For (basically) forever, marketing strategies for sales have been built around the “4 Ps” (product, price, place, promotion). Getting most or all of these right meant having your product in the right place, at the right time, with the right message, leading to more sales. Brand and brand values have tended to be thought of as the amorphous frame or wrapper that influences messaging and activities the brand chooses to participate in. But, with the current social, political and health climate, we are seeing the rise of a fifth “P”… Purpose.
Nielsen has reported that 87% of Americans will buy a product because its parent company advocated for an issue they care about. We now live in a world where any brand action (or inaction) can turn into a social or political issue. Especially as brands are literally forced to make COVID-19 related public decisions that have a 100% chance of causing controversy (think mask and social distancing policies), they also have to be more public about their values.
In this environment, the 4 Ps seem to be taking a back seat to alternative marketing and advertising goals. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen brands transition from information and safety as “marketing” to many now focusing on values, purpose, and action. Whether advertising support for environmental, racial justice or many other hot topics, many brands are feeling themselves and going very public with their values and what the purposes they support in the world.
Old Navy: “We Are We” Ad
The clothing brand is taking a stand on racial justice. It’s latest ad promotes the #WeAreWe tagline and hashtag and features a handful of their most admired leading activists working to promote global equity, including 15-year old activist Marley Dias.
Subaru: “Love” Ad
The new commercial, follows the footsteps of Subaru’s TV commercials for its Share the Love year-end sales event in 2016 and 2017, which didn’t show vehicles. Instead, they highlighted charities supported by donations from Subaru and its retailers. Their intent was to deliver the message that Subaru is trying to support their communities and be more than just a car company.
Burger King: Cow Fart Ad
The fast food brand is addressing the dangers of cow-based greenhouse gas emissions. In studying beef production’s climate impact, Burger King found that “adding 100 grams of dried lemongrass leaves to the cows’ daily feed” led to a “reduction of up to 33% on average of methane emissions during the period the diet was fed.” According to the commercial, Whopper sandwiches with reduced methane emissions beef will be sold at select U.S. restaurants in Los Angeles, Portland, Austin, Miami and New York City.
The consumer voice is becoming an even more powerful tool, especially as younger generations teach the rest of the world how to use social platforms as a megaphone for their rallying cries. Brands living their values will most certainly benefit from the backing they will get from their aligned supporters and advocates… via their continued patronage, as well as their support when detractors come after the brand and what it stands for.
Staying on your front foot as a brand in these times means having confidence in knowing both who you will be you allies with and who may come after your brand. Hint, this takes more than watching the latest trending hashtag or liked post. It will require leveraging modern methods of culture intuition, as well as know how to spot nefarious, and potentially harmful, attacks coming your way.