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Culture hacking is about relevance; keeping pace with what your customers care about when they care about it. Which is something that most brands simply don’t do. Why? Put simply, most businesses think that in order to sell their brand they need to talk about what makes them great. I’m sure you can already see where the issue is here… 

While you’re off bragging about the features of a new product, your customers are dreaming about bettering their own lives; going on adventures, making friends, gaining status, respect, or power, feeling sexy, morally superior, or spiritually whole. Your product might be great, but what does it mean to buy it from your brand? Will it help them express who they are in the story of their lives?

In other words, does spending money on your brand make me more… Me?

That bias comes down to whether or not your brand reflects their worldview; that is, the values, attitudes, beliefs, perspectives and opinions that inform the way they see the world. Proving to your customers that you’re worthy of a place in their story often comes down to how your brand contributes to the cultural conversations they care about. You establish your brand, or the people behind your brand, as ‘one of them’. 


Humans talking to humans

It sounds obvious, but the first step is to recognise that your audience’s identity exists outside of your purchasing decision. They have hobbies, likes, dislikes, fandoms, and political views. They’re far more than their occupation, gender, address, age or any other kind of demographic data they fall into. In our cultural landscape, humans express their identity through the content they share and consume.

Marketers, when you’re not working, what are YOU doing? Are you scrolling Insta, listening to a pop culture poddy, scouring YouTube, or finding the perfect GIF to make your BFF laugh on messenger? When was the last time you took ten minutes out of your day to watch a corporate explainer video?

This brings us to a key question. Can your customer express their identity by sharing your brand’s content?

Let’s look at an example. A standout campaign by the American feminine hygiene brand, Always, joined cultural conversations around the gender stereotypes within society. Produced in 2014, their #likeagirl YouTube video has received over 70 million views since its creation, sparking a powerful global movement tied to their hashtag. That’s pretty impressive! The video has even been used in schools worldwide to educate students on the impact of gender stereotypes.

The business recognised an opportunity in the sociopolitical conversations happening at the time and chose to platform equality; a message they knew their market could relate to and connect with.


Steer clear of self-importance

So here’s what not to do; as we mentioned already, plenty of brands tend to put their product on a pedestal. This is the pinnacle of self-important marketing, where the consumer’s wants and needs are secondary to the brand’s message.

That’s not to say that self-important marketing never works; just that there’s an opportunity to go deeper which many advertisers miss. By connecting your brand to the opinions and worldviews of your audience, you’re developing the kind of affinity that’s essential for establishing long-term brand loyalty.

So what happens when your brand’s message is disconnected from its audience?

In 2017, AirBNB sent out their ‘floating world’ email with the intention to market a holiday experience where travellers spend an entire trip ‘without touching dry land.’

On the surface, it sounds like a pretty cool idea.

The problem here is that Hurricane Harvey was tearing through Houston at the time, causing unprecedented rainfall that submerged much of the area.

The ad came across as insensitive and offensive because it was. Because AirBNB wasn’t in touch with the cultural happenings around their audience. Because their focus was purely on their new campaign bringing in more revenue. 

Think about how you’d feel if your friend made a joke about your house after it was just destroyed. What’s your immediate emotional response?

The fact is, each and every piece of content on the internet will evoke an emotional response of some kind; be it envy, desire, respect, appreciation or even admiration. 

So ask yourself, how do you want your viewers to feel?


Partnering with cultural leaders

The power of cultural leaders to influence conversations is monumental. If you’re not a cultural leader, ask yourself; can you work with one? Can you influence the influencer?

Recently, we worked with our sister agency Lush on a creative campaign for Volunteering WA. The objective? Shed the ‘daggy’ vibes and attract a younger audience aged 18-27 to make positive change through volunteering. 

How’d we do it? We partnered with cultural leaders, of course.

Enter Cold Nips, a community group that meets weekly for a dip in the ocean to promote wellbeing and positive mental health; and Oli Clothing, an environmentally conscious, well-loved clothing label from Perth. 

These two influential local brands already had the trust and attention of the audience Volunteering WA was trying to connect with; partnering with them meant tapping into that audience’s pre-existing desire to make positive change, connecting that feeling with volunteering. 

We documented a social volunteering day at the beach with Cold Nips and OzFish. Attendees received an Oli X VWA shirt and collected seagrass fruit to help restore and regenerate seagrass meadows. It worked; the campaign generated a huge uptick in volunteer applications in the span of just two months. So well, in fact, that the campaign made it to the news.


Become a cultural touchstone

Culture is forever changing. It might seem strange to us now, but people in the 90s genuinely thought the internet would be a passing fad.

More recently, the world went crazy when Will Smith smacked Chris Rock at the Oscars; memes, debates, and commentary burst into our newsfeeds instantly. As a marketer, it is your role to be aware of the conversations, movements, and events going on around your audience, not just what’s going on for your brand.

