Home / Industry / Advertising /  ‘Advertising is about salesmanship, not religion’

In the age of social media and an active consumer, should brands re-think their advertising campaigns?

It’s not just about rethinking advertising campaigns. Brands need to be very clear on who they are, what they stand for, what is their relationship with their customers, their brand promise and what, therefore, should be their brand communication. So, rethinking is not enough. There has to be a fundamental reorientation of self-belief and also a measure of self control.

Do brands have the freedom to express their views in their campaigns?

It is a free world. But then with freedom comes responsibility. Brands do not exist as islands. Their ecosystem, most importantly, includes their consumers. So the sensitivities of these key constituents are fundamental to the very existence of any brand. Hence, freedom of expression cannot be absolute. It has to be tempered by commercial, societal and cultural reality.

Should they stay clear of social and political issues in their ads?

I believe that advertising is about salesmanship. It is not about politics and it is not about social issues. Most importantly, it has no business being in religion.

If brands insist on being ‘woke’ and believe that they need to have a voice, a voice is not enough. You need also to have a strong spine. The problem is that it is easy to shape that voice, very difficult to sustain the spine. Tanishq put out a hot number but surrendered in no time. The surrender is the issue.

Is it important for them to listen increasingly to their customers or lose loyalty?

Brand loyalty starts with trust. Trust of product quality, experience, consistency, promise and delivery. All brands are first built on product goodness. The next layer is of product connect where a consumer need or aspiration is satisfied.

Good advertising reiterates the need and desire for the brand to the consumer. Above all, a customer must see himself /herself in the brand: “like me" is the biggest bond between brand and customer. When brand strays away from “like me", dissonance is the result.

After the Tanishq fiasco, will brands rely on more mainstream ads rather than edgy or controversial messaging?

I think the whole Tanishq episode has been blown out of proportion. The trolling has been overestimated. I am completely apolitical and do not in any way subscribe to the trolling.

My view is if you ask for trouble and run advertising that you know could have a backlash, then you cannot claim to naively believe that no one will have a contra point of view. If you have created advertising with your eyes open, then there is no excuse about running for cover.

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