written by: Shum Hei Tung, Tung

Nowadays, thousands of brands attempt to crown themselves with core universal values (普世價值) like friendship and freedom. For instance, the “Open Happiness project” of Coca-Cola successfully imbues consumers with a supportive image over the years. Branding is a kind of belief system which marketers create a set of “values (sometimes illusions)” to gain consumer’s affection. Brands emphasizing on common moral values are clever to capture the essence of consumer’s innate needs and wants, which is not solely focusing on product quality but its associated brand values. In order to differentiate from competition, it is crucial for brands to induce loyalty from consumers and to attach symbolic meaning to the company for goodwill. Brand marketers work to build attitude into brands/products. Universal values could shape a brand into a powerful top-of-mind consumer choice as it resonates with consumer’s personal values, triggers emotional impulse and transforms their behaviors.

The following cases may well illustrate the effect of universal values’ effect on emotional purchase. On 27 January 2017, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, signed an executive order to institute a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. Protests took place consecutively at different airports. A lot of Americans regards the ban a violation to their core beliefs in “diversity makes America great”. On the same day, “very” coincidentally, a television station in Denmark (TV2) chose to launch their TV commercial. The TVC’s key message is upholding integration without labeling others . With such “convenient” timing, it’s not difficult for audience to associate with the current events happening in America. The promotion for sure engenders a lot of appreciation to the company from people who shares the same sentiments, making the company outstand from the pool.

The case of TV2 Denmark illustrates the successful use of universal value on a seasonal topic with good timing would result in strong resonance. Although TV2 cannot predict the announcement of Trump’s travel ban, the selection of global hot topic about racism and diversity is intentional.

Brand campaigns that echo current public sentiments could draw enormous public attentions from consumers. Other than the example of TV2 in Denmark, Airbnb’s 2017 Super-bowl ad also choose inclusion between different nationalities as the key message in the mist of racial debates in the US. The ad is well-received and public appreciates the brand for supporting racial harmony. The similarity of the two brand campaigns explains the advantage of using timely and public-friendly universal values for promotion impact. Besides, as universal values are not limited to particular geographical locations; such brand positioning enables brands to extend their influence to a wider group of target audiences.

Public sentiments in the society nowadays are skewing towards polarization, I believe introducing universal values in marketing promotions with considerations of current public sentiments could be a good way to gain public’s endorsement. However, it is up to marketers’ willingness to voice out their stance in an explicit way.