You hear people repeating stories about past advertising campaigns in order to make a point.

But often they’re not true.

One of these ‘truths’ relates to brand theory.

Years ago, the story goes, there was a brand of cigarettes launched called “Strand”.

These cigarettes were launched with a TV commercial.

It showed a guy in a hat, with his coat collar turned up, like a private eye.

He was walking along the Embankment, late at night alone.

There was a haunting harmonica track.

It was like a scene from a Raymond Chandler movie.

He took out the pack of Strand, lit a cigarette, and smiled.

The endline came up, “You’re never alone with a Strand.”

Now, popular mythology since then goes as follows.

That commercial killed the brand because no one wants to be seen as a loner, and a loser.

The agency got the brand wrong.

I must have heard that dozens of times over the years.

From people who wanted to use it as proof of the power of brands.

The problem is, it isn’t true.

Yes, the commercial killed the brand.

But not for that reason.

The commercial killed the brand because it didn’t give you a reason to switch.

When you’re launching a new brand, you want smokers to switch from their current cigarette to your brand.

Why should they?

What can Strand offer them that their current cigarette can’t?

I was a teenager when that commercial came out.

I loved the imagery.

So I would get out my regular brand and have a smoke.

The problem was, it sold smoking in general.

It didn’t give me a reason to switch brands.

When you’re entering a market, you’d be mad to do market growth.

That will just sell more of whoever is the biggest.

And that’s what happened.

When you’re launching a product you must tell people why they should switch.

And the advertising agency didn’t.

And that’s why the brand died.

Not because they got the brand wrong.

Because they did Market Growth not Brand Share.