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What's the big idea? What major brands can teach you about campaign angles

Want to know how to create an angle that sells? Then check out this step-by-step guide where we’ll teach you all about marketing angles and how to use them and improve them.

Angles come in all shapes and sizes, and can fulfill a range of tasks. However, at their most basic, they are the ways in which you sell your product, therefore the more clearly you define your angle, the better.

To understand angles a bit better, let’s look at some famous examples to see how people have built and used angles over the years. The examples given highlight just a few of the angles you can use in your campaign. There are hundreds more! We’ve added a more comprehensive list at the bottom of this article.

Redefining the Norms

In the world of affiliate marketing, people often forget that you can learn a lot from offline giants. There seems to be a notion that offline and online are two different worlds. However, in reality, they are populated by the same people. Therefore, it’s worth looking at how big global businesses conduct their advertising. After all, most adverts now are visible on and offline. Some of the major tv campaigns are just as visible when you go online, and they still work to get people involved.

If anything, many offline ads are more suited to online efforts, as the audiences are already sitting at their computers and mobiles, ready and waiting to be primed to click on the latest products. That’s why we’re going to take a look at some of the major offline campaigns, to show you why they worked and how you can adapt their success to create your own.

Coca Cola - Christmas Campaigns

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Let’s face it, it’s not Christmas until the Coca Cola truck comes to town. Coca Cola have owned Christmas over the years, even changing the the jolly fat man’s outfit from green to red.

Coca Cola’s Christmas angle is second-to-none and the premise which backs it up is quite straightforward, but tricky to pull off.

According to Coco-Cola: “In 1931 the company began placing Coca-Cola ads in popular magazines. Archie Lee, the D’Arcy Advertising Agency executive working with The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the campaign to show a wholesome Santa who was both realistic and symbolic.” The result was the work of Haddon Sundblom, who illustrated the first iconic santa as we know him, in 1931, and continued to do so until 1964.

But what made the angle such a success? Well, it seems to be a mixture of things. The nature of the artwork provided people with a wholesome character who perfectly epitomises the festive season.

Prior to Sundblom’s vision of Santa, Coca Cola say that he “was depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf. He has donned a bishop’s robe and a Norse huntsman’s animal skin. In fact, when Civil War cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly in 1862, Santa was a small elf-like figure who supported the Union.” Not very festive!

Takeaway

The world isn’t perfect and just because something has been around for years unchallenged, doesn’t mean it’s working perfectly. If you can find a way to take something preexisting and breathe new life into it, then you’ll have a great angle. Remember, advertising isn’t so much about selling products as it is making people want to buy them.

Nostalgia

Hovis - Through the Years

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Slogan: As Good Today as It’s Always Been

Hovis ‘Through the Years’ is possibly my favourite ad of all time. , however, that’s not today that it necessarily worked.

Speaking to the Telegraph after the 2008 release of the advert, Danny Brooke-Taylor, the creative director for MCBD Advertising told The Telegraph that they wanted the ad to be “wholesome and natural” to create a vision of the “idyllic Britain we all remember or think we do”.

“Normally, adverts are small moments of interruptions but what we have wanted to do here is make it feel more cinematic,”

The cinematic quality was certainly fulfilled, not least from the fact that the first time I saw it was in the cinema, not the usual place you’d expect to see an advert for bread. But the premise and thinking behind the advert was simple enough; instil a sense of nostalgia in those who see the advert and remind them that Hovis has been there through the good times and the bad and fits into the idyllic vision of British history that we (the British) all share.

This type of advertising is really only open to companies with a long history, where the claim can be made and people know it’s legitimacy. In this sense, the advert simply acts as a reminder. But it’s a reminder which plucks at the heartstrings of an enormous cross-section of society. However, that’s not to say that you can’t learn from this angle and use it to your advantage. Here’s a quick example of how you might use it to your advantage.

