How do you stand out from an ever growing pool of competitors? How do you make sure your products or services are front and centre of consumers’ minds? Easy, you build a brand and image to portray what you are trying to sell. The “Mad Men” era of the 1960’s represented a Cambrian explosion of brands from beer to toothpaste. Ever remember these famous slogans? “Tastes great, less filling” (Miller Lite), “Look Ma, no cavities” (Crest toothpaste) or my favourite “Let your fingers do the walking” (Yellow Pages).
These were the slogans that defined many of the favourite brands of younger years and in some ways defined generations. Brands defined themselves by exactly what, and how better, their service or product was to a competitor in addition to “branded proposition”, how their brand elicited an emotional response. That, or they’ve identified a need and plugged their product/service into that niche ("M&Ms melt in your mouth, not in your hand"). If we think of an animated tiger, we immediately think of Kellogg’s frosted flakes.
These are the modern monologues of our society where marketers are speaking directly at and to a passive, purely consumer driven audience. And this raises an interesting point. Why do people purchase specific brands? Well if we go off traditional brand advertising and strategy it would seem that consumers simply purchase one product over another because they believe it will fulfil their needs or desires better than another and they emotively connect with a brand image.
But does this still hold true in 2019?
Today, people expect more than just a good quality product or a nostalgic felling from the brands they purchase. Now, more than ever consumers are putting their faith in brands to stand for something. Whether consumers are shopping for toothpaste or laptops, they’re evaluating a brand’s principles as much as its products. Opting out of taking a stand can no longer be an option for brands in 2019.
In the 2018 study by Edelman, Earned Brands, it was revealed that 64% of consumers now buy a product based on the belief in the brand, this is up an astounding 13% from 2017! Making a stand therefore matters and belief driven buyers will choose, switch, avoid or simply boycott a brand based on its social, political and environmental standing.
Great examples of brands that have fully embraced making a stand include: Airbnb with their #WeAccept Super Bowl advert, Heineken’s “Worlds Apart” social experiment turned TV commercial, and Ben & Jerry’s “Save our World” campaign to champion tackling climate change. These campaigns hit the nerve of socially combustible topics in a way that did not exclude groups but embraced holistic inclusion around a thorny topic. Heineken’s “World Apart” campaign in particular was seen as an antidote to the complete disaster of Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner advertisement.
On that note, brands can also get this very wrong, case in point is the above mentioned Pepsi add and Gillette’s disastrous backlash and boycott over its #MeToo advert.
The bottom line is that today brands have to make a stand but do so in a way that does not segregate large portions of their audience, simples.