How Shrek can show us the way

Have you seen Shrek? If not – stop reading this now and go and watch it.

If anyone asks then it is work. If you have, then read on to understand what makes it great…

If you saw Shrek at the cinema then you had an insight into one of the finest examples of dual communication. For Shrek is two films skilfully interlaced.

On one hand you have a film for grown-ups and on the other a film for children – but cleverly they share a single set of visual images. Two scripts are interlaced to become one united piece. So the children all shriek and laugh at some scenes, the adults at other in-jokes and sometimes both parties share a moment. The laughter and pleasure comes thick and fast – yet in waves – child, adult, joint, child, adult etc. Everyone has a great time – however it is a different, personalised and completely targeted experience.

This is brilliantly done and it’s simply because the filmmakers knew their audiences. If they could please both adult and child at the same time then the film would be a hit. The child is the target and the adult is the gatekeeper – and they needed to appeal to and communicate with both.

This is true of many brands – who have both a gatekeeper and a consumer. Think breakfast cereals. The child wants to have an exciting, stimulating and somewhat indulgent start to the day (chocolate fits the bill!) Mother wants the child to have a healthy, sustaining and nutritious start to the day (thinks cereal).

This is why Coco Pops is so successful. The child gets the chocolate fix, the light bursting bubble vitality of the puffed rice and a heavy dose of milk which has become chocolate coloured and flavoured. Crucially mother sees the child have a bowl-full of cereal swimming in bone-strengthening milk – with a somewhat cheap and ersatz-style chocolate note from the cocoa. The child is getting faux chocolate so mother’s guilt is reduced. Both parties get what they want!

So… when the client seeks to improve their offering by making it ‘more chocolatey’ they are amazed when the counter argument is placed – we explain that doing nothing is a strategic act of brilliance. We simply need to refresh the communications to reinforce the positive triggers in consumption. We need to ensure the product is good enough for the chocolate cues for the child but poor enough for mother to feel it’s not real chocolate. A product improvement here to improve chocolateyness would be a disaster!

How often do we find naïve assumptions around what makes a product experience work are based on simple judgements of the preference of the brand manager or the CEO? We need to be able to decode the experiences sought and desired by the key parties – sometimes these can be different audiences at the same time.

However, Shrek tells us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – we simply need to give the right cues. Are you?

Our Sensory Space research methodology and technology deliver insights for our clients across their (and their competitors’) marketing mix. We have helped clients with product development (such as adding extra and extended freshness) and used the insights to express this through their communications, connecting them with their audiences in a truly insightful and compelling way. The result – more sales. Simply put we help brands make more money.

To find out more about how we can help your business, why not give our team a call on 01133 365 365 or email us on