In the summer of 1971, Joni Mitchell released her fourth studio album Blue, a collection of songs that would go on to be regarded as one of the greatest albums in popular music. It contains beautiful melodies and Joni’s heartwarming vocals but it’s her lyrics that became the talking point. Written while traversing two difficult and intense relationships, Joni didn’t hold back and poured her heart into every song. And it was this honesty about herself that elevated the album above everything else.
There was a time when brands followed a similar path to reach an audience by talking about themselves. Finding something unique and saying it in the most creative way possible. But this appears to be happening less and less.
Instead of talking about the product, they talk about their audience. It’s now impossible to turn on a TV or thumb through a social feed without seeing exactly the same ad but with a different logo slapped on the end. A series of shots featuring the same group of people, accompanied by the same voiceover celebrating their individuality. Finished off with an endline that talks more about the individuals shown than it does about the product. Their audience may be unique but their ads couldn’t be further from being original if they tried.
The majority of people buy a product because it has something other products don’t; taste, reliability, value for money etc. So why are brands avoiding talking about the very things that make them appealing? This approach doesn’t connect with audiences, it’s either instantly forgettable or just plain condescending.
In a bid to fit in, brands are starting to lose their identity. Brands don’t need to be loved they just need to be relevant. Perhaps it’s time to stop telling us how great we all are and start telling us how great their products are.
Joni Mitchell, A Case of You, 1974