November 30, 2022
Times are tough at the moment, there’s no doubt about that. From rising energy bills to soaring interest rates, and the cost of living taking a toll on everyday living, it’s no surprise that we’re all feeling the pinch. In fact, according to ONS data, around 9 in 10 of Britons reported their cost of living had increased compared to a year ago. With morale low, the last thing consumers want are brands reminding them of their hardship whilst distastefully trying to sell products, masked in a seemingly innocent, playful way.
One such brand doing just that is La Vie, a French plant-based bacon brand, which recently launched a series of ‘bold’ billboards across the UK intended to spark controversy… and that they have. In big writing, they assured passersby: “Sure, our parents got the property boom, but we’ve got vegan bacon that tastes like bacon.”. You can’t afford to get on the property ladder, but guess what? You can indulge in rehydrated soya proteins instead! Lucky you. In the current economic turmoil, and with millennials the first generation to have a worse quality of life than their parents, such an obtuse advert risks alienating and angering consumers, rather than enticing them. La Vie, your vegan bacon may have been tested over 5,000 times to create a ‘world-class’ substitute, but your adverts could do with some work.
Another company who seems to be exploiting the cost of living situation in an attempt to be humorous and playful is Cards Galore, and their subtle hint to do more shopping (with them, presumably). Signposted directly outside their stores is a poster that says: “I am not a shopaholic… I am helping the economy.”. A celebration of all those heroes who bravely increase their shopping habits to ensure the financial climate improves — how sweet. How out of touch.
Of course, these aren’t the first of their kind — throughout the year, advertisers cash in on the zeitgeist of financial stress — but, at the moment, it feels a particularly vulnerable time across the country; and monetising on consumer’s dread of the current economic situation just feels damn wrong.
So, how can brands successfully promote themselves in times like these? It’s certainly a tricky path to lead, but reading the public mood correctly and responding with empathy must surely be the first step. Beyond that, being authentic and true to your word can help build trust and loyalty, actions speak louder than words after all. Halfords recently launched a drive to fill 1,000 technician roles over the next 12 months by targeting more female and retired recruits, despite reporting their interim profits have halved already this year. The altruistic move is in response to the UK’s labour shortage, which is at its lowest level since 1974, and shows Halfords are empathising with the workforce whilst proactively coming up with solutions, painting them in a very positive light.
Of course, playfulness and humour is always needed in times of struggle (it can’t be all doom and gloom) — everyone needs some escapism and a bit of fun, but creativity is everything. Forget patronising people, and make them laugh and smile instead!
With advertising, as with most things in life, there’s a time and a place. And when times get hard, brands could do well to show that they’re empathising with the situation, not capitalising on our fears. Because when push comes to shove, it’s vegan bacon that’ll most likely get dropped from the shopping list first.
At the end of October, Beavertown took over Flat Iron Square for its six-day nautical-space nightmare Halloween event. The party involved DJ sets, alien-themed decor, a projection of the animation for the new Blood of the Ancient Mariner larger, a spooky mariner procession and performance, and lots of Beavertown beer.
The event was featured in multiple Halloween event round-ups, such as My London, The Resident, and Secret London as well as landing a picture in print of the mariner procession in The Daily Telegraph.
On Black Friday, botanical herbalist brand Lab Tonica took a stand against consumerism and “blacked out” its Chatsworth Store window with Unplugged tea to provide a place of refuge away from the Black Friday circus.
Founder of Lab T, Kitty McEntee commented “Black Friday crushes small businesses, screws over suppliers and feeds the destructive beast of mass production” — emphasising the importance of supporting local businesses. All visitors to the shop and website received a gift of Unplugged tea with their purchase, a soothing fusion of hand-blended botanicals designed to help you switch off and relax.
In our agency update this month we have lots of exciting things to roar about. Firstly, our Grenfell Jubilee Street Party Project with Justice4Grenfell was highly commended at this year’s PRCA UK awards in the Low Budget category.
Secondly, our very own Head Dragon, Paul McEntee, has written a piece in PR Week titled Shoplifting: Do you have a crisis comms plan? Paul discusses how shoplifting is on the rise due to the cost of living crisis and how brands can play a part in this conversation.
This month saw Joe Lycett, £10,000, and a shredder go against Brand Beckham in a stunt designed to provoke conversation around Mr. Beckham’s work with Qatar for the World Cup. It all started with a video released on Joe’s social channels a week before the opening ceremony. In the video, Joe threatened to shred the £10K unless David renounced his partnership with Qatar, citing the country’s treatment of LGBTQ+ citizens and how this could work with his own status as a gay icon. It’s safe to say the challenge was ignored. So, a week later, Joe stayed true to his word (...almost) and released another video of himself shredding the cash. Cue loads of angry chatter online about how insensitive shredding cash is, especially in the middle of a cost of living crisis.
Except, of course, not all was what it seemed. In a final video, Joe confirmed that no money was harmed in the making of the content. Instead, it was donated to LGBTQ+ charities. Even though Mr. Beckham remained silent on the issues, it provoked plenty of other conversations (and hopefully some additional donations, too).
Complimentary HBD Web 3.0 Compass workshop*
What is web 3.0? What happened to 2.0? Are web 3.0 and the metaverse the same thing? Should I be creating NFTs for my brand? Is owning crypto a good idea? If Meta is losing revenue and letting go of thousands of employees, why should I care about the Metaverse? Are Apple releasing a metaverse headset? What is Decentraland? Are Minecraft and Fortnite part of the metaverse? What’s the difference between web 3.0 and the metaverse?
If these are the kinds of questions you’ve been asking yourself, fear not. You’re not alone. Hundreds of agency founders and directors filled the Ham Yard Hotel a few weeks ago to discuss these questions and many more. Do we have all the answers? No. Do we have some? Yes.
The most important thing to realise is that we are already in effect operating in web 2.5, and that many platforms (such as Minecraft) already operate on web 3.0 principles. The metaverse is merely one small but growing element or annex of web 3.0, but with the release of a product by Apple on its way, we can expect mainstream adoption to follow.
It may of course take time to arrive at a world where web 3.0 is the central organising system for the internt. Let’s remember that it took from 1969 to 1991 to go from the ‘idea’ of the internet to the first web page. But it’s certainly something that is of great importance to business leaders and of growing value to the economy. 87% of global business leaders believe that Web 3.0 will be essential to their business, and the metaverse alone is predicted to contribute $13trillion to the global economy by 2030.
So in short. You really should care about web 3.0. Which is why we’d be happy to offer out a complimentary 2 hour web 3.0 Compass Workshop to the first brand owner to email us. With one condition. You need to have a serious intention to develop a web 3.0 project with budget attached to it… even if this is a small project. So drop us a line if you’re interested in the workshop, or if you just want to discuss that burning question.
*To qualify for our complimentary workshop, all we ask is that you have a serious intention to launch a project in web 3.0/the metaverse, with budget or potential budget allocated to this.