Campaigns have always changed seasonally – just look at this 1912 ad for ‘winter soap’. The sad thing is that they haven’t evolved much over time. If we treated winter in the same way as other trending societal conversations and used it to gain insight into what consumers care about, then maybe we would see more than cold women wearing ‘life changing’ Oodie blankets… So here’s a run-down of where we could start.
Rain does funny things to humans. What are you trying to protect in the rain? An outfit? Your hair? Do you drive more cautiously? How hard does the rain have to get before you start slowing down and thinking about your own mortality? The best ads are short reflections of our own behaviours that we may never have noticed before (or at least, never put into words). Think dashing between shop awnings to avoid the brunt of the rain, taking a comically long step to pass over a puddle, or walking through the rain because someone once told you that running would increase your exposed surface area. How would you feel seeing these behaviours referenced in a piece of marketing?
Here’s another example. Sunlight becomes a precious commodity in winter; for early risers, 5:30am starts were once greeted with soft pink hues on the horizon. Now, they mean upwards of another hour and a half of darkness. On the other end of the spectrum, more and more workers will be leaving the office at twilight or worse for the next few months. How does this affect us? What does it do to our mood? What are the nice and not-so-nice parts of the experience, and could they be reflected in an ad?
The specificity of these experiences, behaviours, and beliefs are the portals into insights that can connect a consumer with a brand or product.
At the very least, consumers are more likely to believe a brand that gets them on one level will get them on another. As Seth Godin said, “People don’t believe what you tell them, and they rarely believe what you show them. They often believe what their friends tell them. They always believe what they tell themselves.”
If a consumer tells themselves that your brand understands them, you’ve fostered a space for connection and loyalty to thrive. But there’s no silver bullet; it’s a cumulative approach that should factor in every touchpoint and design choice along the way. The ad is just one piece of evidence among many that contribute to the consumer feeling understood.
Some winter-specific consumer needs are obvious. For instance: the weather is getting colder, so people will be looking to update their winter wardrobe and buy more blankets and heaters for their home. Let’s take that to another level: people will want to escape the miserable weather, so they might consider booking holidays in sunny locations. Even deeper: online shopping spikes during cold weather. Not only because people want to stay indoors, but because they’re looking for mood-boosting experiences.
Even if you don’t incorporate winter themes into your campaign, you can still use this information to avoid marketing mishaps. There’s no point blowing your budget promoting an in-store deal when most people will be shopping at home. But how do you avoid becoming part of the landslide of cosy-jacket-wearing, tea-drinking clichés that appear at this time of year? Can you find a way to reflect the not-so-obvious authentic experiences rather than tired stereotypes?
Superdry’s 2021‘The Jacket to Own Winter’ campaign immediately comes to mind as a missed opportunity. The international fashion brand was aiming to present its jackets as the ultimate wardrobe necessity for the season. They enlisted Winter Olympics athletes and boldly claimed that the ad encouraged Aussies to do everything they couldn’t do in the lockdown winters. However, the generic scenes of friends wearing the jackets in various touristy locations across Victoria just felt empty. Perhaps if they had gone deeper than ‘people in winter need jackets,’ they could have created more meaningful connections with their consumers.
Winter means something completely different in the Northern hemisphere. Over there, it coincides with Christmas, and this influences practically all of the advertising. Brands focus on nostalgia, the importance of family, and the usual holiday clichés; advertising based solely on ‘winter’ is rarely seen. So, when it comes to creating marketing campaigns that are influenced by winter weather alone, Australia is mostly on its own.
Without that ability to look to iconic global brands, there aren’t many innovative winter campaigns Australians can use as inspiration. The closest we’ve gotten to challenging the well-trodden tropes of winter advertising is the 2021 Tasmanian tourism campaign, ‘The Call of the Off Season’. Did it use a lot of familiar wintery scenes? Yes. But the campaign also went in a fresh direction, aiming to reframe ‘off season’ tourism to Tasmania. The two 15-second films urged Australians to embrace the winter attractions, with Tourism Tasmania CEO, John Fitzgerald, claiming the ads showed that ‘winter is when we thrive’.
And it’s true, the ad makes you feel excited about an invigorating winter adventure in Tasmania. BMF’s group planning director Thomasine Burnap said the ad features ‘the almighty roar of a pagan bonfire, the hiss of a lakeside sauna, the beautiful mess of a seafood feast, or the throb of a festival stage’. These evocative scenes certainly created a strong campaign, but how can we take winter marketing further and connect to consumers on a deeper level?
