How brands are moving away from product related content

People talk a lot about the impact that social media has had on brands. Then they go on to talk about communities, engagement, share-ability and other such fairly interesting though ultimately social media-centric things.

But what's more interesting is the impact that social media has had outside the social space for so many brands.

A couple of campaigns - both of which, by coincidence, take "inking" as their theme - that illustrate my point broke this week.

Firstly, this campaign from Whiskey brand J&B in France. The brand has created 25 limited edition whiskey bottles with a silicon sleeve that have then been professionally tattooed ...

Then there was the campaign that every hipster was talking about: The Kraken Spiced Rum's 'Think Ink florist'. The store opened on Valentine's Day offering bouquets of black flowers – the petals had been allowed to soak in black ink ... of which more here.

What's so interesting about these two campaigns is that they have absolutely sod all to do with either whisky or rum.

But they do have a lot to do with displays of brand approach and brand attitude.

Because you see, one of the things that the advent of being social has meant is that brands have either been forced (or have had the opportunity) to start doing and displaying – rather than simply claiming – their approach to the world.

And that means we can start to think about how a rum brand would run a florists if they opened one or we PRs can start to contemplate how a whisky would create a “talkable” piece of limited edition packaging – not worlds that we generally get to play in.

But while that may be the fun side of this world of brand “doing” there is another requirement. And that’s to become brand detectives and historians.

Because, while The Kraken may be no florists, the idea of taking a Kraken’s (or giant squid’s) ink (resembling the dark rum that gives the brand its name) and making black roses to appeal to hipsters on Valentine’s Day has a clear link back to the brand born of lateral thinking and an awful lot of research.

And the research that went into the discovery of J&B’s authentic link with tattoo art was, I am sure, considerable – not to mention the research that then went into the materials and techniques required to make the skins in which the bottles are wrapped.

So while this world of brands “demonstrating” their approach and personality rather than simply making empty claims about them may be a new world of opportunity, it also presents a new set of creative challenges for the modern-day PR. It’ll be interesting to see which of those in the industry is consistently up to the task.

James Gordon-MacIntosh is a managing partner at Hope&Glory PR. He’s idly contemplating an update to his book, PR Ideas of the Year.

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