How we embrace change – a watershed moment for brands


Jo Hudson, Planning Director at PrettyGreen shares how brands and agencies can embrace change to open up new opportunities.

Following the high fat/sugar/salt (HFSS) regulation, new CAP guidelines around gender stereotyping and ASA rules on how influencers should be working with brands, today’s marketeers are having to navigate the most complex set of rules ever seen in our industry.

It is easy to feel frustrated and restricted by additional regulation but, in truth, they are only a response to social and cultural changes that are already well underway. Interests in healthier eating, for example, have been growing for decades, whilst movements like “MeToo” and #GenderPayGap reveal society’s ongoing intolerance of gender inequality.

So, if consumers are ready for the change, shouldn’t marketing be embracing it too?

The way we see it, regulation opens up opportunity. It forces brands to think in new ways – to take paths that have not been travelled before. Where regulation has hit, smart brands respond with lateral thinking, reinventing their communication for a new era. Whether it is through identifying new audiences, embracing new channels or subverting the rules; those who win do so because they engage with the regulation and then boldly look for new spaces within it.

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Regulations within cigarette advertising produced the best work for brands like Silk Cut

Limitations relating to media or scheduling can open up the biggest opportunities of all. Events, influencers, earned media and mass-market spectacles like sport and music can deliver similar levels of reach with more targeted content. Red Bull (the brand our agency was born at) delivers some of the world’s most engaging marketing via a channel mix that places TV lower down the pecking order than most brands would dare to consider. It is an approach that has delivered consistent and phenomenal global growth, with 6.8 billion cans now sold in 171 countries.

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Red Bull’s world class channel mix has true media neutrality

From a messaging point of view, brands in sectors surrounded by regulation could take the boldest response of all by staring directly at the social issues driving the restriction (e.g. addiction, in the case of gambling, or health concerns, for high sugar products). An honest acknowledgement of the issues demonstrates empathy and could inspire innovations around being part of the fix. Sometimes this might involve a big strategic shift, or, in other cases, a new and more honest conversation with consumers.

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Repositioning Coke Zero within the portfolio allowed Coca-Cola to be part of the solution to high sugar diets

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Real honesty from brands is highly celebrated, but rarely practised

With the right planning, regulation should never result in a crisis.  The onus is on both brands and agencies to stay ahead of any new restrictions and, together, seek the opportunities that arise as a result. With more means and ways to communicate with audiences than ever, coupled with a deeper understanding of how, where and why audiences connect with brands, there is a playground of options available. At PrettyGreen we see only exciting times ahead for those ready to embrace the change.