Stop joining social. Start being social.
About twenty years ago there was this trend inside ad agencies - more an awakening of some sorts - to start calling brand campaigns movements. “Let’s create a movement,” was something you’d hear in almost every meeting. Even then I thought it to be awfully pretentious. The day an ad agency starts a real movement, run away as far as you can.
It’s now twenty years later and agencies are back at it again. Only now they join real movements. Within social media movements, brands pop up as fast as they can. Like a virus they try to fit in only to collectively destroy these true movements.
#MeToo is a perfect example of a cool movement hijacked by ad agencies, brand managers, politicians and the press. While brands tried everything to hop on the bandwagon, it often backfired internally. You see, while cooking up a fake #MeToo ad for the real #MeToo movement, employees of ad agencies, politicians, the press, broadcast companies, and corporations feeling empowered by #MeToo, revealed their own internal macho culprits. And so, it all blew up.
Today, in business schools, the #MeToo phenomenon is being taught as something that succeeded in getting an issue to the mountain top, only to be pushed over it by greed and commerce. What started out like a necessary reaction to sexual harassment and assault, became a cesspool of counterfeit intentions. Gillette got so nervous, they changed their tagline from “The Best a Man Can Get” to “The Best a Man Can Be.” Really? That’s the best you can do? The best thing MeToo did was to spark the public dismissal of 201 powerful and awful men - to be replaced by 54 women and 70 men-with-a-clean-record. It also made sure the #MeToo principles got written into countless corporate HR programs.
Social was created for people, not for brands. For a brand to be part of social or any movement for that matter, you better do something that extends what’s being talked about in a way that is core to your DNA. The cool-factor isn’t enough and belongs to the people (or videos about cats).
Is there a place on social for a product or brand? Yes, as long as you allow yourself to be silly, left-field or even stupid. Being fallible is the new cool. On TikTok, things-gone-wrong or basic silliness rises to the top. When a brand comes as close as possible to being as original as ordinary ‘people’ - instead of a carefully planned, committee-blessed posting, it has the right to call itself a social brand.