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Our world today is constantly changing. Customers are continuously moving to new platforms every day and brands are having to build cross platform experiential channels to meet that migration. Given such a rapidly evolving and digitally connected world, the onus is on the brands to authentically reach out to their customers, else they risk losing them in the long term.
The upsides of viral videos are numerous which explains the continuous attempt from brands around the world to innovate and produce new content. However, they are unpredictable, the outcomes and interpretations are up to the consumers and only a small percentage actually go viral.
Brands have suffered serious repercussions from attempts at creating viral campaigns such as Wells Fargo’s “teen financial education day” ad campaign that suggested youngsters should abandon arts in favor of science, to Budweiser’s “#UpForWhatever” campaign that seemed to promote date rape, to Sony’s racially insensitive PSP ad campaign, brands have suffered serious repercussions from attempts at creating viral campaigns. On the other hand, Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign that aimed to show women that they are more beautiful than they think, Ariel’s “Share the Load” campaign which encouraged men to take an active role in household laundry, Disney’s “ShareYourEars” campaign with Make a Wish foundation, are examples of positive impacts such advertising efforts can have.
A successful viral campaign has a number of key ingredients. A strong emotional connect with an audience using a celebrity or a good cause, thereby sharing a humane message. Alternatively, a unique view of a day to day situation or an open progressive stance on unspoken issue tend to be appreciated by audiences worldwide. It is for this reason that a thorough familiarity with the brand’s target audience is a necessity. At the same time, simplicity in presentation of the whole concept ensures the message is not lost in the larger scheme of things.
Marketing Week’ consumer survey showed close to half (42%) of marketers believe the brands they work for are failing to reflect a contemporary, racially-diverse, society in their marketing and advertising. In the effort to stand out and yet present sincere evidence of customer understanding, many brands have gambled on high risk strategies, many of which have backfired.
Gaffes, Mistakes and Bloopers
Pepsi : Pepsi is a repeat offender. The recent Kendall Jenner ad was not the first time Pepsi has displayed insensitivity towards a campaign. While the public outrage against the trivialization of the BLM movement lead to an apology and the ad being taken off air, a similar ad mocking students in India aired for months without any acknowledgement of guilt by the brand. It is even possible that the free run of the ad in India was an inspiration behind the one featuring Kendall Jenner in USA. The consumers today want their favorite brands to take stands and fight for what is right, but Pepsi’s strategy seems to be dangerously pointing in the opposite direction.
Nivea : For a brand that is decades old with a great worldwide presence, one would expect it to have a deep understanding of their market today. Yet, the executives at Nivea went ahead with a supremacist overtones filled “white is purity” campaign. Unsurprisingly, the campaign drew ire from consumers and had to be taken off air. The adage of any publicity being good publicity does not apply to brand advertisements in today’s world.
Building authentic bonds
If marketers genuinely want to connect with the masses, they need to first do a lot of soul searching to follow a coherent long term strategy. Additionally, frequent market research and evolving customer insights collection are of supreme importance. Creating strategies without understanding the expectations of the market is a recipe for failure.
As brands become aware of the need for these steps, they realize the need for change in strategy. The recent customer and diversity centric efforts of founders at Apple and Google are evidence that this trend is going to be vital for the future of such companies. This also places such companies in a position to present authentic and relatable campaigns to consumers.
Few brands like Samsung and Starbucks have been consistently working towards building a real connection with their customers. Through years of market research and understanding of customer behavior and expectations, they have been leaders in setting an example for other brands to follow.
In the coming months and years, many legacy brands with marketers lacking insights and a understanding of the target demographic are bound to make mistakes like those of the brands previously mentioned in this article. It is for the leaders in the marketing, sales and customer experience domains to take the initiative and drive their brands closer to consumers, thereby securing a stable long term growth filled future. It is easier to predict the success of advertising campaigns if brands truly understand their customers. One of the easiest and fastest way to do this is by learning insights from what they are saying online.