Thursday, 12 March 2020

Th' milk of human kindness

I've got a little prediction. Brand managers will notice that the poster girls of 'Purpose' - female empowerment, body positivity and gender stereotyping - are getting a little long-in-the-tooth and been there/done that, and will start casting around for replacements. Maybe something that's a little less MeMeMe?

A few strands of thought will coalesce. Reports about the divisions and fault lines in society. The movements against online bullying and trolling - #BeKind - and the debate surrounding this. The trend to "uplit" in the publishing world. The call for more empathy, even though people that work in advertising and marketing aren't as good at that one as they think. And, of course, brands that have already taken the first step.

Coca Cola has recently announced its refreshed purpose as "unite and uplift". To me this sounds rather like the opposite of the old Playtex Cross Your Heart line which was about lifting and separating. Brushing that aside, though, as Graham Booth states in the blog post, Coca Cola kind of has uniting in its DNA, although there's been some dilly-dallying around with other ideas in the last few years.

The launch commercial, "Could I be wrong?" has been out for a couple of weeks. We've yet to see if it joins the realms of classic Coca Cola ads such as "Hilltop".

And another variant on the "be nice to each other" theme is Cadbury's, whose brand moved (in 2018) from catalysing moments of joy (which are a little MeMeMe) to moments of kindness to others, specifically generosity, with the idea that "there's a glass and half in everyone."

I'm not sure what the best translation is for "kind" in German - there's "freundlich", which also has connotations of friendliness and approachability. Or "nett" which is simply "nice" with the same sort of connotations. And the words "gütig/gutmütig" which are to do with Goodness.

And this is the thing with kindness. I do think it's a valid area for a brand purpose, but it really isn't a one-size-fits-all thing. I'd hate to see the advertising world awash with "th' milk of human kindness" in the way it's been over-run with increasingly cliched babble about female empowerment.

You can ask children to play nicely if you're a nanny or or primary school teacher. But you can't tell adults to be kind. Kindness comes from within, from your values, and isn't just about some stunt involving random acts, or forcing people with extreme opposing views to drink a beer together.

What unique role does your brand play in kindness? Is it about bringing people together, sharing, helping, caring, understanding ...?

I do hope that the idea of kindness will be a rich seam for marketers.

Yet, advertising industry, do I fear thy nature when it comes to band wagons.

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