Ogilvy & Mather: Deck of Brilliance

Last November, an Ogilvy retiree, Juggi Ramakrishnan, delivered a MasterClass with full attendance that was his gift to us all before he left. It’s called the “Deck of Brilliance”, a website that Juggi and his friend Todd McCraken built together. You can think of “Life’s 100 Tips”, for creative professionals. The deck is a fun cumulation of tips and tricks from their work throughout the years, contains 52 tools with some instructions and brilliant case videos, and acts as an idea-generation system of sorts.

Recently, I received the deck from a friend here at Ogilvy who advised me to check it out. I really enjoyed it looking through it, cherry picking ideas, and analyzing the campaigns, so I thought I would pass it on to you.

I’ve posted a few of my personal favorites from their Deck of Brilliance below. The full deck can be found here.

  1. Glorify and Celebrate

We all share this deep desire to belong to something greater than ourselves. Hence, we have created religions, heroes, nations, tribes, clubs, teams, communities, and political parties. Take advantage of this basic human need. Find something bigger than your product and put it on a pedestal. You could celebrate something intangible like a spirit, a human quality, an attitude, a way of living or school of thought. You could eulogize an individual or a group of people. You could glorify an object or a place. You could even praise a particular era, a golden age, a hero’s journey through time or a historic legacy. But at all costs, avoid the temptation to put your own brand on that pedestal. Be the priest, not the deity. No brand should glorify itself. Instead, be the means through which customers can connect with a bigger and far more sacred ideal.

  1. Take the audience backstage

Show your viewers how your product is made. Show them what makes it special. Take them to the fields and the streams where your ingredients come from. Take them on a tour of the processing plant, the assembly line, the workshop, the office and the artist’s studio. Introduce them to the farmers, the miners, the workforce, the sales force, the big boss, his family and his assistants. Let them see the passion with which it is produced and the sacrifices to make it great. Let them hear the stories right from the makers’ mouths. Your backstage doesn’t have to be real either. It can be totally made-up. Sometimes the truth is more interesting than fiction. Sometimes it’s not.

  1. Define, label, and group

As humans, we have this need to identify and classify the world around us. We are compelled to name things and sort them into boxes. We do this to everything—from flowers and clouds to thoughts and actions. We are prone to see groupings even where there aren’t any, since that’s the way our brains make sense of the world. Put this tendency to work. Coin an evocative name or symbol for something you want to encourage. Conversely, find a distasteful name for something you want to discourage. Labeling draws attention to whatever’s been labeled. Labels can make one group feel exclusive and another group feel excluded. By switching labels, we can also change how something is perceived. And over time, we can change people’s behavior too.

  1. Compare and Contrast

Everything is relative. People can’t judge the value of something in isolation. They have to compare it with other things, consciously or unconsciously. So, as a marketer, you can create value by manipulating the benchmark and carefully selecting the things that are compared. However, comparison advertising shouldn’t just mean listing the weaknesses of competitors’ features or mocking their prices. In fact, you don’t have to compare competing brands at all. Compare places, circumstances and ideas. Compare attitudes, feelings and perspectives. Compare behavior, actions and results. Compare the past with the present, before with after, a ‘no’ with a ‘yes’. Compare your brand with the entire category it’s in. Be creative in how you present your comparisons too. They can be side-by-side, one after the other, or mixed together.

  1. Challenge yourself

Force your brand off its couch by setting it a challenge. And don’t make the challenge easy either. Select a goal that has never been attempted before. And announce it to the world. Then go after that goal with determination. The pursuit should make a compelling story. Even if the brand doesn’t succeed in attaining the goal, it still wins. Because a brand that frequently sets the bar higher will be noticed, respected and admired.

  1. Connect cause with effect

With cause advertising and marketing, often the biggest hurdle is that the benefit of what you are selling is not immediately apparent.For instance, a woman who turns off a couple of lights on Earth Day will never get to see the effect of her actions on the climate. An office-goer who begins to recycle his juice bottles won’t notice any difference to the amount of plastic in the oceans. A smoker who quits won’t get to see how that affects his lungs right away. When cause and effect are separated by time and space, your task is as simple as bringing them together. Juxtapose the two any way you can.

  1. Make the familiar unfamiliar

Sometimes, the execution is the idea. You can make something old feel fresh and new just by treating it differently. Change the setting. Rotate the actors. Play with the scale. Make the large things small and the small things large. Go from the outside looking in to the inside looking out. Speed things up and slow them down. Switch from a bird’s eye view to an ant’s eye view. Reprogram the sounds, the voices and the music. Make the invisible visible. Swap the colours. And peek through a different lens. Keep going until you arrive at something that’s never been done before.

  1. Humanize

If you’re stuck trying to communicate an abstract concept, try giving it a human dimension. Call us humans biased. But the more something looks and sounds like us, the more we are able to relate to it. So try personifying your subject. Give it a human name, shape and voice. Don’t stop there. Give it a human trait, personality and feelings too. Remember that every culture and civilization in history fashioned their Gods in their own likeness. Mickey the mouse, Barney the dinosaur, and Nemo the fish were anthropomorphic for a reason. Technology is acquiring human qualities too. IBM’s Watson and Apple’s Siri hint at its human future.

  1. Stage a spectacle

There are two reasons to go down this route. The first is to get on the news and create some buzz around your brand. The second is to generate content that will get passed around on social media. Your spectacle could be in the form of a public event, a roadshow, a PR stunt or a film, any of which deliver a payoff that is consistent with your brand promise. Be ambitious with your spectacle. If possible, aim to set a world record.

  1. Customize and personalize

No one likes to be made to feel like a number. Nobody wants to be treated as just another face in a crowd. But until now, large companies couldn’t help but treat their customers that way. Today, thanks to advances in technology, they can make every member of their audience feel as if their brand exists exclusively for them. So think of a way to tailor your product, your message or your experience for every individual who views it. The more customized the experience, the more flattering it is.

  1. Replace a real experience with a virtual one

We now live in a time when it’s possible to create any experience through speakers and screens. Think of places you can now travel to with the help of digital technology that you couldn’t go before. Think of the things you can do now that could only be done by the fortunate, the wealthy or the physically fit. You have the power to transport your audience into the past, into the future, into outer space, across the oceans, to the bottom of the sea, into make-believe land, into each other’s loving arms or even inside the cluttered, conflicted head of the President of the USA. All you have to do is figure out your destination. And make the trip emotional.

So there you have it! Some neat ideas, thoughts, and really brilliant campaign videos that bring life and soul into brands and companies around the world.


Mr. International

Demetri Savas


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