“Boldness be my friend” William Shakespeare
I recently attended ABThinksLive, an event that explored the theme of bravery in communications and how braver and bolder storytelling delivers more compelling and credible content. Yet taking bold decisions in business can be challenging; the fear of backlash or failure dominates, and businesses favour a more cautious approach to their messages and campaigns. Yet some of the most memorable campaigns are ones where the brand took a risk, where it produced a strong campaign and stood out for doing so. For example:
McCann for Bihor couture; its premise is simple – a classic David and Goliath story – but the execution is brilliant, delivering a brave, amusing but poignant campaign that conveys a clear message and has had excellent results (the Bihor community has orders for its coats for the next four years)
Amnesty International’s ‘It’s not happening here but it’s happening now’ campaign on human rights abuse superimposed images of issues that Amnesty deals with such as torture, child soldiers and unfair detention onto posters that were displayed in prominent positions, e.g. bus stops
Virgin Holidays LGBT discrimination video. The team behind this video were clear about its aim and the message they wanted to convey – discrimination around the LBGT community on holidays. It’s part of Virgin Holiday’s three-year plan to change attitudes and this video was bold in how it conveyed its message.
The key: understanding what your brand stands for, knowing the over-riding message you want to convey and having a clear tone of voice. It might sound simple, but can you articulate your key message? Does your messaging accurately reflect the business’s strategy? Do you understand the language you need to use to communicate to your audiences? If you can say yes to all three, then you have unlocked communications gold. You only have to look at KFC’s response to its chicken crisis to see this in action.
In February 2018 KFC ran out of chicken, leading to more than 600 restaurants temporarily shutting in the UK – it was a crisis on an unprecedented scale for the business. Yet their response is held up as a crisis communication success story. So how did they survive? KFC understood and remained true to its brand. They didn’t shy away from the crisis and revert to a formal corporate apology, they engaged with customers through social media and humanised their brand with clear, transparent, honest and humorous messaging. This insight empowered them to take the incredibly bold and brave decision to publish their now famous ‘FCK’ advert in all national newspapers. The result? A turning point in the crisis in which sentiment changes and KFC took control of the narrative.
AB Live ended with five interesting takeaways that I’d like to share and recommend you consider for your next communications campaign:
- What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? If you knew that your campaign could only succeed, what would you do?
- Identify the one element, the one proposition that drives the campaign. What is the single human truth?
- Be clear on what your brand stands for.
- You become who you spend time with and you can’t inspire if you are not inspired yourself. Encourage curiosity and creativity with your team.
- Be ethically led and be clear. Tell everyone everything unless there’s a good reason not to.
Be honest, be transparent and be brave. More often than not, audiences will love you for it.