Brands inserting themselves into big, cultural moments isn’t a new thing.
What is new, however, is the way more and more are now going about it. From immigration to diversity to LGBTQ rights. If it’s part of the cultural debate, it’s going to end up in an ad at some point. Which—for the most part, I think—is a good thing. It’s far more noble than yet another ad showing someone getting kicked in the nuts. Look, I like a good nut shot as much as others, but it’s time to aim higher.
Brands connected with important social issues can be more effective because those issues come with a built-in, engaged and vocal audience. If you do it just right, it can make a massive impact for a company quickly.
The converse is also true. Do it poorly and it can backfire with a bigger negative impact for a brand—like being seen as tone deaf, crass, or worse: being hated or boycotted. These are difficult issues to fix, especially after more than 100 million people see the commercial during the Super Bowl.
The brands that get this right are few and far between. Ram Trucks got it dead right when they aired “So God Made a Farmer.”
It felt like no Super Bowl ad I had ever seen because it wasn’t what I, or anyone, had come to expect from the ads. Instead of celebrities, high-paid athletes or big-budget film shoots, the spot started with a simple still shot of a cow on a cold, barren field followed by a collection of other photos featuring humble farms, tractors and hay bales. Instead of using a hit song, the ad had an old, stripped-down recording of Paul Harvey’s speech delivered to the FFA (Future Farmers of America) in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1978. In its quiet but confident way, the piece went against all the tropes we’ve come to accept.
That alone made it special. But what put it over the edge was knowing the brand partnered closely with the FFA and made a donation to local hunger and education programs each time the video was shared on social media. They walked the talk.
It made a statement about culture and did so in the most authentic way possible. In word and in deed. All the dots were connected—and we loved the brand that much more because of it.