News & Views

Opinion / Say it. Do it. Be it.

by Contagious Team
Contagious' Jana Borges, president and director of content in Brazil, believes brands need to have profound clarity about their purpose to have a genuine dialogue with their consumers

Two major topics have been cropping up in my recent discussions about communications. The first is about purposeful brands – how brands must have a point of view, a motivation, a reason to exist. The second hot topic is about the rise of a new age of communications: instead of top-down, one way, from one to many, we have finally come to the era of dialogue and co-creation. The two issues are closely linked. After all, for a customer to be willing to participate in this dialogue and to relate more deeply to a brand, they must be able to identify the brand’s ideas, values and causes with ones of their own.

Today, major brands and agencies around the world are working on choosing their purpose and preparing to (at least) be able to respond in a conversation with the consumer. But what I'm seeing is still extremely shallow. And when I speak of superficiality, I'm not judging the depth of the purpose, but rather the truth with which it is delivered. The purpose does not need to be worthy of a Nobel Peace prize, but it needs to be true, credible and above all, genuinely lived by the brand in question. Chipotle is 'cultivating a better world' and Red Bull helps you to achieve whatever you want to. All right. We are not passing judgement. No one purpose is more important than another. But what’s important is which are real and which are only decorative. There is a long road between saying that you're going to do something and actually doing it.

I believe that only brands with profound clarity about their purpose can be open for a genuine dialogue with their consumers. They can be up-front in discussions and find new ways to refine their views without the fear of being caught in a lie.

In Brazil, we have seen a brand recently epitomize the gap between words and action. Skol, a leading beer brand in the country, launched a pre-carnival campaign quite in line with the brand positioning: celebrating impulsiveness and fun. However, one of the pieces communicated, I left "no" at home which generated much controversy. Two friends found that the piece encouraged the abuse of women and made a new version of it, adding to the title I left "no" at home and BROUGHT NEVER’ (see above). The new version spread quickly and by the end of the day the brand released a statement saying they would discontinue the campaign. A few days later, a new campaign aired with the message: In this carnival, show respect.’ 

However, it’s possible to find some positives from the Skol case: the brand listened to complaints and responded fast, quickly enough to take the controversial pieces off the streets and replace them with a new message. But, as I see it, both Skol and the feminist movement have missed a great opportunity.

There was no dialogue. Certainly the agency that created the campaign worked hard, did their research and would have considered alternative creative ideas and, with the client, chose this option as a winning campaign. The negative impact turned the success criteria into minimizing the negative backlash. Fear bested motivation.

All the free media coverage generated through the controversy was a golden opportunity for the brand to really discuss its purpose and talk to people. But no. Crisis management mode was activated, aka ‘let’s get people to stop talking about it’. And the opportunity passed. Minimized risks, annihilated gains.

Beer brands have always been the target of feminist criticism. How could the Skol brand and social movements have benefited from this dialogue? Where would we have gotten if we had actually discussed all the impulsive actions and disrespect that happen during carnival? How and with what credibility would have this brand’s purpose been reawakened?

It’s essential to find a purpose that you trust, which you do not doubt in the first 100 shares of a complaint. A purpose that drives not only what you do, but more importantly, how your brand does things. From this starting point you can create a genuine two-way, bottom-up, crowdsourced communication.

Say it, Do it, Be it need to coexist, it is vital that they are simultaneous and in sync to be true.

Update /

Skol might have missed an opportunity, but others were fast to respond. A beer called Feminista Red Ale from Beauvoir Brewing was launched just five days after the incident and sold out in just two days. Now the company is planning to produce it on a larger scale.

The founders want the Feminista beer to be the first in a series of products and campaigns tackling this issue. Founder Thais Fabris, believes the beer helps to demystify the concept of feminism and gives people the chance to ask questions: ‘The beer takes feminism out of the niche of specialized blogs and Facebook groups and, above all, puts the issue on the agenda within the agencies.’

‘We all have our share of responsibility. The market settles in formulas and only reacts when there is pressure from society (as in the case of Skol). What we are proposing is to raise awareness, a review of these formulas, an update,’ says Thais.