One Word Equity

James posts about Maurice Saatchi’s thoughts on the future of advertising. Saatchi’s article is tucked away behind the FT paywall. James critiques it very well. Essentially Saatchi says advertising is dead (on the same day his agency is running… er a two-page ad about itself in the broadsheets here.) Saatchi seeems to think it will be replaced by the notion of brands owning single words. He says Google “owns” search and America “owns” freedom. You get the idea.

At the M&C Saatchi site we’re told

M&C Saatchi launches One Word Equity for clients. The global ownership of one word is the most priceless asset a company can have in the digital age.

This links to The longest message on the opening page of this is a direction to “disable popup blockers” – which for me speaks volumes about the kind of thinking behind it.

James and I were talking about this and came to the conclusion that Lord S probably isn’t online much. He launches this new idea with an article that is locked behind a paywall, and a website that takes ages to load and whose idea of interactivity is a few slightly tiresome graphics.

I’m all for simplicity but the idea that brands now have to fight to “own” a word is taking things a bit far. In fact, Saatchi seems to want to replace advertising with something that is even more crude and interruptive. It’s a bit like Kevin Roberts’ Lovemarks which said branding was dead and then proposed to replace it with… even more of the same.

In the Saatchi world, it seems brands are doomed to a future of heavy-handed oversimplification, which feels like the opposite of what I see happening in the real world, where in a mass of conversations the meaning of brands is in constant flux based on the attitudes and opinions of millions of stakeholders.

Saatchi praises “the word”; for myself, I’ll stick to conversation.

UPDATE Grant McCracken doesn’t agree with Saatchi, either.

The premises are sound.  The conclusion is insane.  Lord Saatchi peers into the future and loses his nerve almost immediately.  Hold, Lord Saatchi, might the new consumer offer new life to advertising?  After all, this is a creature who can monitor several media, detect tiny messages, accomplish acrobatic acts of analysis thereupon.  The evidence collected by the likes of MIT’s Henry Jenkins points to the emergence of a consumer with extraordinary powers of assimilation and understanding

3 thoughts on “One Word Equity

  1. Monica Powers

    Hmm. Funny. I blog about how brands have a language of their own that becomes significant when it “falls” into the hands of the consumer, but I do agree that one-word equity is oversimplification and trying to dumb down the market. The only realm in which it makes sense to me to break a brand’s strength down to a single word may be to discuss dimensions—as in, Wal-Mart “owns” the “cheap” dimension. But there is much more to the brand than that. Sounds like someone trying to coin new marketing speak just for the heck of it.

  2. Trine-Maria

    I can’t help thinking if this is somehow related to your previous post?

    Some brands learn that they should own the word ‘Beer’ or ‘Cigarette’ – and then they start doing clueless things like undressing their customers in public, making rock festivals difficult for their potential customers – and they forget, that customers can talk together – and that the single word they end up owning is ‘annoying’?

  3. Earl Mardle

    Maube he just needed to invent his own cute little catch word like whatsisnames Lovebits? Lovebytes? You know that marketing crap we were exposed to a couple of years ago that made such a huge impression that I can’t remember what it was or who said it beyond the fact that it annoyed the hell out of me.



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