Where does your brand fit into culture? 

A brand like Pela that sells phone cases made from recycled plastic, a short look at their Instagram page reveals posts about wildlife, biodiversity, world water day and mental health.

Every brand has a unique set of messages and values; so it follows that different brands will connect to different areas of culture. Your content should speak directly to your target audience, telling an authentic story that recognises and contributes to the conversations surrounding them. 

The kind of person that is going to buy a recycled phone case is likely someone that is passionate about environmentalism. That’s why the content that Pela posts sparks emotion in their audience. They feel proud to be supporting a great cause, they feel admiration for the work that Pela is doing, and vitally, they can express themselves through the brand.

So perhaps ask yourself, where does your business sit in today’s cultural conversations? How can you identify people leading your line of culture?


Interested in reading more about how culture can impact your branding? You might enjoy this blog post analysing cultural references in this year’s Australian Lamb ad. 

On a final note, not everything you post has to comment on a current social issue. Sometimes it’s just about having a bit of fun; so on that note, here’s one from Oreo in 2013 when there was a blackout at the super bowl…

Brace yourselves, the annual shilling of roses and Hallmark cards has begun. Making restaurant bookings has become an Olympic sport and the tactics brands use to get you spending on that special someone are out in force. 

Some tactics are overt, but others cleverly tap into some more unusual aspects of love and relationships to get you to part with your cash. Here are some of the obvious and not-so-obvious ways they sell V-Day.  

Pandora: Little Acts of Love


Make your love story complete with [insert product here], the ultimate way to say I love you this Valentine’s Day.

Gift-giving, don’t we all have a bit of a love-hate relationship with it? Chocolates, flowers and gift cards are just a few of the must-haves on Valentine’s Day to show your partner how much you truly love them. Why not take it a step further with a customised romantic storybook or luxurious jewellery?

Advertisers know that buyers only want the best for their special someone. It’s why they present their product as the pinnacle of romantic expression. That said, the real reason this tactic can work is a little more insidious than what you see on the surface. By putting their products on a pedestal as ‘expressions of love’ the ads subtly stir feelings of inadequacy and concerns about disappointing your partner. How can viewers reconcile that feeling? By purchasing bigger and better gifts of course.

The Adventure Challenge: Couple’s Edition


Go deeper this Valentine’s day with this unique [insert experience here] for couples and find the meaning in your relationship.

What’s more compelling than the need for human connection? These advertisers know how to strike into the heart of those who prioritise quality time with their main squeeze. There’s a wealth of romantic Valentine’s Day experiences on offer, from candlelit pop-up picnics to rom-com movie screenings and hot-air balloon rides. 

Across social media, advertisers show you the experiences they think will charm you the most. As you imagine a romantic new memory through rose-coloured glasses, these brands are banking on that desire to feel close to your partner.



Inject a bit of fun and cheekiness into your relationship with this [game/experience/product] and put the spark back into your love life.

While it’s true that cultural conversations around sex have shifted to focus on sexual wellness and empowerment rather than the male gaze, it’s still a widely used advertising tactic. Unsurprisingly, this approach is widespread amongst brands selling lingerie, sex toys, and games. Of course, this technique seeks to spark your desire to be thrilled; but when you look a little deeper, there’s another reason it can work. By indirectly touching on latent feelings of sexual frustration or insecurity, advertisers might hope you’ll interpret their product as a solution and feel compelled to follow through on a purchase.

Particularly on social media, brands have to compete for your attention as you scroll through your newsfeed. Particularly around Valentine’s Day when the marketplace is at its most cluttered, they’re hoping the alluring promise of a good time will capture your interest and lead to a sale.

Ben & Jerry’s 


Anyone else about to eat a whole pizza and watch Love Actually for the fourteenth time today? We got you boo!

Let’s face it, being single on Valentine’s Day often means cringing at a veritable onslaught of lovey-dovey couple-focused advertising. In a bid to stand out, advertisers take on a self-deprecating tone to present themselves as relatable, in hopes of building trust and loyalty. Beneath the surface, this approach can also work by indirectly touching on emotional vulnerability, with the product pitched as a source of comfort. 

By validating your emotions and encouraging that oh-so-fun ‘treat yourself’ mindset, these brands are often hoping you’ll make a purchase in the short term and develop brand loyalty in the long term.



Valentine’s Day sucks, celebrate something better than chocolates and roses with us.

Geared towards cynical consumers, these ads vehemently reject sentimentality. It’s all about positioning the brand as an antidote to the cheesy conventions that go along with February 14th. 

