Don’t Just Slap a Rainbow On It: How to Be a Bold Brand

Happy Pride! This past month has been prime time for brands (the cool ones at least) to unfurl their rainbow flags and show the LGBTQ+ community how much they love them – easy, right? Well, hold your horses (or unicorns) – because while everyone is equal and valid, not all Pride campaigns are. Every year during Pride, there are brands that launch campaigns with good intentions, but horrible execution – such as the M&S changing the meaning of LGBT for a sandwich, or rainbow Listerine. Worse than a bad Pride campaign though is a forgettable one, of which there are many.

While it’s easy to be a jaded queen and throw shade at these brands, the way these campaigns are handled speaks to deeper issues of how cynical consumers can be, particularly in hot button issues. This cynicism, of course, has spread to not just brands, but the platforms on which brands connect to consumers, too. Consider the recent passing of the POFMA legislation in Singapore and a whole slew of data scandals (Cambridge Analytica being the most high profile case). It’s pretty clear that people are becoming less trusting of social media. In fact, it’s gotten to a point where one survey found 57% of respondents expected news they see on social media to be inaccurate.

So in the age of the critical woke consumer, how can brands fight through the undertow of cynicism?

Embrace the good, the bad and the ugly

The key to creating trust, particularly over social media, is authenticity. While this sounds like common sense and is easy to do when things are going well, authenticity takes on a whole new meaning when things go wrong.

As communicators, our first instinct when our clients or brands receive criticism is to downplay the negative. However, in the always-on environment of social media, that’s something brands cannot always do. When faced with legitimate criticism, brands need to own up to their shortcomings – and fast. Nothing is quite as loud as the silence of a brand giving “no comment”.

Take the recent Tosh Zhang incident with Pink Dot this year. While it is debatable whether or not he was a suitable candidate for Pink Dot, the major blow to the Pink Dot brand was the delay in responding to the incident. By the time they put out a full statement to apologise, many other more critical voices were at full volume and they were perceived as just being reactive, rather than being authentically apologetic.

Put down the Kool Aid

One of the phrases we throw around in the Mutant office is “don’t drink the Kool Aid” – which has become a mantra to remind us that while we need to put ourselves in our client’s shoes, we must always remember that we never operate in a vacuum, and we’re being hired to give our opinions and share our expertise (even if it’s not what they want to hear).

What this means is that while rainbow-coloured mouthwash might sound like a fun Pride product, when you set it up among the backdrop of all the other corporate Pride initiatives, it might just leave a bad taste in people’s mouths (heh, see what I did there?)

The best way to combat this is to ensure diverse perspectives are always brought in at the planning stage. Going back to the Listerine rainbow bottle example, you have to wonder whether they brought in someone from within the LGBTQ+ community to give their perspective.

Authenticity? “It do take nerve”

Before you flag the typo here, this is a line adapted from Paris is Burning, an excellent film about the ballroom culture in 80s Harlem. Aside from having iconic catchphrases, there are lessons here that brands can apply when it comes to being authentic. The film shows what the gay and drag scene was like in New York in the 80s, and it’s a celebration of people who, despite the costs and risks, lived their lives out loud.

If a brand does decide to share a strong point of view or embrace a community, it needs to do it fully and unapologetically. Take Nike for example, who must have known the pushback they would receive for the  Kaepernick campaign or the more recent plus-sized mannequins, but they still went ahead regardless. Because their messaging is authentic, and the brand is already well-known for its heart-tugging campaigns and strong moral stances, it works.   

But this can be scary for brands, particularly in Asia – not so much because we have vastly different values than more westernised countries, but rather that brands are more wary of being criticized. A great example of an Asian brand that took the leap was Cathay Pacific with an ad featuring a gay couple. There was pushback from conservative voices in Hong Kong, but they stuck to their beliefs and in the end, the campaign was largely positively received.    

Whether your brand celebrates Pride Month, champions a cause, or is just trying to put out a campaign that breaks through the noise, remember to always bring humanity, empathy and bravery into your planning to keep it authentic.

We can help you regain that social media trust. Write to us at hello@mutant.com.sg

Are brands responsible for what customers do with their products?

Companies develop new products with the intention to make the world a better place. They see a gap in the market, develop a solution, people use it, the company earns money, and everyone’s happy.

