Branding: Honesty is Truly the Best Policy

The lesson: Brands that engage in honest dialogue and respond to complaints will win kudos from social savvy consumers. In contrast, those that don’t come completely clean will lose brand equity.

The Super Bowl was a big disappointment all around this year. The game itself was uneventful and there were no ads that are likely to be remembered. None that we saw on the TV screen, anyways.

Newcastle Brown Ale didn’t put any money into Super Bowl sponsorship, but they did put money into some cheeky storyboards that portray what their Super Bowl ad would’ve been like. According to Newcastle, those ads have garnered a combined  9 million views, more than even some Super Bowl ads posted online. And they did so under the lauded “No Bollocks” moniker.

Newcastle is just one among several brands that have woken up to the value of being earnest. With the widespread advent of social media, people know right away when a brand is lying or full of it. So if you’re beating a family of seals or putting makeup on kittens, the Internet will know. The good news is that brands can get brownie points for coming out and telling the truth.

The most recent example of a company successfully using honesty in their branding comes from McDonald’s Canada. A widely circulated picture on the Internet made it appear that disgusting pink goop, which the industry calls mechanically separated chicken, was in McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. McDonald’s responded by literally bringing us inside a plant where chicken was processed and explaining the process.

It’s not the most appetizing process, but it’s not as bad as the pink goop myth either.

Novel Idea: Stop Publishing Crappy Content

More than 48 hours of content is uploaded on Youtube every minute. That’s a lot of entertaining cat videos competing with a lot of droll marketing videos. So here’s a novel idea: Publish something worth watching–don’t publish crap.

Writing on a serious topic? That doesn’t mean it can’t have some form of entertainment value. A video that talks about retirement probably won’t aim to be funny, but retirees will be much more apt to watch it all if it’s filled with intriguing, fun facts, rather than straight forward explanations. It pays to entertain while you persuade.

An entertaining, persuasive piece of content.

Many companies see frequent content output as a way to achieve stronger brand equity, but fail to realize that it can equally lead to a loss of brand equity.  It’s better to produce nothing than content that is sub-par and that turns off your customer base.

As  content  guru Andrew Davis said on the PJA Advertising + Marketing Unconventionals radio show: “The goal with content creation is that you’re actually building trust with the customer and you’re shortening the sales cycle. And if you’re not driving revenue with content, then it’s a waste of time.”

Content that does not build trust–that does not resonate with your desired target audience–is a wasted investment. How can you expect to build trust with your customers when you shoot a blunderbuss at the market? Content with a more narrow focus can actually drive sales more than content pieces that do not reach the correct audience.

So the next time you think about piecing  together something, clarify the objectives and put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Would they want to watch that video? Would they want to see that photo? Would they read that white paper? Otherwise, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Learn how to develop your first content strategy.

 

Not as Advertised: Moving Beyond Traditional Definitions

In my first advertising class, my professor told us that advertising was: “A paid form of communication with the objective of selling a good or service.” Advertising would therefore be the profession that plans, designs, and writes advertisements. However, so much of advertising these days does not even involve these traditional definitions.

Here’s why:

1. Most advertising agencies are now big data warehouses filled with just as many programmers as account people.

Agencies are waking up to the fact that data is now a determinant of whether an agency lives or dies. As such, they mirror software development companies as much as agencies.  It’s no coincidence that the primary conversation about the Publicis-Omnicom merger has revolved around data. People in ad land wonder whether a merger gives the two ginormous networks the ability to compete with the likes of Google.

2. PR and advertising are increasingly falling under the same roof.

Even a few years ago, it used to be that advertising and PR were separate things. They still are to a degree, but the rise of social media and other forms of multi-way communication has signaled that the two industries will inevitably collide. It’s not unusual to see advertising firms doing PR and vice versa. That’s why buyouts like that of  Allen & Gerritsen’s of Neiman Group make perfect sense. And that’s why articles like the 10 Differences Between Advertising and Public Relations will soon lose relevance.

3. Advertising is a parity industry–agencies need to secure business, not be a slave to definition.

There’s a reason that most agencies have slightly different terms for the same job. Agencies call my internship position anything from human insights to account planning, because they are looking for ways to differentiate themselves. At PJA Advertising + Marketing, I asked my supervisor , Hugh Kennedy, EVP of Planning, about whether the agency at one time focused more on B2C. He said, to paraphrase, that the agency started with a large variety of clients but moved towards a B2B specialization. Through capitalizing on this specialization, PJA was able to grow from a 15 person shop to the present day 63 person shop. In order to survive and thrive agencies need to find something they excel at. The agency that finds a real niche is the one that will last.

Although a catvertising department might not work, John St. projects their unique, humorous culture through this promotional video.