Amongst an overwhelming volume of stereotypical Valentine’s Day ads brimming with hearts and roses, taking the opposing stance is a means of attracting your attention. Similarly to the enablement tactic, it comes down to validation. The advertiser echoes your frustrations and aligns itself with your values, hoping you’ll feel connected to their brand. 

Whether it’s through heartwarming messages of connection or rejections of saccharine convention, advertisers try to tap into your emotions across this period in hopes of boosting their bottom line. Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is a part of popular culture. 

Our Creative Director Mike Drysdale was recently featured on 92.9 Tamworth. In the interview, he explores the power of cultural conversations in the context of the latest Australian Lamb ad.

You can listen to the full discussion below.


The Lost Country of the Pacific, a short film by Australian Lamb, is as close as Australia gets to a blockbuster ad. 

Equal parts spectacle and narrative, the three minute epic arrests the audience’s attention with a melodramatic set up and story. It seeks to entertain with almost every cultural reference that could be made about the current state of the world.

An ad like this takes significant time and energy to craft. The campaign video doesn’t look or feel like an ad; it comes across more like a movie. Importantly, lamb is not the focus. Instead, it’s presented simply as a delicious-looking part of the larger story.

It doesn’t matter that the premise is absurd, and the execution feels familiar to Australian Lamb ads of the past. In a way, that further cements their existing brand.

More Easter eggs than the Easter Bunny: cultural references

Ad campaigns that live within the current cultural landscape and allude to current events feel magnetic; it’s hard to look away.

Once you start to see references to topics you’ve thought about recently, you look out for more. You’re transfixed by the next Easter egg and feel compelled to discover if it will mirror your experience. 

So, what did get mentioned? 

Interstate border closures, overseas travel, Westralia, the rise of State Premiers, billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos in space, conspiracy theorists believing in Australia being a “fake country”, sport bubbles, Victorian lockdowns, French submarines, fruit picking backpackers, and more. 

Jam-packed with references to current cultural dialogue, the campaign builds connection with its audience. Each of the cues used draws out an emotional response from viewers across a wide variety of world views.

What’s missing? Two notable omissions

Fascinatingly, the ad made no mention of COVID-19 and no mention of Australia Day. Considering the breadth of references tied into this campaign, these gaps are hard to ignore.

Australian Lamb’s ads have come out around this time every year for over a decade. Notably, it wouldn’t be surprising if every previous year’s version had mentioned January 26th.

This suggests that change is afoot. Brands that were previously loud supporters of Australia Day are now reading the change in public opinion around it and adjusting their messaging.

Notably, Australian Lamb’s Youtube channel has videos dating back five years, but their previous campaigns are unavailable. 

This could signal a larger movement away from messaging tied to Australia Day. January 26th was a promotional opportunity for many years, but times have changed. Instead, iconic brands like Cricket Australia, Triple J, and Australian Lamb are now aligning with a general sense of Australiana. In effect, working to make lamb synonymous with Australia rather than Australia Day.

Specific mention of COVID-19 was also notably not present. As a result, we can likely assume this is due to the pandemic fatigue felt by audiences across the nation. Many brands are refraining from tying heavy messaging on the COVID-19 pandemic to their business.

Instead, advertisers show flow-on effects such as lockdowns, State Premiers, and empty airports, as seen in the campaign.

Cultural impact: how the audience responded to the ad

This cheeky, topical piece quickly hit the #1 trending spot on YouTube. It had its audience laughing, crying, and most importantly, talking.

It’s a marketing sweet spot. In re-watching the video and sharing it with their own networks, viewers engage with the campaign time and time again. This builds free awareness for the product and adds to the wider dialogue. 

Here’s a snapshot of the public response:

Marketing that’s fun makes a simple promise to the customer based on emotion and the philosophy of “show, don’t tell”. It simply asserts – this product makes life more fun!

And who wouldn’t like a little more fun in their life? When you take away the pressure of family, work, and finances, fun plays a big role in fulfilling needs around belonging, self esteem, even self actualisation. Imagine a product that could do all that. We’d buy it.


Snapshot: 5 reasons why fun marketing matters.


How can marketers create fun campaigns?

It’s no surprise that fun is generally colourful, nostalgic, cute, and energetic. All things that rarely if ever incite a fight or flight response. Instead they trigger the emotional, inner-child part of our brain that wants a little less responsibility and a little more enjoyment. A space where many purchases are made.

What your customer deems fun might be vastly different depending on their worldview. But generally speaking it’s things that make us laugh and feel good; and as marketers we can utilise our knowledge of our audiences to tap into their unique perspective of fun.

We’ve curated an assortment of marketing campaign examples that make use of fun in different ways, appealing to diverse audiences; keep reading to check them out.


Examples of fun marketing campaigns

Darth Vader Volkswagen

This commercial is built around the fun of imagination; adorable childhood conviction alongside a familiar character turns a moment of wide-eyed wonderment into an advertising piece that genuinely makes viewers laugh.


