Advertisers must accentuate the positive

A photo of multi-ethnic happy friends taking selfie though mobile phone. Men and women are posing. They are enjoying summer vacation at beach.
When researching Brand Premium I interviewed a well-respected agency planner who told me that the most effective marketing campaigns traded on people’s anxieties and insecurities. I am not convinced their assertion is true but in today’s turbulent times perhaps brands should have a responsibility to accentuate the positive not add to the negative?

I have little doubt that trading on people’s anxieties is a powerful sales device. Ever since James Young realized the key to selling antiperspirant was to make women believe that sweating might lose them the man of their dreams, advertisers have traded on people anxieties, real or invented. But it does not have to be this way. Successful campaigns like those for Dove, Always and Nike have chosen to take a commonplace anxiety and help empower people to face it rather than turn to the brand to assuage it.

If the end result is the same and the brand gets to sell more stuff perhaps all brands should follow the advice of the popular song from the 40s and ‘Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive’. The lyrics written by Johnny Mercer and published in 1944 go as follows,

  • “You’ve got to accentuate the positive
  • Eliminate the negative
  • Latch on to the affirmative
  • Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
  • You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
  • Bring gloom down to the minimum
  • Have faith or pandemonium
  • Liable to walk upon the scene”

I don’t know about you but I think we all have enough “pandemonium” to deal with right now (and I am not just thinking about politics or international relations). As noted by Anita Rao in this post many brands have found success by becoming more sustainable and maybe it is time that more of them also stepped up to help improve the social climate as well as the meteorological one. Take for example, UK high street fashion retailer River Island’s much praised ‘Labels Are For Clothes’ campaign which sought to question traditional societal labels around gender, race and disabilities while also donating a portion of sales being donated to an anti-bullying charity.

But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.

by Nigel Hollis


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