When Arthur Daley dropped his Trilby on the bar of the Winchester Club and ordered a scotch from Dave and moaned about ‘Er indoors’, there was a golden rule at play that would never be broken. We often heard about or ‘She who must be obeyed’. but we saw the great lady.
This was an essential part to Arthur’s shady character. He lacked any moral fibre, so could not risk showing an emotional side, or even be rivaled (I wouldn’t class Inspector Chisholm as an equal). It would only have reduced the appeal of his slavishly selfish character. That said, we never doubted Mrs D existed. And what a woman she must have been to always be in Arthur’s mind.
And despite the changing writers, actors, audiences and producers, great writers stay true to their characters.
Brands are no different. They have their demanding audiences, they have their media canvass and they have aspects of their character which are memory creating short cuts which linger long after their campaign finished.
As agencies, employees, strategists and creative arrive and move on, the ‘golden rule’ book should be transferred…but does it even exist? This isn’t the brand guidelines, the visual identity templates or even the brand story (although it’s a good start). It’s more subtle than that.
Ask yourself of your brand, or your clients brand, where do we keep the golden rules stored away? Who holds onto them. Chances are they are passed between creatives in the pub, but never captured.
As a consumer I am not documenting these rules, but they are stored away in the subconscious and retrieved to provide a strong reaffirmation of a brand when it’s presented to me in full in advertising, in person on the shelves or passively online socially. They are more powerful to me than any visual guidelines.
And when a brand breaks them, I become unsettled. And when I am unsettled I look for more settling alternatives. Who has unsettled me in recent times?
- Special K. Changing shapes and colours in TV executions have confused me (yes I am quite simple).
- Innocent offering extra size value packs – premium and value in one space is awkward.
- NatWest – getting me to use their mobile app in one breath, draw the next and they want me in the branch on Saturday.
- Soccer AM – saw it for first time in years and its same format, same gags, same everything but with new bloke presenting – very odd.
The golden rules they created they’ve also broken.
So is it too late or can it be revived after this one mistake? Do you remember the remakes of Minder with a new cast? No, exactly.
Once you take away the golden rule, what are you left with? Something quite forgettable.
It’s one thing to learn the golden rules, but another skill entirely to nurture and retain them whilst the world around moves on. And sadly to easy to break them without realising you just killed the golden goose.
The golden rule is know your golden rules and stick to them, forever.
Written by Christopher Brooks, Lexden.