Home Alone Again

What do you get when you combine Google Assistant with the one-and-only Macaulay Culkin and an undeniably fun content concept? A sixty-second advertisement that became the number-one trending video on Youtube, that’s what.  


Who will save the Oreos?

This integrated campaign takes a sense of play to a whole new level, encouraging fans and other brands to get in on the fun of protecting OREO cookies at any cost. The mission sparked conversations all over social media and generated over 100 million impressions.


Alexa’s Body with Michael B Jordan

Here’s one way to create an ad that viewers want to watch over and over. Clever, humorous scripting all the way through the video and quality talent work together to deliver a simple brand message in a fun, memorable film. 


Belt Up by Dear Storyteller

Proof that a serious and important message can be effectively delivered in a fun way, this campaign encourages local sporting clubs to develop a stronger appreciation for seatbelts using a playful concept for promoting road safety.


Mechanical Rock: Go with the Data by Dear Storyteller

Taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to craft a memorable narrative around the importance of process, this content piece parodies some of the biggest backfires of all time to entertain and inform an audience rapidly accruing tech debt.


Shareable content that gets remembered

As Maya Angelou once famously said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

Fun is something that sticks with you; it’s an emotion you want to share, almost like a gift. And when your customers go to look back on who gave them that feeling, they’ll hopefully grow that same affection for your brand.

If you’d like to take the next step with your brand and create a marketing campaign built around fun, we’d love to talk strategy with you.

We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘honesty is the best policy’, but most marketers have likely encountered situations that called for them to be flexible with the truth. Advertising has a poor reputation when it comes to misleading consumers, and admittedly – that’s deserved to some extent. However, if we resist this common expectation, we can create brand storytelling that taps into the power of one of Jack Trout & Al Ries’ ‘22 Immutable Laws of Marketing‘: the Law of Candour.

This law states that if an aspect of your product is perceived negatively, it’s important to represent that honestly. Sure, that seems counterproductive at face value – but it’s only the first step. Trout and Ries weren’t suggesting that you should explicitly draw attention to your flaws. Solutions are always preferable to problems, so offering a counter-perception is key. Take the aspect of your brand that’s perceived as negative, and find a way to flip it. That’s step two. Let’s take a look at some real-world examples to see how this is done:

Turn ‘negatives’ into unique selling points

Everyone knows Listerine right? They’re the biggest name in the mouthwash game. How about Scope? Probably not. They’re Procter & Gamble’s mouthwash brand, and have set themselves up with a longstanding reputation as the ‘better-tasting alternative’. When they began that campaign in the 70s, many thought it spelt doom for Listerine. But they recognised that taste wasn’t their selling point. It was actually quite the opposite.

A Listerine ad that’s painfully outdated, but demonstrates the Law of Candour well. Source: Reddit.

Listerine’s bad taste suggests that it’s better at killing germs. They used candour to effectively change the perception of their product, and are still on top to this day.

In a similar vein, Australians have Vegemite. For some, it’s a staple. For others, it’s horrid. When it comes to this Aussie delicacy, you either love it or hate it. Vegemite have spun this, let’s say ‘uniqueness’, to mean that their product ‘Tastes Like Australia‘, a campaign which presents controversial celebrities like Pauline Hanson and Chopper Read as ‘acquired tastes’. 

Don’t oversell yourself

Honesty isn’t just about admitting your faults, it’s also about humility.

Discord’s new ‘Imagine a Place’ campaign features a branded short film starring Danny DeVito & Awkwafina. Their creative execution is a combination of live action, CGI, and animation to promote the idea that Discord is a platform driven by a diverse user base of niche sub-communities – or ‘servers’. 

The film presents a futuristic online hangout space that looks more like a virtual alternate reality than a simple messaging platform. It’s the users who make Discord what it is. It’s the users who create personalised experiences of adventure, acceptance, self expression, and joy. Discord is simply the digital platform that facilitates these experiences. So, what happens when you avoid candour and elevate your product to the position of hero and changemaker when it’s actually the users who do all this work? You create a cinema-worthy short film that will never match the real life user-experience. And the comment section will be your rapture.  

Awkwafina & Danny DeVito ‘Imagine a Place’. Source: Reddit.

Though this content was fantastic visually, it does miss a conceptual target; Discord was attempting to obscure the fact that their platform caters to niche markets by misrepresenting it as a universal experience. Here’s an idea: make users the heroes. Show us that the experience on Discord is individualised – put it in our hands. Imagine a campaign that shifted from ‘What is Discord?’ to ‘Who’s on Discord?’. This would create a pivot away from the platform’s ‘inaccessibility’ in a way that utilises its esoteric nature without alienating potential users. Had Discord recognised this, they wouldn’t have overshot their mark by so much.

