No one’s buying your Covid ad

“In these unprecedented times [insert brand X] is here for you”

It’s become a familiar sight. A sadly misguided brand with an inflated sense of importance reaching out with empty emotional reassurances and no prior history of ‘caring’.

The pandemic has laid bare a concerning combination of lack of awareness and lack of creativity from brands across the world. A soft piano roll followed by an assurance of emotional support from that car company that you’ve never actually bought a car from. How nice.

For good or for bad, brand purpose has become the centre of attention again.

Brand purpose does not have to be a futile exercise but it really is dependent on the brand in question. If you’re unsure, the question to ask is whether your purpose extends beyond your marketing department.

For purpose to count it must go beyond narrative, it must be fundamental to your operation and align with business strategy. From how you source materials to how you treat your employees. Only then does it become part of your story, when it’s grounded in reality.

You would have thought lessons would have been learnt from the mistakes of COVID-19, but the mistakes are being made all over again in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. If your brand is dutifully taking a stand on the most critical issues of our time it is simply not enough to pay it lip service. You must take action. What can you offer beyond asserting a vague notion of virtue? Consumers expect and deserve more than words.

When brand purpose performs it can create significant value and have a meaningful impact but sadly, it all too often goes the other way. To engage in the conversation, you must be credible. If your product is completely removed from the purpose you claim, it will backfire. If you appropriate sensitive cultural events, it will backfire. If you act in direct contradiction to the purpose you claim to pursue, it will backfire.

Being credible is the key to successfully identifying purpose. Your purpose must be within reach and you must be able to back it up consistently over time. Look at Amazon, who in all their wisdom posted a message of solidarity with the BLM movement just a month after they fired former employee Chris Smalls for organising a protest over unsafe COVID-19 work conditions. Clearly, they were not in a position to promote civil rights. So the message they released in support of Black Lives Matter was empty, void of credibility. It backfired. So, if necessary, steer clear. Pause your advertising if you really want to show respect. But don’t leap on the issue. Because you’re more likely to come across as if you’re trying to capitalise on it.

Think about what is important to your customers specifically and the role your brand can play in helping them achieve that. Extracting and articulating that insight is crucial. It separates the best from the rest. The skill is in finding the key to unlock it.

Here at Ponderosa, we don’t believe in guesswork. We use data driven insights to understand what makes your consumers tick. We drive big ideas and we generate results.

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