5 PR lessons from brands that did (and didn’t) take a stance in 2017

Perhaps it was the political and social uproar of 2016 that prompted major brands to take a stance on certain issues this year. On the other hand, 2017 also saw big companies stumble by not taking a stance. Looking back at the last year, we picked out a few PR disasters, wins and the lessons they offered to all of us.

1. An UBER year to forget

2017 hasn’t been a great PR year for UBER, to say the least! In February, #DeleteUBER rose to the top of the news as UBER’s CEO Travis Kalanick appeared to be supporting US President Trump’s Muslim travel ban by turning off surge pricing to New York’s JFK airport amidst a taxi driver protest. In November, the tech company came under fire once again, trying to cover up a massive hack and security breach that exposed the data of 57 million users and drivers.

The Lesson: Don’t wait until it’s too late

Usually, when a company of UBER’s size messes up, they genuinely apologise and pledge to do better next time. What they shouldn’t do is to pretend it never happened or ignore the growing crisis entirely. As UBER loves referring to themselves as a tech company, they should have used ‘tech’ tools, such as predicting social sentiments, to measure the looming crisis and react faster and more appropriately.

2. United Airlines clashes with passengers

In April, a stomach-turning incident involving United Airlines made headlines around the world, as a passenger was dragged off the plane to make room for airline staff. The company’s PR team was just as unprepared as the airline staff, as the company got tangled up in insincere statements and claims  that the plane was overbooked.

The delayed and half-hearted response from Oscar Munoz, CEO of United, went immediately viral, as consumers were up in arms over the insincere apology and lack of remorse. United failed to show empathy with its paying customers and came across as uncaring and brutal. Making things worse, it wasn’t the only incident of its kind for United in 2017.

The Lesson: Consumers value transparency

Don’t ever ignore problems, as consumers want your company to be honest. The United Airlines incident underlines the need for crisis comms training, strategy and planning. When your brand makes a mistake, you need to own up to it and publicly apologise.  Remember that the longer your brand remains silent, the more guilty you appear. Tackle PR issues head-on and you will build trust and credibility with your customers.

3. Always, #LikeAGirl

Although Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign launched a few years ago, 2017 saw their most powerful video yet, focusing on the idea of ‘failure’ and how it can be used to fuel motivation and passion for success. Changing the theme every year, the 2017 campaign set out with a positive approach to female empowerment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_MhsbRiFyI

The Lesson: Promote what you stand for

The brand, Always, is leading the way when it comes to promoting gender equality within our society, and this is clearly  reflected in their campaigns. Always is not only a market leader for feminine products, their campaign’s theme also matches the ethos of their brand image. Raising brand awareness and a strong identity does not always need to solely be about products.

4. The revolutionary Pepsi

If the Kardashians weren’t already laughing material, Kendall Jenner’s involvement in Pepsi’s ‘Live for Now’ campaign surely manifested their value to all of us. Being featured in the Pepsi commercial, Kendall Jenner appears to walk away from a photoshoot to join a passing demonstration in the street. The reason for the demonstration isn’t entirely clear. As the group approaches the police blocking the street, Kendall Jenner seemingly solves the issue by handing a policeman a Pepsi, resulting in the crowd’s euphoric frenzy. Nothing about the campaign resonates – or makes sense.

Pepsi put their product in the centre of social issues while simultaneously trivialising real world issues. Needless to say, this did not go down well with the public. Taking a stand without actually taking one can do more harm than good. Pepsi received backlash for featuring signs stating ‘peace’ and ‘join the conversation’, though they failed to do just that themselves!

A Tweet by Bernice King, Martin Luther King’s daughter, responded in the best possible way:

The Lesson: Don’t trivialise real issues

While most of us are proud to have to right to protest and voice our opinions, there are still many people around the world who have to fight for this basic right. Trivialising real problems and pretending a consumer product can solve (unnamed) conflicts is taking it a step too far. Leaving the post-truth world of 2016 behind us, 2017’s public wants to support companies whose beliefs they can align with.

It’s hard to know who is to blame for Pepsi’s ‘Live for now’ campaign, as everyone involved should have realised this was a major faux-pas waiting to happen. Having had an impartial, outsiders’ viewpoint  could have put a stop to this campaign that was produced in-house. An external agency would have been more sensitive with their execution. Crowd pleasers simply aren’t enough, and more often than not – they can do more harm than good.

