The New Brief to Brands: Add Value to Society
Posted: July 16, 2012 | 11:40 ET by Nick Parish
Phew. It’s all over.
The Cannes Lions festival, the week the creative advertising industry turns on, rightly or wrongly, has come to a close. If you haven’t already caught up on all the winners and the themes from this year’s festival, check them out at Contagious. And, if you didn’t see our Better with the Brand seminar, catch up here.
We’re still very much in postmortem mode, going to agencies to do a presentation called Cannes Deconstructed in which we outline all the key trends from the week. But I wanted to take one of the biggest of them and go into it here.
It was the idea of brands adding value to society. It’s time to consider this the new creative brief: how can this brand make the world better?
This isn’t a notion based on the frilly world of corporate social responsibility. It’s about aligning brand attributes to a broader set of goals and aspirations that resonate with the spectrum of stuff we humans do in the time we’re not consuming.
All Along the SpectrumThere are a couple of reasons why now seems like the perfect time to be looking to accomplish more with our advertising.
Firstly, behaviors are changing. We’ve been taught that there are only a few points that are important in the buying cycle, like product exposures in advertising or on the shelves, then the essential sale. But it turns out branding works along a spectrum, where the transaction, the essential part in the middle, is just as important to branding as the things that happen before it and after it, things like knowing where a product comes from, or researching information and reviews, and after the fact, writing those reviews yourself, or trying to dispose of the packaging, or recommending it to a friend.
The success of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter points to this behavior change quite clearly: people want to be invested in much more of the process of consumption. It gives products deeper meaning, and merit beyond the actual ‘use’, turning the delayed lead-up that’s part of the experience’s structure into a positive, like the child that comes down at 3am on Christmas morning to stare at the boxes under the tree and imagine what they’ll have inside.
Brands should be trying to solve bigger problems. Rob Schwartz, recently elevated to Global Creative President of TBWA Worldwide, said this in the Titanium & Integrated Lions press conference. ‘Not just solving product problems, but ideas like Peace. That’s a pretty good product. Trying to solve real world problems.’
While it’s easy to disagree with Schwartz’ exact sentiment (shades of advertising’s hubris, and the Impossible Brief, which sought to crowdsource advertising ideas for the Israel and Palestine conflict) the theoretical framework is similar: align social value with business value with brand value. Two Grand Prix-winning campaigns did this very well.
Small Businesses and SalsaAmerican Express’ ‘Small Business Saturday’, from Digitas and CP+B and JWT San Juan’s 'The Most Popular Song' for Banco Popular de Puerto Rico both created societal value, broader than just an ad campaign.
Small Business Saturday, in its second year, made the day after Black Friday an official day for Americans to support small businesses. AmEx gave companies a way to make meaningful connections with new customers via YouTube and Facebook, and set them up with multiple points of contact via location-based services. Small business owners claimed the campaign drove double-digit sales, and having the President tweeting about your campaign can’t hurt either.
The campaign won two Grand Prix awards, in Direct and Promo & Activation. Nick Worthington, Colenso BBDO New Zealand's creative chairman and the Promo and Activation jury president, praised the work for being an idea that rolled on with popular momentum. He explained: 'it was so big that it started to transcend the mediums, categories and schedules that we all work to. The initial concept grew.’
Gideon Amichay, chief creative officer at Shalmor Avnon Amichay/Y&R, Tel Aviv, Israel direct jury chair, had similar sentiments. ‘This is a great example of something that's not temporary. We're very proud that a marketing thing can change society. In 10 years, it'll still be here.’
Banco Popular’s solution, meanwhile, came from a classic song. ‘No Hago Más Ná’, or ‘I Do Nothing’ is a salsa anthem. But it extols the virtues of a life of sloth. The bank convinced its composers, luminaries El Gran Combo, to re-record the tune, with lyrics speaking of self-determination and discipline, to help to move forward.
The bank blitzed the media to roll out the hit, saturating the airwaves with the launch spot, then following up on the release with a campaign tying the effort to its financial services. The song topped the charts, the bank had a huge free concert for 60,000 featuring the band, and the bank’s overall image and reputation hit a record 80%. Over 100 other corporations and organizations joined the bank’s call to help bring together the country’s people and motivate for progress and opportunity.
Cultural ConsensusOne thing these campaigns do have in common is the building of consensus. Even though both work with a politically expedient issue, building prosperity, they quickly had politicians, civic groups, and even other corporations pledging support, retransmitting messaging and generally putting their weight in. And that sort of broad-based enthusiasm is essential for the large-scale shift that takes a campaign or a project into the territory of a movement.
Much of this is uncharted territory, and it’s difficult to find a formula. Sometimes these ideas are brewing in the cultural air, though, and it’s up to brands to take the initiative and use their clout to bring them to life.
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