Brands: Observe the Fine Line Between Capitalism and Capitalization

steve olenski
Steve Olenski Sr Creative Content Strategist , Oracle Responsys

Posted on April 16th 2013

Brands: Observe the Fine Line Between Capitalism and Capitalization

I realized in penning this particular article that there are some brands who simply will not care. They will not care about crossing any lines - fine or otherwise. They will do whatever it takes, regardless of such minor details as ethics and morals, to move their product, whatever said product may be.branding and advertising

They will go right on doing what they've always done which is to essentially use any medium necessary - email, print, direct marketing, TV, radio, mobile and on and on - to drive their message home to as many consumers they possibly can.

For these brands there is no line between capitalism and capitalization.

Before I continue let me put the word "capitalization" in its proper context for this particular article. As you will see when I use the word "capitalization" I am not referring to a brand "capitalizing" on an opportunity to further sales, i.e., a new product launch. No, I am referring to a brand capitalizing on or taking advantage of a given situation a consumer finds himself/herself in at any given moment of time - all to move their product, whatever said product may be.

Fair Weather Friends

Last October - the 31st to be exact, perhaps apropos given how "scary" this one act by this one brand truly was - I wrote an article entitled American Apparel's Hurricane Sandy Sale - Brilliant or Boneheaded?

The basis of the article was my complete disdain for American Apparel's decision to send out the following email on the heels of the devastating storm, Hurricane Sandy:

marketing best practices

I will not rehash my thoughts on all this; you can read the full article for yourself. But you can probably tell by my use of the word "disdain" I was not a fan of such "capitalizing" emails.

The issue of using the weather as a barometer - pun intended - for placing ads came up again recently as I read a story in Ad Week about Ace Hardware running ads for such items as snow shovels and de-icers.

Jeff Gooding, Ace’s marketing director, told Ad Week that the company wants "to reach folks in real time and help them deal with the weather as it's coming."  And paraphrasing the brand's tagline, he said that "the idea of helping has traditionally been part of our brand, and it’s becoming a part of our mobile strategy."

Is This The Fine Line?

So on one hand you have a brand, Ace, selling shovels to people who clearly need them and as such would be more willing then to buy one than, say, during a sunny day.

And on the other hand you have same brand, Ace, who will also now run ads to help people know when to plant during a given planting season and of course where to buy all necessary planting materials - all based on the weather.

Is taking advantage of someone in need - those who need shovels, any different than helping someone know when to plant a flower?

I know full well that each of these examples differs greatly from the aforementioned American Apparel example. Obviously you don't need jeans during a hurricane whereas you may need a shovel during a snowstorm.

Another example of a brand buying ads based on the weather is Taco Bell, who will run mobile ads on the very popular smartphone app from The Weather Channel. However, they will only run the ads when the temperature is above 48 degrees with the thought being that that's the time when people are more likely to venture out for burritos and chalupas, according to Eric Perko, associate media director at Digitas, Taco Bell’s digital agency, as told to Ad Week.

Isn't that kind of weather-generated ad less invasive, less exploitive than an ad that features shovels to someone who may need one?

Surely it is far less exploitive than trying to capitalize on a hurricane via an ad for apparel, right?

Paging Nancy Naive, White Courtesy Phone

I know that I may very well in fact be Ms. Naive in thinking that some advertisers and marketers won't stoop to any level to move product - that those advertisers I mentioned earlier will go to any length to sell consumers something without regard one to their given individual situation - akin to selling a drowning man a glass of water. Or in this context selling a drowning man a glass of water in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Look, I want clients to be as successful as they can possibly be for when they are, everybody's happy. I get that. Trust me, I get it.

The bottom line to me comes down to one word: responsibility.

Brands have a tremendous amount of responsibility to "do the right thing."

But not only that, but to do the right thing at the right time.

Now whether or not those at the controls of a given brand know what the right thing is or not is an entirely different question and topic for another time.

Sources: Ad Week, Google Images, Forbes 

steve olenski

Steve Olenski

Sr Creative Content Strategist , Oracle Responsys

A regular contributor to Forbes, among other publications, Steve was named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred. He is currently a senior creative content strategist at Oracle Responsys. He is a also a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing and co-author of the book StumbleUpon For Dummies. Follow him on Twitter@steveolenski or at the nearest coffee shop.The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle Responsys.

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