We’ve reached peak unprecedented

May 8, 2020

Standing out a mile is hard enough in normal circumstances.

Standing out in unprecedented times is even harder.

Especially when everyone is also mentioning how unprecedented these times really, truly, honestly are.

Have you noticed how since the start of lockdown we’ve been inundated by TV adverts from big brands who have been telling us how they’re supporting us, that they’re here for us, care for us, and have done since 1666?

Unfortunately, they’ve all started to feel quite similar


The empty streets, (Times Square, Vatican City, Piccadilly Circus), the solemn music, the occasional bit of spoken word poetry.

Facebook, Mastercard, Samsung are all at it.

It’s better than telling us about holidays we can’t go on, but it all just blends into one and after the first couple of views and can feel quite irritating.

For example, every evening before I switch off the news, Kevin Bacon’s sombre tones echo across my living room to tell me that normally he’d be making a joke at this time, but instead he’s going to tell me all about the free data the NHS can get with EE. Nice sentiment first time round, but now I just feel like saying “What are you telling me for, Kev?” It feels like boasting.

May be Kevin has struck a sore note with me because I’ve always disliked his EE ads. I find the sight of him sweeping through windy UK streets explaining how he’s connected to Coronation Street and pork scratchings annoying.

I don’t really like Clare Balding’s hair either (I’m hard to please) but I really like her current BT ads.

Compared to most other big brands, BT has used its advertising spend differently

imageIt launched a campaign that teaches the nation vital digital skills, a bit like Rainbow but without George, Bungle and Zippy.

And you know what this reminds me of? Content marketing!

That is, rather than directly trying to sell you something, it’s providing helpful, educational messages that answer peoples’ questions, making you useful, showing your expertise and thereby making people fall in love with you want to work with you.

By doing this, BT is showing it cares rather than telling people. This is the crucial difference.

And the other reason it works is that it’s true to its brand purpose. ie they’re a communications company (its brand positioning is that it’s a ‘national enabler’) so the message fits the messenger and therefore doesn’t feel patronising.

If Uber, Heineken or Dunkin Donuts started showing me how to use WhatsApp I might resent it.

If you’re wondering if these unprecedented times fit with your brand purpose they certainly do

When the markets are going well, it’s easy to be right; but when things more challenging, people want to know what you’re doing to make them feel protected, safe and right to be paying you.

You’ve got plenty of ways to show them you care – now is the time to do it.

If you’d like to chat about how you can do this, book a 30-min call with me.

May 8, 2020

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