When our conversation briefly turns from a large man with very orange hair, to what we call in the industry, “Brand Implosion” things must be pretty bad in the world of corporate advertising. You have already seen the videos, or heard on the news or read the articles on PEPSI, UNITED AIRLINES and ADIDAS. What does it mean for the small business or indie marketer? Taking cues from the “big mothers” of American (and international brands) there is a singular thread they all have in common: Tone Deafness.
What is tone? What does it mean when your brand is simply not acknowledging the community, the diversity or customers in the message? Its as if the creative team were all communicating with little orange juice cans with string: they were trying their best but in truth, the tools they had to work with were simply out of date. Internally, these companies have lost sight of not only the reality of our culture, they also have no internal systems to check, balance and challenge the creative and the policies of their organization. This leads to chaos, mixed messages and in the case of ADIDAS, no one ‘proofread’ the emails that went out after the Boston Marathon. The President of United Airlines took “days” to apologize to the public and to the passenger who had been dragged down the aisle of the airplane when employees were there to take the seats. In customer service jobs I have had, no where in the rules does it say employees come first. The fact that this was policy that had stood for years, was nothing short of entitlement, that had no bearing on what the airline’s job is: they move customers from one place to another and they do it safely, comfort and customer service.
What Pepsi tried to do, was be relevant; they attempted to be “connective” to the world and also missed the tone, the meaning, the content of about the real issues of race, protest and the black community in their attempt to portray something they thought was relatable. They lost sight of the seriousness of the world around them by being inside a huge corporate bubble. Inside this bubble, there is no diversity, no awareness, no checks or balances or even a proofreader.
All brands no matter how big, or small, must keep sight of what it is to be serving the public who help them continue to be in business. Onwards, and upwards, I hope, from here.