However, not everything is always that straightforward. Ethical issues can come into play when consumer usage deviates from the intended use of the product. Which begs the question of just how much responsibility companies should bear when their product (inadvertently or not) has caused harm.

Here are a couple examples to consider:

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go, the wildly popular augmented reality game turned the entire world into its playground. Along with it came side effects of players flocking to places they’re not always welcome to “catch ‘em all”. From the backyard of private residences to places of worship and memorial grounds, there’s no stopping players from trespassing beyond opening hours in search of Pokémon and the Pokéstops. Even more dangerous is the behaviour of distracted drivers playing Pokémon Go, which has resulted in fatal accidents. Does this land Niantic, the game’s developer, in murky waters? Are they obligated to come up with updates to completely block users from playing when in moving vehicles? Or respond to Pokéstop removal requests at private residences and memorial grounds?

With such controversies, the risk for potential lawsuits resulting from injuries or privacy violations increases, which is why it’s crucial for companies to have a crisis response strategy in place to answer potential public backlash that could arise.

Tinder

Dating apps have revolutionised the way people find love. Figures show that there are 50 million global users on Tinder, the most popular dating app. For the uninitiated, Tinder matches users with people near you with just a simple swipe. As the stigma around such apps fades and online dating becomes acceptable, there are still negatives associated with dating apps – such as the concerns of under-age users or married folks. Should dating apps take stronger steps in enforcing stricter policies to stop those behaviours? Just how much are they supposed to be responsible for the behaviours of users?

Having a messaging strategy in place is key in establishing who and what your product is meant for. A solid communication strategy can ensure your brand pushes the product out to the right people for the right reasons, and set an off-track narrative right again.

If anything, digital technology has made it harder to decide who is responsible. At the end of the day it’s up to the end user to apply common sense. The brand is simply providing a solution for a gap in the market. But that’s not to say brands bear zero responsibility. It’s equally important for companies to have strong messaging in place to establish their intended audience and product use. With a strong PR team working alongside you, issues that could potentially turn sour can be nipped in the bud early on, and the backlash from crisis situations can be better managed with a well-planned response strategy.

If you need help to sharpen your communications strategy, get in touch with us at hello@mutant.com.sg

The battle of the brands: Does controversy work?

In an incredibly dense and competitive marketplace, it’s becoming increasingly hard for brands to really stand out and make an impact. Brands now have to constantly think up of innovative strategies to captivate their audience.

Even if a brand has done everything right, it sometimes just isn’t enough to get great traction. And when all options have been exhausted, controversy may be roped in as a last-ditch attempt to scramble for some buzz.

Granted, some brands like United Colors of Benetton have been controversial from day one. But others like Adidas and Dunkin Donuts have learned the hard way through intense negative public backlash.

So, does controversy actually help or hurt brands?

The positive:
It can help start important conversations.


Global fashion brand, United Colors of Benetton faced criticism for their 2012 “
Unhate” campaign. The ads featured world leaders (on opposing sides of religious, political, racial and cultural spectrums) in a lip-lock. An initiative by Benetton, the Unhate campaign’s main aim was to ‘fight against hate and discrimination in all its forms’.

Though it was slammed by the Vatican, the series of ads went on to win the Press Grand Prix at the Cannes Ad Festival, a prestigious award in the advertising industry. It was lauded by press jurors that the ad ‘has heart impact’ and promotes ‘a global debate’.

The ad itself is the epitome of controversy, but what made this a win for Benetton is the effect it had on viewers. The message behind it is something that cannot be ignored.

unhate-brands-controversy

The negative:
It can seriously hurt the brand

 

orangeshackles-adidas-brands

Adidas came under fire shortly after the announcement of a new pair of Jeremy Scott designed sneakers, the ‘JS Roundhouse Mids’. The sneakers featured a pair of orange plastic shackles, which many fans picked up as ‘offensive’ and ‘ignorant’ because of  similarities to shackles worn by slaves in the 19th Century.

Though Jeremy Scott claimed it had nothing to do with the alleged atrocity, Adidas cancelled the release of the shoe, apologising if anyone had been offended by the design.

Adidas may have received great sales from Scott’s outlandish designs in the past, but it just goes to show brands should always do prior research before releasing anything to the public.

