I would like to suggest the opposite. »

« I would like to suggest that the main power of advertising is not in precision targeting, it is in mass targeting. The real power in advertising is in having large numbers of people familiar with and comfortable with your brand. »

« Let’s make this even simpler. People are mostly too busy, too lazy, or too indifferent to give 2/5ths of a flying shit about the “meaning” of the stuff they buy. Mostly, they buy on auto-pilot from familiar brands they feel comfortable with.  »

« The easier you make it for people to choose your brand the more likely you are to be successful. From the standpoint of advertising, the best way to make the choice easier is to be famous and let probability do its work. »

« This is true even for brands that are already famous. Like the man said, when you get the plane to 35,000 feet you don’t turn off the engines. This is why outstanding creative work is such an unmatched advertising asset. It creates a lot more fame per dollar. »

« Fame cannot save a stupid idea or a stupid product. Fame is strong. But stupid is stronger. »

« If I was the CEO of your company — or if I was your client — I’d call you into my office and give you a three-word brief: Make us famous. »


Bob Hoffman is the author of several books including BadMen: How Advertising Went From a Minor Inconvenience to a Major Menace.

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