Brands and advertisers are constantly on the hunt for the latest way to reach and connect with the consumer. With leading research suggesting that the most effective way to do just that in advertising is by being highly emotive, many brands are looking to tug on your heartstrings with their adverts.
Many brands think the way to achieve this is by championing a particular cause; with some now even venturing into political arguments! It’s an incredibly volatile new frontier for brands and advertisers and McDonald’s highly publicised faux-pas demonstrates exactly why.
Many in the media have labelled this form of advertising ‘sadvertising’ for obvious reasons. But brands are still pursuing the method for one simple reason – it works, for the most part.
The McDonald’s advert is the obvious exception. The advert took an incredibly (and little discussed) issue in the form of child bereavement and tried to sell their product using it, or that’s how people perceived it anyway.
Dove Real Beauty
But there are plenty of examples of good forms of meaningful marketing including Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, which Dove crafted after surveying 3,000 women and finding only 2% thought of themselves as beautiful.
The campaign came at a time when this view was undoubtedly catalysed (in part, at least) by the unrealistic and unattainable models advertisers so often put in front of them. Many women appreciated the Real Beauty campaign for changing the conversation around what female beauty entails – which made it a spectacular success.
Dove’s latest instalment of Real Beauty Sketches Ad has racked up over 64 million views so far, it’s incredibly popular because it champions a cause that it’s consumer base can associate with and that seems relevant to the brand.
Dove didn’t just talk about beauty though, they coupled their adverts with real action by creating a fund back in 2004 to partner with various organisations to generate discussion around online bullying and to create photography projects to capture the beauty the girls see in the world around them.
Why Didn’t The McDonald’s Advert work?
So why didn’t the McDonald’s advert work when other brands find ‘meaningful marketing’ or ‘sadvertising’ so popular?
The answer might be quite simple and you’ve probably already figured it out…
For a brand to make a truly emotional connection with the consumer the cause it champions must be highly relevant. In other words, there must be a clear reason why the brand should champion the cause.
That reason can’t be randomly conjured by the brand either (like McDonalds tried), it must fit into the consumers ‘worldview’ to use Seth Godin’s term. If the consumer doesn’t see or appreciate the connection, because the link is too tenuous, then ‘meaningful marketing’ will backfire spectacularly.
Dove’s Real Beauty campaign worked because it played into what most people know to be true – that women on billboards don’t exist, they are photoshopped fantasies that portray an ideal and effectively belittle women by doing so. But Dove pointed out that real women offer real beauty, a heart warming message we can all buy into.
In McDonald’s case they have tried to pull a link between child bereavement and their product when it doesn’t exist, a burger cannot cure such trauma.
What McDonald’s Should Have Done
But what cause could a brand like McDonald’s champion?
What do they stand for in your opinion? Other than producing food that is bad for your health very quickly.
Well perhaps there’s the answer. McDonald’s can and has championed causes that have been highly relevant to its brand in the past by helping others lead a healthy lifestyle, just like the brand’s sponsorship of children’s football and other sport.
People can appreciate that, because it is tantamount to “yeah, their burgers are bad for you but they encourage and sponsor kids exercise.”
McDonald’s won’t convince us their product is healthy and they won’t change it either – why would they, but they are also a brand that offers little depth so by attempting to take a serious problem and utilise it in an advert was a serious problem.
Queue popular backlash. Don’t make the same mistake with your advertising, contact The Living Room instead for exceptional advice.