An interesting article cropped up in the Marketing Communications group on LinkedIn recently, in which the author argued that successful people don’t watch the news.
His argument was that truly successful people make history, instead of watching it unfold on television screens and in the media.
“The news is always history. Even when it is breaking news, it has already past. It is important to focus on ‘doing’ and ‘creating,” he wrote.
“There is nothing more that I cringe at than the news that seems rule the newswires. Unfortunately, most of it is negative. On the other hand, but every negative story, there are at least two positive stories. With access to the internet, we have the ability to tailor what we want to watch, listen to or read. Choose your news wisely. It has been proven that negative news can have negative psychological effects on humans.” [sic]
While these arguments are thought-provoking, within the context of marketing they fall some way short of being convincing.
Yes, it is true that people do not want to be inundated with stories of woe and tragedy, but studies have already proved that most are drawn to current affairs that may be perceived as negative. Last year, a study by the US-based Pew Research Centre for People & the Press revealed that war and terrorism consistently garner most interest, as have bad weather and manmade and natural disasters.
According to Psychology Today, evolutionary psychologists have found that humans instinctively seek out dramatic, negative events. “These experts say that our brains evolved in a hunter-gatherer environment where anything novel or dramatic had to be attended to immediately for survival. So while we no longer defend ourselves against saber-toothed tigers, our brains have not caught up.”
Studies aside however, there are certain fundamental truths that one needs to accept, rather than adopting a “unicorns and rainbows” approach in respect of how a brand interacts with the world around it.
The popular Nando’s television spots are an excellent example. Famed (or notorious depending on which side of the political divide you lie) for poking fun at South African social and political faux pas, the agency has taken what is unquestionably negative and transformed it into something immensely funny, the result being that the brand almost always invokes positive connotations.
The fact is that the agency has always been quick to respond and even predict events that will rile up the populace. It is very seldom that they are accused of opportunism; in fact, more often than not the ads are described as “brilliant” or “sharp” as they are shared countless times on social media.
Particularly with engagement playing such a pivotal role in marketing these days, it is vital that brands recognise that the public is acutely aware of current affairs and will almost inevitably draw comparisons between them and their competition. Consequently, brand marketers need to espouse a reactiveness to trends and breaking news like never before.
Playing the Glad Game and burying one’s head in the sand is simply not an effective strategy, regardless of how uncomfortable it might make the audience. The key is to turn that event into something positive, so that it makes an even greater impact.