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Marketing in the Time of Chaos

Thursday, September 21st, 2017 by Laurel

Seriously, Nivea?
Seriously, Nivea?
The times, they are chaotic—to say the least. The importance of social media in our daily lives means that  public response to events of all kinds—political, artistic, market-based—is swift and loud. What does this mean for marketers and content creators?

Recently, a client asked for my opinion on a marketing campaign they were considering. Part of the brand included a color word that referred to the color of a product’s label. The client wanted to know if the color word could draw accusations of racism. Should they change the brand to avoid controversy, or could they proceed safely? In the past, it would be rare that a company would put this level of thought into such a seemingly small thing—the choice of a single word in a large branding campaign. But right now, the risk of a negative public reaction is just too high.

Consider a few examples. In 2011, the skincare company Nivea ran an ad in the Middle East for their new deodorant: Nivea Invisible for Black and White. The ad depicted a white woman wearing flowing, white clothes, with the tagline: “White is Purity.” The uproar caused the ad to be pulled almost immediately, and Nivea apologized for the wording. (The association of the words “white” and “purity” is straight out of the Nazi handbook—and Nivea is a German company . . . hmmm.)

And who could forget the tone-deaf Pepsi ad run earlier this year, showing Kendall Jenner healing the deep divisions between police and protestors by offering a cop a pop. Pepsi invited us to “join the conversation,” thus recasting actual life-or-death struggles and protests as mere “conversation.” It didn’t help that the title of the campaign was “Live for Now Moments Anthem,” a word salad that turned racial injustice into a “fun” music video “moment.”

And then there’s “Blue Lives Matter,” which conflates a profession (blue = police) with a racial identity (black = African American). These color words represent so much more than skin tones or uniforms. They are a part of the highly charged discourse in the media; using them carelessly or lightly would be not only insensitive, but very destructive for your brand.

How can content providers avoid these kinds of mistakes? The answer is twofold: awareness and research. Marketers and content developers need to be aware of the language used by the media, by the government, and by organizations on the left and right. Could a name or tagline have negative meaning to people who aren’t you? Have you considered points of view that are different from those in your team bubble?

This is where research is your friend. You don’t have to launch multi-city, qualitative research groups for web copy; but do share your work with colleagues, partners, or friends who—again—are not you. And if someone offers a dissenting opinion, listen to them. Someone probably did point out that “White is Purity” was perhaps not the best tagline, given WWII and just about everything else in history. But some C-level person probably said, “Nah, it’s fine. We live in a post-racial society. Really, it’s fine.”

Don’t be that person.

Language is power—use it wisely.

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Who Hires and Manages the Content Marketing Agency—Corporate Marketing or the Business Unit?

Thursday, August 31st, 2017 by Stacy

Like many creative services companies, the Content Bureau works with tech and financial services companies that have corporate marketing departments wielding lots of centralized control; and we also work with companies that are almost completely decentralized—where the individual business units can produce whatever marketing content they want. Which of these organizational structures leads to the […]

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Three Summer Activities to Keep You in the Game

Monday, August 7th, 2017 by Laurel

It’s August and officially the dog days of summer. Everyone is either leaving for vacation, on vacation, or just back from vacation, and nothing’s really getting done in the office. But instead of waiting till work shifts back into gear, here are three things you can do right now that will help you personally and professionally. […]

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Avoid the Pitfalls of Online Research for Stats and Surveys

Friday, July 21st, 2017 by Chris

With just a few keystrokes and clicks in Google, a world of research, statistics, and studies are available to bolster white papers, bylined articles, and blog posts. Unfortunately, the explosion of online content has made sourcing this research a needle-in-the-haystack exercise. Unless the stat you want to use is in a news article from a […]

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Earning Trust in a Post-Truth Age

Thursday, June 15th, 2017 by Eric

We used to say the truth was slippery. If we could never quite grasp it, still we believed it was out there somewhere, swimming the currents of events, perspective, and time. And as slippery as it might have been, getting at the truth mattered. These days, by contrast, truth is not only more difficult than […]

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Don’t Fear the Editor: An Expert Support Team in One Professional

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 by Lisa S.

You’re a marketing expert, not a writer. In any case, whatever your job title, odds are good that you don’t exactly look forward to handing your writing over to an editor. Maybe it’s the memory of a particular red-pen-wielding third-grade teacher, or a particularly embarrassing typo in an important presentation. Or maybe you’re just a […]

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Naming Matters: Eschew the Fancy “E”

Thursday, May 11th, 2017 by Laurel

  I was traveling on a train recently and I found myself staring at the station sign at Bay Pointe, the name of a new housing development. Is it pronounced “bay point” or “bay point-ee” or “bay point-ay?” I wondered. Who decided on that spelling? What’s the deal with that Fancy E? Adding that superfluous […]

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Purple Throwback Thursday: 5 Things Content Marketers Can Learn from Prince

Thursday, April 27th, 2017 by Kate

The beautiful Purple One is, sadly, gone. His most enduring legacy will be his virtuoso guitar playing followed by fabulous showmanship in a killer wardrobe. But there are other ways Prince left his mark, and content marketers could learn a thing or two from him in our own work. Stories and visual prose are more […]

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6 Best Practices for Working With an Outside Content Provider

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017 by Eric

I’ve been creating marketing content for clients small and large for more than 20 years. Most of the projects I’ve worked on have been enjoyable and even fun. Occasionally, though, things have turned south, putting an unpleasant taste in the mouths of everyone involved—client and content provider alike. To optimize the return on your investment […]

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Distance Makes the Writer Grow Fonder of Editors—Or, Bringing It Home with the TZ Advantage

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017 by Lucy A.

For millennia, members of families—blood and work—lived mostly in the same area and were impacted considerably when one of their own struck out for distant pastures. But now that we’ve become wedged in the ethereal arms of technology, distance is a snap to negotiate. Electronic devices make it almost too convenient to move all forms […]

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