Rory Sutherland reminded me of a Bill Bernbach maxim.

Bernbach said we deal in ‘unchanging human truths’.

I’d forgotten that, I think we all have.

We’re so wound up in chasing the latest marketing gimmick, the latest jargon, the latest trend, the latest theory.

We’re so scared of missing out, of being left behind, we’ve forgotten the basics.

The unchanging human truths.

Because those unchanging truths are too simple we need to dress them up.

We need the credibility of complicated language.

But when that language becomes too well known we get bored with it.

So we invent a new set of language.

And our job becomes about learning new language.

And the language keeps changing.

And the language moves farther and farther away from the unchanging human truth.

Just because the human truth is unchanging.

Let me give you an example.

The most basic of all briefing start-points is to decide whether to go for market share or market growth.

This sounds complicated, but it’s just a human truth.

Suppose you go into a bar full of other blokes and see a girl you like.

Which approach would give you the best chance.

Would you say “Men are strong and can carry things for you, they’re handy for husbands and settling down, they can provide a home if you want children, and they make good sexual partners. You should get yourself a man.”

That’s a market-growth strategy for men.

If you are clearly the best choice of all the men in the bar (better looking, better dressed, richer, wittier, more confident) then market growth may be your best strategy.

Because if you convince her she wants a man, she’ll probably pick you.

You are the market leader.

However, if like most of us, you aren’t automatically first choice, if you’re a challenger brand, you need to go for market share.

Instead of selling the case for men in general, you decide what your strengths are, then position yourself against other men, as a better alternative.

This is pretty basic.

Especially for anyone who’s ever sold a car in Exchange & Mart.

When you write the ad, you don’t tell people why they need a car “Cars are better than public transport. You don’t have to queue, cars are more private, you can go exactly where you want, and cars can carry more. You should get yourself a car. ”

That wouldn’t make sense because people have an almost infinite variety of cars to choose from other than yours.

You don’t own the car category, so you don’t go for market growth.

You’re talking to people who are already interested in buying a car.

So you tell them why your car is a better deal “Low mileage, beautiful condition, one careful owner, new tyres, full service history, taxed and MOT.”

So market-share v market-growth is a simple unchanging human truth.

Some brands: Nike, iPhone, Specasavers, are market leaders.

So what they do is grow the market.

Because they take a bigger share of any growth.

Some brands who aren’t market leaders copy the market leader, and then wonder why their advertising doesn’t work.

The reason is, they didn’t ask the question, market-growth or market-share.


So they ignored a simple, unchanging human truth.