What the public sector can learn from the John Lewis Bear and Hare advert

By November 12, 2013Uncategorized


We had a water cooler discussion in the office this morning about the John Lewis Bear and Hare ad.  Two of us liked it, one just growled in a thick Scottish accent, one burst into tears and one hasn’t got a TV (sick superior bastard).

I loved it and it would seem churlish to criticise John Lewis’ for the similarity to the Bear Stays up for Xmas story (although it is almost identical).

John Lewis could always counter-sue Boots for their rather clumsy 2013 ad where John Lewis’ boy from their Please, please 2011 spot has become a surly hooded teenager.  But it is exactly the same premise – we are supposed to be emotionally jacked by the reveal.  Instead of robbing people he has been going round giving out presents – not sure which is the more believable – that or the Bear and the Hare.

Whilst the John Lewis original works, Boots bottled it and (to paraphrase Phil Rumbol who commissioned the ultimate ad in this genre for Cadburys) were unable to resist ‘telling us the lyrics’ at the end rather than just ‘letting us listen to the song’ by displaying the instruction – ‘Let’s feel good’. I really don’t need Boots telling me how I should feel!

The public sector needs to wake up to the power of emotion in human behaviour and recognise that to focus too much on information without reference to emotion is a big, costly mistake as we all walk round well wadded with emotional filters.

If John Lewis can spend £7m just trying to hit our emotional sweet spot, then those involved in behaviour change need to jump to it and resist the safer-feeling but ultimately money-wasting utilitarian option.  As government sponsored research has shown, emotional resonance is the passport to changing behaviour just as much as it is the gateway to higher sales.

David Evans is the Director of The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here

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