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Takeaway

Your demographic is important, and understanding what makes them tick can really boost your potential for success. If you can break customer into nostalgia, then they might associate your product with ‘the good old days’. Nostalgia is a powerful tool in your arsenal and it can attract instant attention and appeal.

First-impressions count! It takes as little as one-tenth of a second for a customer decide whether or not they are interested in buying your product or not after seeing your first advert. Therefore, you need to hit them hard with something that interests them.

Humour, Honesty and Division

Marmite - Neglect

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If you’ve ever heard of Marmite or tried it, then you’ll know that it really is a love/hate product. Fans of it will defend it to the death while haters will gag on sight. Of course, Marmite knows this all to well and, as a result, decided to base their whole campaign around it, to great effect.

In their ‘Neglect’ advert, they played on the idea of ‘neglect’ and ‘abuse’, not exactly funny topics. But the notion of having welfare agents go to houses to pick up unwanted and unloved jars of Marmite from the backs of people’s cupboards in order to rehome them was a great concept, which lead to a memorable campaign.

The division between those who love a product and those who hate it, acknowledges both sides of your audience. It tells them, we know this isn’t for you, but that’s ok. It also reassures those that love the product, that they are in good company.

Remember, in advertising, people like to feel as though by buying a product, they are joining a special group of people. In Marmite’s case, this works if you buy it or not.

Another campaign from the UK, which sowed the seeds of division in a different way was Yorkie.

Back in 2001, Yorkie launched a campaign, with the primary slogan ‘Yorkie: It’s not for girls’. It’s quite easy to see the division here and the assumption is, if you tell someone they can’t have something, they want it all the more. And it seems to have worked.

According to Zain Omar in his essay How Sexism Increased Sales for Yorkie, Yorkie’s sales increased by 30% over the first 12 weeks of the campaign.

Yorkie later took it even further and added slogans such as ‘Don’t feed the birds.’ and ‘Save your money for driving lessons.’ They were good adverts, which aimed to strike up a bit of resistance, but ultimately the message was tongue in cheek. However, today, this advert would never see the light of day and could even be considered a crime. We’ll go into that in a little more depth later on.

Takeaway

It’s not always easy to sell a product by making fun of it, but it can work. One of the late, great David Ogilvy’s proudest campaigns for the VW Beetle did just that and turned the car into the icon it is today.

Imagine being an advertiser in the post-war West, where the people who fought Hitler are your direct consumers. Then imagine trying to sell them an ugly car which was designed by Hitler himself. It’s no easy sell, but slogans like ‘It’s ugly, but it gets you there.’ and ‘Lemon.’ seemed to do the trick. It’s amazing that the campaigns actually sold cars, but they did.

Humour and honesty can go a long way and can help you build a much stronger defence for your product. If you can charge your audience with a joke, before hitting them with a ‘..but in all seriousness, this is why this is an awesome product…’, then you’ve got a great recipe for success, which immediately requires attention. Once gained, that attention can be used to get them over the finish line.

Just be careful not to cross the line. Humour is tricky and not everyone has the same sense of it. It’s not easy to target large audiences with jokes, and creating something family-friendly and funny is particularly difficult.

Redefining Purpose

John Lewis

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Every year in the UK, advertisers go all in to try and create the best advert which wins over the hearts and minds of the population. However, the one that everyone looks forward to year in, year out, is the John Lewis ad.

Some years have definitely been better than others, but all the ads they have so far produced have been pretty good. The first ‘famous’ John Lewis Christmas ad which started the ball rolling came in 2010 and was a nostalgic look at a woman’s life from birth to old age and everything in between. It took a similar line to the Hovis adverts, which is why I won’t go into too much detail here, suffice it to say that the aim of the ad was to show that John Lewis was there for every event in your life.

In 2011, John Lewis released ‘The Long Wait’. The ad features a young boy who is excited about Christmas, not because of what he will receive but because of the gift he has bought. The ad tells the story of his lead up to Christmas day and show how he deals with the time, by trying to use magic to move time forward, and cleaning is plate on Christmas Eve as quickly as possible, so that he can go to bed.

