In last week’s post about scientism, I mentioned a talk that Rory Sutherland delivered on the subject of influence at the School of Life. If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing him live, you’ll probably share my enthusiasm for his humour and panache. But what makes his talks truly brilliant are the stories he uses to illustrate his points.
One of my favourites is the tale of how Shreddies (Canada) added intangible value to their brand with nothing more than a spot of psychological ingenuity. In 2007, tasked with the mission to make people think of Shreddies again, Oglivy launched a spectacularly simple campaign to get everybody talking. Where other brands might have gone for a complete overhaul, spending millions on testing and launching entire new lines of goods, Shreddies took an altogether different tack. Instead of changing their actual product, they simply changed people’s frame of reference.
A little re-framing goes a long, long way…
Yes, it was cheeky. But it also worked. The new campaign got tongues wagging, and when Shreddies followed it up with the launch of their ‘NEW Diamond Shreddies’ (see below), some members of the public took this light-hearted re-framing so seriously that they responded with genuine outrage. The video had been so effective that some actually believed their old, beloved Shreddies had been entirely replaced by this new impostor, and it wasn’t long before the complaints started rolling in. It was at this point that Shreddies delivered their coup de grâce: The Combo Pack. Sales soared, and the brand enjoyed a much-needed facelift, both in terms of its public identity and reputation. And all because of one little thing.
The subconscious mind: Master puppeteer
By using the simple psychological principle of re-framing (the process of assigning a different meaning to something by changing the way we perceive it), Ogilvy was able to transform Shreddies’ fame and fortunes, changing the face of Canadian advertising forever in the process. It goes to show that even our most cherished beliefs and values (‘I’m a rational, logical human being’) can be proven wrong and taken advantage of with the right psychological slight of hand.