We discuss Discord: The Movie in The Week in Brand Storytelling – have a listen to the full discussion here.

Gambling brands and … social responsibility?

Betting agency, Sportsbet, has unveiled a new campaign – ‘Take A Sec Before You Bet‘. Depicting a group of mates visiting the ‘Mate Museum’, this ad exhibits humour that we’ve come to expect for this market in recent memory. Nothing strange there.

Sportsbet have reworked their marketing approach since releasing the above 2018 ad, which holds a record 793 complaints to Ad Standards. Source: B&T.

The key difference is in the message – this campaign promotes responsible gambling and deposit limits. A far cry from their old ways. Sportsbet have recognised a cultural shift towards concern about irresponsible gambling habits. So, they’re putting the majority of their media spend into this responsibility-focused campaign – which is new for this market. Time will tell if they can successfully rework their image but we’re betting (*forgive us*) it’ll be beneficial for them to be leading the charge as the responsible betting service. 

Tell it like it is

Authentically representing yourself is an incredibly effective way to make your message stick in the audience’s mind. You’d be wrong to think that, when offered a negative, consumers disengage. It’s usually the opposite – think about how you’re more likely to believe someone who spoke poorly of themselves, rather than highly. It’s better to point out a negative to engage a prospective customer and, once they’re receptive, you’ve created your opportunity. That’s where you spin what seemed like a problem, into a solution. Consider these simplified examples:

Listerine tastes bad and that’s good.

Gambling is bad if you aren’t responsible.

Vegemite is not for everyone but some people love it.

You might’ve picked up that it’s best to do this with negatives that aren’t a matter of debate – widely accepted ones that achieve instant agreement. You also don’t want your audience to question the ‘negative’ for too long. Make sure you flip it to your positive quickly. If you can do this in a convincing way, you’ll not only win your audience’s attention, you’ll change their perceptions.

If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out our other stories, where we discuss current trends and unique campaigns happening in the modern marketing space.

In the past, the go-to strategy for countless marketers was to sexualise their content for the assumed benefit of the consumer. From beer to perfume, jeans to soft-drinks, sex has been used to sell just about everything. But in 2021, attitudes towards sex have changed.

So what’s the rub? Does sex not sell anymore?

It’s actually quite the opposite – sex has never sold more successfully. Society is just switching perspectives.

The male gaze

In early June, an ad for Tom Waterhouse’s betting service was condemned by Ad Standards for depicting women in “exploitative and degrading” ways. Their panel found this ad “amounts to a depiction which reduces women to objects or commodities.” 

The ad feels like a relic, dug up from some of the darkest days of exploitative, sexualised advertising. It’s disrespectful toward women and damaging to the Waterhouse name, but make no mistake – it’s completely intentional. Tom was betting on the ad stirring up enough outrage to secure him another fifteen minutes of fame. He was also banking on a Bilzerian-esque lifestyle playing well with his conservative, sports-betting, anti-PC target demographics. 

Tom’s bizarre Christmas 2020 posts. Source: Daily Mail UK.

But Tom is in some ways the last of a dying breed. Even brands that have historically oversexualised their products like Budweiser and Lynx body spray have drastically changed their strategies in recent times. No longer depicting the men who use their products as having god-like sexual qualities. 

The male gaze is considered by some to be an endangered species in advertising. The new wave we’re seeing in sex-centric ads has nothing to do with the male gaze. Undoubtedly, if sex is going to sell moving forward, it has to consider feminine perspectives. 

What do women want?

Victoria’s Secret’s new “VS Collective” rebrand reflects this change. By scrapping their well-established “Angels” branding in favour of more progressive ambassadors (who also act as an advisory board), they intend to signal to consumers that they ‘get it’: they’re changing, and they’re no longer in service of the damaging representation of female sexuality that they peddled (and even led) for decades. 

Their new CEO Martin Waters told the New York Times that an overhaul of the Victoria’s Secret brand was long overdue. “In the old days, the Victoria brand had a single lens, which was called ‘sexy,'” he said, adding that the Angels were no longer “culturally relevant.”

Sure, they’re following all the rules but is it too little, too late? And are they even moving in the right direction?

Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty line of lingerie was recently valued at over $1 billion USD and overtly uses sexuality in its marketing. The difference? They do so as a way of celebrating their core brand principles of “fearlessness, confidence and inclusivity”. The key word here is empowerment – with Rihanna’s lingerie, your sexiness is for you, not someone else. It’s a celebration of what makes each of us different.

Savage x Fenty recently featured models with limb differences. Source: Pedestrian.