One way that marketers can connect with consumers’ weather-related needs is by anticipating changes in the day-to-day weather, rather than creating blanket campaigns for whole seasons. Stella Artois analysed 12 years of Met Office data and found that the actual everyday weather had more of an impact on their sales than the seasons. This insight is a game-changer. When we anticipate weather events rather than reacting to them, we can reach customers at the exact moment they’re most receptive to a specific message. But how do we pull this off?
Take Pantene: they researched the key weather triggers for ‘bad hair days’ and then partnered with a weather channel so they could show ads on the pages that were forecasting these changes. This resulted in a 28% increase in sales. The ads themselves were pretty basic, but the tactic could easily be repurposed into a campaign with more powerful and emotionally resonant creative assets.
A bit closer to home: AAMI used current weather conditions in a 2016 outdoor advertising campaign for roadside assistance. They had a series of digital billboards, which would switch between versions of the ad depending on whether it was sunny, rainy, cloudy, or windy. A stormy version featured sinister lightning bolts behind a family on the side of the road; the caption read ‘a storm travels fast, we move faster’. Typical insurance slogan aside – the ad would have made an impact because of its incredible relevance in that moment.
It’s an obvious connection: when you’re outside, the weather will affect you more. Also, if you’re targeting customers with time-sensitive advertising, then the location can matter too. Outdoor advertising is particularly useful for connecting with customers right when they need your specific solution; even more so if you can reflect the specific experiences they might have in that physical space.
Strategic outdoor advertising like this can position consumers to be much more receptive to the messaging. Ideally, the creative strives to complement a person’s day rather than interrupt it (we see you, YouTube ads). This means outdoor advertising is not only useful for providing in-the-moment solutions to winter woes; it’s also an opportunity to make a lasting impression and relate authentically to consumers.
So, how do we use these innovations in time-sensitive weather advertising and outdoor marketing to move winter advertising forward? How do we take advantage of the opportunities that seasonal topics provide?
Well, a key takeaway would be that these techniques are all well and good; but if you just use them to target customers with generic content, then eventually the novelty will wear off. Surely, when the first online banner ad was seen in 1994, people didn’t scroll past it with a world-weary sigh like they do nowadays. If we use these weather-sensitive innovations to reflect relatable, entertaining, or emotional human experiences rather than convey a generic call-to-action, then maybe they won’t end up the same way.
We’ll leave you with one piece of Australian winter advertising that has succeeded in breaking the mould. Wunderman Thompson’s 2021 campaign for Anglicare WA, ‘The Cold Campaign’, was designed to highlight the plight of homeless people sleeping rough in the winter. Using the idea of ‘temperature contagion’ – where your body temperature cools just from hearing or seeing someone suffering from the cold – they created an ad that actually made listeners feel cold. How? Well, Wunderman Thompson put actor Liam Graham into a commercial freezer before he voiced the ad. It was well-received, winning the Gold and Silver Siren Awards for 2022’s best radio ad.
So, next time winter rolls around, try steering away from over-used concepts and surface-level references. Instead, look at the unique ways winter can affect the experiences of the consumers your brand speaks to. This way, you can create an authentic, emotion-led campaign that subverts expectations and delivers relevant solutions.
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’.
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.
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?
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.
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…
Every year, we’re presented with a fresh crop of blockbuster Super Bowl ads, each speaking to a broad-reaching global audience. In 2022, the space was dominated by crypto, health and wellness, and electric vehicles, alongside the unsurprising commercials for snacks and beer; after all, this is advertising at its most mainstream.
Super Bowl ads represent some of the highest-budget commercial spots in the world, and frequently reflect larger happenings in the mainstream advertising sphere.
So, what do this year’s Super Bowl ads tell us? In a nutshell: there’s been a shift towards more fun and bizarre ads, rollouts continue to diversify, and celebrities are still a mainstay for older audiences.
Let’s dive a bit deeper, shall we?
With more competition for attention than ever before, brands are leaning heavily into both comedy and the bizarre just to get cut through.
The global pandemic extending through its second year has created a market crying out for fun. Subsequently, brands took themselves less seriously this year and joined the party. Take Bud Light, for example; last year, their ad used a downpour of lemons to reference life alongside the pandemic. This year, Guy Fieri is the mayor of Flavourtown in a colourful and whimsical piece centred around celebration.
That said, the financial impacts of COVID-19 have also resulted in more brands taking a retail-driven approach this year. Products are front and centre, features and benefits are not-so-subtly worked into the script, and some of the nuance of years gone by has been lost.
