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Branding in whispers

Earlier this week, I was exchanging mails with Diana van Hoeve (a fellow marketeer) about marketing to women and, amongst others Dove's "Campaign for real beauty". We were discussing my post "Dove - a not so ethical brand" and how I thought that Dove was just paying lip service to the idea of smart marketing to women. I also told Diana that I truely believed in honest marketing, which at first sight may be a contradiction in terms, but which is in my opinion really the future of marketing.

Well, I am very proud to report that THE one and only Faith Popcorn - trendwatcher and marketing-to-women pioneer, also referred to Dove's somewhat 'superficial' efforts in marketing to women. Faith did an interview with AdWeek, in which she speaks about the fact that brands that trumpet their benefits are hopelessly out of tune with consumers who are sick and tired of marketing's noise. In this interview, Faith explains why she advises brands such as Target, GE, McDonald's, Tylenol and Nabisco to build their strategies around whispers and honesty rather than hype and shouts.

Faith goes on to say "Consumers also think companies lie about the ingredients in their products, and they are sick of brands yelling at us. They are tired of being hyped all the time. While the phenomenon hits all ages, it is stronger in women, affecting 65 percent of them compared to 56 percent of men, according to our research."

Here is an excerpt from the interview that explains 'branding in whispers':

Please explain what you mean by branding in whispers?
It is not boasting how great your products are, but showing how your brand can help people. It could be through services your company offers, or doing things for your community or the manner in which you sell your products. During the holidays when there were all these long lines and crowds, Apple's message basically was: "Here are these things and they really work." That's a whisper. When a store delivers something to your house or a bank gives you a ride to the local branch, those are whispers. When Mini gives people all these ways to buy their cars, the company is whispering to its audience.

Which big brands could whisper better?
Procter & Gamble's Tide could whisper by supporting the women who use it; it could put something back into the female community by helping battered women or doing things for families. People would respect the P&G brand more. Nike's marketing involves lots of talk but not [much] substance. What does Nike do to help people? For instance, they could own and improve the paths that people run on. Dove also needs to put something back. They have made the point about the beauty world treating women like they are fat and making them feel like shit, but let's get beyond the feel-good talk by supporting people and being a part of their lives. Tylenol wanted to reach young people; so a few years back we helped them design a program that addressed the pain in sports, such as skateboarding. The brand went to events at skateboard parks and had a Web site called that celebrated the pain in young peoples' favorite sports. But Tylenol didn't talk about it in their TV ads and they didn't put skateboarders in their commercials. It was a whisper.

What advice do you give strategists and marketing leaders facing this change?
If you are sitting at your desk for more than 10 hours a week, you are really screwing up. Get up from your desk and the Internet and go out in the world, see what is out there and learn what people are feeling. Then you will be able to grasp these changes faster. Otherwise, you will miss the signals. We ask companies, "Don't you see the train coming? Don't you see the training coming?"

It's always nice to have your personal thoughts or opinions confirmed by recognized industry authorities. So Dove: until you get REAL, your fancy campaign is just that: a campaign. Stop testing on animals. Give something back to society. Live your brand ethos. Then maybe I'll like you again.

You can read the full article here.