In the age of authenticity, it has become increasingly difficult for brands to hit the mark when it comes to advocacy. Without a doubt, it is a difficult line to tread — how does one strike a balance between branding and social impact? Between making sales and making a stand?
With a more ‘woke’ audience, the key is to be genuine. Brands need to speak to people like people, to connect with them on a personal level, and to advocate for the very sake of it.
It’s not an easy feat to accomplish, but some campaigns manage to make cultural waves, while others, maybe ripples.
Here are some examples of the highs and lows of advocacy in advertising:
Always’ ‘#LikeAGirl’ was a key campaign that made a huge and positive impact. Using a common phrase steeped in negative stereotypes, Always challenges and redefines it with positivity. The campaign also pulled attention towards casual sexism and how deeply entrenched it is in our social climate. Here, Always takes a backseat, letting women be the focus. The ad showcased a sensitivity and authenticity that everyone — especially Gen Zs — truly appreciated.
Toxic masculinity and casual sexism have been a hot topic in recent years and in response to this, Gillette took a stand with ‘The Best Men Can Be’. Highlighting phrases commonly used to excuse unacceptable behaviour, the campaign called out toxic masculinity and sexism in our everyday lives. It also served to encourage men to take a stand when needed, and to set the best examples for the next generation. While it received differing responses, it garnered largely positive reviews, being praised for creating a new standard for both boys and men to achieve.
Always’ long-standing ‘Real Beauty’ campaign has seen incredible success over the years but also, severe backlash. Their body-shaped packaging was one such failure. In an effort to promote body positivity, Always used unflattering shapes to represent the different body types. The campaign had a reversed effect and consumers took to social media to air their grievances, calling out the brand’s lack of sincerity and exploiting insecurities to push sales.
On International Women’s Day, Burger King tweeted this sexist statement to highlight gender inequality in the food service industry and to introduce a new initiative to facilitate female executive chefs. While well-intentioned, the clickbait nature of this tweet led to an uproar, causing anger and confusion among consumers. Instead of pushing for gender equality, this short-lived campaign encouraged sexism by using the oldest trope in the book simply to garner clout and attention.
To sum it up, it is important to be sensitive to the socio-political climate and to stay away from cultural missteps. And above all, be genuine.