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In the age of viral boycott, how can brands deal with the concept of awakened advertising

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India being a diverse nation, it is one of those markets that is very sensitive to cultural appropriation and religion.

By Sahil Chopra

What does it mean to be awake? To put it simply, it is a term used to describe a person who is aware of the political and social issues that prevail in the world. What happens when we interweave the concept of awakening to marketing? It gives birth to brands that produce content to raise awareness and not just promote their brand. It shows how they support social causes and present themselves as more than just a sales driven entity.

In the age of social media, anything and everything can be found online. The world is connected in one forum and socio-political issues of all kinds are brought to light with every passing second. Some users and brands tend to take advantage of this to create awakened content in order to both raise awareness and increase engagement by following the basics of momentary marketing.

Brands that engage in wake-up advertising align with reform messages and values ​​that align with prosocial business practices; this is often referred to as brand activism. Brands strive to create potential social change and gain brand value. This often proves how socially conscious brands are. Authentic brand activism talks about a brand’s purpose, values, message, and practice that determine and build a holistic system for creating authenticity.

Authentic Awakened Content has created an opportunity for brands to connect more closely with their audience and give them a campaign that their audience relates to. The success rate of Awakened Campaigns is undoubtedly high due to the more liberal spirit of the Millennial and Gen Z.

The Superbowl’s #LikeAGirl campaign in 2014 spoke about the number of young girls who consider themselves weak due to the social conditioning of notch lighting and their destruction. The campaign not only broke the stigma surrounding girls, but also turned out to be one of the first ad series with a feminist stance generating up to 96% positive feelings in just three months, with 90 million views. It also ranked as the second most viral video in the world.

Brands should also recognize the high risk associated with awakened advertising. Maintaining legitimacy in dealing with sensitive social or political issues means preventing risk from attacking your entire brand entity. Nike, being one of the main advocates of racial representation, took the right risk with its Kaepernick campaign, even if conservative viewers didn’t like it.

The brand when planning a global campaign should have a thorough study of the different attitudes towards social and political issues such as gender, sexuality, diversity, culture, religion, among others, because all of these factors influence the way people think. Some markets have very strict taboos dictated by religion. India being a diverse nation, it is one of those markets that is very sensitive to cultural appropriation and religion.

Recently, brands like FabIndia have come under intense scrutiny; their visualization did not go well with the masses and they were virally boycotted for the same. Likewise, Tanishq and Red Label found themselves in danger last year for apparently promoting controversial campaigns.

In the age of cancellation culture, brands are walking around eggshells in the sea of ​​consumers who don’t appreciate wake-up calls. It is when brands break away from the practice of genuine brand activism that they create inauthentic advertisements that are often misleading to their users. They not only damage their social image, but also hamper the potential to be seen as a standard bearer for brand activism that believes in social change.

Brands need to realize that they are far too human. Advertising is a mirror of what society represents, tolerates and allows up to a limit. Creating an awakened campaign is never a bad idea. It is execution that needs to be focused on creating a positive impact rather than an impact that annoys people. Brands must and must lead by example and treat with respect the issues that are sensitive to their consumers in order to establish themselves as a game changer in their market.

However, shifting responsibility for change to capitalist brands would only allow them to advance their cause and distract from the real problem.

It will take time for brands to fully understand the reach of awakened advertising, but for that to happen we as people need to change first.

The author is Founder and CEO, iCubesWire

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