Taking issue with ‘Branzac’ advertising

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Jean-Luc Ambrosi is an award winning marketer and recognised expert in branding and customer relationship management. He is the author of the new book, Branding to Differ, a strategic and practical guide on how to build and manage a successful brand.

Commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli has not only been a time to ponder a tragedy that affected too many Australian and New Zealander families, it also shone the headlights on the whole marketing profession.

Beyond the unfortunate political leverage, the Anzac story reminds us of the immense desperation caused by World War One, World War Two and the conflicts that have followed. It reminds us of the men and women in their prime who do not return home, or return wounded and were traumatised by the horrors of war. As a result, caution in using this message is de rigueur, irrespective of our marketing and corporate objectives.

The exploitation by advertisers and marketers of this tragedy is not only nauseating but let’s be frank, sheds light on the poor values held within parts of the profession. Leveraging the trauma of people to promote a brand or drive sales demonstrates a lack of basic humanity, if not a lack of strategic nous.

To illustrate this point, I just need to point out the number of major advertising campaigns that leveraged the Anzacs to promote products and brands over recent weeks. Significant negative reaction has been voiced in the media and through social media of these campaigns, generating disapproval of these familiar brands and their advertising agencies.

Ethical considerations aside, tactics of the kind can be strategically deficient in their attempt to connect the emotion of themes and events with brands and products. The risk associated with this type of approach can be high; the more tenuous the relationship with the brand, the more likely consumers will be suspicious. This eventually leads to them questioning their trust and commitment to the brand.

With the profession maturing immensely in the past decade, is it a sign of the times and the desperation of a dying form of communication, or is it a more disturbing reflection of how marketers really operate? Have we as a profession, lost our way in our search for impact at any cost?

I have too many friends in the profession to believe this is a widespread spectacle but evidence shows it is not isolated either. Perhaps we need to rethink what best practice marketing really is. Not just about the right message to the right audience at the right time and in the right format, but also about what is right and what is wrong.

Successful brands must be built on a strong strategic and ethical foundation. There is no excuse, as communication experts, for anything else. Surely we are better than this - or are we?

Tags: brand strategy

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