Skip to main content

The Rise of Radical Brands

Social sentiment, ideology, and culture are manifested through different forms of communication, from graffiti to personal style to journalism. Regardless of the means, through communication, we can see how society is growing together or growing apart.
In light of recent world events, communications have shown how polarized our society has become, which is made evident through radical messaging. If there is something that we can learn from this year’s Presidential election it is that our country is more divided than ever. We are becoming a tale of two Americas. There is the red state and then there’s the blue state, both with different social, political and economics views.
And many of us are left wondering: How do these societal shifts impact brands and the way in which they communicate with a divided country?
To stay relevant brands tend to mirror popular culture, which is the dominant share of values and beliefs within society. Consequently, cultural hegemony appears in advertising, movies, books, TV shows. Historically, these forms of communication reflected cultural norms and beliefs, such as boys play with cars, motorcycles are cool, women cook and that we should obey the law. But, in recent years, we have seen a huge change in these cultural norms. To get a sense of these changes, we just have to look at the extreme views in media (e.g., Breitbart News vs. Daily Kos), TV shows (e.g., Duck Dynasty vs. Modern Family) and movies (e.g., Argo vs. The Imitation Game). As a result, brands’ age-old practice of appealing to mainstream culture through mass media no longer works because there is no longer a one size fits all for communications. And now, In order to successfully communicate to consumers, brands are forced to a pick side.
From a cultural perspective, the divide is becoming too broad in our society to play in the middle: the values that are embraced by half of the population are rejected by the other half. And since people want to engage with content that reinforces their views (creating a confirmation bias), they are more likely to pay attention to media, TV shows, books, and brands that substantiate and support their views. 
From a media perspective, digital has become the new form of mass media but on a personal level. Today, we have an infinite range of options to watch what we love, when and where we want.
Not surprising, the brands that are becoming culturally relevant with one group are distancing themselves from another. Spotify is a great example of this: post-election, the company is promoting an anthem about moving to Canada. Another example is the Camera company 360fly's off-color satire of a hypothetical Trump administration was banned by three of the four major broadcast networks. And finally, a Mexican beer maker, Tecate, premiered a commercial during the first presidential debate mocking Republican nominee Donald Trump's rhetoric and his promised wall. All of these brands are creating content that appeals to one group within society while also repelling another.

In summary, communication is a building block for our social reality. The more polarized our society is, the more brands are forced to align their messages to appeal to its buyer base


Popular posts from this blog

The Irrational Power of Nudge Brands

Nudge brands are brands built on interactions, not attitudes. They are mostly defined by experiences, not TV campaigns. They are designed around people's inconsistencies and errors, not for machines. They are simple, not complex. They like to break things into small chunks that are less daunting than big tasks. They focus on changing behavior, not generating awareness and interest. The Paris metro system card is a nudge brand. It is designed against human errors. You can use the card in any direction. IKEA is a nudge brand. It uses the power of personal investment. The more involved people are in creating something, the better they feel about the end product. Ryanair is a nudge brand. It chunks the whole purchase process. They lock you in with a low 'seat price' first to get a mental commitment. Then, they start to add the extra charges in bite-sized 'chunks.' Hare Krishna is a nudge brand. It is built on the reciprocity rule by giving away daisies. People should …

The Curse of Advertising Resources

With more platforms, more products and more content who are trying to reach a disengaged audience, it is becoming harder and harder for brands to stand out. Conventional practices are no longer working. People don't watch TV as much as they used to, so they don't see commercials.  They don't click on banner ads. They don't pay attention to billboards ads. And they don't trust brands' messages. Part of the problem is that we are too dependent on traditional ad resources, which limits the realm of our creativity. To thrive in this new environment, we, ironically, need the freedom of a tight brief: what can you do with no budget for mass media?  Or limited marketing communications dollars?  To make a comparison, traditional advertising is a lot like countries and economies that rely on oil. This reliance handicaps innovation. Countries with a vast amount of natural resources tend to have (1) less economic growth and (2) worse development rates than other countrie…

The Engineering of Digital Consent

Today, we build brands through social interactions. People opinions online shape our decisions on what brands should we buy or endorse. 90% of customers said that online reviews influence their buying decisions. Our challenge is that consumers don't pay attention and trust the message coming from brands. So, how do we affect the opinion of others in this environment? In marketing, we spend a lot of time and money creating advertising with the hope that it goes viral. However, most of the campaigns have little influence in today's consumers. Many campaigns have even the oppositive effect, with consumers sharing negative opinions or blocking advertising altogether. Changing behavior is hard. I don't think we have a silver bullet to influence people online, but we can learn best practices from behavioral science to increase our chances. Getting a little better in predicting behavior can make a big difference. Here are four behavioral principles that we should consider when c…