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The rewards and perils for brands latching on to issues

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BRANDS CONNECTING to an issue or a purpose they are passionate about and making it into a marketing campaign is a trend that a Twitter regional executive said exploded in the past two years as more and more users look for authenticity in marketing.

“What we see more and more is that brands are trying to build an identity and a purpose to [their] campaigns,” Arvinder Gujral, Twitter managing director for Southeast Asia, told reporters during a briefing on Nov. 4 at the Sheraton Manila Hotel in Pasay City.

And brands can succeed in combining an issue or conversation with a campaign. For example, there is Nike’s 2018 “Just Do It” campaign featuring former National Football League (NFL) player and social activist Colin Kaepernick where a photo of Mr. Kaepernick with a quote: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. Just Do It.” The football player had knelt during an NFL game to protest police brutality and Black Lives Matter, a gesture for which he was let go by the league in 2017. The campaign raised Nike’s brand value by $6 billion.

And there are those who don’t succeed. Like Pepsi which ran an ad that same year featuring model and TV personality Kendall Jenner giving a riot policeman a can of Pepsi amidst ongoing protests, positing that a can of Pepsi can unite a divided country. The ad was pulled within 24 hours of release after widespread call-outs that the brand was insensitive and trivializing the issues being fought for by protesters which include the #MeToo movement (for the sexually abused) and Black Lives Matter.

“I don’t want to name brands [who fail] but there are those that [run unsuccessful campaigns] because they are inauthentic, they just want to latch on to the next trendy concept… just because something is trending doesn’t mean you have to [spin a campaign about it],” Mr. Gujral said.

The key, he said, is for brands to look for an issue or a cause or a conversation that the brand stands for, and start a conversation where “brands force people to take sides on an issue.”




“What we see more and more in 2019 is brands trying to connect to their purpose. This wasn’t there in 2017 for sure,” Mr. Gujral said.

Standing for something is what differentiates brands from their competition, he explained, as the battleground has moved away from competitive pricing because “people already know your prices and your competition’s.”

“If you’re a brand manager, the first thing you do is to define a brand [like], this is a brand that stands for women of this age demographic, etc.,” he said.

In the Philippines, Mr. Gujral noted that Closeup’s 2018 “Free to Love” campaign was successful because it leveraged its campaign to promote the “many facets of love through real-life stories of some Filipino couples,” as a company release said.

Beyond standing for something, Mr. Gujral also noted that listening to conversations about the most random things can bear fruit — like Heinz’s “Mayochup” campaign in 2018 where they noticed conversations on Twitter about people mixing ketchup and mayonnaise. They then did a Twitter poll asking people if the company should make a sauce combining the two. The poll harnessed over 500,000 responses, the most in a Twitter poll ever.

“Twitter Polls allowed people to both vote and see the results of the Mayochup debate in real-time. People could see how many votes were needed to reach the 500,000 goal, which in turn helped create more energy and excitement on both sides of the debate. The massive conversation around the Mayochup product drove significant awareness of new Heinz Mayonnaise. We saw 1 billion impressions in 48 hours from the Twitter poll,” Nicole Kulwicki, director of marketing at Heinz, noted in an article posted on the Twitter Marketing website. — Zsarlene B. Chua

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