One aphorism from my days in advertising that stuck with me is: Create acts, not ads. Brands should focus more on what they do, rather than what they say. While the latter could mean ads or #SomeUselessSocialMediaHashtag, the former could mean anything from a new product line to something inspiring leadership did.
It makes sense - Tata is considered one of India’s most admired brand because of… What exactly? Certainly not the ads. All that nation-building, ethics, doing good by employees, and all that? Yep. Acts. Similarly, Tesla - I can’t recall a single ad, but who would argue it’s among the biggest brands in the world (or as the Dean of Valuation calls it, the “story stock”
Acts are the acid test for a company because they go beyond mere lip service. Ads are things the marketing team controls. To be sure, yes, sometimes communication alone can change a company’s fortune (Old Spice
, anyone?). But it’s beaten out by acts.
For example, any brand can put up a post saying Black Lives Matter. But if they don’t mean it or demonstrate it, they will get pilloried, and rightly so. On the other hand, outspoken ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s will go on protest marches
and come out with new flavours to support legislation
. Acts build a brand, especially in this day and age where everything a capitalist entity does is observed with scrutiny.
Which brings me to my favourite brand activity from 2021. It didn’t make the “best of ads” lists, and is unlikely to be a winner at the Cannes Creativity Festival either. Because it wasn’t a “marketing” case. But when the dust settles and the history of this company is written, its “act” in August 2021 will be a chapter by itself.