As world events unfold at breakneck speed, marketers struggle with what to say (or whether to say anything at all). And their audiences are watching. Not just for empty statements of support but for action demonstrating that a brand lives by its principles.
Recent advertising has touted support for women's rights, LGBTQ+ equality, diversity, sustainability, and much more. But, according to "unapologetic marketing truthteller" Katie Martell, companies often fail to live up to the values they use in ads. "This pandering brings huge risks to both the movements they seek to co-opt and the brands themselves," she insists. "Nobody wins."
That is the subject of Katie's forthcoming book and documentary film, "Pandermonium: The Dangers of Rainbow-Washing, Femvertising, Woke Marketing and Virtue Hustling."
But there is value to true "cause-aligned marketing," because consumers want to spend money with brands if their values align with their own.
I invited Katie to record this special episode of Marketing Smarts live in our MarketingProfs PRO Facebook group two weeks ago. (If you're a PRO member, come join us there for sneak peeks, livestreams with marketing industry stars like Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, and Ann Handley, and other exclusive content!)
In this episode, Katie and I talk about cause-aligned marketing (as opposed to pandering).
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation.
When brands say one thing and do another, people notice (2:50) "I think every content marketer can relate. Once you start writing about a subject, it is the new lens by which you see everything. I can no longer experience marketing without looking at it through the lens of 'is it pandering?' I started with feminism, and 'faux feminism' that I saw popping up with brands about four years ago. There were ads that were hopping on the bandwagon of International Women's Day and the women's rights movement, and just quick Google searches behind the scenes showed that the companies themselves, their behavior, didn't align to the values they were portraying in these ads. And it wasn't one or two examples, it was twenty."
To avoid pandering, keep your actions consistent with your statements (07:24) "The difference between pandering and not pandering is as simple as living up to the promises you make, full stop. End of story. It exists in relationships. We've all had a really bad boyfriend/girlfriend who's been saying one thing but doing another, and [we know] how that feels. We wanted to believe them, and then they just ruined any trust that we had given them in the first place.
"We've all experienced pandering. It's just giving lip service to something. It's saying what you know people want to hear. It's simply about lip service versus action, and we're seeing it all over the place with the pandemic. Pandering to the pandemic is rampant. And you see it in the form of empty promises."
In a crisis, doing anything is better than doing nothing (13:00) "We all have to think about 'the look.' It's not a good look if we do nothing right now. Truly, the cost of doing nothing is worse than doing something. Anything. Experiment, because people are going to look at how you responded right now.
"Brands are going to be defined by what they do right now, just like they are in any time of upheaval, whether it's a service outage or their CEO says something stupid on Twitter. It doesn't matter what the crisis is. That's the time when brands' character is defined. Just like with people. It's what you do in times of trouble that show you what you're actually made of."
(13:40): "I love what companies like Microsoft are doing. They're doing what I'm calling 'Intentional, Creative, Value-Add Pivots.' Pivoting resources. All of us can do this. Say, 'What do we have,' and get creative about what that resource is to help with what's happening now.
"For example, the employees in the Microsoft retail stores who are, by nature, very helpful. Their job is to sit down with you and explain how these fancy tablets work. Their job is to make it easy for you to engage with technology. They're pivoting these 2,000 retail employees to now be remote service trainers.
"Microsoft retail employees have now, virtually, from home, trained 65,000 people across government, healthcare, education, and finance in using Microsoft Teams. So they have this resource, these store employees, chock full of knowledge and customer service acumen. They're now redeploying them virtually to support what a lot of businesses now need, which is how to use the Teams virtual conferencing software. It was just brilliant."
Katie and I talked about much more, including why cause-aligned marketing is not just for B2C companies, so be sure and listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
This episode brought to you by the MarketingProfs ONLINE Storytelling Workshop: Using Story to Drive Action.
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"Marketing Smarts" theme music composed by Juanito Pascual of Signature Tones.
Katie Martell, 'unapologetic marketing truthteller' and on-demand communications strategist. Her forthcoming book, Pandermonium, is currently being turned into a documentary film. Learn more about Katie at Katie-Martell.com, and follow her on Twitter: @katiemartell.