Risky Business?

by Hamish Campbell, Pearlfisher

Coke recently unveiled the brand’s biggest-ever summer campaign – ‘Share A Coke’ - which will replace the Coke brand name with 150 of the most popular consumer names as it seeks to drive up personalization of the brand. Describing the UK campaign, GB and Ireland Managing Director Jon Woods, said it was "a brave move to replace the world's most iconic brand with 150 names"( Brand Republic 2013 )

The new packaging will be complemented by a TV campaign featuring teenagers and young adults sharing stories about “people who they admire, respect or have been inspired by.” I think we can already guess the roll call: it will be moms and families, iconic celebrities and stars in sport, music; the mavericks and creative visionaries who haven’t always got it right but who have marked themselves as creative risk takers.

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Brands too need to find new ways to keep grabbing attention and can’t just sit still if they want to be noticed. You only have to look at the brands that we all admire and are inspired by - and maybe more importantly the people behind them - and know that they would not be where they are today without some risky behavior along the way.

Coke has a history of being a creative groundbreaker. For others, the past few years have been about risks that were not so well-received: the rebrand of Tropicana, a new identity for Pepsi… but over time, consumers didn’t love these brands any the less for these risks. If anything, the strength of feeling brought out by these failures just shows the consumer love for them and the indomitable power and longevity of great creativity and design.

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More than ever, in an unstable cultural, political and economic climate, we love brands that are not afraid to challenge the status quo – to change the way we view them and the world around them. It’s a subject we are passionate about and have recently been speaking to some of our best loved and best-known brands – and their leaders - to ask them about the passion, fear, risk – and creativity - that drives them and has shaped the success of their brands.

Let’s take one name we all know. Jamie Oliver is not just a tireless risk taker but also a brutally honest one when it comes to being vocal about the level of personal and business risk he has taken to further his passion for food and its education. Pearlfisher took a risk with our design for Jamie’s Jme range, but we’re proud to say that it’s become a good example of how a creative risk paid off. 

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Rather than design a typical consistently branded range, we created an emotionally-driven brand architecture, and a flexible design approach: the brand is in different places on pack and different expressions throughout the whole range. The overall look and feel aptly reflects the diverse products curated by Jamie and his buyers and feels like hundreds of different offers rather than just one brand. And it was this risky but extraordinary approach to brand and packaging that has been crucial to Jamie’s success.

Taking risks may not always work out, but that’s not a reason not to give creative risk a chance. We all need to keep challenging – shake up corporate and creative conventions, facilitate ideas, creativity and the new – and champion the risk takers. We are living and working in a new world of infinite possibilities and where the only threat to real progress is the fear of making mistakes. A risk worth taking? I certainly think so.

Hamish Cambell is a Creative Director at Pearlfisher, NewYork

Contact: hamish@pearlfisher.com