We all know that branding is an incredibly important marketing tool for any business.
Traditionally, brands could hire celebrities to shamelessly endorse their products, or place a paid-editorial piece in a magazine and consumers might have taken the reviews at face value.
But today, Millennials and Generation Z are getting wise to marketing; they know more about techniques than ever before and this means that we need to be smarter and more honest in how we portray ourselves. For a potential customer to take us seriously, let alone hand-over some precious, sort-after engagement, brands need to market themselves with integrity.
In 2011, Kim Kardashian was sued for her endorsement of Skechers in this steamy Superbowl ad, as surprisingly, just wearing the trainers doesn’t give you a body like hers.
I’m not sure if it’s worse that Skechers thought people might believe the message, or if some people are upset that they didn’t get the advertised results, but either way… not great.
Social media is a crazy place with huge clout, with 60% of Gen Z supporting brands that support the issues they care about, such as human and animal rights, race, sexual orientation and the environment.
Furthermore, we live in a generation where social media users expect to be able to communicate with brands almost instantly, whether that be for positive or negative reasons. Ignoring voices or not standing-true to your advertised beliefs simply doesn’t cut it, with the younger generation more than twice as likely than Millennials to drop a brand for poor responsiveness on social media.
Take JD Wetherspoon for example. In the build-up to the Brexit referendum, they made their opinions on Brexit very clear by distributing 200,000 ‘pro-leave’ beer mats across their 920 pubs.
Many users of social media were outraged at the chain-pub's blatant contributions to the result of June 23rd 2016, and as such made their opinions very well known. So much so, that JD Wetherspoon quit social media altogether in April 2018.
According to the BBC, “The chairman said that it had consulted its pub managers before making the move, and "90-to-95% felt using social media was not helping the business".” Hmm… I wonder why?
In the wake of the Brexit result, JD Wetherspoon's shares felt the power of the collective social media voice, with share values dropping by 6.3%! Ouch.
To make matters worse, they then issued a complete ban on dogs from their pubs, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that in a country full of animal lovers, this isn’t a move that’s going to be well-received.
In this instance, the values that JD Wetherspoon have chosen to support have obviously not been well recieved by many, but I believe this could have been salvaged if they’d handled their social media and PR properly, instead of running away and blaming the problem on everyone else.
So who’s doing it right?
One of my favourite examples is Lush. Their brand values include many hot-topics, such as all their products are vegetarian and cruelty free, and they’re taking giant measures to reduce plastic waste, promoting slogans such as ‘Plastic is Rubbish’ and ‘#LushNaked’. They’re also really honest about what goes into their products, and their YouTube channel is full of ‘how it’s made’ videos.
(Notice the pooch placement!)
While they don’t always get it spot-on, they are true to their values and consumers respect this, so they stay loyal.
If you take anything away from this article, it is stay true to what makes you special and what you want your business to represent.
I may come across as slightly over-obsessed with animals, but you know what, I like to think that sets me apart from the thousands of other marketing agencies and I believe in this cause so much that I dedicate part of my profits to supporting animal charities.
Hopefully some of the brands I work with choose me, not only because I know what I’m talking about marketing-wise, but also because I have respectable brand morals, that align with the ethics of their business and their customers.