5. Heineken taking Worlds Apart

In the wake of the Pepsi campaign flop, Heineken released a video called ‘Worlds Apart: An Experiment #OpenYourWorld’, leveraging the rollercoaster of navigating modern social and political stances with a genuine approach.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wYXw4K0A3g&has_verified=1

The video experiment brought together individuals with opposing views on transgender rights, climate change and feminism. Unaware of each other’s views, they were tasked to build a bar, and after its completion, were shown a video of the other person talking about their views. They were then given a choice: to walk away or discuss their difference over a beer.

The Lesson: Be daring but sincere

The campaign was genuine, using real people taking on real issues. Framing it as an experiment rather than an ad, the campaign offered real value to viewers. Unlike Pepsi, it didn’t pretend to solve (unnamed) issues, Heineken emphasised their strength of bringing people together. Heineken achieved what Pepsi set out to do by being sincere, honest and daring. Bottoms up to Heineken!

Want to discuss a PR campaign for 2018, or want to explore some sweet marketing ideas for your brand? Drop us an email to hello@mutant.com.sg

 

Let’s talk branded video content

From online TV or subscription services like Netflix, to free video on platforms such as YouTube and social media, folks in Asia are consuming more video content than ever before. You’ve heard this all before – and while brands now have a robust video strategy in place, creatives are still far from perfect.

Here’s our 5 key takeaways on creating effective online ads for branded video campaigns:

Optimise video for mobile

Mobile is already the primary device for accessing the internet in APAC, yet, brands still choose to produce glossy 30-second TV-type ads that do little to hook mobile users. Because content is consumed differently on mobile devices, brands need to ensure their videos capture attention and emotion from the get-go.

Make a sentimental pitch

Video tech company Unruly’s data shows that sentimental storytelling ads are the best performers for 18-34 year olds, a key audience segment for many brands. The study showed that millennials have a stronger reaction to emotional content like this 2014 campaign for Thai Life Insurance.

 

 

Make it work for sound-off

According to Unruly, 80% of millennials mute a brand’s video ads. To engage this audience, advertisers need to create content for a sound-off experience. Avoid dialogue and use text and graphics to draw consumers in

Tailor video for specific social media

YouTube users hold phones sideways to consume content, while Facebook videos are best viewed upright. Majority of Facebook video is watched without sound, while YouTube is always played with full sound. Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter come with their own peculiarities. Brands that stand out are the ones that are tailoring social media content for each channel and country’s internet speeds.

Think beyond views

When it comes to measuring a video’s success, views aren’t everything. Whether it is to increase awareness, consideration, or influence sales, it is important for advertisers to establish marketing goals for their campaigns, and then come up with a set of KPIs to track and measure campaign success.

 

Let us help you create effective content – drop us a message at hello@mutant.com.sg

 

 

How to use PR to beat ad-blocking

If you’re a tech company operating in Asia, know this: you’re operating in the same region where 93% of mobile ad-blockers are located. As more browsers introduce built-in ad blocking, more of Asia will be cut off from online ads.

Ad-blocking hides most, if not all ads on a website. Its usage is growing rapidly in APAC because of potential bandwidth savings in countries with developing internet infrastructure. Using an ad blocker is typically a matter of downloading an app or browser extension, or turning on browser settings. With ad-block turned on, the area your ad is supposed to occupy is replaced with blank space.

The advertising industry is adapting by making ads more personalised and targeted, but there is also another channel that has existed long before digital advertising: Public Relations, aka PR.

PR targets readers by bringing the brand experience to the media they read, the people they follow or the places they visit. It is targeted messaging before Adwords Custom Affinities and Facebook Audience Insights; it is content marketing before your mailing lists started bringing in conversions.

Unlike other channels, most of PR is earned, and then supported by paid or owned content. Great PR can be a blessing for a startup looking for that big break, or an established multinational running a user acquisition campaign. Look no further than Pokémon Go for an example of how a product went viral on a wave of PR.

A journalist or influencer who writes about you positively is essentially giving a very valuable third party endorsement. This puts you on the radar of their readers and fans. Since the media decides what to post on their site, relevant content will go a long way. Instead of a direct sell, PR is a chance to tell a more personalised brand story readers can identify with and be inspired by.

