Now is the Time
I doubt the technology exists, but I'd love to see a stat from the last two months of the increase in spellchecks by ad copywriters on the word "unprecedented." Hundredfold, I'm sure. There's no arguing these are unprecedented times. Well, there's some argument. The Spanish Flu pandemic infected an estimated half-billion people about a hundred years ago. Then, of course, there were earlier plagues and pestilences. So, let's just agree that these are "occasionally precedented" times. It's not my point to nitpick semantics here, anyway. What deserves copious nitpicking, however, is brands' headlong rush to assure us, the viewer, that they're aware we're in unprecedented times and, further, that their understanding of just how unprecedented these unprecedented times are is, yes, unprecedented. Now if you're a brand and you're reminding me of TUT (These Unprecedented Times) to alert me to a new feature that concretely improves my experience with your product or service during TUT, such as contactless delivery, then fair enough I guess. But if your TV voiceover whispers TUT reassuringly over photos or footage of feel-goodery for no other reason than to tug at my wallet strings, then your brand is on a 30-second slide into Condescensionville. Or a billboard-sized magic carpet ride to Eyerollsburg. Or a direct mail junket to...you get the idea. Empty words are ignored on a person to person basis. On a brand to person basis they're a dead fish handshake. A lukewarm cheese whiz sandwich. Brands: once and for all...stop trying to be everybody's friend. Since relationship marketing hit the scene in the 90s (with its valid points on improving service and fostering longer-term contact with customers), I think its name has been misconstrued and mutated, for some, into Buddy Brand Syndrome. The brand as your buddy, with a heart as good as gold, and a big ol' shoulder to cry on when times get tough. Sorry, but from an advertising standpoint, brands are not people. They have personalities that should be explored and cultivated, to be sure, but a brand will never help you move a couch on a Saturday morning. Nice try, Two Men and a Truck. I meant for free. So where does that leave brands in TUT? Even if it's genuine, heartfelt empathy should be replaced with pleasant distraction instead. With two months or more of home cooking and takeout under our belts—or worse, possibly experiencing this virus firsthand, or among loved ones—no one needs to be reminded of the plight we're all in. We're living it, one 1,000-piece puzzle at a time. So develop advertising that is, of course, true to your brand, but has less to do with the current situation. Make it engaging, funny, or even downright weird. The world could all use a little lighthearted weirdness right about now. Who can help you deliver said strategic distraction? Lucky for you I happen to be one of the most lightheartedly weird people around, who also has about 30 years of experience helping all kinds of brands create captivating advertising. Just a suggestion. The world is one giant restart button right now. And even if you're feeling the shutdown strain, now is the time to press that sucker with all your might, and boldly reimagine your brand messaging. It's a once-in-a-generation chance. You might even say it's unprecedented.