If you dare to interrupt, you’d better make it interesting
If you're trying to engage with consumers amid a barrage of content then bland, indistinct and boring social messaging won't cut the mustard. Dave Sullivan, Creative Director at Tribal Worldwide, assesses the three categories of brand communication.
I’m having a pleasant scroll through social media this morning, looking for an angle for this article. I know what I want to say, I just need a little proof to back up the point I’m trying to make.
Darren from Canvey Island just shared a photo of a well-appointed plate of eggs, chips, beans and sausages, only he’d replaced the bangers with sausage rolls… the pastry type. Respect.
Data is king after all. Drawn into the vortex, I’ve been scrolling for about 45 minutes now. I’ve dropped the odd ‘Like’ here and there along the way. I even commented on a post from one of my favourite Facebook groups – Rate My Council Estate Plate. Darren from Canvey Island just shared a photo of a well-appointed plate of eggs, chips, beans and sausages, only he’d replaced the bangers with sausage rolls… the pastry type. It’s one of the strongest ideas I’ve seen so far today. It made me smile. Respect.
That said, it’s not exactly what I’m looking for. What I’m looking for are some memorable brand messages. They’re proving quite elusive. Which is okay. Their absence goes some way to prove the point I’m trying to make.
Above: Sausage rolls? Delicious. Sausage rolls with an English breakfast? Rate My Council Estate Plate - and Dave Sullivan - says 'respect'.
So far, the somewhat forgettable brand messages I’ve seen all seem to fall into one of three categories.
Category 1: I’m just like you, I am
They speak a bit like this…
“Hello, it’s me, your old mate. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to sell you anything, promise. I’m just checking in to see how you are. Here’s a picture. I’m in it somewhere, but you’ll need to look hard to find me. That’s because I know, deep down, you hate being sold to, so I’ve created a post that looks a lot like the stuff you post. Hope that’s okay. Cheers then.” Obligatory emoji goes here.
A lack of polish shouldn’t also mean a lack of an original idea, a twist or a punchline.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I get it that a lot of the time on social media we’re trying to make friends and not sell. That way, when people are in a buying mood, our client will be front of mind. All well and good. And I get it that when we’re talking to natives, it’s best to talk and look like a native. Which, on the upside, means we can finally tell Fancy ‘5k-a-day’ Dan to put his ten grand lens back in the fly case and turn off the lights. Dan, haven’t you heard? Phones take perfectly good pictures for social media these days.
But a lack of polish shouldn’t also mean a lack of an original idea, a twist or a punchline. No matter how much we play things down or try to blend in, we’re still interrupting. And when interrupting, don’t we have a duty to be interesting, informative, entertaining or all three?
Above: Marks & Spencer's posts are relevant and memorable.
However, all is not lost. There’s plenty of hope for Category 1. There are brands that get it spot on; that still value an original thought. I genuinely look forward to seeing what Marks & Spencer is saying. They’re a big ship with a personal touch. Their posts are consistently relevant and memorable for it. It’s holiday season, let’s do a quick, cute edit about travel wear. It doesn’t have to be rocket science.
[M&S's] posts are consistently relevant and memorable for it. It’s a hot day, let’s do a quick, cute post about ice-lollies. It doesn’t have to be rocket science.
Volkswagen’s remote control ID.5 – Tiny Football Car – always delivers value too (as well as the match ball on big game days). That’s because TFC has a point of view coupled with a rare, optimistic take on the world – albeit from six inches above ground level. And, let’s face it, miniature versions of real-world things made in perfect detail are always cool. (Okay, so maybe I’m biased. Tiny Football Car lives with us here at Tribal Worldwide. But it’s not me that creates his posts so, technically, I’m not showing off.) And then there’s…
Category 2: Hello, it’s me, me, me!
To be honest, they don’t really say much, all they ever really tell us is their name and what they do. Not even a 'hello'. How rude. I won’t mention any names, but I’ve just scrolled straight through a post from a chino brand that suffers acutely from this disposition. It claims to make the best fitting chinos around. How, why or for whom is never explained. The post included a glossy picture of a bloke wearing the product. His head was cropped out of the shot. Presumably they didn’t want to pay the model.
The experience felt a bit like being back in the pre-Bernbach 1950s. Totally unmemorable. The only way this post would sell me a pair of chinos is if it were served at the precise moment the seat of the pair I’m wearing finally perished. Which, I guess, is why I see it several times daily.
Above: The Twitter posts from VW's Tiny Football Car always deliver value.
Category 3: I’m a TV commercial. What am I doing here?
This kind of post doesn’t really speak at all. The longer narrative is lost when attempted to be told in 10 seconds. Sure, they look pretty, but they’re kind of mute, even with the sound on. Wrong place, wrong time I’m afraid.
Call me old-fashioned, but I was always taught to credit the audience with intelligence. Give them A and B and let them work out C for themselves.
What all three categories seem to have in common, is they’re not inclusive of the viewer (with the exception of category 1… on occasion). Call me old-fashioned, but I was always taught to credit the audience with intelligence. Give them A and B and let them work out C for themselves. Invite them to play a part in the message. Like working out a clue in a crossword, or getting the punchline of a joke, it’s rewarding. Credit people with the nous they deserve and they’re more likely to join your gang. But, most importantly, by involving people you’re opening a dialogue. And where is a dialogue more relevant than on social media?
Oh, got to go, Darren from Rate My Council Estate Plate is crumbling Wotsit dust into Smash for, in his words, “that extra-cheesy potato wang”.
I swear, the geezer’s a genius.