Bringing culture into branding
This ad represents a good example of cultural branding, a concept popularised by a number of American academics, notably Douglas Holt, who believe that products or services that base their marketing communications on cultural themes reflecting current societal desires and anxieties have a better chance of making an impact and ultimately of achieving cult status; the greatest opportunities for brands today is to deliver not entertainment, but rather myths their customers can use to manage the exigencies of a world that increasingly threatens their identities.
From the VW ads of the 1950s, the Ben Jerry’s ads of the 1990s to a recent Stonyfield Farm yogurt viral campaign, American businesses have never been afraid of wading into controversial societal issues if they feel it can help their brands. Have a look at the Stonyfeld Farm “Let’s Eat Organic” video to see just how adversarial they are prepared to be.
We’re much more circumspect. Irish businesses rarely dip their toe into the political arena unless it’s a passing jokey reference. It may have something to do with our past that seems to inhibit our ability to confront issues in public.
Former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald bemoaned the fact that try as he might he failed in a life-long attempt to get more issues discussed in public, concluding that “the Irish prefer the concrete to the conceptual”. Prof Joe Lee, however, may have been closer to the mark when he declared that “the peasant residue in the Irish psyche confuses necessary confidentiality with furtive concealment”.
A possible exception to the rule was the 2010 ad for the Dublin Airport Authority, which tried to link the opening of Terminal 2 with a national regeneration message, but the copy didn’t quite manage to transcend the twin pitfalls of bombast and boredom. Nevertheless, it was a brave and welcome attempt to integrate marketing communications messages with wider societal concerns. Given our economic woes, there has surely never been a better time to create brand stories, which “reflect current societal desires and anxieties”.
A recent Bord Bia consumer survey designed to help Irish food brands make the most of the present circumstances confirmed the pessimistic outlook among consumers; almost half the public believe that the economy will deteriorate further this year, but went on to suggest possible strategies for finding opportunities in adversity. Helen King, director of research and insight at Bord Bia, has grouped those opportunities under five headings, the five Ps:
* Protection:protecting people from uncertainty and risk
* Practical:helping people to plan and be more self-reliant
* Permission:encouraging people to make connections
* Purpose:giving new meaning and purpose to people’s lives
* Pride:re-building a sense of pride and achievement.
King’s analysis of the Bord Bia data suggests possible fruitful approaches for Irish food brands at a time when the population is suffering unprecedented “collective anxieties”. What’s needed is for Irish food businesses to start meaningful and entertaining conversations with the public.