Be positive, make a difference

The following is the foreword for the official Advertising Week JAPAC report by Clear Hayes Principal Alex Hayes. You can download a copy of the full report here.

The year 2020 is proving to be, shall we say, eventful, isn’t it? In the face of so much history, it’s easy to feel helpless, and as though what we do as marketers is pretty meaningless. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

As a quick recap, Australia’s once-in-a-generation bushfires rung in the New Year and made global headlines, triggering an urgent discourse on climate change. 

Then there was the generation-defining and society-reshaping event that was COVID-19, with 4 billion people worldwide going into lockdown. 

Amidst all that has been the rise of #BlackLivesMatter as a global movement, which has started the biggest conversation on race, place, and inclusion we’ve seen since the 1960s. 

It’s only June.

In the face of all these historic events (2020 is going to need its own syllabus for high school history students), it can be easy to dismiss marketing as a frippery. Here’s why it isn’t.

From a purely economic perspective, marketing right now matters more than ever. With most economies plunged into a sudden recession, the brands which keep communicating and build their narratives will be the ones that return to growth first. That’s borne out by the data.

But there’s more of a need for brands to stand up and be counted for the good of society. We’ve seen companies of all sizes drop tools and pivot manufacturing for vital hand sanitizer and life-saving protective equipment.

There’s also never been a time when your messaging needs to be more on point, reading the tone of the markets you operate in and saying something useful, then following those words up with meaningful action. Pledges of solidarity with people of color only carry weight if your organization is seen to walk the talk. 

Everything is up for grabs, and what we’ve included in the following pages is a distillation of some of the most pertinent messages from Advertising Week JAPAC. 

If I was to boil my main takeout for brands down to seven words, they’d be: Be positive, be purposeful, be the difference.

Alex Hayes