Go Luck Yourself: 40 Ways to Stack the Odds in Your Brand’s Favour

by Andy Nairn

“After almost 30 years in advertising, I’ve often been struck by the pivotal role that chance plays… Luck remains a dirty secret because it’s seen to undermine the virtues of hard work, talent, and intelligence that are at the heart of any successful business culture… I believe that luck exists—and also that you can improve it.”

Andy Nairn is co-founder of Lucky Generals, a creative agency in the UK whose clients include Yorkshire Tea and the Co-op. His book consists of 40 bite-sized chapters divided into to four sections:

  1. Appreciate what you’ve got. “Reappraise existing assets that you might currently be overlooking.”
  2. Look out for new opportunities everywhere. “Be alert to inspiration from other spheres and from other perspectives… Lucky people tend to have better peripheral vision, whereas unlucky people tend to focus on the job at hand.”
  3. Turn misfortune into good fortune. “What to do when the odds seem stacked against you.”
  4. Practice being lucky. “Build luck into your organization’s systems, processes, and corporate culture.”

Here is a sampling of the creative thinking in this book.

Lucky Place. “There’s no such thing as a ‘bad place’ to come from. Many marketers only think about provenance when their brand hails from somewhere classically beautiful, cool, or wholesome… But you can arguably make more impact by hero-ing a more unusual home… Yorkshire Tea was third in the tea market when we pitched for the business in 2016. The top two players—PG Tips and Tetley—had held sway for decades and were considered pretty invincible.” The creative team was inspired by a sign on the factory wall: We do things proper. “We felt this was a brilliant statement of the company’s commitment to quality, expressed with an authentic Yorkshire accent… This led to new idea: ‘Yorkshire Tea—where everything’s done proper’… Yorkshire Tea became the biggest-selling tea brand in Britain within three years.”

Lucky People. The author tells a story about Sainbury’s supermarket. “Chris received a letter from a little girl called Lily Robinson (‘aged three and a half’)… ‘Why is tiger bread called tiger bread? It should be called giraffe bread.’ Now, if you’re familiar with this particular product, you’d have to admit that she had a point. Which is exactly what Chris did. He wrote back saying: ‘I think renaming tiger bread is a brilliant idea—it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it… He enclosed a £3 gift card and signed off his letter ‘Chris King, aged 27 and 1/3’ … This charming response went viral and spawned a Facebook campaign which received 150,000 likes. As a result, the supermarket really did change the name of the product—generating even more positive coverage. This is a lovely example of a small human gesture saying more for a company than a flashy ad campaign ever could.”

Lucky Carrots. Belgian supermarket Delhaize engaged TBWA Belgium to develop a campaign to promote healthy eating, with a focus on fresh produce. “So the agency enlisted some experts. Kids. Specifically, they asked children to come up with more appetizing names for vegetables. Things that sounded fun and exciting to have on your plate… The retailer actually re-branded the top 12 ideas and carried the new names through into packaging, point-of-sale, and even till receipts. Tomatoes really did get rebranded as clown noses, oyster mushrooms became gnome trumpets… Magic Veggies range saw sales increase by 151%.”

“For starters children aren’t bounded by conventional wisdom or social norms. Likewise, they’re more likely to make lucky mistakes, by mixing up concepts that grown-ups would treat as separate. Finally, they don’t worry about feasibility—to them, anything is possible… Alternatively, you could go to the other extreme and enlist some older accomplices… It’s yet another reminder that you can improve your luck by looking beyond the usual demographics.”

Lucky Limits. “One of my favorite business books of recent times is A Beautiful Constraint by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden… ‘We can’t do this because…’ To counteract this, [Warburton’s R&D executive Colin Kelly] has banned this particular sentence construction. Instead, he advocates using ‘we can do this if.’ … Morgan and Barden point out that this is a really helpful way to propel innovative thinking forward. But they also recognize that constraints are rarely one-dimensional and often come in overlapping groups.”

Nairn worked on a charity campaign in 2013. The main challenges for Male Cancer Awareness Campaign were lack of budget and the awkwardness of talking about examining one’s testicles and prostate. “That sense of embarrassment was killing people, but could we overcome it? We argued: ‘we can if we talk our audience’s language and have some fun.’ … Our idea was to get guys to ‘go commando’ for a day… We made arm-stickers in the form of a sergeant’s stripes, to tell the world that the wearer was ‘Going Commando’. These were designed to spark interest and conversation—whether on the Underground or at work… But really, the point was to break the taboo in an unexpected—and dirt cheap—way… As you can imagine, the media loved the footage of various popstars, TV celebs, and politicians ditching their undies… We’d created something out of nothing—precisely because we had nothing.”

Lucky Goal. Nairn refers to “the malpractice of brand purpose… Given that the whole point of these constructs is to capture the defining motivations of their individual organizations, it’s odd how similar they all are… Instead of inventing a spurious mission that your employees don’t believe in, and which consumers find ridiculous, adjust your aim… One of my favorite mission statements belongs to TED. It is captured in two words: ‘Spread ideas.’”

Lucky Dip. The author tells an amusing story about how People’s Republic of China president Mao Zedong shifted the power dynamics on a visit by Soviet Union premier Nikita Krushchev in 1958. “When the Soviets arrived for the talks, they discovered that Mao had switched the venue to his private swimming pool… [He] handed his counterpart a pair of ill-fitting trunks. Krushchev was mortified, because he was badly out of shape and couldn’t swim (a fact Mao knew very well)… There was no negotiating table. That was it.”

“Too often, we allow others to dictate the battlefield. We play by their rules, on their pitch, at a time of their choosing. We answer their arguments with incremental points of our own. The problem is that we rarely win, when someone stronger has picked the setting and set the agenda. Like Mao, we need to move the argument to a completely different place. Richard Branson has always understood this well. I’ve already recalled how we coined the idea of ‘rockstar service’ for Virgin Holidays. That was a classic example of a lateral move: we didn’t try to beat five-star service with six-star service; we shifted the battle to a completely different territory, where only Virgin could win.”

Nairn, Andy. Go Luck Yourself: 40 Ways to Stack the Odds in Your Brand’s Favour. Petersfield, Hampshire, U.K.: Harriman House , 2021. Buy from Amazon.com

Note: I have modified the spelling to appease my American spellchecker.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I received a review copy of this book.

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