Grammar, Maslen on Marketing

Why grammar doesn’t matter

Driving home from London last weekend, we pulled in for lunch right in front of a huge poster for Goldfish credit cards. Part of the “Me and My Goldfish” campaign, it was the start of a short story by a British actor called Rik Mayall.

Nothing wrong with that. Except, in their infinite wisdom, Grey London, the perpetrators (perpetraitors?) follow the brand strap line with “went to the pub”, giving us the full line “Me and my goldfish went to the pub”.

Now it’s hard, when you’re raising two small boys, the older of whom is learning to read, to explain why the poster says “Me and my goldfish…” when they both know it’s supposed to be “My goldfish and I went to the pub”.

Maybe the “creatives” at Grey London put their heads together and tossed around both versions, before deciding the “me and” version was more populist or some other crappy justification. Maybe they just don’t know the difference.

Either way, it’s more ammunition for the “all advertising is rubbish” brigade who can sharpen their green pencils and start writing to the papers.

Does it matter whether national brand advertising is grammatically correct? David Ogilvy declared he didn’t know the rules of grammar. Read his ads and you can see that he did. You can write copy that is hard hitting, persuasive, even entertaining AND also avoid trashing the English language.

HOWEVER…that’s not my point.

I did a little research into the campaign and guess what I discovered.

Although the self-proclaimed “creative community” seems to be having a collective you-know-what over this “brilliant viral campaign”, the Goldfish card itself is actually in deep doo-doo, commercially.

Owners Discover had to write off $422 million in December and a quick trawl through a few personal finance chatboards or money comparison sites will reveal the truth.

No doubt the marketing department and their agencies will be hoping for many awards and accompanying champagne dinners. No doubt they will get them. But will all the brouhaha about the advertising turn around the fortunes of the brand? I doubt it.

Believe it or not, copywriting is only a small part of the overall set of advertising messages you give out to your customers. In fact, in the days of Web 2.0, many of the most powerful messages about your brand are completely outside your control.

Blogs, chat room posts, websites, comparison sites, emails between your customers, Facebook pages, word of mouth (remember that?): they all exert a hugely powerful influence on how people think and feel about you and your products.

And I’m telling you this because

Winning creative awards for badly written advertising while keeping customers waiting months for a replacement credit card is pure vanity. And all the perfect grammar in the world won’t cure that particular problem. (Though it would be nice for those of us who still care.)

Write a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.



Try Now, Risk-FREE!

Learn to be a copywriter

Watch the first three videos of Breakthrough Copywriting free of charge.

Try the exercises, too.
FREE videos
FREE exercises
FREE for 30 days.