Formulating a winning PR strategy

Earning PR coverage comes down to two things: good homework and good relationships. Homework means doing research on what people in your space are talking about. Some easy places to start are:

  • Your target publications
  • Social media insights of your fans and followers
  • Online professional communities such as LinkedIn groups and Quora
  • Google Trends

After finding out what people are talking about, think of how your brand can fit in, and the best way to communicate that. If it’s a press release, draft it. If it’s an infographic, map out the stats and design it. If it’s a cute cat video… good luck, there’s a lot of competition out there. If you need help creating great content, check out some of our useful resources such  as the copywriting guide or the guide to writing tech content.

It’s wise to put yourself in the journalist’s shoes – imagine you are a very busy person receiving over 1,000 emails a day, sitting by a phone that never stops ringing. You also have a reputation to maintain as an unbiased authority in your field. So why should they cover your story?

Well, it’s not through luck. Your story must have a hook, but not a hard sell. It must be factual, yet sound exciting. It presents the complete picture to the journalist, yet stays concise enough to be scanned through. And it must grab attention within the first seven words they see. If you think you have that all down, run it by a trusted friend, or a professional just to make sure.

If you are ready to take your communications to the next level, drop us a note today at hello@mutant.com.sg.

 

The do’s and don’ts of social media

It should be no surprise that in this day and age our eyes are glued to anything that is square-ish, has a touchscreen, and fits comfortably into the palms of our hands. Chances are, the opened apps include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat – the works, if you will.

If we’re going to be spending this much time browsing through social media, we might as well do it right. And to all the millennials who think they’ve got it down – think again.

Social media can be used by almost everybody. You don’t need to have 10 social media accounts or post something every half an hour to be deemed active. To obtain and sustain a successful social media presence and witness the results you really want, first understand the following do’s and don’ts:

Don’t focus on the number of likes

What an outrageous thought, but let me explain why. What really matters isn’t how many likes you receive, but rather who liked your post. If you scroll through a list of ‘likes’ and realise that you really only wanted to reach 5% of them, the rest are as good as none. This is because you’ve attracted the wrong audience, resulting in a lack of engagement.

To put it simply, let’s say you run a small ice cream cafe and post on Facebook announcing that chocolate scoops are 10% off, praying silently that your customer numbers will magically double overnight. But instead of dessert enthusiasts, you realise that the ‘likes’ came from your co-owner, boyfriend, and mother. Sure, these are all people extremely dear to your heart, but they’re not who you’re targeting. The ‘likes’ may look impressive online but they’re not serving your business’ purpose.

Reach out to YOUR target audience

Some posts on Facebook may be boosted to become ads, meaning that you pay to reach a wider audience. Boosting essentially means selectively choosing the audience who sees your posts on their News Feed. It’s a very cost effective way to reach the right people, and Facebook’s Business Manager page gives you the complete rundown on how to fully utilise the functions to effectively promote your business.

Take a look at the example below:

Sponsored advert example for content

As a frequent budget air flyer who’s always looking out for cheap deals to Taiwan, this FlyScoot ad definitely appeals to me. FlyScoot consistently monitors footprints on their social media pages and website, and effectively churns this data to target audiences who need to save a buck or two but still loves to travel around Southeast Asia.

Don’t slap on texts and links

Humans on social media have attention spans even shorter than that of a goldfish – an incredulous three seconds. This disturbing yet very real fact should make you think twice about how you post. If you want to share a blog on your company Facebook page, you pretty much only have one shot to get it right.Just think about all the other pieces of content which you are competing with – you need to make your post stand out!

Customise the appearance of each post

Spot the differences between these posts. Which would you rather click on?

Social media advert examples - sabines baskets

 

There is so much flexibility with social media these days. Certain functions allow you to not only enhance the visual appeal of your posts but also increase your readership.

For example, posting as the Page Admin on Facebook allows you to:

  • Edit the post caption to remove any URLs
  • Replace the default photo that automatically comes with the link
  • Rewrite the main header of the link
  • Change the subtext of the link
  • And so much more

These simple yet effective tweaks transform a boring, black and white post into one which really displays the most attention-grabbing information. Remember, you’ve only got three seconds to reel in your audience, so make it count.

Don’t be the same

Companies usually make the common mistake of posting the same content across all their active platforms – meaning the exact same captions, hashtags, and images. Sure, you’re getting the word out, but you’re also annoying your audience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s alright to share the same information across all your social media, but be creative about it and tweak it to match your audience.

