BRANDS AND THEIR SHOCKVERTISEMENT STRATEGIES
Dr. Manisha Kumari Deep
Brand is not a new term for many of us. Whenever something has to be bought one looks for good stuff or good service provider. People who have capacity to pay little more for the same product look for Branded products or services. The word Brand is misunderstood as products or services which are better than the rest. There might be companies who are not Brands but have better product and services. But the market reach of Brands is more as they are constantly trying to reach us and leave an impression on us. So when you plan to buy some product or service, the first thing that comes in mind is Branded stuff. This is how Brands live with us in our minds and our lives.
The term Brand is suppose to have roots back in 950 AD. A hot burned wooden stake has been first called “Brand” in 950 AD. 'To brand' means to 'make an indelible mark of ownership', especially with a hot stake or iron and this verb usage has been known since the Middle Ages and is clearly derived from the earlier name. Branding earlier was a marketing strategy to stay ahead in competition especially to differentiate among big players and small ones. Previously usage and quality of products and services were shown and communicated much more than they were worth of. When advertisement used to come for Vicks Action 500, a person was shown being troubled with cough and cold. Just taking one tablet of Vicks Action 500 cured him and he was happy. In current time advertisement strategy has shifted from exaggerating about the product to building a loyal customer base and improving the Brand image. Brands are trying to discuss issues prevaling in society through their advertisement campaigns. They are coming up with all sorts of initiatives especially when it comes to Parents and Children. Brands and their unique Brand initiatives are becoming benchmarks and leaving a mark on the viewers of the ads. Branding strategy is shifting from Brand advertising to Brand Imaging and Brand Loyalty. Here one more unique Branding strategy is being discussed and that is Shock Branding or Shockvertising.
Brands and their Branding Strategies
Branding is no more a marketing jargoon know to only professionals. It is not confined to symbols, logo, trademark, name or a combination of these. But now brand is beyond all of these. It is about a company’s image and the value of its products and services. Brand is constantly innovating its meaning and reach. Today it is not only being defined by organizations but also its customers. Brands are trying to emotionally connect with their target prospects via their product or service. Brand’s image is being researched, redifined and rebuilt to create user connection and loyalty. Uniqueness and value are two important aspects of a brand. To be able to directly connect with its target prospects, brands are trying unique strategies by connecting with the problems of its target prospects. This helps in building brand image and value. This unique and innovative marketing strategy of brands are making them unique and unforgetable. If the company has established itself as a reputable and reliable brand by connecting with the croud, whatever product or service it launches keeping its values and uniqueness in mind, it will be able to get market for the same.
Though there are many types of branding strategies like Brand Extensions, Individual Branding, Croudsourcing etc but the basic is Brand Recognition. Be whatever type of branding strategy, but the brand should be recogninzed and it should stay in people’s mind. To achieve this Brands are trying to connect with parents. Whatever be the age of the child, parenting has its own challenges with every milestone of a child’s life. Parents requirement for an infant and toddler might be different. Simillarly parents problems and needs are different for teens and youngsters. Parents are children of their parents and here again problems and needs will vary. The Brands are trying to connect with the problems of the parents with their unique marketing strategies. This is helping in making a unique and memorable brand image. People are able to corelate with the Brand with a positive mindset and approach. This is helping in creating valuable Brand image while touching hearts. The seemless connection between parent and their child is being carefully taken by the brands. Companies are working in promoting their products and services by marketing campaign and advertisements like short films, videos, games and more, that highlights or solves or improves problems that parents face with their children. This is helping in building everlasting Brand image, Brand value, Brand Loyalty and market hold.
Brands have tried to levergage the opportunity to connect with the sentiments of the people while also helping them in analyzing and solving their problems or concerns. Though there are advertisements which focus on relationships, friendship, brotherhood, and many more dimentions but a relationship between parent and their child is unique and gifted. Some brands have tried to bring to notice some problems existing between parent and child which we do not pay heed or even acknowledge them. Let’s look at some companies Branding strategy which included helping parent and children to know the unspoken problems that they go through unknowingly.
Contrary to society friendly or problem solving advertisements, Brands are experimenting themselves with Shockvertising strategy.
Shockvertising is an advertising term used to describe ads that violate social norms and often shock viewers . Due to the shocking nature of the ads, they can’t be forgotten easity. A study found out that: Shocking content— using swear words and partial nudity to communicate a message—elicited a sense of surprise because it violated a social norm, whereas fearful content—a compelling message about shortened lifespan—did not violate any social norms . But surprisingly the impact of both the types of Shockvertising led to similar amount of behavioral change among the viewers of the advertisement considered for study. In the present time where negative publicity is gaining pace and Brands are no behind. More often than not, these ads are the (unofficial) work of enterprising marketing students or non-U.S. campaigns, but the message sticks . Usually it is safe for NGOs and non-profit organizations to opt for Shockvertising ads as they can show reality but for other organizations it might not work the same way.
