Kony 2012 and Branding Change
As my daily information diet moves steadily along, I was reading additional takes on one of the hotter phenomenons of recent news … and that got me started thinking. So, most of us have seen the “Kony 2012” campaign, which is due to culminate on April 20, 2012. Interesting in so many ways as a marketing meme example, although the subject matter is deplorable .. . yet, is has been going on for 26 years, etc. Relatively recently a very dedicated person created a movement behind it and it received what used to be called a “viral reaction,” because 60 million + views happened.
Part of the reason for this was because it is a very shareable piece of content. It is something we now refer to as a great social object. It is remarkable on many levels, difficult to predict and yet it happened. Another quite different example is a social object that I received in various forms from people in all sorts of different places. You will recognize it as the “What my friends think I do, What I actually do” thing – in fact someone should create a Pinterest board just for these.
Both of these had enormous power to be shared but for very different reasons one for “cause”, the other social object allowed simple personalization around a standard recognizable structure – leading to astounding numbers of versions of the same simple construct.
Now, of course, naturally I wonder what can be learned – and I arrived at this question:
When is a brand of consequence going to think about the enormous power they wield in influence in terms of people listening to their messages, people looking at them, and people aspiring to buy, own, or have them? Is any company going to either have the courage or the desire to take all the influence they have within a brand and wield it to provide some true greater good?
We’re seeing a real reason to do so across multiple surveys. The 30 and under segment, in particular, are not only asking if a is brand “good for me” but they’re also asking is the company, that made this product, somebody I want to do business with?
This change has been coming. Now it’s becoming much more apparent, and if you as a company are doing something ‘questionable’, you’re being found out much faster. Hence, something quite able to tarnish a brands’ reputation can spring from nothing to a PR wild fire in days, if not hours. So, will anybody take all that potential power, all that interest people have about a brand that’s used by millions, tens of millions or even hundreds of millions a day and actually choose to take their influence and use it to do something truly big?
Yes, celebrities have been giving of their celebrity to causes for well over a century and there are many examples of brands that have done quite exceptional things E.g. Tide with the Tide Loads of Hope and then Dawn’s Everyday Wildlife Champions have taken substantial steps in this direction. These activities come under the general heading of “cause marketing”in the parlance of our marketing world and this all makes enormous sense.
But what I’m asking a question about is different than “cause marketing”.
When, if ever, will a company step up and say, “I’m going to put the entire weight of a brand behind a particular action and make it happen? It won’t happen overnight, but it will literally in a short span of time.” Is there a social object that a major brand could create that literally can offer substantial and lasting societal change?
I strongly believe that any brand, worthy of true sustained attention, (what the whole marketing game will soon be about) almost by definition must have to have both supporters and detractors. Because if you’re in the middle, a risk averse, “Yeah they’re okay,”company that may not generate true passion. While that can make a company / brand a lot of money and the Board/shareholders will not seek the CEO’s head but that company and eventually its brands won’t in the end really stand for much. If competitors companies are more committed to something, anything ….. where might people start choosing to spend their earnings?
So, I remain very interested to see who is going to do what with their brands over time. The reminder this time is the Kony 2012 phenomenon and there will be many other ‘movements’ that will rise up and fade.
As we think about what can be done to motivate large numbers of people to support a “cause” and add in some logical notions of the inherent power that does exist in brands – what new ways do you think brands may seek to wield their influence for the elusive “greater good?” Or will they? Please share your thoughts (in a civil manner) below
With the harsh reality of stock price and ‘street reactions’ which to me carry far, far too much weight in corporate decision making – can any public company ever truly choose to make a substantial difference? Many good people in positions of great potential power are limited in their options to effect true change because acting out of any sense of seeking greater “societal good” may somehow be seen as not acting in the best interest of shareholders. As if somehow money & profit were the sole definition of worth … Hint: they are NOT. Now, if we could only fix that vexing issue – then perhaps we’d really be onto something.