Do Brands Need to Use Every Opportunity to Promote Themselves?

The world’s events don’t have to be a bandwagon to jump on

Zita Fontaine
Jun 17 · 5 min read
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Photo by Dyana Wing So on Unsplash

Content is king. Context is queen, or god, or kingdom, depending on how you choose to tweak the original Bill Gates quote. If you read just a single article about online marketing in your whole life, you must have come across the new dogma about the importance of content. Of course, as content never exists in a vacuum, the right context, right place, right time need to be added.

Thinking about these days, nothing seems right. Nor the place, the time, or the context. Since the beginning of March, the world seems to be more wrong than right. With different aspects of the pandemic: the facts, the speculations, the predictions, the mistakes, the deaths. We entered a world where credible and authentic sources of information were scarce but opinions were plenty. The re-entry into the next normal is equally stressful, providing yet another space for content, without any benchmark for the context. The recent events in the US, the protests, the rage, the Black Lives Matter movement give yet another context for plenty of content.

But do brands need to use every occasion to promote themselves or assure their consumers about their presence and support? Is it mandatory to grab every opportunity to push yourself into the forefront as a brand just because every other brand is doing it?

Regardless of the area where you operate, regardless of the product that you are selling, regardless of your profit-margins, anything that you communicate about should be relevant and useful. No exceptions. Ever.

For most brands, it is an art to find the connection between the current events and your brand in a way that is not stale from the get-go. The consumers of these days are far more educated and demanding than they used to be even five years ago. The biggest purchase power belongs to a generation who was born into the digital age, that knows what to ask for and knows how high they can set the bar. You cannot fool your customers, or at least you can’t do it for too long.

Can the Same Message Be Relevant and Useful?

In the early COVID-19 days, not only the blogosphere but loads of brands in the world jumped onto the COVID-19-bandwagon, offering advice, support, and help, alongside some promotions and special offers. Some did great and others were pathetic. Some were ahead of the competition and thrived, some were a few weeks late and were already repetitive.

In the middle of April, in a Youtube compilation video, it was already clear that each and every brand who wanted to say something about the pandemic was doing the same thing.

Every Covid-19 commercial is exactly the same. Credit: Microsoft Sam via Youtube.

Every commercial they rushed to create was built on the same structure, the same message, and even the same words.

You could argue it was relevant because of the timing and it was useful to the customers because everyone needed the same reassurance at the time: the safety, the support, the promise that the brands are here, and “we are in it together.” Let’s make it clear: The timing doesn’t make a message relevant in and by itself, and usefulness is decided by the consumers.

Moreso, if everyone is saying the same thing the same way, it raises the question of whether anyone can stand out. The sameness of the messaging creates a white noise that stops being relevant or useful after a few occasions of hearing it. People simply tune it out. And the message of reassurance is just money down the drain and the risking of brand reputation.

Emotional Triggers and Context

The next major event for brands this year is the Black Lives Matter movement and protest. Whatever happens in the world of this magnitude is an opportunity and risk for brands to equal measure.

An opportunity to say the right things or risk of ruining their reputation by doing or saying something off.

Without question, it is a highly sensitive topic, loaded with emotions, which makes it even riskier. Some brands have policies in place about certain topics, strictly defined ways of responding to sensitive subjects. But most brands and personal brands don’t have any policies in place, so they can get carried away by the turmoil and their own personal preferences and opinions.

How to decide on which topic to use as a context for your content and which to avoid? There are a few factors that brands need to weigh in and adjust their messaging structure to.

  1. Is your product relevant to and useful during the current events? If it’s not, don’t do it.
  2. If it’s not relevant, can you offer something else that is relevant to what people want to know about and buy? If you can’t, don’t do it.
  3. How far do you need to stretch from your core idea to make the connection? If it’s too far, don’t do it.
  4. Do you really know what is useful for your audience? Do you have the data and insights about them or are you just fishing in the wake of events? If you don’t know it, don’t do it.
  5. Do you understand the emotions that you are dealing with or are you communicating because you feel you have to? If you don’t, educate yourself or don’t do it. Don’t decide for your brand based on feelings, especially if it’s an emotional topic.
  6. Is there real support in what you do or is it a message that you wouldn’t say any other way? If it’s just for show, don’t do it.
  7. Do you support the causes or is it just opportunism from your side? If it’s opportunism, back off.

Opportunism Doesn’t Pay Off

It can be very attractive to join the queue and support causes just because they are trending. But the consumers are far from stupid. They can tell genuine care from opportunism. And opportunism can cost brands a lot more than they can gain from it.

If a brand supports a cause only because it’s popular, it will backfire. The brands that are credible and authentic will care about causes that are important for them, even when it’s not on everyone’s social newsfeeds.

If a brand tends to be opportunistic once, it will probably seek opportunities later again, this is driven by profit and other metrics, not genuine support.

If a brand doesn’t educate itself about the right messages before starting a campaign supporting healthcare, vaccine research, or anti-racists protests, the best way is to stay out of it.

(Brand) Silence Is Not Violence

When it comes to brand communication in sensitive matters, sometimes staying out of the loop is the best way. A brand can and should choose to stay away to protect their integrity unless the cause is their core value or their opinion is directly asked for.

Not every brand is fit to educate people, and not every penny of support has to be advertised. It is possible to be supportive without tooting your own horn. Brand silence doesn’t mean ignorance or negligence, it is a way to not drag a completely irrelevant corporate factor into a sensitive matter.

Not every silent brand is uncaring. It can mean that they chose not to use the context for their content, and in some cases, it’s for the best.

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Thanks to Zulie Rane, Amardeep Parmar, and Niklas Göke

Zita Fontaine

Written by

Check out my book on Amazon: Newsletter: Email me: zitafontaine (at) gmail

Better Marketing

Marketing advice and case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and effectively.

Zita Fontaine

Written by

Check out my book on Amazon: Newsletter: Email me: zitafontaine (at) gmail

Better Marketing

Marketing advice and case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and effectively.

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