How can brands associate themselves with culturally relevant events and not be perceived as disingenuous? Richard Dodgson, creative director at Timebased, ponders the question
Consumers now expect brands to behave like people, with clear values and political stances. Creating events in line with major cultural awareness days is a great way for brands to show support of a cause that’s meaningful for the company and its customers. However, with the public becoming far more astute to a brand’s motivations for hosting events around occasions like Pride, for example, brands must be authentic in how they support their causes.
So, how should companies get involved with culturally relevant causes without sounding disingenuous, or lose their own authentic tone? It’s a battle that many brands have misfired in or have defaulted to small actions (think companies making their logo rainbow-coloured for June), and have in turn received a backlash for it. It’s important to stay culturally relevant and show your company has its finger on the pulse, but it’s equally vital to remain authentic.
Stick to your core values
When organising an event, the first thing that needs to be discussed is how your core brand values align with the values and messaging of the cultural event you want to affiliate with. Hosting an event won’t generate and maintain loyalty if it doesn’t complement an existing narrative within your company. Don’t choose every event in the calendar and force your company to fit with every single one, choose those that reflect your company’s policies and actions. Changing your core brand values to fit in with a cultural event will come across as disingenuous and as a tool for profit, putting you at risk of a negative backlash.
Create an event mission statement
It’s important to have a running theme throughout the whole event. Why are you hosting this and what is the desired outcome? How do you want people to feel and what do you want to communicate about your brand? Having this mission and story present throughout the whole organisation process will ensure that you stick to the right themes and ideologies that are both significant and authentic to your brand and cause.
Understand your target audience
When planning an event, it’s important you don’t sacrifice your existing customers that have remained loyal for new ones engaged with a particularly popular cause. Understand what your existing customers want, what they like about your brand and why they’re loyal to your brand in the first instance to inform your event organisation process throughout. Having this knowledge will make sure that you have the capability to tailor the event to their needs, rather than tailoring your customers’ needs to fit with your event.
Seek expertise and guidance from those who have a close relation to the campaign you’re associating yourself with to give an authentic tone throughout the event. Their insight will be completely invaluable to learn about true and live experiences, and draw in connections with your target audiences. Working together will ensure that there’s an authentic tone true to your brand but also true to the cause you’re associating with.
Partnering with relevant experts and influencers is also a great tool for your brand’s social media presence too, helping spread your values through memorable moments. Social media is becoming more integrated in event management and can help people across the world participate in an event online, rather than having to be right there.
Practice what you preach
When organising an event in support of a cause, it should be clear that it’s not being hosted to boost profit or for any other ulterior motive. For example, partnering with a charity or pledging to donate a fraction of sales or ticket prices will ensure there’s trust in your brands values instead of just changing a profile picture on social media accounts. People are becoming more savvy about brands’ motives and regularly question the true drive for campaigns, so by aligning your messaging to a cause with a donation or pledge, for example, or by explaining how your company supports a particular cause through its everyday work (and not just on the event day) will help ensure that your brand remains authentic.
Remaining authentic to your core values is the most important factor for running any event. Cultural events throughout the calendar are becoming more significant for brands to maintain relevant but choosing wisely will ensure that you make a lasting impact.