The ad worked well on many levels, it told a good story, it advertised the range of John Lewis’ products seamlessly throughout and it turned the idea of impatiently waiting to receive presents, on its head. In essence, it looked at things differently than you would expect and the message really resonated.

Takeaway

There are many ways to skin a cat as they say and it’s worth taking a real look at how people use your products and what their emotions to them are. If you are pushing things during holiday seasons, then the giving aspect is really worth thinking about. Let’s face it, we’ve all struggled to buy gifts for other people and would be amazing to give them something that they like. But know what other people will like is difficult. If you can make the choice seem easy, then you’ll be onto a winner.

There are plenty of things out there that you can play this idea into. Just take your object and look really closely at how you’d use it and why. People often want to help others, so can your product help your product to help others? If so, work out how and see if you can turn it into a salable angle.

Entertainment

The Cadbury’s Gorilla

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The Cadbury’s Gorilla ad is one of the most famous adverts ever created, but it was nearly never made.

After a salmonella outbreak had contaminated some of the bars that were shipped out, Cadbury’s was experiencing a PR disaster. They needed a campaign that would redefine their brand image and re-establish consumer trust. The result? A gorilla playing the drums…

So how exactly did it work? Well, it took a lot of convincing from the marketing side and many of the company execs were dead against it, but after a lot of pushing, finally it go the green light. Once it had hit the screens, it was so well shot and so refreshingly different/interesting that it was instantly entertaining. It created the perfect storm that anything softer just would not have achieved.

Quite simply, people liked it and were entertained and, as a result, it won people over.

Takeaway

Audience engagement is key and good advertising can make people forget about bad PR. It’s not easy to do, but it’s also not impossible. If you are trying to sell something which has been getting bad media attention, then you can attempt to divert audience attention by hitting them with something positive first. If you can evoke a positive attitude and then instantly provide them with your product, then they will feel more positive towards it by association.

How to choose and develop your angle

Now that we’ve looked at a few examples of famous angles which have worked, you’ve hopefully got a better idea of what angles are and what they aim to achieve. Therefore, it’s time to start thinking about yours.

The angle you choose will depend on a lot of different things but in the end, you should try to narrow it down as much as possible, so that you end up with just one or 2 key sales elements.

First things first

The first things you need to be sure about are your product and your target audience. You need to know these two things like the back of your hand. The more knowledge you have about your product, the more ways you have to sell it. The better you know your audience, the more accurate your decisions about your angle.

The key thing about angles is that they are targeted at the people you want to sell to. For example, you wouldn’t use childish cartoons to target women over 60 in the same way you wouldn’t use pensioners discussing their problems to target the under 20s. Therefore, it’s important to know what your core demographic like.

One way to do this is to use Facebook Insights. We’ve already written about Insights in our article How to expand your lookalike audience using social media. In short though, you can set up parameters and see what people in your demographic find interesting. This is great if you want an idea of which companies campaigns are working.

Here are a couple of overviews of from Facebook Insights using the following specified audience:

Age: 18-25

Interests: Not specified

Language: English UK

Relationship Status: Single

Education: High School

Work: Not Specified

Market Segments: Not Specified

Parents: Not Specified

Politics: Not Specified

Life Events: Not Specified

All classifications are the same, but the first is men and the second women.

Men:

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Women:

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Not unsurprisingly, we can see that there are clear differences between the interests of the two genders.

On both lists, we can see similar interests. Two which stand out to me though are the Royal Marines and the NCS-National Citizens Service. If you were to target this age group, then these are two organisations definitely worth looking into. Why? Because interest in either tells you quite a bit about the potential target audience. It means that, contrary to popular belief, the next generation might be more aspirational than we’d like to give them credit for.

It’s only one small example, but it is a definite indicator that they are go getters and therefore, more likely to be switched on to ways in which they can improve themselves. It also lends credence to the idea that they are selfless, so more likely to opt for products that could help them to help others. This is backed up further in the female category as further down the list we see ‘BBC Children in Need’.

