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The art of disruption in marketing

Pink Key Consulting’s Richard Pink on how a bit of creative thinking can go a long way.

Imagine the scene – you are in the Warburtons marketing strategy meeting after the raging success of the Paddington campaign.

“Okay chaps – our recent success was built on a partnership matching brand values, us and Paddington – Englishness (tick), wholesomeness (tick), family values (tick) and use of marmalade on toast (tickedy tick) – now we need to build on it – who or what can we find that shouts about what we stand for that will build on this success?”

Silence… thinking… chin scratching… pen chewing.

Then, from the corner of the room the voice of a creative.

“Okay, okay, okay – now go with this, let me run it up the flagpole and see who salutes, let’s just put it in the cat’s bowl and see what comes to lick it…”

“Do get on with it man…”

“Sorry – okay – I’m saying Sly Stallone and the Muppets.”

People start looking at their shoes and heads start shaking at a promising career in tatters.

But guess what? It works, doesn’t it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every brand should (or is able to) stretch far enough to work with a licence that on the surface seems to be totally incongruous with its identity.

But with a bit of creative thinking and with a clear objective, it does prove that brands and licences are able to add an almost indefinable element to each other that makes consumers sit up and listen.


Specsavers have been brilliant at persuading brand owners to allow their characters to act out of character in the name of selling more specs – think of Postman Pat destroying Greendale or the Mr Happy being decidedly unhappy.

Most people reading this won’t remember when Lucozade was something you took your granny in hospital, but the reason it is where it is now is because some bright spark decided that by repositioning it to a younger audience where there was a gap could open up a totally untapped market.

How did they do this? Lara Croft. The association of Lara and Lucozade now seems a very natural one, but the time it was a massive risk for both brand and licence. There was no one who would have dreamed of putting those two brands together. But it happened and the results speak for themselves.

It’s important to put partnerships together where the brand values support each other and where the association brings something that is greater that the sum of its parts. You only have to look at the nominations on the Marketing Communications award for the last three years to see a number of great examples of this.

But just occasionally, a little disruption that grabs the consumers attention is a very good thing, and it works.

Brand and promoters need to be aware that a licence can do this in a way few other things can – but equally it’s down to the licence holders to prove it.

Hats off to Warburtons.

Richard Pink is md of Pink Key Consulting – an agency specialising in licensing and promotions. He can be contacted on

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