The World Is Having a Temper Tantrum, What Can Marketers Do?

In the United States, in recent years we’ve experienced Tea Partiers, “The Big Short,” Occupy Wall Street and now Trump (not a linear progression). The art of politicking to achieve overall public good — our version of democracy — seems woefully dysfunctional. Talk about angry (and ugly). Positioning a brand — authentically — as an agent for good in a world that may not appear so good is perhaps the breakthrough all of us need.

Veruca Salt
Veruca Salt is our mascot. (“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Copyright Warner Brothers, AOL Time Warner.)

In the United States, in recent years, we’ve experienced Tea Partiers, “The Big Short,” Occupy Wall Street, and now Trump (not a linear progression). The art of politicking to achieve overall public good — our version of democracy — seems woefully dysfunctional. Talk about angry (and ugly).

In the United Kingdom, devolution is on tap: Scotland said “no” (barely) to exiting from the UK. Now, UK has a chance to say “no” to the European Union — blowing a big hole in the entire idea of Europe as a singular social and economic powerhouse.

The Arab Spring has devolved into a power vacuum filled by radicals, civil war — and a refugee crisis. Fear and hardship reign. Yes, $2 trillion spent (on a credit card) on nation-building failed to achieve any gains — but there’s plenty of misery.

A newly nuclear North Korea pounds and whines (dealmakers, what makes us think an Iran nuclear deal will have any different outcome?), China seeks to transform the South China Sea into its own domestic lake, and Japan has stopped having babies — why bother?

Are societies — everywhere — falling into a depressed state of mind? Where has hope, enthusiasm, optimism and community gone? Why are so many of us in a semi-permanent state of anger that we lash out against a seemingly otherness sense of “the other”? It’s like the whole world is having a temper tantrum.

Online, you see this anger all the time in anonymous nasty comments in chat rooms, social media (anti-social media) outrages of the day, #brandfail hashtags, and zero-star reviews. So many complaints get elevated to rage — without any accountability for the bullying of it all. When a real #brandfail happens, are we able to differentiate?

A recent Accenture study sees mega-trends dominating the planet: Climate change and resource scarcity, changing demographics with societal implications, shifts in economic power, rapid urbanization and, finally, digitalization. Coping with these realities — locally, nationally, globally — requires responses that some of us frankly don’t want to face, never mind master.

Folks, we can’t hide.

I’m with Warren Buffet: Stop whining — the newest generation of Americans are the luckiest people born alive — and start winning. We not only have the education and means to transform ourselves and our planet to improve the lot for all or most of us, we have a moral obligation to do so. Read otherwise, it’s immoral or amoral to disregard the plight of other citizens, starting right here at home. I vote for: Business models that address mission alongside making money. Capitalizing on sustainable futures with socially responsible investing. Building bridges instead of erecting walls.

If the world is really so damn ugly, then the law of low-hanging fruit should make it easier than we think to make our corner a bit happier, kinder and gentler — and a model for all.

This is neither pipe dream nor propaganda. Advertising and marketing have profound roles to play to provoke, to inform, and to persuade — one product and service at a time. When I see campaigns that make us think twice about choices, patterns of consumption and consequences, I know I’m not alone. Positioning a brand — authentically — as an agent for good in a world that may not appear so good is perhaps the breakthrough all of us need:

Heineken: Moderate Drinkers Wanted

Ariel India: #ShareTheLoad

Volvo Cars: No Deaths by 2020

Volkswagen: Eyes on the Road

H&M: One Rule for Fashion

None of these brands are perfect, but they let the tantrum be someone else’s. Maybe we can’t make world peace, but we can vote — and we can position our brands for a better world. And if you’re compelling, engaging and on target, you might even get a #brandsucccess.

Thank you to Thomas Kolster, author of Goodvertising, for some of the inspiration for this post.

Author: Chet Dalzell

Marketing Sustainably: A blog posting questions, opportunities, concerns and observations on sustainability in marketing. Chet Dalzell has 25 years of public relations management and expertise in service to leading brands in consumer, donor, patient and business-to-business markets, and in the field of integrated marketing. He serves on the ANA International ECHO Awards Board of Governors, as an adviser to the Direct Marketing Club of New York, and is senior director, communications and industry relations, with the Digital Advertising Alliance. Chet loves UConn Basketball (men's and women's) and Nebraska Football (that's just men, at this point), too! 

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