It’s behind you! Earning smiles for brands

Like a pantomime villain, Coronavirus had finally been forced into the background for a lot of people in recent months. Just as consumers and businesses began to get comfortable delivering products and experiences to an audience ‘getting back to normal’, Plan B conversations are here and upon us.

Policy and legislation that is set to completely dictate our lifestyle for the coming winter months is being hastily hurried together. COVID is back on the agenda for brands, as if it ever really went away.

One interesting conversation that I’ve already had ‘over the desk’ this week:

Does it become harder for brands to make people smile against a backdrop of negativity. And should they even try?

The instinctive reflex as a marketeer is to try and qualify what our gut feeling tells us. A killer stat. Some kind of academic research. An insight that encapsulates what people are feeling and how they are going to behave…

Are people feeling negative?

A recently published ONS study has found that the wellbeing and happiness levels of the UK “deteriorated across all indicators” between April 2020 and March 2021. It follows on from the downward trend of the previous year but “even more sharply”; the highest decline the Office for National Statistics has seen since it started measuring personal wellbeing, reported the Independent.

That’s a yes then. How should brands engage them during challenging times?

There is a risk that ignoring a difficult world reality looks tone-deaf. Trying to put a positive spin on that reality can become awkwardly self-serving and disconnected.

The safe space is purpose and ‘for good’, which continues to be put right at the centre of brand values and behaviours. But does that still leave room for ‘just a bit of fun?’ As we approach Christmas, maybe there is an appetite for switching off from reality for the festive season and enjoying a frivolous holiday period and some expensive adverts.

Above all else, be authentic.

The campaigns and activations that cut through are always the ones fundamentally based in authenticity and relevance to their audience. When we’re storytelling, whether choosing to tackle serious issues or bringing a more light-hearted approach to the situation, both are equally valid routes to making people smile. Like the pantomime villain, success is more about timing and adding value to the experience of engaging.

Ask yourself (or ask us):

What story can your brand tell that people will want to listen to?

Is this the best time to do it?

What can you do to add value to your audience?

Thinking by Leigh Ireland