Faking wokeness: Don't do a Dove

A few months back I was asked to contribute to a global innovation and advisory report entitled 'Surviving Marketing Fails'.

Institutional behaviour does not change of its own accord, it must be focused on and overthrown, argues Chloe Franses
Institutional behaviour does not change of its own accord, it must be focused on and overthrown, argues Chloe Franses

It pooled together the all too recent examples of Pepsi, McDonald’s and Nivea, along with… yep, you guessed it, Dove. So what should be done?

Getting the lessons to sink in

The need for diversity, inclusion, purpose and ensuring a brand’s relevance for new consumers are straightforward on paper, but this is an evolution of communication and best practice cannot be assumed – it must be taught.

Not taught by the people who have been in the business for the longest, but by those who are focused on empowering and enabling the evolution.

The Dove example speaks volumes about how these vital elements cannot be taken on as a box-ticking exercise by brands or shoehorned into creative ideas by agencies.

I don’t think anyone can deny the existence of institutional sexism and racism. Institutional behaviour does not change of its own accord, or over time - it must be focused on and overthrown, which takes work, education and commitment.


Institutional behaviour does not change of its own accord, it must be focused on and overthrown.

Chloe Franses, founder of Chloe Franses & Co

PR in the time of purpose

Stay on brand: It is true, not all brands have purpose baked into their DNA, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong to look at which parts do have purpose or develop relevant partnerships that do. Audiences have choices – make yours the right one.

Engage the experts: When I worked for Amnesty International, it felt like we were constantly in training sessions – anti-bullying, diversity, positive meeting management... it felt endless.

However, it was the commitment the organisation made to its members. How could we defend human rights if we were not fully aware of how to manage our impact on others - and while you may assume working for a charity made you a card-carrying halo owner, any number of external factors may dictate your ‘natural’ reaction to situations and people.

Exposing teams to external experts and bringing in specialist consultants, as well as ‘endless’ training, proves to your clients that you are conscious of these issues, connected to the best allies and committed to delivering the best results for them.

Follow through – A brand is the sum total of customer experiences

At a time of rapid story spreading, it stands to reason that you can make a stand for something that matters and then move on – surely audiences are more fickle than ever?

Weirdly, the attraction to purpose is the direct Ying to that Yang. While messaging comes and goes, the desire to experience and feel emotional connection is statistically a growing need.

How do you help a brand move forward?

In cases such as the ones mentioned, the real danger is being perceived as a ‘sorry, not sorry’ brand. 
Consumers can, eventually, on the most part, forgive an error. However, a social post of apology can only do so much to retain customers if the mistake is not dealt with in a mature fashion. 

This goes beyond negligence and shows a deep lack of respect. It is key to advise the brand to ‘own’ their mistake. 

Engage with the issues. Put a marker in to learn, educate internally and show the results of the journey. Bring in experts. Bring in stakeholders. Listen and learn some more. 

Take a platform like Cannes Lions and make a decision to host a panel and fund an education strand focused on the journey you are undertaking and the learnings from that. 

Vive l’évolution.

Chloe Franses is the founder of Chloe Franses & Co

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