Of war, ads and brands, and not being tone deaf

Brands cannot treat war as another moment marketing subject; they must stay human in their value system

Naresh GuptaUpdated: Monday, March 07, 2022, 07:25 AM IST
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As the tanks rolled into Ukraine, briefs were rolling into agencies on creating moment marketing posts. Moment marketing is the new affliction where brands are compelled to comment on all ‘moments’ even if the moment has nothing to do with the brand.

Amul, as always, was first off the block, with the Amul girl saying, ‘Don’t go from bad to wars’. Usually, Amul’s topical ads do evoke a chuckle and people move on. This ad, though, didn’t cut it for most. I felt it was juvenile and really tone deaf in the way it was created. Bajaj Allianz Life was another brand that had a post around it, and that too didn’t cut it with the audience.

The news channels in India added to the chaos with their programming e-mailers and poorly thought-out and even more poorly crafted copies. The on-screen screamers added to the cacophony and often, the channels sounded tone deaf.

THIS IS NO JOKE

However, after a week, it is clear that the war is not ending soon and brands cannot treat this as another moment marketing subject. Even Ben and Jerry ice-cream, which is very vocal on Twitter on geo-politics, is finding it difficult to keep pace with the fast-evolving theatre of war.

In a week’s time, the whole emotion around war has changed. Brands are boycotting Russia and supporting Ukraine, now without gimmicks and clever posts, but with direct simple call-out. While the big-tech pressed pause buttons to their business in Russia, likes of Vogue Ukraine were demanding an embargo.

When brands are faced with a crisis like war, there is no playbook in existence that can help them navigate. However, there are simple steps that can help them avoid the pitfalls like Amul faced. Brands have to display empathy and take sides. In war, brands cannot be standing on both sides of the fence and cannot have a flippant tone of voice.

You know that your fans and followers are spread across the world. They judge your brand on every post and every tweet. So, a brand should not create anything that becomes a bad example.

ACT WITH EMPATHY

On social media, brands do not interact with employees, suppliers or consumers; they interact with people, they interact with friends, they interact with colleagues, they interact with those who love them. It’s critical that brands stay human in their value system.

The war doesn’t seem to be coming to an end soon; the humanitarian crisis that the war has created will be with us for a decade or even more. With the world also battling the pandemic and barely coming out of it, empathy remains the key to what brands do.

As we discovered, pressing pause is OK; being tone deaf is not.

(The author is Co-founder and CSO, Bang in the Middle)

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