Brands are making conscious, concise efforts to at the very least, appear to be more culturally/socially/ethically/economically aware. And for the most part, we as consumers, lap it up, because our money feels like it's going to a better place. I spent extra money on Nike running shoes last weekend (so happy to see those same shoes being advertised with a 40 fucking % discount now for black Friday), I consciously did it, simply because they took a choice to put a swooshy middle finger up against an ideology that I detest. I also went to Iceland for my ritual Sunday grocery shop for the first time since my uni days, content in the knowledge that if I continue to give them my money, rang-tan may well be able to go home one day.
I went to two events this week, hosted by two agencies I admire in two different ways. One hosted by We Are Social, discussing what the marriage between brands and social media consumers will look like in 2019. The other hosted by GOOD agency, breaking down what good insight actually is, and what it can do for a campaign. Two really amazing talks, bursting with valuable knowledge and plenty of food for thought.
The conversation, as they tend to do these days, fell to the discussion of brands, and this new world of re-positioning their image as being great moral bastions in these troubled times. And it was absolutely fascinating to hear it being discussed from the stand point of people within the agency world, and the standpoint of those from charity backgrounds.
First things first, it's a good thing. Nike effectively telling America's trumpkins to crawl back into their caves, will hopefully go down as a defining 'moment', but to the vast amount of oppressed inner youths that 'that advert' will mean so much to, Nike is still not an affordable product. Iceland raising awareness at the devastation of palm oil consumption and eliminating all palm oil based products from their stores, is a great move to enforce consumer awareness, trouble is Iceland, you aren't as cheap as you used to be, and all your stuff is still covered in plastic that will inevitably end up destroying another environment.
What's the next step? Is it about telling the consumer they should be changing while providing no other incentive for that other than communicating that it's the right thing to do? Sounds like profiteering to me, and fair play, at least a little bit of good come from that.
However, people striving for a better world is nothing new, there are people and organisations who make it their sole purpose to confront and fix a certain issue. They are called charities. And isn't it fucking mental, that I consciously walked an extra 25 minutes to spend more money that what I usually would, just to give myself a pat on the back and a little up-yours to the palm oil. I could have given that money straight to Greenpeace to fund their lobbying, I could have used that spare time I had, to search for ways to better help the ever shrinking rainforests. So this new phenomenon, *while being a good thing*, is a major shake up to the entire charity sector. A huge amount of money they receive is the feel good £, a little something here and there to make an individual feel better about themselves. If the brands start to get all of that, the charities then become less effective at their direct action.
At GOOD, I listened to a group of intimidatingly intelligent people discuss this new world. It's a huge opportunity, great new partnerships can be formed, and once bootstrapped charities can piggyback onto the vastly superior media spends of the big brands, awareness will go through the roof. But, and I quote a quote that was quoted by an amazing Senior Planner there, "peoples brains are like water, they will find the easiest route," and this resonated to me, charities want commitment, they want you to be involved, they may ask you to change your mindset, challenge your norms and be an evangelist for the cause. It's a lot to ask in a society that allows less and less freedom with time and money.
So although there is a massive opportunity now for charities, brands are muscling into their space, and they have much bigger resources with which to settle it with. What's next? How do charities evolve to counter this? Partnerships are great, but brands will forever get the better portion of the cake, because they have the bigger spoon.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm about as loyal as a puppy at a birthday party, eagerly running between new causes that I see on social media or in the news, then running off to the next one as soon as things get a bit too personal. All that brands want, lets face it, is for me to choose to spend my money on them, double satisfaction, I get a beautiful looking pair of running shoes, that will definitely shave a minute or two off my 12 mile time, and all with the sweet satisfaction of knowing I'm helping Nike fight against oppression.... or is that the Kapernick Foundation?
A big budget, a world class team of marketeers, combined with an appealing aura of emotional wellbeing, is a powerful sales tool. I am not against brands making the most of this, we all need to make money, and awareness is still part of the fight. But what's next? When does awareness become action, and when do we flip the script and demand more as consumers from the brands?