January 23, 2019

How different brands use social trends

Social trends, douglas kruger

How different leading brands use social trends, and a (safer) way for you to approach it as an expert

Gillette produced an advert that spoke about ‘toxic masculinity.’ The ad exploded. It’s been the most talked about topic globally this week. Ostensibly, the goal was to play on a social justice trend, and to encourage men to ‘shave away’ toxic behaviours.

It’s hard to determine whether or not this risky stunt worked. Personally, I hate it with a passion, and I’m unlikely ever to buy one of the brand’s products again. It also recently slid into the ‘top 10’ of the world’s most disliked YouTube videos.

But it certainly got noticed in terms of social trends, and for a great many people, the word ‘Gillette’ will now stand out in memory, and likely without connotations. So it may ultimately prove a sales-numbers success. I hope not. But it might.

Men’s timepiece brand Egard Watch Company responded with a brilliant pro-man advert, and rose from relative obscurity to achieve a blip in the international consciousness. Smart move.

So which way should you jump on this issue? I explore this trend of picking up on social themes in my book ‘What Makes Them Great?’, where I discuss Nike, and Kaepernick’s act of kneeling before the US flag. The conclusion I reach is that if you want to play with social justice themes, you need to at least be ‘on the side’ of your target market. The Gillette ad is not.

For my money, if you want to create tribes of followers, and not shed fans the way the NFL and CNN have shed viewers over the past couple of years, the rule of thumb is this: Only make use of a trendy new social trends theme if you can use it to be ‘on your followers’ side’.

Douglas Kruger is the author of two books on expert positioning, two on innovation, and several more. He is an international keynote speaker on the business circuit.

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