'People don't give a sh*t about brands until they do something wrong'

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 8 April 2016
Smirnoff Sound Collective (Source: Instagram)

“Marketers are working harder and harder and people are less interested than ever in brands. People don't give a shit until they do something wrong,” suggested brand consultant David Morgan at a recent breakfast hosted by the International Advertising Association (IAA).

It's not an ideal situation to be in as a brand, but it's not all bad. A panel of marketers gathered to debate the challenges that brand managers, marketers and agencies face in the current marketing landscape.

One of the biggest challenges for brand managers, as Commonwealth Bank GM of brand, sponsorship and marketing Stuart Tucker sees it, is the changing face of loyalty in consumers - particularly the younger generation.

“People are profoundly less brand loyal now than they were. They are loyal to platforms, to Snapchat, to Facebook, to Instagram, but they are not talking about brands," he said.

"They have a very fluid relationship with [product] brands but they are loyal to the vehicles of messages. Sometimes there is often a pride in breaking away from brands and moving on to the next big thing.”

Another challenge is that product messaging alone can only go so far. The example of laundry brands was used: any detergent can only get your whites so white. Persil (the UK name for the Omo brand) recently launched an ad campaign demonstrating that prisoners get more free time to exercise and play outdoors than children do, as part of a purpose-led strategy to encourage parents to let kids play more freely. But what does that have to do with laundry detergent, and why does Persil have the right to talk in that space?

Purpose-led marketing is not a new idea, but it's not going away – purpose is the linchpin of strong brands in the disruption era.

Ipsos director of behavioural change, Pascal Bourgeat, said: “You can't escape the rule of diminishing returns [from product messages] so you have to find something more substantive.”

Panel moderator Morgan suggested that “good is the new cool,” but beyond that the panel mooted that “good is not a fad. It's here to stay”.

The issue of authenticity and brands having the right to play in spaces that demonstrate a bigger purpose beyond the product was of course brought up, with authenticity being key.

Speaking from a communications perspective, Kieran Moore, CEO of Ogilvy PR added that it's not an overnight journey.

"It takes a long time and commitment [to change]. Brands have to be doing everything right internally before they can talk about it. If it's seen as opportunistic, they will be taken to task.”

Diageo's marketing and innovation director Adam Ballesty agreed: “Having skin in the game is a really big part of it – is the brand doing it, not just saying it."

Diageo's Smirnoff brand launched a documentary about female DJs in March in partnership with Discwoman, a New York-based female DJ collective as part of the brand's positioning around music, nights out and being inclusive. The aim was to be active in tackling the lack of female DJs that get booked for high profile gigs.

“The bullshit radar has never been so high, so we'll find out soon enough if [brands are allowed to move into these spaces]. It's about legitimacy and Discwoman feels right and legitimate for Smirnoff. It could be a step too far but we're pushing the boat a little further.”


Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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