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Bolder Businesses

Bolder Businesses


Why businesses need to be bolder in a cautious climate – read insights from our Head of Partnerships, Sian Kilgour. 

With all the political melodrama and warnings of an economic meltdown, the natural reaction for both businesses and consumers is to go into fight or flight mode.  Those choosing flight will no doubt be announcing the departures of their UK headquarters or retreating to a safe place to ride out the storm.  Thankfully there are still people out there prepared to fight; to take risks, innovate and stand for something in a climate where the general vibe is to avoid putting your head above the parapet.

To me, this presents huge opportunities for brands to achieve cut through and resonance. But to do so, they need balls. Big ones.

Two examples that have grabbed me by the proverbials in the past week are Gillette, with its Toxic Masculinity campaign, and the ITV and Veg Power partnership with top UK food suppliers including our Birds Eye client, which encourages kids to ‘Eat Them To Defeat Them’.

Our founder, Caroline Kinsey, has long lived by the adage, “Observe the masses and do the opposite”. The Veg Power ad is a brilliant example of this. The producers could easily have gone down the usual route of happy families enjoying dinner and showing the kids willingly eating their greens. But we all know that’s not reality. And it’s not changing perceptions or behaviour.

So instead, they turned this ideal on its head to show zombie-like parents ripping veg apart with their teeth, set against an Armageddon backdrop from which only the kids can save humanity by eating their veg. If only the Brexit deadlock could be solved by eating more carrots…  The Gillette marketing team and agencies no doubt had a rollercoaster time last week, as the negative commentary and ‘dislikes’ flooded social media in the initial hours after its Toxic Masculinity ad went live. That’s where those aforementioned big balls come in. It was fascinating to then observe, as the dust settled from the initial backlash, a new wave of positive feedback and discussion gathering momentum.

Whilst not everyone agreed with Gillette’s approach, many applauded the brand for at least taking a stance on a big issue. Like Brexit, it’s a topic that will always polarise different audience groups. Marketeers are unlikely to hit on a campaign that reaches their entire target demographic with a single-minded message that appeals to all.

The clear differentiator of both these campaigns is that they are not just about pushing product or gaining fans. They were prepared to stand for something and take a risk – something we’ve been advising our clients for some time. The fact that ITV now has a Director of Social Purpose shows how seriously this is being taken.

The challenge, therefore, is to decide what you want to be known for, which ultimately comes down to having a clear vision and mission for the overarching business. Not everyone can, or wants to, solve world peace. But I believe every business – big or small – can make a difference in some way through the platform they occupy and the strategic partnerships they make.