A Bright Side of COVID-19 – By John Trahar, Greatest Common Factory
Are you growing more keenly aware of what does and does not work, what is worth it and what is not, and what will and will not last? So are your consumers. Their shift will change why and who your brand needs to be. In pulling the plug on our workaday treadmills, COVID-19 has done for advertising what we haven’t been able to do for ourselves. The unavailability of our “normal” lives has forced us to consider change and it has given us time to reflect, to see, hear, think, and feel more deeply and freely.
The bullshit we have put up with either because we were too busy or distracted has become unbearable in the combined context of self-reflection, our polarizing society and the increasingly nonsensical nature of our experience. And we’re increasingly willing to do something about it. Black Lives Matter finally matters to the masses; social media is finally being called to task; it’s finally indisputable that Trump is unfit; the worst name in football has finally been changed (albeit to a quizzical substitute); and the Confederate flag is finally being lowered.
We’re seeing that we’ve overrated the status quo. The daily commute, the unproductive large office, the constant business flights to protracted meetings, all seem more masochistic than meaningful.
We’re becoming hyper-aware of the absence of truth in our world and in our industry. We can see the slow death of putting corporate goals over community needs and chasing quarterly gain over long-term good. And the more we look, the more glaringly we see the mass of inauthentic and palliative brand propositions that soften reality and depend on thoughtless repetition.
Now is the time for authentic brands to rise. If your brand has real value beyond utility and price, and your company isn’t trying to get away with anything, you have room to move, be discovered, steal share, and take the place of inauthentic, self-serving, untruthful brands whose only mission is the money.
In other words, truth can now bury bullshit, provided brands that mean it do three things.
Find your true north – your value beyond utility and price. What do you do for people that’s bigger and more meaningful than the utility of your product/service? What do you do for them emotionally, spiritually, communally? How is this better than the baseline of products/services in your category? Would the world miss your brand if it went away? Keep it simple, positive and accurate.
Treat your customers as human beings. Take the steps to demonstrate that you understand them. Show them you know who they are by saying, showing, doing and delivering things that mean something to them. This might mean changing your approach to data. Use it to verify your better instincts and insights, not to bombard everyone who has wandered into your geo-fence with a prefabricated cadence of “personalized” connection and sales messages.
Exorcise your organizational hypocrisies top down. “The Office” has become a little less funny as it has become truer. An organization’s fundamentals reside at the top, and no meaningful change can happen unless it’s enacted there. Are there racists on your board? Is your C-suite sexist? Do your founding principles stop at chasing greater profit margin and growth? Transparency matters more than ever. Don’t wait around for a leaked PowerPoint slide to force the company culture and business model into line with the brand ideals.
Just making a thing and selling a thing won’t work for an awakened populace. They have less time than ever for brands that aren’t on a mission, and no patience for bullshit. So, get thoughtful about what you really offer the world, and get ready to get busy doing meaningful things in meaningful ways. People are already doing this for themselves; now is your chance to be part of their transformations.
John Trahar is the Co-Founder / CEO — Greatest Common Factory