*a 55-year-old creative director walks into a pitch meeting: “I have a fantastic idea for an advert to sell our product to a younger generation! Kendall Jenner solves a political and humanitarian crisis by handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer.”
*Rapturous round of applause from the 65-year-old company directors.
The now infamous Pepsi advert, widely regarded as one of the most hated of all time, was either a masterstroke of ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ or a severe lack of self-awareness from a global brand. Either way, lessons can be learned from it.
To extend the soft drink metaphor a little more, the above story reminded me of the time John Sculley, then head of Pepsi, was approached by Steve Jobs back in the 90s. Jobs, who wanted him to come to Apple as chief executive, famously asked Sculley “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
It all comes down to this; if your message isn’t authentic, it will fall flat.
This is something we have learnt in our work on brand, animation and film projects for our clients over the last 20 years. It’s vitally important to dig deep and ask the right questions before developing messaging for a brand or organisation.
To give you a relevant example, one of our major clients is a local council here in Northern Ireland. In any given year, they will have multiple, complex messages that need to be communicated to the local population. It’s our job to help them deliver those messages as effectively as possible.
For our first few projects, we took a standard, top-down approach - communicating the relevant messages as if the voice was the council's. While factually accurate and great to look at, engagement was low, so we had to reassess how we were doing things - we had to ask the right questions.
This led to a revelation of sorts:
1: Nobody really likes to be told what to do
2: Nobody really likes to be talked down to
This insight inspired us to re-evaluate our approach and produce a series of campaigns that involved many different voices from different people across the borough - people who had already bought into the message and could communicate the need for action from the perspective of a peer, rather than an organisation without a face.
It worked. Instantly the engagement with the new messaging improved hugely, and it all came down to one thing - authenticity. People were much more likely to share the message when they recognised Billy from down the road conveying the council’s message. People were much more likely to listen because it was their peers speaking to them and people were much more likely to act because they could see that other people from the borough were already doing it - so they should too.
Now when it comes to producing any content for any client, we ask the right questions, we dig a bit deeper to find their authentic voice.
Because when it comes to producing engaging content, authenticity is key!
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