“And everybody loves babies and wants to save the world”

An increasingly popular way to make your brand relevant and “in tune with the masses” is to connect it with an issue larger than the business itself. Making a small statement in this era of turmoil is tempting and potentially rewarding, but also risky.

The balance between successful higher purpose campaigns and obvious “goodwill-claims” is tricky, but comes down to one important question: is the standpoint consistent with your brand or not?

This is where clear vision, strong strategy, and a tight focus come in handy.

Pepsi and Heineken provide two recent examples – one that worked well, and one that backfired spectacularly:

Against a charged political landscape, Pepsi tried to sell the idea of smoothing over an imaginary social justice issue by having police and ambiguous protesters accompanied by Kendall Jenner share some cans of soda. This ad was met with universal ridicule.

Heineken had more success, tackling arguably more sensitive subject matter – bigotry and intolerance. They put real people on the spot in a controlled environment. Their beer was present, but only as an aid to the solution – conversation – not the solution itself.

Heineken’s confidence to let the brand be secondary to a gritty issue contrasts with Pepsi’s more strongly branded niceness, which drained their ad of any sense of authenticity.

Here are some of our other favourites when it comes to letting a brand take the backseat to a bigger core issue:

Always – Like a Girl

Hövding – Give a Beep

Sport Club do Recife – Immortal Fans

All of these ads grab a bigger issue while staying true to their purpose: making life easier for girls and women; keeping cyclists safe in traffic; and creating a sense of team unity and strength in a football club.

As a little bonus treat, we’d also love to share this Valentine’s Day 2015 campaign from the US Ad Council, dedicated to celebrating love every day, in all its forms.


// Maria Ströman, planner