One of the most damaging advertising myths started before I even worked in the business.

I was a teenager and I smoked about 40 a day on average.

Advertising was pretty crappy in those days but suddenly something strangeappeared, a good ad, it was for Strand cigarettes.

It opened at night on a wet, deserted street in London lit by lamplight, like a Bill Brandt photograph.

A sad, shadowy figure in a trench coat with the collar up walks slowly along.

He stops, lights a cigarette, takes a deep drag and slowly lets the smoke out.

The ghost of a smile plays on his face, he walks slowly off into the night.

The VO quietly says, “You’re never alone with a Strand”.

The imagery was evocative and moody, but the music gave it real impact.

A haunting John Barry theme with an echoey harmonica.

It caught everyone’s imagination, it had to be rushed out as a single.

The single immediately made the charts.

It was so popular the BBC played it on air on their radio shows.

But they were accused of promoting smoking with a romantic image.

Plus, the tune came from a commercial and they couldn’t be seen to promoteadvertising.

So the BBC were banned from playing it.

It was incredibly popular, but something strange happened.

No one bought Strand cigarettes, so they went out of business.

How could that be?

The advertising myth is that “You’re never alone with a Strand” said it was a cigarette for losers.

And that’s the advertising myth that gave birth to the fallacy that’s done so much harm in our business.

The fallacy is “Get your brand imagery right and nothing else matters”.

This isn’t true, because being for losers wasn’t what killed the brand.

What killed the brand was a lack of simple business understanding.

They were launching a new brand into an existing market.

Users could only come from one place: existing smokers.

You werent trying to get people to start smoking, you were trying to get people to switch brands.

But all the imagery Strand used was generic cigarette imagery.

The ad could have said “You’re never alone with a cigarette” and it would have worked fine.

Smokers loved the imagery, it encouraged them to smoke more.

But it didn’t give them a reason to change their brand.

That’s what killed Strand.

Not understanding the difference between a Market Growth and a Market Share message.

Attaching a market generic to a brand won’t cause people to switch brands.

Which is no problem if you are the market leader.

But if you’re launching a brand it’s a massive problem.

To make existing users try your brand there has to be a point of difference.

It doesn’t always have to be functional.

For Silk Cut it was low tar, but for Marlboro it was American, for Gauloises it was French, for B&H it was a classy gold box.

That simple misunderstanding is what killed Strand.

And that’s what gave birth to the most dangerous advertising myth.

That the answer is always brand, now what’s the question?