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Making brands famous while changing the world at the same time

Mon, 12/02/2018 - 15:12

Okay, so “change the world” may be a tad over the top, but it got you reading this, didn’t it? It’s probably a little more realistic to ask whether digital marketers can make their clients money as well as play a role in positive social change. Doesn’t quite have the same oomph but that’s the question we’re asking today. And I’m going to go ahead and answer that question for you: yes. Yes, digital marketers have the ability to make a difference and make sales at the same time.  

Can digital marketers make brands famous and change the world at the same time?

To prove my point, let’s look at two examples of recent digital content. The first was a really good campaign that made a clear statement on an issue many people in this country care about. The second was a worldwide public relations mess.

Let’s start with the good: Nando’s

Now, Nando’s are known for hitting the mark almost every single time. The people behind the popular flame-grilled chicken restaurant’s campaigns are known for producing content that is relevant, entertaining and often edgy. And their recent #rightmyname campaign is no different. As usual, they took a look at their target market, found a topic that people care about and then turned it into a campaign that not only encourages interaction with the brand but with a cause that is a big deal to many South Africans. 

Nando’s knows who its target market is and they truly tapped into that with this integrated digital campaign. Lately, a lot of discussion has been centred around non-English names and the way they are regularly mispronounced or spelled incorrectly with little apology. Nando’s took that social issue and created a website where you can add your name and on March 21 2018, you’ll be able to add your name and the names of your friends and family to your spellcheck to eliminate that horrible red line. The list of names collected will be published on Human Rights Day. The point is that your name, no matter your background, is not a mistake and should not be treated like one when you’re typing it out. 

This campaign draws attention to the social issue of people disregarding other people’s names because they aren’t familiar with them or find them hard to say or spell. But it not only creates awareness, it has a solution (well, a solution of sorts) that gets the audience to interact with the issue and, ultimately, identify with the brand. 

And now we get to the mess: brand execs ignoring what’s actually going on in the world     

Doritos and their lady chips. Yes, I know they’re not actually making these female-specific Doritos specifically designed to fit in handbags, but things were said and the internet was not pleased. And when the internet isn’t pleased, it makes a noise. And when the internet makes a particularly loud noise, brands suffer.

It all started when the PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi, while being interviewed by Freakonomics, decided that women (supposedly) prefer not to “crunch too loudly”, “lick their fingers” or “pour the little broken pieces [of chips] and the flavor into their mouth”. And she believed these counted as legitimate consumer insights which could influence product development. And, thus, the idea of female-specific Doritos was borne and the internet did not remain silent with its disgust. The women of the internet were pissed off because there are real issues they are facing every single day and brands are trying to do things like feed them quieter chips.

Of course, the company came out and said they are not, in fact, developing Doritos to appeal to women. But the words had been said – by the CEO of a company that produces multiple well-loved snack brands – and the idea was put forward as if it wasn’t absolutely awful. And Twitter had reacted, tweeting about the pay gap, sexual harassment and general inequality, and, of course, with the addition of a variety of bitter Doritos-related hashtags. The damage had been done.

The thing is, “lady chips” could have been a winning digital marketing campaign

Don’t believe me? Just use your imagination for a few minutes while I take you through it. Imagine that Indra Nooyi had identified all those ridiculous “consumer insights” while being completely aware that what she was saying was not only ridiculous but offensive, knowing what women actually go through on a daily basis and what they actually really want (hint: it’s not chips that don’t crunch). Imagine she’d planned it that way, that she wanted to enrage the women of the internet. And then imagine that the brand left the content alone just long enough to go viral and get everyone all worked up before releasing a Tweet from the official Doritos account saying something like, “Now’s not the time for women to chew quietly, now’s the time for women to make a noise.” Or “Women need pepper spray, not chips in their handbags.” And with that copy would be a video from Indra Nooyi herself, giving a speech about the real issues women face on a daily basis, including statistic, quotes and real insights. Never underestimate the power of video marketing

Now, wouldn’t that have been something? Wouldn’t that have been a campaign that truly made Doritos appeal to women at the same time as highlighting social issues? Wouldn’t that be an example of digital marketers selling a brand as well as playing a role in positive social change? 

In conclusion, it can be done, but you’ve got to be bold and take risks

Anyone who has ever worked in marketing or advertising knows that nothing gets done without client’s approval. And many clients like to err on the side of caution. They want you to create campaigns that get traction like Nando’s ads. They want you to make their brand go viral in the most positive way possible. And they want you to sell their brand in ways that win awards and result in positive hashtags. But they’re not willing to take risks. Often, marketers stop trying to pitch risky concepts because clients just aren’t buying them. And, after a while, some marketers end up preferring the safe option just as much as their clients because taking risks is scary. But risk-taking digital marketers can do great things. 

*This article originally appeared on Media Update