When brands seek mileage from topical events and public ‘issues’

Recently, the Supreme Court of India passed a judgement decriminalizing sexual relations between consenting homosexual adults. The judgement garnered a lot of visibility in the media. Sure enough, several brands saw this as an opportunity to either create social media posts or tweak an element of their service offering. When it comes to tweets, the common characteristics include a reference to the social issue or occasion (e.g. Independence Day) and an oblique or direct connect to the product category or brand. Some of the tweets do bring a smile and there is some sort of brand connect.

Sometimes, the link could be tenuous or is a force-fit:

Some of the big brands which are always under the microscope, especially on such occasions, feel forced to join the bandwagon lest they are ‘questioned’ on social media.

A few brands make some tweaks to their service offering or content assets: a temporary graphic representation of their logo or changing colours in their route map (as it was with Uber). But that does not still stop anyone, especially the Twitterati to ask, ‘is this enough? Shouldn’t companies be paying more than just lip service when it comes to equality?’.

Social media posts aimed at gaining mileage out of topical events seem to operate on the belief or rather hope that such posts will go viral, gain visibility for the brand, increase brand affinity and hence brand preference. In short, they are aimed to add to the cool quotient of the brand.

In my view, very rarely does this ‘ideal’ situation occur. As with most advertising, such social posts too are hardly noticed. If they fail to provide a credible link between the message and the brand in a natural, seamless way without it being a force-fit then it stands a chance of being appreciated and shared. But in most cases, ‘but what does this have to do with the brand?’ question goes unanswered. When that happens, it leads to a perception that the brand is simply being opportunistic and may even put off a potential user.

Even in traditional advertising brand affinity created by ‘likeable’ advertising is believed to lead to brand preference. But merely creating such advertising is no guarantee of sales. Product meeting the needs of the market, product delivery living up to the promise made in advertising, availability at the right place & time, price-value equation and other factors are more important. However, it takes a bold and focused marketer to sit out when an opportunity such as when Section 377 is scrapped. The fear of missing out, especially when a competing brand will hog could hog all the limelight is overpowering.

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