Bill Bernbach said: “Principles endure, formulas don’t”.
But people are always looking for formulas, because they don’t understand the difference.
Put simply, with a principle you have to use your brain, with a formula you don’t.
Which is why lazy people prefer formulas.
A good illustration of the difference is the two burger campaigns out at the moment: McDonalds and Burger King.
McDonalds talks about their burgers being available again, Burger King talk about their burgers producing 30% less methane.
People are arguing about which is the right route.
I read one person saying: “I don’t want to know about cows farting when I eat a burger, all I want is great taste.”
Another commentator said: “Burgers have always been around, how can they be back?”
(I thought people who get paid to do this were capable of a bit more thought than that.)
Let’s start with the basics.
McDonalds are the biggest, they own the market. Burger King are smaller.
So both campaigns have to do different jobs.
Being the biggest, McDonalds just has to grow the market for burgers, by selling burgers they benefit more than anyone else.
Burger King can’t do that, if they simply sell burgers McDonalds will benefit most, so they have to take market share from McDonalds.
So both campaigns have different briefs.
McDonalds has to say: “You know what you REALLY want is a burger”.
Burger King has to say: “Here’s how we’re different to McDonalds”.
During lockdown no one could go out and get any convenience food.
Now the lockdown is over, McDonalds runs a campaign showing people rushing out to get their first post-lockdown burger to the soundtrack: “Return of the Mac”.
It’s simple, it’s a great track, it owns the entire burger market, and you can’t remember it as being for anyone else.
It grows the market, it’s fun and catchy, and that’s better than most ads nowadays.
Burger King however, have to take market share from McDonalds, so they have to establish any difference they can.
They’ve already done campaigns about how their burgers are bigger, and how they have more natural ingredients.
We all know that McDonalds, as the biggest producer of burgers, is always quoted as the main culprit for producing methane from cow farts.
But Burger King feed their cows a diet that cuts a third of global warming gases.
Their endline is: “AS WE’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM, WE OUGHT TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION”.
This is Burger King saying that, of all the hamburger companies, they alone are doing something responsible.
Unsaid is that McDonalds isn’t doing anything, this is just one more thing that makes Burger King different to McDonalds.
They explain it all in the lyrics to a terrific country track sung by kids.
It takes market share, it’s charming and catchy, and that’s better than most ads nowadays.
So both ads are totally different, because both ads are doing different jobs, for different clients, with different business problems.
Both stick to principles, neither sticks to a formula.
Which is why both are totally different and totally right.