Posted by Pascha Apter on Nov 11, 2014 1:34:00 PM - Topics: Strategic Marketing

Direct to camera, face framed in shadow, British actor Tom Hiddleston enunciates advice in a prep-school accent as sharp as his bespoke suit: “World domination
starts with attention to detail.” 

The scene is from a video ad for the Jaguar F-TYPE R Coupe. It’s part of a larger campaign expounding upon the so-called “Art of Villainy.”

(The campaign hashtag? #GoodToBeBad.)

World domination is clearly the carmaker’s ultimate objective. Because every detail of this campaign was executed flawlessly. 


Here are seven (fiendishly) powerful marketing lessons from Jaguar’s
“British Villains” campaign. 

1. Demand attention with questions.


The campaign centers around videos, most of which open with attention-compelling questions.

“Have you ever noticed that in Hollywood movies all the villains are played by Brits?”

“They say Brits play the best villains, but what makes a great villain?”

“They say absolute power corrupts.” Pause. “What’s wrong with that?”

2. Twist a trope.

“British villains” captures our curiosity instantly because it takes a figure we all recognize – the self-contained, lethally stylish evil mastermind – and presents him in an unexpected role: as a mentor.

They’re all male, by the way, all three of the British actors deployed in the campaign: Tom Hiddleston, Ben Kingsley and Mark Strong.

(Had I been involved, I would have lobbied for the inclusion of an icy, stiletto-shod archvillainess.)

3. Ensnare the senses.

Even though the videos are, well, videos, and thus limited to the two senses of sight and sound, they do a masterful job of provoking your imagination to involve your other senses.

  • The tactile whir of helicopter blades.
  • The screech of a car skidding sideways on a puddle. (You can almost feel the centrifugal force pull your body sideways.)
  • Elegant hands clicking a button. Clicking off the radio. Grasping the wheel. Unzipping a bag (full of money, naturally).
  • The throaty growl of the Jaguar’s engine.
  • Hiddleston intoning, “Brace yourselves.” (You can’t help but sit up straighter.

4. Dominate through attention to detail.

This campaign theme was a bold choice because it easily could have veered into camp. Very expensive camp.

Supreme attention to the minutiae of the genre ensured that the videos and other materials delivered the proper message: That it is very good to be bad. And you should buy a Jag.

What do we mean by attention to detail? It’s the little things that add up to make an impression. 

For example, the anonymous lackeys who hand off the aforementioned bag of money are shown wearing earpieces, the classic tough-guy sunglasses, and black leather gloves (the better to leave no fingerprints with, my dear). 

5. Think bigger. Much bigger.

Quoted in the inestimable Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: 

“It’s not just ‘I can do one good print ad.’ It’s ‘I can do a holistic, fully integrated, major, big chunky thought that is media infinite.’ It can run on TV, it can run in print, it can run in someone’s dinner conversation, the public relations people can work with it.” -Rob Schwartz of TBWA/Chiat/Day

6. Make your copy impeccable.

The campaign’s conceit was carried perfectly throughout the copy, which was a potpourri of genre cliches (“stay one step ahead”) and SAT words. 

A selection of villainous vocabulary:

The perfect accomplice
One step ahead
“It’s all mine” 

7. Address their aspirational selves.

Buy a Jaguar, the “British Villains” campaign promises, and every time you fit yourself into the fine leather seat, press that red button and feel the threatening growl of the engine, you will feel a rush of sophistication, control and power. You will feel like a shameless, uncompromising mastermind with the world at your beck and call. 

Never make your target customer feel bad about who or where they are right now in life. Speak to them as if they already are, or are on their way to becoming, their ideal version of themselves. Give them a vision to step into.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen. I need to go order some black suede Louboutin “Pigalle Follies” and an F-TYPE Convertible in Italian Racing Red.

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