What are the dos and don’ts of Anzac marketing? Brands keen to align with sensitive occasions like Anzac Day are learning a hard lesson: Don’t confuse audacity with authenticity.
Ambush marketing is a common tool for brands attempting to leverage the commercial appeal of an event that’s already generating hype. But as some companies are learning the hard way, there’s a big difference between Anzac Day and sporting events or national holidays. Mumbrella’s chief reporter Steve Jones says brands consistently try to connect or align themselves to major events and occasions to gain exposure.
Anzac Day is clearly held very close to the hearts of Australians and companies want to be seen as sensitive and supporting of such an occasion, he says. “Anzac Day is only ‘relevant’ to brands, commercial businesses anyway, for that reason – it associates their brand with something all Aussies treasure.”
But getting it right isn’t easy. If a brand fails to create an authentic connection with the consumer things can go sour pretty quickly. Anzac marketing “Can backfire horribly,” Jones adds.
A social media campaign by Woolworths in the lead-up to Anzac Day is a stark example. It may have been well intentioned, but the retail giant and its social media agency were seen to be out-of-touch and inauthentic, at best.
“The problem with the Woolworths campaign was that the brand was too visible, too overt. Fresh in our memories was an incredibly crass way to link the memory of soldiers to ‘Fresh Food People’,” Jones says.
An exercise in caution and control for Anzac marketing
Debates about nationalism, commercialism and exploitation have dominated the agenda around Anzac Day for decades.
Australian writer and historian Peter Cochrane says the intense public backlash around Woolworths’ controversial campaign highlights the resonance of Anzac Day with modern Aussies.
“The response has been extraordinary. It’s been so hostile, which perhaps tells you that people of all ages do get very attached to the idea,” he adds.
And the irony of their overt, ‘Fresh in our Memories’ slogan only served to fuel an already unstoppable fire.
— Kiera (@KieraGorden) April 14, 2015
What began as a deliberate attempt to leverage audience input, soon became an embarrassing media storm for Woolworths as customers failed to emotionally connect with the campaign.
One tweeter summed up customer perception: “As our fearless lads slogged up the beach at Anzac Cove, one desire kept them going: the establishment of a massive supermarket duopoly.”
— fluoride addict #h20 (@wellbased) April 14, 2015
However, Woolworths has not been the only brand to come under fire. Many on social media have named and shamed brands for failing to “hijack” Anzac Day with any relevance or authentic emotion.
A Tumblr account in the name of Poppies for Profit is helping consumers to name-and-shame brands that are failing the hijack race.
Caution and control is key for brands attempting to inject their voice into the Anzac dialogue. “If the consumer feels they are being sold to, it won’t work and readers and viewers will turn off,” Jones says.
In contrast, Australian beer label VB has proven once again that successful hijack marketing is possible so long as a brand can communicate their relevance to the event and hence their authenticity.
Knowing how and when to hijack
With the additional injection of large sums of government money, the Centenary of Anzac was inevitably going to be subject to some amount of controversy – something brands should keep in mind.
Content that’s remained relatively low on the radar has navigated this historically and politically sensitive occasion with plausible, albeit dubious, caution and control.
Leading the charge is VB, a brand known for aligning itself with Australia’s culture of mateship and beer. Jones suggests this makes the brand much more relevant than Woolworths when it comes to Anzac-related content marketing strategy.
“VB got away with its ‘Raise A Glass’ campaign because it was far more subtle and raising a glass to ‘fallen heroes’ is part of Aussie culture, whereas doing your weekly shopping has no relevance to Anzac Day.”
In much the same vein, the NRL is marketing a range of limited edition Anzac jerseys – a surefire attempt to appeal to the genuine spirit of camaraderie, but without the additional monetary benefit to the RSL.
“Corporate promotion using Anzac could be okay so long as there’s a really good result for veterans or education,” Cochrane says.
“But you don’t often get that, what you get is corporations who want to harness this powerful idea to try and make money for themselves.”
He names popular conservative commentators, such as Andrew Bolt, as leading in the charge against any perceived wrongdoers.
“Anzac is now so popular I think these people are emboldened. Emboldened to the point where they can say, ‘You get with us or we’re going to marginalise you.’”
Jones agrees, warning brands that attempt to navigate these sorts of complex events must “do it sensitively.”
“Personally, I think brands should leave Anzac alone. At the end of the day any campaign has one core objective – the bottom line – and consumers in the main are aware of that.”
Hijacking Anzac marketing lessons:
Be relevant. Don’t stretch to link your brand to the content, an authentic connection is key.
Be sensitive. This is a national day of sorrow and respect, therefore sensitivity is key.
Steer clear. If a strategy of avoidance is not possible, don’t engage in an overly visible manner.
Tread lightly. If you are trying to insert your brand into the dialogue, do so with caution and control. Being brazen will backfire.
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