As the year ends, we’d like to look back upon 2019 and see what it brought in terms of corporate and public communication, and what branding strategies have made a difference in the world. This year has marked some important conversations in the public arena about discrimination, political correctness, fake news, and technological disruption. There have been significant political and social movements, and companies were faced with understanding that their consumers are no longer only interested in a product, but also in the message and values attached to it.
Our society is moving increasingly faster every day, relevant subjects can change at a click’s speed and brands have to struggle to remain relevant in the consumer’s mind. In this pursuit, some brands have dedicated themselves to social causes that tear down prejudices around delicate matters, like beauty standards, inequality, and gender expectations.
To this end, Dove has been one of the most prominent voice with its Real Beauty campaign, that has been running for some time now, but was more visible than ever in 2019. The main purpose of Dove has been to start new and valuable conversations about beauty standards.
They started with abandoning the standard models and promoting more diverse natural women in their ads, empowering them to feel beautiful with freckles, stretch marks, scars, discolored skin, white hair - all of which are traditionally associated with unattractiveness.
Dove’s 2019 most influential project is #ShowUs, comprising a collection of 5000 photos with real beauty patterns from around the world and a series of ads focused around celebrating differences and encouraging women to change their perception of beauty.
This inclusive perception of beauty has transformed Dove from a simple cosmetics company into a social advocate for change, representation, and education.
Another brand that aimed at changing perceptions around gender expectations is Nike, with its powerful and viral Dream Crazier ad and many more that showcased the inspiring stories of top female athletes in the world. The main focus of the brand was put towards changing sexist assumptions, encouraging women to fight for their dreams and don’t be pulled back by social prejudice.
With this type of approach, the brand uses storytelling to embrace the power of people, rather than to focus on the product. The emotions they stir within consumers who believe in the same values as they present in their promotional materials are the basis for long-term loyalty and engagement.
This year was unique for another established brand that decided to make a bold move by changing its long-term slogan to adapt to the social realities of today - Gillette. They promoted the “The Best Men Can Be” which altered the usual motto “The Best Men Can Get” in an effort to change the view on how masculinity traits should be perceived, along with trying to set a positive example for future generations.
The ad generated a lot of buzz in social media, and while some men found it to be unfair, the general feeling around it was of appreciation for the interest in upgrading the social conversations around boys and men. The brand’s courage to shift a decades-long communication direction from traditional masculinity to sensibly-adapted masculinity is noteworthy and has brought large support for understanding that times are changing, and so are customers.
Samsung, on the other hand, used its platforms to both praise technology and celebrate the diversity of its users, through its More of Us movement. The brand wants to empower people that use their devices to be creative and fearless in the face of social prejudice. They want technology to be put to the best uses possible: connecting people from diversified backgrounds and offering technical opportunities to enhance their lives.
Although it is better known to the general public for smartphones, Samsung’s operations also expand into virtual reality and other fields. This year it surprised its public during George Enescu International Festival by creating an app that provided virtual access to all concerts, only by scanning a banknote. Moreover, they used VR to allow people to visit memorial homes and digital exhibits.
Samsung is a positive example of how technology can be close to people in unconventional yet useful ways, utilizing users' curiosity to promote products that will build long-term relationships.
As it turns out from the above success stories, this year has been focused mainly on storytelling around “cause” marketing. Many brands have seen and understood the social shifts taking over the world and have adapted to the new paradigm. This new model is increasingly focused on promoting ideas that customers want to stand by, rather than products that clients want to buy. With the market becoming overflowed by similar products, the story is the one that sets brands apart.
Looking at this past year, with all its challenges, it seems that the most important lessons from strong brands are:
build your story around social values
stay consistent and dedicated to that story
create a community and be its advocate for a better world