One advertiser that used an unusual sleight-of-hand tactic to cut through was the mountain water brand Liquid Death. Their ad features a crew of kids (and one pregnant woman) having a raging party and guzzling from tall cans, before revealing at the last moment that those cans simply hold water in beer-like packaging. It’s an unexpected, somewhat subversive strategy, and it certainly caught its viewers’ attention.
Notably, fewer brands chose to tap into truly clever behavioural insights that felt both surprising and inevitable at the same time, compared to ads from previous years such as Alexa’s Body by Amazon.
This year continued the frantic evolution of the Super Bowl ad rollout. For brands trying to compete in this space, it’s no longer about running a singular commercial during the big game. In 2022, it’s a multi-channel campaign.
Some brands got in early by teasing their spots, while others released their full spots weeks before the game. However, the biggest spectacle ads and Super Bowl mainstays like Budweiser and this year’s Crypto.com spot still waited to debut during the game. Interestingly, the ads that were teased before the big game came from brands with a little more social clout, like Amazon, Frito-Lay, and Pringles. They’d already earned the benefit of the doubt that viewers would anticipate the entertainment value of their spot.
A Super Bowl media buy cost over $6million USD this year, despite expected viewership being lower than in years past. Media plans for the big game are extending onto social platforms more than ever before, and advertisers are adapting their commercials to suit platforms like Instagram and Tiktok.
Celebrities featured heavily across many campaigns, with brands eager to capitalise on the halo effect celebrity endorsements have on ongoing social media conversations. We saw Zendaya star for Squarespace, Steve Buscemi and Serena Williams for Michelob Ultra, and a slew of big-name celebrities in the Uber Eats ad, amongst many others.
However, we typically saw overexposed celebrity personalities that we’ve already seen selling just about anything over the years. It’s always more satisfying to see a surprising face. Presenting an unexpected perspective or personality is far more likely to connect with viewers and create a stronger talking point; both critical factors in an exceedingly competitive space.
The reliance on celebrities points to the older market the Super Bowl now attracts. It’s also indicative of the ongoing struggle sport continues to have in captivating and attracting a younger audience. Those young viewers tend to identify with influencers, creators and gamers more than movie stars, which we’re yet to see reflected in Super Bowl material. How soon might it be before the media buy for a gaming world championship final is more expensive than the Super Bowl? In the years to come, we may see that shift as advertisers seek to connect with younger generations.
Looking ahead to 2023, we can expect a slew of new ads that highlight behavioural shifts and reflect the ever-changing marketing landscape.
We might see another change in tone again as audience lifestyles and worldviews continue to be influenced by the pandemic. Influencers will likely step into the ring amongst the expected celebrity-driven spots; and as audiences continue to evolve, will gaming overtake sport as the leading form of live streamed entertainment?
Check out this article to get caught up on this year’s clutch of Super Bowl commercials.
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.
You might have seen the latest green hydrogen ad campaign released by Andrew Forrest in the media recently. It’s an interesting one! So interesting in fact, that ABC’s ‘WA Country Hour’ called Dear Storyteller GM Mike Drysdale to talk about it.
It’s not often that a well known billionaire deliberately releases an ad campaign that positions themselves as the villain. It was a bold, subversive strategy by Mr. Forrest and his team, but also one we have to say, he kind of pulled off.
Mike’s interview starts at the 20 minute mark, here’s what he had to say:
“I think Andrew is playing this in a really interesting way. There seems to be a bit of reverse psychology going on here. “
“He’s made some really deliberate choices in this video to not come across as a Greeny. I think that he wants the target audience to believe that this is a cold hearted financially motivated decision.”
“When you look at the way they’ve made this particular ad too, with the music, with Andrew’s delivery, his slow calculated movements, even the lavish setting and things surrounding him. He’s not humbling himself in this video. He’s chosen to position himself as the antagonist, the villain almost.”
“And he’s challenging the viewer. He’s speaking to a very specific worldview which is this very achievement oriented, financially motivated, capitalist minded person, someone with a hyper competitive outlook.”
“And because of that I think this might make a lot of people scratch their heads. But maybe, it will speak to a small percentage of very important people in this debate. This could be the bull fighter waving the red flag. And maybe they’ll play the part of the bull and charge it.”
“What I think is really interesting about the strategy here is that Andrew’s not asking individuals to turn their appliances off. He’s putting this squarely at the feet of his competitors and fellow high net worth individuals.”
“There are multiple possible outcomes with a campaign like this. Perhaps his competitors do step up to the plate, follow him into this space and create a better future. On the other-hand, perhaps there’s just a halo effect from the general public thinking, wow Andrew’s really going for this.”
Want to see for yourself? Take a look at the spot here:
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:
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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”.
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.
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” 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!
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:
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 …