Lets try moving the age bracket up a notch from 18-25 to 25-30.

Men:

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Women:

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From the data here, we can see that men are still interested in the Royal Marines, but slightly less so. They also now have a renewed interest in gaming, in particular military games. An interest in alcohol has also crept in, which wasn’t present in 18-25-year-olds. The data from women is also very interesting.

For women, charity is now nowhere to be seen. Even if you extend the category list down to 36 it’s not there. Instead, we start seeing a lot more hits for discount coupons and clothes. In fact, the majority is for vanity products. Alongside this, baby products also make an appearance.

If you are selling cosmetics for example, it would be worth playing around here to better define the age at which women begin caring less about charity and start to focus more on themselves.

As you can see, Facebook’s Insights tool can give you a lot of information if you look a little more closely and you can begin to start understanding your audience’s mindset in order to target it more accurately.

Let’s use lipstick as a quick example. Here are two angles that you could use to target the demographics differently based on what we’ve discovered so far.

Women 18-25

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Women 25-30

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As you can see, understanding your demographic will change the angle and the areas you should address. How you speak to your audience is the key to getting results. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll hit the ball out of the park on the first run, but it means you will at least increase your chances of starting off in the right park.

The Current State of Advertising

In the world of online advertising, many affiliates opt for a quick fix. This often means cutting corners with clickbait, celebrity names and fake testimonials. While this is by no means a legitimate practice, it is one which has worked well in the industry for years. However, all that might soon be coming to an end as new laws are created and social media sites start holding their users to account.

Legal implications with campaigns are not the only reason why such campaigns might not be the most viable. Another reason is that they fail to maintain long-term success and often lead to customers changing their minds. As a result, affiliates lose money as customers claim refunds and the offer ultimately ends up losing its legitimacy. Therefore, it’s often better to be honest with customers, find out what they want and then feed that to them in a way that makes them happy with the products delivery, rather than lie and fall far short of your promise.

For example, imagine a Coca Cola campaign that said it would help you to lose weight. People might think “wow, finally, I can drink what I want and be thin!” But a few months down the line when they’ve doubled in size, Coca Cola would have a lot of explaining to do and a lot of compensation to pay out.

One of the reasons affiliates choose to go down this route is because they are not big companies, and therefore they know that they can slip under the radar and make a few bucks in the process. However, imagine having a campaign that built a reputation and one which you could rely on in the long run.

Both offline and online marketing have rules and even big companies fall short on delivering. When this happens, it usually goes viral, with media outlets being the first to show their disdain. However, once again, it’s possible to look at offline marketing as a guide, to see what you can and can’t get away with.

Offline advertising, at least in Tier 1 GEOs, is currently following a trend of ‘diversity’. One of the driving forces behind this is that companies want to be seen to be tackling the pressing issues of the day and spreading peace and harmony wherever they go. However, targeting according to what is deemed ‘socially acceptable’, isn’t quite the same thing as targeting a specific audience.

Let’s face it, we all know that drinking alcohol is bad for our health, but just because everyone knows this, doesn’t mean people will stop. Similarly, it doesn’t mean that just because it’s true it will sell. Advertising which uses social diversity as its angle faces the same type of problems, and here’s why.

Division

Many major advertisers are currently trying to take advantage of political schisms to sell their product. By aligning themselves with a stance, they aim to further solidify their brands with a percentage of the populace, despite the backlash the may face from the remaining percentile. One of the most famous examples of this is Nike’s decision to use Colin Kaepernick in their campaign after he refused to kneel for the national anthem.

In advertising terms, the decision shows a clear allegiance to a political stance and split between you’re either with us or against us. Advertising like this has since become more and more popular, and the idea behind it is simple. Promote things which are outwardly good and show that your company is fighting the ‘good’ fight. All opposition or debate of the perceived goodness must then be considered bad. Of course, the issues being represented aren’t black and white, but it’s not difficult to see why it’s convenient to present them as such. Those who support the products stance feel a greater allegiance to the company than they would otherwise. So, while on the one hand they may lose customers, on the other, they more than make up for it with freshly established loyalty.