Self-love & sexual wellness

As is the case with so many social movements, established brands may be the last to catch onto this trend taking the world by storm, but nevertheless the future seems clear. Sexual brand storytelling is focused far more on our individual relationships with our bodies in terms of pleasure and self care.

Elephant Creative Agency’s May initiative for K-Y, detailed below. Source: Little Black Book.

International lube brand K-Y recently launched an outdoor campaign in New York City to commemorate national Masturbation Month in the US. Among their murals was this ode to the “ménage à moi”:

“Cheers to all who ménage à moi, paddle the pink canoe, and butter their own muffin. Hooray for double-clicking your mouse and beating your own bush. Hats off to auditioning the finger puppets, patting the cat, and slapping the oyster. A toast to all of us who jill off, hands-solo, finger cardio, one-night hand, self-stroke and poke, and stir that honey pot. Here’s to getting busy solo or together. However you polish your pearl – good for you! Let’s give ourselves a hand. It’s Masturbation Month. K-Y.”

If that copy had you squirming in your seat you probably aren’t alone. Australia’s attitude towards sex, particulary offline, tends to trend conservative, still catching up to the likes of London and New York. Perhaps that’s why we’re more likely to see a Tom Waterhouse ad like the one leading this article, than the kind of billboard being produced by K-Y.

Earlier this year, erotic toy manufacturer Lovehoney was awarded the right to use the royal seal on all marketing material moving forward. Why? Well if you ask the Queen, she’d say it’s due to their “outstanding continuous growth”. They’ve managed a 365% increase in sales over the past six years. 

That’s a staggering increase from £12 million to £56 million worth of sex toys since 2015. This market is one of the lucky few to benefit from pandemic-induced social isolation.

Closer to home, we’ve seen sex toy brand NORMAL make use of Sydney’s current lockdown with a strategically placed truck at Bondi Beach. Source: B&T.

A pivot like this shows us that the conversation around sex is shifting perspective, and there are some emerging voices that are gaining more and more influence.

The digital space

Australia has some prolific creators, influencers, and business owners championing the sex positive movement. Rosie Rees is the CEO of Yoni Pleasure Palace and has nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram. Along with sex toys, she offers nude yoga, breath work and many other methods of promoting self love and self acceptance. 

We’ve also seen ex-Bachelor contestant Abbie Chatfield lead a “sexual wellness” revolution through her podcast – “It’s A Lot”

Abbie embraced her commitment to female sexual empowerment even further by partnering with Vush to create her own collection of branded sex toys. These were subsequently turned into a feature story on “Shameless”, one of Australia’s most popular pop culture podcasts for millennial women.

Spotify’s latest major deal was landed by Alex Cooper. Source: Variety.

And as we’ve covered in our podcast earlier this month, Alex Cooper signed her sex-positive podcast “Call Her Daddy” to Spotify – who will host them exclusively from July for a three-year deal worth $60 million USD. Cooper’s ex-co-host Sofia Franklyn remained with Barstool Sports, founding a new podcast – Sofia with an F. Spotify’s contracts with Kim Kardashian West and Joe Rogan are estimated to be worth around ~100 million each, so that makes Cooper’s one of Spotify’s biggest exclusive podcast deals to date. Mike & Clare discussed this and heaps of other stories from the marketing world in ep 33 of our podcast – The Week in Brand Storytelling.

All of these influencers have built their platforms by focusing on content related to relationships and sexuality. By adopting candid approaches to sex in their storytelling they have been able to find audiences who relate to them.

Empowering consumers

What we’re seeing is a movement away from sexual objectification, ‘othering’, towards more personal messages of self-love and sexual wellness that empower people in their own rights. For marketers, that means approaching consumers as subjects benefiting from a healthy relationship to pleasure and sex, rather than objects whose value starts and ends with their perceived level of sex appeal.

So we’d say yes, sex does still sell. And it’s because society is switching perspective.

Every generation feels like they’re living through the most pivotal changes in human history, but this time it’s real. Okay, every other generation probably said that too but here we stand amongst global climate change, LGBTQIA+, Me Too, and BLM movements; we’re in the nucleus of a viral pandemic! And we won’t mention that orange guy. These global events have an impact on conversations, culture, and… content. Nowadays, audiences are hypersensitive to social trends. Staying on top of this requires content creators to have a keen sense of relevance. So, to hit our mark with branded entertainment, we first need to master the art of ‘reading the room’.

Modern missteps

Just recently, DC’s Injustice 2 ran an in-game event and, as a way of celebrating LGBTQIA+ culture and marking Pride Month, they challenged players to repeatedly fight Poison Ivy. For those of you who don’t know Batman character profiles (we forgive you), Poison Ivy is a popular bisexual villain. Fans on social media had plenty to say.

