EYE OF THE STORM: The Era of Responsibility
In the midst of information saturation and disinformation, Junior Planner, Yasmine Balfour-Lynn, asks, 'do brands have a responsibility to shine a light on constructive behaviour?' (Spoiler: They do)
The problem with choice
We’re moving into an era that recognises maintaining a healthy wellbeing is paramount, and it’s never been more important than right now.
These are incredibly confusing times. With the rules and expectations in society changing on a daily basis, it’s next to impossible to get our heads around where we’re headed and how to get there in the best way possible.
What people need today, more than ever, is clarity: Confident voices to guide the way around how we can live healthily. Not just for ourselves but for our community and our planet.
Promoting good choices is a huge opportunity for brands. But more than that, it’s a responsibility.
Do no harm
Brands have huge power over culture and beliefs. It’s easy to forget that what the industry says collectively has tremendous long-term impact when working in silos within our respective teams.
As marketers, we have a choice over how this power is leveraged to reinforce positive or negative behaviours. I’ll give you an example.
Whilst it’s true that binge-watching TV all night has become commonplace in our culture, that’s not to say it’s something positive: Moreover, shining a light on this behaviour only serves to validate it and normalise it further.
There are many truths we can choose to bring to light, with some working better to resonate with people and benefit sales than others. But we should also be filtering what we promote by questioning whether the output is going to benefit people’s wellbeing or not.
Making the responsible choice
I’ve recently seen two campaigns from brands that have similar jobs to achieve. Both offer online financial price comparison services and position around being the antidote to confusion in a crowded space, in a typically low-interest category. Both have chosen to draw on rich, vivid and highly imaginative creative to stand out. And stand out they do. However, whilst they both tackle accurate truths, one evokes stress whilst the other inspires camaraderie.
Confused.com launched a new campaign last year fronted by Irish actor Timothy Murphy. ‘When did we choose to have so much choice?’ he says as he drives through chaotic streets; relentless crowds slamming on his windows for attention and soulless supermarkets selling products that are all labelled ‘BUY ME’.
It’s a fine piece of advertising when viewed singularly but has problematic implications when set in context. Dramatising life in the way it does subliminally reinforces the story of collective anxiety which has been gathering steam over the past few years.
Far from having to tread on eggshells, it’s possible to make light of difficulties in life in a constructive way.
Habito is a brand which has done a good job of this with their Hell or Habito campaign. They looked into the category and pulled out a common perspective of just how monstrous traditional mortgage applications can feel.
Drowning in your own sweat and being robbed of everything down to your skeleton, their Rick & Morty style cartoons are grotesque, and they are nothing but good for people. Not only do they draw laughter at the ridiculousness of it all, by calling out painful processes they’re forcing competitors to innovate. You walk away thinking these guys get it, they’ve got my back.
Since going live, their spontaneous brand awareness has more than doubled and their acquisition costs have reduced by seventy five percent. So we know it works.
Acting on a responsibility
It’s easy to overlook that a single piece of communication can contribute to a much greater message. One campaign may unknowingly be chipping away at a turning tide of behaviour with the ability to make or break us.
Trust and transparency have become leading lights in the conversation around commercialism and with good reason. Brands, who are heard by millions, hold immense power within their communications platforms as people face a myriad of complex choices.
With conflicting messages coming at us from all sides, there’s a huge opportunity to create clarity for people around the healthiest ways to live by celebrating positive behaviour. An empowering thought in itself and one we have a responsibility to act on.