1 February, 2019 - 10:35 By Richard Taylor, Managing Director, Simpsons Creative

On the nice and good in advertising

‘Naughty but nice’ the famous slogan for real cream cakes, illustrates that the nice and the good are seldom the same thing. Or as people often complain, ‘everything I like – ice cream, chocolate and alcohol – is bad for me!’

In our current green, clean eating and egalitarian culture that amounts to a bit of a dilemma for millennials who want to be seen as abstentious, liberal and environmentally conscious, yet being human can’t quite quell their baser appetites. I’ve even heard of drug dealers trying to convince their clients that cocaine is good for them because it’s vegan!

In a similar ill-fated attempt to persuade customers that they can have their cake and eat it, advertisers have come up with the concept of ‘brand purpose’ advertising, telling their customers that they’re not just buying a product they’re bolstering their credibility by saving the planet, banishing social evils or working towards world peace and harmony.

Mostly they stretch credibility, like the Pepsi ad where ‘celebrity’ Kendal Jenner joins a protest march for Black People Matter and disarms the opposition by sharing a can of Pepsi with a riot policeman.

Or there’s the current ‘toxic male’ ad for Gillette which implies all men are unreconstructed chauvinists and need to do better. Never mind celebrating the more positive aspects of masculinity (is it still allowed?) or telling us where we can get a nice close shave!

But what if your brand purpose is real and not just bolted on expeditiously?  An interesting case in point is that of Divine Chocolate, a Fairtrade product that buys from and ploughs its profits back into cocoa farmers cooperatives in the Third World.  You’d think it was a sure-fire recipe for success, wouldn’t you, combining the nice and the good in one neat package.

The advertising wore its credentials with pride – showing Ghanaian farmers hard at work in the fields and inviting you to support them. It certainly raised their profile and went down well with all sympathetic to the Fairtrade cause, but crucially, as Divine Chocolate’s CEO discovered, ‘it didn’t make them want to eat our chocolate’.

This led to a drastic rethink. ‘We now know we have to single-mindedly remember we are selling chocolate’ he said, ‘and that our advertising has to show the product and how good it tastes as well as trying to point out why it is different’.

As a result, Divine Chocolate now uses the slogan ‘Owned by cocoa farmers, made for chocolate lovers’. That’s the right balance. Because however worthy your product may be, the customer will still ask ‘What am I getting?’

Like Big Issue vendors, Ghanaian cocoa farmers don’t want our charity, they want our custom for doing a good job and producing a desirable product.  And advertisers need to remember that they are not doing themselves, or their would-be beneficiaries, any good by overdoing virtue on the one hand or portraying their beneficiaries as total victims on the other – charities excluded, of course.

Give them their dignity and sell your products on their merits.

Newsletter Subscription

Stay informed of the latest news and features