My council-estate was the biggest in Europe.

It was built for Fords which, one way or another, employed nearly everyone in the area.

But now, Fords only exists as an assembly plant for cars built in Europe, so what went wrong?

Growing up, I remember all the endless strikes.

I read in the paper there were over 700 strikes one year, how can that be, there are only 365 days in a year?

The answer was there were lots of different unions, and they wouldn’t just strike against Fords, they’d strike against each other, so you’d have several strikes a day.

There were two main calls for strikes throughout that period, the cries of the opposing unions were ‘parity’ and ‘differentials’.

It worked like this, one union (say, the panel-beaters) would find they were paid less than the welders, so they’d strike for ‘parity’.

If they got it, the welders would say they were more skilled than the panel-beaters so they should be paid more, and they’d strike for ‘differentials’.

Then the panel-beaters would strike for ‘parity’ again, and when they got it the welders would strike for ‘differentials’ again, and so on.

It seems to be one of Bernbach’s “simple, timeless, human truths” – if you’ve got less you want the same, if you’ve already got the same you want more.

We certainly see it in advertising.

Companies with a lesser image want to be seen as ‘parity’ with other companies, but those already with a parity image want to be seen as better, they want ‘differentials’.

Take Lidl and M&S for instance.

Lidl are cheaper than other supermarkets, but they want to be perceived as just as good.

So their advertising is about ‘quality’, they run commercials showing customers how their food is produced and their customers being amazed at the quality.

Because Lidl want to be seen to be just as good as the more expensive supermarkets they want ‘parity’.

So their campaign has the endline “Big on quality, Lidl on price”.

But M&S on the other hand don’t want to be seen to be merely as good as other supermarkets, they are more expensive so they want to be seen as better, they don’t want ‘parity’ they want ‘differentials’.

Consequently, the M&S campaign endline “This isn’t just food, this is M&S food”.

Naturally we want to compete with whoever is above us, not with whoever is below.

If we compete with someone above us, we drag perception up, if we compete with someone below us, we drag perception down,

Everyone wants to be perceived as better than they are, so everyone compares themselves with whoever is better than them, this explains social climbing and why people want a knighthood or peerage, which offers no benefits other than a perceived ‘differential’.

Titles are a really clever way to control people.

Because the most powerful motivation is what other people think of us.

Which is why something like a meaningless title is sought after, as a way of flagging that we are better than other people, we don’t want parity we want a differential.

So in advertising, we need to work out who our audience is, what the perception of our brand or product is, and what we want it to be.

Do that and we have our brief.

Because it will either come down to parity or differentials.

We either want to be ‘as good as’ or ‘better than’.

It doesn’t take a strategy department to work it out, people aren’t that complicated.