When it comes to controversy, the pros and cons must be weighed out before any action is taken. Some brands may perform better with more controversy, but for others, it just doesn’t work out. If a brand’s values don’t align with the consumer, it’s going to get increasingly hard for people to identify with the brand in the long run.

Controversy can be a great exercise for brand building, but it can also hurt and bring about unwanted attention and perceptions which are always tough to change. Play carefully.

If you want to create some hype around your brand, we can help you. Get in touch with us at hello@mutant.com.sg.

Have you been using Facebook the right way?

With 1.65 billion monthly active users, it won’t come as a surprise that Facebook is the most-used social media site across all age groups. I also bet this won’t be the first time you’re reading an article on utilising Facebook to increase brand awareness through social advertising.

First of all, ask yourself why you even set up your Facebook page in the first place and why it is helping you achieve. Your followers are fed with a continuous stream of content as they scroll through their News Feed so how can you make sure that they stop to look at yours?

1. Share timely content

Pokémon Go is the hot topic of the town this week. And it’s likely to stay this way if it continues to cause more trouble than it already has. Multinational fashion retailer Topshop was one of the many brands to jump on the bandwagon. You should always be on the lookout for opportunities to drive traffic to your site by creating and sharing trending content.

timely-content-Facebook

 

2. Join conversations

Engagement, engagement, engagement. Facebook is one of the best platforms for you to hold two-way conversations with your audience. Stay in the loop and know listen to what your followers are saying. Make your brand more ‘human’ by replying to comments when you see them. There’s nothing fans like more than a personal message directed solely to them. Skyscanner is a great example as they are always very consistent with their replies to followers on Facebook and use a very personable tone that in-turn helps create loyal fans.

 

join conversations

 

3. Point to your own content

To help spark curiosity try referencing a point of interest from your article or blog. You have a very short three-second window before users decide whether your content is worth reading so opt for something catchy. Take a look at this example from Buro 24/7 when they gave their followers a sneak-peek into an interesting statistic about Singaporean women.

 

4. Use emojis

Be creative! Text alone may be boring and limits expressions. Of course, you shouldn’t fill your entire sentence with emojis because a) we get your point, and b) it’s annoying.  Instead mix it up a little.  Make sure that your emojis are relevant, don’t put them there just for the sake of adding cute little images to your captions as it doesn’t work. Take this example from Hostelworld’s Facebook page where they have a healthy balance of text and emojis that are both fun and relevant.

use emojis

5. Mix it up

Imagine following a fashion brand on Facebook and finding out that every single one of their posts features its own fashion products in the same manner – photos. Isn’t that boring? If every piece of content you put up follows the same format, chances are your audience will probably scroll past most of it because they’ve seen it before. Add variety to your page by posting your content in different formats be it videos, articles or questions. Make it even more engaging by holding contests or dishing out tips to your followers.

6. Get creative and mobile-friendly

Paint your brand story on a mobile-friendly platform. When Facebook promised that advertising would be immersive, they weren’t kidding! Canvas ads fill the entire screen of your smartphone and exists within Facebook (instead of annoying pop-ups that take you to another app). Skincare brand L’occitane used texts, videos and images to capture its audience by sharing its brand story and used call-to actions (CTA’s) to promote their gift sets.

loccitane

Brands should be making use of these great features to help share content that really stands out and drives action.

7. Go live

You’re a business operated by humans so show that to your consumers. Facebook Live allows brands to share a more personable side with fans, and Dunkin’ Donuts was one of the first brands to utilise this platform to engage with their audience. They provided a tour of their test kitchen and streamed the construction of a donut wedding cake live. Who doesn’t like an exclusive behind-the-scenes look?

Make sure the content you put up live is relevant and appropriate to your audience. You can hold live Q&A sessions and get fans to tune in, and you’ll also be able to see who’s watching your video. Promote your live sessions in advance to ensure that people are aware it will be happening.

 

Remember that visibility of your brand on Facebook depends on the content you post and therefore the engagement on your Page. Make the most out of Facebook and what it offers, and capture your fans by tweaking your content strategy to suit their interests.

Get in touch with us at hello@mutant.com.sg to find out how we can craft targeted and effective social media content.