Gillette

Another famous example of a company ‘fighting the good fight’ was Gillette’s recent advert which was aimed at ‘toxic masculinity’.

The Gillette advert succeeded in getting a lot of attention. The idea was to create an image of a new man with new principles. However, a lot of people felt that it’s entire premise relied on the notion that masculinity is bad and that traditional male attitudes are inherently toxic. As a result, there was a huge media backlash, but Gillette’s profits remained strong.

People don’t like it when companies attempt to take the moral high ground and start preaching to them. There are also those who don’t agree with the stances. So what do those customers do? Well, they end up boycotting the products. But does it matter?

The answer is, no. Companies like Nike and Gillette know well in advance what their projected gains and losses will be from launching a controversial campaign. They also know that controversy leads to free publicity. However, with people becoming more divided, then what happens if you don’t take up ‘the good fight’? Are you the bad guy?

The Fallout

In recent years a lot of major businesses have come under fire after customers complained that their adverts were sexist, racist, homophobic etc. It’s a climate which is being seen across society and it is beginning to stifle creative departments. It’s now much safer to pander to the demands of the few than it is to go against the backlash of the minority. Especially when the minority will have you paraded across the headlines of national newspapers. So what’s the answer?

It’s difficult to say. There has always been criticism, but never to the extent that criticism extended as far as censorship quite so quickly. And in the world of affiliate marketing, this will gradually matter more and more.

Social media sites can and will pull your ads and sites down if they think you’ve done something wrong. In the UK, it’s now becoming commonplace for posts online to be reported to the police. Take a look at the latest hate crime legislation that’s now in place and you’ll get a good idea why.

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The perception of hate clause at the end casts an incredibly wide net and means that, regardless of what someone may or may not have said or done, if a person perceives the motivating force behind it to be hateful, it can be legitimately reported to the police. Therefore, if you’re running health ads telling people that they should lose weight, you’ve now got to be incredibly careful how you word it, especially if you’re a UK citizen.

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This is a poster from the London Underground that was banned back in 2016. Since then, there have been many more prominent ad campaigns which have come under fire and subsequently been banned.

This isn’t something you necessarily have to worry about too much just yet, but be prepared for some shake ups over the coming years, especially in Tier 1 GEOs. The face of advertising looks set to change to fall in line with ‘cultural opinions’, and large corporations have already had to change their names and campaigns as a result. Therefore, it’s likely only a matter of time before social media adds further restrictions to stop certain elements being used in advertising.

It’s not all doom and gloom!

Don’t worry too much about infringing on hate speech laws though. There is some pretty draconian legislation coming into play but it’s easy enough to stay out of the game and still make some seriously successful campaigns.

Another famous example of a company ‘fighting the good fight’ was Gillette’s recent advert which was aimed at ‘toxic masculinity’.

Campaigns like this, which jump on the bandwagon, can work, but only temporarily. So. if you’re looking for a quick hit then targeting according to trending topics and opinions can work. However, there are good reasons why so many adverts on the list above have worked, and it’s an age-old method. Advertising is not about separating people, but about bringing them together. Therefore, if you want a safe angle that sells, don’t jump on the diversity bandwagon.

Here are two famous English idioms:

‘Birds of a feather stick together’ and ‘opposites attract.’

The second is really only true for magnets! Think about it. When was the last time you went to a party and thought “Wow, I have nothing in common with these people. I love it!” Well, that’s kind of the theory when it comes to diversity. It looks nice, but it’s not an altogether practical outlook.

Diversity is about celebrating difference. A nice enough idea, but marketing is about finding things people have in common and then playing to those values.

The Gillette advert succeeded in getting a lot of attention, however, by being a message aimed at changing men’s ideas, what was it really targeting? If you watch the advert, really try to think to yourself, who is this aimed at?

