If you did not have the chance to read my previous posts We Don’t Buy Another Hero or If The Cause Is Not Really Yours where I wrote about the mistakes brands may make on the road to be Purposeful Brands; I’d summarise my point as: A social purpose should be relevant to your brand/company to resonate. Even if the purpose is resonant, you’d better not fake it or just jump on to an opportunity train with no evident brand role and/or strong ownership; people will find out the truth eventually and make you pay for it!
But, there is a “but” about it. If you fake it really well to catch an opportunity train, it may let you gain some time to adapt and build some credibility to set things right. I would not recommend this option since you can never make sure that your faking would be persuasive; however, it might be the only chance for you to convince your superiors, Board and/or stakeholders to believe in owning a Cause or a Purpose. So, if that is the case, please succeed in faking and get the approval to do some good or something real.
Unfortunately, nowadays, many professionals faking it and seeding no good deeds perceived as successful. Because in this short-term memory driven world, if you fake it flawlessly you definitely will pick up some trophies in your first year and get a promotion in your second. Luckily (?) when things start collapsing one by one, you will be on your new post! May God help your successor! That person will definitely shit on your strategies to change track and no one will go after you! Hail to the rotten dynamics of this Corporate World!
Fortunately, things are changing. Slowly but steady. Especially big corporations like PG and Unilever, started to observe the difference between faking it and owning it. So they will define their new metrics, processes, do the follow up, and that will change everything eventually.
The funny thing is: they started with faking, too. When Dove kicked off the Real Beauty in 2012, it was just a category disruption in advertising. A bold way to stand against “cosmetics” with some “substance”. However, there was nothing concrete that Dove and/or Unilever (the owner of a macho brand like Axe/Lynx) were doing to help women grow some self-esteem but advertising. On top, Dove continued products like Cellulite Cream that contradicts with the brand point of view. And it paid off. The campaign was a huge success, the women all around the world were buying the modernity of the brand. A brand that spent years in Dove 7 Day Challenge, immediately got younger and stronger with this new campaign.
And their second step came very quickly- it was perfectly produced but still fake. They focused the campaign on self-esteem concept and started with Evolution video which was revealing the truth behind “picture perfect” and then they continued with Sketches video that was revealing how damaged women’s self-esteem was. To be frank, that was the point when I started to think that Dove was a hypocrite. I always found Sketches too fake. I can understand why it got a Titanium in CannesLions, since all industry was happy to find a new way of faking things, they appraised that new form of advertising: “social experiment”. Obviously, it was just a new advertising set-up, instead of an objective experiment, nothing was honest. It was more like a mockumentary, but people bought it. And although Dove was doing nothing to help women to grow self-esteem as a brand or as a product, it worked! Because, the problem was strong, real and the communication was very relevant and very well executed. So everyone loved it, ad industry praised it and we all preferred to believe it instead of question the authenticity.
After all those years I am happy that it happened that way. No matter how many junk and fake social experiment videos we had to watch, I have to state that Dove made many brands be more aware about the issues women are dealing with. Dove inspired many brands like Always, Nike, L’Oreal, Hello Flo, etc. to do better on gender equality. Also the discussions around that huge success forced Dove to start to do better for real! Today self-esteem project became a solid way to touch people’s lives.
Eventually that is a happy ending: everything started with some faking, but the power of good pushed the brand to be a part of a solution. No brand does anything just for the sake of doing good! Yet, being part of the “good” would give no harm to them, but just more success. Winwin.
So, as I said, many brands followed Dove’s footsteps. And as gender equality topic becomes more popular, the subject became juicier for other brands. The woman stereotype in advertising started to change, the power of women started to be transferred more accurately and that is just the beginning! So there are many opportunities ahead! Which means there will be many brands that would try to jump on this train, with no credibility or no contribution to the resolution.
By saying that, here comes the H&M advert! Gorgeous, beautiful, lovely… But how about H&M’s credentials about body positivity and feminism? According to some sources, it is very poor. Anyways, the advertising is so well produced and so well seeded; the positive coverage surpassed the negatives and gave H&M a chance to choose:
Will they be on the good side and change, or will they keep faking it?
And how much time do they have to decide?