Drawing the Line Between Interesting and Offensive Marketing

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At Advertising Week Europe, we dived into offense vs banality, why inclusive marketing has an impact and why brands need to help their frazzled customers out.

New rules for engagement are necessary for marketing now that consumer attitudes to these three trends are changing.

Advertising Week Europe is wrapped up and I had the joy of sharing the stage with Cheryl Calverley, CMO of Eve Sleep and pro understander of audiences. Our chat covered the difficulty of avoiding banal creative in a society that is more easy to offend, more expectant of diverse representation and honestly just more stressed out. We ran through three top trends shaping consumer attitudes and how marketers should respond to create seriously provocative messaging without causing a PR meltdown.

This is the first part of a mini-series on AW360 to help you unlock the power of trends in your marketing strategy. Watch out for the next installment on the winners and losers of diversity marketing.

Trend 1: The rise of the Neo-Civil consumer

We are living through an era of serious cultural change – where entrenched norms are being challenged – but the flip side is social friction, fear of causing offense and angry censorship of counter opinion. This affects more people than you might think, well over half of British adults think that it should be illegal to write offensive comments on social media – ending trolls but also stifling debate.

Cheryl’s view is that brands cannot be scared of getting into the fray, because great marketing should be creating conversation – not playing it safe. But the difference between conversation and offense lies in staying true to your branding. When Eve Sleep annoyed staunch snoozers with an open letter to Tim Cook asking him to kill the snooze button for the sake of people’s health, Eve Sleep was making a stand to create healthy sleeping habits and solve the sleep crisis. To the angry snoozers, the solution is clear – go to bed earlier (and even better if it’s on an Eve mattress). Just jumping on Neo-Civility issues will not win you any favours when it is not tied to your branding. Just take Gillette for example, a brand that spent decades propping up alpha style masculinity just to U-turn as a women’s rights activist? I think not.

Trend 2: All Inclusive branding is no longer ‘a nice to have’

Inclusive branding should not be an add on, nor an afterthought in the UK alone nearly 40% of consumers think advertising is not doing a good job of representing diversity. The trend towards inclusivity makes space for new, more fluid markers of identity (more on this in the next post). And brands can not afford to ignore the signals anymore. In Cheryl’s view, the campaigns that manage to be inclusive usually throw up more interesting options, which has the double effect of tying into her first point about kick-starting conversation. According to Cheryl if you are struggling to sell it to your CFO – great. Libresse’s Blood Normal took 4 years to get through and look at the commendation that has received for shaking up a stale category.

Trend 3: Consumers trust brands to make decisions in the Prescribed Life

Time is being squeezed by the pressure to fill all waking hours with productivity and self-improvement. This pressure is particularly keenly felt in Western Europe, where well over half of consumers admit that they are often under time pressure. But brands are here with a solution, to take the mental burden of decision making away from consumers and make more time for the important stuff (hint, sleep may have come up). For the brand who gains permission to prescribe, the opportunity is huge as consumers come to rely on your service and advice.

Feel free to dig into the trends on Foresight Factory and watch out for my next post that dives into how to marketing inclusively.

For more content like this, be sure to check out AWLearn, Advertising Week’s year-round, video-on-demand continuing education program, which combines the best moments and the brightest minds from the global stages of Advertising Week.

Meabh Quoirin

CEO & Co-Owner at Foresight Factory (Formally Future Foundation)

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