Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Co-Opting of Social Issues to Generate Brand Goodwill

Literacy, clean drinking water, schools in third world countries, children's hospitals, sport fundraising, women's rights, end of life care, HIV, recycling, endangered species, national park rehabilitation, obesity, food security, breast cancer, and so many more - these are just a few of the many social issues that the food industry has latched onto in an effort to build goodwill and to cultivate positive, emotional, passionate brand associations loyalty.

It's a smart move too, because calling out the food industry's disingenuous partnerships leads defenders to lean on the partnered social issue's need for support as either clear cut evidence of the inherent goodness of the food industry, the short-sightedness of the critic, or that the ends justify the means.

During this most recent Superbowl, Coca-Cola, a sugar water company, launched their new #Makeithappy campaign geared to combat online bullying. Looking to the hashtag, sports heroes, celebrities, do-gooder NGOs, and the public have all signed on to the campaign, and in their tweets, are actively tying one of the world's greatest contributors to chronic disease and suffering (sugar sweetened beverages), to "happiness".

Brilliant marketing.

But it's marketing, not altruism.

Here's a quick quote from Forbes' Jeff Fromm which sums up why Coca-Cola is trying to #MakeitHappy,
"After all, what’s more meaningful than an adorable kid, who has faced a lifetime of challenges spreading messages of hope and happiness? Coke will likely receive positive millennial feedback for the advertisement, which I predict will inspire millennials who are already pro the “anti-hate” messages that brands are promoting today. As a result, millennials will become more attached to Coca Cola as a brand instead of just the product offerings. The #MakeitHappy campaign combines everything it takes to earn millennial love, which ultimately translates into millennial dollars."
Society has already determined that there are limits to the co-opting of social issues to generate brand goodwill in that money from the tobacco industry, while no doubt just as green as that of Coca-Cola, is no longer welcome - the means have been deemed unjustified.

I wonder how many more years it'll take before the door gets right shut on industries whose products and practices foment illness, from latching on to social causes to gain a gleam of goodness in their plain and simple pursuit of sales?