Crisis Counseling

Practically overnight, Americans have swung from optimism and complacency to insecurity and concern. The pendulum will swing back (it always does), but no one can say when or in what direction. Mean time, we must give shape and direction to our creative work. We haven’t had a chance to confirm our hunches with research, but here is some of what we’re beginning to think.

Now more than ever, it is critical to find an honest, fundamental emotional link to your brand and develop it. People want to feel connected to one another, and they may take comfort in an emotional connection to a brand. Without it, the brand is vulnerable. Functional or attribute-driven advertising will not create differentiation or an emotional link.

Capture the role of the brand in people’s lives, but don’t exaggerate it. The world has been de-trivialized. The context of our lives has changed, and the consumer’s relationship to the brand has to be re-examined.

It’s a time for humility, understatement and honesty. Promises should not be “larger than life.” They can’t be! Work that’s been “in your face” needs to back off, at least for a while.

Simplicity is extremely valuable. Don’t overstate your point. Say less and show more. Don’t tell me while you’re showing me and then tell me again. Just show me.

Advertising that depends on making the consumer feel angst or guilt about purchase decisions will be counterproductive. There is no room in the consumer psyche for this.

Advertising needs to play a thera peutic role. In times of crisis, people need to be lifted. But we must be deft in execution to avoid being unreal or melodramatic or saccharine. Insincerity will be even easier to spot.

Music is one of our most powerful tools. It instantly conveys a mood and tone and sensibility. We may soon be longing for the good old days. Music is a potent way to get there.

Genuine humor is more important than ever. Sarcasm and cynicism—the smirkiness that counted as humor in the last decade—may seem much less funny. What will replace it? We will only know when we hear it. But people do want to laugh again.

Images of conspicuous consumption are tasteless. Glitter will soon be gone. People won’t want to hear about rich leather seats and burled wood dashboards. Being safe, in a cocoon, will matter more.

The trend toward casting real people will continue. Small human stories will resonate. Real transformations will be believable. It is a reaffirmation of honesty, of real humanity.

Leveraging sentiment and patriotism will be transparently self-serving. It is a time to lead, not leverage. Exaggerated earnestness or sentimentality or flag-waving will hurt brands.

Who you stand with is what you stand for. Embrace cause-related marketing, but make it intrinsic to the meaning of the brand.

Scrutinize context more than ever. Media placement that reflects well on your brand has always been critical. Certain media content may not be appropriate for many brands.

This is not a manifesto of right and wrong. We hope only to provide some guidelines. As events unfold, we will continue to refine our thinking.

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