Between COVID-19 and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, 2020 has been a year full of issues that have the entire world talking.
And now more than ever, we’re seeing brands getting involved in these conversations.
While it is relatively easy for a brand to share marketing material in support of a particular cause, it is far harder for a brand to take accountability.
“There’s a significant difference between speaking out – which is something brands can do – and then actually accepting some accountability for what you create and deliver into the world,” said Google Creative Lab creative director Tea Uglow during a Cannes UnCanned session last week.
“It’s easy to virtue signal over various different topics and we do see that a lot. It’s quite nice when that becomes an action – when it becomes something that you don’t see. When it becomes something that is part of the company’s culture and part of who they are.
“Rather than speaking out as a gesture of support, brands are taking positions that are probably not going to get picked up on by the consumers. We may not appreciate a lot of the work that’s going on.”
Just because brands can now take a moral standpoint on certain issues doesn’t mean they should, Uglow argued.
“What we’re seeing increasingly is the growth of companies actually having a moral position on things. I’m not sure they should take moral positions quite frankly, because it’s great while they’re on your side, but suddenly when they’re not on your side because their version of progressive is not the same as your version of progressive [it isn’t great].
Uglow also suggested it might be time to rethink the idea of company values.
“To be perfectly honest a company can’t have values, that’s not possible. The employees can have a culture,” Uglow said.
The month of June has seen the #BlackLivesMatter movement coincide with another event for brands in Pride Month.
Uglow pointed to the various marketing initiatives – from Skittles removing the rainbow flag from its packaging to brands updating their logos to include the Pride Flag – that have been released for Pride Month in previous years.
“I don’t know where the profits from [these brands] are going. We don’t have advertising regulation about what is appropriate behaviour of brands,” Uglow said.
“We don’t have standards set for what they’re doing, which is taking a community, exploiting goodwill towards that community and almost invariably ignoring the extensive hostility, violence and difficulty that community faces in non-photogenic settings.
While much of the conversation centred on how brands can shape their messaging, Uglow also weighed in on the notion of personal branding, particularly in light of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the social media use of that specific hashtag.
“Nine times out of ten, what we are doing when we’re offering support publicly – even as humans – is doing a little piece of personal branding. Making our values clear – it doesn’t matter how big the audience is.
“All of this stuff is advertising. We’re advertising, they’re advertising, everyone is advertising.”
To hear the entire conversation with B&T and Tea Uglow click here.
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