Filed under: Comment
I stole this picture from the very wonderful and very talented Jon Howard.
It’s hopefully pretty obvious that it’s not the picture that I really like, it’s the words because it conveys a point that is both true and often forgotten.
I have sat in too many meetings where amazing opportunities have been cut at the knees simply because a client has focused on who might be upset, rather than who it could inspire and attract.
I appreciate you don’t want to go out and upset the masses, however if you accept that a strong brand has a strong point of view, then it’s only natural that at some point, you’re going to upset someone.
However there is a massive difference between upsetting someone as a byproduct of your beliefs versus going out of your way to target, humiliate and ridicule [which is why I’m talking about ads based on a provocative belief, not ads based on the goal to be controversial and shocking]… which is why I get upset when I see a brand back down as soon as some small consumer group gets their knickers in a twist over something they’ve done or said.
Sure, if they have genuinely fucked up, then fair enough … but too many companies approach their communication with the view that no one – literally no one – should be upset, offended or challenged by a message which ultimately means they end up churning out wallpaper where no one is moved, challenged or motivated by their messages.
In short, they are literally throwing their money down the drain.
Listening to your audience is different to pandering to your audience.
Understanding your audience is different to mirroring your audience.
While I salute the role and goal of some consumer groups, that doesn’t mean they are always right … and just because say, 100 people are offended by a commercial doesn’t mean a corporation should scrap the ad and issue a fawning apology.
In fact, if the brand genuinely believes in what it’s doing, it should come out and stand their ground.
I know many PR people would say that is corporate suicide, but in this day and age of political correctness and bland pandering – I think society wouldn’t view them as bullying, but as standing their ground.
Of course that would depend on what the issue is, how they expressed it and whether the consumer group in question is being petty or not – but standing up for what you believe goes both ways which is why the greatest demonstration of your beliefs is seeing how you react when someone calls it into question.
If brands want to stand out, there are 3 ways to do it:
2. Have a strong point of view.
3. Brainwash with media spend.
If a brand wants to mean something to someone, there is only 1 way to do it:
Have a strong point of view.
That might end up upsetting some people, but even Harry Potter has his enemies and at the end of the day, this approach creates a much stronger platform for cost effective communication in the future than either of the alternatives.
With love, comes hate.
With hate, comes love.
With nothing, comes little … or an over-reliance on distribution and routine.
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