In the 1950s, Harry Webb was in a pop group.

They wanted to become famous, so they got a manager.

They could see what was happening in America: rock and roll.

And rock and roll was all about Elvis Presley.

So this group needed a singer like Elvis.

Harry Webb thought he could do that.

He greased his hair, he learned to sneer, he wobbled his legs.

The manager said that’s close enough.

But now he’d need a better name than Harry Webb.

Something a bit more showbiz.

‘Cliff’ sounded American, so that was good for a first name.

Then ‘Richard’ for the second name.

Harry Webb asked why ‘Richard’?

The manager said “When I try to get you a booking they’ll say ‘What’s his name?’ and I’ll say Cliff Richard.

Then they’ll say “Cliff Richards?”

And I’ll say “No, it’s not Richards it’s Richard, without the ‘s’ on the end”.

And they’ll go “Okay, Richard without the s”.

And every time I call we’ll go through the same thing, and they’ll have to repeat your name back to get it right.

And eventually they’ll remember it’s ‘Richard without the s’ and that’ll make it stick in their minds.”

So Harry Webb changed his name, and it seems to have worked.

Cliff Richard (without the s) had 18 number one hits.

He sold around 250 million records worldwide.

He had 130 singles and albums in the top twenty.

And he’s the only singer to have a top twenty hit in each of 5 decades.

All helped, in the beginning, by a simple mnemonic.

A device to get the brand name to stick in the consumer’s mind.

Because there’s just too much choice.

And if they can’t remember the brand, they can’t buy it.

Except by accident.

Which kind of defeats the purpose of advertising.

In fact we seem to have forgotten the purpose of advertising.

To help people buy something.

This isn’t psychology.

Much as the university graduates filling most marketing departments would like it to be.

Martin Wiegel, Head of Planning at Wieden & Kennedy,  describes the purpose of brand as ‘easing the cognitive load’.

The consumer has a million other things on her mind.

She just needs a bit of help.

A shorthand device she can file away in her mental shopping-Rolodex.

So that when she’s in the aisle at the supermarket confronted by a gondola heaving with choice, she can go “Oh yes, that one”.

And get on with her life.

She doesn’t have time to  interrogate her memory for the many enticing yet subtle messages contained in the brand communication.

She just needs to remember the brand.

At home, in front of the TV, when the ad’s actually running, she’ll decide whether she likes the brand.

But all of that is no good if she can’t remember the brand.

So we help her by ‘easing the cognitive load’ with a simple device for her to pop into her mental shopping-Rolodex.

That’s not psychology.


That’s advertising.