In today’s noisy media landscape, brands struggle to stand out — knowing that, while it’s important to be loud, it’s more important to remain strategic. At Version 2.0, we help our brands tell stories that fit their core identities and that can be used to position them as disruptive, impactful companies. To do the same, communications professionals need to help brands stay relevant and ahead of trends, finding homes for them in news stories that best suit their message.
Timely campaigns aim to align brands with trending topics in the news. This can be done in endless ways — from fun campaigns like creating a donut that trends with #TheDress debate to sending out an ad when the lights go out during the Super Bowl, or even making important statements by joining the social media movement around gay marriage becoming legal. Each of these examples immediately aligned a brand with a hot topic in a timely fashion. However, some trends — often those that fill our news feeds for months on end — can be more sensitive in nature. If a communications team chooses to align a brand with one of these more delicate topics, they need to take the time to develop a relevant, impactful position while remaining conscious of those it could impact. If done incorrectly, the result could be a flop.
Take the Pepsi advertisement from 2017, for example. Even if you lived under a rock last year, you should remember the advertisement that featured Kendall Jenner trying to diffuse a protest by offering a police officer a Pepsi. Because it made light of a very serious issue, this ad sent people into an uproar; both Kendall and Pepsi are still recovering from the backlash. Pepsi’s message may have been inspired by good intentions — given the many protests occurring around that time — but the end-product came across as insensitive and ingenuine, painting a bad image for the brand and resulting in a PR nightmare.
Considering the various ways to approach brand narratives, we’ve shared a few tips to help agencies and their clients develop campaigns around both sensitive and light-hearted topics:
Do the research
Fully understand a topic before aligning the brand
Study the target audience; if the audience takes a topic seriously, reflect that level of seriousness in the message
Be cautious when utilizing influencers and aligning their image with the brand
Develop and understand the brand’s identity
Become well-acquainted with the values, initiatives and history of a client
Align corporate values with timely topic
Associate the brand with stories that best match their message
Understand the most prevalent influencers and culture of the movement
Conduct outreach to the media expected to cover this topic and those who already have, as well as any influencers that have expressed interest in it