2018’s mistakes result in 2019’s resolutions. Numerous advertisers and brands misstepped in 2018 when it came to getting their message across to a population they were looking to entice.
You may have your own opinion of ads or campaigns that stepped over the boundary of taste and capitalism, but here are ours:
Remember the H&M ad featuring the monkey sweatshirt?
And Melania Trump’s coat?
Or the local Eataly truffle ad that may have ruffled some customers?
Recall the television ad for pickup trucks during the 2018 Super Bowl that featured the voice of Martin Luther King Jr.?
Lest we forget, how about Target’s decision to stock a Father’s Day Card depicting a black couple with the phrase “Baby Daddy” on the front?
And one more: Heinecken Light’s “sometimes, lighter is better” ad, which riled Chance the Rapper to tweet about the inherent racism in it.
By looking at the big brand snafus of yesteryear, one can only hope 2019 turns out better. That’s what Joseph Anthony, CEO of Hero Group Inc., hopes. His New York City-based advertising and digital agency recently released an ad campaign about marketing misfires over the last two years to highlight the lack of cultural insights and diverse perspectives in general market campaigns.
The two-part social media campaign (that runs through March) speaks to all that’s wrong in marketing. The first part raises the question: “Imagine if brands spoke volumes, instead of being loud. Imagine if they made a difference instead of acting like they’re different.” The second expressly says advertisers need to speak millennials and Gen Zers’ “language”: “Moving the needle with me, starts first with making me move my finger.”
“Millennials have turned consumerism into a broader conversation around political conduct, about social justice, about the power that the corporate dollar plays in influencing everything,” Anthony said. “Millennials opened up a larger doorway into a larger conversation on what we should be focusing on, and the reality is politics, government, multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion. The social currency has changed, and that’s extended to the expectations that we have with respect to the brands that we choose to bring into our lives because we do have a choice.”
Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM, a New York City-based branding/marketing agency agrees.
“Consumers are changing, and how much and when and where we interface with brands has changed. And brands are struggling with how to reach or how to gain growth, whether it’s organic or inorganic,” he said.
Natarelli recollects IHOP taking a risk on its brand name when it went from IHOP-to-IHOB-back-to IHOP and Dunkin’ Donuts dropping Donuts from its name.
“As brands continue to proliferate and saturate our collective attention, consumers are gaining more control over when, how or where brands reach them,” Natarelli said. “This challenge has forced the brand owners to take bigger risks. … What we saw this year redefined the relationship of trust between consumers and brand.”
But what can advertisers do to make 2019 better? Natarelli can’t say there are definable things they should do. But trust is one of them.
“Trust is sort of fundamental, right? You can really not play with or take advantage of your consumer’s trust _ you can look at Facebook as a prime example of what could go wrong,” he said. “We believe brands and consumers bond like people bond with each other _ it’s very organic, it’s very fluid, it’s very emotionally driven. The bonds that we form with these brands are really precious. Brands have to be a little more measured or more careful, in a way, that they’re projecting or affecting their reputation in the market.”
Natarelli said Disney, Netflix and YouTube were companies that held their own in 2018, and Anthony points out that Nike has done a good job of striking a balance between being a competitive, athletic brand and a lifestyle brand.
“What they did with Colin Kaepernick showed a marketplace that you can have a position that is somewhat polarizing and still succeed if you know who your target is and you’re not afraid to be brave and go outside the box,” Anthony said.
Anthony’s recommendations for brands:
- Don’t stand on the sidelines in 2019. Awareness is impact, and apathy will kill brands.
- Brands need to add value to people’s life, and companies need to be able to relate to their audience.
- Multiculturalism is the new general market.
“I think 2018 was really a year where you couldn’t hide from your weaknesses,” he said. “I think the age of brand indifference is over _ brands have to put a stake in the ground and let us know what they believe in, especially if they want us to support them financially. Brands have to seem like part of the community, not just attaching themselves to it. And that’s the difference.”