Shockvertising went wrong for Tom Ford Menswear provocative advertisement are often shocking due to nudity. Tom Ford’s advertisement for men’s fragrance shot by Terry Richardson in 2007 is one example of Sockvertising. It leaves a shocking and lasting impression on the viewers minds. Such ads cannot be viewed with family and kids.
Stella Espresso Coffee opted for creepy advertisement campaign which might send a chill down the spine of a person sipping Stella Espresso’s coffee by the visual that stays in the mind of the viewer due to its Shockvertisement where a spider and a scoppio shaped like coffee beans crawls near the lips of the women sipping coffee shown in separate ads.
Burger King’s “BK Super Seven Incher” advertisement image was shocking and below was written “It’ll Blow Your Mind Away”. This shockvertising strategy was opted to promote its large sandwitches.The model on Burger King’s poster after five years of the ad claimed that the burger giant didn’t seek her permission to run the ad. Also one of its ads in 2015 had an open letter written to Mac Donald to come jointly under one roof for a day and donate the amount generated by the sale to Peace Organization on World Peace Day was also a Sockvertiment staretgy but a positive shock.
Reebok’s advertisement of “Cheating on your Girlfriend, not on your workout” went wrong in 2012 and the footwear giant had to issue apology abruptly after complaints and ad pulled back. Its shockvertising ad in 2016 on “Girls Don’t fight” ad where the word “Don’t” was striked out in the fight saying “Girls Fight” was also controversial. The ads brandambassador Kangana Ranaut shatters the #GirlsD̶o̶n̶t̶Fight stereotype in Reebok's new ad campaign  which was aimed to encourage girls to be physically, emotionally and socially be more acceptable and be better versions of themselves.
Some other companies who have endorsed Shockvertising are Hyundai (Ad Highlighting suicide attempt), Flora (Controvercial ad on Gay), Dove (Ad Encouraging Racism), Antonio Federici (Controversial “Immaculately Conceived” ad), Nivea (Controversial ad “Re-civilize Yourself”) and Ford (Baffling ad showing three women captivated in Figo car) are few examples of Shockvertising gone wrong.
Weighing Shockvertisement Impact
Though Shockvertising is gaining popularity but it may or may not work for the Brand. The impact might be huge so the Brands need to weigh the Shockvertisement impact and consequences before launching them in the market. Brands whose Shockvertising went wrong had to issue apology letters and pull back their advertisements. Though Shockvertising is an effective way of story telling but it might not work so well at times. The Brands have to be carefull about what they are Shockvertising and what is the purpose.
While viewing graphic content of Shockvertising ads, another study found out that both the parts of the brain were active in a person and this would further impact their future health and decisions. But the point is how far and how much should be shown to make a sensible impact on the viewers.
For example if look at advertisement discoraging cigerettes and tobacco shows people sufferring from cancer and lung dieseases and the visuals are disturbing. These ads are made to dissuade viewers from using tobacco and other such products. Similarly Shockvertisement about Contraception problems and Abortion pills are usually sensitve as they show problems and stories encouaging treatment for same or why abortion pills should not be taken without prescription. The impact of such ads are longlasting not only for viewers but it also impacts family of the viewers.
Aware Helplines Shockvertising graphics on “Verbal Abuse” was disturbing though the message was sent and might have left a mark on people’s mind especially women and girls. Similarly Deutscher Tierschutz Bund advocating animals rights went a bit too far to shown a disturbing advertisement showing a disturbing human image soacked in blood. The brand could have passed same message showing the animal itself rather than a man. Faada Women ad was also on similar lines staging protest against leather coats.
There has been Shockvertisements that were banned or are still fighting for approval in Courts. Some examples of Shockvertising ads that were banned in India were: V-Guard Inverter advertisement, Amul Macho Craft and Zatak telcom powder. When the advertisements are banned then the effort and money along with reputation is lost.
The best way to run a Shockvertising ad is to first gather reaction on a small scale then slightly increase the reach before deciding to implement on a grand scale. Also the content along with written message should be carefully handled realizing its adverse outcome. Untill there is no other alternate way of advertising that would work, Shockvertising should not be considered by Brands for promotion as it might tarnish their Brand image and sales. Brands motive and motto, and also ads objective and impact should be clear and precise.
Brands are not just about logo, symbols, advertising, marketing campaigns or Names. They are much more than all of these. Brands are examples of Belongingness, Security, Compassion, Confidence, Values, Quality and Uniqueness. Although many things can be branded like: Products, People, Services, Applications, Technology, Places and more. Meg Whitman once said “When people use your Brand as a verb that is remarkable”. For example: Whats’up your friends, Skype your family. Such Brands are to be used like: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Wiki and many more.
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