The idea was to create a unified image of a new man with new principles. Which is ok, but at the same time it didn’t focus on a way to bring people together. In other words, it didn’t relate and this is the case for a lot of advertising today.

People are brought together by their fears, struggles, lives etc and those are the things which fuel a great campaign.

Should you fight the ‘good fight’ in your angles?

Attaching yourself to a cause can work, but make sure you know enough about it first. It’s best not to get too political in your advertising, but if you want to test it then go ahead. It’s not a common angle used by affiliate marketers, which means that there is a gap in the market. What’s more, there do seem to be trends that suggest people who support ‘social justice’ are far more likely to stay white-listed on social media. However, safer still is to avoid these issues, even if they are topical.

Another Angle for Gillette

Let’s imagine we had to make the Gillette advert which doesn’t divide the audience. The idea of the modern man is an OK place to start, but it doesn’t need to provide a moral compass. After all, they are trying to sell razors, not put the world to rights. So let’s keep the idea of a modern man in sight.

Secondly, Gillette’s ad played directly off of the standards set by their previous ads, that men who use their razors are real men! Manly men! Cool. Now we have something to work with.

Now we’re looking at what it means to be a real man in the modern world. If you are a man, do you consider yourself to be a manly man? Hmmm, what does that mean? Well, you probably didn’t leave the house at 5am and go into the woods to wrestle your breakfast onto your plate, but you did get out of bed…that’s a start! Getting out of bed sucks, especially if you’ve got work and it’s raining outside. God, days like those when all you want to do is turn off your alarm and forget about everything and just sleep. But you don’t. You get up and you drag yourself around your flat; trip over the cat; put the kettle on and find you’ve run out of milk; pick up the post and see it’s just bills; make your breakfast and burn the toast.

Everything’s going wrong and you begin to wonder how you’re going to get through another day. Finally, you need to get ready. You walk into the bathroom and look at yourself. You really need to shave but what’s this! You’ve just remembered, you use Gillette! Boom! A ray of hope when everything else is crumbling around you. You at least know that you can have a clean, comfortable shave. Now, when you find your shirt and it’s all creased, you don’t care quite so much, because you’re comfortable and confident.

And there’s your new angle. Gillette won’t let you down. It’s reliable, it’s strong and it’s there when you need it. You’ve also got your target audience. Real men! Men who forget to buy milk and iron their shirts and hate their jobs, but yet still summon the strength to carry on. It’s relatable and it doesn’t preach. It takes people’s lives into account and their flaws and provides them with a solution.

Now, obviously, most affiliates don’t have the budgets, manpower or film and power to create campaigns on the same level as multinational corporations. However, you can still apply the same logic to your campaigns when creating your angles.

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As promised earlier, here is a more comprehensive list of angles that you can test out and apply to your products.

Save Time: Can your product save people time each day? How?

Reach a Goal: We all have goals in life, whether we realise them or not. If your product can help someone to get to where they want to be then let them know about it.

Challenge preconceived ideas: A lot of what people do is second nature, but what if you could change that and provide them with an alternative and a new way of looking at the world?

Controversy: We’ve already covered this in detail, but there are big controversies and small ones. For example, telling people they shouldn’t vaccinate their kids is a biggie, however, telling them how to pronounce tomato, less so. “You say to-mah-to, we say to-mate-oh! Why, because we’ve been producing them for over 40 years so we know a thing or two..”

Angles

Fear: Lots of things scare people, but if your product can remove someone’s fear then it’s worth having.

Inspiration: If you can target people’s aspiration, you can inspire them to buy your product.

Answer: Does your product provide an answer to a question? Then the answer can be your angle.

Eco-friendly: There are lots of products that sell themselves based on their sustainability and eco-friendly nature. If your product is eco-friendly, then try selling it based on that.

There are a lot of potential angles out there and all you need to do to find them is look a little closer at your product.

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