No matter who you are, it’s probably safe to say 2020 was a tough year. The global pandemic, high unemployment rates and intense political division has been a game-changer in everyone’s lives. The loss and loneliness many have experienced as a result have been tough, even for optimists like me.

In 2021, Stone Ward’s focus will be to use our creative force for good to help our clients answer advertising’s biggest question:

Where do we take our brand? Additionally, how do we make relevant advertising in the face of a constantly changing world?

Uncertainty-Ahead

Revisit Your Brand Platforms In The Face Of Change​​

What did you do for your brand in 2020? For some of our clients, adapting new technologies, morphing business models, and adjusting advertising plans and messaging have allowed them to experience record years. For others, 2020 has been a struggle that will make 2021 a critical “rebuilding” year. Either way, this will be the year for every advertiser to take a careful look at brand values, platform, messaging, channels and tone.

Are we allowed to be funny? Are our messages authentically crafted for a diverse audience? Are we relevant to rapidly changing consumer behaviors? This Sunday’s Super Bowl advertising will provide a real time test as some advertisers take the big stage to find out. One Adweek article I read recently stated, “While no year is without hardships and pitfalls, the potential for advertisers to offend viewers by missing the mark is higher than most this year.”

With so much on the line, we have to do our best job ever to communicate authentically and effectively in order to connect with consumers. The early, solemn COVID-19 messaging has had its day. Brand activism that lacks authenticity will not fly, either. Change is in the air.

True brand values and purpose should be the foundation for our marketing efforts. With these as a platform, we will look critically at key messaging and deliver messages tailored to our clients’ customers and lives. Less brag and more bang will be our banner.

Instead of focusing on why our brands are important, we will seek to communicate who our brands can help our customers become and how we fit into their lives. If philanthropy is a real part of our clients’ stories, we will tell it. Because now more than ever, actions speak louder than words. The world needs less hype and more hands.

Hand flip wooden cube with word "change" to "chance", Personal development and career growth or change yourself concept

Explore Ways To Leverage Brand Tone To Achieve Contextual Relevance

No brand can make everyone happy all of the time. Much like human dialogue, it’s OK to shift brand tones depending on context. This is where technology, data and analytics, changing business models, and an ever-changing media landscape come into play.

Great advertising is, and has always been, part science and part magic. In today’s world, we cannot do the magic without a backdrop of science. Due to COVID-19, more people are consuming advertising while alone than ever before. Gone are the parties, sports bar moments, proverbial water cooler, and stadiums full of people. Without a crowd, viewers don’t have the familiar social cues that help shape their interpretation and guide their response to our messaging’s tone.

Keep Your Brand Tone Adaptable as Media Evolves

Yet, every day, customers consume robust social feeds featuring a constantly increasing amount of news, information and commentary based on their individual behaviors. It is crowd culture redefined.

Digital crowds now serve as incredibly effective and prolific innovators of culture. Every media channel, from ESPN to Facebook to TikTok, has its own contextual tone. In 2021, keeping our brand tone fluid as it cascades across hundreds of channels will be a key to success.

Americans are starved for positivity. We believe optimistic messaging will be well received, as long as it is honest and authentic. We’ve missed laughing – it’s good for the soul. In 2021, we believe a brand tone that is forward-looking, upbeat and sometimes funny is a good thing. In the words of one creative director, “If a brand’s purpose is to entertain and make us laugh, well, that’s critically important right now.”

As we all know, advertising is not capable of boring people into using a product or service. We cannot take ourselves too seriously. This is a time when creativity, brand confidence and insight must be at play in the advertising we create. Relevance and reward depend on it.

What is your brand’s biggest question in 2021? Email us and let’s start a conversation.