This mistake is not something localised to the, now annual, phenomena of Pride Month marketing. There’s the infamous Kendall Jenner x Pepsi collab from 2017 that none of us will forget in a hurry. And, the 2012 “BIC for Her” campaign. Yes, they created pens specifically designed for women. They were pink. They were more expensive. They asked Ellen to give them a shout-out on her show and …. let’s just say, it didn’t go how they’d planned.

You might sideline these marketing missteps as one-offs and think that we would all do better. But surely, there were a lot of people in these boardrooms – signing off each brief, concept, storyboard, script, draft, second draft. And they still made it to air. 

So let’s talk about relevance in entertainment advertising – how do we stay in touch and foster authentic emotional connections with audiences?

The law of candour

Dettol’s latest campaign is an attempt to position their products (specifically sanitiser) as “helping protect what [their consumers] love”.

The UK iteration of Dettol’s “Helping Protect What We Love Since 1933”. Source: Ads of the World.

Commissioned through global ad agency, McCann, it is at the apex of the relevance conversation. Why? Because, as the COVID vaccine rolls out globally, hand sanitisers are no longer flying off the shelves and being hawked for 100 Bitcoin a bottle. So, what did they do? They attached fear to things of value – specifically a family business, judo, and football. These doco-style stories all boil down to one proposition: we (Dettol) protect what you love. 

The problem here is that collective conversations around the global pandemic have shifted towards the idea that freedom is possible, the world will open back up, and we will feel safe again. This doesn’t serve Dettol. They need us to stay scared and stay buying their products by the litre.

Rather than trying to stoke the embers of fear to retain their relevance (i.e. profits and power), they could instead subvert audience expectations and lean in to candour. What if Dettol was to celebrate sales plummeting due to decreased pandemic demand? The refreshing feeling a creative piece like that could generate has the potential to spur a new wave of loyal Dettol customers: consumers who connect with brands that tell it like it is. That would be how you read a room, craft a relevant story and foster genuine emotional engagement.

Join conversations they’re already having

Unless your brand is really leading the charge culturally-speaking (and we would argue that few are), you should stay connected to the conversations that already exist in the zeitgeist. Your ideal customers will have a set of world-views, opinions, pain points, and motivations. Your messaging needs to address that. If BIC considered this back in 2012, I doubt that they would have found women desperately seeking a pen that was designed and priced for dainty hands. 

“BIC for Her” ballpoint pens. Source: Amazon.

Let’s fast forward to 2021 – BIC’s current play is a collaboration with mindfulness app Smiling Mind, “Smiling Mind Creates”. This campaign focuses on bringing together art and mindfulness through the work of three Aussie illustrators – Yan Yan Candy Ng, Emma Leonard, and Ben Sanders.

Sure, mindfulness is in the zeitgeist, and it’s technically a match to the BIC brand considering they make pens. But is it too late? Have they missed the boat on adult colouring-in? And, further than that, will their consumers see through this as a desperate grab for relevance from a manufacturer specialising in cheap plastic products?

Dissolve the faceless brand

Big corporations rarely offer a tangible sense of grounded, grassroots personality. That’s why so many companies seek out relevant personalities to act as brand ambassadors – they’re trying to capitalise on their influence. It’s celebrity endorsement 101 and it’s not going anywhere, but it is pivoting. 

This brings us to Victoria’s Secret’s recent attempt at clawing back to relevance; this time without their male-gaze goggles strapped so tightly to their marking approval process.

The VS Collective – Adut Akech, Amanda de Cadenet, Eileen Gu, Megan Rapinoe, Paloma Elsesser, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Valentina Sampaio. Source: PR Newswire.

The “VS Collective” rebrand is scrapping their well-established “Angels” branding in favour of more progressive ambassadors. Alongside representing the company, they will also act as an advisory board. 

This is all intended as a signal to consumers that they ‘get it’: they’re changing, and they’re no longer in service of the damaging representation of female sexuality that they peddled (and even led) for decades. Sure, they’re following all the rules, but it might be too little, too late.

The constant state of change

The most relatable stories are always the ones that agree with our worldview. Instead of debating with customers about the virtues of your product, these stories find ways of articulating something we already fundamentally agreed with. Better yet, the story makes us feel smarter for thinking that way in the first place. This can only be done when you know who you’re talking to and what they care about.

Ask yourself – what does my audience actually need/desire/care about? Where are their pain points and how are they evolving? We’ve all heard that this modern world is a ‘high-speed’ one, but people often forget that this means everyone’s in a constant state of change and evolution.

Finally, always question your position (and proposition!)

If you’re falling short and grasping at relevance, perhaps your position – or at the very least, your leading proposition – is on its way out. Maintaining brand relevance is all about moving with trends rather than attempting to capitalise on them after the fact. 

