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What Do Babies Have to Do With Big Brand Blunders?

As I was driving to work this morning I saw an advert that triggered a surprising amount of emotions and thoughts in me. It’s the latest Du ad showing a window sticker with baby holding an iPad with the words ‘Internet On Board’. Looking at the image, I guess Du are promoting signal strength in the remote locations.

Your Neuro Coach - Du Advert

The creative behind this ad links to the popular ‘Baby On Board’ signs that many parents use which has become an international message to drive carefully. My first response was shock that Du would use a baby to promote the use of personal devices and internet use. I was offended that it gave me the message that a company like Du would promote their services at any expense. The expense in this case being babies and toddlers, for whom research has shown that the use of screens is highly detrimental to the development of their brain, their emotional and social skills, and also induces the same hormonal reactions that is seen with addictions.

I then thought that perhaps this is actually acceptable and that I am in a bubble, with my knowledge, the research I do, the clients I work with, as well as my values and motivations. Maybe I am in the minority and that this is acceptable with the general public? My thoughts then went to Du’s recent cinema advert which created a lot of controversy and offense among audiences, and then to the recent Pepsi advert, again causing mass offense to the extent that Pepsi withdrew it and issued an apology.

I realised that my being offended wasn’t from the violating of my personal values but of the belief that I hold in that large corporations have a duty to know the power they have with their consumers. To me, that means that if they are using persuasion tactics to make sales then it is their responsibility to ensure they fully understand and manage appropriately, the impact they have on the minds of their audiences as a result of their communication.

Times really are changing. It’s becoming less and less acceptable for big brands to push for sales at any expense. This is a good thing. I think that society as a whole is evolving and improving as we become more and more mindful of ourselves and our impact on others and on the planet. Cross race and culture, we are becoming more and more motivated to do the ‘right thing’. Unfortunately, I think some large corporations are lagging behind in their realisation that as society develops, they have a bigger obligation than ever before to also be doing the right thing to their customers.

Nearly half of the UAE population is under the age of 35 years old, falling into what marketers term the Millennial generation. It is well documented that Millennials have higher expectations from both brands and employers. Those expectations are currently not being met, resulting in lower levels of engagement, loyalty and, for companies, retention. You can say that they are demanding more respect from their relationships across the board.

This raised a number of questions for me. Is this evidence that the majority of big companies are failing at both their internal and external strategies to engage both employees and customers? Or, are they perhaps just falling short of conducting effective research? Is it budget cuts? Or, could it be that the top decision-makers are falling into the trap that policies and campaigns are ultimately decided on their own personal, subjective opinion rather than facts and figures?

Whether it’s the client themselves or their agency who has pushed through these creative concepts, failure to perform proper research into social acceptability will continue to result in public blunders. I think we will see many more to come. Like freight ships, it will take a massive force to get these huge corporations to change direction. Which leaves me with another question, how many more big dinosaur brands will we see disappear due to their failure to see societal evolution as a valid and real threat?