Monday, March 16, 2015

Being provocative with purpose

Call me crazy, but I’ve been thinking about Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber lately and wondering who their team of advisors and publicists are. They may be seen by some (many?) as stars, but public opinion (mostly parents) does not seem entirely favorable towards them. To be frank, I don’t give a sh#t about JB, I am not a beleiber. 
I’d rather have TS as a role model for my kids. Taylor Swift is provocative in her own ways, tweeting about suing her cat for $40M, all while showing she deeply cares about her fans…

One could argue that Bieber’s and Cyrus’ strategy is working because everybody talks about them. As a personal brand, it is hard to stay provocative, irreverent and credible over a long period of time. 

Think of Madonna. Think she still is credible at 50+ moving her booty on stage in lingerie?
Charlie Sheen???
Not so sure…

That strategy might work in the music & entertainment industry, but it’s less likely to be successful for corporate brands. Or is it?

The fashion world is well known for its provocative ads, from American Apparel to Armani. Kenneth Cole is well known for his work as much as for his controversial tweets. He is very good at bringing attention to his brand. But does he need it?

What’s funny is that we all play the game… As marketers and consumers, we help him and others spread their message in a pretended indignation. Just like I am right now!!

Is that a sustainable strategy? It’s a rhetorical question. If you ask Kenneth Cole, he will claim his sales are up due to his tweets. If you ask Donald Trump (he has an opinion on everything – even on birth certificates), he will tell you his brand itself is worth close to $1 billion. BS??

What if brands were to use their platforms differently? What if, rather than making a statement, that energy was funneled into being provocative with purpose?

As an organization, you can be provocative for a good cause, to bring awareness on an important issue... 

An industry disruptor like fast (before spellcheck, it had written “fats” instead of “fast” – non intentional lapsus) food chain Chipotle took provocation to a whole new level with their “Farmed and Dangerous” campaign on Hulu and their scarecrow campaign. Their purpose is to change the perception of the fast food industry: you can still eat fast, but healthier…

By raising awareness of where our food comes from and about the cruelty involved in factory farming, by challenging the status quo, Chipotle is being provocative with a purpose.

Charles DeCaro, partner in Laspata DeCaro, which created the controversial Kenar ads using supermodels such as Linda Evangelista, said it’s a different world today. “The nature of social media and reality TV, these escapades that happen are in your face 24/7. I think we’re so used to everything at this point. Nothing is quite shocking. Truth is stranger than fiction. You see these TV reality shows, teen pregnancies and bad comics and really talentless people. Everyone seems riveted to that. I am not one of these people.”

And DeCaro observed that clients aren’t looking to rock the boat.

“The nature of advertising today is a play-it-safe thing. Before you were given much more creative latitude. There were not boards to answer to,” he said. “You basically had a one-on-one relationship with the president of the company and you would impart your creative vision. Now it’s a different thing because you’re beholden to a corporation,” said DeCaro.

He believes electronic, digital and social media have changed everything, and the whole conversation has changed. “Whatever we had done in the past, we had never done ads simply to provoke. There was always a narrative behind it, and a reason behind it,” said DeCaro.

I believe gone are the days of ordinary advertisements. One by one the world’s best brands are risking everything as they commit to building stronger brand affinity through entertaining consumers with shortening attention spans and greater access to more content.  Welcome to the future of marketing where brands, media and content meet seamlessly to create the ultimate level of customer engagement. Watch what Nike did for the Soccer World Cup 2014.
Being provocative may get you noticed, but being provocative with a purpose can do a lot more for you. You will build:
  • Brand loyalty: you’re giving people a reason to love you (hope they don’t hate you for that same reason).
  • Sustainability: your customers will continue to buy your products; they will become your brand evangelists and spread your message.
  • Resiliency: Brands have their ups and downs. Those who have built a community of loyal fans and a bank of goodwill will have an easier time bouncing back from the downs.
Being provocative with a purpose means you stand for something, it means you become a change agent in a world-of-the-same.

How can you apply these ideas to your own brands?

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