But even before that, you need to make sure you actually offer market-fit products. That way, you’re solving problems people actually have. This is far more ideal than inventing new problems you’ll have to spend a lot of marketing $$ convincing people of.

If you consider the actual value and position you hold for consumers, you’ll have a far easier time creating branded entertainment they will respond to. 

To all marketers, creatives and storytellers: good luck out there and stay tuned for more articles like this in the future!

Creativity is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets. For most of us, the end of year break is time spent away from work, attending family gatherings and, for the most part, neglecting creativity. Just like returning to the gym after some time away, re-starting your creative engine can be hard work, especially for us career creatives.

When I’m feeling creatively out of practice, there are a few ways I get my fitness back. They involve discipline, variety, tapping into the subconscious, and looking after my body. While these tactics reignite my creativity after a hiatus, the same things may not work for you; however, one or two might resonate. And, that can be creative gold. 

Let’s face it, waiting for the muse to strike is never a reliable strategy. Professional creatives rely on our ability to be creative even when we don’t want to be and that takes fitness. Just remember, sometimes all your work needs is more work, getting all of your bad ideas out onto the page so the good ones can emerge. Hopefully, what these tips convey is that if we stay disciplined outside of our creativity, we’ll have more time, focus, and energy to explore all angles inside our creative pursuits. Good luck and make 2021 an extra creative year.

A lot of businesses in Perth experience a downturn in sales over January. One reason could be that, in all of our isolated glory, we haven’t yet conformed to the always-on-economic-agenda of our eastern states counterparts, making January in Perth feel like an extended holiday. Whatever the reason, this extended downtime is not great for business. But it could be great for your brand. 

Many companies choose to simply absorb the month of unbillable overheads with a scaled back, business-as-usual approach. The alternative is recognising the opportunity it presents to invest in strategy for the months ahead. As the modern philosopher Jay Z once said: 

“Whenever there’s a drought, get your umbrellas out, because that’s when I brainstorm.”

The Strategic Starting Point

Starting the year with a proactive approach to working on, rather than in, your business is one of the best ways to ensure future growth. Investing in a marketing strategy gives you a macro perspective on the future of your brand. Start by answering key questions like: 

  1. What makes our brand unique and how does that translate into customer outcomes?
  2. What is our position in the marketplace compared to our competitors? Is there a space we can own?
  3. Who are our customers, really? How can we understand them on a deeper level? Think about their pain points, their world-views, values, even how they order their coffee.
  4. How can we frame our story in a way that speaks to our customers’ worldview?
  5. How can we build consistency and a strong identity into our brand messaging/ voice?
  6. What is the journey our customers go on before buying one of our products?
  7. What creative campaigns can we create to support the identity we’ve established?

2021 Consumer Insight Hack

The way today’s customers buy products has fundamentally changed. In 2021, buying a product or service is a form of self expression. In many cases, modern customers use what they buy to tell a story about who they think they are to themselves or others. Quality is only one of the factors that a modern consumer might care about when making a purchasing decision. Speed, security, prestige, accessibility, creativity, complexity, or simplicity are just a few of the many factors that now play into consumer choices. 

Good brand marketing focuses on these story-driven motivations; tapping into the subjective triggers different customers have for why they buy. However, understanding these motivations takes time, research, and oftentimes direct communication with a sample of the target market. Marketing strategy workshops offer a unique opportunity to connect with customers on a deeper level, going beyond demographic data to ask questions about their identity and the brands they use to express themselves. 

What’s So Remarkable About You?

In a market filled with choice, generic brands have little chance of generating high value leads through their marketing efforts. In contrast, emerging challenger brands continue to grow their market share by defining their offering at the very edges of their chosen category. Often these younger, startup style companies have positioned their offering in complete opposition to the market leader. They’ve created a brand for a customer currently being underserved by the status quo. They’ve defined their products and their brand to align to their customer’s values and beliefs. They’ve made the assertion that: 

This is a product for people who believe _______. Nobody else matters.

In order for this marketing strategy to work, it must come from the company’s DNA. Strategies that embellish, invent, or fabricate the qualities that make a brand remarkable do everyone a disservice. Customers are left with expectations that won’t be met and the business sees no return on investment. 

How We Strategise

Dear Storyteller’s philosophy is to investigate remarkability, not invent it. 

Our goal is to discover the genuine, human, essence of a brand and develop creative that showcases that, authentically. We don’t subscribe to a dogmatic playbook on what marketing in certain industries should look like. Our influences know no barriers; , from other industries your customers love, to entertainment engines, and pop culture proclivities.

By formulating a marketing strategy in January, Perth businesses can set themselves up for year long success. It becomes a guidebook to inform each creative brief. The impact of this strategic synergy is content that stays on-brand and campaigns that support your brand promise while delivering the best ROI. 

Pretty remarkable what can be made out of a slow sales month …