How brands can best use generic benefits

Have you seen the recent TV ads for free roaming? The two most visible have been the one from Vodafone featuring Martin Freeman…

… and the one from Three with a remarkable giraffe-amingo…

When I watch the Vodafone ad I get a clear message about free roaming and appreciate that they bought a bit of recognition by the use of Martin Freeman (was it the fame of Sherlock or the name play around Free that helped in the casting?).

Whereas the Three ad takes me to a much more interesting place than a wedding – a place where giraffes are crossed with flamingos. It dramatizes the feeling of roaming in a much more engaging way than a social gaffe about the cost of getting to the couple’s wedding. But the drama of hybridised creatures overshadows the message of free roaming, leaving a message more about Three being different rather than anything specific to roaming.

The point of this is not to comment on the creative, but to think about how brands can best use generic benefits to their advantage. All mobile brands have to provide free roaming by EU legislation, so what’s the point in advertising?

Were the smart brands those that did no TV advertising, communicating directly to their customers rather than wasting money on a generic service? A short while after its come into effect surely everyone who needs to know, does know about roaming?

Or did Vodafone and Three get advantage from being out there and associating their brands with a genuinely positive service?

Despite being clearer on the offer, I think Vodafone missed building their brand (the moment when the music stops is cringe-worthy) and Three did well to continue to build an interesting brand world. So it’s not always the clearest communication that counts but more the feeling that brands create, especially when it’s a generic offer.