Be selective and get creative

It’s important to understand how each platform works. Instagram for example, leverages on jaw-dropping photos and hashtags to capture the right audience. While Facebook extends beyond this by allowing users to share their reactions or emotions.

Look at this example below from The Yard:

Social media advertising on mixed platforms

 

Both of these posts talk about the same thing: new trampolines. But, they’re customised to sit well within each respective platform. Doing this will allow you to reach the maximum number of users without turning anyone off.

Now it’s your turn – go create magic on social media.

Need help with social media? Drop a message to hello@mutant.com.sg 

mutant-social-media-cta

 

 

Public Relations vs. Advertising: What’s best for your business?

Public Relations (PR) and advertising are two marketing verticals that many business professionals tend to confuse. Those who haven’t yet delved into either can struggle to understand their differences, purposes and goals. Advertising is there to immediately promote a product or service and aims for direct inquiries and sales. PR, on the other hand, is focused around communications and brand reinforcement with the media and the public. It works to benefit the brand in the long-term, ultimately helping to lead towards direct inquiries and sales.

With advertising, you’re promoting something to entice your target audience to think, act or believe a certain thing about your product or service, which can be hyped up through creative work and buzzwords. PR relies on opinions and comments from sources that have no affiliation with your company or brand. This is where strong brand awareness and trust for a product or service is created among consumers.

Understandably, every business will have different goals and good, consistent PR, coupled with a solid advertising strategy, is the true match. The two verticals complement each other and neither should be discounted from the overall marketing plan. Essentially, it’s all about a balanced mix to give your customers accurate, relevant information and the business the highest returns possible.

To help you understand the key differences, here are a few things worth knowing:

  • Paid and earned coverage – what does this actually mean?

Advertising comes under the ‘paid coverage’ banner. It is the space you buy to promote your product or service. You own it and can therefore present it in any way you wish (within legal and ethical restrictions!) Be prepared to spend some big bucks here, as while advertising can generate instant results, this does come at a price.

PR is earned coverage, which generally does not cost you money and holds valuable credibility that advertising can not match. However, how your story is published or what’s being said about your product or service is out of your hands (which should not be viewed as a bad or negative thing.)

  • Creative control

Advertising grants you full creative control over the design, content and placement – you call the shots but pay big dollars for this so naturally, it’s expected!

With PR, you can secure yourself a valuable placement with the right story angle, key messages about your product or service and positioning yourself or the business head as an expert – a thought leader – in the field. PR works by creating the initial interest, followed by trust, which ultimately leads to long-term engagement and sales.

  • Lifespan

Adverising is often mainly focused around a fixed marketing campaign, therefore limiting its lifespan. Whether a company is promoting a new product or service, this is only visible for the time that the advert is live (if we’re talking about print). Once it’s taken down, there is no record of it, but broadcast advertising often lives on online. The shelf life of an ad heavily depends on your budget, so will only run for the pre-agreed amount of time.

In PR, print articles may have a short lifespan, but in today’s digital age, the majority of coverage happens in the digital space, and almost every print story is duplicated online. All of this acts as a great reference point for future visitors.

  • Buzzwords and Content

Buzzwords are what you need to motivate people to buy. They’re typically popular words, phrases or jargon typically used in advertising to encourage consumers to act in a certain way to interact with what they are selling. In some campaigns they’re effective, in others less so, but the general sentiment of “you need this product NOW” is always at the forefront.

In PR, the coverage you receive is dependent on how well you pitch the story to the target media, but at no point does this become a sales pitch. PR starts with disseminating the message and getting your target audience talking about your company or offering.

  • Research

Market research plays a vital role in advertising. Marketers need to identify the right audience and the most effective medium through which they can best achieve their objectives and get the highest ROI by engaging with them.

Consumer demographics and market research are also a part of PR, as is knowing the target publications and key journalists who can help get your story into print or on TV. In fact, relationships and media knowledge are one of the most important aspects of public relations.

Both advertising and PR have their advantages – the approach you choose will depend on your sales objectives and the type of message you want to convey for your brand. Both are remarkable in their own way and work to complement each other, and neither should be neglected or ignored.

Feel free to get in touch with us at hello@mutant.com.sg if you’d like to discuss the best solution for your business.