Optimism Vs. Pragmatism In Brand Campaigns

An article by Stuart Elliott in the New York Times suggests that brands are taking a more realistic approach with the tone conveyed in their communications strategies in the new year.

A recent article by Stuart Elliott in the New York Times suggests that brands are taking a more realistic approach with the tone conveyed in their communications strategies in the new year – a contrast to the more “don’t worry, be happy” attitude conveyed in past, economically happier times.  The article suggests a more accepting yet resolute approach, at best. And a cantankerous, critical (of competing brands) tone, at worst. But does this tell the full story – or are many brands still embracing optimism to drive long-term engagement?

From Unilever’s Promise ads attacking rival Smart Balance, to Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig’s legal battle, the mud-slinging examples of competitive claims exist.  But haven’t they always?  And Nicorette’s honest print ad (pictured above) was rejected by some publications for using the word “sucks”.

However, other recent campaigns would suggest that optimism in current brand campaigns is still strong. Diesel’s “Be Stupid” campaign celebrates the irreverence of taking brazen risks in order to create something magical during one of those attempts. Coke’s “Happiness Machine” surprises students with tokens and gifts that would make anyone happy.  And Spike Jonze’s short film for Absolut vodka – “I’m Here” – speaks to the notion that “ordinary is no place to be” by telling a love story between two robots.

Allen P. Adamson, managing director of the New York office of Landor Associates, believes that

“There’s a place for a more realistic, tell-it-like-it-is attitude even though in the long run, a more optimistic tone will be more successful.”

A brand should never lie to its consumers, nor fail to acknowledge and respond to where their heads and hearts are at.  If it’s a place of worry over the global economic climate, that can’t be ignored – but it would be equally ineffective to foster a sense of bitterness or surrender.  Here’s hoping that the branding and advertising landscape continues to be permeated by hopeful, honest messaging that engages consumers and inspires them to positive action.

New York Times: “Campaigns Walk the Invisible Tightrope”

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